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.

“Are you Blonde Belle?” (no.)

Let’s go back to an earlier, simpler time. Fall of 2014. The Frozen craze is at its height. I’m going to Not So Scary, and do I have the time to make Elsa’s ice gown? Or her coronation gown? Absolutely not, I’m a procrastinator. So I settle for young Elsa.

(Source: Britt Myers Art)

I was already off to a pretty good start. I had a Forever 21 blouse in the correct color with the correct collar already, plus I had white gloves, white tights, a black headband, and a pale blonde Arda wig (from my yet-to-be-completed Alice in Wonderland cosplay). I also swapped out the black ballet flats for my black Seychelles Gallium ankle boots. Pretty much I was just looking at the dress.

I used a navy knit from my stash from the bodice; using a knit meant I could eliminate the zipper, and the fit was a lot more comfortable and forgiving. I pretty much just cut rectangles and pinned and stitched until it was a good fit. Originally the skirt was made out of the same knit, but it was too dark and too heavy, so I pulled a medium blue cotton from my stash and made a simple dirndl skirt (plus pockets- you always need pockets, especially for Not So Scary.

Elsa’s dress has a lot of really beautiful embroidery, but did I mention that I’m a procrastinator?

I ended up bringing my Elsa Disney Animator’s Collection doll to Joann’s with me so I could match her embroidery to embroidered ribbon. That’s right, I was that crazy lady walking around in public with a doll. But in the end, I found a great scalloped black trim for the hem, a pretty burgundy satin ribbon, and two kinds of embroidered ribbon in the right colors. Worth it, I guess? Oh, and I also used a navy satin ribbon as a sash.

The floral shape on the bodice turned out to be a nightmare. Originally I cut the petals from fabric and I planned to satin stitch them on as appliques. My sewing machine, it turns out, did not agree. At the last second, I used black fabric paint and traced around the edges; it simulated a stitched edge while also attaching the petals to the bodice. It’s not great, and I fully plan on changing it at some point in the future, but it could be a lot worse.

(Speaking of a lot worse, I hadn’t learned about wig caps. As such, the wig situation was a mess the whole night. Yikes.)

The only real downside to this cute, comfortable, on-trend costume…was that no one knew who I was. All night people asked me if I was blonde Anna or blonde Belle. What a let down. At least Anna and Elsa knew who I was.

All in all, I call this one a win. I really want to pull it out again at some point, especially since my sister is getting me the Sir Jorgenbjorgen plush for Christmas this year. Or maybe I’ll be crazy and remake the whole thing.

Do you want to build a snowman?

Dapper Day Rapunzel from Tangled

This dress was a long, long long time in the making. It starts when I was in college, and I was tasked with making a dozen colonial-era costumes in the span of two and a half weeks (Comment below if you want to hear that story!) I drew inspiration from a lot of places, including Sofia Coppola’s dreamy Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst. The costumes in that movie are absolutely stunning, and I especially fell in love with the soft pastel gowns worn during the Petit Trianon scenes. I ended up making this beautiful white gown lined in soft pink, with a pink satin sash. I was totally in love, and honestly I wanted to make one for myself.

So when I was planning my spring Dapper Day outift, I really wanted to make something like that dress, but with a Disney twist. I decided to base my outfit off of both the chemise a la reine and Rapunzel!

 

I used my favorite fit and flare dress pattern, Simplicity 1873, for the bodice, but cut both the back and neckline in deep scoops. I also added a waistband, to give the bodice a more definited shape. The sleeves were pulled from…well, I’m honestly not sure. Another pattern. Both the sleeves and the neckline were trimmed with pleated white ruffles.

I made the dress out of white muslin (because cheap!) but the bodice and the full circle skirt were both lined in a light lavender cotton, partially because, well, the white dress was see through, and also because the lavender gave just enough of a hint of a Rapunzel color through the thin muslin. As a final touch, I used a double-faced satin ribbon in the perfect lavender-pink shade as a sash and made thread loops to hold it in place. (Comment below if you want a tutorial on how to make those!)

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I also made a flower-trimmed headband using a cream colored headband from Joann’s and a bunch of silk flowers. They were only hot glued into place, but they held up really well and I didn’t lose a blossom during the long humid day.

My shoes were a pair of pink and cream oxford flats from Modcloth and I wore them with a pair of white lacey socks from the kid’s section of Target. What can I say? They worked really well. I also wore a necklace with a little gold comb on it, also from Modcloth.

I wore my Malco Modes petticoat underneath the dress and carried around a cream colored purse from Forever 21, and it was a magical day. I mean, I did get stared at in the parking lot, and it’s REALLY HARD TO DRIVE IN A PETTICOAT, but I had a beautiful time and took a lot of pictures. And also met Rapunzel. I got to tell her that my dress had pockets and she thought that was great. So all in all, a success! I really need to wear this dress again. Maybe the next time I go grocery shopping.

 

 

Ellie Frederickson

I need to wear this dress more often. That’s really the biggest takeaway from this. I like this dress and I like this pattern.

Way way way back in 2011, a friend of mine was getting married and since I had done her alterations, I wanted to make a dress. I picked up Vogue 2960 and some really nice floral print cotton that a vintage vibe to it, and got to work. It’s a shockingly simple pattern, especially with the changes I made. The original pattern calls for the dress to button up the front, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

I cut the front bodice pieces on the fold and inserted a red zipper (a fancy exposed zipper!) in the back. It made it so much easier to assemble, and honestly it made it simple to wear too, since I wasn’t worried about my boobs popping out as they are wont to do with a button front anything. I did make a full bodice lining as well, which gave a little more heft and a little more opacity to the fabric.

A few years later, when I was teaching, I needed an outfit for Spirit Week for fictional character day. For some reason my usually overactive brain completely stalled out when it came to what I wanted to wear, so I ended up pulling this dress out of my closet so I could be Ellie Frederickson from Up. I added a red cardigan, red heels, a petticoat borrowed from my sister, and a Grape Soda Ellie Badge pin borrowed (begrudgingly) from my mother.

Lanyard of teacher keys optional.

I ended up revisiting this pattern for my Dapper Day Wendy Darling dress, and still love it- but I’ve since learned I need to take some of the ease out of the back. It makes more sense if you read that post; you can see where things didn’t quite work out as easily as it did with this dress!

Baby’s First Cosplays

I’ll admit it- I was bit by the cosplay bug when I was still very much in my weeaboo stage. I was a sophomore in college, and I was intrigued by the idea of dressing up like characters that I liked. So I headed to the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention for a…very strange weekend.

It’s been a long time, so I’ll just say that I’m no longer friends with any of the people I attended the con with, and since hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz, I totally understand why I had an absolutely miserable time there. It also didn’t help that I knew absolutely nothing about conventions or cosplay and I was woefully unprepared. But it makes for some hilariously terrible pictures!

I tried cosplaying as Anna Kyoyama from Shaman King for the first time. It wasn’t great. I bought an ugly black dress from Goodwill and wore it with a pair of Skechers slides that were way too big and a piece of red fabric that I don’t even think I hemmed. The bracelet and rosary were all right, and I was even able to use the rosary for the second time I tried the cosplay. But overall, not great. Especially since my idea of hair and makeup at the time was…not good.

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I also tried cosplaying as Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, in an attempt that can only be described as “what on earth was I thinking?” I wore a navy dress (also from Goodwill) that for some reason I thought looked exactly like Tohru’s school uniform (spoiler alert: it did not) with yellow ribbons, white knee socks, and brown mary janes. I also didn’t know anything about wigs, and while there are a lot of great cosplays that allow the cosplayer to use their own hair, this was not a good choice for me. But I was excited, and that was the most important part.

The most important part of this whole ill-fated attempt was that I finally tried sewing for the first time. One of my roommates in college had a sewing machine; she taught me the basics and set me loose. I bought McCall’s 4948, their token Alice in Wonderland pattern, and gave it a try. Overall it wasn’t the greatest construction, but it also wasn’t terrible. The fabric especially was beautiful; I honestly wish I could find it again so I could remake the whole piece. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I never added the collar, the seams weren’t finished, and the zipper was…not the best.  I also made a petticoat dress underneath using McCall’s 5095 (a sundress pattern) that didn’t offer a lot in the way of fluff but still looked pretty cute peeking out from under the skirt.

The pinafore was a little more misshapen, but again, I made a wearable garment for the first time, zipper included. As you can see I once again didn’t wear a wig and showed off my great MySpace styled hairstyle instead, but it could have been worse. And yeah, some kids made fun of me because I was more Disney/storybook Alice than American McGee’s Alice, but I was pretty happy with how the costume turned out.

I had such a negative experience with that con that I didn’t try again until Akaicon in 2015, but it turns out I do like cons when I go with the right people! And at the end of the day, all that really matters when it comes to cosplay is that you have a great time. So if you’ve thought about trying it, go for it!