Embroidery time!

Since looking at embroidery I’ve been eager to have a go. I had an idea that I could make some pieces of embroidery to go on a costume I’m (hopefully) making as part of my Final Major. Last weekend I got hold of a hoop and some organza and I’m not disappointed with how things are turning out. Not bad for a first try!

First I painted onto the organza to get the pattern, then sewed the outlines and main lines before filling them in. I may have pricked my fingers a few times but all in good spirits.

Later I intend to add beads and other shimmery bits.


Dick Van Dyke’s Rag Doll Costume


If you haven’t seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, then let me just show you this scene:

I am a big fan of old Musicals, especially old beautifully crafted ones like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- others in a similar vein include The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Calamity Jane, all of which will I intend to make costumes from sometime in the near or far future. But this scene I feel is one that few people remember or think of when they think of Chitty, and its such a rare and underestablished gem that I felt compelled to bring everyone’s attention to it.

A video I found of the costume archive found the shoes to be made of a mixture of cardboard and wood. Not quite the same feat of engineering as Cinderella’s dress- (See previous post) my how things have changed.

I wanted to write a bit on this costume because as a child I remember being fascinated by this scene and I could never put my finger on why. I think my parents always assumed it was because of the girleyness- I mean, I loved wearing dresses as a kid and the boxes and Truly’s dress are just beautiful.

Now I’m older and can look upon things with more experience I realize I love everything about this scene, from Truly’s hair, to the colours of the rag doll’s clothes. I think the interaction with them as toys is somehow quite magical, especially with the sound of the gears turning as Truly turns slowly round. But there’s something sooo heartwarming about the innocent joviality of that rag doll. Though he could be distinguished as male, the make up and over pronounced eyelashes, together with the way he projects himself as a sexless, playful toy, are stereotypically feminine. It’s so adorably non binary.

As he confesses his love for her, and she is unable to hear him, it reminds me now of an old fairy tale by Hans C Anderson, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, where a tin soldier with only one leg belonging to a little boy falls in love with a paper ballerina, who also has a damaged leg. The two are star crossed lovers and the story has one of those sad-but-happy endings, characteristic of Anderson Tales.

It’s not a scene many people think of when they think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and it may even be that in days to come many people have not watched this film as adults let alone as children (your little ones must witness The Original Child Catcher in order for the message ‘not to accept sweeties from strangers’ to truly sink in.) So I just wanted to bring to everyone’s attention the beauty and harmony in this duet.



Wanting to make Cinderella’s dress

While looking for dress patterns online I found a beautiful blue ball gown similar to the iconic costume from the new Cinderella film. I love big dresses and so making something big and extravagant like this is a must someday in the future, but I haven’t actually seen the film yet (don’t worry, it’s definitely on my to-do list!) so I didn’t have a true feel for just how awesome the Cinderella costume itself was in action. I took a look.

The Production Design in this film <3

The Production Design in this film ❤

Obviously- wow!

I tend to stay away from looking too closely at the film costume industry, because I don't think my skills as a Modelmaker are high profile enough- it is also rather closely linked to the propmaking industry, and a period of work experience at Pinewood Studios last year told me that was not something I wanted to dedicate such a huge part of my life to. However, I cannot help but be fascinated by the beauty of the costumes created for film and television; another example is of Game of Thrones designer Michele Carragher’s beautiful embroidery work I stumbled across while doing research for a previous project:

Game of Thrones Qarth Bugs and Moths Embroidery by Michele Carragher


The main thing about costume for film and television that has always fascinated me (and Cinderella’s dress is no exception as you will see) is how the design of the thing, and the processes and techniques that go into it, links into the character of the person wearing it and even the overall plot. Again, my age old passion of illusion and how to immerse an audience is playing on my senses.

At the Harry Potter Studio Tour (I’ve been twice already and intend to go again) there are lots of costumes on display and snippets of the costume designers talking about the logistics behind the design of every costume. Once you’ve looked at a design in this way it’s possible to do it with every character you see on screen; soon you start noticing the little ways that costume designers use human association to their advantage. I live in The Costwolds, in a small town known for being full of ‘hippies’, and the eco-friendly-fabric shapeless smock and square-toed rubber shoes featured in Professor Trelawney’s costume are very reminiscent of outfits I see people wearing on the high street every day (they’ve still been magickified though, an even cleverer feature, an element I will look into one day in a different blog post entirely dedicated to the epicness that was Harry Potter’s Production Design team and Stephanie McMillan <3) Even Professor Snape’s costume I feel hints at undercurrents of (spoiler alert!) an inner struggle between good and evil, with the buttons up the front resembling a vicar’s cassock- a character whom you would expect to do good- while the high collar creates the illusion of power and arrogance.



The most interesting of these examples, though (and with an explanation recorded on camera at the tour, rather than just theorised by myself) was the costume series for the formidable Professor Umbridge. As she gains power throughout the series, her dresses become brighter and deeper shades of pink, until even her colleagues begin to adopt pink accessories into their wardrobe as a result of her manipulation. What a horrible woman!


But how does this all tie in to Cinderella? Well, the dress was based on 19th century royal portraits- ‘a watercolour in motion.’ You only need to see a clip of the two of them dancing to witness the extraordinary phenomenon of what looks like a woman stepped straight out of an oil painting come to life. I am so excited by how the designers have managed to make her look so completely unreal, a human walking talking illustration. The illusion is so spectacular.


There was even some controversy as to whether or not Lily James’s waist had been photoshopped skinnier for the film. It certainly looks tiny, and while I don’t disagree with the use of Photoshop sometimes for artistic enhancement purposes I can understand why some Disney lovers would be in uproar. In an article on the dress in the Mail Online however, Creator Sandy Powell pronounces the theory untrue, saying the contrast is due alone to some very tight corsetry and clever optical illusions created by the dress’s shape.

Look at her waist. It looks miniscule! But it’s no wonder when you consider the vastness of her skirt and even the width of the neckline. Such clever craftsmanship. Future wedding dress please!

Look at her waist. It looks miniscule! But it’s no wonder when you consider the vastness of her skirt and even the width of the neckline. Such clever craftsmanship. Future wedding dress please!


"The top layer of the gown is silk crepeline, a very lightweight, fine silk. The layers underneath are made up of a synthetic called yumissima, an incredibly light (and very expensive, about £150 a metre) material which floats when thrown in the air."

“The top layer of the gown is silk crepeline, a very lightweight, fine silk. The layers underneath are made up of a synthetic called yumissima, an incredibly light (and very expensive, about £150 a metre) material which floats when thrown in the air.”

Need I say it, but the little lights in the dress (are they lights or just particularly shiny jewels? I’d make them fibre optics!) are beautiful- and the little butterflies on the neck, just, ah.

Besides simply dying to make my own version of this dress- everything from the colour to the shape to the tiny little shimmering butterflies I am hopelessly smitten for- I am really eager to make a note of these examples as ‘illusion techniques’ for the future and implement them in appropriate future designs. Perhaps it’s time to look into magicians’ codes?! ;D

And I think it’s time I actually read up on all previous century garments.

Happy dreaming everyone ^_^ ❤
http://www.messynessychic.com/2013/07/23/here-is-the-blog-of-the-game-of-thrones-costume-maker/ (really interesting blog post about the secret plotlines behind costumes in GoT; I don’t watch it but the links are still there!)

Immersive…Dinosaur Costume?

Something I’ve been increasingly interested in over the last few years has been the act of immersing an audience. I’ve looked at everything from Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment to Jane Mcgonigal’s theories on video gaming to try and put together a map of how to immerse people and why immersion is a good thing. It’s led me into a few different venues, one being costume design.

I came across this wicked costume online on a site called PVC Innovation recently, and was so inspired by the trickery and illusion involved that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about making something similar for my degree show next year! I was really excited by how much it could enhance an immersive experience for an audience because of the illusionary techniques.

Stand-up dinosaur or dragon costume. This man stands inside on a pair of stilts to give an even greater illusion that the animal is alive and carrying him.

Stand-up dinosaur or dragon costume. This man stands inside on a pair of stilts to give an even greater illusion that the animal is alive and carrying him!

I couldn’t find any information on what this animal actually was, how it was constructed or what it looked like when it was finished, (so if anyone does know please message me!) but it provided the initial taste of something I could create that would genuinely immerse people in a pre-determined way. Here it was the case that he actually used the costume on stilts- the audience are fooled because the man appears to be impossibly tall so they theorize that the animal must be carrying him. So clever! It is interesting that he chooses to stay inside the costume but elevates himself off the floor to provide a more realistic size dimension between the heights of humans and the height of this animal. Many makers of similar costumes fall into the pitfall of simply not being able to make the legs of their animal in proportion with the body because they aren’t tall enough!



I then came across this website where a company sells dinosaur costumes to various venues all over the world. It was a good example of a real world industry context for a model like this and how it could be made and sold commercially, but the model itself I was not impressed with- it was very short and while being an amusing addition to a zoo or something I didn’t feel like it would add much to an audience’s experience, other than that of little children. The main reason for this was because the wearer’s legs were still visible! I felt that when so much was being put into making the animal believably real, the legs ought to be at least attempted to be covered.

I did however find some useful examples of how I could make the mechanism inside (using something as simple as bike brakes for opening and closing the eyes and jaw) and build up of the animal’s skin.



I am uncertain as to where this project may take me and if I will even create something anything like it. I have always loved How to Train your Dragon and the dragon design in that, because it is very believeable- unlike some interactions in other films that are very typical of animals like horses, the designers of HTTYD took inspiration from reptiles, birds and even more domestic animals like cats and dogs and combined them into animal behaviour that is more unique to the story world of Berk.

If I were to create my own costume/puppet like this one, I would want to go through a similar process and design my own ‘production style’ and an animal that suited this style, as well as combining the actor into that style in an appropriate way, eg. In HTTYD they all ride the dragons on their knees, meanwhile Harry Potter rides Buckbeak more like a horse… (No euphenisms please.)

Guys legs are just sticking right out there...

Guys legs are just sticking right out there…

That’s it for now. I’ll post up if I find more useful links. Ain’t this fun! ^^