This January, I was a guest at illogicon, a small but fun con in Raleigh, NC that is my yearly “convention season kick off”. This year’s con was especially exciting because the author Guest of Honor was Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel’s Legacy, The Sundering, Agent of Hel), and I knew that I just had to do a Phedre no Delaunay costume. Her “Mara” dress from “Kushiel’s Chosen” is one of her most famous and immediately recognizable, so I decided to do that one.
Plus, I look great in red.
My partner Matt had to be coaxed/coerced into doing Joscelin, as he had never read the series. He ended up diving into it for the costume, and is now halfway through the first book.
I did a fair bit of research for this costume, and the two sources I drew from most heavily were this image by the amazing Zeldyn, who is, in my opinion, one of the finest Kushiel artists out there. You can follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, or Deviantart.
and Favrielle Atelier’s lovely blog: https://favriellesatelier.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/mara/
Joscelin was a bit tricker, as there isn’t even cover art of him, and so we ended up with fanart, and a few descriptions we found of Joscelin’s attire in the book. Our two guiding images were another piece by Zeldyn, and a lovely sketch by Angela Sasser, another extremely talented artist with a penchant for gorgeous Kushiel Legacy fanart.
Matt also modified the design a bit based on his personal preferences.
I should confess that I’m still quite new to sewing and working with cloth - up until recently, I would shamelessly safety pin cloth bits together to make costume pieces, and resort to crude hand stitching only when absolutely necessary. Matt is even worse (or better), preferring to use rivets in lieu of stitches. So these costumes were no small challenge!
Fortunately for me, I had a secret weapon: my very own Favrielle (whose real name is Lacey). That’s right, I know a snarky redhead seamstress (no facial scarring, though). And true to the books, I pestered her a few weeks before the event to help me make the dress. It took an entire day (quite literally, we were together for 24 hours). I found a nice scarlet stretch satin at Joann’s, which was somewhat of a pain to sew. I highly recommend getting very fine pins and needles for working with it, to avoid runs.
We used a Butterick bridal pattern, B5779, which is a gown with a dramatic lace back and nice train.
Lacey left out the lace, and modified the cut of the back, as well as the neckline, and added some fancy sleeves. I did my part by standing still so she could pattern the neck and collar, and doing the more minor sewing tasks (hemming, seaming, serging things badly, ironing). Lacey, who hadn’t read the series, was appalled by how plain the dress was, and kept pointing out different things we could do to decorate it. I gently discouraged her in the name of accuracy. She was somewhat mollified when we added the long sleeves and she saw how impressive it looked from the back. Frankly, without her, there would be no dress, and I probably would have gone as close to naked as possible rather than butcher a dress pattern on my own (helloooo, longest night gauze thing.)
In order to make sure the dress (mostly) stayed in place, we used double sided fashion tape (available at Joann's, or David's Bridal) to stick it to my back. The tape worked well, holding up for almost 12 hours before it started losing its grip.
Favrielle is available for commissions, although she has (understandably) stated that she is not comfortable making this dress for someone she can't fit in person.
My sister, Artifex Alyssum, handles all my body painting needs (like Darth Talon), so this tattoo was a walk in the park for her. She freehanded the entire thing in the morning, outlining it in yellow first, then going over the lines in black and red. What was her medium of choice, you might ask? SHARPIES. Freakin' Sharpies. It sounds terrible, but we've actually used it before for other tattoo projects -- Sharpies contain a very very similar ink to what we use for dying leather, and it's great for doing a temporary tattoo. To make sure it stayed in place, she sprayed my back down with hairspray. It worked great, and despite people occasionally touching my back, it didn't smudge at all! At the end of the day, she dabbed some olive oil on a paper towel and wiped the whole thing off in a few minutes.
Alyssa's suggestion for doing the tattoo: "Don't be afraid to alter the proportions of the tattoo so it will look good on the person's body. Definitely make sure to seal the whole thing."
|Photo by Selfie Murphy|
Also, I got Jacqueline to sign it.
bringing my total count of author signatures on my body to: 2! (Pat Rothfuss being the first)
I like the trend...
Matt largely did this on his own, with much muttering about the mysterious nature of sewing machines. He used Simplicity Pattern 4059 to make the tunic, with a rather nice silver-gray curtain I had found at Goodwill. I helped add some trim, as well as the leather pieces on the front, and then he added the leather shoulder flanges (which, you will notice, is where he ran out of patience for sewing and just riveted them to the cloth). The shirt was another Goodwill find, and the pants, gloves, sword, daggers, and boots he had already.
Our friend Shaun Mendes of Chained Elegance sent him the pieces of chainmail for the gloves. Matt made an original pattern for the bracers, then made them with black latigo leather and sheet metal, which he bent into shape and buffed with steel wool. The sword harness was created entirely from scratch, using undyed veg-tan leather that was embossed with a floral scroll print, then dyed, oiled, and sealed. For a double dose of geek, the sword harness pattern is basically identical to Link’s harness:
Which may have something to do with the fact that Matt made both things back to back. For
The finished costumes in action!
Photographer: Ripptowne Photography
Photograhper: Chris Burnside.
Shaun surprised me with a dress of his own! And naturally, we had to see how the two would work together...
Freakin gorgeous, that's how. I might have to wear those two together from now on. My friend Chris made the excellent point "Visually, this kind of combines Phedre's two most significant longest night costumes. The chain mail kind of calls to mind the sheer diamond covered dress."
So what's next for these costumes? Hopefully, some very sexy photoshoots! Cons are great, but it's tough to get that intimate assignation vibe out of the background.