Growing Strong – A Cosplay Dress Diary/Sew Along by Kelly Cercone
Posted on 22 April 2016
By some miracle the Rubelli Group still makes the exact fabric* used for one of Margaery Tyrell’s dresses in Game of Thrones. And it’s glorious! No seriously, it is hands down the most beautiful fabric I have ever seen; and it inspired me to endeavor on what is probably the most screen accurate cosplay I have ever made. After receiving my precious yard of brocade from Italy, I found a great silk for the skirt at Mood fabrics, and a cotton velvet for the shoulder pieces at International Silks and Woolens in Los Angeles.
There are a few moments of construction on my dress which are different from hers, but for the most part I tried to be faithful and only omit details which I genuinely disliked (Like the ribbon ties on the belt) and a few decorative hand sewn details which I knew I would never finish in time for the convention, but could maybe add after.
(*for those interested it’s pattern 3001 Les Indes Galantes, in color 006 Cielo)
Making the Pattern
Knowing the neck and shoulder areas would be tricky; I decided to drape my pattern. After padding and taping seam lines on my dress form, I used muslin to drape the bodice and skirt, and craft foam for the shoulder pieces. For my mock-up I used muslin for the skirt (I actually reused my drape so as to not waste fabric) and canvas for the bodice and shoulder pieces. I did maybe three mockups of the bodice, before I was feeling really happy with how all of the pieces were interacting. Like on the original dress, I really wanted to keep the shoulder pieces mostly separate from the bodice in the front so you get that little sliver of skin. Across the back of the shoulder piece I simplified and made it a solid band.
My skirt has 10 panels (2 Fronts, 2 side fronts, 2 sides, 2 side backs, and a Back). Gores allows for it to be very fitted at the waist but really full at the hem. When sewing skirt sections that are very flared, the seam line at the bottom can end up on the bias. To help prevent warping in the final skirt, start pinning from the waist, letting any uneven excess gently end up at the hem. When actually sewing, start at the hem and end at the waist; this helps prevent any more stretching or other weirdness. How much stretching etc. will really depend on your fabric (its “hand”) some will stretch a lot and others not at all. My fabric was VERY wiggly, so as an added precaution to prevent any weirdness I used a very narrow zig-zag stitch when stitching my French seams. I didn’t want to have any visible machine stitching on the outside of my dress, so I hand hemmed the front edges of the skirt. At this point, the skirt was ready to be hung for a few days to remove any residual stretch/weirdness before being attached to the bodice and hemmed.
For the lining of the bodice I used light blue satin coutil (from farthngales corsetmaking supplies) and I stitched down stay tape to the edges which would have the most strain. After stitching all of the seams together (and pressing + clipping) I top-stitched down the princess seam and inserted a small plastic bone into the seam allowance. I also trimmed down some of my seam allowances, to help limit bulk in the final dress at the waist. I tried on the coutil bodice to make sure nothing had changed since the mock up, and then it was onto the scary part…cutting and stitching the brocade!
I did a few samples of different types of interfacings, but in the end decided to go with a lightweight non-woven fusible. After stitching, clipping and pressing the seams, I basted a line to mark the CF on both sides of the bodice. (I’m sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the next parts!) To put all of the dress parts together, I started by basting the skirt to the inner bodice. Next I sewed the outer and inner bodice right sides together along the neckline and waist seams (sandwiching the skirt in the middle) and under stitched the neckline seam as much as I could. After clipping and trimming the seam allowance, I turned everything right side out, and I pressed the neckline and waistline into submission.
To finish the bodice, I started by flat-lining the remaining outer edge seam allowance together, and stitching in the ditch of the princess seam through both layers. I really love using bias to finish garments, so next I cut some strips of bias from a light weight silk, and stitched them rights sides together onto the bodice at my ½” seam allowance. After clipping the seam allowance, I under-stitched towards the bias. Finally I trimmed down the allowance, tucked under the raw edge of the bias and hand stitched down the folded edge. (huzzah for finding a matching waxed thread!)
When I looked really closely at pictures of the real dress, I could see just the hint of visible hooks and bars, so did the same. (You can also see were I started to do the prick stitching…then changed my mind…)
I decided to try the shoulder piece mock-up on with the real dress to make sure I was still good to go. I also tried on my in-progress belt to see what changed I need to make.
I started by heavily interfacing my lining piece, there are three layers (bottom is fusible horsehair, two top fusible pellon) cut at different shapes so the neck would be less stiff. The interfacing pieces end just to the inside of my ½” seam allowance. Next I machine quilted through all three layers, and then very softy hand applied a batting layer on top (batting layer is 1/8” smaller all around).
Putting my lining and velvet pieces right sides together, I sewed next too the interfacing. Trimming and clipping as best I could, I turned the piece inside out and played around to see if I need to make any adjustments. Because of bias stretch in the velvet, I ended up needing to trim down some of the interfacing along the front edge, and take in the lining a little. In the back across my shoulders, I needed to take in the velvet a little bit. The edge of the shoulder curve was drooping a little bit, so at the suggestion of my boss, I hand sewed in some Zig-zag bones another co-worker gave me (Thanks Erica+ David!) Finally, I hand under-stitched the seam allowance to the lining side.
The back edges of the shoulder pieces I basted together, then slip stitched closed by hand. Time consuming, but felt way easier than trying to do it by machine. To attach the shoulder piece to the dress, I hand sewed it to the bodice at the under arm, at the CB of the neck (for about 3”) and at the front underarm with a hook/eye to give it a little flexibility.
Finishing touches on the dress consisted of the 3/8” hand hem (Which Erica was very kind to mark for me) and some thin bust pads (These are the kind used for swimsuits) thrown into the bodice to make it extra soft.
Since the skirt opens all the way up the front, I made a quick and dirty slip from the ¾ yard of lightweight silk I had left over. The hem is the salvage, and aside from the yoke it has one seam at the CB which opens into a slit. The waistline is elastic. (It ended up being very windy at Wondercon…I was VERY glad I made a slip)
I found these unique “knitted” flats on Etsy; and they were perfect except for being a little too bright so I dry brushed them some antique gold acrylic paint until they matched the bodice. (Painted on left, original on right)
For my belt I started by pulling out my bag of random Worbla scraps and picking out bits I could use. For the stem I used original Worbla to take advantage of the little bit of texture, and for the thorns, rosebuds, and petals the smoother Black Worbla. When Sculpting I got a much better result to use my heat gun on some metal tools, rather than directly on the Worbla, to make all of the rose bud and thorn details.
I primed with white spray primer, then some gold spay paint. The colored details are jacquard Lumiere acrylic paint (about two layers) finally Clear satin spay paint to finish. Before painting I had poked two holes in the back of the belt, to these I attached some antique gold chain and a clasp. And Viola done!
Thank you for reading!
Find Kelly Cercone on her facebook page, Anachronism In Action!
Photos by Eric Anderson