by Andie Wells
There’s a lot of love – and work – that goes into each of The Dandies’ fandom improv costumes. That’s why, today, I want to take you behind the scenes, sharing how a costume is transformed from an idea into a finished garment, ready for the stage!
Fandom Improv Costume Making: The idea stage
Step 1: Inspiration
Inspiration for The Dandies’ fandom improv costumes starts with watching or reading the fandoms themselves and getting drawn in by their costumes. Most recently, I have been wanting to create some of the gorgeous costume pieces from the Outlander, especially anything Claire wears on the show. (Want to see The Dandies do Outlander too? Leave us a comment on this blog or on Facebook or Instagram and your wish may just come true!)
Step 2: Sketching
I sketch out a lot of ideas – more than I could possibly keep up with!
My sketches are made using fashion croquis from Cashmerette (along with sewing patterns, they provide sketchbooks with plus-sized croquis) or My Body Model (a site that allows you to input measurements and create your own croquis) or sometimes sketched freehand. It helps to see the costume on a different body than the actor portraying the character so that I can understand style lines and design. Sometimes, I will make design changes based on how the costume might look on the body I am designing it for – these design changes aren’t major but are meant to look better on the actual person than a direct copy. I prefer to design for people first based on their own needs. As much as a design can look great on the original actor wearing it, it might not look perfect on everyone and I take that into consideration all the time. The needs of fandom improv can also be different from those of a TV series, so I will also make changes like extra pockets or moving a zipper around on request.
Fandom Improv Costume Making: Moving from idea to reality
Step 3: Patterns
Since I am not a pattern designer, I work from existing sewing patterns and “hack” (to take a pattern and make adjustments in the design) them into what I want. Sometimes a single sewing pattern can be useful for multiple fandom improv costumes and no one would be wiser.
For example, Mccall’s 7216 is a pretty generic uniform jacket for men. I have “hacked” it into two different Star Trek uniforms for The Dandies troupe member Velvet Wells – a Kirk admiral jacket (below) and a Picard dress uniform (top of page).
Step 4: Sourcing Fabrics
This step actually takes a lot longer than one would believe. Having worked with a large range of fabrics, I can get pretty picky about what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to costumes for live fandom improv performances. People don’t want to perform in uniforms that are too hot or uncomfortable. I tend to lean towards natural fibres for stage garments, but sometimes that is not always possible to get a good replica of the original version. I will search for ages to find the appropriate fabric.
Step 5: Sewing and Final Product
Sewing, for me, is the easy part! It usually goes quickly and is lots of fun.
When the costume is done and the person looks great and is beaming with confidence, I can see how my process made that happen. I love creating costumes for diverse people and considering the person’s needs first. It makes all the difference!
Want to know more about what’s going on behind the scenes at The Dandies? Learn all about how we choose the source material for our fandom improv shows and why costumes are an offer in fandom improv!