Belly Dance Costume

One day, feeling particularly bored with all my have-to-do sewing projects, I decided to play with some of my some-day belly dance costume fabric that I accumulate for myself and then don’t do anything with. I put this together with a skirt design that I had come up with before, then draped the top and invented it by pinning and tucking. The veil came from some fabric that had the same pattern but was printed on a sheer, net material.

And here’s me dancing in it:




The Project: masks for a masquerade


I *transformed* a pair of Optimus Primes with some bling. Hot glue melts this plastic, so there’s a trick to it.

I found a broken mask at a thrift store with a lousy eye mask and the feathers falling off and gutted it for its iridescent feathers to add to a silver one for me:

The giant bag of mixed plastic gems I got for this project had about 10 large purple beads, 10 small purple beads, 10 large blue beads, and 40 each of nearly every other freaking color. We emptied the entire bag and flipped them all right side up to discover this. I had intended to make my mask with only purple gems, but it was not to be, and it wasn’t worth forcing it by going on a midnight search of craft stores. I still remember when these types of beads could be bought in separate packages of each color and size without having to send away.

I also blinged this butterfly mask for someone who wound up not able to make it to the event:


D. Didn’t want to set his mask on fire:

Masks on (the boys decided to rent tuxes to match their masks:

All the way on:

::Pointing:: I have a chin! Wait, at that angle, I have two! Yay!

I made that cape in college. It was the project I learned about nap on, the hard way. Bought the necklace broken and repaired it. The earrings are some pendants I put on some pierced-look clips.

Hair art:

Emergency Halloween Costume

The Project: The slinky dress worn by Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters.

I whipped out my copy of Ghostbusters to get a good shot of the dress, as all the ones online show her sitting down. Here she is showing off her new look to Bill Murray:

And a convenient possession pose that shows more detail from a different angle:

Bill Murray can be seen examining the technique used to hem her lined skirt.

One of my clients commissioned me to make this for a relative who lives in California, and told me that its future owner was about my size. Convenient! I learned to sew on that size!

I draped the pieces on myself and decided to make it a shirt and an elastic-banded skirt for more size-range, with a whole lot of belt to cinch it at the waist.

I made the gold lining smaller for the top and cut the skirt at a different angle to maximize the movement and make it a little more obvious that it’s got two layers.

The fabrics used were tissue lame and crinkled tissue lame, so they puff out instead of draping nicely and looking wispy. I also tied a large bow on the belt because I was feeling too lazy to style the belt during the testing process.

I put it in these bags for transport because it was for a party:

A Couple of Bags


Last year, Sally Beauty Supply had two dancing ornaments; I had just started with the design crew, so someone else sewed them and I added some jewel bling. This year it was to be shopping bags a la 1950s cigarette girls.

Larry made one frame and sent it home with me to make a prototype that could test and be tested by some leggy models so they could start the selection process.

Cheap fabric pinned to the frame; obligatory bathroom picture:

Here it is again, not in a bathroom:

The printed fabric arrives at last!

I cut down the middle of each black side to make the fold and armhole. It was so tight there wasn’t much room for seam allowance and no room for error:

This is what an error looks like. It gets etched into this fabric:

I wound up using a combination of two different black fabrics due to the high stretch and density of the knit I wanted to use for the sleeves. Sewing a curve on the super-stiff printed fabric was a tad awkward.

I taped the bag to the frame to test it before finishing off the top and bottom. In the background, you can see a triplet of Big Texes painted by local artist Ty Albright. Big Tex burned down this morning after 60 years of greeting fair-goers. :”-(

There is no arm movement to be had in this bag. I tried several yoga moves to see my phone screen while wearing the bag all the way, then had to pull one arm out, and it was still tricky.

I put my machine up on a box to be able to get the bag around the base and keep it flat.

Attaching the bags to the frames:


Carlos, Denise, and I had big plans of putting the bags on and running around in the parking lot for an impromptu photoshoot, but they finished their work before I got the frames attached.

I discovered after I had put it on the frame that I had forgotten to wire the handle of one of the bags, and had to thread it in afterward. Near-disaster averted!

Next, to work on the “tissue paper.” I tested a scrap, serging wire into the edge as I went, bending at the corners.

The edge came out looking too home-made, and that was as tight as the stitches would go.

Trying again with woolly nylon:

I quilt-basting sprayed a sandwich of fabric and packing material.

Once it was edged, all the spray-glued areas had to be pried apart so it wouldn’t look like that foil weather-protector stuff some people put up in their windows and leave up year-round.

I have any number of woolly nylon spools in various colors, but only these two black ones, and one of them was low. I kept one eye on it the whole time I was sewing, hoping I wouldn’t run out at 11 o’clock at night when Joann’s is closed and we’re supposed to be attaching them to the bags before the weekend. Wooly nylon is puffy, so there’s even less here than it would appear:

Testing the bags and one sprig of “tissue paper” with Melissa, in town from Austin:

Two sprigs!:

On second thought, the tissue paper turned out a little too high. We cut it more or less in half, then gave four short pieces to each bag instead of two big ones. My small spool of woolly nylon DID run out, with about 6 inches left to edge, so I wrapped it with some from the larger spool by hand.


Everyone at the convention was thoroughly impressed with the outcome. Apparently, bag costumes had been done before, but printed on plastic sheets, making them look more like boxes; the arm holes had been cut wide enough to show the girls’ leotards, ruining the illusion of living bags that had sprouted limbs. People actually asked if we had used real Sally’s bags. A wardrobe malfunction would certainly have ensued from that.


What Size is Alejandro?

The project:

4 Egyptian-style men’s skirts made from terrycloth; costumes for the entourage of a Lady Gaga impersonator


Having only tried the skimpy little men’s skirt on a plastic dress form that is not going to have to walk in it, I felt it necessary to test it on a live model. At my age, I am realizing, it starts getting harder to dig up a guy with a 30-34″ waist on a moment’s notice without having to think really hard.

Luckily, one of my cohorts who does a lot of the non-sewing end of various productions was working downtown and could drop by to try on the prototype.

The catch to this project was this: we had no idea who the guys were, just that they would be bodybuilders. Our best guess was that they would be shaped approximately like Launchpad McQuack, with shoulders out to here and no waist to speak of. We guessed 30″-34″ish. As the prototype was a little tight on Carlos, I figured I’d make the next three several inches bigger, then bring my sewing machines and be prepared to take them in.

When I arrived on location, I wandered in the basement for a bit before finding the crew, and came across this door:

Seriously, guys? Really?

The small outfit works great on The Littlest Bodybuilder. I thought that would be a great name for a musical; I kept thinking of “The Littlest Christmas Tree” from 1st grade when I did NOT get to play a Christmas tree. He wasn’t actually little; just the only one shaped much like the Launchpad McQuacks that had danced in our heads.

The next two weren’t great fits, and one of them was just a little too small, but they weren’t bad. I figured some pins would probably make it work. Then the fourth guy shows up. He’s not the littlest bodybuilder.

I was able to stick the costume on him for the dress rehearsal thanks to my ingenious multi-size elastic button loops, but as you can see from the picture below, that wasn’t going to work for the show. I didn’t have any extra whole towels, and there wouldn’t have been enough fabric between the decorative end thingies anyway. (Yes, that’s the technical term.)

The shirts and white boxer shorts are for the dress rehearsal. Can you spot the costumes that don’t fit?

Good! I knew you could!

I had brought the scrap terrycloth more as padding for transporting my sewing machines than anything else. Once I collected all the costumes–except, ironically enough, for the prototype, which fit perfectly–I set up my sewing machines.

I added a cornucopia-shaped panel, as well as multiple buttons so that it wouldn’t have to be exact. This plan hadn’t occurred to me before the event, because I thought it would be too pieced-together looking. Once I saw the scale of the event and the dim lighting, it seemed it would be fine; and once I’d done one, it actually didn’t show up much even close-up and in good light.

Some makeup stains or something had gotten on one skirt, so I went ahead and zigzag stitched some tiny scraps on top of the marks because it blended in so well.

I had used contrasting-colored velcro anywhere that it was definitely not going to show, thinking it would be nice to have very-visible closures while I was working so close to strangers’ junk.

The inside of the front panel, all done in beige:

Turns out, that wasn’t necessary; there is no room in these costumes to be looking at stuff. Let’s leave it at that.

So I get everyone dressed, and since it’s going to be awhile, I leave off pinning til later. I’m sitting around waiting, start realizing I’m getting hungry. Then realize that everyone else had gone to lunch while I was sewing; I had been so uncertain about how long it would take to fix and how long we had until the Lady Gaga number that I had done the repairs right away.

I wandered into the service hallway, hoping they hadn’t thrown everything away. Some used-looking food seemed promising:

No sign of lunch, but there was quite a bit of continental breakfast left.

Oranges, melons, mixed-filling danishes, grapefruit juice, coffee! Muffins, too, but I’m often wary of muffins. Don’t know why; always have been.


Head back the way I came . . . the door I’d left through had locked behind me. All the other doors went straight to the event. I finally walked out through the middle of the food-staff people having a meeting in a kitcheny-looking area, trying to look like I belonged there and knew where I was going.

I straightened out everyone’s flaps and got the sides pinned in in place.

Lady Gaga kept everyone entertained while we waited.

Me and Gaga:

There were a lot of great shots, but the lighting was pretty much impossible. Here, you can see the two matching bags in the reflection. They’re hanging out not in their shopping bag costumes, but I still like calling them bags, as they aren’t girls who are likely to get called that very much:

The entourage asked them, “Wait, which one of you is the blonde? . . . You could have reintroduced yourselves as different people and we wouldn’t have known.” The one on the left was then renamed Veronica. I think.

Standing in the lobby, waiting for the musical cue:

Here is the bathtub, designed by Carlos (a different one than the previously pictured), and the hand towels I had previously narrowed. When given the task, I had thought it sounded unnecessarily specific, but whatever. It becomes clear now why they needed to be no wider than 14″.

A close-up of Carlos’s solution for permanent bubbles:

Lady Gaga alternately lay in the bathtub and stood up to dance while her entourage carried her to the stage. Carlos made it sturdy and ultra-light.

My phone camera literally could not handle the awesomeness. Below, you can see a man in the center right attempting to shield himself from the glare of fabulous. My camera simply cut Lady Gaga out of the picture and left a blank spot where she had been to stave off implosion.

So much better than the dress rehearsal:

The bags came out to dance for the finale.

After the show, Lady Gaga came up with the idea of mingling with the crowd.

Encouraging Sally’s people to show their teeth:

Doing a Harpo Marx impression (what? wrong generation?):

I think someone said this was the president, but I don’t want to repeat that without either verification or a wishy-washy “I think” to remove responsibility for faulty information.




To see the rest of the pictures I didn’t include in this post and also didn’t delete for being too blurry or too poorly lit, go here.

Egyptian Entourage

How to Measure a Man’s Hips at the Widest Part:

This was partly inspired by accidentally getting caught in Regretsy’s “self gratification” category and by trying to get myself worked up to make some Egyptian-style terrycloth men’s skirts for a Lady Gaga impersonator’s entourage after a 14-hour day of Tyler Rose Festival sewing and Cartier velcro strip edging. Yes, I just typed that.


The Project: make this 3D:

I started out on the periphery of this project–Lady Gaga was to be carried in to her performance while riding in a bathtub that was hoisted by an entourage of men. The towel accessories were too wide and I cut them narrower and finished off the new edges. This was terribly exciting, and I couldn’t wait to tell my Lady Gaga fan friend. Then I heard that it was to be a Lady Gaga impersonator, which was somewhat less exciting.

Now the entourage needs outfits. Aside from the fact that terrycloth-by-the-yard is fabulously expensive (it would probably be cheaper to buy the towels you need, burn them, then buy the towels you need again than to make your own), it’s also a lot thicker and denser than would look good as a men’s skirt, so I got a set of white towels to cut up.

I’ve decided to put off finishing the project for the night until I get some more feedback on the current stage in the process, since I can’t un-cut a towel: