(Previous posts: Hairnets and Headband)
This post is about how I researched the blouse and skirt, selected the fabric and embellished it.
After I finished my hairnets and headband in spring of 2015, I decided I was ready to move on to the bigger stuff… the blouse and skirt. I read all about it on Padawan’s Guide, asked some questions and hunted around on the Internet for a while. Originally, Padawan’s Guide recommended getting gold silk chiffon from Thai Silks in California, but Thai Silks no longer has it in gold or any other color except natural white. But, they had this amazing silk chiffon in natural white. It’s $7 a yard which is an unbeatable price for imported silk.
One of my biggest regrets with the costume is that I didn’t do a full circle skirt, despite all the research that says the skirt is a full circle or circle and a half. It would have been expensive for me to buy a pattern, and plus it requires a ton of fabric and leaves a lot of scrap left over. Not very efficient. And, considering that I had no job except for random babysitting jobs at unpredictable times, I was on a budget. So, I only bought 3 yards for the skirt (when I should have done at least 5) and 2 for the blouse (which was barely enough.) The fabric is so beautiful though!
Almost completely see-through and weightless and soft, not all scratchy like polyester chiffon I used to work with on another project. It just felt magical to me. Like it wasn’t even fabric…. it was a flower petal or butterfly wing or something. It was so addicting to just keep touching it, feeling that lovely soft, crisp texture…. I could go on.
Then, I had to dye the fabric, since it was a natural white color. This turned out to be super easy, despite all the tutorials that make dyeing look really complicated! I went to the craft store and got two colors of Rit dye- Tan and Golden Yellow. Then, I cut off a small scrap of fabric and cut that into pieces to test with. As I learned over the course of this costume journey, different fabrics dye differently, and silk is one of the easiest fabrics to dye. I practiced by taking a small cup of warm water and adding just a few drops of dye to it, using an eyedropper. Then I let the fabric sit in there for a little while. It would usually take 10-20 minutes for the fabric to dye, since I didn’t use very much dye. Here are my experimental scraps from the dye testing.
The main problem with dyeing silk is that it shrinks and gets all lumpy and weird when it gets wet. So, I had even more of a constraint on the construction of my blouse and skirt thanks to that. But more on those constraints later.
After a whole lot of trial and error, I discovered that my favorite combination of the tan and golden yellow was one part golden yellow, two parts tan. Because the costume is more tan than yellow- but not completely tan. Finally, I was ready to dye my whole 5-yard piece. This was extremely intimidating! There’s that whole factor of, “WHAT IF I RUIN IT THIS STUFF IS EXPENSIVE IT WOULD BE SUCH A WASTE AND I’D BE SO SAD!” I got one of those big cooking pots (it probably held 2 or 3-ish gallons) and filled it most of the way with warm, but not hot, water. I poured in a lot of dye. I forget what my exact measurement was, but it could have been half a cup of tan and a quarter cup of yellow or something. (Probably less than that, though.) I put on rubber gloves to prevent my hands from turning yellow and did the scariest thing- I just plunged my lovely silk into that pot. I mixed it around with my hands for about 5 minutes to make sure the color would be even, and then I dumped all the water out of the pot. Then I rinsed the fabric extremely thoroughly, since it can drip dye and that’s annoying. After that, I hung it over my shower curtain rod, with lots of towels underneath and let it dry over night. (I was up until, like, midnight screwing around in the kitchen with my fabric. Good old times. XD)
And the next morning…. it was beautiful. Just the most beautiful shade of gold. I was so happy. The only trouble was that it had shriveled up quite a bit from being wet, and I had to try to iron it to make it stretch out again. This helped a little, but not much. It had still shrunk a lot. The picture below doesn’t show my fabric completely accurately- it’s a bit more tan than this in real life.
Obviously I didn’t want my skirt to be just one layer of VERY sheer chiffon, so I bought some modal (soft, lightweight, stretchy fabric) and dyed that so I could line the blouse and skirt with it.
Now, rewind a bit to before I started all this dyeing business. I was thinking a lot about the embroidery on the blouse and skirt. The real costume has this really neat pattern of vines with little white flower sequins.
So I had to figure out where to get all those sequins. Of course, the places listed on Padawan’s Guide were outdated. But, then I had a flash of insight to look at their FB page! And, coincidentally, someone was talking about the rediscovery of the WalMart curtain for the shawl for THIS COSTUME (more about that in the shawl post). Padawan’s Guide is about all Star Wars costumes, not just the Padmé picnic costume, so it was quite a coincidence that they happened to be talking about it when I looked there! And someone commenting on that posted a link to a place on Etsy that sold the correct flower sequins! I couldn’t believe my luck. So I raced over to Etsy and bought 21 grams of the sequins. GS Boutique on Etsy still sells the correct sequins. Here are a few of the ones I got.
I also had to learn how to do the chain stitch, since my machine can’t do the chain stitch. There was a great website that explained a very easy method for it. So after I dyed my fabric and cut it into the pattern pieces (see the next post), I had to do a whole lot of chain stitching with green thread, slipping those little sequins on as I went. I was very sparse with the pattern because it was time consuming, and I wanted the whole area to be covered evenly. Even after the costume was done in September 2015, I continued to plug away at this very tedious process. Even now, in January 2016, I still don’t have the whole skirt covered with embroidery. I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t a full circle.