Monday, September 19, 2011

Idris "Sexy" - The Doctor's Wife

The Doctor and Idris. "The Doctor's Wife"
Wellllll, I've been wanting to do a Who costume for years, but I tend to like the more period/unique costumes, and nothing on this show has ever really stood out to me until "The Doctor's Wife". That, and - beware, blasphemy ahead - I was really starting to fall out of love with Doctor Who until Neil Gaiman took the reins for an episode. So, needless to say, this costume really piqued my interest on a variety of levels.

At Dragon*Con 2011. Photo by David Skirmont.
My biggest concerns were 1) finding the fabrics and 2) draping that bodice. I think I spent the majority of my time on this build traipsing around the Manhattan fabric district with a bag full of swatches.

Patterns were all draped from scratch unless otherwise noted.

I was chatting with Maggie (Costumer's Guideabout this costume, saying I would love to do it, but was REALLY concerned about two fabrics: the bodice and the lace. Well, in a crazy stroke of luck (and thanks to an AMAZING friend of Maggie's), we came to purchase some of the closest bodice fabric we'd ever find. Drawback was it was an ivory/gold polyester fabric, so dying was going to be a huge pain. I think I test-dyed 6 swatches before getting anything remotely close to what I wanted. Then I dyed the whole yard of fabric. Three times.

Unfortunately, because of the way the fabric was woven, the relief parts of the swirls picked up more dye than the raised parts, so I decided that in order to even out the color, I would have to scare myself to death by painting the whole thing. I did two washes of heavily watered down fabric paint before I was happy with the color. The final color was decided by the beige/turquoise shot taffeta that Maggie found for the bows. The taffetas were just about the only fabrics I didn't dye.

The bodice is a result of two mockups. The most important thing to me was getting the gusset in the waist  and the dart in the bust. I'm happy for the most part. I need to stitch the side panel to smooth out the wrinkles. It's a boned bodice with a heavy plastic zipper up the center back and piping along the bottom, armholes, and neckline. I love how much of a theatrical build it is, so I built it like a theatrical bodice - layers of satin coutil boned with flat steel bones and then flat lined to the bodice fabric.

I cut the lace on the bodice as one continuous piece, then hand-stitched it along the neckline, figuring that when I stitched the bias trim down, it would keep the lace flat. Wellllllll, I was half right. I'm planning on tacking a few stray lace bits down at some point.

Sadly, my dressform is more well-endowed than I am, so if I ever want the neckline to lay right (check those rad gaps around the collar bones!), I need to pad the bodice tatas out.

For the sleeve under-fabric, I knew I wanted something I could dye to match. I also wanted a stretch fabric that would be forgiving when I moved my arms around. The solution was a stretch silk, cut wrong-side-out so that the shiny side was on the inside. I dyed it once, and while the first go-round probably made the fabric color closer to screen-accurate, my bodice fabric was darker, so I took a stupid risk and threw it in another dye bath. Aaaaaand it paid off - praise be to the costuming gods of Rassilon! Of course, I was being super cheap when I bought the sleeve fabric, so I wound up a little short on sleeve length. They should be about 3 inches longer. :-/ I stitched down the lace just around the front half of the armseye so that I'd have full range of motion in my shoulders/arms.

Bows are cut on the bias with pinking shears, then floofed out to show the color along the edges. The thinner ribbons of bias silk are cut with regular scissors and barely picked at with my nails to floof out the fringe color. On the arm, I tacked down the trim at four points so that it wouldn't slide down, but would still allow the under layer to stretch to fit.

Cotton/linen blend fabric. It was originally white with red stripes (kind of like Jack Sparrow's sash). I dyed it twice to get the orangey-salmon color.

I actually bought the ruffle taffetas first, since I figured they'd be more difficult to find. The blue/red was found first after dragging myself back and forth to five different stores, then after I settled on that, I took a swatch around with me (to the same five stores, plus a few new ones) to find a teal/neutral that would look nice with it. Finally ready to find some gray-blue base skirt fabric, I took swatches of the ruffles around to the same stores. Again. It just had to be the perfect grayish-blue silk. Not too shiny, but enough of a shine that in some light you could tell it was silk. I found a color I was happy with, but it was too lightweight to support the ruffles, so when I built the skirt, I doubled it up.

Seriously. Hours of my life. Gone forever.

To get the lovely turquoise/blue trim along the edges of the ruffles, I simply tore them along the complementary color grain, then pulled out the threads until I had a width I liked.

I knew I didn't want an overtly floral lace, just because the lace of her costume is very webby and open. Most likely, it's a French $80+/yard lace, and does not exist in NYC. I spent a week just looking for lace alone. I ended up settling for an open web, heavier, sparkly cotton lace that cost WAY less than $80! \o/ Dyed it a bunch of times, then painted for that weathered discoloration. I also backed it with a tulle net, since too much of the navy skirt was showing through the lace. I stitched the lace to the tulle by hand so that it wouldn't gap and buckle in weird places.

Ugh. That stupid sash. I hate velvet. This is a blue cotton velvet painted to get the brown effect you see in the promo shot. The scarf in the exhibit is NOT the hero scarf. I have ridiculous amounts of screencaps and hi-res breakdowns to back my argument, and will actually try to convince you that the scarf is tailored to lie perfectly over the bustle. If you value your sanity, don't listen to me. I spent way too long working on a stupid detail that only I will ever notice. Proportionally, the scarf is all wrong. If I was 7 feet tall, it would be fab! At 5'8", I need to scale the whole thing down. Maybe before next D*C.

Socks are a heather gray over-the-knee from Urban Outfitters.  Can be found here!
They're thin (like dress socks), so if you need thicker boot socks, I'd double up with an ankle sock.

Boots are Steve Madden "Troopa"s in Cognac. They're shorter and not as light as the real ones, but I knew I wouldn't wear boots that light in my everyday life, so I settled for distressing a darker brown. Plus, they're real leather, and call me a snob, but I will not buy boots in synthetic leather. D: I can't! Leather just weathers so beautifully!

Of course, now as I revisit the link, I see Steve's making them in a really gorgeous "Natural". Curse you, Steve!
Steve Madden "Troopa" in natural.

I. Love. Distressing.

I usually end up going just light enough that it won't ever show in photos. But, hey, you know: better that than going too heavy!

Breaking Down the Fabrics:
Sandpaper. Really, I saved the sandpaper for the boots and the ruffles. When I first looked at the promo image, the ruffles were so beat up, I thought they were actually a brocade. (Went so far as to buy a brocade silk before realizing my mistake. Oh well. I'm sure it'll make a lovely corset!)

I sanded the ruffles once before I pleated them, and plan on going back for another round to make it more visible. I also went in with a blade to rip out some chunks from the edges.

I mixed up a watered-down blue color and two different watered-down browns. The lace and skirt were actually painted separately, then stitched together. The bodice weathering was carefully painted by dipping a sponge in the paint, then painting a paper towel, THEN brushing the painted paper towel over the bits I wanted colored. Again, I want to go back in and go a little heavier with the yellow-brown to balance out the red-brown color that's so prevalent.

Oh god, what else? 

To get the right shape for the skirt, I knew I was going to need a bustle. Originally, I made a quick and easy bum pad, but just wasn't happy with the shape it was giving me. So I caved and bought a pattern. I went with the Laughing Moon half bustle pattern, and I'm so glad I did. It's a gorgeous little piece, and I'm sure I'll end up using it for future projects, too.

Crappy, plastic hard-front curly wig in the color "Espresso" from eBay! I teased it, pinned it, and then brushed my bangs back over the front of the wig. Ribbons are just 2"  wide brown organza tied into bows and pinned in.

A few more pictures:
With the lovely Gen (or as she's known: penwiper)! That K-9 bag KILLS me!
(See the neckline? Gappy! Boo.)

Photo by David Skirmont.
And a few by other folks. Thanks for posting these, guys!

Photo by mistress_mu on flickr.
Photo by (and with!) Mkai26 on flickr. Her hat really lit up. SO stunning!
With a really fantastic Eleventh Doctor! Photo by ellis_belle on flickr.
I wore this both Friday and Saturday at D*C, and I'm sorry to say, you can tell which pictures were taken each day. I just look so haggard after marching in the parade on Saturday! Ugh. Need to go heavier on some of the makeup, too.

I'm also hoping I can find an available appropriately geeky costume photographer here in the city to do a shoot with one of these days. I'd love to get some environmental shots that aren't me being a total nerdtastic ham.