Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the Grey Lady

When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone came out way back in 2001, I fell in love.  In a few brief scenes, you can see the ghost of the Grey Lady in an amazing Cranach-style 16th c. gown. This costume instantly found a home on my costume "bucket list", and although it's been 13 years since I first starting daydreaming about it, the stars all finally aligned and the dress is now a reality!  It all started when our family took a trip to the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios earlier this month, which has gotten all of us in a Harry Potter frenzy again.  Then I stumbled across some amazing new photos of the actual Grey Lady dress while looking for quiddich robe pics for my boy on Costumer's Guide.  (thank-you, Maggie, and everybody else who shard their photos of that dress!)  Then I found a bunch of old fabric while cleaning the garage that I forgot that I had, and I realized that I could make almost the entire dress with stash fabric.  The icing on the cake was that our local guild was having a "By the Book" themed party at our Costumer's Lost Weekend this past Saturday, and I didn't have anything to wear to that event.  So even though I only had one week to make it, I decided that making the Grey Lady dress was fate and it NEEDED to happen right now.  lol!  

Luckily, it all went together pretty easily, and was such an enjoyable and fast project.  I used several of my old 16th c. patterns for the basic bodice, sleeves, and partlet.  It was fairly easy to alter the bodice to create a German-style look - I just cut a wide opening for the front that is closed with hidden lacing strips, then I attached a bustband and a stomach placket to one side and hooked it closed on the other side. Although the paned sleeves took more time and trial and error than the rest of of the dress, I found some helpful articles like this one from The German Renaissance of Genoveva that were very helpful for grasping the gist of the construction.  The skirt is made of 3 rectangular panels with the guards applied on top of the foundation fabric. It has a 150" hem and is just pleated with simple knife pleats. 

For the fabrics, I used a fairly thick wool for the foundation layer of the gown since I though it needed something springy and slightly heavy to make the panes and skirt drape correctly.  I covered this foundation fabric with cotton crinkle voile since that seemed to match the texture of the original dress quite well.  I dyed the voile, the embroidered fabric for the bustband and cuffs (which was recycled from the hem of a comforter), the sheer stripe for the partlet, and some while sateen for the stomacher with a mixture of denim blue and taupe Rit dye to give it all a pale blue-grey color.  The guards on the movie dress are lighter, shimmery, and have amazing designs painted on them, but I found some gold and blue synthetic brocade in my stash that got me close enough to the right look.  I did consider trying to paint my own guards, but I finally decided that although I'm crazy, I'm not THAT crazy!  I also saved some time and money by using the gold reverse side of the brocade to make my own piping for the guards instead of edging everything with cord.  The only fabric that I had to buy for the dress was a little bit of grey satin for the lining of the sleeve poofs and the cuffs.  I found a silk satin shirt at Goodwill for $3 that was the perfect shade of blue-grey, so once again, fate seemed to have a hand in the making of this dress. 

The movie costume has a good bit of distressing on it, so I wanted to give my dress a similar raggedy look.  I sewed narrow strips of ripped fabric to the hem and down each pane on the sleeves, and then I hot glued scraps of fraying fabric all over the voile sections of the dress.  To make these scraps, I cut out a bunch of small pieces of the voile and then washed them to make the edges fray.  It looks a bit hokey on close inspection, but I think from a distance and in photographs it does give it ghostly look.

To finish off the look, I bought a cheap vampire make-up kit and used some white foundation along with black, blue, and red shadows around my cheekbones, eyes, and temples to give me more of a ghostly pallor.   I also restyled a cheap ponytail clip hairpiece by removing the claw clip to make it lie flat, then I brushed out all of the crunchy curls and formed them into better ringlets.  I just clipped this hairpiece over my hair in the back, then pinned my own hair over the top of the hairpiece.  Some white hairspray helped blend it all together and make it look somewhat grey.  

In the Harry Potter movie and promotional photos, the Grey Lady is often shown reading a book or sitting in a classroom, which is one of the reasons why I love her so much.  I had a lot of fun posing for pictures with one of my old bound copies of Peterson's Magazine.  Special thanks to Beth and several other photographers from this weekend who were patient with me while I tried to get some good shots to use for this blog post.   I also tried making my own ghostly photo using one of my pics from the Hogwarts castle at Universal Studios.  I wish I had known that I was going to make this costume at the time because I would have loved to have taken more authentic background photos to use for photoshopping.   But one is better than nothing I guess.  :)  Most of the pics are posted here, but there are 2 or 3 additional photos on my flickr album for this dress if you'd like to see those too.