Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fan X 2016 Costume: Fawkes

So one of the things I love to do about this time is contemplate a new costume for Fan X. But usually it sneaks up on me, or I go with the easier option of reusing my Luna Lovegood costume. Now, while I love that costume, I also feel the need to try something new.  So. I'm going for Fawkes, from Harry Potter. I love the fandom, it's a great character, and it would be nice to have a second costume to fall back on that's totally different.  Although kind of in the same color scheme.  So obviously the first step was to do a few sketches about what was possible.
So just a note about designing a Fawkes costume.  Pulled from the Harry Potter wikipedia page of descriptions of Fawkes over the books:

"Fawkes has crimson feathers on his body and a golden tail as long as a peacock's. His claws and beak are gleaming gold and his eyes are black. The scarlet body feathers glow faintly in darkness, while the golden tail feathers are hot to the touch, though it is unknown if they are actually capable of burning someone as neither Harry — when Fawkes carried him from the Chamber of Secrets in 1993 — nor Dumbledore — when he escaped the Ministry officials with Fawkes's help in 1996 — were burned by his tail feather, however it is possible that Fawkes can control the temperature of his tail feathers and chose not to burn them."

A couple of things when designing a costume for a con/fan x.  It has to be comfortable.  Rule absolute number one.  If I'm not comfortable, at least to a bearable degree, I get cranky.  And cranky at a con is not fun.  Second thing is that it needs to be able to come apart, at least to a degree.  I use public transport when I go and while I'm mostly immune to sitting in costume, it helps if I can de-costume at least a little bit.  Plus, sometimes it's tiring to be in costume for that long.  Also, I usually go alone, or at least end up going off and doing my own panels and activities, so there's no one to hold a piece of my costume for bathroom/food/water breaks.  The costume needs to be relatively easy to maneuver around in and not poke anyone's eye out as I move through the floor.

The Mask
The mask has started.  I got a red glittery mask at Zurcher's for a couple bucks and went about carving it up to make it glasses friendly (it fits over my glasses).  I had ordered different red feathers (colors, lengths, patterns) and have been steadily building up the rows of feathers to get a phoenix look.  Also ordered a plastic toucan nose and painted it entirely black, as well as cut it up so I could breathe.  I may have to further cut it up some, but mostly it's comfortable.  

The Feathers
The design of the costume is basically a kimono style jacket with the panels having rows and rows of varying red feathers sewn on.  The wings will extend with dowels in the ends to get a much larger wingspan.  

Red and gold fabric of various shades.  
 There's also been a trip to joanns and I've  gotten several different red fabrics and am in the process of cutting them up into "feathers." I also have a yellow snow white skirt I made from a few years ago I'll be using as a base to put the feathers on. I got a gold shirt that ended up looking a little muddy/not that bright, so I got a bright yellow one.  But I keep going back and forth.  I may have to see it all together before making a final decision on this one.  

I've been waiting on online red fabric and it finally arrived today, so it was a flurry of cut monkey-ness as I went to town on the shiny new red.  I was hoping for a bit more variation in the 3 reds I ordered, but 2 were exactly the same and the other was close enough not to make that much of a difference.  But that's alright.  I just wanted enough difference so that the feather pattern didn't get lost in all the same color of fabric.  If it's more subtle than I intended, so be it.  

There's been some experimentation with starch with the feathers so that the end feathers will stand up a bit when the wings are spread.  I soaked the (cut) feathers in starch, then blow dried them flat.  This seemed to give them just enough stiffness to not flop over when put sideways, which is what I was hoping for.  I did a mock up of the pattern of reds and gold and so far it's looking good.  

Okay, the math has been done and I'm fairly certain I've got enough feathers to start putting stuff together.  I ended up with about 505 feathers total, red and gold.  Crazy amounts.  Next couple things to do--starch the gold feathers to get them a little stiffer so they'll stand up, hem the skirt to account for the feathers so I'm not tripping over it every time I step...and to determine final measurements in terms of wingspan and get to cutting out the panels that the feathers will go on.  

I finished le skirt!!  Yay!  Just started pinning on feathers in rounds and before I knew it--finished!  Took maybe...oh, 5 hours with many breaks.  I may go back and fill in patchy parts.  Part of the problem is that it's yellow underneath so if they move, the yellow peaks out.  But that's not totally terrible for a phoenix.  And the jacket won't be that way, as it's base will be red.  So I think I'll be significantly less annoyed about it.  May have to resort to cutting more feathers though.  I ended up using more than I thought I would, partly to make sure gaps were covered.  I need to sit down and count what feathers are left, if it's worth it to get more of some of the different reds.  **mini update** I counted what was left of the feathers.  As it turns out, I used up far less than I thought I did.  So I think I'm okay to go ahead with the jacket without getting more red fabric.  I do have a yard or so of random red that I can use if I really have to.  I'm also starting to cut up the red tulle-ish stuff to do a side project that maaay enter into the wtf realm.  Not sure yet.  I have a string of red led lights (battery operated) that I'd like to attach to the back of the jacket, possibly in a flame pattern, or as a tail feather.  But adding tulle in various shades (red, orange, yellow) to give it a little volume.  Hoping to add a little something...but I need to see how it turns out in the end.  It may end up being one of those 'better left in your head' ideas.

Yay!  Much done today.  First off, the panels for each section got cut out.  1 large back piece, 2 front panels, and 4 triangles for the wingspan (7 total).  I next starched and dried some of the gold feathers for the edges of the triangles that will stand out a bit.  I'll do those last to make sure I have enough gold feathers for the larger pieces/the ones that don't need starch.  I'll probably have to do another batch, but at least it's somewhere to start.  Next up was to do a lot of pinning together of things to make sure everything was going to fit.  Had to seriously adjust my initial measurements, mostly around the neck area so that the jacket didn't fall off.  I think I've got it to a respectable point now, and have marked the back piece where sections need to go.  The biggest achievement of the day however was to get the front two panels rowed with feathers.  I did each row in tandem with both panels so that they were roughly even, which worked out well.  I ended up with about 6 rows (including gold).  I'm please with how they turned out, as they're the most visible of the entire piece.  Feel confident about doing the back piece now, though the triangles will be a little tricky with a sloping pattern, and being doubled.  Here's hoping they'll go okay.

Putting the tulle on the tail feather
First 3 rows of the back piece
Started the larger back piece today.  Having done the 2 front panels though gave me quite a bit of practice and a bit of a experience in terms of feather placement, so it's going along pretty well.  Three rows in (which is about 3 times the size of 1 front panel).  I got nervous about running out of feathers so I took a trip to Joann's to get a bit more varied red fabric.  It should be fine, it's mostly the triangle end pieces that might look a little different in terms of ratios of different reds.  Oh well.  I've also been working on the light project.  Had to play with the ratios a bit--a little bit of the red tulle went a long way.  But I got it to a pattern that I like, now it's just a matter of doing it, though it's a good project to sit and watch a movie to.  Ordered more orange and yellow tulle--it doesn't go very far as it's much much thinner.

Starched feathers drying
The back panel got finished.  Now I'm looking at the 4 triangle pieces and seeing how the starched feathers are going to work.  I'm a little concerned about the red feathers now, whether they'll hold up, or need either starch or some kind of tacking down.  Maybe heatbond towards the tips?  Have to see how it holds up when the wings are held up.  I've pinned the first two triangles with gold feathers--used up nearly all the started batch, so I starched enough for the last two wings.  I also made the fabric tubes to hold the dowels that will hold the wings up.  Simple enough construction, and I think I made them the right length so they don't drag along the ground.  But I'm holding off on cutting the dowels down to size until the whole thing is put together.

Wing tips all sewed on. 

Got everything (mostly) sewed up.  Now it's down to lots of little detail tacking down work to make it look nice.  But it looks like a phoenix at least...or at least a large red bird....

A bit of tweaking to the costume.  Sewed some satin bias tape around the front collar, which gives it a nice finished look, and gives me something to hold onto as I put it on.  So bonus.  Sewed up the sides a bit so it's more like a jacket form.  I'm waiting on some fabric glue to tack down a few more of the feathers towards the shoulders--they flop over or ride up, and sewing them is awkward/takes forever.  So I'm hoping a few drops of fabric glue placed here and there will solve that problem.  Mostly I've been practicing moving around with the wings, seeing what my wingspan is, so that I don't poke someone in the eye.  Big comic con no-no.

Some work on gluing down feathers, cutting fraying, etc. the last few days.  Today was spent making a hook for the tail feather on the back of the jacket.  Also, some bird feet that are basically plush feet that strap onto the ankles, over the shoes.  Relatively easy construction.  Completes the look a bit so I don't have just random black shoes on.  Took some shots via roommate of the entire thing put together.

Having decided to ditch the tulle tail feather (heaviness, awkwardness issues), I have redone the tail feather with a strip of gold fabric and some gold feathers.  I ended up using fabric glue to put it all together, which was perfect, as it made it easier to fill out at different parts and place exactly where I wanted the feather to go.  Next up is to tack it onto the back of the jacket.  It falls a foot or so past the end of the jacket, so it shouldn't be too cumbersome moving around.  Plus, it's much shinier and MUCH lighter.

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