Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tiny Top Hats

Every year, the world of fashion and design gets inspired by one movie. This year’s style influence is Alice in Wonderland. Just look at all the tea pots, heart/diamond/spade/club jewellery, blue dresses and headbands decorated with cute little bows! In honour of this trend, I present my own creation, the Tiny Top Hat Barrette.

Tiny Top Hats by Gwenyver

These are not like your usual mini top hats: they are tiny (14 centimetres in diameter) AND they are made from recycled material, including fabric leftover from my numerous costume projects. Can you guess which?

(For the answer, click on the colours: Purple - Green - Pink)

One day, if I get enough requests, I might open an Etsy store and sell some.

In the mean time, because I love you so much (and because, if you’re reading this, you like me would rather make your own than pay for someone to make it for you), here is a detailed, fully illustrated, step-by step guide to making your own.

You will need:

  • A cardboard toilet paper roll;
  • A piece of cardboard (I used a frozen pizza box, so really, anything goes);
  • Fabric scissors;
  • Paper scissors;
  • A ruler;
  • White crafters' glue;
  • A hot glue gun and some glue sticks;
  • Fabric scraps;
  • Felt;
  • Ribbon;
  • An old button;
  • Feathers;
  • Anything else you can think of to use as decoration.

1. Begin by cutting your cardboard toilet paper roll in half.

2. Using your half cardboard toilet paper roll, trace its circumference twice on the cardboard. Add one centimetre all around one of your circles to create the brim.

3. Cut a rectangular piece of fabric which is wider than the height of your half cardboard toilet paper roll (you want to be able to fold the edges to keep them hidden) and longer than its circumference so you have enough to make a nice hem.

4. Apply white glue to your half cardboard toilet paper roll. Roll it on the fabric starting at one end of the rectangle until the roll is covered.

5. Use the extra fabric to make a hem: apply a line of white glue and fold the edge on it.

6. Once that is dry, apply another line of white glue you your hem and stick it to the fabric covered roll.

7. Apply a line of glue to the inside of your roll and fold the extra fabric over it to get a nice edge.

8. Place your cardboard circle on the fabric, trace one centimetre fold allowance and cut your fabric. Repeat for the second one.

9. Using white glue, fix your cardboard circle to the centre of your fabric circle. Apply white glue to the top side of your cardboard circle and stick the fabric's edge to it. Use cloth pins to keep it in place while it dries.

10. Using hot glue, stick a circle of felt to hide the raw edge of fabric on the underside of your brim. Still using hot glue, stick the top of your hat to one end of the tube and the whole thing to the brim piece.

11. Sew a barrette, hair clip or comb to the felt. You could also fix it to a headband, but in that case, I recommend gluing the felt over the headband to sandwich it between the felt and the cardboard.

12. Decorate as you like!

Gwenyver wearing the Hunter Green Tiny Top Hat

See how cute it looks? It is perfect for Alice, Gothic Lolita or even Steampunk wear. I especially suggest wearing it to one side of your head, with pigtails of course, for added cuteness.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Costume Tutu

If you are looking to make a tutu for a costume and you were overwhelmed by yesterday’s post, do not despair. Costume Tutus may not be considered fit to be worn by a professional ballerina, but they are quick and easy to make if all you really want is a puffy tulle skirt.

To make a costume Tutu, you need a ribbon and some tulle.
  1. First, measure a piece of ribbon long enough to tie around your waist. It will be helpful if you mark the part that has to be covered with tulle (i.e. your waist circumference) on it so you know where to begin tying the tulle and where to stop.
  2. The next step is cutting strips of tulle twice as long as your desired tutu length. The width of these strips is up to you, but you should know that the wider they are, the puffier you tutu will be.
  3. Once you are swimming in tulle strips, you can start tying them around your ribbon. Use a Lark's head knot: fold you strip in half, creating a loop, then thread the ends through that loop and pull tight around the ribbon.
  4. Continue until you have covered your ribbon from one mark to the other.
  5. You are now the proud owner of a costume tutu.

This technique can be used for kids costume tutus or a fluffy elastic bands for a ponytail.

And in case my step by step explanation wasn't clear enough, I found you a video tutorial that shows how to do what I just described!

I am personally going to eventually make myself a blue and seafoam one (I have the tulle, but I haven't gotten around to making it yet), but I also think my godsdaughter is getting one for her birthday! I wonder what colours she would like... (She'll be two next month.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Great Ballet Tutu Post

Since I’m now on the subject of Ballet, let’s talk tutus. If I’m going to make one, even if it is just a costume for myself, I want to do it the right way; what can I say, I’m a perfectionist! I’ve been reading up on the subject and looking at some amazing pictures, and here is what I have learned.

First, there are five types of professional ballet tutus:

The Romantic Tutu

Romantic Tutu by Class Act Tutu & Dancewear

This is a long flowing tulle skirt, made of five or six layers and usually reaching somewhere around mid-calf.

The Bell Tutu

Bell Tutu by Class Act Tutu & Dancewear

This style is well known as it was represented in many Degas painting (Edgar Degas is one of my favourite painters). It is short, stiff, and made of many layers of netting which are not supported by a hoop (contrary to the pancake tutu) and therefore falls a little in a bell shape.

The Pancake Tutu

Colourful Ballet Tutu - Wikimedia Commons

The classical tutu that comes out straight from the hips, is short, has many layers of tulle and net and is supported by a hoop. Because of this support, the whole thing tends to bounce sometime after the dancer has finished a movement.

The Platter Tutu

Classical Platter Tutu by Class Act Tutu & Dancewear

Similar to the Pancake Tutu, the Platter Tutu sticks out straight from the dancer’s waist, but this style has a flat top.

The Powder Puff Tutu

Tutu from Ballet Imperial by Karinska

Also known as the Balanchine/Karinska Tutu. It was developed by Barbara Karinska, a Russian born embroiderer turned Ballet costume designer. Balanchine loved great assembly of dancers in his ballet, but the traditional "pancake" tutu with its stiff wired layer would bob and dip when the dancers' skirts brushed up against one another and this bobbing and dipping would reverberate long after the steps were complete. Karinska devised the "powder puff" tutu, with a shorter skirt made of six or seven layers of gathered net, each layer a half inch longer than the preceding layer as a solution to this problem. The layers were tacked together for a fluffier, looser appearance (as opposed to the stiff "pancake" tutu). Because the shorter layers are self-supporting, no wire hoop is needed.

How does one construct one of these? First, you should know what the parts of the Tutu are.

The Bodice

Tutu Bodice illustration by Gwenyver

Shaped like a corset with shoulder straps, the tutu bodice must move and fit the dancer like a glove. It must feel like a second skin! Wrinkling or pulling fabric is unacceptable. It is strongly suggested that side pieces be cut on the fabric’s bias to take advantage of its stretchy nature.

The Basque

Tutu Upper Basque illustration by Gwenyver

This is the part that covers the dancer from the waist all the way to the crotch. It is shaped like a pair of panties if you like. It is a separate piece from the bodice, but it should match it and be made of the same fabric (cut on bias) if possible.

Tutu Lower Basque illustration by Gwenyver

Normally, it is made up of two parts: the upper Basque, which is the visible part that covers from the waist to the hips, and the lower Basque which is what you don’t see (not really) and looks like panties under the layers of tulle and net. The tulle is added layer by layer to each part before they are sewn together.

The Frills

Tutu Frills illustration by Gwenyver

What we always think of when we mention the word “tutu” is the frills. A tutu is made of on average 12 layers of frills, but it can go up to 16 layers for extra fullness. If a hoop is used, it will be placed in a casing on the 8th layer. As for length, it depends on the height of the dancer. gives this rule of thumb for tutu’s length:

  • A dancer 5'8" or taller then can wear a 15 or 16" tutu.
  • A dancer 5'5" to 5'7" the she should be in a 13" to 14" tutu.
  • A dancer 5'3" to 5'4' then is best in a 12" to 13" tutu.
  • A dancer the 4'10 to 5'2" tall (tiny) works best in an 11" to 12" tutu.

Layers should be attached 15 mm from each other and be perfectly aligned on the basque, otherwise it will look wonky. You can trace your lines on the basque with a ruler and an L-square to make sure everything gets sewn on straight. For the tutu to be self supported, layers need to decrease in length, from the longest on top to the shortest at the very bottom. Again, according to, this is how you should plan the cutting of your net fabric for all of your tutu layers.

  • Layer 12 (top): 12.5- (cut four widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 11: 12.0 -(cut four widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 10:10.5-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 9: 9.5-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 8: 8.5 -(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
    (the 8.5 layer is the wired layer in which a two inch strips is sewn to insert the wire.}
  • Layer 7: 7.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 6: 6.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 5: 5.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 4: 4.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 3: 3.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 2: 2.0-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)
  • Layer 1 (bottom):1.5-(cut three widths of 54 inch fabric)

Waltz of the Flowers Platter Tutu from eBay store Valo3456

For younger girls (junior high and younger) it is appropriate to add baby frills from the top of the leg hole all the way down the crotch line. These are no longer than 1 to 1.5 cm once sewn.

Basque Fastener from Kleins

One last thing (okay, two) that I have learned by reading the articles on never use cheap crinoline from the fabric store if you want to make a professional tutu – use petticoat net, it is more solid – and never, NEVER use a zipper for the basque or bodice – you can get professional basque closure for as little a 10$ a piece (from specialty store, but hey, what is Internet shopping for!).

Now if you are looking for links to find gorgeous tutus to drool on, go visit
Tutu Devine and Rossetti Costumes.

Maybe I should start thinking of taking Ballet classes… It would give me a legitimate excuse!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Les Chaussons Verts

Seeing all the Russian Ballet dancers last Sunday has given me the perfect excuse to introduce this next Wishlist item: Île costume from Les Chaussons Verts. Let me explain: Les Chaussons Verts is a novel 1956 by French author Saint-Marcoux and illustrated by G. De Sainte-Croix. It tells of Michèle, a young girl from the Île Saint-Louis in Paris and her story as a Ballerina, first of the renowned Opéra de Paris, and then with an independent production.. It is an obscure book, I know (although it won two literature prize – the Prix Montyon de Littérature de l’Académie Française and the Grand Prix Littéraire du Salon de l’Enfance 1952), but my mom read it when she was a young girl, and I’ve loved it since I was a child.

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, 183 pages.

At one point in the story, Michèle plays the role of the little Isle in a fictional ballet called "Les Nuées". Here are references to her costume:

"Habillées d’algues vertes, Sonia et Michèle ressemblaient à des sirènes ondoyantes, échappées su fleuve proche… "

(Dressed in green seaweeds, Sonia and Michèle looked like swaying mermaids escaped from the nearby river…)

"…César lui attachait prestement la dernière agrafe du maillot couvert d’algues brillantes…"

…César was tying the last hook of the bodice covered in brilliant seaweed…)

"…la Petite Île habillée d’algues vertes…"

(…the Little Isle dressed in green seaweed…)

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, pages 146-147.

And the last night she dances, she adds an old rusted ring to her headdress (a childhood keepsake) and she wears the green slippers, which gave the book its name. These are emerald green ballet slippers embroidered with gold and silver threads and covered in faux-jewels.

I want to make that costume. I have wanted to make it since I was nine. But with so little description to go on, how do you do it? I imagine I would make the bodice out of green sequined fabric, but the seaweed skirt ant headdress is a whole other puzzle.

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, page 171.

My original thought, even though the illustration shows a white tutu skirt, was to make a skirt out of lengths of organza no more than 10 cm wide with overlocked edges, but research I recently made about tutus has convinced me to make a proper one, using layers of tulle in different green and teal tones. Besides, a mermaid-like ballet costumes in the 50’s would not have been the same as one today (think of The Little Mermaid Ballet presented in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Andersen).

Here are two green Tutus made by other that I might use as inspiration:

Green Silk, by The Costume Lady

In this case, I love the softness of the green and the effet of the silk used for the bodice.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Emeralds
(Choreography by George Balanchine copyright, The Balanchine Trust, photo copyright by Erik Tomasson)

Here I love the bright green and layered effect of the skirt.

As for the ballet slippers, I would have to get a pair of pointes, get them dyed emerald green and then decorate them myself.

Ah! I wish I could add Ballet to my repertoire!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vancouver 2010 - Closing Ceremony

It had to come to an end. Sunday night, I watched the Closing Ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It wasn't as bad as the Opening Ceremony. The place made to French wasn't really all that great, but there was a tiny little effort (you had to pay attention).

The Olympic Flame - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Costume wise, my eyed were stimulated as well. First, there were white clad preppy dancing snowboards.

Dancing Snowboarders - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Okay, honestly, their outfits were a little on the boring side. Cute, but not all that interesting.

IOC Representatives Angela Ruggiero (USA) and Adam Pengilly (UK), with volunteers - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

We also got to see up close what the volunteers' outfits looked like. The padded parka skirt is an interesting look. It reminds me of an inflatable beach bag I have.

Team Canada - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

I know that the Athletes were dressed by the Hudson Bay Co., but why, oh why did they have to make them wear granny sweaters and hats with ear flaps!

Team Canada - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

They looked ridiculous!

At least the show was better.

Hockey Puck Kid - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

We were shown a real Vegas skit, à la Canada.

Hockey Players - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Although I did not really relate to the themes, I did find it hilarious that they took all the stereotypes circulating about Canada and used them in this big parody dance skit.

Sexy Mounties - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

The sexy Mounties' costumes were kind of fun. I'm sure the RCMP will take offense, but still.

Maple Leaves - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

The Maple Leaves impressed me the most: here are back pieces reminiscent of what you might find in Rio at Carnival.

Maple Leaf - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

I'm not so sure about the green hunter's cap though...

My favourite part of the show came with the performances of Sochi, the next city to hold the Winter Olympics.

Bubble - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Led lights clad acrobats in transparent zorbs: it was just dreamy.

Bubbles - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Led lights are used more and more often in performance costumes of this scale, but I think this was the best effect I have seen to date.

Opera singer Anna Netrebko - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Then there was Opera singer Anna Netrebko: she looked like she had borrowed her dress from Queen Amidala's wardrobe!

Opera singer Anna Netrebko - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

The "wings" were especially impressive.

Ballet Dancers - Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony

Finally, what is Russia without Ballet, and ballet costumes are always beautiful. I only wish I could have seen more of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballets.

So there you have it. Olympics are over. What will I talk about now? Hmm... How about Ballet?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Movie Monday: Season of the Witch

A new thriller is upon us (Oh joy, a horror flick): Season of the Witch (2010) stars Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman and Claire Foy and tell of 14th century knights entrusted to transport a suspected witch to a monastery where they will see if she is guilty of sorcery and responsible for the black plague.

(Already this pagan takes offense, but I also know these were very different times - or were they...)

A movie set in Medieval times? This should be for me, right? Well... I have yet to find one movie set in the Middle Ages that presents historically accurate clothing on everyone (not just the extras). Having said that, it doesn't mean the costumes won't be interesting.

Nicolas Cage as Behman, Season of the Witch (2010)

So, no accuracy, but hey, that has never stopped a Costumeholic!

Gentlemen, this movie is for you (costume wise anyways)!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vancouver 2010 - Figure Skating Gala

The Olympics are almost over. All that is left after today is the closing ceremonies. In the meantime, let’s look at some costumes from the Figure Skating Gala, shall we? (And the in a few days, I'll get back to talking about something else!)

(Note: All pictures came from the
Vancouver 2010 website.)

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Love the silver sparkly vest she wears! Very retro.

Charlie White and Meryl Davis of the United States, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Careful! Skate blades are a killer when it comes to making wholes in tights, especially fishnet!

Kim Yu-Na of Korea, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Yu-na looks like a swan in this dress. She is simply gorgeous.

Mao Asada of Japan, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

I love this very architectural look. The fan is reminiscent of Japan of course, but what I like the most is the black and hot pin combination.

Miki Ando of Japan, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Beautiful ombre dye skirt! She looks like she is dressed in flower petals.

Mirai Nagasu of the United States, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Turquoise! (Well, ocean blue, really.) Do I need to say anymore?

Oksana Domina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Straight out of the Matrix!

Patrick Chan of Canada, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Yeah... Hmmm. Sorry Pat, you look kind of boring mate!

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Angels on Ice!

Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto of the United States, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Raise your hand if you are reminded of the "Sexy Devil" costume found in every pattern books' Halloween section!

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

Canadians love their Hockey! Even figure skaters know that.

Seeing the a hockey jerseyed man paired with a tutued woman kind of reminds me of Battle of the Blades...

Joannie Rochette of Canada, Figure Skating Exhibition Gala

I could not end these two weeks of of Figure Skating posts without speaking one last time of Joannie Rochette. She has become Canada's Sweetheart, a strong young woman that is an example for us all. For this last performance, she skated to Céline Dion's "Vole", originally dedicated to Dion's niece Karine who died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 16 (I remember seeing aunt and niece on Le Club des 100 watts (1988), a kids TV show - they had talked about her disease). So you see, skating to that song had an especially poignant meaning.

Clad in royal purple velvet covered in sparkly rhinestones like so many tears caught on the fabric, she was regal, divine and wonderful.

Let us see her performance one more time, for posterity's sake.

And now, a blogger's moment of silence translated to written form: