You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown had always been one of my top choices to direct when I started teaching- it’s a really accessible show, fairly simple to sing and simple to stage. So when I was working for a school that wanted to invest as little as possible in its arts program, it was a solid choice, especially when I found out they had done it about five years earlier and we had some key costume pieces in storage! Life was a lot easier when I realized that Schroeder, Charlie Brown, and Linus already had their shirts.

While the show only has a few cast members originally (Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, and Snoopy) I decided to expand the cast to include more kids. Because that’s what needs to happen for a middle/high school production, especially when there’s only two shows a year and you want to give as many kids as possible a chance to be part of a performance. Woodstock was added (a nonspeaking role for literally the most precious second grader you’ve ever seen) along with several other birds from the elementary school, and then an ensemble of older kids that, while they didn’t have lines, were all chosen from Peanuts characters- Peppermint Patty, Frieda, Patty, Marcy, Violet, the Little Redheaded Girl, and Pigpen. Most of my kids had minimal to no stage experience, but they were absolutely fantastic. All of them hard workers, all of them super eager to learn, and it turned out to be a great production. If it hadn’t been for the garrulous music teacher (which is a whole ‘nother story, but for reference please picture the Queen of Hearts from the animated Alice in Wonderland and you’re just about there) it would have been perfect.

The boys were very easy to costume. Since, for the most part, their shirts were pulled from storage, it was a matter of them bringing in the right shorts and sneakers from home. Pigpen had a brown shirt that he brought from home as well, but again, super easy to get. My philosophy (pun accidental) when costuming is to either make everything my cast needs, or have them bring in items they already own; I don’t like sending my actors to buy costume pieces. Which is what made it even more miraculous when my Charlie Brown found a pair of yellow and black striped pajamas that worked perfectly for the opening number.

Snoopy’s costume was also fairly simple. I didn’t want to do a full body dog costume, so Snoopy wore white pants and a white shirt with a black and white baseball cap. With some slight makeup (mostly the black nose) he was perfectly believable as Snoopy. For the Red Baron sequence at the top of act two, he added goggles, a flight cap, and a white scarf pulled from my sister’s costume collection.

The birds were also very simply costumed- yellow shirts, black shorts, and sneakers. Woodstock also wore a yellow tutu and we tied yellow ribbons in her pigtails. She was literally the cutest.

Sally and Lucy were slightly more tricky. A lot of productions try to copy the comics exactly and put their actresses in drop waisted dresses with short skirts that stick out like hula hoops. I ended up putting them in more 50s style fit and flare dresses, mostly because I had Sally’s dress already! I played Janice Vickery in The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds in college and made my own costume, a pink and white polka dot dress with a half circle skirt and a peter pan collar (I used Simplicity 4116, which has been out of print for quite a while, but it’s pretty easy to find comparable patterns). To make it work for my Sally, I took the dress in and made a sash and a hairbow; with frilly ankle socks, pink low top converses, and a small petticoat, it was perfect. I wanted Lucy in something similar, so I used McCall’s 4948 (their Alice in Wonderland pattern) to make a plain blue dress with puffed sleeves and a circle skirt, but I eliminated the peter pan collar to keep it looking more like Lucy and less like Alice in Wonderland. The school’s powers-that-be thought the skirt was too short (despite all my actors in skirts wearing shorts under their costumes) so I added a ruffle to the hem. I made two bows to match, and then added a petticoat, frilly ankle socks, and saddle shoes.

The other girls in the ensemble wore outfits reminiscent of their characters in the comics, mostly by colors. Peppermint Patty wore sandals, a sports jersey, a backwards baseball cap, and drawn-on freckles, and Marcy wore a sailor dress and Harry Potter glasses. Violet wore purple, Frieda wore red (and had naturally curly hair!) and Patty wore an orange and gold plaid dress that I had previously used when I directed David Ives’ Words Words Words.

The most unique part of my production, in my personal opinion, was adding the Little Redheaded Girl, the object of Charlie Brown’s affections. I had a redheaded student that I costumed in a white dress and a pink floral print cardigan, and incorporated her into the group scenes. She was there when Charlie Brown did his lunchtime monologue, and she skipped past him during the baseball song. My favorite part was the very end, when he’s holding her pencil at the end of “Happiness.” All the other actors had already left in twos and threes, and he was alone onstage with the pencil. It’s scripted that Lucy gives the final line, but instead I had the Little Redheaded Girl tap him on the shoulder and hold out her hand. He gave her the pencil back, she said “you’re a good man, Charlie Brown,” and then took his hand to walk him offstage. It was such a sweet moment and a great ending to the show!

Amy March from Little Women

This dress didn’t begin life as Amy March. It just kind of…happened.

Picture it: my junior year of college, 2000 and something. My English literature class was doing group projects, and mine decided to do an Oprah-type interview of Jane Austen. Who was selected to play Jane Austen? Me! But I needed a costume.

I ran to Joann’s and grabbed Butterick 6630, their regency-era pattern, and whipped it up in white muslin. I mostly followed the pattern to the letter, although the laced back was a little tricky- I ended up using little white eyes for the loops instead of messing with punching eyelets. I also added a little bit of eyelet to the sleeve cuffs and added a full lining to the skirt, also trimmed with eyelet (I’m always a slut for eyelet). I pulled my hair back in a loose knot, added a pair of black ballet slippers, and it made for a pretty decent Jane Austen costume!

Flash forward to Akaicon 2016. I was planning on attending the masquerade, but I didn’t have a ballgown cosplay completed. And I was running out of time fast (and money- the yardage for ballgowns ain’t cheap). I played around with a couple of options but ended up pulling my white Jane Austen dress out of storage and set to work with a different literary character in mind.

In the book Little Women there’s a scene in the second half where Amy, the youngest sister, is preparing to go to a ball. She ends up taking a hand-me-down white ballgown, adds tulle and some flowers, and goes to the ball without anyone suspecting that she’s wearing someone else’s old dress. In fact, it’s that scene where she runs into Laurie again and…well, I would say spoiler alert but the book was published in the 1880s. But it’s a great scene. Amy’s a great character (not in the beginning, I know, but she grows up to be awesome) and I thought the scene would the perfect setup for an (admittedly obscure) amazing cosplay for the masquerade.

It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately prinked that night. Time and absence had done its work on both the young people. She had seen her old friend in a new light, not as ‘our boy’, but as a handsome and agreeable man, and she was conscious of a very natural desire to find favor in his sight. Amy knew her good points, and made the most of them with the taste and skill which is a fortune to a poor and pretty woman.

Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she enveloped herself in them on such occasions, and following the sensible English fashion of simple dress for young girls, got up charming little toilettes with fresh flowers, a few trinkets, and all manner of dainty devices, which were both inexpensive and effective. It must be confessed that the artist sometimes got possession of the woman, and indulged in antique coiffures, statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. But, dear heart, we all have our little weaknesses, and find it easy to pardon such in the young, who satisfy our eyes with their comeliness, and keep our hearts merry with their artless vanities.

“I do want him to think I look well, and tell them so at home,” said Amy to herself, as she put on Flo’s old white silk ball dress, and covered it with a cloud of fresh illusion, out of which her white shoulders and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect. Her hair she had the sense to let alone, after gathering up the thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like knot at the back of her head.

“It’s not the fashion, but it’s becoming, and I can’t afford to make a fright of myself,” she used to say, when advised to frizzle, puff, or braid, as the latest style commanded.

Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion, Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azalea, and framed the white shoulders in delicate green vines. Remembering the painted boots, she surveyed her white satin slippers with girlish satisfaction, and chasseed down the room, admiring her aristocratic feet all by herself.

“My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves fit to a charm, and the real lace on Aunt’s mouchoir gives an air to my whole dress. If I only had a classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy,” she said, surveying herself with a critical eye and a candle in each hand.

In Amy-ish fashion, I dug around to see what I had in my costume supplies, and lo and behold, I found a set of white Ikea Lill curtains, still in their packaging. Basically I had a panel of soft, already hemmed tulle. I cut up the curtains to make a multilayered tulle skirt and added a waistband and a hook and eye and voila! The addition of the long tulle skirt made my simple muslin dress look dreamy.

It wasn’t quite complete though, so I added a blue satin ribbon sash, a blonde wig (the same one I wore for Eleven), and a flower crown from Claire’s. My boots are a beautiful pair of ivory high heeled Seychelles Romance boots that look gorgeous but HURT. I was relieved I was only wearing them for the masquerade because wow, so much pain.

I have a couple of (awkward) photos in the costume, and while no one knew who I was, I was really happy with how it turned out. The fit could have been better and it could have been a little fancier, but for a costume I only wore for two hours it worked really well!

Astrid Hofferson from How to Train Your Dragon

The only way I can describe this is “Princess Astrid.” Really.

I love How to Train Your Dragon, so for Not So Scary in 2015 I decided to make a costume inspired by her. Her full outfit was going to be impractical, especially for Florida (faux fur! Leather! weaponry!) so I designed a one piece dress reminiscent of Astrid using my trusty Simplicity 1873 as a base.

The bodice is made of a red brocade that I bought online. Sadly it is far too shiny in person and I wasn’t happy with it at all. I also wasn’t happy with the faux lacing- the neckline sits too high and the waistline sits too low, making me seem lumpy and uneven. The sleeves were fairly simple though; I used cream cotton from my stash and stitched on brown ribbon to look like the lacing of her arm guards.

The skirt was a brown cotton that I originally purchased for my Vanellope Von Schweetz cosplay (although I found a much better fabric later). I used a wide burlap ribbon to cover the waist and stitched stripes of narrow burlap ribbon onto the skirt to look like the fur and leather panels. I tracked down skull buttons on Ali Express that literally arrived at the last possible second.

The headband was a length of brown twill belting with elastic stitched to the center, and I wore navy Walmart leggings and my Rocketdog boots. Super classy, eh?

Here’s where I really messed up, though. Because…I’m a procrastinator. A really dreadful procrastinator. I waited until the day of Not So Scary to get started on my project. And I slept in too. And also I was working on my friend’s Belle costume, which I hadn’t completed either. I am literally THE WORST. I cried. Often. And I wasn’t happy with the final products of either cosplay. But oh well. We still made it to Be Our Guest on time (so Bri got to eat at the castle while dressed as Belle) and we still had a great time at the party. Will I wear my Astrid dress again? Not without significant changes. But at least we had a good time!

Dapper Day Queen Elinor from Brave

Fall Dapper Day is somehow always harder to plan for. Dapper Day in the spring naturally lends itself to soft pastels and fluffy petticoats, but picking something in a fall color scheme is harder. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just me.

I went through multiple options for my Dapper Day attire until I finally settled on Queen Elinor from Brave. I love the character and I hadn’t sewn anything in that rich green color before. I also decided to make it easier on myself by making a skirt and cape instead of a dress.

The skirt was self drafted- if I’m making a dirndl or circle skirt, you can bet I’ve drafted it myself. (Comment below if you want to see tutorials!) I made a basic circle skirt (with pockets) out of a gorgeous green taffeta I had in my stash that had been sitting around for years, waiting for the right project. The zipper came from my stash too, so I ended up not paying anything out of pocket for the skirt! I also pulled out my trusty Malco Modes skirt.

The cape was a little more complicated. I wanted to do something special with it. I bought a super basic New Look pattern for a cape and used the hood pattern piece from McCall’s 5534 (it’s out of print, but if you can find it it’s a super cute hooded bathrobe pattern). I bought a cream and green plaid and a black textured fabric, and made the cape fully reversible. I also made little ears and sewed them to the black hood. Why? So I could turn into a bear, of course! It was lightweight, easy to wear, and added just the right touch to the outfit.

I paired the skirt with a cream colored lace top from Forever 21 and a brown leather belt from…someplace. Walmart, maybe? I’ve had it since college, so who knows. The boots were bought at TJ Maxx after a long, nearly fruitless search. Really, why is it so hard to find plain brown lace up ankle boots without zippers and cuffs on them? But I found them at last and paired them with lace trimmed socks folded over the tops. My hair was straightened and I added a pearl circlet headband from Claire’s.

Dapper Day was actually scheduled to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the fall, but beforehand I needed to go to Magic Kingdom to meet Merida (obviously). It was by far one of the best meet and greet experiences I’ve ever had. Merida was very sweet when I came up, and in order to make things easier (I get weirdly awkward and nervous when I meet characters and I have no idea why) I blurted out “Hey, Merida, I’m dressed like your mum and I can turn into a bear.”

She stopped and looked at me in confusion, and I took off my cape and started flipping it inside out. You can actually pinpoint the moment that she realized what was going on.

It was so great. She adjusted my ears for me and we posed like bears, and then she told me to make my best mum face and scold her (but she kept sticking her tongue out at me). It was a great interaction, and as I was about to leave, she stopped me and with the most sincere expression said “you’re beautiful.” I’m not going to lie, I got a little teary walking away. It was a great moment.

After a few more shenanigans at Magic Kingdom, my friend and I moved on to Studios, where clearly photoshoots had to happen, especially in front of Great Movie Ride.

All in all, it was a really successful (and comfortable!) outfit, and one of the best dapper days I’ve experienced.

Kiss Me Kate

Sometimes shows are great. Great director, great cast, great team, smooth sailing and joy for all. Sometimes it’s…a little more of an uphill battle.

Kiss Me Kate has never been one of my all-time favorite shows, but it’s a classic, it’s Cole Porter, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to audition. I knew I wasn’t right for Lilli/Kate and only slightly right for Lois/Bianca, but the ensemble is extremely active and I knew it would be a lot of fun.

If you haven’t seen the show, Kiss Me Kate is a show-within-a-show based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The main crux of the plot is centered on Lilli, former theatre actress turned Hollywood star, and Fred, a well-renowned stage actor. Also they recently got divorced and they hate each other. They’re performing as the already contentious characters of Kate and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, and it’s a hot mess. Also Fred’s new girlfriend is also in the show, and there’s a case of mistaken identity that involves a pair of bumbling gangsters causing trouble. All in all, good times are had. The show was originally produced in 1948 and revived several times since then, including a very well-received 1999 revival. (This will be important in a moment.)

I was actually cast as Hattie, a supporting role. Hattie is Lilli’s extremely loyal assistant, and I ended up having a lot of fun with the part. I played her as very sassy- lots of shade, lots of side eye. And of course she hates Fred because Lilli hates Fred. It was a great time, especially since I ended up being in part of the Shakespearean ensemble as well with three of my favorite theatre friends (Lauren, Raven, and Erin were part of Seussical too so it was great having a reunion in the same show). But…then, my friends, the fit hit the shan.

The director was adamant that we were doing the original 1948 production, which is, admittedly, extremely dated and had some material that needed a change. But we plugged away at it steadily, waiting for the day our vocal tracks would come in. But lo and behold…our vocal tracks were from the 1999 revival and they were drastically different. Nothing matched the sheet music we’d been rehearsing, timing was off, some songs (like Lois’s big act two number) were in a completely different key. As Hattie, I was singing lead on the opening number, which is a fairly well known musical theatre song.

NOTHING MATCHED. I was trying to sing the 1948 version to the very different 1999 version, and nothing aligned, especially towards the end with all the vamping. The director didn’t hear the difference and kept scolding me for not singing it correctly, and we didn’t have a music director (another layer of stress), and when we did have someone to come in and clean up music, he was like “…just do the best you can.” So I made it up. Sorry, Cole Porter.

There were a lot of other roadblocks- a lack of men for necessary roles, portions of songs getting cut down while other songs got all of their reprises and encores, endless choreography changes, a set that didn’t function well for what we needed, a leading man who never learned his lines so it was an adventure every performance. And the costumes. Dear glory, no one was in the correct era. The 40s scenes were pretty good; the ensemble had a pretty good handle of the right clothing. But the Shakespeare costumes were all over the place. Erin’s was nice; it looked like one of Danielle’s peasant dresses from Ever After. Raven wore what we called “Party City Rapunzel” and Lauren wore a dress that looked like she was waiting for the Civil War to be over. It was quite a time.

I ended up making both of my costumes. My 1940s dress was made from Simplicity 1459, with two key modifications. The original pattern calls for a side zipper, but I had too many costume switches in this show for that nonsense. I changed the side zipper to a very very long back zipper, to make it easier to get in and out of the dress. This also meant the back of the collar was separated instead of one continuous piece, which didn’t look as clean and pretty, but oh, well. I had a 30 second costume change before “We Open in Venice” in the middle of act one, and I didn’t have time for side zippers.

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(Also just look at all the sass in that picture.)

I used a nice cotton floral print for the body of the dress and a maroon cotton for the sailor collar and sash (which was sewn to the dress, because I also did not have time to tie and untie a sash). The maroon buttons were stitched to the front of the bodice as well, because I didn’t want to take the risk of a button popping out in the middle of the show.

I honestly can’t remember now if I changed the cut of the skirt from the pattern version or not. I think I kept it. In any case, it is an extremely full circle skirt, and I borrowed a chiffon petticoat from the theater to pop underneath. And I wore my black character shoes.

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(It’s a blurry picture from the audience, but you can see how much volume my skirt had!)

For the Shakespeare dress, I modified an out of print pattern, Simplicity 8735. It’s the original version of the Ever After dress patterns (and I suspect that Erin’s dress was made from the same pattern). I wanted the look of a chemise/skirt/bodice, but without multiple pieces because costume changes. I used a brown linen for the bodice (unlined), white muslin for the sleeves/bodice inset/underskirt, and a very light pink cotton for the overskirt.

(Erin is on my right with a truly epic facial expression.)

I inverted the bodice so it pointed down instead of pointing up, and lengthened it instead of leaving it an empire waist. The lacing is stitched directly to the bodice, and the (extremely wide) sleeves are trimmed with extremely wide eyelet. I also stitched eyelet trim to the neckline as well.

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The skirt is in two layers, a white muslin layer and a pink cotton, and they’re both plain dirndls with a lot of width. I do mean a lot. This thing swirled like it was its job. Which, well, it kind of was. I also made the cap from the pattern from the same pink of the skirt; I stitched a clear plastic comb at the top so it could slide right into my hair and decorated it with pale pink silk roses.

Have I mentioned that I had to switch shoes in these costume changes too? I had black character shoes for the 40s and nude character shoes for Shakespeare. Oy.

(me exchanging a look with Lois, played by Merissa, who later played Shelly in Evil Dead. Also isn’t Erin the cutest? She made her yellow floral dress from a vintage reprint McCall’s pattern that I almost used.)

Was this my most successful show? No. Was it my favorite show? No. Did I learn a lot? Absolutely. Even if you’re in a show that puts you through a lot of struggle, you can always take it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Plus, I got to pretend I was Rachel Berry for a while.

Plus I got to do a show with some of my besties. And that’s always worth it. #memegirlsquad

I also rocked some pretty great 1940s style hair and makeup, so comment below if you’d like to see a video tutorial!

Genderbent Kristoff Bjorgman

So I sewed a young Elsa cosplay instead of the ice dress or the coronation dress, right? So of course I’d make one of those next.

Nope.

I made a genderbent cosplay of Kristoff’s outfit from Frozen Fever. As one does.

So I was going to the 24 Hour Day in Magic Kingdom with my friend Carrie and we were debating about what to wear (because of course you have to dress up!) She ended up being the Sven to my Kristoff and it was the most magical thing.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked about which pattern I used- Simplicity 1873! Seriously, so versatile. So great.

I used sportswear fabric (sturdy with a bit of stretch) for both the bodice and the skirt; the skirt is a nice simple A-line. The neckline and armscyes are edged in bias tape rather than a full lining (too hot for that!) and I wore the same blouse I used for my young Elsa cosplay underneath, rather than making the collar and sleeves. The sash was a length of maroon fabric stitched together to make an extremely wide long panel long enough to tie and drape. The best part was busting out the embroidery options on my machine- I never use them, but they worked so beautifully on the bodice. I might have used too much embroidery, actually.

For 24-Hour Day, I wore a pair of black T-strap flats from Blowfish (which were amazing, but I wore them out and I can’t find a replacement pair and ergo am devastated) and my custom made Kristoff bow from Ever After Bowtique. Simple, but effective. I also stuffed my Malco Modes petticoat under there, because of course I did.

I pulled the costume out again for my first Akaicon in 2015. The basic costume stayed the same, but I styled it differently. The biggest change was wearing my pale blonde Arda wig instead of using my own hair; I added a gray knitted beret from Claire’s too. It seemed very Kristoffesque.

I also skipped the simple flats and went with the more Kristoff-appropriate option of gray tights from Target and my black Seychelles Gallium boots (also the same ones from my young Elsa cosplay).

I also eliminated the petticoat and added my eyelet-trimmed Wendy Darling bloomers instead. While I truly love my petticoats, they’re not always necessary, and this cosplay definitely looked cuter and more character-appropriate with just the circle skirt. And look how cute the bloomers are with the lace peeking out under the hem!

I haven’t pulled this one out in a long time, but maybe there’ll be another great time to cosplay as everyone’s favorite weirdo ice harvester

Cinderella’s Rags

Why are these rags so pretty? I’ve always wondered that, even as a kid. Maybe it’s the color combination- the warm golden brown, the chocolate brown, the robin’s egg blue. There’s just something appealing about it.

I decided to make my Cinderella rags cosplay for Not So Scary in 2014. What pattern did I use? If you guessed my trusty Simplicity 1873, you are correct! It’s just the best fit and flare pattern there is. I used all cottons, mostly because I couldn’t find any linens that were the right color. If I ever go back and remake this dress, I’ll use a wider range in fabric textures. The skirt was cut as a half circle and I added pockets- really deep pockets, because if I’ve learned anything from my Not So Scary trips it’s that I NEED POCKETS. I mean, I had my car keys, my phone, and my umbrella in that bitch.

The first time I tried on the bodice, it was too small. This is why I always pin the zipper and test the bodice before I add sleeves or the skirt! Luckily I had enough fabric left to add gores at the sides, and that was all I needed.

The apron was a hemmed rectangle of white cotton pleated onto a waistband (super simple) and I wore black ballet flats from Target and a royal blue ribbon in my hair. My hair was surprisingly easy. I curled my bangs back from my forehead with a 1” curling iron and pinned the perfectly formed curl into place; the rest of my hair was curled, teased, and tied into a low ponytail. I was also very pleased with my makeup (although I can’t remember what products I used!)

I also made a Fairy Godmother costume for my friend Song using the same pattern. The dress was a plain blue, but the short cloak was self drafted. If I remember correctly, the cape part was cut in one circular piece; the cape and hood were both lined in pink and I added the big maroon ties in the front to make the bow.

I wore the Cinderella costume again for Akaicon 2015; I wanted a simple and comfortable cosplay for Sunday so I pulled this one out of retirement. This time I added my beloved Malco Modes petticoat, white gave just enough softness and fullness. My friend Kimberly also took some gorgeous photos of the costume, and my sister lent me her Cinderella mice toys (from a playset I bought her for her sixth birthday!)

Also I got to meet Jason Mardsen in this dress and I got super shy and he was literally the nicest and his chin scruff touched my shoulder when he hugged me and it was the best okay bye.