Lyanna Stark Costume – McCall’s 6940

April 14, 2016 § 5 Comments

Stark pin

With season 6 of Game of Thrones fast approaching, it’s high time I posted about my Lyanna Stark costume.

(If you object to seeing material from season 5, or interpretation of a book published 20 years ago, read no further. Perhaps you’d prefer my post on Game of Thrones costume patterns?)

For Halloween 2014 I went as Lyanna Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Lyanna is dead by the time of the main action in the books, and the character has not yet been seen on HBO’s Game of Thrones except as a statue in the Stark crypt.

Tomb statue of Lyanna Stark in the Winterfell crypt in "Fire and Blood" - Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 10

Tomb statue of Lyanna Stark in “Fire and Blood” (Game of Thrones, season 1) Image: fandom.

Sansa lights candles in the Stark crypt at Winterfell in "Sons of the Harpy" - Game of Thrones s5 e4

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) visits the family crypt in “Sons of the Harpy” (Game of Thrones, season 5). Image: HBO.

Of the series’ many lost, dead women, Lyanna Stark looms the largest. Eddard Stark’s sister and Arya’s foremother-doppelgänger, Robert Baratheon’s first betrothed, Rhaegar Targaryen’s lover/abductee, and probably Jon Snow’s mother, Lyanna is the Helen of Troy / Guinevere figure behind Robert’s Rebellion against the pyromaniac King Aerys II Targaryen. She’s a ghost that haunts the present in memory, dreams, and visions, but always as the subject of competing narratives: both object of desire and swashbuckling she-wolf.

Costuming Winterfell: costume sketches for Ned, Catelyn, and Sansa

Costuming Winterfell: costume sketches for Ned, Catelyn, and Sansa. Image: Bryan Cogman, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2 (Chronicle Books, 2012).

On the show, Michele Clapton’s costumes for the Starks at Winterfell involve a lot of linen, leather, and fur in northern blues and greys. The men wear leather doublets and Japanese-inspired padded linen skirts, while the women forego jewellery in favour of embellishment and enviable padded neck pieces.* Sansa finds some to wear on her return to Winterfell.

Fish neckroll embroidered by Michele Carragher for Game of Thrones

Embroidered neck roll from Game of Thrones. Image: Michele Carragher.

Lyanna’s statue wears a Stark neck roll. But what would Lyanna have worn in the south? In A Game of Thrones, Ned Stark dreams of the statue-Lyanna crowned with pale blue roses (the prize Rhaegar awarded her at Harrenhal) and weeping tears of blood.† Later in the book series, Theon Greyjoy has a dream of the dead that includes Lyanna in a crown of blue roses and a white dress spattered with blood.‡ But blood and roses do not a costume make.

As Robert’s fiancée and a court lady attending the tourney at Harrenhal, etc., I figured she would wear some kind of court dress. To save myself the drafting, and because Lyanna is effectively the anti-Cersei, I used McCall’s Cersei pattern, McCall’s 6940:

Cersei Lannister pattern - McCall's 6940 (2014)

McCall’s 6940 (2014)

Technical drawings for McCall's 6940 Game of Thrones Cersei pattern (2014)

Technical drawings for McCall’s 6940 (2014) Image via McCall’s.

I made View A (skipping the belt and appliqué) in dark blue with a pewter contrast, both from King Textiles. The main fabric was a malodorous synthetic; when pre-washed to remove the substantial sizing, it balled up into a wrinkly mess. Some of the wrinkles are still visible. But when a Halloween costume takes over 7 yards for the main fabric, I start with something cheap.

Based on the flat pattern measurements, I cut the 12 and made my usual length and grading adjustments. The fit is roomier than I’d like; I could go a size down. I didn’t get to the inside ribbon belt until after the photos, but even that requires a closer fit in the waist.

To give the court dress a northern, Stark touch, I trimmed the wrap bodice neckline with Mokuba faux fur banding. Naomi contributed some blue, artificial rosebuds and her wolf’s head brooch, which stood in perfectly for the Stark direwolf.

We photographed the dress one chilly November afternoon just after Halloween:

Lyanna Stark costume, front view (McCall's 6940)

Lyanna Stark costume, side view (McCall's 6940)

Lyanna Stark costume, back view (McCall's 6940)

I’ve never had such a problem with wrinkles at princess and shoulder seams; I blame the synthetic. Since the lower sleeves are cut on the cross grain, nap and pattern could be an issue — as is visible in the photos. Practically speaking, the dress requires an underskirt, as it’s prone to opening dramatically with little provocation.

I would re-make this in a natural fabric like wool or linen, with some fit adjustments and tweaks to the contrast details for a smoother finish. I’m also tempted to brush up on my hand embroidery and try a Stark neck roll, as well as embroidered sleeves — sleeves to lose yourself in.

* Michele Clapton quoted in Bryan Cogman, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2 (Chronicle Books, 2012), p. 44.
† George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (Bantam Books, 1996), p. 419.
‡ George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings (Bantam Books, 1999), p. 609.

Preview: Lyanna Stark Costume – McCall’s 6940

November 7, 2014 § 3 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!

Krizia Playsuit – McCall’s 6624

September 30, 2014 § 9 Comments


It’s officially fall now, but the recent warm weather gave Naomi and me the chance to photograph my late 1970s Krizia playsuit, made using McCall’s 6624. (See my post on Krizia patterns here).

McCall's 6624 by Krizia - 1970s playsuit and wrap skirt

McCall’s 6624 by Krizia (1979) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The playsuit bodice and shorts are pleated into a pointed, one-piece midriff band, and the whole thing closes at the front with a zipper and buttons. I love the shaped side vents on the shorts.

I used a black glitter stretch knit from my stash, found at Fabricland’s old downtown location. The pattern needed extensive resizing. Due to the mid-1970s unofficial sizing change (thanks to Peter for drawing my attention to this) the 10 was fine on top. (That’s my copy on the wiki.) I added some ease to the midriff band and adjusted the bodice and shorts to match up to it. I also lengthened the rise, added to the crotch length, and slashed to add some room in the hips. Yes, it’s a stretch knit, but I was trying to be faithful to the ease of the original.

This was my first time sewing a McCall’s “Carefree” pattern, and I found the instructions involved a little guesswork. I have also made up a ’70s Vogue pattern with similar design elements—midriff band, pleated dirndl skirt—and can vouch for Vogue’s more extensive markings and instructions. The McCall’s didn’t even have markings for the buttonholes. I carefully followed Vogue Sewing Book’s buttonhole instructions, but I suspect I made them too big. Perhaps vertical buttonholes would solve the problem?

If I were to make the playsuit again, I would add markings to the midriff piece to help line up the side seams etc., and also ease stitch across all the pleats (rather than just hand basting) to keep everything in place. The instructions say to finish the shorts with a narrow hem; I couldn’t see that working with my knit and the shaped side vents, so I did my best to mimic a serger finish (zigzag, trim, topstitch) and pressed the sides into relative submission. If I were making it again I would use fusible stay tape.

We photographed the playsuit by a local graffiti mural by Anser and Chou.

McCall's 6624 by Krizia (1979) - Noble St. mural in Parkdale, Toronto

McCall's 6624 by Krizia (1979)

The sparkle only shows up close:

1970s Krizia playsuit pattern - McCall's 6624

McCall's 6624 by Krizia (1979)

Here’s a view of the back pleats:


The playsuit is so strappy, short, and unstructured that it falls more into the realm of loungewear. It’s a bit more practical when worn with a coverup.

McCall's 6624 by Krizia (1979)

(Sandals: Gareth Pugh for Melissa)

(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)

1930s Children’s Coat – Pictorial Review 6128

March 10, 2014 § 12 Comments

30s coat pocket

1930s child’s coat detail — Pictorial Review 6128.

I made our little niece a vintage ’30s coat as a Hannukah gift. For the pattern I used Pictorial Review 6128, a double-breasted coat with optional back belt and pockets.

1930s child's coat pattern - Pictorial Review 6128

Pictorial Review 6128 (1932) Child’s Coat.

Here’s the diagram and description from the envelope back. It’s a unisex coat for small children, and was available only in sizes 1 to 6:

Envelope back with technical drawing of 1930s child's coat - Pictorial Review 6128. Child's coat. Snug, sturdy and comfortable is this little double-breasted coat with straight fronts and a belted back. The fronts may be worn closed to the neck or rolled to form revers. Belt and inserted pockets are optional.

Technical drawing and description, Pictorial Review 6128 (1932)

The recommended fabrics were flannel, camel’s hair, piqué, velveteen, cheviot, and serge. We had a length of purple Woolrich tweed that felt the right weight for a coat. (Established in 1830, Woolrich is North America’s oldest woolen mill. Today, Woolrich tweed is a wool-nylon blend for durability.) I cut some leather trim for the welt pockets from an old pair of leather gloves, and my modest button stash yielded a set of one-inch vintage Civil Defence buttons for the front and belt.

Since the pattern is the old die-cut type and needed no alterations, I tried cutting using the original tissue pieces held down with weights.

I’m new to tailoring (and coat-making), so throughout the process I referred to Paco Peralta’s tailoring tutorial and my 1970s Vogue Sewing Book on tailoring techniques. The coat collar gave me the opportunity to try out pad stitching. The pattern even gave instructions; the undercollar is to be interfaced with muslin and pad stitched, with the collar stand first worked with a running stitch:

1930s instruction diagrams for undercollar - Pictorial Review 6128

Instruction diagrams for undercollar – Pictorial Review 6128

Here are some progress photos of the pad stitched undercollar:



This is the undercollar attached to the coat body:

30s coat collar

Pad stitched undercollar on Pictorial Review 6128

You could call my approach to the coat half-tailored—somewhere between the pattern’s Depression-era muslin collar interlining and modern tailoring’s padstitched hair canvas interfacing, all catch-stitched along the seam lines. As a compromise between vintage and modern methods I used a sew-in interfacing on coat facings, belt, and pocket welts. (None was called for in the pattern.) To handle the heavy tweed, I had no tailor’s clapper, so I pounded the steamed seams and edges with a small cedar block we had on hand. Paco’s tip of making a few stitches across lapel corners worked wonders for my first-ever lapels.

I bagged the lining and added handworked keyhole buttonholes—fanned at one end, with a bar tack at the other. Partway through making the coat we decided against the convertible collar, so I omitted the lapel buttonholes. (As with many vintage patterns, there were no button/buttonhole markings.) It was my first stab at handworked buttonholes on heavy fabric; I love how the hand stitches create an edge that curves out to the ridge of knots that lines the buttonhole opening.

Here are some photos of the finished coat:



I think of Civil Defence buttons as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ buttons since the font and crown are similar to those on the WW2 propaganda poster originally produced by Britain’s Ministry of Information. (More on the Keep Calm font here.) Some closeup views of the buttons and buttonholes:



And the little back belt:


Our loft’s walls have some mysterious industrial hardware that proved useful in showing the scale of the coat:



Cutting straight from a die-cut pattern was an interesting experience, but I still prefer printed or traced tissue for cutting and marking. An oft-cited drawback of unprinted patterns is that the notches and other markings don’t always line up. This was true of the coat pattern, but it wasn’t hard to correct.

It’s always a pleasure working with wool, and I really enjoyed the challenge of trying out tailoring with a heavy fabric. The finished coat is something our niece will grow into, especially in the shoulders. But she does love the pockets! I see more coat-making in our future…

(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)


Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy

January 19, 2014 § 11 Comments


I made the first of my patterns by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: the cowl-neck sheath dress, Vogue 2248. (See my earlier post here.)

Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999) Dress with contrast cowl neck.

Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999)

I had planned to make the dress in my default black, and had even bought some mesh for the contrast cowl neck. But when I started looking back over runway photos from Givenchy’s neo-noir Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection, I was struck by the palette of neutrals, electric blue, and especially the combination of oxblood with red.

Givenchy FW1998 Frankie Rayder and Sunniva Stordahl

Models: Frankie Rayder and Sunniva Stordahl. Images via firstVIEW via the Fashion Spot.

Givenchy FW1998 by Alexander McQueen - runway photos by Thierry Orban

Photos: Thierry Orban. Images via Corbis.

(There’s a blue version of the original sleeveless dress on eBay. The dress fabric is a nylon/acetate/elastane blend, with acetate lining, and the back zipper reaches all the way up through the cowl.)

I made View B, the sleeveless, mid-calf version, in oxblood with a red cowl neck. I hit Designer Fabrics and found some oxblood wool, red mesh for the contrast cowl, and Bemberg for the lining. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast, but I wanted to stick with the mesh used for the runway version. I was a little stumped as to interfacing for the contrast, and even bought some tomato red tricot to use before learning that the best interfacing for mesh is more mesh.

I wanted a close fit, so I ignored the sizing and went by the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern, including 1″ ease at bust and waist and a little more in the hips. I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5″ to achieve the correct length.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2248

Technical drawing for Vogue 2248

This was my first dart-fitted dress, and I had fun sewing my very first contour darts—eventually realizing the virtues of even a makeshift tailor’s ham. The cowl neck is cut on the bias, but this didn’t pose any problems, since the mesh handles much better than chiffon.

With the full lining and absolutely no stretch, the dress feels very old-fashioned to wear. One thing I misjudged was the bodice/cowl part of the bodice—I cut the right size in the bust, but didn’t distribute the extra waist length I was adding between the above-waist and shoulder areas, so it’s a bit on the high side and the cowl neck has a closer fit than in the runway photo. It would have been simpler to cut a size up and take the bodice in at the sides. The “interfaced” mesh is also a little bulky; the extra layer was probably unnecessary.

Since the Fall 1998 collection was inspired by Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to take photos of the dress at the David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition at TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the Interzone area, devoted to Naked Lunch (1991), visitors could have their photo taken with a Mugwump:


Naomi took some photos of me upstairs at an extension of the Cronenberg show called Body/Mind/Change (BMC). Visitors to the biotech facility BMC Labs can observe the production of personalized POD (Personal On-Demand) implants, which are held awaiting pickup by their hosts. The BMC Labs facility is still open if you’d like to create your own POD implant:

Pod Wants to Know You

Image via BMC Labs.

Here I am in the POD holding area:


A closer view of the mesh cowl neck:



The cowl fastens in the back with hooks and thread eyes:


The lab staff let me hold a brand-new red POD (rara avis—most are colourless):


We were delighted to find BMC Labs at the end of our visit: it was the perfect backdrop for the dress given McQueen’s futuristic, sci-fi inspiration for his collection for Givenchy. I’m crossing my fingers for a red POD of my own…

Twenties Swimsuit – Simplicity 7041 (VFL 145)

November 9, 2013 § 14 Comments

Simplicity 7041

Simplicity 7041 (ca. 1929) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

I love vintage swimwear. (See my post on vintage beachwear patterns here.) It’s also been years since I had a bathing suit; somehow I can never make myself shop for one. So I resolved to make a vintage swimsuit using the Vintage Fashion Library’s reproduction of Simplicity 7041, VFL 145.

Based on the envelope design and that of the consecutively numbered Simplicity 7042, a lingerie set with bloomers, I would date the pattern to circa 1929. (On the development of the 1920s swimsuit see Bomber Girl’s post here.)

These two George Hoyningen-Huene photos of Patou swimsuits from the late ’20s served as reference and inspiration for me:

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit, ca. 1929. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

The original pattern instructions give a charming description: “7041: Style for chic and for good swimming. It has a smart belted waistline, buttoned shoulder straps, and a round neckline. Style 1: A one-piece suit for the very active swimmer who demands plenty of freedom. Style 2: A two-piece suit which looks well on the taller woman. With deep V-back.” The pointed, lapped lower bodice seam is a nice Deco detail, which could be brought out further by making the attached shorts in a contrasting fabric.

I made the one-piece with scoop back. I found some lightly textured, black swimwear fabric on sale at King Textiles’ old location, with matching white fabric for a contrast belt. To face the upper bodice and belt I used tricot interfacing/lining from Designer Fabrics, where I also got some plain 1″ buttons. The 1.5″ belt buckle is from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot (now at 204 Spadina).

I needed to grade down the repro’s B38 to fit me. Even then I had to take in the suit at the upper side seams. The straps were made slightly shorter and narrower as part of the grading, but the length of the shorts was unaltered. I added white topstitching along the top and bottom edges of the bodice, with contrasting black topstitching on the white belt.

The cut of the shorts is in the old style, which takes some getting used to. Here is a view of the suit, shown flat:

1920s Simplicity swimsuit

Simplicity 7041 swimsuit (ca. 1929) – Vintage Fashion Library 145.

Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:

1920s aerial photograph of bathers at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, Toronto.

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, ca. 1924. Image via City of Toronto Archives.

The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:

Sunnyside Pavilion

The grand archway at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.

As Naomi pointed out, the suit is basically a playsuit, and with heels and a coverup it didn’t feel too odd walking down Queen Street West to the beach.

Suit with coverup

Simplicity 7041 worn with a coverup (shoes: John Fluevog).

I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:

Suit / gates

Simplicity 7041 with “buttoned” straps.

Suit with parasol

Simplicity 7041 – front view

Suit steps

I had trouble deciding how to fit the suit. Although period photographs show knit swimsuits that cling to the body, the illustration shows a looser-fitting suit. Since I wanted to swim in it, I wasn’t aiming for an authentic reproduction. (Wool is just not an option.) But having made it up, it’s clear the suit would drape better in a lighter swimwear fabric. I may try the low-backed, skirted view for next summer…


(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)

Quaithe of Asshai – Vogue 2014 by Givenchy

December 3, 2012 § 13 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.)

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