All that changed this Halloween. I know, it's a shocker. But I have a really, really good excuse.
On October 29-31, 2010, Neil Gaiman hosted a weekend celebrating his book, American Gods, at the most wondrous roadside attraction in the U.S., House on the Rock.
Now, if I had my way, I'd spend this entire blog entry talking to you about House on the Rock. Since I discovered its existence in 1996, it's been my all-time favorite place in the world. But this post is supposed to be about my return to costuming so I'll leave it to you to learn more about this magical and purely insane place on your own. Suffice it to say, people either love it or simply don't understand it's appeal. Here's hoping you're the former.
The mystical convergence of Gaiman, the book (which I love), and the Attraction is heady stuff. I was damn-near drunk on the idea of this weekend. Then, just when I thought it couldn't get better, I learned that there was a costume contest in which the prize was a ride on the House on the Rock's famed carousel.
- the self-proclaimed largest carousel in the world
- a carousel without a single horse (only other creatures)
- a carousel that no human beings have ever ridden.
My friends Lindsay and Laura and I decided, at the last minute, that we'd be the Norns - the Fates of Nordic Mythology. We had to choose a character from the book and this seemed appropriate (since we were three women) and just random enough to create some interest. The Norns are only mentioned a couple of times in the book and we liked their "cameo" appeal. So, at noon on Friday (the event started at 7pm Friday night in a town 45 minutes away) I started sewing.
The day before I'd found a pave velvet in three gorgeous jewel-tone colors at Joanne Fabrics - and it was on sale for $2.99 a yard. I, literally, held it up to my body and measured a double length for a tunic dress. I settled on four yards of each color. Then I got some gold triple-cording for belts, some gold elastic for tying up the "sleeves" (Greek style), and three yards of a gauzy white for head scarves. My vision was to simply double the fabric, cut a hole for the head and then run a seam up both sides. This worked, for the most part.
I did mine first, just in case I screwed it up. The basic idea worked fine but it turned out 4 yards was more than plenty. First I held my arms out and we measured the tunic width from elbow to elbow and then cut off the extra width of the fabric. This leftover will make an awesome scarf or even lap blanket. Of course the length was crazy too. To use up some of the length, I made the back longer than the front so that the dress would have a train. Then we simply cut the front to hit the ground around my feet. I didn't hem anything because we didn't have time but no one noticed. For the head hole I found the middle of the width and cut three inches in both directions. The fabric curled in on itself so I didn't need to hem and the "boat neck" affect left a nice drape in the front. I did secure the two "ends" of the cut with a piece of fabric in order to keep it from ripping during wear. Finally, I just ran up both sides, leaving a generous armhole. As you can see in the photos Lindsay and I wore our tunics "Greek style" with the entire sleeve gathered at my shoulder with a tie and my friend Laura wore her sleeves down. Both were right according to our Google image search.
Finally, I made "belt backs" with strips of the velvet. These had a pocket on each end in which the cording ran through so that the cording was only in the front. We didn't have enough cord to do a double belt for each of us so this was our compromise. We liked that the belts gave a pop of color to the tunics and tied our three outfits together.
The whole construction project took until 4:30pm that day (with many breaks for tea, ice cream, and talking.)
In the end, we were bested by people with more time/money/ambition then we. But I'm glad we tried and it felt good to run around with like-minded people in costumes. The post-contest party was a blast with hundreds of people running around House on the Rock in costume in the middle of the night. It was the definition of magic and a good time was had by all.