Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mrs. Potts

We're making costumes for Beauty and the Beast Jr, using almost no money, and in a very compressed time frame (we have about 2 weeks to costume the entire show).  We considered using something like hula hoops to make an armature, so to speak, for Mrs. Potts, but were concerned that she'd get stuck in the doorways of the set.  Also, these are kids ages 6 to 13, so it's important to make all costumes as easy-to-wear-and-move-in as possible.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to use the idea of a hoop skirt made with flat soaker hose (also called "sprinkler hose") explained here.  I'm using some donated fabric, which is a white flannel.

I decided to make my channels out of blanket binding, since it's easy to find in the seam tape/bias tape section of the fabric store.

I started by putting a channel down the middle of the fabric. (I later realized this placement was a mistake, by the way.)  I simply used a ruler and a disappearing ink pen to mark dots at the correct placement, then pinned the binding to the fabric, then sewed it on.

After that I made 2 more channels on either side of the first.  I also folded down the top of the fabric to act as a channel for elastic/drawstring, and the bottom of the fabric to act as another channel for fabric/drawstring.  Then I sewed up the side seam, leaving all of the channels free.

Then I inserted about 90 inches of hose in the middle channel.  I chose 90 inches since that's about the circumference of a hula hoop.  As I said earlier, a hula hoop is about the size we want, but is too rigid to go through the set doorways easily.  I was amazed at how long this took -- the rubber hose did NOT glide easily through the channel made by the blanket binding.

I made connectors by cutting pieces of the rubber hose, and then using them as posts between the 2 ends of the hose.  Then I wrapped the connection in tape.  The only tape I could find in the shop was gaff tape, which did NOT work well -- it kept popping off whenever the "hoops" were subject to stress such as demonstrating to the actress that the hoops were flexible.  I've since re-inforced these hoops seams with electrical tape.

To figure out the length of the hose needed for the next channel up towards the top, I subtracted the waist size I was aiming for (about 26 inches) from the 90 inches, and cut off a piece of hose with that measurement (about 65 inches).

Since I don't have a dress form, I suspended the entire thing from a wardrobe bar using 2 skirt hangers with the hanger clips set about 7 inches apart (since 4 clips times 7 inches gives me a 28 inch circumference, which is about the waist size I want).

For the photo below I've added about 26 inches of 1 inch wide elastic in the top channel, and about 40 inches (an entire package) of 1 inch elastic in the bottom channel.  I decided to use elastic in the bottom so the 13 year old actress doesn't feel constrained by her ankles hitting a solid hoop.

After looking at it hanging there, I decided to ditch the idea of putting more hose in that lower channel between the middle and bottom.  It didn't seem like it was going to add to the structural integrity, but it WOULD add weight, plus take seemingly forever to accomplish.

We put the skirt we're planning on using over it, then.  The skirt is from a performance of a Shakespeare play I costumed about a month ago, and is made out of some sort of drapery or upholstery fabric, so it is reasonably stiff.  This is how Mrs. Potts will wear it when she's returned to human at the end of the show.

And this is how it looks when a drawstring has gathered the bottom -- sort of looks like a giant fabric pinata.  At the moment the drawstring is simply a length of twill tape run through the hem of the skirt, but I'm going to change it out to quarter inch elastic with twill tapes on the end -- the elastic will prevent that "hobbled" feeling for the actress, and the twill tape will be easier for the kids helping her dress to pull shut.  I think.  Gah, who knows.  I also have to figure out what to do with all of that drawstring hanging off the back, since she obviously can't be trailing a couple of feet of string after her.

Of course, after all of that we tried it on another girl -- one of the stage crew who is about the same size as the actress.  And discovered that the hoop skirt is actually a bit too long for the overskirt.  And that the hoops all look too low -- since they're low on her body anyway, they should've been raised up to give the correct look on stage (the stage isn't very elevated, so the audience won't be looking up at her).

Sooo, I shortened the hoop skirt by cutting off the elastic on top, and then sewing a new channel there.  Which was very exciting with rubber hoops already in place.  Also, I then had to shorten the circumference of the upper hoop, since it was now too big for it's new position relative to the waist and middle hoop.

We're holding it up with suspenders.  You can just barely see them at the top of the photo above.  The actress was thrilled that she was able to start rehearsing with the hoop skirt as of Friday. Edited to add:  the clip-on suspenders worked really well for the show -- to return to human at the end of the show she went offstage, unclipped the hoop skirt and stepped out of it, then quickly returned to the stage.

Yes, I realize you can still see the hoops through the skirt.  Something like batting would help smooth that out, as would using a less shiny fabric for the skirt.  But the performance date is barreling towards us, and I still need the top of the costume, plus a bunch of other costumes.  So this is has earned the "acceptable" stamp. 


Ami said...

You. Are. A. Genius.

Bridgett said...

You continue to amaze...