Monday, 25 August 2014

Lwaxana's dress

In case you haven't been following along I made myself a costume based on Lwaxana Troi's first appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I had so much fun making this dress, and I'm delighted with the outcome. 

The first task was finding a suitable fabric. I didn't want to spend €100 on a one-off dress, so I scoured the fabric shops looking for something suitable. To be honest, I didn't even find much that I wished I could buy but couldn't afford. Next stop, home furnishings. There were a couple of curtain sets that I considered, but the texture was either much too heavy or much too stiff. In the end I found tablecloths that fit the bill pretty nicely (though as you can see from the fall of the train, it's still a bit stiffer than Lwaxana's dress). 

I bought a large rectangular tablecloth, but I wasn't certain I could get the train out of it as well as the rest of the dress, so I bought a circular one too. I was really glad I did, because I was able to use the scalloped edge for the hem (is it a hem, if you don't hem it?) and the circular table cloth meant I had a nice round scalloped edge for the train.

I spent a lot of time getting the bodice right. I made fewer mockups of my wedding dress! I think I got the shape right, but the drape of the fabric is different enough that it sits a little differently. Similarly with the sleeves, I don't think they're actually too long, but Lwaxana's fall more softly.

After a lot of staring at screenshots I concluded that the sleeves on Lwaxana's dress are made of two pieces, sewn top and bottom. This realisation sorted out a niggling issue I was having with the sleeve pattern, because I knew I needed to add slope to the top as well as the bottom.

If I was doing it again I'd make the sleeve holes a little smaller, but they're not terrible. That rope sure did take a lot of hand-sewing to make it sit where I wanted it though. The belt is a separate piece of rope, sewn on from just under the zip up nearly as far as the waist; it's also sewn on for about an inch from the top edge. The rest hangs loose until the zip is closed.

The skirt is amazingly simply constructed, a rectangle on the front, and two rectangles on the back with the train inserted into the back seam. I tried that construction in a mockup because that's what it looked like to me, and I was a bit surprised when it gave exactly the shape I was hoping for. I cut the skirt pieces long enough to fold the top over to make a channel for the waist elastic. I did think to attach the skirt to the bodice before inserting the elastic, but then discovered that the bodice was too long so ended up working with an elasticated waist anyway. It would have made sense to remove the elastic before adjusting, but I didn't, and I suffered for it.

Still, one of my greatest sources of pride in the dress is that waist. I could see from some of the screenshots that her dress is elasticated, and I was delighted when I figured out that combining an elasticated waist with a zip would hold up the skirt and allow the bodice to sit loosely.

The other great source of pride is the train. I wasn't sure how to do a train, and for some reason I didn't go look it up. I had decided to install the zip, and then see how much length was left in the back seam. It was about 32"*; the diameter of the circular tablecloth I had bought was 70". That meant that if I took a semi-circle I'd have 3" extra length at the centre of the train. That seemed like too much to me, and I must have spent an hour on the geometry of circles trying to figure out where to make the cut. In the end I cut it in half, sewed from the bottom edge to near the zip on each side, and added a few neat tucks **. The train only got stood on twice, so if it's too long, it's not by much :)

I'm so delighted with this outfit, and I had brilliant fun wearing it at Shamrokon. If you've ever considered cosplay I'd encourage you to give it a go, and feel free to get in touch if you could use a helping hand (or indeed, the services of a seamstress).

* I am completely in favour of the metric system. I realise that the imperial system makes no sense, but for some reason inches is what I gravitate to when dressmaking.

** Which I somehow managed to not lose my wits over

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