I get requests pretty frequently to elaborate on the process of making our Duras dresses… So here we go with the first in what I expect will be a 3 or 4 post series.
Full disclosure, I spent YEARS on these dresses. (For a reference point, notice that the photos below span 3 different apartments I’ve lived in…) Truly, these were a pain in the ass, and here’s why:
1) I didn’t know how to sew when I started these. I had hand sewn some stuff, and I think I made stockings once using my mother’s machine. But ultimately, this was a project I specifically used to learn how to sew. Mistakes were made.
2) VINYL SUCKS ASS. Spandex is no joyride either. Now that I have some actual seamstress experience, I know to consider such things. But I certainly didn’t know then, and I blindly jumped into a very difficult, advanced project right off the bat.
But don’t let that deter you. I picked a difficult project specifically because I saw many opportunities in these costumes to learn various techniques and media, and I learned everything I know up to this day by embarking on this adventure. I certainly don’t consider myself enough of an expert to be doling advice… Yet, I cannot stress enough how exciting and rewarding it was for me to just simply PICK a project, and see it through over 2 years. And bonus, I won $2000 at STLV 2017 with these costumes… SO YAY!
OK, so… Klingon dresses…
For those of you who know what you’re doing, here is the basic gist of what I did. I made base dresses out of spandex and strips out of vinyl. I sewed the strips to the base dress, then added details like fur sleeves, paint, belts, etc. I would totally rethink my fabric choices in the future. I also, having now sewn stretchy fabrics, would pay more attention to how one fabric attaches to the other — there was a lot of buckling in mine. (See my thoughts below.)
STEP 1: Patterning
I didn’t know anything about this. I still don’t. But here is what I did. I bought a dressform for something like $40 on Craigslist and adjusted to the size I needed. I also chose 4-way stretch fabric knowing full well that my ability to make something fit perfectly was minimal. (Also, I started with the “Lursa” dress for my friend who lives across the country. We met up at Thanksgiving for a couple of years in a row to “fit” and “fix” things that I made her.) Spandex seemed like an appropriate base fabric for this project because of the price, availability, and stretch. Some retrospective notes:
- It’s not as breathable as I would like it to be. I’m a pretty hardy gal, but I felt like I was dying wearing these costumes. If I were to make new ones, I might look into gortex or mesh or something more porous. I would definitely at least put something breathable in the armpits. :X
- Spandex is kind of tough to sew. Vinyl is even worse. As I began to add vinyl strips to my base pattern pieces, I found that things did not drape correctly, or had odd puckers. A less stretchy fabric, especially if you have sewn ANYTHING EVER before might be advisable if you can size it to yourself appropriately.
Some action shots! Notice that I can pin right to my dressform!
STEP 2: Vinyl Strips
Originally, I tried to make the ONLY seems those that attached the vinyl to the spandex. I quickly gave up on that, as you can see below. I sewed each strip, then used my seems as a guide when attaching them to the spandex base.
It wasn’t until I started the second dress (B’etor) that I figured out a trick that saved me HOURS: I started putting masking tape down each strip on both sides, allowing my sewing machine to glide over the otherwise friction-ful vinyl. Yes, I wasted a bunch of tape, and yes, I had to peel the tape off of each strip (which sucked in the instances where I had accidentally sewn over the tape rather than just next to it). But…
STEP 3: Putting It Together
This is really just more patterning. I made each piece out of spandex, THEN covered each piece with vinyl strips, and THEN put it all together. Fit was not perfect the first time… there are always adjustments to be made.
A word to the wise… If you don’t like how something comes out, DO IT OVER. It’s a pain, it takes forever, and it sucks financially. BUT, this is just the base for your costume and it is not too late. Don’t be rushed, don’t be lazy. I personally made some vinyl strips that were just too wide. I made a whole skirt out of them and it took weeks. But I hate how it looked. I am SO glad I started over.
STEP 4: Sleeves.
Funny story… speaking of doing it over. I did the sleeves for these 3 different times. You can see the original black fabric I used above! And here are some swatches that I considered:
Ultimately, I ended up with a completely different fabric. You just have to try and try again until everything is right. Here’s what we ended up with:
STEP 4: Artistic License
The whole sleeve saga has a point: You might notice that they are not the same as those you see in the actual movie (Generations). I learned about something called “perceived color” in a conversation with someone who currently manages the part of the Star Trek collection where these particular costumes live. If you watch Generations, you will probably perceive Lursa and B’etor’s dresses as grey with black sleeves. Something like this…
But, guess what?! They’re actually beige and hunter green! (This blew my mind!)
The green sleeves and beige/tan leather made these costumes look black/gray (and more importantly, weathered) on screen because of the lighting and context.
This realization really allowed me to move forward on these costumes. It allowed me to make decisions that I think resulted in the best look, even if they meant straying a bit from “screen accurate.”
So, I guess that’s the moral of the story: It is not always about being accurate as much as it is about being true to your perception of accurate. This helped me make what I think was the best possible looking costume, and one that others perceived as “accurate.”
Something to think about.
COMING SOON: Making the collar and shoulder pieces.