How to Make a Princess from Scratch
About this time last year, I started making a Princess Zelda costume. Last week, I wrote a bit about the mistakes I made along the way. This week, I’ll tell you about the successes.
My goal was to replicate Princess Zelda from Twilight princess as closely as possible. Part of that included making the metal bits out of metal, embroidering the bits that need embroidering, and spending way more time than was at all reasonable figuring out how to do it all.
To save others a bit of time, I’ve made digital versions of the stencils and templates I created available here.
I started out with a costume pattern from Butterick (B3552). It had a good basic shape but needed a bit of modification. First, there is a seam down the front of Zelda’s dress, and no sleeves. The pattern also has a train, while Zelda has an even floor length all round.
For safety, I left it a bit longer than I needed, which gave me a buffer for trimming and hemming. Luckily I had lots of extra material as I’d followed the pattern guide for quantities, and those sleeves and train have a lot of fabric in them.
I used a heavy satin. I don’t know the actual fibers, but it irons well and wrinkles better.
The subtle pattern at the bottom of each panel of the dress stumped me for a while, but then my roommate picked up an airbrush. My solution was to cut a stencil out of vinyl, and gently spray a colour-matched coat of paint around it. The stencil would have been a pain to do by hand so I used a Silhouette CNC cutter. Woo for technology solving my problems!
The end effect was very satisfying. It would catch the light at times and completely vanish at others.
The ribbon was sewn on by hand, I found out about Heat Bond ribbon after the fact, which would have made it all much easier. Boo for not knowing about technology that would have solved my problems!
I made the jacket/vest using the same base pattern as the dress with some adjustments: I altered the seams at the back to a more suit-jacket style line, rounded the neckline, and made each side of the chest out of a single piece of fabric with a dart to avoid having a seam that ran up to the neck.
The embroidery around the hem of the jacket would have taken most of my natural life to complete, so I picked up a freehand foot (also called a darning foot) and embroidery hoop for my sewing machine. This made it extraordinarily faster, but not necessarily easier. It is not a terribly forgiving process. From a distance it all looks fabulous. Close inspection reveals wobbly lines and inconsistent spacing.
The last sewing piece was the dangly bit. There has been some debate as to whether it should be called an apron, crotch flag, or lapestry. I lean towards crotch flag. Regardless, that piece could have been done a few ways, but I decided to go with appliqué, which is a fancy word for sticking the smaller shapes on top of the larger ones, or lazy quilting.
By this time, I had heard of Heat Bond and Wonder Under which made my life much easier. I ironed it on to my fabric (just light cotton), and cut out the shapes on a laser. It might be a bit unfair that I have access to a laser, but you could do it with scissors if you are more patient than I.
With the pieces cut out, I bonded them, one at a time, to the layer below and stitched around their perimeter with a short, tight, zig-zag. It was almost a button hole stitch.
The Metal Bits
There were several metal parts that needed to be made, and they all followed the same basic process. They’re all done using the armouring and repousse techniques that I’ve talked about in previous posts. Worbla would probably have been much faster and easier, but I like the reflective gleam of metal, and rather enjoy hitting things with hammers, so I went with brass as my material.
Below is one pauldron from pattern to polish.
If you want to watch it happen in real time, I did a livestream of five hours of the process. Enjoy!
The rest of the metal parts went the same route. Once polished, I attached the gems. The stones I used were cut glass. They weren’t too expensive and came in the rich blue that I was looking for. They are cosmetically held on with head pins, but the gems were heavy and banged against the metal, so I glued them in place with E6000.
I’ve made my own appliances before and it’s a lot of work for little gain, so I yielded and bought commercial ones. I just used cheap latex “space ears” that I picked up near Halloween, held on with spirit gum. Getting good, color matching makeup that was latex-friendly helped a lot, as did getting some liquid latex to blend the edges of the ears.
Look! I made a pretty thing!