2.9.14

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??


16.6.14

Frank's Cape

These are the results I got with modifying Simplicity's cape pattern #2499 (might be discontinued, but check eBay). I widened the center back panel so that I could accommodate the pleating.  It also widened the hem some.  My finished hem was just short of 18' - that's a big cape!!

I used Baroque Satin and silver lamé fabric.  The collar has an inner layer of fusible Pellon 71F Peltex.  I bag lined the entire cape - which means I sewed the sides and bottom with right sides together like a pillow case before attaching the collar.  The hem is completely closed in.

My preference is to not put a closure on the front, but if you're wearing it outside the show you can easily add a large hook and loop or tie strings.

28.5.14

Brad's Cummerbund (Pleating)

Is Brad's cummerbund pleated?  Well, judging by visual evidence alone it's very hard to tell.  But I will say that I've never met a cummerbund that wasn't pleated.  They may absolutely exist, but they would be a very rare specimen.  I'd be inclined to write them off as homemade unless they had their original label intact.  So abiding by the laws of fashion and "how things are generally done" - you can actually still pleat a plaid to look the same as it's original, un-pleated layout just by folding it carefully.

Also, the pleats on a cummerbund should always go up.  That is, imagine them as a crumb-catcher.  I've also heard that men could keep their valet tickets and such inside the folds - though that seems silly to me since I've never seen a men's tuxedo lacking in pockets inside and out.

So here I've used a piece of paper.  My printer was running out of red ink, but I think the fading actually helps delineate the pleats for this purpose.  The light areas have 9 squares in them - pleated or not.



2.4.14

Costuming Friends & Casts

Earlier this year I wrote about Selling Rocky Costumes as a side business, but it occurs to me that so many more people make costumes as a hobby for their friends and cast.  That comes with it's own set of pitfalls and frustrations so this post goes out to them.  It's often a thankless job, and even if you're compensated you're still going to have to set boundaries. It's up to you to define your boundaries, not for other people to speculate where they may be.  I know it's hard to say "no" to people - especially when you really do want to help them and you know they need your help.  It feels amazing when your talents are in demand.

Frank cape lining on dress form.
Where to start?  I guess with the initial request since this is where so many things go wrong.  Don't over-commit yourself.  Set a number of requests (say, 3) and anything beyond that gets an automatic "I'm sorry I can't right now, but I'll let you know when my schedule opens up."  You absolutely have to draw a boundary.  Yes, even for the little things.

If they have supplied you with materials or a deposit you are beholden to them.  This reinforces my point about limiting the number of requests you accept - because it's not fair to take someone's materials and then sit on them because you were busy or over-extended.  A lot of us have been there (myself included), and it's a huge mess to clean up.  Honor your current obligations before making new ones.  You just never know what obstacles may pop up in life, and it's better to wrap up a short list of obligations than a long one.

The next biggest pitfall?  Don't get taken advantage of.  Even if you're doing it out of the kindness of your heart keep track of your time and every expense you incur. If you're cursing the costume in the end because it was more than you bargained for chances are your own boundaries (or lack there-of) are what failed you.  You can be successful if you are completely realistic.

If you charge for your work it can be tricky knowing how much to ask for.  A general rule of thumb is 3x the cost of materials.  So if you spent $20 on fabric and supplies, you should charge $60 for the finished costume.  But if it requires additional skills - like hand-sewing hundreds of sequins on a corset - you should definitely factor that in your price.  What's important here is that you feel it was worth it, otherwise why would you do it again?  If you want a nicer sewing machine or a serger, you're going to have to count every dollar.

As for the people who will "pay you later" - you really need to be firm here.  Nobody needs a Rocky costume that badly.  If they can't pay the pre-arranged amount do not give them the costume under any circumstances.  If you do, consider it a gift because the odds of recovering anything are slim to none.  It's not because people aim to be shitty to you, but because Nobody needs a Rocky costume that badly - and the next time they have $20 in their hand you can be sure it's going towards something more important to them (their next meal, gas for their car, cigarettes, etc.)  Paying you back will be at the bottom of their selfish list - and they're selfish because they asked you to front them for their responsibility in the first place.  Don't diminish your boundaries because they did.  And don't expect respect from other people if you don't respect yourself.  Simply let them know "I'd be glad to hold it in a safe place for you."

Don't be hard on yourself when you make mistakes.  It's not productive.  Create a solution and follow it through.  If you get upset and quit you've learned nothing and you will find yourself in the same place again and again.

26.2.14

Magenta's Magazine

After spending a ridiculous amount of time tracking down Columbia's magazine, I was able to find Magenta's in much shorter order. It's Movie Mirror from April 1961.  I had the cover reproduced on a stiff, glossy cardstock, and as a prop it will last longer that way. You can do a single bend down the spine, or a double bend depending on what magazine you want to re-cover. I used an Opera News magazine - it's size is slightly uncommon (16.5" x 11"). I used the edge of my kitchen counter to get a crisp fold (measure against your magazine, not the page's design.)

I'll have these for sale at upcoming conventions.

Selling Rocky Costumes

I'm going to jot down a few things I've learned along the way for anyone else who may be interested in selling Rocky Horror (or other) costumes - this is what you may be in for!  This list is based on my personal experiences over the last decade.  Overall it's been a very positive experience, and I've built friendships and felt very connected to the Rocky community.
  1. You probably can't make a living at it - at least not in the beginning.  It may take you a while to figure out your price points based on what materials you can (consistently) procure and how long it takes you.  You will, of course, get faster after you've made an item several times.
  2. I recommend making samples up front to show/sell before taking commissions.  eBay will get you a lot of visibility, but there are plenty of other options out there without all the fees.  It's easy to spread the word on social networking sites, and PayPal makes it easy to sell from your own website or blog.
  3. Take nice pictures of your work;  well lit, not wrinkled, no pets or junk in the background.  If you don't have a dress form ask a friend to model it - but really model it and take photos of different sides - not while they're performing in it.  Photograph the details, too.  You don't need an expensive camera to do this.
  4. People are going to submit crummy measurements.  Sometimes you can spot them and ask them to remeasure (and provide them with more specific instructions), but there's always going to be discrepancies - make sure you're policies are clear how you intend to handle them.  Some people will still be difficult so be prepared to stand your ground.  Fortunately they are few and far between.
  5. People will ask for substitutions.  Some may seem benign (a different fabric for a Janet dress), some will be ill-advised (spring-weave sequin fabric for a tail coat), and some will end up costing you hours of frustration.  It's up to you if you want to go there, and how much extra you want to charge for it.
  6. Deposits are tricky and I prefer to avoid them after a hard lesson learned.  If something doesn't work out (can't get the fabric, death in the family, yeti attack, etc.) you're not beholden to an angry customer (or lynch mob).
  7. Whether you take deposits or not never ship without full payment.  On large orders I give about a week's heads up.  Otherwise I send the invoice when the costume is finished and ready to ship.  The handful of times I shipped costumes without payment had mixed results and some have never paid to this day.
  8. People will want things fast.  Your queue could be 10 weeks long and growing, but someone will want to know if there's any way they could have something next weekend for a very special performance.  Hey, it's your headache.  Just know that demanding people will continue to be demanding - they don't ever chill out just because you did them a solid.
  9. Communication.  Respond as quickly as you can to e-mails (yes, people will panic over Rocky Horror costumes). Try to keep your correspondence in one place.  It's frustrating when half a conversation is in your in-box, some is on Facebook, and the rest is in a text message on your phone.  
  10. People will love you.  People will hate you.  People will forget that you're just one human being and not some sweatshop of magical sewing faeries.  Things will happen.  Machines will break at the worst time, the post office will lose your packages, you'll get sick or injured, etc.
  11. Mistakes will happen.  It's how we learn, but it doesn't have to be how we define ourselves.  Pick yourself up, move on.  A sense of humility - and a sense of humor - will get you far.  And when all else fails make Rocky Horror voodoo dolls with your scrap fabric.

17.1.14

Frank's Cape (Research Pt 2)

In trying to study more details of Frank's cape, I can't find evidence of a center back seam.  What I do see are some raglan seams on the front and back of both shoulders.  This would make it a 5 (or 7) piece cape instead of a 4-piece. But here are some screen caps of where I think I'm seeing the seams-




Simplicity's 2499 has a 7-piece cape with the raglan seams.  All you would need to do is widen the center back piece.  

1.1.14

Gold Sequin Fabric

I get asked about this a lot so I'm creating a blog entry dedicated to it.  I currently do not know of any gold sequin fabric sources.  I get lucky online once in a blue moon, or a friend may find something random, but I do not know of any place that stocks it.

Tail Coats
Rubies makes a gold sequin tail coat for men (item 90872) and women (90871) that retails for about $250 - $300.  They turn up on eBay fairly regularly as well as large costume companies.

Every once in a while you can catch a good vintage find that comes close.  I guess it depends how picky you are about the sequin design and jacket shape.

Most common these days are the 'foil dot' costumes - faux sequins glued onto a glitzy fabric background. A reasonable investment for a starter costume or someone who doesn't plan to perform Columbia often.

Sequin Fabric
If you're dedicated to accuracy you'll want to look for a wavy, skip-a-row sequin arrangement.  I've seen the wavy strands attached to chiffon, taffeta, jersey knit and thick spring weave (think tube tops).  I am not a fan of using stretchy fabrics for tail coats and the only advice I will ever give on the subject no matter how hard you press me is "no" -  not because it can't be done, but because I don't want to be responsible for a multi-hundred dollar failure if you don't achieve the results you wanted.

I used to find the taffeta-backed version at Hancock's regularly until about 10 years ago.  It was discontinued and doesn't seem to be coming back.  I find a few bolts in random fabric shops online, but never any options of restocking.  Magic Makers used to carry it regularly, but as prices went up he stopped having it manufactured.

If you're less concerned with the accuracy, there's still plenty of gold options out there.  Sometimes with square or oval sequin, sometimes dangly instead of stitched flat, etc.  But for the cost of buying something that isn't right and putting that much work into it, you'd probably be better off buying the Rubies coat mentioned above.

Custom Orders
I'm not currently accepting custom orders - partially because I can't find a reliable fabric source myself, and also because I've suspended all commissions while I'm caring for my mother and trying to move forward with other (non-Rocky) work.

However, there has been some dialogue about having it custom manufactured like the bustier fabric is.  The problem, of course, is the huge amount of money that has to fronted by an individual for a bolt of custom fabric.  We're talking a couple thousand dollars.  Not a big problem if it gets unloaded quickly, but definitely a concern if it takes months or years to recover the cost.  It would most likely be in the neighborhood of $60/yd, and take 3 yards to make a tail coat (not including black sequin fabric for the lapels and whatever fabric for the lining).

If you think you would seriously consider purchasing custom fabric in that price range I encourage you to leave a comment to this blog entry.  If enough people are seriously interested we could make this a reality. Please, think of the Columbias.

6.10.13

Janet's Necklace (Research)

Name necklaces are easier than ever to find online, especially thanks to Sex & The City.  Janet's script necklace connects to the chain at the 'J' and 't'.  The chain is probably about 16" - 18".

Janet's 'J' doesn't have any sharp corners - it's rounded at the top and bottom.  The Sears version is the closest I've seen, but it's still not identical.  It's also twice the price of most eBay options - though everything I found on eBay had the sharp 'J'.  If you're not that picky about the 'J' then you can find one on eBay for about $25.

Sears
18k gold plated
Has rounded 'J'
sku: 16538
$59.95 (on 10/6/2013)





18k Gold-Plated Silver Name NecklaceMy Name Necklace
18k gold plated
Has sharp 'J'
$49.95 (though many cheaper options on eBay that look like this)

12.9.13

Brad's Underwear (Research)



I feel like I overlook a lot of Brad's costuming because, well, most people thrift it instead of making it and most of my blog is about making things.  Making tightie-whities would be weird.  Has anyone ever done that?

Brad is clearly wearing some classic Jockey undies with the inverted 'Y' front.  The waistband has the traditional grey line with Jockey repeating every few inches under it.  They still make a fairly similar style, though the 'Y' doesn't seem to, uh, hang as low and the waistband printing is darker (3 pair on Amazon for $22.50)

You might get lucky on eBay or your local thrift store.

And may as well mention his undershirt in the same post.  As far as I can tell, it's just a basic tank-style with no ribbing.  But honestly, you see it for like 5 seconds in the film.  If someone can notice whether it's ribbed or not you've got bigger problems with your performance.