Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My version of Padmé’s Picnic Dress (or Beach Blond Padmé)

Once upon a time, I had time to work on crazily detailed costumes (before I had a kid, or had weeks filled with full time work, full time school, dance classes and volunteer work for a theatre troupe). Let us go back in time, about a year before the last Star Wars came out in theatres (meaning 2004 as Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith came out in May 2005). I, like any girl or die hard Star Wars fan, started wondering what to wear. After many months of wondering, and drooling on the beautiful pictures of Padmé's costume over at The Padawan's Guide, I decide to go for Padmé’s Picnic Dress.

At first, I told myself I would make something simple, using the Simplicity pattern inspired by that dress.

Simplicity 5843

But then, I started looking at what other fans had made, and the more I looked, the more I thought, "well I could do that...", and to make a long story short, I ended up doing detailed replica “with a twist” (I always like to make my costumes with little personal touch, more me so to speak). For one thing, did not want to use a wig or dye my hair (I did enough dyeing with this project anyways), so it can be classified as a "Beach Blond" project (although technically, I'm more of a strawberry blond).

One of the best fan made reproduction of that dress is by Obi-Dawn (who's website was on Geocities and has therefore closed - damn you Yahoo!). I exchanged many e-mails with her and she very graciously helped me by sharing all her tips and the details of how she made her own dress.

Obi-Dawn's fabulous Padmé’s Picnic Dress reproduction

Isn't it amazing? (Obi-Dawn, if you read this and you have a new website, please contact me so I can add the proper linkage).

And now on to the long and detailed description of the making of my own Padmé Picnic Dress.

Close-up of my homemade Yellow Sequined Fabric

This is a part of this dress I originally thought I would just cut and sew. How wrong I was. Pattern wise, I used McCall’s 4090 view A for the skirt (cut twice – one of fabric and one of lining), Simplicity 9966 view A for the shirt and McCall's 3797 view C for the sleeves. I invented the cuffs and neck yoke.

I used a great fabric I found for 1.50$ a metre at Fabricville. It had the perfect weight and fall, and a nice shimmer to it. Sure, it was white, but I couldn't find the right yellow fabric so this, I thought, will do great and I’ll just dye it. Ha! Unfortunately, my great find was polyester (mistakes are the best way to learn). Note to self: polyester doesn't dye.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

I got a lot of experience in fabric dyeing with this project. First, I cut all my pieces, sewed the skirt and serged the bottom edge. Then, I started the dye baths (plural). What I have learned: Dylon Cold Dye does not work on polyester. You can leave it in the dye bath for 24 hours without fear, the colour won't take. My fabric had two 24 hours bath in Dylon Hot Dye in Golden Glow. That got it a pale yellow, but it had a bunch of darker spots, which made it look like I had accidentally dropped Kraft Dinner all over it. I tried getting them paler by working laundry detergent in with a brush (I’m not sure it worked, but heck). I then hoped the next dye bath would fix the problem. Since I wanted it a more antique yellow, I tried a 12 hours bath in 24 cups of coffee (decaf if anyone wants to know). Then I hanged it to dry in the shower (without rinsing it before for fear it would take out too much coffee). As a result, I unexpectedly made a tiger stripped fabric print. So I washed my fabric and went for the next best thing: Dylon Hot Dye in Coffee. After that dye bath, I decided it was good enough. The Kraft Dinner spots were invisible and the few brown spots could easily be hidden with sequins. Off to the laundry it went, to take out all the excess dye and fix the colour.

Next came the embellishment. Following Obi-Dawn’s tutorial, I ordered Mylar Shimmer Sheetz from the US and bought a butterfly punch hole to make little sequins, (but unlike her, I decided to keep the head an tail of the butterflies and not transform them into flowers). For a whole month, whenever I was watching Tele, you could hear “K-clonk, K-clonk, K-clonk”. I broke two punch wholes (but managed to exchange them both because I had kept the bill and it was within 30 days - muahaha) and made myself a few blisters. Then I glued about a thousand white iridescent butterfly sequins on the skirt and a couple hundred on the shirt. (It helps if you design your lines as you glue your sequins, as it makes the sewing part easier.) After the gluing, came the sewing: I zigzagged through each and every single one of these sequins with gold thread, which took one and a half day. I wanted to add some lace flowers on the fabric, just like the original has, so I bought two meters of lace flower trim (the same flower trim I used for my Glittersweet Cote), which I dyed with Dylon Cold Dye in Leaf Green, and I cut each flower individually with the intention of sewing each one on individually. But I ran out of time, and I still haven't added them. Ah well...

When I put on my costume, I also have lengths of satin ribbon in pink, yellow and light green that I wrap around the sleeves and tie at my wrists.

Head band

Rose embroidered Headband

I could not find the gold trimmed ribbon I needed so I ended up using leaf green grosgrain ribbon and satin stitching the edges and centre in gold to get the right effect. Next, I embroidered some roses on it using Kay Dee’s Rose Embroidery tutorial. I kept a strip of tearaway behind until I was done. Finally, I put some Velcro on each end to attach it easily behind my head.


My hair filled snoods

Nancy-Raven has made a few hair nets with Simplicity 5740, so she helped by answering my questions. I made my snoods as two circles approximately 17 cm in diameters and wove a string around the circumference to tie them around the buns. I then just hanged them from the head band.

I had a lot of hair back then, but there is still a limit. There is no way I could fill up the snoods without a little help. I bought two fake hair scrunchies (blond) to use as buns.

Cape and Brooch

My finished cape

For the cape, I used an expensive Organza embroidered with little pink flowers. I basically followed Kay Dee’s measurements and adapted them to my size. Then I pinned all the edges on tearaway and with a desert plate as a guide, I drew all the curves on the edge with and embroidery felt marker (the ink disappears after 48 hours) and I satin stitched the edge with special thread that goes from green to white and green again. Finally I dyed my white cape with Dylon Hot Dye in Golden Glow. I think I could have gone with a paler colour and possibly a cold dye instead, but it’s too late now and it’ll have to do (I like it anyways, and that is the most important thing).

My butterfly brooch

As for the clasp, I found a cute butterfly brooch at Ardène that is purple and lilac in colour. The metal backing is even antique gold and brown, which makes it arguably look like it’s been in Padmé’s family for generations.

I've kept the most impressive part for desert!

My Picnic Corset

Early on in the planning, I decided I wanted to use Dupioni Silk for the corset. When the time came to buy the fabric, I could not find any yellow or even golden Silk, so after a month of searching every fabric store I could get to, I bought some white silk and some yellow dye (of course I did find the right fabric at my usual store, but they only got it after I had dyed mine). I used Dylon Cold Dye in Sahara Sun colour.

The pattern I used for the corset is Simplicity 5953 view B, but I modified it slightly by making the shoulder straps narrower and the front only one piece (instead of two).

Originally, I did not intend on doing the whole embroidery. I thought I would maybe buy some tiny ribbon roses and that would be it! My need for perfection got the better part of me. I used Obi-Dawn’s drawing and Kay Dee’s finished embroidery, as well as her Rose Embroidery tutorial.

I figured I had no choice but to learn embroidery so I bought a book and practiced on a first version of the head band but I quickly realised it was going to take time, and I was already lacking some so I went back to my machine and did all my embroidery by zigzagging the design on. What I did is I drew the pattern on some tearaway paper, pinned that to my corset pieces and satin stitched in the right colour inside the lines. It took me three nights to do all the scrolls and one Saturday to do the rest. I embroidered the roses following Kay Dee’s technique (the pentagon, although in most cases they were more hexagons by the time I finished). Of course, the thread is more expensive in bobbin than embroidery floss, but considering I managed to do it all in less than a week, it was well worth the price.


My Padmé Slippers

I bought a pair of rubber sole slippers at Zellers that do just fine. They are a slightly grayish white in colour with embroidery and lots of white sequins and tiny pearls on.
Now at this point, I know you are dying (no pun intended - well, maybe) to see what my finished costume looks like. So here it is, my Star Wars pride:

Gwenyver's Padmé Picnic Dress

This is the single most complicated project I have ever done. I have made my own sequins, I have learned to embroider using the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine (remember, I am lazy and doing it by hand does not go with my usual last minute habit), I have dyed my own fabrics, etc. But I am SOOOO proud of myself.

I absolutely have to thank a few people here (I’m practicing for the Oscars you see): I’d like to thank the Goddess for giving me the strength to go through this… No seriously, I need to thank Maggie from The Padawan's Guide for her wonderful website and for putting me in contact with Obi-Dawn. Kay-Dee’s website was also very useful for the roses’ embroidery, the great picture of her finished embroidered corset and the measurement of the cape. I also really need to thank my wonderful Sweetheart for being so patient with the sequins on the living room floor, the dye baths on the stove and the sound of my sewing machine at 6 AM on week days. Thank you for cooking dinner for me and supplying me with the best home made hot chocolate.

Darn, the music has started and the Mic just went down into the floor. Guess that’s it!

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