Guest Post by Russ: Columbia Shorts

Super excited to feature a guest post by fellow costumer Russ.  Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge - they have an amazing amount of detail! This method will definitely bring your shorts to the next level whether you are making them from scratch or simply trying to modify something off the rack.

It is my belief that in looking closely at the Mick Rock photos, the method used for edging Columbia’s ribbons reveals itself: overlocking/serging. This conclusion was drawn by several factors: First, the edging cannot be a 100% solid in color, since in practically all reference photos, even the far edges of the ribbon shimmer at times. This lends the idea that the edges are stitched in some way; with windows between the stitches allowing the base of the lamé to shine through. A rolled hem doesn’t create the right shape or thickness. Folded edges using a ribbon folder or overlaying a satin-edged organza ribbon creates too solid of a line for my preference and again this method does not let the lamé shine through on the edges. Upon further examination, the Mick Rock photos indicate an edging that in my view can only be achieved through overlocking. Note how the edging looks sort of rough and slightly uneven (Fig.1).
The material used appears to be a woven/satin lamé/sometimes called ͞lurex͟. The same type of lamé was used on several costumes for the Transylvanians as well (in particular, some of their lapels), which lends to the idea that there was plenty of this material to use during the construction of the costumes for the film. To test this theory, I cut a 5/8͟ wide strip of satin lamé, backed with a black fusible interfacing for durability, and fed it twice through my overlocker (knife setting should be off). It was a perfect match to the Mick Rock pics: creating a two-toned look with little flecks of the lamé peeking through the edging. Here is an image of some sample gold ribbon compared to a photo in the Mick Rock book. The golds are an exact match. My ribbon looks out of proportion, since it is closer to the camera but it is 5/8͟ wide, which I believe to be an accurate width (Fig.2). Furthermore, with the interfacing fused and stitched in, no amount of tugging in any direction was budging the ribbon’s shape or integrity; which means these are going to
last for many years.

Quick 'n Dirty Janet Dress

Sometimes you don't have time, skills, or funds to attempt a Screen Accurate costume. So you break it down to it's simplest elements. What's crucial and what isn't?

Well for Janet's pink dress, I'd say the color is crucial. It's what stands out the most. Something that has a high neckline and zips up the back is also important, but I'd say less crucial. Sleeves are not important because she wears a sweater.



So here's a dress I found on eBay ($12.88). I picked it because of the color and because it was fitted on top and loose below the waist.  The fabric is completely wrong, but that's not crucial. It's also too long, but it's easy to shorten.  You don't even need to sew the hem, look for fusible hem tape.  Glue it if you have to!

With some pink gingham fabric you can cut out a "Peter Pan" style collar and cover an existing belt. Hers is 1/2" gingham, but it's not a critical detail. Wal-Mart usually has 1/4" gingham in pink.

You could stop at that point, but a couple more details will finish it nicely. The easiest is the flower-shaped buttons that go down the center of her dress from her neck to waist (Wal-Mart also sells these).  Just glue those suckers on. You can also add some white rick-rack down side fronts, and a big round slide-buckle to the belt.  The easiest thing is to just have the belt close with velcro in the back - easier for the quick change after the proposal, and for clumsy Riff Raffs.

The sweater completes the look and you have a half-decent Janet costume in a pinch!

59 Club Patches and Pins

59 Club patches and pins are supposed to only be worn by 59 Club members.  You don't have to own a motorcycle to become a member and membership is for life. Clive C. asks that the community please "get your 59 patches from the club only and help keep ones of the club's main sources of income flowing. The patches will be authentic as they have never changed the design."
Click here to visit their website.
Individual membership is  £18.00
The 8 cm patch is the one you want (about 3-5/32") for £5.00 (a little over $6.00).
The pins are £5.50


Brad's Underwear (Research)

Brad's Jockey underwear is referred to as a "Y-front" and features a "full rise", which was most popular in the 50's and 60's and already waning out of style in the early 70's.  While the Y-front is still manufactured it's hard to find anything beyond a mid-rise today.

As with all knit-wear there is a bit of distortion in the garments dimensions while being worn; places where it's intended to stretch more than others.  With that consideration, the leg of the inverted Y is nearly equal, but perhaps slightly shorter than the side seam.

Barry Bostwick is nearly 6'4", so the waistband would probably come all the way up to the naval on most men of average height.

The length of the center front (when worn) from the center of the waist down to the bottom of his *ahem*, is roughly the same span as the width of his waist.... creating a very "square" effect.

Quick 'n Dirty Denton Patch

Click to enlarge
Need a Denton High patch ASAP?  You can make an iron-on!  You'll need a package of Dark Fabric Transfers (I recommend Avery brand, #3279).  Follow the directions in the package to print this image on your transfer.  The patch image should be 3.65" across.  It will look great on stage and in photos.  If you decide you want to add the real thing later you can stitch it right on top of your iron-on.


Frank's Badges (Placement)


This list was made by Steve M. and has been in my Flickr folder for years...  just needed to migrate it over to my blog. I have a separate blog entry detailing each badge with individual pictures.

Frank's Right Side  Frank's Left Side 
1. Panther
2. Norton
3. BSA
4. BMW
5. "Here For The Beer"
6. Checkered Flag
7. Triumph
8. Outdoor Holiday Show 1971 Colex
9. Dresda Racing
10. 6-5 Rock n Roll Club Special
11. England Rose
12. Checkered Flag
13.  Matchless
14. 1971 59 Club Motorcycle Shows
15.  Unknown.  (see blog entry)
16. CZ (medium blue)
17. Dresda Racing
18. Royal Enfield
19. 1969 BMFBrighton Show
20. Dresda Racing
21. Jawa
22. BMF
23. Silverstone
24. Isle of Man
25. Nurburgring (white middle)
26. Blue and white checkered Triumph
27. Master of Mallory
28. TriBSA
29. Norton (red)
30. 1971 BMF Olympia
31. 59 Club membership
32. Norton  (black)
33. Think!
34. Checkered Flag
35. Blue & White Checkered Triumph








1. Wimbledon 1972
2. Sunbeam
3. Checkered Flag
4. Petty Officer 2nd Class (under collar)
5. Butlin Clacton 1967
6. CZ (medium blue)
7. England Rose
8. Husquvarna
9. Jawa
10. Norton (black)
11. Concorde
12. 1966 Earl’s Court 59 Club Ally Pally
13. 1971 BMF Olympia
14. Scott (royal blue)
15. 6-5 Rock n Roll Club Special
16. Jawa
17. Triumph badge (blue)
18. Dresda Racing
19. Triumph Checkered Blue & White
20. Jawa
21. Jolly Roger
22. Red Café Biker (light blue)
23. 1968 Stanford Hall Rally
24. UK Hells Angels
25. Boy scout badge (fleur de lis)
26. Colex 1971
27. Ton Up Kid
28. Triumph
29. Oval Union Jack Checkered Flag
30. Matchless
31. The Vincent
32. Black Jaguar
33. Matchless
34. Fulham Anglers Club
35. Husqvarna
36. 1971 59 Club Motorcycle Shows
37. CZ badge
38. Triumph Checkered Blue & White
39. Checkered Flag
40. Norton (red)
41. England Rose
42. Dresda Racing 

More Patches On The Way!

Really excited to have a new embroidery machine, new software, and the ability to explore new design methods!  Some patches have been ever-so-slightly resized.  I pretty much make all the patches on Frank's jacket except for the 3 that are easy enough to find on eBay (Sylvester, Roadrunner, and Triumph).

The Mick Rock photos are some of the best references next to the film.  You get a really good look at Frank's left arm in the film, but only a couple glimpses of his right arm.  Not sure how the patches were attached to his jacket - but you can tell in some of the Mick Rock photos they are barely hanging on. If the patches had an iron-on or adhesive backing they may not have sufficiently adhered to the leather.

That 'mystery' patch on the back?  I'm still leaning towards an adhesive residue or damage from a patch peeling off. You can see plenty of details in the rest of the patches while that one is just devoid - you can even see the white dot in the middle of the "Club Rock-n-Roll" patch, so if there were letters or graphic details on the 'mystery' patch they would be visible in 4k resolution by now.

There are some great adhesives these days, but the best way of attaching patches is to stitch them down - and you'll probably need to take it to a shoe doctor who can do it with a post machine - it's a machine designed specifically to reach tight places and can sew through leather with no problems.



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.


Buying Rocky Costumes

Previously I've written posts about Selling Rocky Costumes and Making Rocky Costumes for Friends.  So it seems I should complete that theme with Buying Rocky Costumes.

I've seen costume transactions go poorly, and I've been involved in costume transactions that went poorly. Sometimes the blame lies with the seller, and sometimes the blame lies with the consumer - and I've dealt with a lot of poor consumers.  So what can you do to increase the odds ever in your favor of receiving the product you're expecting?

1.  I'm going to lead with this because it's one of the biggest issues:  measurements.  It's imperative that you submit good measurements.  If you feel unsure or uncomfortable with this process be sure to ask the seller for explicit directions.  Typically they'll want your measurements taken over the undergarments you'll be wearing with the costume. Do not substitute bra sizes for measurements.  Do not measure your clothes instead of your body.  And in some cases, you will absolutely need a second person because the very process of reaching some measurements will result in distortions.  There is nothing a seller can do if you provide poor measurements.

2.  Do your research.  Read reviews..  Ask people in the community.  Ask all your questions up front.  How long should it take?  What if it takes longer?  What are their return policies?  Do they keep the materials on hand, or procure them after the order is placed?  What if they can't get them?

And if there are bad reviews take the time to read the specifics of the complaints - are they reasonable? Were they resolved fairly?

3. What to do if you're not satisfied with the product?  This relates very much to #2 - educating yourself about their return policy - because it's a very real possibility you may not receive something up to your standards.  I've seen custom work span the gammut of amateur to professional.

Communication is key.  I understand the frustration of disappointment, but a nasty attitude is not going to resolve things any easier for you.  Attacking the seller is never okay, and once that tactic is in play I support the sellers right to extinguish all communication with you, and perhaps move forward with a third party arbitrator.

4. What to do if you love the work, but it simply doesn't fit?  The best place is to revisit the measurements given.  Does it match the measurements, but not fit?  Does it match neither?  If you're goal is to have the costume corrected you'll need to be as specific as possible.  When dealing with online transactions you need to realize that these problems are a very real outcome that can happen.  If you're not prepared to resolve this you probably shouldn't order anything custom online.  How the seller resolves these issues is crucial to their online reputation.

5.  What if it doesn't arrive on time?  Remember, this isn't coming off the rack.  It takes as long as it takes, and most sellers have other day job commitments before their costuming commitments.  If you need a custom piece rushed to you by a certain date be prepared to pay big, but also be prepared to be disappointed.  Despite any sellers best intentions, the odds are ever stacked against you in these situations.  Personally, my advice is to say just don't do it.  Receiving a rushed costume allows no time for any problem resolution, which is unfair to both the buyer and seller.

In summary, be reasonable about your expectations.  You're probably not dealing with a seasoned professional. Accept that things may not be perfect and you may need to communicate extensively with the seller to resolve things. Understand that there is a human at the other end of the transaction with feelings.

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 (sadly, they went out of business in 2016), 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??


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.

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.