Monday, January 28, 2013

Recreation from Images: Helena Bertinelli, Huntress

While working on my Huntress costume for the Arisia masquerade last weekend, it occurred to me how much of the process was similar to making historical garments. Obviously, there were a few major differences--mostly the outcome, which was a spandex bodysuit instead of a ballgown--but the fundamental process, starting with reference images, was pretty similar.

One of the "someday when I find the perfect fabric" projects on my list is an ermine-trimmed pelisse, and you can see my post about it here. When I make a historical garment, I start by finding tons of reference images (or sometimes just a few, like my butterfly dress!), and researching the proper shapes, techniques, and fabrics for the period and item.  I did the exact same thing for my Huntress costume, but with a little twist.

Huntress has had a lot of outfits over the years, but I specifically wanted Huntress from when she was a member of the totally kickass all-girl superhero team, the Birds of Prey. That brought my list down to two basic costumes with some changeable pieces.

a great illustration of Huntress's costumes over the years. The Birds of Prey era are the two far left.
Huntress's first costume, the one with the belly panel, is not something I have the abs to pull off--and I wasn't willing to get there the way Huntress did.
from BoP (Ed Benes): "What's with the new outfit?""seven hundred situps a day""say no more"

Yep, no situps for me! Well, at least not seven hundred. So I went with Huntress's black full body suit. From another panel, I know that it squeaks in the rain (and therefore is probably PVC or something similar).

Birds of Prey vol 1, #88: "rain just makes my costume squeak."

To get that look without giving up the stretch, I ended up going with a matte vinyl/spandex, which looked smooth like fake leather but stretched in 4 directions. It was also very forgiving to work with, which was great, because I had no idea what I was doing! One word of warning, though: this stuff shows every last pinprick.
shooting the bad guys while they're down--look at all that stretch!

I also wondered what to do about the white stripes/cross. I did use a pattern, but had to alter it to get exactly the look I wanted and wasn't sure where I should insert white panels. For historical clothes, this is where reference images come in handy.

edged or lined in ermine? this fashion plate demonstrates that at least some ermine-trimmed pelisses were actually lined with fur
It was the same way with my Huntress costume. Does the bodysuit have a full cross, which then repeats on the cape? It turns out no: the cape has the horizontal stripe, while the body suit only has the vertical one.

Birds of Prey vol 1, #117: Huntress without her cape
I cheated a bit, and made my whole collar white, so that the cape could be collarless.

this was the only picture I could find without the cape...preparing to wrangle Antonia's wig pre-show.
I'm still not totally happy with the cape (I'll shorten the front before comic-con), but just as historical garments need all the pieces (chemise and corset to shoes and hat), superheros need all the accessories. Julia and Antonia did an amazing job on the mask, and I was actually quite pleased with the yellow crescent/boomerang cape pins we threw together at the last minute, along with my purple pleather utility belt from upholstery fabric. I have more, so I'm planning to make the thigh holster before comic-con...and I also have a crossbow.

ignore my face, and check out that utility belt "sure can make a girl's heart melt!" my boots and gloves (both from ebay) are pretty great too.
While to process was a huge learning curve and the final product not at all historical, I have to say that the attention to detail and research standards I've learned for historical sewing made this outfit a success!

with my reference images (the judges used these for the workmanship awards)

attempting to be fierce...

...aah, that's how it's done! I'll work on my butt-kicking stance.

(and one more panel, because "costume regret" is absolutely something I've felt while out in historical clothes...)
Birds of Prey vol 1, #80: "I call that costume regret. The weird feeling you get when doing normal human things in a costume made to look good mainly in the dark."

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