Friday, October 16, 2009

How to make an Illyria costume, from Angel

"I wish to do more violence."

OK, I've been looking for a post like this myself. Rather than have people show off the costumes they DID make, I'm going to try to chart my progress as I figure out the pattern and have brainstorms about how to make this costume (my first; well, OK, no, I made my Morticia Addams costume in 7th grade). I had two of my friends over last night, both of whom are costume designers, and they gave me some good advice. Today is the first entry. I will start with the things one should buy to make it my way. Keep in mind I haven't finished all the parts I've bought these things for, so I might be making adjustments as I go along, in which case, I advise you to read any and all entries I make on the topic by clicking the "Illyria" tag at the bottom.

Here it goes.

First off, here's a really nice detailed shot of the real costume a woman put up in a similar post about her costume. You can zoom in really close, and it's really helpful to get to know what you're in for.

Second off, here are some links to pictures of other people's costumes. People who have gone before me have done an amazing job. I just wish they had recorded the steps of their efforts.
Illyria Costume 1
Illyria Costume 2
Illyria Costume 3
Illyria Costume 4
Illyria Costume 5

Ingredient list

  • Long-Sleeved Black Unitard. You could conceivably make this with a pattern, but I couldn't find a good one. In some ways, that would be the best option, if you're good enough--then it will be easier to sew the armor pieces tight on to the fabric before you assemble the unitard completely. I found one in cotton with a good collar (#6662 from BodyMotion, at left), which I had to special order from Movin' Easy here in Austin. Another option would be a leotard over jazz pants or leggins, but the best leotards I could find were these at NY Dancewear (thanks for the tip, mom!); however, I didn't fancy sewing onto non-cotton , and the turtleneck collars weren't quite right.
    This was the part of the project when I realized it was going to be expensive. But as I haven't sewed since I was 12, making one myself seemed too risky. UPDATED 10/21: I saw the perfect leotard when I went to pick up the unitard. The collar was a nice boatneck, but they didn't have it in black. This might be close, BodyWrappers BW0209.

  • Red Vinyl. I got lucky and found some on a bargain table for $6/yard, but I think it's just more like $10/yard at most normally, so that's not really too bad. I may end up going back to get a better color because I think what I'm working with is a little too brown; I'll see if spray painting will work or not. If you go in to the detail of the Illyria picture above, you can see the texture of the fabric is almost a snakeskin pattern, so something like this (seen at left) might be ideal, though I haven't seen this fabric person.
    Not having finalized the pattern, I'm not 100% sure how much I will need, pretending I don't make any mistakes. I got 2 yards, and this seem to be sufficient, and I suspect if I start over, I'd use much less. But I haven't tried to do the back of the costume yet, which will take a lot of yardage. UPDATE 10/21: I found this vinyl at a local upholstery shop. I also found some faux suede for the boots. They were both about $11 per yard.

  • Burlap. OK, this is tentative. My costume designer friend suggested this for the shoulder/upper arm (seen at left). I could spray paint it and sew those seams into it. Some of the burlap I've seen almost looks like canvas, but it's apparently very easy to work with.
UPDATE 10/21: See this entry on how I decided to do the "shimmery stuff."
  • Stretchy Elasticy Trim Thing. I don't know what the heck this, on Illyria or in real life. I found it at the fabric store in the bulk trim section. It's like an burgundy elastic thing, and I got half a yard. It goes down the center of her chest, from supersternum to the pelvic cutout. Can it be called a codpiece if it's on a girl? Anyway, I may spray paint it so it's that mottled purple, if I have time.

  • Thread. Obviously. And have it match the vinyl exactly. You don't see any of the stitches on the original, although you can tell they're there. UPDATE 10/21: If you have a serger, go for black thread and instead of hemming the seams, which is a pain because many of them are curved, you might just serge the edging with a rolled hem stitch. My mom's serger is unfortunately in New Orleans, whereas I am in Texas.
  • "Rivets." I was undecided what to do about these things. At first, from memory, I thought they were more metallic, and I got some snaps and a snap applier, thinking the inside-out snaps would look like kickass, relatively simple rivets. Probably true, but when I went back and looked at the costume, it was more like rubies almost. To left, I have circled the thingies I'm talking about. Very clearly, they are not metallic rivets. Never rely on your memory when you're at the fabric store. Something like these might work. I have to go back to the hobby store and see what's available.
  • Nurse Shoes. I've enlisted my shoe-loving mom on this one. What is up with Illyria's shoes? I will try to upload one of the screenshots (update 10/21, link to pic, link to screenshot entry) to illustrate the enigma of her footwear, but I am not one to question. They're boxy and huge. I read a woman call them "nurse shoes," which gave me the idea to use big clogs to simulate the look. I will need some kind of "boot-cover" (like what they have for little kids' costumes) type thing to make them look less like clogs and more like boots, I feel like if I had jazz pants at this point, they might do a good job of making the shoes flow more into the rest of the costume. Certain men's Doc Martens might also make a good option. At left is the first Google image search you get for "black nurse shoes." Thanks for the idea, random forum lady, and Mom!

I get the feeling these are going to be tricky. I haven't seen a good version of them online anywhere yet. Here are a few tries, to varying degrees of success.

The items I have bought/will buy/already have are:
UPDATE 10/21: See the gloves updates. Here is the vote which decided I would do the gloves differently than below, close to the second option above. I will still use the opera gloves, though.
  • Fingerless Black Opera Gloves: You can get these on ebay for about $10. Mine haven't come yet, but hopefully they will be stretch enough to a) truly be one size fits all (I kind of have massive forearms for a girl), and b) be able to fit the unitard sleeve underneath. If not, I'm going to have to fold the sleeve carefully above the elbow. You can see the shape of the glove matches the wedge shape over the hand, so I'm hoping that will make it easier to pattern the eventual rope design.

  • Regular Black Gloves. I'm actually not 100% sure how to do this...I'm going to go shopping this weekend for them. Leather might work well, and luckily I need a pair of gloves anyway, so it wouldn't be silly to spend $20/30 on them. I don't think knit would work--it would be too thick. I mean, look how elegant Amy Acker's hands are (at left)! My mom had a good suggestion that glove liners might be thin enough to pull it off, so I'm going to check some sporting goods stores for that, and maybe Target or something.

  • Silver Rope/Twisted Cord (no pic available) My friend suggested I lightly spray paint this to give it that gold-brown patina Illyria's seem to have. I tried soaking it in tea for a few hours to no effect. Not to mention it would take forever to dry.
  • Black Rope/Twisted Cord with Ribbon. By wrapping it around my forearms in the store (no staring was involved, really), I determined I needed about 10 yard of each color cord. For the black color, I don't know exactly how to explain what I got, but it looks like of like the stuff at left. I'm planning on being able to wrap the cords around my forearm (or a friend's) and hot glue a silver rope to the ribbon of the black one, and then also the next row of the black one onto the previous black one's ribbon, if that makes sense. I'll see if it works once I get started. But I feel like this will give the 3D depth I need to simulate the real gloves pretty well. These items were a bit pricey in total, since they were just under $2/yard. So I really hope they work out well!

Hair and Makeup
This woman has some good and specific ideas for what products to use for makeup. I am probably going a less classy or specific direction with my ideas.
  • Hair Extensions. Blue, obviously. I ordered a bunch of real-hair clip-in from ebay. They haven't come yet, but I think the more the better. They make Amy Acker's hair various colors blue, and sometimes it's almost all blue, and sometimes just the front is. I guess I'm going for a vibrant blue in just the front half. UPDATE 10/21: I have also gotten some spray on hair color, which is obviously what they use in the show. Be careful if you're blonde--the blonde will pick up the spray color more permanently than you might like. Same goes for blue grease paint.
  • White Face Powder. Amy Acker is very fair. Illyria has a deathly pallor. My skin tone is at least at the same starting point. I think either the whitest pressed powder at the drugstore would work, or maybe I'll have to get some real costume store white powder. I will apply with a kabuki brush to make sure it's thick. UPDATE 10/21: I ended up with some "alabaster" face powder from the costume store. I will apply with a wet sponge. It looks pretty pale but not ghostly.
  • Blue Grease Paint. I have this left over from some old costume. I can put it in my hair a little bit, too, for that smooth transition look (left; hmmm...I'll have to do some veiny things it looks like). I have tried it, and it looks pretty great, I think! When I continue the updates, I will of course include pictures of these things.

  • Blue Powder. I think this will be good to have to outline some features. Use it as eyeshadow, and lightly as blush. It looks like they might even outline her eyebrows a little bit in blue. I might use this for the lips as well. UPDATE 10/21: My friend gave me perfect ice-blue lipstick, and I bought some vibrant blue eyeshadow at the grocery store for $3 that really does the trick. I might even use it for the hairline and neck, applying with a cosmetic sponge. It doesn't look as shiny as the greasepaint.
  • Color Contacts. If I weren't nearly legally blind (long story), I would be able to get the Icefire Wild Eyes contacts. Part of me was relieved I couldn't because they would have cost $99 ON SALE! (~$115 regularly). You can probably get these from your ophthalmologist if your eyes aren't as bad as mine (they go up to a 6.0 prescription, I think). So I'm either going to wear an enhancer (my eyes are green), or I'm going to try opaques again (I tried these a few years ago, and they just darken my eyes too much to be all that dramatic). I will be posting the results soon (I have some samples to try out), and may solicit help in deciding which option to go with. UPDATE 10/21: Here were the contacts I tried out. I also found a place that will custom make your contacts for like $350. But I don't think they would do anything in my prescription. I've never been tempted to get Lasik. But now I am.

Illyria, last episode of Angel (UPDATE: see my 25 minute video for more great Illyria scenes; ask me for the link by leaving a comment with your contact information)


od0_ital said...

I now I feel like a doofus, 'cause all I'm doin' is goin' to Dragon's Lair for a sonic screwdriver toy...

Good luck, look forward to followin' your progress & seein' the final product, Carrie!

- Tom

Anonymous said...

how much did it cost you to make illyria costume?

April_fool82 said...

ok i'm going to tackle this project starting in the new year, just want to say how helpful your blog was.

i'm looking forwawrd to the challenge.

do you mind if i contact you for advice if i get REALLY stuck?

Carrie said...

Sorry--just got these comments. Probably all in all, the project cost $250 :( If I'd known then what I know now, though, it would have been at least $100 cheaper. And a lot depends on what you already have--like the leotard and gloves were necessary expenses that I might conceivably have had lying around but just didn't.

And April, you are most welcome to contact me. My Yahoo address is found by putting the following together with no spaces:

I just contacted someone who was very helpful about giving similar notes on her Princess Azula costume (my Halloween costume this year), but then I wimped out and found a place on Ebay that sold them. Unfortunately, that's not an option for Illyria.

Matthew Holton said...

My idead for a girl who wants to be Illyria
Dress: (255)
Contacts: (74)
Extensions: (25)
Eyeshadow : (6)
Gloves (part 1) : (55)
Gloves (part 2) : (8)
Fake tears: (4)
Illyria Reference Picture
reference video :
(towards the end)

LemLems said...

Thank you for doing this!
I'd got as far as looking at pictures of Illyria and thinking "why did I decide to do this?"
It's so helpful to see someone break it down in to steps. I'm still pretty intimidated as I can't really sew but at least I've got a road map - it doesn't look quite so impossible :-)