Build report: The Sanderson Sisters
I just finished these three costumes!
These are the Sanderson Sisters, the three witches from Hocus Pocus. I'll be honest with you, this movie holds no nostalgic value for me. I know a lot of people love it, I'm not one of them. I saw it when it was originally released, then forgot about it until I was approached about this project. I re-watched the movie at that point, and, yeah, still don't love it. Sorry. But the costumes are fabulous! And it's really hard to dislike anything Bette Midler does :)
This project was for a Halloween display. The requirements were to make the costumes as screen-accurate as possible, and sized true to the actors. The costumes will ultimately be worn by mannequins. I was really excited about the idea of making display pieces but nervous about the corset. I've never made a corset before, and I was a little hesitant, but the fact that these will not be worn by humans made this a pretty low-pressure project so I decided to give it a go.
This project was exciting! In addition to sewing it also involved painting! And sculpting! And 3D printing! And beading! And fabric dying! And creative fabric choices!
Without giving away too many of my secrets, I'd like to talk about how I built all three pieces.
- Corset: Simplicity 5582 (modified)
- Shirt: Simplicity 5582
- Skirts: self-drafted
- Apron: knitted by a friend
- Corset: Upholstery velvet
- Shirt: This was such a lucky find! The color and texture was almost perfectly screen accurate. I found this at a local fabric store. They only had about 3.5 yards left and I bought it all!
- Skirts: Maroon gauze, houndstooth acrylic, plaid flannel
- Apron: Raw silk yarn, woven into vertical stripes
- 3D printed rings
- hand-beaded string of beads at the neckline
Mary was the easiest of the three dresses. I lucked out with her fabrics and didn't have to modify anything. Her shirt pattern was unmodified, and her skirts were simple big full gathered skirts. Her corset was slightly modified - I connected the bottom half of the center front, added a lace-up closure in back, and altered the waistline - but it was still very close to the original pattern. I designed her rings using some very basic Tinkercad. I printed them in "silver" (read: dark grey) PLA and painted them a brassy goldish color. (Basically the same color mix I used for my Thomas Jefferson shoe buckles, which I'll talk about in detail someday.) The beading was fun - I haven't made a string of beads since maybe high school, so I went in with no real knowledge or strategy. I bought one tube each of two different sets of multi-colored beads, dumped them all in a cup, and picked them up at random with my beading needle. The result was a totally random pattern of probably 10 different colored beads. I was afraid it would look like a big old mess, having no distinct pattern, but it actually turned out fabulous! I gave the whole thing a spray of brown Tulip ColorShot spray paint for fabric for a little aging and weathering, and called it done!
(There will be a more detailed post about my painting processes in the future)
- Corset: Curtains! That's right, I totally Scarlet O'Hara'd this one!
- Sleeves: Some sort of weird fishnet. But not the typical evenly woven diamond fishnet we're all used to, the weave pattern on this was much more random, giving it an older, more hand-woven look.
- Skirts: purple, olive drab, and baby pink cotton gauze; white polyester lace
Sarah's costume was, surprisingly, the most difficult. You'd think it would be Winnie's, right? With all the painting? Nope. If I could have found the fabrics I wanted in the colors I needed, this one would have been fine, but I had to do a lot of color mods. The corset started out ivory, the sleeves and red lace panel were both white. The corset was a faux silk polyester, kind of lightweight, kind of coarse, kind of loosely woven, trying to approximate a kind of raw silk. And it was embroidered with ivory and brown floral vines, in alternating vertical stripes. They were actually pretty lovely curtains! But Sarah's corset color on screen is confusing, and the fabric didn't take the dye as expected. I used a mix of pink and brown that ended up kind of a salmon color. Which was pretty, but still not quite right. And the brown embroidery just turned an more salmoney shade of brown. I wound up cutting the fabric strategically to avoid the brown embroidery, and aging with brown and pink paint. I'm still not 100% happy with the final color, but it's such a weird color on screen and in all the photos, I think it's acceptable.
Sarah also has little round flowerey things (they're more the shape of fried eggs than flowers, honestly) randomly scattered around her corset. I drew up a little fried egg shaped embroidery file and embroidered them on after the corset was built.
Her corset build was tricky. At some point in the future I'm going to do a full review of all the corset patterns I used in this project, but for now I'll just tell you that Simplicity 8162 was actually the second pattern I tried. I started with Reconstructing History 833. And, I don't know, I'm good at reading patterns but this one was weird. I couldn't get the sizing right and the instructions were confusing and I was getting sleep deprived, so I gave up and went for the Simplicity. Such a good decision! I had to do a few mods to the sizing and design, but it was a million times easier than the Reconstructing History one! Like I said before, I'm really glad this was meant for a mannequin, not a human. I'm not sure how comfortable or wearable it would have been. But it looked amazing on my dress form!
The sleeves and red skirt panel were also problematic because they had to be dyed. The skirt was easy enough, it was just straight red, but the fabric was some sort of polyester nylon blend and it didn't dye totally evenly. If you looked closely you could still see white fibers on the wrong side of the lace. The sleeves were also tricky. Like the corset, their color was tough to nail down, but it was kind of a dark, dirty magenta-maroon-purpleish color. I think I did 4 or 5 dye tests, mixing pink, purple, red, and brown, before I found a color I liked, and then it didn't come out dark enough. It was like, light marooney mauve, if you can imagine that. It actually would have been a good color for the corset! I overdyed it a second time straight purple, and it came out a beautiful deep purple that Prince would have swooned over! But still wrong. I overdyeddyed it a third time in pink and finally got it to a pretty nice dark magenta. I ran some other tests in between all that dying, testing other color mixes and dye removers and putting it through wash and dry cycles, and nothing was ever right. Like the lace, I think the polyester/nylon blend made it resistant to dye. It was certainly a hassle but I'm happy with the final color and the costume as a whole.
- Dress: Simplicity 1045 (modified)
- Coat: Butterick 6497 and Simplicity 1045 (Frankensteined and modified)
- Dress: Green cotton, purple gauze
- Coat: Green velvet, green satin sleeve lining
- Sculpted snake clasps
Winnie was the most fun of all the costumes! She is the main character and always the centerpoint of the trio, and the one I felt most needed to be right. I mean, they all needed to be right, but Winnie had to be RIGHT right! Her patterns were easy. Her dress was the straight pattern, except I split the front down the middle and added the purple panel and gold lacing. And I painted the purple at the bottom of the skirt using Tulip Soft Matte. I wanted to dye the skirt but I couldn't get the look that I wanted with dye so I settled for paint. The coat pattern was also easy. I swapped out the coat sleeves with big bell sleeves, added the extra fold at the shoulders, enlarged the collar, and altered the hemline to a high/low hem. Now that I write that out it seems like a lot, but they were all pretty simple mods.
The little snakes at the waist were sculpted by hand. I'd hoped to find a 3D print file for them, but I guess this isn't that popular of a costume yet. And my design skills aren't at that level yet, so I opted to do it the old fashioned way and sculpt it with clay. I haven't sculpted in forever! It was so fun!
But the real fun came with painting the coat! I used stencils for the serpents on the sleeves and back, but all the symbols and vines and everything else I painted freehand. I used Tulip ColorShot for the purple highlights at the waist and edges, and Lumiere acrylic fabric paint for the gold (again, I will go into more detail on paint testing and applications in a future post). It took me about two solid days and two full bottles to do all the gold, but I think the results are absolutely beautiful. I couldn't be more proud of this piece!
All in all this project took me about a million dollars and a bazillion hours. Ok, technically it took me a few weeks to source the fabrics and patterns and about a month to do the actual work. And I'm not telling how much the materials cost! One of the hardest parts of this project was, honestly, sourcing the fabrics. Everything was very 90s, and therefore not available now. I lucked out with Mary's shirt fabric, but everything else was a challenge. Certain shades and textures that were in fashion then have, thankfully, fallen out of fashion and are gone from the fabric stores forever. Or at least for right now. Maybe next Halloween they'll be everywhere! If I'd have felt like I had a little more wiggle room with the fabric accuracy, this probably would have been an easier project. LOL no, who am I kidding? I still would have killed myself over getting the perfect shade of fishnet!
But, yeah, I'm really pleased with this project :)