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Valtroud!

If you don’t mind spoilers, scroll down to the last photo to see why this dress needed a good, strong German name.

It’s time for another Pirate Faire post. This one is from 2008. One of the plotlines of the show is that a mad female pirate has decided she will marry Captain Hook (Charles Vane). She wanders around in a wedding dress, hoping the marriage will actually take place. Obviously, we would need an appropriately classy dress for her to wear.

The rehearsal time and the costuming budget for this production did not allow for an accurate reproduction of an authentic Colonial wedding dress.  So we decided we would try to find a used dress, and make some modifications to make it fit the character.

After some fruitless searching online I decided to take a field trip out to The Garment District.  This tends to be a popular place to find Halloween costume supplies, and is usually more or less cleaned out by October 31st. Luckily, it was summer, so they were just in the process of building up stock for the Halloween rush. I managed to find a hideously 80s-tastic dress in more or less the correct size for $20, and then spent $5 more on some lace curtains that looked either beige, or dirty, depending on the lighting.

The plan was to attach the curtains to the dress in various unattractive ways, to make it look, if possible, a little less modern.

Here it is with the initial layer of lace. I would end up putting a second layer over the bodice to cover up how sparkly and sequined it is.

Step 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next step was to add another panel of lace to cover the train.

The train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scalloped edge of the curtains over the hem of the skirt… because “too much” in this case isn’t quite enough…

Hem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the really fun part – making a variety of intentionally uneven and badly done tucks, gathers and bustles in the lace overlay.

 

From bad...

... to worse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later we would end up adding those terrible little pink ribbon roses to the gathers. And pink ribbons tied into bows on the front of the bodice. And it was laced in the back with a wide pink ribbon. Oh, and there was also an attempt at a butt bow. Who doesn’t love a good butt bow on a dress?

The original dress was sleeveless, but since even the most rabid Colonial lady wouldn’t consider going out in public with her arms entirely bare, we would need to add sleeves of some kind. The ugly lacy curtains came to the rescue once more! Yes, there was enough left over after covering the entire dress to make some sleeves.

To give the outfit a comically exaggerated Colonial silhouette we added not one, but two sets of panniers under the dress. This made walking through a crowd (and doorways) extra special fun.

Ok, time for some action shots of the finished product. Please note that the actress is also wearing a big gold bow on her head. The costuming department feels that this element really brings the whole outfit together.

Check out that train!

Not sure what's going on with the shovel, but those are great sleeves!

Valtroud, the finished product.

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Hanfu Jacket

As I may or may not have mentioned earlier, I’m the assistant costumer for Pastimes Entertainment. In 2007 we did a Pirate Faire show, and one of the characters was a Chinese pirate.  At first we were going to put him in something we now think of as traditional Chinese costume – the tall Mandarin collar, and buttons from the neckline to the sleeve. After a bit of research, I found out that this style only became popular within the last 100 years. Our show was supposed to be set during the golden age of piracy, somewhere around 1720, so we would need to come up with something else.

More research revealed that the earlier traditional style, known as Han or Hanfu clothing, consisted of layers of long, flowing wrap-around robes, usually with wide sleeves. Obviously the fullness of the garment and the level of embellishment would vary depending on the specific time period, the status of the person wearing it, and the formality of the occasion. The basic cut and shape was a good place to start though. For more information on this style, this is a good place to start.

We decided that the actor portraying this character wouldn’t need to dress in full and period-correct Han clothing. It would make more sense for his character to wear a robe, combined with other more traditional pirate gear, since he was a pirate from China, but had traveled extensively since he left. We also decided, for both aesthetic reasons and for the actor’s comfort and safety during his stage fights, to change the robe from the traditional floor-length or ankle-length to around knee-length.

Here are a few photos of him wearing the mock-up during his first fitting:

Hanfu jacket mockup

Hanfu jacket mockup - front

Action shot!

This is the fabric that I was using :

It was a very pretty satiny fabric… And it frayed. A lot. Eventually I learned my lesson, and doused the outline of every piece with fraycheck before cutting it out.

And finally, the finished costume:

Cheng Chin

The finished costume

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