themewear costume: silver Angel
Today I want to tell you the story of this silver angel costume from a different perspective and let you in behind the scenes of a Miss C creation.
I have often dreamt of making an epic angel style costume...so when I actually got asked to do it for real I jumped at the chance. First...this is the costume in all it's glory! Lizzy absolutely bossing the stage!!! This is the bit you all get to see....the final cut.
We are so used to thinking about an 'end product' as the thing we are buying that we seldom think about what it actually takes to get to the end product stage. My passion for this work goes beyond the shiny end product (although that is super cool), it's a mental process that gives my life routine and meaning and along the way the huge investment of time and energy between a creator and their creation has defined the way I live life.
This is not a tutorial of how I made the costume, I will not be displaying the construction methods per se and you will never see the blood, sweat and tears that go into each costume. I want to show you how a costume comes to life...first in the mind and then into reality.
I was really excited about this costume because it gave me scope to play around with some new idea's about construction....and as always trying new things means a lot of problem solving along the way. I was completely satisfied by the final look of the wings, and privately relieved that it all worked reasonably according to plan.
Cracking down on the concept
Firstly Lizzy and I sat down and had a long discussion about the design, colours, size, and of course, budget. I think we had about a two month lead into the competition so time was going to be against me all the way. Large costume pieces can take a long time to research and develop and with every single costume I have to figure out how to construct it as I go along. Every costume is so different, with differing materials, weight, balance....there is literally no cookie cutter way to make these things! It's like flying blind with no seatbelt. Well, not quite, but hopefully you get the idea that drawing something on a page and making it a real wearable piece or art are very different skills.
Research and Development
So it all starts with sketching it out and roughing out scale and materials and rolling idea's around my head. Once we had agreed on a budget I could start hunting for materials... I reckon I trawl the internet at least 3 hours minimum per commission, especially if it is something totally bespoke. I have to find materials that will work the design concept, compare different suppliers for best prices and if I can't find what I want within budget there can be some too and froing between myself and the client to see if the budget can be extended or if compromise on the design must be made.
Since the feathers had to be imported from China, to keep costs as low as possible, they would take up to 40 days to get to me .....so it was very important to keep that deadline in mind when planning. While I was waiting for the feathers I could design and make the frame and fabric parts of the wings and crack on with making the bra.
Construction and problem solving
Every single costume is different so there is no set way of approaching a final piece without literally getting stuck in. For wings I always start with a cardboard mock-up to have a look at the shape and size on a dummy. Drawings are nice, but you can't really see the proportions without doing that. Wings that are too big can literally engulf a person and create an unbalanced costume, as well as being too heavy or unmanageable that the client literally can't walk or do what they need to do on stage.
Size, proportion and weight all have to be in mind when building the piece.....then it's down to business with the engineering. First I must make the wire frame and the individual feather pieces that will come together as the final piece. I had to do some strengthening across the wing structure to add extra stability and then finally the feathers arrived and I could add them in.
Overall I think the wings took me the best part of a solid week to construct, which was 2 days over my budgeted time. They were heavier than I anticipated and kept flopping over backwards which was no good, when I put them on and tried to walk around...they bounced so much that it literally put me off my stride. The extra two days were spent scratching my head, finding a solution and making it happen.
This was our first test run of the wings with Lizzy in them. We had to check for balance as she moved through her posing routine. All in all it was a pretty good run through with some adjustments here and there and a lot of tweaking to get these feathers just right until I was happy with them.
Whilst the wings were slowly coming together I could crack on with the bikini:
This was one of the heaviest bra costumes I have made, it was so heavily decorated. It really had the WOW factor and I was super excited when I finished it. When you are using one colour for the bikini and decoration (ie: silver for this one) it needs much more detailing and texture so it doesn't look flat and boring. There are three different styles of lace used on this bikini that had to be individually cut, placed and appliqued on. Then I used a two row crystal chain to break up the cups into sections, you can see my working diagram above for the layout of the main decorations. I always stitch laces and crystals on if I can....gluing things on leaves the fabric hard and stiff so my motto is: if it can be sewn it should be sewn! It adds hours to the process but it is so worth the effort, and it also means that the bikini can be changed and recycled without the trauma of trying to pick off glued on parts. After the stitching I then get to it with the hotfix crystals to fill in area's so they sparkle beautifully.
Here is the back of the wings...you can only see it when she turns around. It has to be more pretty than the front. Here I have used the same lace and sew on crystals as on the bra...except this time gluing them on was my only option as there is so much wire in the support structure. I love the curve of the feathers that gives these wings such drama.
So all in all I reckon this piece took me 5 hours in planning, designing, finding materials, consulting and measuring my client and fittings. The bra took me 10 solid hours to make and decorate the bra and 30 hours to construct the wings. That is a total of 45 hours solid work time with probably an extra 8 hours thinking, procrastination and sweating the small stuff.
The great thing about a fantastic project like this to work on is that you can truly stretch your abilities and that it informs everything that follows. I actually felt sad when this particular piece left the building, it had been a constant companion in a really busy and stressful time. A lot of love has gone into it, and I hope that it gets to go on stage again and again.