Covering A Columbia Hat (Alternate Method)

This is a guest post by RM - I was so impressed with her results! I think there's a little more work involved in this method, but the results speak for themselves. I have no doubt that this is the way Little Nell's was probably made because the sequin pattern on the bottom of the brim go straight back.  Also, Larry now has screen accurate gold sequin fabric for top hats and tail coats.

I started out with a plain black top hat and glued on layers of felt to make it flare out at the top, just like in Mina’s tutorial. Since I wasn’t happy with any of the gold sequin fabrics I found locally and there wasn’t time to order any, I decided to create my own wavy-line sequin fabric by tracing lines onto fabric with a cardboard template and gluing strings of sequin trim onto the fabric. (NOTE: Once I was finished, I decided the sequins weren’t close together enough so I added more sequin strings in the spaces between them.) I’m not sure how many yards of sequin trim it took—I just bought a spool of 100 meters and still have plenty left over. I chose a lightweight, semi-sheer cotton/silk lining fabric layered over a yellowish gold poly-cotton broadcloth, since that was the only way I could achieve the color and texture I wanted with the fabrics available.  I used my very most favorite glue, Gem-Tac. I made three large ovals (one for the flat top part of the hat, one for the underside of the brim, and one for the top side of the brim) and one long rectangle (for the stovepipe part of the hat). Be careful to make sure the nap of the sequins are all going in the same direction!

I glued the sequin fabric oval onto the top of the hat first, pinning it in place while the glue dried. You can see I made cuts through the center of the brim fabric pieces like a pizza—this is because on the top side of the brim, you need to wiggle that piece of fabric from the top of the hat (which is wider) down to the part where it meets the brim (which is narrower).


The 40th Anniversary

I had tickets to attend the 40th Anniversary convention in NYC, but sadly I had to cancel my plans after the passing of my father-in-law just days before. The costume I had planned for the Time Warp Ball was in the style of Marie Antoinette - a la Columbia's pajamas.  "Let Them Eat Meat Loaf!". The image on the fan is the Eddie mural on Columbia's bedroom wall, and the cameo necklace is of Frank (made with Shrinky Dinks). After all this work, I decided to wear it to the local show here in Houston that was also celebrating the 40th; The Royal Mystic Order of Chaos. I won a Funko Pop Columbia figure in the costume contest!

Ron Maxwell with Barry Bostwick
Photo Credit: Hilary Maxwell
Meanwhile in NYC I wish I could have been on stage with my fellow Boss winners awarding Ron Maxwell his much deserved Boss award. Ron has been around since... well... dinosaurs invented shadowcasting. His involvement has had an affect on so many people - he's like that crazy, fun uncle everyone loves even when the rest of the family is lobbing flaming fishnets across the divide. He's the voice of reason and the reason so many of us consider Rocky our family. His Boss-ness isn't as physically exhibited as those of us who have won for a website or hosting a major event, but he won because of his overwhelming influence in the community - which also speaks to the open criteria and flexibility of the Boss Award.

I won my Boss Award at the 4711 convention in 2011 for this blog where I share my costume knowledge and how-to tutorials. Anyone can be nominated for a Boss Award, but keep in mind that their contributions should be felt community-wide (more than just locally). The Boss committee is made of past winners that discuss all nominees and vote. Awards are handed out in person at most conventions.


Dr. Scott's Tie (Research)

The necktie's knot position varies day to day on the set, but there is a clear repeating pattern of stripes on a maroon background:  narrow white, pencil-thin grey, narrow orange-red, thin white, and thick grey. Since neckties are cut on the bias of the fabric (typically silk or a comparable synthetic), their stripes are usually at an angle. In the US they typically slant from the wearer's upper right to lower left, but the reverse in the UK.  The easiest solution is to use fabric paint on a solid maroon necktie.


Custom Printed Fabric

I've been tinkering with this for a good while now. I will have swatches at the 40th Anniversary Convention.  If you're comfortable with Photoshop, the process is fairly easy. When you upload your design you have the option to set the repeat how you prefer.

Columbia's Pajama Stripe - This was printed by Spoonflower. I have experimented with the colors a bit, and though I think my final result is a bit dark, it lends itself well to natural fading for a truly "worn" look (you can accelerate the process with sun exposure and many washings). Spoonflower will also let you modify the colors before ordering, however I strongly recommend getting a swatch before purchasing yardage.

Brad's Bow Tie Plaid - I tried this on Spoonflower originally and I wasn't happy with any of the results. Every effort looked dull and faded - as if getting a saturated red was impossible.  I tried using their color-picker, and talking with customer support on the phone. Always the same dull results. I had much greater success with FabricOnDemand.com - the only complaint I have about them is that they do not have a store feature to let other people buy my designs directly.

Brad's Cummerbund Plaid - Pretty much the same exact experience as the bow tie plaid. My final results were from FabricOnDemand.com.

Janet's 1/2" Pink Gingham - Gingham is technically a woven plaid, but I've done my best to simulate the effect with printing. I got great results from Spoonflower.com so it's available in my shop there. I also have a lighter version of the same print for Janet's that are working with a lighter pink dress fabric and still want a good match.


Space Suit Quilting

This is my best estimate at the quilted pattern on the space suits.  Riff & Magenta's seem identical.  The red lines indicate where the space wings and belt cross (and partially obstruct) the pattern.

This scale works well with the quilted gold lamé sold by Hancock's (seasonally), though you'll need to make custom adjustments for larger sizes.

There is something hard to discern on the lower back.  A kind of shaping, maybe?  The best I've been able to address it is to create a separate piece of quilting and overlay it.  You can view my research in this blog post.


Pattern Drafting (Personal Progress)

It's my intention to get all of my Rocky Horror patterns into my Fashion CAD program where I can standardize their sizes and grade them into a complete range of sizes. So far I have made MUCH progress with the software. I'm flushing out my drafting skills and will then begin to apply grading tools. Easy, huh?  Surprisingly, the most difficult part so far has been trying to find (create?) a chart of standardized measurements as they apply to my drafting needs (beyond chest, waist, hips, etc.)

There are many pattern systems out there, and many ways you can measure the human form. I just need a compatible set. The Joseph-Armstrong textbook Patternmaking for Fashion Design is pretty much an industry standard in technique, but provides no reference charts for working with standard sizes - only how to take  your own custom measurements and apply them to the drafting tutorials. The ASTM chart D-5585 seems comprehensive, but is actually missing many of the specific measurements necessary for the Joseph-Armstrong method.

I think I've finally come upon a working solution, and am moving forward. I am happy with my first draft, though it still needs some tweaking. The first pattern I plan to work on for Rocky Horror is Janet's pink dress. It's a pretty straight-forward design.

So as you can see, this is just a basic bodice sloper, but it's the foundation I'll be working from. 


Pleating Chiffon for Janet's Hat

It's hard to catch a good view, but my best guess is Janet's hat has about 3 or 4 pleats around the base of the dome. To accomplish this you'll need to cut the chiffon on the bias. This is actually crucial for best results. On the bias means along the diagonal of the fabric's weave. If you take a woven piece of fabric and tug on it sideways or longways you won't get much stretch. If you tug on it diagonally the fabric will stretch considerably more. This is an extreme advantage when working around curves.

I'm using a sheer cotton fabric from the home decor department at JoAnn's. Its cotton content will allow it to press easily without fear of melting. I cut a bias strip that was 30" by 8" - way more than I needed, but you can cut the excess off later. I pressed the pleats the length of the fabric - aiming for about 1/4" - 3/8" pleats. Be very careful not to stretch the fabric at this point. After pleating, fold and press the excess under and trim it off. You'll now have a 30" pleated strip that should be relatively straight. Janet's isn't perfect, so don't sweat any waviness.

Now you want to press a curve into your pleated strip. The bias will do all the work for you. The curved band will make wrapping it on the hat lay smoothly.

These pleats are a little on the narrow side, so I'm going to play around with 3 wider pleats in place of the 4 narrow pleats. The hat is $20 on Amazon (thanks Larry!). It's not as flimsy as Janet's, but it should hold up to shadow-casting abuse well.

Once you get the pleats placed you can trim down off the excess length and add your bow.


Eddie's T-shirt

Eddie's t-shirt has his name emblazoned across his chest in sparkly green.  If you're doing this yourself you have a few paint options.  Tulip brand makes a Glitter Shimmer Fabric Paint, but it's translucent so you'd need a layer of regular fabric paint under it.  Tulip also makes a glitter bond that you can stencil onto a shirt, add glitter, then dry - my concern would be how many washings it would survive.  You can also buy a shirt made by the fine folks of Home of Happiness on eBay for $15 plus shipping.

Shawn Hall in HoH Eddie T-shirt
Photo by Formal Dress Optional


Eddie's Rings

I know this is pretty to research for yourself, though you may get hung up searching for the rings on his left hand. So if anyone wants to contribute to the search terms please comment on this post!

1.  Middle Finger - I've always heard this referred to as "Dramedy" (Drama/Comedy), though I seldom see anyone else calling it that.  A lot of eBay listings just say Drama Masks or Comedy & Tragedy Masks. Also look for "Beau Sterling" designs (re: The Anal Retentive Costume List).
2.  Ring Finger - This is a Tiger Eye stone - not sure if the setting has a specific name or not, but it looks gold.
3.  Pinky Finger - silver Iron Cross ring - this is probably going to be the easiest to find if you're not super-picky - I've even seen them at Target in the past.  

In this photo, the Iron Cross ring looks like it has a skinny band.  You can also see a knot (?) in Eddie's slingshot rubber on the back of his neck.

ETA - Steve V. found an incredible match for the Iron Cross ring.  He said it was listed as "Franco-Prussian war silver iron cross ring". Under the black enamel there is a crown and a date.


Berlin, 2014

I had an amazing time in Berlin.  It wasn't a convention per se, but it was a well-organized, international event. And best of all I wasn't stuck sitting at a merchandise booth!  People came from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Isreal and the United States to participate.  Also in attendance were my friends Shawn and Paul with the Rocky Horror Saved My Life documentary.  They were on hand to grant more interviews and debut a new trailer launching their Indie GoGo campaign.

Not only did I make many new friends, but I got to meet people I've known online for years.  Friday was spent mostly hanging out, exchanging stories, and sharing some drinks - which you can apparently drink openly on the streets.  Friday night was Hedwig And The Angry Inch at the historic Babylon Theatre preceded by an hour of short films - many of them were entirely new to me.  The cast did a great job - and by the looks of it had a lot of fun - but I think Stefan from Amsterdam stole the show.

Saturday afternoon was mostly spent hanging out (and drinking) with our new friends, and getting ready for the show at the Freiluftkino Rehberge- an outdoor theatre in a park.  The show started around 8:00 pm (when the sun went down) and most of the cast was on hand much earlier to rehearse and mingle with the crowd (about 1000 people?).

The show was one hell of a great time.  Max Mayhem had created a video preceding the show - to the tune of Billy's Idol "Rebel Yell" - spotlighting the international performers.  The costumes were fairly exceptional across the board - and even some of my work appeared here and there, which always gives me warm fuzzies.  The audience was very lively!!

Sunday started with a brunch buffet, followed by sightseeing and shopping. Highlights included the Mauerpark Flea Market, the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall) and the Ramones Museum.  Followed up with a traditional German dinner... and of course more drinking.  All of my photos can be seen in my Berlin 2014 Flickr Album.

Max, Jojo, and everyone in Berlin who worked hard to pull this off did an exceptional job.  I really hope I can make it back next year!  Who's with me??