Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Completely Handsewn Alice In Wonderland Costume

Image via Google
So as I mentioned, last Halloween I took on my first real sewing endeavor/ attempt at sewing suicide (I've been sewing doll clothes and accessories since I was 5...but stuff on a larger scale? Well there's a time for everything....). I was inspired by Tim Burton's film Alice in Wonderland, mostly because I felt he didn't just retell a story that's been told too many times already, but that he interpreted it in a different light, and for the COSTUMES!!!! I'm adding Colleen Atwood up there next to Worth and Mcqueen....Anyway, I was originally going to thrift store my way into a Mad Hatter costume when, halfway through making the accessories, I realized this creation would be too expensive for my leftover lunch money to finance. I realized I could do my own take on Alice's costume instead of an exact replica (I mean, what's going on with that weird seam in the middle of her skirt anyway?!?!)

And so, I asked my parents for permission. And they said no. So I did the only thing a sensible, hardworking, and dedicated teenager would do.

I made the costume. The Wal-mart in my town is about 2.50 miles from my house, according to Mapquest. Let me tell you, I was one hell of a determined kid. I begged a group of friends to walk with me all the way there, so I wouldn't get mugged or abducted by aliens or anything since there's a swampy industrial area near the Wal-mart. We made about 3 trips in total. I asked my guy friend, John, if he could please give me an early birthday gift so that I could make the costume, and with that, I had about $45 to spend.

I bought this pattern for the bodice of my Alice dress:

McCall's 4107. I used View E, and a little bit of View F.

Notice that I decided to replace the buttons in the original Alice dress with corset lacing, for a better fit (the bodice also corsets a little at the back).

I used a nice blue cotton, that was about $2/yard I think, for the bodice, and the same cotton in white for the lining. I used black grosgrain ribbon to lace it up. I modified the sleeves from the pattern so that they were all floaty and dainty like the one's on Alice's dress from the film. I had purchased a package of really pretty bridal lace trim for another element of the costume, but I used some of it as trim on the double-layered sleeves (yeah I highly doubt I constructed them correctly, I kind of guesstimated with the sleeves) by cutting the lace so that I had a strip of straight lace trim and a strip of lacey lace trim. Maybe a photo will make this easier to understand?

It's me and my best friend Bri!! Can you guess why she's dressed as the White Rabbit?!?
See? I'm a very resourceful girl.

On to the skirt. For the skirt, I really wanted something more whimsical and less stiff than Colleen Atwood's design. And I wanted something cheap and simple to make, because did I mention? I had about two weeks until Halloween to complete this. WITHOUT A SEWING MACHINE. Yes, the ENTIRE costume is handsewn. I told you it was sewing suicide... I decided to make a tutu skirt, because you can't get more whimsical, cheap, or easy than a tutu!!! I chose a powder blue tulle that was about $1/ yard to match the blue cotton and bought about 8 yards of it; I gathered all the tulle and sewed it into a waistband made of 1" cream grosgrain ribber that I had in my stash. Ahh, but the costume from the film has embroidery at the bottom!

Image via Google
How about we fix that with some black wired RIBBON?!?!?

There's another point for resourcefulness. And I loved how floaty the whole concept looked

Now, see how in the original costume, there's that white crochet trim with a black ribbon strong through it along the neckline? It's a very nice element, except that since my bodice had lacing down the front, this was going to be a challenge. And I was also faced with the potential problem of my bra showing through the spaces between the corset laces. So what did I do? I made a sort of chemise to go underneath the dress!!

I used about a yard-ish of the white cotton, and made a sort of big rectangle. I sewed up one side, and sewed in a zipper into the other. I left the sleeves unfinished, because the shift/ chemise is so wonderfully hand finished that I'd like to sew in a set of hooks and eyes or something so that way I could interchange sleeves and thus the shift/ chemise could serve for different time periods. I sewed the lace trim all around the neckline, then carefully laced it with the same black grosgrain ribbon I used for lacing up my bodice. Next to the bodice, the chemise was the garment that took the most long to make. Okay, I lied. I didn't even finish it in time for what I was gonna wear it to (my birthday party, in November, but that's a different post (; ). My best friend Bri was up in my room with me, minutes before the party, sewing me into my chemise. I ended up finishing it at a later date and wore the whole costume out to breakfast with my parents. A little 3-year-old girl called me a princess. Awww!!!

As for the accessories: the striped gloves were made from an old pair of socks; I wore a vintage locket; bloomers, crochet stockings, and a short petticoat I had on hand; and the boots were borrowed from Bri.

Considering I sewed the whole entire ensemble by hand, in two weeks, still baffles me, because my stitches were so straight and perfect. So straight and perfect, in fact, that my Grandma saw them and decided to buy me a sewing machine. AFTER I had sewed everything!!!

Detail of the chemise. If you look closely enough, you can see my tears.

The bodice appears so wrinkly because it was supposed to have boning, but due to time and money constraints, I omitted it. And thus I have a very wrinkly bodice. Sigh.

Now remember how I said that my parents weren't too keen with the idea of me making a costume for myself? Well, a week before Halloween, I sat in my closet cutting fabric and interfacing. I waited for my parents to leave the house, and I went downstairs and began ironing on interfacing and basting the bodice together. And imagine their surprise, when they came home, to find their kitchen table covered in blue fabric, and myself innocently sewing together my bodice?

If you can imagine, they were not happy. Especially about how I had asked my friend for an advanced birthday present. They didn't let me work on it for a few days, and so the costume wasn't finished for Halloween, but that was okay. Since Halloween was on a Sunday that year, and my school district has an uncanny taste for insipid, drab uniforms (black dress pants and a khaki-colored polo, for those in high school, and khaki pants and a navy polo for those in the elementary system), we weren't allowed to wear costumes on the Friday before. But we WERE allowed to dress down, yet wear a wig or makeup or whatever from the neck up (?!?!), for which I styled my hair in an 18th century pompadour hairstyle. And on the actual day of Halloween, my uncle, who is very against the "satanic" holiday, celebrated his 60th birthday. Another missed opportunity! But I told myself not to worry, because MY birthday is on November 8th, and I felt a themed party coming up...

The moral of the story is, well, is there a moral to the story? Besides that this was my first major sewing task since sewing clothes and bedding for my Barbie dolls? And the fact that I hand sewed a completely lined costume in two weeks? Yeah, I guess the moral of the story is that it's okay to be determined and insane at the same time for the sake of creativity. I'm sure all the best seamstresses and costumers are. <3  

Something interesting was happening in the distance, but here you can see the boots I wore

A rather shy Talking Flower and Cheshire Cat

An awkward pose. You can see our East Coast autumn on the ground.

Curioser and curioser!