Friday, June 20, 2008

Mermaid Fins and Notes on Costuming

I am heading out the door shortly to take the Chinatown bus to NYC for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade! So this will be short, but I wanted to talk a little bit about making costumes.

I love being somebody I'm not for a day. Instead of being responsible, dependendable, and perhaps a wee bit uptight I can be awesome and cool. I wouldn't want to be that person every day, but it's fun to trot her out a couple of times a year. So I have a whole closet full of costumes (I should take a picture of that someday) and a bit of slapdash experience making things work.

This is my third year to do mermaid parade.

Year 1:

I was a mermaid for Halloween and somebody suggested I go in the Mermaid Parade. I'd never even heard of it but was definitely intrigued. It was so much fun! I made the mermaid skirt as a tube with slits up the side. Made the fins out of an irridescent sheer that is still available at my local Joann and ran wire down the entire side seam and out into the fins (it didn't work to have wire only in the fins, they wanted to fold frontward or backward). It wasn't the most comfortable, but I think (humbly, of course) that this is the best mermaid tail style a home costumer can hope for.

Year 2:

While it had been fun to do the parade, I didn't really want to do it again by myself. So I recruited some friends. Since I was making all the costumes (they embellished their own), I kept it simple with the "traditional" style mermaid tail for the home costumer--a skirt with a frill.

This year I wanted to do something completely different and wear boy shorts and have individual fins for each leg. I have found hardware store supplies invaluable for costuming. 14 gauge coated copper wire from the electrical department allows you to shape pieces; the sharp ends need to be covered with duct tape. Cable ties make excellent plastic boning. I now own spiral steel boning, but I didn't want to waste any of it on a costume! Cable ties are vastly superior to the plastic boning you can buy in the fabric store because they're cheaper, the ends are less sharp, and they stay straight--they don't want to curl up like the plastic kind. They are a little less stiff than plastic boning, so I usually double bone seams by sewing both sides of the seam allowance into a channel and inserting a cable tie into each.

For the fins:
1. Cut out four fan shaped pieces out of the fashion fabric and lining.
2. Cut out regular loft batting in the same shape and trim the batting an inch all around so it wouldn't bulk up the seam allowances.
3. Quilt the fashion to the lining with the batting in between, to make four individual fans.
4. Sew the outer frill to two sets of the fashion fabric (make sure they're mirror images).
5. Sew the long diagonal seams; now you've got two fins instead of four fans.
6. Insert the invisible zip at the top of the inside seam.
7. Sew the rest of the inside seam.
8. Hand sew the seam allowance of the inner side seam (the seam with the zipper) to the lining without catching the outside to make a casing. Insert cable tie boning along both sides of the inner seam. This is to make it stand up while I'm walking so (hopefully) I won't be tugging at it. (I should have machine sewed the seam allowance to the lining before sewing the side seam. This would have saved me a lot of hand sewing.)
9. Hand sew a casing along the top, not catching in the fashion fabric, and insert elastic.
10. Cut a piece of wire the length of the hem and secure the ends together with duct tape.
11. Hand sew the wire into the hem
12. Gather the lower frill and sew by machine onto the outside of the fabric. (This would have been easier to do had I not already sewn the wire into the hem!)

Here are some construction details:

Construction Details

And here are the fins!

Don't worry, I'll be taking lots of pics. Please do a reverse rain dance for us.


Lindsay T said...

What incredible fun! If I didn't already have plans I would definitely go to this. Can't wait to see your photos.

melissa said...

That's so cool! I've never heard of it before! Your last two years' costumes look great, so I can't wait to see the finished version of this year's.

Also, we own the same IKEA ironing board, lol.

AllisonC said...

What fun, looking forward to more pictures. Do you wear your costume on the bus?!

mermaids said...

fabulous costume! a mermaid parade? who knew such fun existed. as you can see from my account name, i have a particular fondness for all things mermaid. :) makes me want to hop on a plane and go to the parade.

you put a great deal of thought into your costume construction. thanks for the tip about using the plastic ties for boning. i don't have a fabric store near me, but there is a hardware store.

can't wait to see the photos of the final product!