|What you can't tell from this picture is that it's 40 degrees, raining about five feet away, and ultra windy (okay maybe you can tell it's windy). And poor Jeanine was freezing in this flimsy little chiffon confection. Photo from Orange Turtle.|
As I mentioned yesterday, I got to play Cinna and do the styling for a recent Hunger Games-inspired photoshoot with Orange Turtle Photography. Although it was fun to decide on the looks for Reaping Day and the Arena, my real pièce de résistance was the Girl on Fire dress that our Katniss wore for The Capitol.
When I first read the books by Suzanne Collins, one thing that I immediately noticed was the importance of clothing/fashion in the world of Panem, especially in the Capitol. From Prim's ducktailed shirt to the historically awful District 12 chariot costumes, from Cinna's understated look compared to Effie Trinket's bright pink hair, and the fact that a tribute's stylists could make or break their whole look and even whether or not they got sponsored...everything about a character's appearance communicates something. [Note also that that this is the world presented in the book; these are NOT my views about the importance of fashion.] So when I got to the description of Katniss' interview dresses, of course the sewasaurus rex part of my brain started trying to imagine what it would look like in real life. Here's the original description:
The team works on me until late afternoon, turning my skin to glowing satin, stenciling patterns on my arms, painting flame designs on my twenty perfect nails. Then Venia goes to work on my hair, weaving strands of red into a pattern that begins at my left ear, wraps around my head, and then falls in one braid down my right shoulder. They erase my face with a layer of pale makeup and draw my features back out. Huge dark eyes, full red lips, lashes that throw off bits of light when I blink. Finally, they cover my entire body in a powder that makes me shimmer in gold dust.
The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire. I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun. For a while, we all just stare at me. “Oh, Cinna,” I finally whisper. “Thank you.” (The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins)Now, obviously I didn't use precious gems all over my version, and I definitely didn't include the color blue, and Jeanine doesn't look to be in danger of burning up every time she moves. The aspects of this description that I chose to include were 1) flame colors, and 2) movement = fire. And before anyone gets all up in arms about not staying true to the book, check out the hideous, stiff, cheap taffeta-looking spectacle that movie-Katniss is wearing:
|Her expression = my thoughts exactly. She does not look radiant or twirly. She looks like she went to that cheap store at the mall right before prom and picked up the first dress she found. It's like they skimmed the description and thought, "Oh okay, just make it fire colored." Picture from here.|
Um. Don't people get paid lots of money to make fabulous clothing? And this is what they came up with? If I were making this costume and I had the time, resources, and experience, this is more along the lines of what I'd imagine:
|This was somebody's wedding gown! Picture from here, gown designed by Faabrika.|
In fact, I toyed with the idea of putting LEDs into the dress to get the glowing effect, but then decided that might be 1) a bit much, and 2) too complicated and expensive for my purposes. Although I would still like to do some combination of light+clothing sometime...
Anyway, keeping in mind my limited budget and the fact that I don't know anything about making evening gowns (hello, I usually work with somebody's old sheets that they didn't want anymore!), I decided that I needed to use chiffon cut on the bias to get the type of movement I wanted, and the more layers the better. But it also needed to be light enough that it would at least try to give the illusion of a flickering fire.
my trip to the FIDM costume exhibit!). Since they sell fabric by the pound, and chiffon has an excellent weight:yardage ratio, my base fabric only cost about $4. And I still have two yards left. For the fiery fabric, I picked up a yard each of iridescent polyester chiffon at F&S in a darker orange and lighter orange ($9.98/yd). I *almost* just bought the $1.99/yd red costume chiffon at Joann's since it was so much cheaper, but at the time I was afraid it would 1) look cheap, because it was cheap, and 2) make it look like a flamenco dress, and while flamenco dresses are cool, that's not really the look I wanted. Anyway, the iridescent stuff turned out to be the right choice. The way it catches the light and changes definitely helps with the fire look. When the light hits it just right, it's lovely.
With my fabrics in hand, all I had to do was design and make the dress (ha!). Since I was making the dress here in The City of Culver City, and my Katniss was in San Diego, I knew it had to be somewhat adjustable. Also, I want to be able to wear it if I want to dress up like a girl (somewhat) on fire. I decided to stick with my Easy DIY Maxi Dress (is that the worst name for a dress or what?) pattern, since its fittedness is largely dependent on an awesome belt, and just modify the shape of the dress to flow better. Here's my design sketch (apologies, I haven't really drawn people since my manga-fan days in college; I had to go look at my pattern envelopes to get an idea of how fashion drawings are supposed to look).
|If you look at my drawing carefully, you'll see that it's really the same idea as the maxi dress, but instead of two rectangles sewn together, it's two pie-shaped pieces (with the tips folded down for the strap, which was just a piece of narrow double-fold bias tape). Now you can make one too! And if you want a gold sequin belt to go with yours, check out this tutorial!|
|Fiery wing-things! Photo from Orange Turtle.|
|A better look at both the fullness of the skirt and all the chiffon ruffles. I really liked how hemming it make it extra ruffly. |
Also, please excuse the bare feet.
Fabric: six yards of black, crinkly polyester chiffon (doubled up for the body of the dress, to prevent see-through-ness), 1 yard light orange/yellow iridescent poly chiffon, 0.5 yards dark orange/yellow poly-chiffon
Notions: 1 yard narrow black double-fold bias tape
Worn with: Mockingjay pin, that $2 thrifted gold belt
Techniques used: Roll-hemming chiffon with my rolled hem foot
Hours: I'm going to say at least twenty, and that's not even counting all the design iterations going through my head at night
Netflix queue: I tried watching a documentary about children during the Holocaust (it seemed kind of fitting while working on a dress for a teen sent to her death?), but it was too much mentally. I really needed my attention on the blasted chiffon, so I ended up listening to my most soothing albums on repeat: The Postal Service's Give Up, the Garden State soundtrack, and Mumford and Sons' Sigh No More.
Will you make this again? I highly doubt I will need more than one GoF dress, but despite my chiffon nightmares, I would like to work with it again. I love the way it flows and looks, especially when cut on the bias.
Total cost: Less than $30, which includes the fabric, thread, bias tape, and electricity for charging the hand-vac for all the little chiffon bits...but I still have about half a yard of the dark orange chiffon left. Can anyone think of a use for it?
Final thoughts: Sometimes I look at the pictures and can't believe I made this dress. It's so lovely and wispy and flowy and swirly and fiery, and even though I can't stand the color orange I love it. I love that Jeanine couldn't get enough of twirling in it and I love that Ryan loved it on her. I also love that it got me to finally break out my rolled-hem foot and overcome my fear of chiffon. I am so grateful to Orange Turtle Photography for giving me the chance to make something like this! Seriously, they are awesome. If you ever need awesome photographers for a wedding in the Bay Area or SoCal, think of them! Also, I am totally not biased just because they did our anniversary pictures...
And finally, here are some really bad pictures of me twirling in the dress (this was mid-hemming and without appropriate underthings, hence the neon pink bra straps...):
|Ooh look, I'm on fire!|
|I love that you can see Walnut coming over to investigate in this last picture.|