The name of this post makes it sound like this is going to be quite a mixed-up disaster of a costume!
My daughter is playing the part of the “Mouse Queen” in a Nutcracker-themed Production dance that her high school Dance Team is doing for a competition. One idea that was suggested was a “Cats”-like outift. But . . . knowing how my daughter feels about skin-tight spandex body suits, I quickly cast around for another inspiration. I found it in Fastrada.
My daughter has been in love with the character of Fastrada ever since we saw a touring production of “Pippin” last year. We have been looking for an excuse to make a Fastrada costume, because, well, why not? Fastrada is just so deliciously evil and yet ” just an ordinary housewife and mother, just like all you housewives and mothers out there.” (Right)
A jazzy-flirty-evil Mouse Queen seemed just the thing for this parody of the classic ballet.
The first thing I needed to decide on was the color: gray, white or black. I decided that gray would be the preferred mouse color. As a rule, I think grays are much easier to match/coordinate than browns. I knew that the Nutcracker would be wearing red and black, and gray seems to go with that better. Once that (easy) decision was made I needed to collect supplies. I ordered a length of gray fringe from an online supplier. I also went in search of fur. I found a piece of short pile gray/black/cream “rabbit” fur at JoAnn’s for $14.99/yd at 40% off (plus I got the remnant end for 50% off). I thought it would work perfectly, and the varigated color would give it added depth when viewed from the audience.
I selected this dress for the base:
The dress has a nicely boned bodice. The skirt is attached to the lining with several string anchors to hold the bodice down. The back has a short section of corsetting for sizing. As a bonus, it already had straps. And, best part, it fit my daughter.
The picture below shows how the skirt was attached to the lining, with the bodice just anchored by a few connecting thread “ropes”. At this point I did not really have a vision for what I was going to use as the “poof” in the back. I also knew that I would need to add a bodice extension. We wanted the fringe level to be at about the hips. This may be a burlesque-style outfit, but it needed to be high-school appropriate. One option was to cut the skirt off where it was attached to the lining, which would have made it easy to add the bodice extension to the lining, and the skirt would have opened up to a nice flat piece of fabric. I was really reluctant, however, to sacrifice this really nice gray skirt (“Cinderella” costume?) if I didn’t have a plan. In the end, I decided to cut it off where it attached to the lining. I did cut around the side zipper, so it remains attached to the bodice.
So now I needed to come up with an inspiration for the “poof” in the back. I had recently purchased a short black satin dress that had multiple layered circle ruffles for the skirt which I thought might work . . but I didn’t care for the stark black, and it wasn’t as fluffy-flirty as I wanted. THEN I remembered a Prom dress I bought a few years ago from a Buy/Sell site for $10. It isn’t good to wear to Prom as it has pulling and fuzzing of the fashion fabric on the bodice, but the colors and the ruffles were going to be perfect for this project.
The first step was to take off the bodice. The bodice had a a wrapped & ruched look, and I thought I could use it for the bodice extension on the costume. After I cut it off, I took the breast pads out, and also some of the boning so it would lay flat.
I tried pinning it to the costume and it was a big “no” from my daughter. She didn’t like the way the colors looked. I probably could have made it work, but, because of the side zipper in this dress, and the asymentrical shape I had, it would have taken a fair amount of fussing. It didn’t take too much convincing on her part for me to abandon this idea.
If I were ever going to attempt this again, I would try to divide the bodice so I had symmetrical piece. I could have split it down the center front and left the zipper intact. I wasn’t thinking outside the box quite enough at this point.
My next step was to add fur to the bodice. Since this is a mouse costume, I did want the fur to be a dominant feature. I used some paper and a transulscent store bag to make a pattern for the bodice extension (I will call this the “peplum”) and the top. I like to use these bags because they are free, and I can see through them. The length of the peplum was determined by the length of the zipper on the side of the bodice. I wanted it to be firmly attached to the peplum and the skirt back for stability.
Once I had the pattern cut out, I compared the two sides and folded it in half to actually cut the fur. I cut the fur just a bit bigger, as it is always easier to trim away than wish you had a bit extra. This was a fairly short pile fur so I just cut it. If the fur had a longer pile, you would want to carefully slide your scissors along the base of the backing to ensure that you are only cutting the backing fabric and not the long fur ends.
I cut an additional peplum out of a scrap of gray upholdery fabric. This served to make a stiff base without needing multiple layers or interfacing. Once this was sewn in place, I carefully pinned the fur to the front and stitched it on. After a trial fitting, I finished pinning and sewing the fur over the shoulder straps.
I did make one mistake. I cut the fur a bit longer than the peplum base, thinking that some folds along the sides would give it a more interesting texture and draped appearance. That didn’t really happen and the fur just sagged and looked frumpy. This was a case where I should have stopped and fixed it at the time and save myself irritation and ripping later on.
In in the above picture you can see the fur extending a bit past the top of the bodice back. I later cut that part off. I wasn’t sure if I would need to add an interfacing to the fur at the shoulders, but, it doesn’t need it.
Next came the back skirt “poof”. This process started by taking apart the Prom dress skirt. Interestingly, the skirt was stuffed with petticoat net. One layer was attached to a upper facing (the gray), but there was also a fairly large piece just kind of stuck between the layers. You just never know what you will find!
The skirt itself was a bit more challenging to work with than I originally thought. Although it isn’t immediately apparent from looking at the skirt, some of the ruffles are attached on a diagonal as they curved around the train of the skirt. I folded the skirt in half, and tried to roughly figure out a logical place to cut it apart. I pinned the lining to the fashion fabric and ran a row of zig-zag stitching along that line of pins. Then I cut the bottom of the skirt off. I ran a row of gathering threads along that line, and gathered up the “poof”.
I wanted to give the skirt a bit more of a furry look, and so I cut 2″ strips of fur and sewed them around the inner edge of the “poof” so that it would show from the front. I didn’t want to inadvertently pull the skirt, so I just tacked the inner (upper) edge down every 6″ or so.
I adjusted the gathers so that it fit the back of the bodice and sewed it on, squishing the gathers in where I needed to (my gathering thread was inclined to break).
I paid careful attention to the area around the zipper so that I kept all the various raw edges and little flaps of cut stuff away from the zipper teeth. The last thing I would want to have happen at a competition is for the zipper to get stuck.
This is what is looks like from the back:
The edge of the skirt had horsehair braid edging to help give it shape. I cut that off from the front of the dress, and it make a shorter ruffle for the “poof”. This is shaped with some tucks, and just attached to the bodice at the side seams.
The skirt itself does not hang as symmetrically as I would like, when seen from the front. However, when it is in motion while being worn, this really isn’t noticeable.
I had the idea of making the bodice into a bow. And it worked 🙂 I sewed it back together along the zipper line. The boning pieces were all cut out, and I used a zip tie to pinch it in the center and make a big bow. My daughter is not a bow-on-the-butt fan, and so we ended up not using it. The pictures below are before and after the zip-tie.
The final step was to add the fringe. Originally my plan was to add fringe to the shoulder straps so it hung over the top of the shoulder, but we weren’t a fan of that. I made swags for the arms out of straps from an old dance outfit. We had already cut the shorts off this outfit to use under the Mouse Queen costume. The straps had a little bit of stretch. I pulled it taut as I sewed it which helped shape the swags. The shorts did not need any finishing as the fabric doesn’t fray, and they seem to stay in place just fine.
The bottom of the dress is finished with two double layers of fringe sewed on at an angle. At first I just sewed it straight across the bottom, but, it didn’t have quite the look my daughter was after. Originally it sort of bowed out a bit, and I had tried to make a tuck in the center front, including the fringe, and bascially I ended up with an unattractive lump. After messing it with it longer than I should have, I eventually took all the fringe off, took a tuck in the center front and cut out the extra fabric, and re-pinned and re-sewed the fringe, much to the improved satisfaction of all.
I decided to use double layers of fringe because this fringe was not very thick . .sometimes you get what you pay for. That said, I bought it in a lot (I think 10 yards), so I had plenty to use.
The outfit was a little big for my daughter, so I took a dart under the corset insert in the back.
We also adjusted the corset to the fit she liked, and then we cut off the long lacing cord and sewed it secure.
The gloves are cut off a pattern that I made back when I was doing an Addams Family costume. The fur had just enough stretch that I didn’t have to add any extra fabric. A small opening is left for the thumb to go through. One seam is sewn and . . . fingerless gloves. The pattern is for a full sleeve, I cut these off shorter.
I free-hand cut an ear shape out of a piece of paper after I looked at pictures of mouse ears. I cut the ears out of upholstery fabric, which very nicely had a lighter back side. I edged the ears in flat string sequins and then shaped them and stitched across the bottom. The ears pin to the hair (at this point).
The costume up to this point:
We do have a different crown ordered, one that is a bit spikier and more “aggressive” looking. At this point, the outfit also does not have any bling. We may or may not add bling pending how the other costumes in the ensemble end up looking. I have black string sequins that I could sew along the edges of the ruffles on the “poof”. I could also add some to the seam lines on the front. We could also add some hot fix jewels. We have some gems in a very dark green that didn’t work for a different project, that I think might look good here.
I have ordered some black fishnet tights, and we may consider adding some fur around the ankles.
I did make a tail of fur. Mice don’t really have furry tails, but hopefully no one will notice! If they do, I can change it as it is only pinned on (and barely visible in the “poof”.
Cost: gray dress $6, ruffled dress $10, fringe $20ish for all–only used part, fur $16ish for all, only used part. Upholstery fabric scraps, and some string sequins. Hot fix gems . . well, those could add significantly to the cost.