Cut! – Phantom of the Opera – Carlotta

Costume poster

The Phantom of the Opera from 2004 is set in Paris in 1870. The costume shown here is from the character Carlotta, played by Minnie Driver. The costume is described in the poster to the left. (Click for a larger version.)

“There was an obvious desire to create a larger than life look in the costumes for this film and this is seen especially in the costumes made for Minnie Driver. The eye is drawn to this striking day ensemble by the bright green grosgrain overdress with striped shot silk lining and cuffs. The mock waistcoat with enamelled buttons is edged in dark red velvet that matches a large bow at the back. The skirt is of warp printed silk, maroon with orange, pink, and yellow flowers.”

Carlotta's gown

I didn’t really like this costume in person, though looking at the photos of it, it’s growing on me a little bit. The part I don’t really like is the colour combination for starters, and the colour green in general. I also don’t really like the floral silk – the colours or the print either. However what I do like about this costume is the overall shape, and the incredible detail put into the dress.

Carlotta's gown

I really love the way that this bodice is cut – there is so much shape and so much detail in this bodice. I like the false ‘tabs’ which hold back the lapel for starters, and all of the shaping at the waist, bringing in all the fullness of the bust, narrowing the waist, and then flaring back out all of that fabric for the hips/skirt.

Carlotta's gown

Above is another shot of the bodice, showing off the wonderful cut at the waist. There are also horizontal lines of fullness at the waist as well, drawing back to the bustle – I’m not sure if this was a fit issue or if this is part of the design itself.

Carlotta's gown

The false waistcoat has dramatic points at the hem. I really love the lush velvet for this part of the garment. The warp-painted silk has a similar ‘soft’ appearance because of the warp-painting, which produces soft figures, rather than precise or detailed patterns.

Carlotta's gown

On the topic of the details of the gown, I love the striped lining of the cuff, the way the sleeve is lined with the same red velvet as the waistcoat, and then the fluffy white lace sleeve. So feminine! Again though, still hating the green!

Carlotta's gown

Here’s an alternate view of the cuff showing the tab, which appears to hold the cuff back, and still lets the edges of the cuff fall forward to show off the beautiful lining.

Carlotta's gown

The incredible back of the dress rivals the beautifully cut front. Again, I hate the green and the colour combination, but isn’t this lovely otherwise? Look at the way the bodice is cut to make the waist appear so narrow with the angled lines from the shoulders down into the waist center back.

I love the billowy bustle too, and the way the back drapes, showing off the striped lining. I don’t love how in this photo the striped lining really just looks purple – in the photo of the cuff you can see that it’s really more of a burgundy and silver-ish stripe – but from the distance it turns into something more light purple…

I also really love how the dark red velvet emerges in the bustle as well, bringing that colour to the back rather than just having it in the front. Mind you, I also just really love red velvet!

Carlotta's gown

Again more detail!  There’s a trim inside the skirt of box-pleated burgundy.  Based on the way that this hangs, I think it’s actually on an underskirt, rather than attached to the warp-painted silk.

Carlotta's gown

Side shot of the gown, showing off how HUGE that bustle is compared to the bodice of the dress.

Carlotta's gown

Close up of the side-back, showing the seams in the bodice back, and the red velvet bow sitting above the billowy bustle.

Carlotta's gown

Close up of the red velvet bow above the bustle.

Carlotta's gown

Another side shot of the fabulous bustle!

The big poofy pink confection worn by the Christine character was also in the Cut! show, but I didn’t like it at all, so didn’t get any photos.

So, what do you think?  Let me know in the comments below!  I think this would be amazing to recreate in a Steampunk fancy dress costume – just with better colours!

Teal mini-tricorn hat

While watching Sofia Copola’s Marie Antoinette, I got the urge to make another mini-tricorn hat, but this time larger than the two I’ve made before… and this time in candy-colours like the colour story of the movie.  Don’t even ask me why, since I own very little clothing that is in the candy-colour family… but still – who cares! Like confection, millinery doesn’t need to be practical!


I had read somewhere that if the mini-hats didn’t suit, that a 3/4 sized hat might be more attractive.  Thus, I was on the lookout for a 18″ hat block to start this off.  I couldn’t find one, but in our instructor’s collection I did find a 20″ hat block, which would have to suffice.  Since I was only going to use the very tip – I figured that the slightly larger size would be fine.

Buckram base

I draped the buckram on the block and then once it was dry, trimmed off the excess and wired the edge.  Then I covered the wire with bias tape.  I slightly pulled the bias as I was applying it, with the vague hope of tightening up the edge just slightly.  The whole frame is nice and sturdy once the wire is on there.

I shaped the wire by putting the hat on my head (at a variety of jaunty angles!) and then traced the finished edge to create the pattern for the brim.

Covering the base

I chose a blue/green shot with gold silk taffeta for the fabric (yummy!) . I don’t actually remember where I got it.  I probably should have interfaced the fabric first before adding it to the buckram base, because you can see the texture of the buckram through the fabric.  Live and let learn!

I very carefully pinned the fabric to the bias tape, keeping all of the pleats very tiny and as even as possible, and then stitched them down close to the wire.

Stitching down all of the pleats in the fabric to the buckram before trimming

The fitted self-lining

I then was thinking about how to do the lining, and took a chance… I sprayed the inside of the hat with temporary basting spray glue (you can find it at quilt shops), draped the fabric over the block, and then popped the hat on top of the fabric.  This worked out almost perfectly.  There were a few tiny spots where the pleating wasn’t as even as I would have liked, but since the glue is temporary, it was short work to gently peel it back and re-pleat, and stitch down the lining along the inside edge where the bias tape is as well.  The only part that I DIDN’T like- was that some of the glue came through the (very fine) fabric – it’s kind of splotchy.  Ok.. it’s just the lining, but again, I think that I’d need to interface the lining if I were do use this method again.

The brim

I started off by making the brim pattern with a 4″ brim, but then after holding the paper pattern up to the covered buckram form, I wasn’t so pleased, so I trimmed off another inch from the outside edge.  I then cut the brim out of buckram, and two circles out of the silk (with seam allowance) and knit fusible interfacing (without seam allowance).  I wired and bias-trimmed the buckram brim outside edge, and then used a glue stick to attach the fabric to the buckram on one side and gently basted the fabric to the buckram on the inside edge seam line to mark the fabric.

Stitching the brim pieces together around the buckram

Then I used a glue stick to attach the other side, and trimmed off the outside edge excess fabric.   I made matching bias trim, and attached the bias by hand. (SO time consuming!)

Curving the bias for the brim

After the hat was done, I realized that I should have applied a more even coating of glue.  The glue doesn’t show through the fabric, but where the curve of the tricorn is convex (curling in on itself) there are bubbles and spots where the silk was not glued to the buckram.  A more even coating would have fixed this problem.  I address this differently on the next tricorn I made.. the red silk tricorn (post coming soon!).

I cut out the inside circles of the fabric along the edge of the inside of the buckram, and clipped into the curve, then folded the tabs, and set the crown onto the brim.

It might seem kind of redundant to make a paper pattern for a brim that is only going to be used for THIS hat (because I wire and shape the crown edge, it’s possible that another hat from the same block wouldn’t have the same shape) but I think that it’s a good step for those ‘just in case’ or ‘I want to change my mind’ moments.

self bias for the brim trim

Attaching crown to brim

Crown trimmed with bias and attached to the brim

At this point I realized that getting the brim onto the crown was more complicated than I thought, and that with this way both the inside and the outside would be messy…. so I used the remainder of the self-bias-binding to trim the crown as well.  I removed any of the visible basting stitches from the outside and lining fabric around the base of the crown after adding on the binding.

I didn’t do the greatest job of this, and wasn’t entirely happy with the result.  On  one hand I knew that I could cover the seam with trim, but on the other hand I would have been happier if this were neater.

This was ridiculously hard to pin down into place, but eventually I did, and began to sew the crown to the brim through the ‘band’ of the crown and the little tabs tucked up inside the crown.  I tried to hide most of the stitches on the outside in the ditch of the bias binding on the band, but I’m not 100% happy with the result.

With all of my comments about my errors, perhaps I should have posted a stunning photo of the finished product to start off this post!

Brim tabs stitched to the crown, and trimmed down

Next, since my stitches were about 1/4 of an inch into the brim tabs, and the tabs were an inch long, I trimmed them down to about 1/2 an inch.  This will be covered by the sweatband, and this way they will be fully covered by the sweatband.  (Which is only about an inch wide itself.)


Curving the grosgrain for the sweatband

I started to stitch in the sweatband, did two different attempts, and then realized that because the crown is domed, that the straight grosgrain wasn’t going to go in properly.  Luckily the instructor had mentioned that getting rayon grosgrain would be shapeable with the iron/steam, and luckily, the grosgrain I picked up was the rayon kind… so I shaped it on the ironing board and it went in much better.  Still though, it was agonizingly challenging – nothing like how simple it had been putting the sweatband into the red pillbox hat I just finished.

I’m guessing that having a brim is what makes this more challenging – the needle just doesn’t go in the same direction.  I have the sneaking feeling that a curved needle would be very useful here, but if I have one (I think I do… but with the renovations, looking for something that I don’t know EXACTLY where it is… is even more challenging that sewing on the sweatband!) it’s a very large needle, and would create holes too big in this fine silk.  So, instead, I just suffered through it…


From there I removed the basting stitches on the interior of the brim, and then ended up folding up the sides of the tricorn.  I really probably should have waited, but after the agonizing work of the sweatband, I needed a little instant gratification!

The overall shape of the hat is good – I’m very happy that I took the extra inch off the exterior edge of the brim.  I don’t love the place where the crown meets the brim, and with such a short crown I think it will be challenging to trim.


So this is where I am leaving the hat for the time being.  I need to decide on the trim, and figure that all out…. once I do, I’ll post a finished photo!

Have any ideas for me?  Leave a comment below!

Steampunk – Garments

Steampunk – Garments

So, in thinking of all the different individual garments I would like to make  for a mini-steampunk wardrobe, it struck me that it might be a good idea to outline what I already have, to avoid duplication – or frankly – forgetting about things!


Skirts – for skirts, long and full seems to be the simplest way to go, although in later period the skirts did get narrower.  However, for the long and full category, I have:

    • Long, full black cotton (blend?) skirt (metallic stripe skirt) – purchased
    • Long full black and white striped cotton skirt with pleated striped edge and black piping –made
    • Long full red silk skirt with black lace overlay – this is more of a costume piece, but might work if there was enough other details going on over top of it to distract from the motif of the lace.  (Spiders) –made
    • Long full blue-shot-with-black taffeta skirt with pleated trim and lace overlay. – made
    • Long, full black polyester/taffeta skirt (grad skirt) – made
    • Long, not overly full, purple taffeta skirt (shot fabric) – made

Tops – The extreme fit of a lot of Victorian tops take them out of contention for me, and make them much less wearable for my body type, however there are a few I have which might work more for casual costume use, vs. anything approaching recreation.

  • Black sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased
  • Black sheered (gathered) top with satin collar removed – purchased and altered
  • Purple sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased
  • Red sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased
  • Pinkish-purple sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased
  • Ivory lace sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased
  • Black lace sheered (gathered) top with satin collar – purchased

Corsets – most of the corsets I own are more art or fetish-related than “pretty” to be suitable for a Victorian or Steampunk costume, however the following might work.

  • Black cotton twill underbust corset with buckles, would work more for airship pirate/etc than for fancy dress. – made
  • Gold overbust silk corset with black soutache, is certainly the right cut and colour. – made
  • Purple and black brocade overbust, doesn’t fit as well as I would like. – made

Dresses – I think these dresses are most appropriate for the kind of costumes I have in mind, however they’re also the biggest investment for the least wearability.  That’s kind of a huge downside – on one hand they are difficult to alter if one part starts fitting worse, they require the most fabric and fitting expertise, and they also make the biggest impression- and thus can only be worn so often before becoming “tired”.  I’m a bit hesitant to make more at this point in time, especially considering how unsatisfied I am with my current body shape. Luckily, what I have thus far is minimal!

  • Silver taffeta gown – with pleated sleeve edges, black fringe. I made this to go with the blue skirt with black lace overlay.  Currently it doesn’t FIT the way it should, and I’ve got a blue and gold brocade false vest front in it instead to make it fit.  So disappointing – made.
  • Black PVC ballgown – obviously not appropriate for most wear – I can’t even really think of how to make it work, only that the cut is about right. – made


Cloaks, Capes, & Mantles

  • Long black cotton cape – made
  • Long black wool cape with mohair (etc) fulling – work in progress
  • Blue linen-like cape with hand-woven brown and navy wool collar – made
  • Brown/burgundy/navy cloak – made

Shrugs & Cardigans

  • Brown shrug –work in progress
  • Brown lace long sweater – made
  • Blue and ivory pinstripe shrug – work in progress


  • Black lace loose top – the one with the crystal dangles – made

Bustles & Aprons

  • Black unlined lace-trimmed bustle – made
  • Black unlined lace-trimmed apron – made
  • Purple and gold sari-fabric bustle – in progress


Hats – I have a number of hats, but not all of them go with all of my ideas for outfits.  Still, they certainly take an outfit from the mundane to the more interesting very quickly.

  • Black mini top hat with veil and sequins – made
  • Black mini top hat with veil – purchased
  • Black mini wellington hat with black and red flowers, ribbons, buttons and peacock feather – made
  • Vintage black velvet caul-style facinator with zig-zag detail, pearls, and veil – purchased
  • Vintage brown feather hat (1940’s) – gift
  • Vintage black top hat (full sized)  – purchased
  • Silver taffeta mini tricorn with keyhole- made
  • Green shot with brown taffeta mini tricorn with cogs/gears – made

Jewelry – like some of the accessories, jewelry seems to finish off an outfit nicely.  Lucky for me it’s small, easy to make, and generally affordable.

  • Tudor-meets-Victorian jet, garnet, black pearl and cameo rosary-style draped necklace – made
  • Pearls – so many different styles… – made and gifts
  • “Key” pin with charms (more EGL style though) – made
  • Pearl and silver heart pin – gift
  • Cameo – traditional style – purchased
  • Cameos – bat, octopus, skeleton, various colours – made
  • Vintage pill-ring – gift
  • Green shot with brown taffeta flower pin with veil – made
  • White, silver, black and pink silk hair flower pins (2 each) – purchased
  • Copper octopus necklace – made

Other accessories – things I just can’t seem to fit anywhere else

  • Black stretch ruffled cuffs with antiqued brass snaps – made
  • Black and white brocade spats with lace trim – made
  • White lace parasol – gift
  • Black velvet Victorian style reticule-type purse – made
  • White jaquard Victorian-style reticule-type purse – made
  • Ruffled black and white plaid bustle-like purse – made

Like the other post, I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this one as time goes by, and I remember things, or see their potential!

Steampunk sari bustle

I have been inspired a few times by the Multiculturalism for  Steampunk blog, along with the costumes from Dragonfly Designs by Alisa.   From that, I thought about making a steampunk costume using some purple and gold sari fabric that I picked up a few years ago.

Since I didn’t have a lot of the fabric, I thought that the most interesting (and versatile) item to make would be a detachable bustle.  I thought that it would go well as the shot of colour in an otherwise all-black ensemble (goodness knows I have enough of that!) but I also already have a purple velvet skirt it might work with, and a purple top as well that is in the same colour family so it might be somewhat versatile.  I also have a gold corset that I haven’t yet held the fabric up to that might work as well?  I love some of the looks of bustled skirts – but thought that THIS much purple with a fully bustled skirt might be just Too Much Purple…..

There really isn’t a pattern for this (there are plenty available of course, but I didn’t use one) so if you want to follow along and make your own – feel free!  Leave me a comment if you have any questions!

The first challenge of the fabric is to take advantage of the border print along both sides.  The width of the fabric isn’t wide enough for me to pleat up and use with the borders on each side, and the fabric has a cross-wise stripe, which I’d rather have running lengthwise instead.  Since I wanted to pleat up the waist a bit (but not a LOT) I measured the ‘waist’ to be twice what I wanted the finished width to be – which just happened to be perfect for the amount of fabric I had.  (Hurrah for good guessing when making purchases…)

The main body of the fabric cut apart and sewn back together again to form a large rectangle with a border at one edge.

So, to start out I cut the fabric in half, also removing strips to create the waistband.  Then I removed the borders from both sides of one panel of fabric, and off one end of the other.  The two panels (minus their borders) I sewed together, creating an almost-square fabric panel with one border at one end and a horizontal seam as in the photo above.  The three remaining border print strips of fabric I joined together to make a ruffle for the bottom of the bustle.

The rest of my materials - purple broadcloth for the lining, tulle for the interlining, and drapery notions for the drapes of the bustle.

Next up – the hunt for the lining.  My previous bustle had fallen a bit .. flat. It was nice, simple, but didn’t have the POOF I really wanted out of this one.  So, I knew that I wanted to interline it with tulle, which meant lining it with something so that the tulle wouldn’t catch on my skirt or stockings or whatever else I wanted to wear under the bustle.  I didn’t really want to go with a traditional lining fabric (too slippery) so instead I hunted down some purple broadcloth which is ~almost~ the same colour as the purple of the sari fabric.  While I was at the fabric store I also picked up some drapery notions – a tape that has rings already sewn on it (used for making roman blinds) and some drapery cord (also used for the blinds) although I might just use narrow twill tape for the final version like I did with my previous bustle.

I tore and seamed the lining to match the fashion fabric, and then came the tricky part… with renovations in the house, I don’t have a cutting table.  The floor was too low, the bed too soft and wide, an so I settled for doing the rest on the ironing board.  It really illustrated that I REALLY need a good cutting table to make the things I want to make effectively!

Sewing the ring tape down to the layers of fabric

First I laid out the fashion fabric, wrong side up, then the tulle, then the lining, and then finally the ring tape in five panels down the length of the bustle fabric.  I tried pinning, then basting, and then sewed the top and sides, and returned to pinning again.  This was a really frustrating part of the garment.  I ended up having to unpick things a few times because with all of the layers things shifted a lot.  I think that if I were to do this again, I’d make sure my cutting table was available, and perhaps baste the tulle onto the lining first.  I was glad at least that I didn’t plan to sandwich everything – that would have made the process even more difficult!  The tulle was also in three pieces which probably didn’t help.  (Having been rescued from a petticoat/tutu-esque garment that didn’t really work out…)

I thought a bit about how to put these layers together…. did I want to attach the rings to only the exterior and tulle fabrics – then line it so it would be clean and smooth on the inside?  I discounted this because I thought then the lining would bag if I didn’t secure it to the outer fabrics…. and it would make playing with the rings very, very difficult.  Still, perhaps if I had a good dressform to work things out on, and want to do a non-transformable one in the future – it would be nice not to ever see the tapes.  Of course, I could get super -fussy and cover the tape with matching fabric.. (yeah, not going to happen) or use just rings themselves and hand-stitch them on like I did with my black bustle (also not going to happen) but I think I’ll be happy with this result.  The nylon tape will also self-support some of the poofs as well… (Rather than the cotton tape that these rings also come on.)

The interior with all of the rows of ring tape sewn down.

So once that was all done (and mostly looked good… though there are definitely some flaws….) I hemmed and gathered up the long strip of border print, and first straight stitched it, and then serged it to the bustle at the hem.  Since the bustle has (nylon) tulle in it, it won’t respond well to being pressed, so I considered top-stitching the ruffle down, but think that for the time being I can leave it.  I can always go back and top-stitch it later.  To get a nice full ruffle, you should allow for 2.5-3 times the length of the fabric to be gathered.  I have a ruffle foot for my machine – but it’s hidden by our renovations, so I gathered it with a wide and long zig-zag.

The border-print ruffle added to the edge with the border print

Next I looked at the waist area – figured out how wide I wanted it and added in the back pleats.  I started out with fairly deep pleats, but then had to narrow them a bit.  I just start out with pinning them in place, and then once they were the width I wanted, I straight-stitched them to keep them in place.  I didn’t bother serging them down, since they’ll be inside the waistband.  I wanted the bustle to sort of wrap around my hips a bit, since I felt that my other bustle was a bit too small.  This ended up changing mind you as I proceeded.

Pleating at the waist

So next I could see how it was going.  I started by using thread to tie up some of the rings  on the underside of the bustle, and then when I kept tying them and untying them, I switched to using paper clips to arrange the way I was connecting rings.  Once the bustle is ready to go, I’ll switch those to ties.  I fussed around with the depth of the balloons (I can’t think of a better way to describe them…) and how they connected, and with the depth of the skirt itself.

I found that with different placement of the clips I could get different looks – for instance, with one method of clipping the rings, I got something similar to the Truly Victorian 1880’s Butterfly Detachable bustle, where as with other arrangements of the clips I got something more like Truly Victorian’s Bustled Apron Overskirt (without the apron part!)

I ended up wanting to make the bustle less wide than I had originally planned, and will have the sides tucked in, instead of flat against my  sides.  It was kind of hard to fuss with, without a waistband, but I think it will turn out nicely!

Using string to tie up the rings - these were replaced by paper clips after I fussed some more, and will be replaced by cord when the garment is complete and ready to wear.

So… since the renovations have hidden my interfacing, I’ll be putting this one on hold for the time being!  I think that the end result will look something like GraveRobberGirl’s Steamunk/Victorian bustle – (but longer) though I like the idea of being able to move the ties in the rings to different spots to create different effects.

One view of how the puffs will look - I adjusted more from here, fussing around with it, but it gives the idea of what the final version will look like.

Black velvet Victorian purse

So in the recent post “Elegant Steampunk – Victorian purse” I mentioned that I ended up making a second purse after the first one, because the first was so incredibly small.

Full completed purse

The most challenging thing about making my own (not from a kit) was finding the purse hardware.  I almost bought a ready-made change purse, just for the (incredibly plain) frame, before finding another frame in a craft store (in Abbotsford I think… but I don`t remember anymore).  This time bonus – it was silver-tone instead of gold-tone! Much nicer for my wardrobe!  Subsequently I`ve picked up a few other small purse frames as well,

I enlarged the original pattern, keeping the shape and size of the new purse frame in mind, and cut the fashion fabric for the purse out of black silk velvet.  The lining I cut out of silver taffeta.  The embellishment on the front of the purse is another printed portrait, then black chainette fringe, black rayon lace, and then topped off with deeply dyed (no more pastels!) rayon lace.  The top and bottom lace motifs were lace appliques, while the remainder were   just rayon lace trim by the meter, cut into appliques for the project due to the scale – not actually purchased as appliques.  I accented the lace with small dark beads – the kind that always remind me of an oil spill – the colours shift from green to black to purple.

The opening of the purse, along with some baubles I decorated it with.

The frame was a sew-on type, so after finishing the purse and the lining, I sewed the frame onto the purse, and then found very narrow black gimp braid (It`s hard to find the narrow version!) and glued it inside the frame to trim the raw edges. I attached a proper purse chain with hooks into the purse frame so the chain could be removable, and then added a gorgeous skeleton key on a chain to the strap as well – though it`s not fuctional, just pretty!

What do you think?  Do you like the black or ivory version better? Reply in the comments!

Close up of the portrait