It's All in the Details
September 11, 2011
I'm a firm believer that the difference between a good project and a great one is usually just a matter of detailing. To illustrate this point, I offer up one of my costume projects from this year: an 18th century lady's riding habit.
When I first envisioned this project, I knew I wanted it to stay feminine. Women's riding habits in the 1700s were made exactly the same as men's garments, so choosing a girly color like pink was an easy way to keep the look soft. (I know, I know, I make everything in pink. That's not likely to stop anytime soon.) I went with a cotton velvet for the jacket, because who doesn't love velvet? It's yummy and has a rich, buttery look. For the vest, I selected a flocked home dec fabric in a large floral print. I love how the bold black and white contrasts with the pink velvet. To complete the look, I used a striped taffeta I had in my stash. It was one of those great deals I got from the $1.95 section a while back, knowing I'd eventually find the perfect use for it. Hooray for stashing!
Now, as you can see from this in-progress shot, even once the costume was mostly assembled, it looked sort of anemic. Enter the magic of trim. Metal buttons dressed up the vest and jacket, but braided trim was really needed to bring it all together. I decided to have a little fun customizing mine. I started with a taupe colored Expo braided trim, and then dyed it. What makes this trim fun to dye is the fact that it has a cotton background base with a rayon overlay. Because rayon and cotton take dye very differently -- rayon tends to grab pigment aggressively, whereas cotton does not -- I knew I'd end up with a unique two-toned effect.
To do the actual dyeing, I used a large GladWare container.
I filled it about 1/4 of the way with hot, hot water, and then dissolved the
dye into it.
Once the dye had completely dissolved, I added more hot water until the container was about 2/3 of the way full. Then, I pre-moistened my trim, and dropped it in, making sure all of it was submerged in the dye mixture.
I popped the lid on and very carefully and gently shook the container to disperse the color across the trim. I HIGHLY recommend doing this in a sink, as I did have some sloshy escaping of the dye mixture. I let the whole shebang soak for about four hours, occasionally giving it a gentle rocking shake. I rinsed the trim about four times, making sure I eventually got it to a point where the water ran completely clear. Since I was planning to apply my dyed trim to a light-colored fabric, I wanted to ensure that no color rubbing or bleeding would occur.
Once the trim had dried thoroughly, I applied it to the coat
and the hat for the costume, and instantly, the whole outfit felt much more
"real." The hat also got a dose of ribbon and a cameo pendant I'd been hoarding for a while.
As you can see, trim -- basic things like braiding and
buttons -- can completely transform a costume, and the same is true for
day wear. So, when you're planning your next project, be sure to pick out some
good trims and hardware to make it something special.
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