Friday, February 16, 2007

Costuming Minutiae

While I'm dealing with frivolous topics like The Knights, I may as well throw this in the mix too.

Did you know that wool is something of a wonder fabric? Neither did I, before I got into costuming and sewing. It turns out that wool can hold around 30-40% of its weight in water without feeling wet. That is to say, it's good at keeping you dry. (And most modern wool fabrics don't shrink when they get wet, either, so you can take advantage of this fact).

Also, wool is the best natural flame-retarding fabric available. It doesn't smolder, doesn't burn easily, and burns out quickly. Pretty cool, eh?

Of course, having learned this, I am perplexed by a scene in Attack of the Clones. During the scene where Mace Windu (Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson) confronts Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), Jango Fett hits Mace with a wrist-mounted flamethrower. Mace's robe (made of wool like most all of the Jedi outer robes) catches on fire a little, and once he's gotten away, Mace shrugs the now-smoldering robe off. I always assumed he did so because it was on fire and was going to burn him, but it turns out that it wouldn't have.

But I have to question the wisdom of discarding your most flame-retardant piece of clothing during a battle where at least one enemy is using a flamethrower. Isn't that kind of like taking off your bulletproof vest in the middle of a shootout?*

Also, did you know that silk is much cooler to wear in layers beneath wool than cotton? It is. Silk, in fact, is a natural version of the popular Underarmour brand of sportswear. Underarmour keeps athletes cool by drawing or "wicking" sweat away from the body to keep the athlete cool. Silk does the same thing, as it turns out. I discovered how much cooler silk is than cotton the first time I wore my new Jedi costume, a replica of Qui-Gon Jinn's. My previous Jedi costumes generally had inner and outer tunics of cotton, with the wool outer robe on top, and were hellishly hot. But I did my Qui-Gon 100% screen-accurate, which meant the inner tunic was knit silk (it's like T-shirt fabric only made out of silk) and an outer tunic of raw silk. I usually wear a layer of Underarmour underneath to keep cool, but I forgot to put it on the day I first wore my Qui-Gon. It was a reasonably warm (upper 70s) day. Usually, even with the Underarmour, I burn up in costume, because I'm a cold-weather person and I generate tons of heat. But, on this day, I was comfortable, while the other Jedi costumers, wearing cotton, thought it was terribly hot. I'm going all silk from now on, you can rest assured!

In other costuming news that no one cares about, I have learned to make pants! Yes, even though I have been sewing for about 5 years now and made a lot of costumes, I never actually made a pair of pants. I never needed to. I always just found some pants that worked, which was often very easy, as, for instance, prequel Jedi in the films actually just wear slacks or riding pants, so I just bought some of those. But I couldn't find pants that were right for the costume I'm working on now, Corwin from Roger Zelazny's Amber novels, so I had to make some. Not big news to anyone else, but it was kind of a big hurdle to cross, and it was making me put off doing some stuff for my girlfriend** that will require me to make pants for her as well. Anyway, I'm pretty darned pleased with myself at the moment.

I have also purchased a professional guide to film and theatrical makeup, wigs, and (especially) cosmetic appliances, and hope to be able to make my own pretty soon. I need to make myself a wig for my Qui-Gon, because his hair is straight and I just can't get mine to stay that way, even with gels, hair spray, and straightening treatments, and I want to make some latex appliances for this alien Jedi I want to do. I got a full-face mask for that character, but it doesn't fit well over my face, so I've cut out the face, leaving the top and back of the head and the horns. Now I need to make some appliances for my nose, cheeks, and chin to go with it.

In another bit of news exciting only to me, I discovered that the received wisdom about the costume Alec Guiness wore as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV (the original Star Wars) is wrong. It is said that his tunic was made of raw silk, as was Qui-Gon's later when they made Episode I. When I made my Obi-Wan Episode IV costume, I used raw silk, since that's what everyone online thought it was, and what the book Star Wars: The Magic of Myth actually said it was. But my costume just never looked right to me. The silk used for Alec Guiness' tunic is much thicker and heavier than typical for raw silk and also had a pronounced grain (see pics of the actual costume on display here) that raw silk lacks. Of course, there are heavier suit-weight raw silks, which I thought maybe were closer, but I never saw a raw silk with grain like the actual costume had. I began to wonder if perhaps they made raw silk differently back in the seventies or something.

But, lo and behold, while screwing around looking at fabrics online, I found the correct fabric: Indian Tussah, a suit-weight silk with exactly the grain I was looking for. I was very excited. And a little annoyed, admittedly, because I knew that I would have to make a new Obi-Wan Episode IV tunic, as I am obssessive about accuracy in my costumes. The fabric has arrived and I must say, it really is the right stuff. Since I'm doing that upgrade, I also got a 100% silk filament mock turtleneck to replace my (hot) cotton one, and will be making a new robe because the one I have now isn't the right color and whenever I dye it, the dye washes out the first time I wash it.

I also recently discovered that the very authentic-looking acrylic Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf I wear with my 4th Doctor costume does not match any of the scarves actually worn in the show. (I compared the order of the stripes on my scarf to the patterns for the scarves Baker actually wore that I found on this site). I'd already kind of been itching to replace my scarf with a more-accurate wool scarf anyway, and this is just another excuse to do so. Of course, I have to learn to knit first, but I was already going to have to learn to knit to make my 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) cricket sweater, since it had unique stripes on it so I can't just buy one.

I also have recently become more proficient at leatherwork, to the point that making a Jedi belt is now pretty much a breeze. I am a good way finished with my leather Anakin Episode III glove, and I just recently learned to turn short boots (Wellingtons) into tall riding-type boots or Renaissance boots myself.

Pretty clever, eh little chum?

*For the record, if you're thinking, "Maybe he just took it off so he could fight more easily without those floppy sleeves getting in his way," which I know you're not because no one cares enough about this subject to read this far, he probably didn't. How do I know? Well, it turns out that the sleeves on the prequel Jedi tunics, which the outer robe goes over, have lining in the arms, even though the rest of the tunics are not lined. The reason for this is that the lining allows the sleeve to slide back over the narrow, tight inner tunic sleeve, taking the outer robe sleeve with it, and keeping them out of the way when you're fighting. You can see this quite clearly in Revenge of the Sith when Mace Windu fights the Emperor. And it's not just Hollywood magic, it really works, as I personally can attest.

**If you're curious, I'm making her Padme's "Taupe Action Outfit" (I didn't make the name up, that's what the costume designer calls it in her book Dressing A Galaxy) from Revenge of the Sith, a regular (non-costume) outfit from a Vogue pattern she liked, and, eventually, Darth Maul.


At 3:42 PM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

Speaking of costumes ... Am I crazy, or is Condi a Klingon?

(I realize this is a false dichotomy, btw ... it is entirely possible both are true).

At 5:40 AM, Blogger mooglar said...

Well, if she is a Klingon, that certainly would explain the Bush regime's foreign policy. :^)

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Qualitу агticleѕ iѕ the imрortаnt to interest thе vіsіtoгs to vіѕit thе website,
thаt's what this web page is providing.

Also visit my blog post :: lloyd irvin


Post a Comment

<< Home