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Forum > Vintage Sewing > 50's Inspired Harley Costume ( Moderated by JEF)

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50's Inspired Harley Costume
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HanPanda
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HanPanda
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Date: 4/19/12 4:45 PM

Let me start this by saying, I'm a costumer. Well, amongst other things, but that's the most common identification at the moment. I make lots of clothing, much of which is done in an attempt to precisely mirror what is created in comics, video games, or television series. Most of my work is for other people, but I do a few for myself. This one is a "me" project, and I want to do it RIGHT. So, I'm writing to ask PR's advice on my current project.

I had the inspiration to do a 50's style inspired Harley Quinn (wiki link) costume this year. I have done some research when I could get it in between grad school classes. However, I still don't really know much about vintage fashion, so I thought I would reach out to someone who may be a bit more knowledegable than I am! I would love any advice or thoughts people have on this, and I have a specific question about the petticoat and skirt. Thank you for your time! This is KIND of long winded, but I want to explain it all fully. :)

The idea I am going for is a cocktail or evening styled dress. Because Harley is a silly, childlike character, I wanted to go with a shorter, full skirt with a petticoat. The plan is to do the traditional black and red blocking (switching colors along the center line and just under the bust) with a triad of diamonds on the front right skirt panel and another on the back left shoulder blade area. The skirt would hit JUST above the knee, with about an inch or so of the white petticoat peeking out from the bottom. (I love the look of a hidden petti, but I also wanted the white edging. I decided on a petti peeking out rather than lace, because lace in this design seems kind of...well, kitsch to me.) I have been debating about accessories, but I think I want to do little white short gloves with a big red/black button on the wrists, possibly a clutch purse, and maybe a little black pillbox hat with netting or something. I'm still not sure how I want to do the headwear. The other option would be to make a mask on a stick, since the character wears a domino mask.

Anyway, I had a lot of trouble finding 50's fashion sewing patterns, so instead I found a 60s pattern (Butterick 6582) that has a distinct 50's flavor from what I can tell from my research. I'm doing some fairly heavy alterations to get the kind of look that I want though. I took out the criss-cross neckline and instead opted for a sleeveless, mid-chest scoop neck with about a two to three inch strap. **Edit:** I am also unsure about adding a belt component. I have seen lots of belts on 50s dresses to really bring in the waist, but I'm not sure if that would be too much here, or if the design without the belt look off. Thoughts?

The pattern here calls for something that isn't exactly a gathered circled skirt OR a gathered panel skirt. It's somewhere in between. At first, I had wanted to do a gathered circle skirt, because it's fuller and has more of a "flow" to it. I think it's also more accurate to the swing skirts of the 50s. When I was working on a mock-up of the pattern, however, I just cut the pattern as it showed. It just seems...confined. It doesn't seem like it has flow to it. Is this the nature of full skirts of the 60s versus those of the 50s? Would it be more accurate or look better, more free maybe, to go with a circle skirt instead?

However, I haven't made the petticoat yet either, so I don't know if I am being biased by seeing it limp and without the petti. (P.S.: Sugardale's Petti tutorial is the pattern I plan on using to make the petti. I was also planning to make a slip to wear underneath.) I have seen suggestions to wear multiple petticoats to get the right fullness for a 50s skirt. Do you think I should make the petticoat first, see how full that is, and then move to making the dress skirt based off that? Maybe I should try to go ahead and make more than one petti?

Anyway, this is long winded enough so I am going to go ahead and stop now. If you have any advice, thoughts or suggestions, I would truly appreciate to hear them! Thank you so much once again for your time and help!!
-- Edited on 4/19/12 6:48 PM --

------
2014 resolution: keep track of sewn yardage!! I'm subtracting fabric given away from my yardage in. Yeah!
In: 93 yards
Sewn: 57 yards

I'll try anything once :)

Please excuse my typos...sometimes it is harder to go back and edit on mobile than it is worth!



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Subject: 50s Inspired Harley Costume Date: 4/19/12 8:11 PM

Check out a lot of Gothic Lolita looks, and cosplay.com

Many of them will be able to help you visualize since you're wanting a costume, but in a vintage flair.

Mulit petticoats are a must, yes. I would personally make a circle skirt and add a wide belt to it to bring in the flavor of the character, too, with the diamond motif.

beauturbo
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In reply to HanPanda <<
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Date: 4/19/12 11:28 PM

If you want to see what an older make your dress stand out kind of 50's to 60's kind petticoat would look like and feel like with an elastic waist to it, and just even try one on a twirl around in it maybe, you could probably just go to any large "Betsey Johnson" kind of store in a big mall possible someplace too, if you have one of those near you. Because I noticed they still sell them in there. To go under all her short poofy kind of party and prom dresses. Her's are probably a bit softer and more comforatable to wear, than the harder net old ones though.

Another good place to look, just for visuals might just be in the underware and slip sections of lots of older Sears, and Wards catalogs even. here are a bunch of 1950's and 60's ones that you can cruize though, just page by page on line if you wish.

http://www.wishbookweb.com/

Here's another place to do sort of the same thing:

http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/mailorder/029006-101.03-e.php?brws=3&PHPSESSID=sf552bs6ps40gab209mcebfgd7

I'm not a collectable old comic book fan, and had never even heard of or seen any pictures of that "Harley Quinn" character before, so I have visual in my minds eye, kind of issues imaging the exact kind of dress you want to put together for your character outfit, by just your words alone. But maybe draw/sketch it out or have a visual first, and then once you got the real visual or drawing, then I think it would be much more easy to just create the outfit. Have fun!

beauturbo
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In reply to HanPanda <<
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Date: 4/19/12 11:59 PM

Also check out some real once sewing patterns that were tied in with the designer Emillio Pucci back about then. He did a line of clothes sort of on that same harlequin inspired theme at about the same time period.

You could look here:
http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/1950s-harlequins/

http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/McCall%27s_3977

and especially here:

http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/McCall%27s_3979

I have seen that last 1950's style McCalls 3979 harlequin kind of dress pattern actually made up in real fabric, for I believe a real magazine illustration or maybe in a sewing book pattern of the times. In the real advertising photo of it, it was I believe worn by a lady standing on a beach, or a cliff above a beach possibly, with wind in her hair, and the dress I believe was made up in shades of rust and gold, maybe possibly cotton sateen kind of fabric. I have a pretty good memory for a graphic most times, so I do know that one is out there someplace you could even model your costume after it possibly, but just because I know it exists, (that old photo) does not mean I know just where I saw it at or could always find it again real quick, but maybe you could.

beauturbo
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In reply to HanPanda <<
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Date: 4/20/12 0:22 AM

I do also know, if you have a really full gathered at the waist dirindle kind of skirt, the very last place you would probably under normal conditions, want a whole bunch of separate little pieces of fabric sewn together for any kind of make your own pattern or color blocking with just lots of those, would be in actual waist seam of that really full kind of gathered dirindle skirt. Just because maybe kind of hard to gather down the fabric anyway's into the much smaller waistline seam, and all that seaming for color blocking there, and all the seam allowances for it and such, is going to make that even more bulky right there, worse on the gathering part and probably less desirable right there. And would tend to be unflattering to the waist line area and the person wearing it, unless they were probably really tall and just really skinny.

HanPanda
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Subject: 50s Inspired Harley Costume Date: 4/20/12 11:05 AM

I drew something up today. This is pretty much what I had in mind, but I would love some input or suggestions <3 It's a quick sketch, so pardon the fact that she is basically falling over xD For reference, making my own belt buckles is of no issue.



@Sew Ducky:
I am familiar with Lolita and cosplay.com. I am not going for a Lolita look though. Also, generally speaking, cos.com isn't a great reference for something with this kind of source material.

The belts I am seeing on most patterns and images are probably 2-3 inches wide, is that what you had in mind? It may be a good idea after all...looking at my mockup, it would cover the gathering seam and might help cinch everything together.

@beauturbo:
Thank you SO much for the links! This is a lot to think about. I hadn't even thought about these possibilities. Hmmm!

As for gathering at the waist line, can you think of something I could do to decrease the appearance of too much fabric? I mean, I guess it'll be there regardless. What if I pushed the skirt down an inch or so below my actual natural waist? I'm starting to think the belt thing is a good idea as well, to pull it together and create more of the waisted, hourglass shape. I am fairly skinny, but I did kind of feel like the mock up dress made me look wider than I actually am.

I'll take a picture of the mock up dress on in a little while and post that. Be forewarned that I cut the hem while wearing it, so it took some trial and error to find the right length. So the edge of the skirt looks strange because of that.

------
2014 resolution: keep track of sewn yardage!! I'm subtracting fabric given away from my yardage in. Yeah!
In: 93 yards
Sewn: 57 yards

I'll try anything once :)

Please excuse my typos...sometimes it is harder to go back and edit on mobile than it is worth!

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