Allon Book Series – Shannan Costume

6078727060_0b43ecd4fc_b Since today is Mother’s Day, rather than sharing the typical “I love my mom!” (which, obviously, I do), I thought I’d switch things up and share of the fun work my mom has done. Did you know she’s a published, legit author? True story! She has written screenplays for children’s television (Bravestarr, anyone?), historical fiction novels, and my personal favourite, an ongoing allegorical fantasy series called Allon.

A few years back, Mom asked me to create a tangible costume for one of the lead characters to accompany the artwork in publicity. For background on the character, Shannan is the female heroine from the first 4 books. From birth, she is destined to bring back the return of the mysterious Guardians and help Prince Ellis take his rightful place as ruler of Allon. She is a strong, but caring girl, wise beyond her years (and needs to be to deal with a young, hot-headed Ellis!) and an expert hunter. Her grandfather whisked her away upon her birth as she was marked for death by the Dark Way (Why, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to read the book!). As such, Shannan lives in the secluded forest of Dorgirith away from prying eyes and invasive questions.
IMG_0465This was actually my first attempt at creating a full costume from start to finish. But being the costume enthusiast I am, I was quick to take up the task. I knew that I wanted to make a movie-level costume (or as I like to say, a “Weta-level” costume, named for the illustrious Weta Workshop in New Zealand). This particular costume is from the beginning of the book where Shannan’s character is introduced. It a forester’s costume in basis, but with it being in the world of Allon, we tred to stay away from the cliched medieval look. The era of costume I designed for Allon is patterned roughly around the renaissance period, but with a fantasy aspect as well (as Allon is a fantasy world not unlike Middle Earth). Stealth and ease of movement in Shannan’s clothes  are essential. So I designed the costume to keep with a utilitarian fashion.

In the days to come, I will have links posted to behind-the-scenes posts of how each piece of the costume was created.

The Concept:

The Cowl:

The Undershirt:

The Jerkin:

The Sleeves:

The Bracers:

The Pants & Boots:

The Quiver & Belt:

The Pouch & Wineskin:

The Wig:

Then comes the icing on the cake – the photography. Lauren Athalia is one of the most top-notch photographers I’ve ever met. Not only does she know how to wield a camera to maximize the beauty of a naturally-lit scene, but also knows how to use that light to bring out the best qualities of her models. (I have a difficult time with photographers not lighting my face properly and thus my weak jawline becomes my undoing – i.e. my face and neck tend to appear to blend into one another in most photoshoots. I know when I look in the mirror I have a jaw! It’s probably a minor point to most, but Lauren managed to capture my usually elusive jawline on camera and I  couldn’t be happier.) I wanted to give both my mom and Lauren the best pictures I could and boy did I get them.
IMG_0367The really special treat with this photoshoot was that I had a co-star, and a four-legged one at that. One of Shannan’s companions in Allon is a wolf named Torin. Lauren has a knack for procuring incredible sets, props, and animals. So my co-star was a full-blooded Timberwolf named Breeze. Now Breeze is not a pet. I’m not sure about all the details, but she was a rescue. She was a bit skittish at first around us, as wolves usually are around strangers. It took about 30 minutes for her to warm up to me, but it wasn’t long before we started to call her Miss Kiss-n-Run, as she’d quickly lick my face off and then bolt away. I hate to sound cliched, but it was a dream come true for me to be playing alongside a real wolf. I’ve always had a deep loves for wolves. (I think one of the first jobs I ever wanted was to be a zoologist just so I could work with wolves. It was a sad sad day when they got rid of them at the Nashville Zoo.) But before I get sappy, here are Lauren’s beautiful photographs.

Outfit of the Week – The Red Plaid Shirt


After watching a plethora of TV shows and movies, I’ve started noticing one understated article of clothing showing up in almost everything – the Red Plaid Shirt. For example…

Anne Hathaway – Brokeback Mountain
Amy Pond – Doctor Who

Zooey Deschanel – New Girl
And of course the King of Red Flannel himself…Clark Kent (Smallville)
SMALLVILLE "Exposed" (Episode #505) Tom Welling as Clark Kent Credit: © The WB/Sergei BachlakovSmallville Season 10 Blog
I had originally shied away from the idea of wearing such apparel as I didn’t want to identified with the ‘country girl/country bumpkin’ look. But as I suffer from a lack of regular wear (my wardrobe tends to be divided into either rough-n-dirty work clothes or borderline formal wear. Note the lack of in-between), I decided to give the Red Flannel Shirt look a try. Pair it with a pair of jeans and I guess it’s inevitable! Clichéd, but comfortable. I imagine this to be a good errand-running outfit for the crisper weather.

_MG_4550_MG_4616_MG_4526Shirt: Target
Jeans: Ross
Belt: Came with dress from A’Gaci
Boots: Nine West via Marti & Liz
Satchel: Borrowed from photographer
: Gifted
Bracelet: TargetAbrea&meAll photos © of the lovely lady in the peacoat. Abrea Crackel 2011.

Geek Couture – Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2008 – Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
Last night, the 2015 Met Gala was held in New York. But rather than focus on that (as I’m sure many news sites are already knee-deep in coverage), I thought I’d rewind the clock a bit. Every year, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a themed exhibition, ranging from designer showcases to cultural studies. I would like to focus on 2008’s theme, which was the epitome of geek couture. (There was also a corresponding fashion editorial released in Vogue of model Coco Rocha in superhero-inspired wear.)
To quote from the press release, “As superheroes enjoy a surge in mass popularity, The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art explores the symbolic and metaphorical associations between these fictional characters and fashion in Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, an exhibition at the Museum from May 7 through September 1, 2008. The exhibition features approximately 60 ensembles including movie costumes, avant-garde haute couture, and high-performance sportswear to reveal how the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body.

“Today, superhero imagery has suffused almost every aspect of popular culture,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. “The superhero’s iconic costume of cape, mask, and bodysuit finds many fashionable permutations. But fashion’s embrace of the superhero extends beyond iconography, to issues of identity, sexuality, and nationalism. Fashion shares with the superhero an inherent metaphorical malleability which fuels its fascination with the idea and the ideal of the superhero.

“Superman and Spider-Man costumes addressed the subject of The Graphic Body, relating Superman’s ‘S’ chevron to designer logos and branding.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes FashionThe Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
Catwoman represents The Paradoxical Body, which explores the character’s vacillating manifestations of good and bad.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
“The stars and stripes of Wonder Woman’s uniform, a composite of the American flag, epitomize The Patriotic Body and designs that appropriate patriotic emotions implicit in the character.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion 
“Batman and Iron Man represent The Armored Body, and examine avant-garde fashion that merges flesh and metal, skin and chromium.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
“The Mutant Body, denoted by the X-Men, highlights clothing that morphs men into beasts.”

Designers included: Atair, Giorgio Armani, Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Eiko Ishioka, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Moschino, Thierry Mugler, Nike, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Speedo, Spyder, As Four, Walter van Beirendonck, Versace, and Bernhard Willhelm.

The exhibition was made possible by Giorgio Armani (one of my personal favourite designers)

Photographs: Tyler Hicks, Lauren David Peden, and Robin S. Rosenberg

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey Cosplay – Construction Notes 1

Star Wars The Force Awakens Rey
To much glee, the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer debuted online a few weeks ago. After I recovered from turning into my 6-year-old-self drooling over X-wings, costume plans immediately started turning the wheels in my head. Rey’s costume has ‘me’ written all over it – from the resemblance to the actress (which, to me, makes it even funnier that I auditioned for her role (true story! I wrote a post about it here)), to the desert chic look of the outfit. Hellooooo weather-appropriate Dragoncon costume! Not to mention I can actually wear it with my injuries! A friend pointed out that I might be able to use her staff as a walking stick in between photo sessions, which will come in quite handy. Not to mention, this outfit looks like something I’d normally wear. In fact, I plan on ordering double the amount of fabric for this cosplay in order to make a second outfit designed for regular wear. What? So I’m predictable…

Since the trailer was released, I’ve been hard at work gathering every photo of Rey I could find and starting a thread on the Replica Prop Forum to document all of my findings (as well as bounce back and forth with other craftsmen and costumers). But I figure not everyone is on the RPF, so I’m going to document my cosplay progress here as well.

To start, since there are no references for the back of Rey’s costume (and until this morning, none of her side. But I drew this last night, so it looks like I was on target), I decided I’d do what I normally do and draw a costume turnaround.  (I love doing these. So challenging, yet therapeutic.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey Costume TurnaroundRey1 Rey2 Rey3
Next up…fabric!

At the Star Wars Celebration convention in April, Rey’s costume was actually on exhibit, complete with a handy placard that listed the materials used. As well as the costume being on a white mannequin, it was easier to see that the fabrics are all natural colours rather than dirty white. So I’m thinking I’ll be getting either natural-coloured fabrics or tea-dyeing white fabrics and then distressing the heck of it all. I cannot WAIT for that part! Distressing is uber fun (and a surprising venue of stress relief).


Wrap dress – viscose
Head wrap – cotton
Top hemp and cotton jersey
Trousers silk
Backpack leather
Wrist cuff and belt – leather
Pouch canvas
Arm wraps – cotton
Gloves leather
Boots wool and leather
Staff 3D print

I ordered a few swatches from Dharma Trading. Some were right on the money, while others were a bit off. So for the sake of this post, I’ll just focus on the swatches that work.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Hemp Cotton Jersey
This fabric is SPOT ON for Rey’s undershirt. The Hemp-Cotton Jersey is  very soft and comfy.

This appears to be the right fabric for the wrap dress, though I’m still not 100% sure. However, when dyed, the fabric will become mostly opaque, so that’s a good thing. I’ll check around a few others places for viscose swatches and see what other blends might be out there.

Now it’s a matter of finding the rest of the fabric and patterns. I’ll probably order a few more swatches of the ones I already have to do some dye tests. So…tally ho!

Femme Noir

A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman. But a beautiful woman with a brain is an absolutely  lethal combination.

The way she listened was more eloquent than speech.

The femme fatale ‘neath the guise of a damsel in distress… Lucky me… she had my number…

How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

Pour yourself a drink. Put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.

I had an itch to do a vintage-esque portrait shoot so I paired up with the ever-polite and gracious Brownlee to try some black & white fun. It was a truly lovely evening as his wife helped with my hair (I’m an absolute dunce when it comes to doing anything with my tresses outside of a ponytail) and Brownlee made the most delectable snacks for us to eat. I can’t even pronounce the cheese and smoked meat he put in front of my wide eyes, but I truly felt spoiled. Brownlee is not only a good photographer, but a most excellent foodie.

I also got to meet a new makeup artist friend, Courtney, who I promptly began to geek out with (that’s now my new deciding factor of “oo, you’re a crazy human like me. Come be part of my equally crazy social circles!“) After makeup and hair were finagled into place and lights were set up, off we went! (Though about halfway through we had to do some more finagling of the dress as, alas, it’s wee bit big for me. Thank goodness for clothespins! I imagine I’ll donate the dress back to Goodwill so it can be put back on the racks as a treasure for someone else to find. 🙂 )

Photographer: Brownlee of RBC Image
Hair: Gretchen Jacobson
Makeup: Courtney Walters

Dress: Goodwill
Floppy hat: Gifted (friend bought it at Patagonia in Nashville)
Wide-brimmed hat: Gifted
Gloves: Ebay
Earrings: Ebay