Preview: Lyanna Stark Costume – McCall’s 6940

November 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

Stark pin

This Halloween I went as Lyanna Stark. Full post to come when I’ve had the chance to do a real photo shoot…

If you’d like to see a preview, I used a commercial pattern, McCall’s 6940, so was eligible to enter McCall’s Halloween costume contest. You can find my photos here.

McCall's 6940 with White Walker mini figurine

If you’re on Facebook, you can view and vote for the entries on McCall’s Facebook page. (The entries are divided into 3 categories: adult, children’s, and infants/toddlers.)

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Quaithe of Asshai – Vogue 2014 by Givenchy

December 3, 2012 § 10 Comments

Since Naomi was going as Daenerys Targaryen, this Halloween I went as Quaithe from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. Quaithe is a minor character from shadowy Asshai who meets Daenerys near Qarth; she makes repeated appearances to deliver cryptic prophecies.

Quaithe and Daenerys Targaryen Halloween costumes

In the books Quaithe is hardly described at all apart from her red lacquered mask, so I had a lot of freedom. Asshai, in the fantasy world’s mysterious east, is known for its worship of R’hllor, a fire religion with Zoroastrian echoes. After doing some research into ancient Persian costume, which showed periodic Greek influences, I opted to use my Very Easy late ’70s Givenchy evening dress pattern, Vogue 2014:

Late 1970s Givenchy pattern, Gia in a pink evening dress, Vogue 2014

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (1978) Model: Gia Carangi. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

The design may be from the Spring 1978 collection, judging from the similar halter neckline in this campaign image:

Givenchy advertising campaign image, Spring 1978, by photographer Michel Picard.

Givenchy ready-to-wear advertising campaign, Spring 1978. Photo: Michel Picard. Image via styleregistry.

For fabric, I used black Qiana from a deadstock bolt found on Etsy. Qiana is a vintage nylon, a synthetic silk with a little stretch. It’s even in keeping with the ‘exotic’ Qs of the fantasy series.

"Whatever Diane's got I want" Diane von Furstenberg advertisement featuring Beverly Johnson wearing Qiana fabric Cosmo December 1979

Diane’s got Qiana nylon. Diane von Furstenberg advertisement, 1979. Model: Beverly Johnson. Image via eBay.

As a Very Easy Vogue pattern, Vogue 2014 has very simple construction, but also lots of hand-finishing. The hem and slits at top and bottom front are slipstitched, the top edge is blindstitched to the inside bodice, and the back facings and extension are slipstitched over the hooks and eyes that fasten the halter.

I made the size 12 with no alterations, and it worked out just fine. The lines of gather stitching at the ends of the halter fastening are visible, as I discovered, so if I made the dress again I would mark them rather than doing my usual winging it.

Instead of using the 18-inch tassel the pattern calls for, I strung together some mesh beads from Arton Beads on Queen Street West. With stainless steel spacer beads the strand is fairly heavy, but I like the effect when it’s fastened to the back extension.

Naomi found me a shimmery red mask at Malabar, and within a day or so I had a costume:

Quaithe dress, full length - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy, with Aileron shoes by Gareth Pugh for Melissa

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (shoes: Gareth Pugh for Melissa)

Quaithe full length, back view - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – back view

Here are some detail shots of the bodice and back:

1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy - closeup on halter front detail

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – neckline detail

Quaithe dress back detail with beads - 1970s Vogue 2014 by Givenchy

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy – back detail

Many thanks to our fabulous photographer, Rachel O’Neill, for a fantastic beach shoot in mid-November!

(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)

Daenerys Targaryen Costume

November 29, 2012 § 9 Comments

Daenerys Halloween costume teaser wth dragon

This Halloween Naomi wanted to go as Daenerys Targaryen from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire via HBO’s Game of Thrones. The show’s meticulous costuming won costume designer Michele Clapton and her team an Emmy this year. (They even wove their own fabric.) You can see an L.A. Times costumes gallery with Clapton’s commentary here (contains spoilers) and a post with video by Chris Laverty of Clothes on Film here.

For her costume, Naomi chose one of Daenerys’ Qarth outfits, which the character wears in “Valar Morghulis,” the season 2 finale:

Ser Jorah and Daenerys in "Valar Morghulis," second season finale of HBO's Game of Thrones

Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in Game of Thrones, Season 2. Photo: Paul Schiraldi via IMDb.

The costume was an experiment in pattern drafting for me. I made one element from scratch and adapted the others from a few vintage sewing patterns I had on hand. The outfit consists of a princess-seamed overdress worn with fitted leather armour and over a split skirt. The concept is that the character has paired armour with a man’s tunic from the port city of Qarth, worn over a skirt made of skins from her time among the nomadic Dothraki.

After sketching from online video images, I was able to find these costume photos in the new book about the show’s production, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones:

Costuming Dany

Costuming Dany. From Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones (Chronicle Books, 2012).

Update: this Qarth costume is included in the press photos for Game of Thrones: The Exhibition:


Daenerys Targaryen Qarth costume. Image via Bell Media.

For the princess-seamed dress I used McCall’s C-3 with shoulder yokes adapted from Butterick 5059, and the high-collared armour is loosely based on McCall’s 1051.

McCall's C-3 and Butterick 5059

McCall’s C-3 by Luis Estévez (1959) and Butterick 5059 by Jean Muir (1969)

McCall's 1051 by Rudi Gernreich, 1960s mod dress pattern

McCall’s 1051 by Rudi Gernreich (1968). Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

For fabrics, we managed to hit King Textiles’ big moving sale just before they closed their old location. (The Richmond location’s being demolished to build a condo development called Fabrik.) We picked up some lavender satin for the overdress, the perfect, canvas-backed fake suede and a pale beige woven for the skirt, and some thin brown PVC for the armour, to be backed with a heavy underlining.

The Dothraki skirt was the most fun to figure out. I cut two hide-like pieces from the fake suede, leaving the edges raw and uneven; the bottom corners curve down to rounded points. For the bleached, folded-over hip yoke I did some primitive draping with tracing paper to get the correct curve on the body. After finding the right amount of overlap for the ‘hides’ I pinned them in place and stitched them to the yoke’s inside edge. The centre back closure is hidden under the overdress.

Online videos showed that Daenerys’ Qartheen overdress had shoulder yokes (they’re also visible in the Costuming Dany photos), so I combined my yoke pattern with a princess-seamed dress pattern, cutting away the sides at the hips and slightly flaring the long, central panel in front and back. The original overdress on the show is quite fitted, with topstitching that suggests that it’s boned, but we went for a more relaxed fit. The armholes are finished with bias underfacings; because the wrong side of the central panel shows, I mitered the corners and finished all the edges.

Daenerys costume sketch

Preliminary costume sketches

The leather armour posed the greatest challenge for me, since for some reason I decided to draft the sleeves without any kind of block. I used the collar and upper bodice from McCall’s 1051 and patched in the princess seams from the overdress, adding a cutout to line up with the overdress neckline. The bodice PVC was backed with canvas, and I used scraps of the fake suede to back the sleeves and collar, leaving the edges raw. The combined PVC/canvas layers were difficult to control in places. Initially I planned to topstitch to mimic the piecing detail of the original, but this PVC does not take topstitching. Instead we bound the bottom and cutout edges with strips of PVC, and I did a quick running stitch by hand on the sleeves to smooth the shoulder line.

Add a silver-blond cosplay wig and toy dragon, and the costume is complete.

We went down to the beach for a photo shoot with the talented Rachel O’Neill. Here’s a full-length shot of Naomi in her Daenerys costume:

Daenerys costume full length

The Mother of Dragons contemplates her destiny…

Daenerys beach

Here you can see the hand stitching detail on the armour:

Daenerys armour

And here are the two of us in costume:

Daenerys Targaryen and Quaithe Halloween cosplay

Next: my Halloween costume as Quaithe of Asshai.

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4455 by Martial et Armand

December 18, 2011 § 11 Comments

Young woman Kim McKean Bill Compton Stephen Moyer 1920s Chicago 1926 True Blood Season 2

Young woman (Kim McKean) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), 1926 (True Blood, Season 2)

For my vampire flapper Halloween costume, to wear over my 1926 Chanel evening dress I made McCall 4455, an evening wrap by Martial et Armand:

McCall 4455 1920s Martial et Armand evening wrap pattern

McCall 4455 by Martial et Armand (1926) Wrap with optional shirring.

The wrap has a dramatic standing collar, a generous flounce, and the option of a shirred facing; pleats shape the shoulders, and the collar is reinforced with canvas. Here’s the colour illustration, from a page of evening designs in the McCall Quarterly:

McCall 4455 Martial et Armand wrap pattern Summer 1926 McCall catalog

McCall 4455 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

Martial et Armand was a Paris house established in the late nineteenth century; for more details see Past Perfect Vintage’s recent post. I found these contemporary Martial et Armand sketches in L’Officiel’s online archives:

L'Officiel 1920s Martial et Armand dessins originaux original drawings

Original sketches by Martial et Armand, L'Officiel no. 58, June 1926. Image via

I thought the shirring on version A of the wrap would compete with my dress, so I made version B, the plain version. I chose a black velveteen and used some black lining that I already had. The pattern didn’t give ‘with nap’ yardage for 36″ fabric (the width of my velveteen), and I soon found out why: the back flounce piece is too wide to fit this width. I needed to cut the back flounce in two pieces.

To ensure the velveteen didn’t slip, I used a diagonal basting technique I found in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques which is known as ‘cross stitching.’ (See her diagrams on Google books here and here.) This technique involves hand-basting over the seamline with diagonal stitches, then basting again in the opposite direction so that you have a series of ‘X’s across the seamline. Here’s a photo of the diagonally basted flounce:

cross stitching basting sewing velvet velveteen

I was surprised to find instructions for making the collar and facing. The Printo Gravure has four-step, illustrated instructions on “how to sew collar and facing with interlining to garment” which call for an interlining of percaline. Percaline? According to Merriam Webster, percaline is French, from percale, from Persian پرگاله pargālah: percaline is glossy, percale isn’t. According to the Oxford Dictionary, percaline entered the English language in the mid-nineteenth century; percale originally referred to a fabric imported from India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but later came to refer to a light cotton fabric. (I love the history embedded in textile names.) When my inquiry was met with confusion at my local fabric shop, though, I just went with some interfacing I had in my stash. I catch stitched the canvas along the collar seamlines, but didn’t try any pad stitching.

One difficulty I encountered was with the ease at centre back. Dazed from too much diagonal basting, I forgot how to ease with double rows of stitches and used only a single row, so that there were gathers at the back. I didn’t remember until after I’d hand-stitched through the collar seam. I redid the entire area, only to find I had produced… nicer gathers. I did pre-steam the velveteen, so I’m not sure whether it could have been shrunk further. I wish I’d been able to get it right, but there it is.

Here are some photos of the finished wrap. Despite having seen the illustration, I wasn’t prepared for the drama of the standing collar:

1920s evening wrap pattern Martial et Armand McCall 4455

The shoulder pleats turned out well:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

Here are some detail shots of the collar, front and back:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

Some action shots showing the fullness of the flounce:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

I hope you’ve enjoyed my foray into Twenties designer patterns. The lack of instructions was certainly an adventure, and made me realize just how many techniques I have no clue about! If you’ve sewn with 1920s patterns, I would love to hear about your experience. Twenties sewing book recommendations are also very welcome—I have Laura Baldt’s Dressmaking Made Easy (1928) but it doesn’t address all the issues I encountered. How can you attach skirt drapery just right, or ease a bulky fabric like velvet? Would a five-inch standing collar benefit from pad stitching? And how does one make rosettes for evening?

A big thanks to Naomi for taking such fabulous photos!

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4464 by Chanel

December 1, 2011 § 13 Comments


Lorena Krasiki (Mariana Klaveno) in 1926 (True Blood, Season 2)

For my Halloween vampire flapper costume I made one of my favourite 1920s patterns in my collection: McCall 4464, an evening dress by Chanel.

McCall 4464 1920s Chanel pattern flapper evening dress

McCall 4464 by Chanel (1926) Evening dress with slip.

Here’s the illustration from the 1926 Summer Quarterly. As I was putting this post together, I realized that True Blood’s 1926 Lorena and the catalogue illustrator both accessorize a black dress with red beads:

McCall 4464 1920s Chanel evening dress pattern McCall Quarterly Summer 1926

McCall 4464 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

The short evening dress has a bloused bodice, side drapery on the skirt, “trimming strings” or streamers, and self fabric flowers at the straps. The pattern doesn’t include the flowers, but it does indicate ‘material for rosettes’ on the layout. I skipped them for my version—they may balance the streamers, but I’m not really a rosette kind of girl.

Mine and Naomi’s dresses are actually shown side by side in the 1926 catalogue. I can assure you this is an absolutely accurate reflection of our relationship:

1920s Jean Patou and Chanel dress patterns 1926 McCall Quarterly

McCall 4457 and 4464 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

I used the same black satin for the slip and the dress. The only alteration I made to the pattern was to grade down the bust by one size. I also shortened the straps, guided by the ‘natural waist’ mark on the slip front.

The basic instructions don’t cover what to do with the drapery or streamers. The trick for the drapery, as I discovered, is to sew it to the skirt sections before closing the side seams. For the streamers, the pieces showed a seam allowance but no lengthwise fold mark, so at first I thought they were meant to be pretty wide. But after scrutinizing the illustration (and contemplating the option of cutting each string twice) I concluded the streamers should actually be sewn together for a narrower width. The finishing was a little rushed, since I was fitting the straps just before we went out; I’m still not sure what to do with some of the rough edges…

Here are some photos of me in the dress:

McCall 4464 Chanel 1920s evening dressMcCall 4464 Chanel 1920s evening dress

Some detail shots:

McCall 4464 Chanel 1920s evening dressMcCall 4464 Chanel 1920s evening dress

I was surprised by how flattering the Twenties tubular silhouette can be. And comfortable: leaving the house, I had a brief moment of panic, feeling like I’d forgotten to get dressed. (I realize a foundation garment would have been worn during the period.) I think I’ll be re-making this one—maybe I’ll even venture some rosettes.

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)

Next: My 1920s vamp wrap.

McCall 1920s evening wrap pattern detail

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4459 by Miler Soeurs

November 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

Sidney (Lenny Schmidt) and companion (Kim McKean), 1926 (True Blood, Season 2)

For Naomi to wear over her Halloween flapper dress by Patou (see last week’s post here), I made McCall 4459, a perfect little cape by Miler Soeurs:

McCall 4459 Miler Soeurs 1920s pattern

McCall 4459 by Miler Soeurs (1926) Cape.

The cape has a high collar, pointed yoke, front tie, and inside pockets. Miler Soeurs was a Paris house located on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 1920s and early 1930s; for more details see Past Perfect Vintage’s recent post. Here’s the colour illustration from the 1926 catalogue:

McCall 4459 Miler Soeurs 1920s cape pattern McCall Quarterly Summer 1926

McCall 4459 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

When I posted Naomi’s dress on Sew Retro, someone asked about the instructions. Here’s a partial scan of the patented ‘Printo Gravure’ for the cape; No. 1 is the pattern layout:

1920s Printo Gravure McCall's instructions for cape pattern 4459 Miler Soeurs

As you can see, the verbal instructions simply spell out what the numbered notches already tell you: the order in which to join the pieces together. The pattern pieces are printed with further notes, though, such as markings for the pockets and a general indication of where the ties should go.

We found some beautiful grey Dormeuil wool-silk on sale at Designer Fabrics as well as a silver moiré lining. The pattern gave no instructions as to interfacing, but to give the yoke/collar some structure I used some hair canvas left over from my wedding dress. The yoke’s curved seams and points were actually a lot of fun to sew. The pattern gave two lengths for the cape; I cut the shorter length, which was also the exact length of the Patou dress. Perfect!

Here’s the finished collar yoke, complete with topstitching:

McCall 4459 collar yoke 1920s cape pattern Miler Soeurs

Here are some pictures of Naomi wearing the cape over the Patou dress:

Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459

And here are side and back views that show the shape of the collar/yoke when worn. I love how the collar curves outward at the top:

side view Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459pointed yoke detail Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459

Naomi wanted the contrast pockets shown on the pattern illustration, so I made the pockets in wool with the lining inside. The flap is decorative, and I left off the buttons for now.

pockets Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459inside pocket 1920s cape McCall 4459 Miler Soeurs

The cape also gave me the opportunity to try out mitered corners. (This is probably more exciting for me than for anyone else.) I adjusted the angle of the miter to accommodate the 3/8″ seam allowance.

mitered corner on 1920s cape Miler Soeurs McCall 4459

For something made of such light wool the cape is surprisingly heavy—the right weight for spring or early fall here in Toronto. It was a real pleasure to work with such luxurious fabric; somehow knowing it came from an almost 170-year-old French family company made me more patient with the meticulous finishing details required. I was tickled to see the company opened its London flagship, Dormeuil House, off Regent Street in 1926, the same year as our four Halloween patterns. The yoke may be the design’s focal point, but I think the finishing contributes to the cape’s general élan.

Miler Soeurs 1920s designer cape pattern McCall 4459

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)

Next: My Halloween flapper evening dress.

McCall 1920s flapper evening dress pattern detail

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4457 by Patou

November 17, 2011 § 8 Comments

Lorena and Bill Lorena Krasiki Mariana Klaveno Bill Compton Stephen Moyer 1926 1920s party scene True Blood Season 2

Lorena Krasiki (Mariana Klaveno) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) in 1926 (True Blood, Season 2). Image via Va-Voom Vintage.

This Halloween I decided to try out a few of my 1920s McCall’s designer patterns. I pulled four patterns to make for me and Naomi: one dress and simple piece of outerwear each. We thought going with a hybrid flapper/vampire theme would make things more interesting. We were also inspired by the Twenties incarnations of Lorena and Bill in True Blood. All four patterns are from 1926—coincidentally the year of Bill and Lorena’s Prohibition-era partying in the HBO series.

Because I was working to a deadline I made minimal alterations to the four patterns—none at all to the outerwear. For the most part, I also had to forgo period-appropriate touches like bias bindings in favour of drafted facings. In the end the outerwear wasn’t ready in time for Halloween (note to self: start in August) but I did have it finished for our photo shoots…

Naomi’s dress is made from McCall 4457, a Jean Patou design for a lace-embellished slip-on dress.

McCall 4457 Jean Patou 1920s pattern

McCall 4457 by Patou (1926) Slip-on dress.

Here is the pattern illustration for McCall 4457 in the McCall Quarterly for Summer 1926. All four patterns are in the summer Quarterly, so I suppose that makes our ensembles extra-authentic…

McCall 4457 1920s Patou dress pattern McCall Quarterly Summer 1926

McCall 4457 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

The dress features geometric seaming detail at the hip and small of the back, where small pleats radiate from a pointed inset. The skirt is very full in the back, and the pattern layout calls for piecing, but I just got a little more fabric.

I made the dress up in grey satin-backed crepe with black lace trim. The pattern calls for 3.5″ lace, but we used 2.5″ lace instead. Luckily Naomi is basically a 1920s size 14, so the only adjustment I made was to slash for the next hip size up. Normally I would shorten the waist for her, and I started to make this adjustment to the pattern pieces before I realized they were the correct length. Maybe vintage Misses’ and Juniors’ sizes are good for petites?

The dress went together beautifully. I needed to even out the pleat markings, but that may have been due to my tracing job, not the pattern. Even the points weren’t too difficult once I created my own markings as a guide. Here’s the dress on the hanger:

McCall 4457 Patou 1920s flapper dress

Here are a couple midnight photos of Naomi in the dress:

The lace was a last-minute addition. I forgot to transfer the appropriate markings, so I reconstructed the shape of the V-shaped front lace section after the fact. And I now understand why you can buy collar-shaped lace pieces—it was a challenge working the lace around the back neckline. The faced hem the pattern called for was also new to me, but I liked how it was a pretty straightforward solution to the problem of hemming circular skirt sections. (Right now the hem is still just tacked up.)

I’m particularly happy with the Deco back detail:

Art Deco Jean Patou flapper dress detail McCall 4457

Sewing this 1920s dress was a really different experience. Naomi said she felt like she was wearing a time capsule when she tried on the muslin, and while we were out someone asked whether her dress was vintage! What we both like best about the design is the contrast between the dress’ simple, geometric lines and the lace detail. That tension between old and new (tradition and modernity?) seems to situate the dress right in the mid-1920s.

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)

Next: Naomi’s 1920s cape.

McCall 1920s cape pattern detail

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