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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Shadow and Bone - General Kirigan: Costume Analysis + Plans

After a few false starts, when I finally got around to properly watching Shadow and Bone, I was hooked. It's been a while since I enjoyed a new fantasy franchise/universe so much, and it pulled me in hard. The world-building is fascinating, so many of the characters are endlessly lovable (and acted beautifully), and all the visuals from the locations to costumes to cinematography are stunning. But there was a precise moment, a single shot, that sealed the deal.

"Oh. Oh no."

With just four or five shots in like two scenes, I was absolutely fixated on Kirigan in that first episode before even seeing his face or knowing anything about him, and that's some shockingly good storytelling. By his first proper appearance in the next episode, I knew I'd be making the costume.

It's going to be a very long-haul project, and I'm not putting any deadlines on it. Something about the story and aesthetic just resonates so much with me, that I'm really interested in doing it all-out in the most minute detail, and that's going to be a longterm commitment when I've got other big detailed costumes coming up that sort of do have deadlines. I've half joked that maybe I'll have it done in time for the third season premiere so I can still take advantage of fresh hype for the show when I debut it. But really I'm just going to pick away at it as regularly as I can, and hope that it comes together on a decent timeline without really enforcing one. For now, here's a piece-by-piece analysis and plan outline.

Kirigan's basic costume is three main pieces— an almost-knee-length tunic-style undershirt, a knee-length leather coat, and a calf-length kefta (the same type of uniform coat all the Grisha wear, though his is unique)—plus pants and boots. All three of the costume's layers show up clearly at least once in the show: the shirt when Kirigan broods over the state of the war in episode 4, the leather tunic at the fountain in episode 3 and in his room before the fete in episode 5, and of course the kefta throughout most of the show. Because of this, I initially thought I'd construct the costume from the inside out starting with the shirt. The shirt is the easiest piece, and I hoped that assembling everything in that order would feel like making real progress by completing a version of the costume at each stage. But after researching the details of each piece and thinking about my priorities, I adjusted that idea: I'll still more or less work from the inside out, but I'll make simpler versions of the shirt and coat rather than making them screen-accurate, so it's all more comfortable to wear with the kefta and lets me work on the kefta sooner, and then later I can go back and make a screen-accurate shirt and coat if I want them individually (more on all that brainstorming below). I think I'll also break down the build recaps into each completed stage, so each major layer will each have its own post.

The shirt:
Kirigan's shirt is a nearly-knee-length loose-fitting tunic. It has a band that serves as a low collar and runs around the whole front edge, with subtle closures and small areas of gathering. The three-quarter-length sleeves are very wide and set off the shoulder. The material has a visible horizontal woven texture.

I went through a lot of brainstorming and changed my mind over and over with how to tackle the shirt. It's really the most gratuitous pieces in the costume. It only barely peaks out from under the leather coat, just visible at the collar and lower front edge, and even then not too noticeably. So *technically* I don't need the shirt at all. At the very least, because it's so nondescript I could buy a premade shirt of some kind so *something* is visible just for the sake of being thorough.

Since I wanted something there but didn't plan to wear it on its own for a photoshoot or event, initially I was going to make a stylized version of the shirt: something that would show under the other layers in the right way but be slimmer to reduce bulk, and that I could wear in Real Life to justify making a costume piece that wasn't really necessary. I'd use linen to somewhat match the on-screen texture plus help with breathability. (For anyone curious, I was going to use Simplicity 9059 view A.)

But then I thought maybe I *did* want to use the shirt in a photoshoots, and using the original design was much simpler than redesigning my own anyway, so I planned to make it screen-accurate. McCall's 7525 was almost perfect, just needing a slight modification at the front for a center closure rather than crossing over the body.

I still planned to use linen, but after sourcing some cheap polyester dupioni (better texture match and cheaper) I went with that instead. I even started sewing the shirt, but halfway through I decided I hated the fabric (more on that in the eventual construction post) so rethought the whole thing once again.

Finally, the current plan is to fake the shirt in the full costume, and make a screen accurate shirt later. Realistically I need to cut down as much heat and bulk as possible, plus save time and money where I can, so I don't really mind faking the shirt for the sake of comfort and ease. The poly dupioni I have was too stiff for a whole shirt but has a great texture, so I can use that to make a fake collar, front edge, and hem, and tack those fabric pieces underneath leather coat. If I end up wanting a full shirt for a photoshoot down the road, I can do it as a separate project then, and look for (or save up for) better fabric in the meantime.

The leather coat:
Kirigan's second layer is a knee-length leather coat. It has a waist seam, princess seams on the front and back, a center back seam, no side seams on the skirt panel, offset shoulder seams, a double vented back, and hidden closures down the center front covered by weathered silver clasps featuring Kirigan's eclipse insignia. The collar, cuffs, and center front panels have a textured contrast material that extends around the upper back, and the collar is lined with a red taffeta or satin. The leather has minimal shine and grain.

While the kefta is the most elaborate and will be the most time consuming, the leather coat which seems so much simpler will actually be the most difficult construction. Like the shirt, I initially planned to do the coat screen-accurate for photoshoot opportunities. But for convenience (both in making it and wearing it), I might partially fake it: do a sleeveless version with a simplified back to wear with the kefta (no sleeves will be far more comfortable, and the back will never show), and do a screen-accurate version to wear on its own. This does ultimately add more time and cost to the project, but it's a trade-off I don't mind. The whole costume really needs to be as wearable as possible, so cutting down on layers and increasing comfort now are well worth spending more time/money on a duplicate down the road (if I even decide I want the duplicate later). The kefta is my favorite part, and the leather coat is nice but kind of a piece to make just on principle, so I'll do the altered version first to finish the costume sooner, and do the real one later. Depending on the version, the pattern will be McCall's 7848 view C and/or McCall's 8134 view A, both modified.

For the altered version, 7848 will be used for pretty much everything. I'll scrap the sleeves, and maybe remove the skirt side seams for a little more accuracy just in case they ever show with the kefta moving around. But otherwise any places where I'd make more changes will be hidden under the kefta so I won't worry about it. For the screen-accurate version, 7848 will be used for the collar, bodice front, skirt front, and skirt back. The bodice front is pretty much perfect as-is. On the skirt I'll remove the side seams, add a center back seam, replace the side back seams with the ones from 8134, and add vents. 8134 will be used for the sleeve and bodice back. I'll move the shoulder seam, add the contrast panel across the shoulders by extending the 7848 bodice front seams, remove the outermost side back seams, and crop it at the waist to match 7848. I'm hoping that being the same company, there won't be too much trouble merging the patterns at the shoulder and side seams.

For fabric, I'm looking at a number of pleathers. It's been difficult so far to find a pleather that's not too heavy/stiff, doesn't have too much shine or too much grain/texture, and is vaguely affordable. Gauze is my best option right now for the contrast, but I might also look at thin wale corduroy or canvas. The lining will probably be a lightweight satin. Amazonian Cosplay makes some beautiful clasps (both a 3D file and finished prints) for the leather coat, so I'll buy a printed set from her (but might paint them myself).

The kefta:
Let's be honest. The other pieces are cool, but this is what it's all for. Kirigan's kefta is calf-length, with long sleeves, a standing collar, and open front, hanging slightly away from the body. It has a waist seam with princess seams above the waist in front, and possibly some darts running down from the princess seams below the waist. In back, there's a center back seam. The black fabric has a low pile and slight sheen, and a custom thorny vine pattern in white.  And ohhh, all that black and silver goldwork embroidery along the center front, collar, sleeves, hem, and center back.

The pattern will be Simplicity 8974 view A.

This is almost perfect as-is. Probably all I'll do is shorten the hem and cut down the center front so the edges don't meet.

My top fabric choices right now are faux microsuede and low pile velvet/velveteen. I looked at some jacquards and brocades with a woven crackle design and some quilting cottons with a printed design, but all of them were too expensive or not available in black or not close enough. So I'll pick whichever fabric has the best drape and surface texture and stencil the crackle/vine design on with fabric paint. Like the leather coat, the lining will be some kind of satin-y material, and I'll probably use the same fabric wrong-side-out for the trim.

The goldwork embroidery is the most interesting and challenging aspect to the kefta. There are much better introductions to goldwork elsewhere online than I could provide (I constantly reference Amazonian Cosplay's kefta guide and her guide to goldwork video), but it's basically a form of embroidery using metal "bullion" wire. The type of goldwork on the keftas specifically uses very thin hollow metal tubing cut into specific lengths and sewn down like beads, with padding (felt or gathered thread) underneath for a denser more 3D effect. Doing goldwork on a separate fabric like organdy and turning each piece into an applique to be sewn to the garment individually is supposed to be more secure (the embroidery stitches themselves aren't connected to the garment, so don't get strained as the garment moves), but takes more time (doing all the embroidery in the first place and then cutting out and sewing each applique on, rather than the single step of embroidering directly on the garment). And I've read from people who know much more about goldwork than I do that in the show the goldwork is embroidered directly onto the keftas and in certain scenes you can actually see some of the stitching break due to wear.

Thankfully there are a lot of people making keftas right now, and quite a few using goldwork, so I've had lots of methods to reference. Some people with prior goldwork experience (who therefore know what they're getting into) are doing goldwork on visible areas like the chest for higher visual payoff, and then using machine embroidery on less visible areas like the sleeve and hem for speed and (in their words) to save their sanity. Some of them are even making keftas with less embroidery to begin with, reducing the amount of goldwork needed even further. Crazy though it may be, I've already decided I'm obsessed and stubborn enough that I want to do all my embroidery in goldwork, so the machine embroidery is largely irrelevant to me. I've seen people do solid goldwork for more complex keftas like Alina's, which of any of the designs is closest in embroidery density to Kirigan's, so I know I'm not entirely crazy for considering it. Of others doing goldwork, I've also seen some people make a few large parts of the design as separate appliques for stability and embroider the surrounding smaller areas directly on the kefta for speed. This seems to be most practical on keftas like Genya's, where a whole chest panel is one large design made up of separate, distinct shapes which can more easily be separated into different sections created with different techniques. Kirigan's design, on the other hand, repeats many times down the front, and each repeated motif is small and dense and intertwined, so it makes more sense to keep each motif together as a single piece.

After thinking about the trade-offs of each approach, I decided I'll be embroidering each distinct chunk of Kirigan's design separately on organdy and then handstitching those appliques to the kefta. This works better for me for a lot of reasons. I can make adjustments easily, just by moving around a bunch of finished appliques and seeing where I want them to sit, rather than committing to placement each time I start a new section of direct embroidery. I'll be using small pieces of fabric in the embroidery hoop, easier than having to handle entire kefta panels. I don't have a lot of experience with embroidery and none at all with goldwork, so if I make a mistake or don't like how a section of embroidery turns out, it's a lot less stress and hassle to fix or just simply remake a separate applique than to have to rip everything off the kefta. And this is a project I'll probably never want to remake or do much repair to, so the more secure the embroidery is the better.

The pants:
Despite going all out on certain parts of the costume, I'm actually not making pants specifically for this. There's already so much to do, of any of the pieces the pants are the most generic and least noticeable, and the whole costume is probably going to be somewhat uncomfortable, so I want to give myself a break where I can. Black athletic leggings are going to be a lifesaver here: plain, stretchy, breathable, and lots of pockets. Problem solved.

Most of the costume detail is directly in the fabrics and embellishments, but there are some key separate accessory pieces. On his right little finger he wears a silver claw-like ring with a black rhinestone. It's seen most prominently when he tests Alina's Grisha abilities in episode 2.

There are decent mass-produced replicas floating around on the internet.

He also wears black riding boots and silver spurs. The boots are low-heeled, knee-high with an asymmetrical top edge, and have a hidden(ish) back zipper with a long double cord on the zipper pull. The spurs have rondelles and black leather straps with silver buckles. The spurs are only clearly visible in that single close-up in episode 1, so almost any low-profile dressage/English-style spur or even a strip of aluminum (or even something painted silver!) would do. Much like the shirt, it could even be left off. But simple spurs are cheap enough that I could justify getting a pair, and being obsessed with that one single shot and wanting to replicate it in a photoshoot, I wanted to get the right style.

By now I actually already have the boots and spurs. I didn't intend to start buying pieces at the time I was doing this research, but I do like tracking down materials as soon as I start a project. I found boots that were incredibly perfect and I got a great deal, so I couldn't pass them up. After that I wanted to accessorize them, so I went ahead and got a pair of English spurs and black leather straps. More on that in the first construction post.

For now this is the plan. As it already has, it'll probably keep changing and evolving as I start really making it. Thinking about it right this moment, I kind of want to scrap my "work from the inside out" plan and make the kefta first since that (plus maybe the boots/spurs) is my absolute favorite part of the costume. But then if I have the kefta done, will I be able to keep up any energy and momentum to make the leather coat? Do I need to save the kefta for last to keep myself motivated? We'll see what happens!

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 7, 2022

2021 Recap + 2022 Plans


2021 was another bad year in a growing line of bad years. In a lot of ways, it was worse than 2020. I wasn't sure I was going to do a costume recap, since I did pick at a lot of things and even finished a few but didn't keep track of progress much. But I figured even without much to really *show* I still wanted to just jot down some of the stuff that got worked on.

January was pretty much a month-long mental breakdown so I bought a Heart of the Ocean replica, as one does. It's mostly meant to be a prop for display and "just because," so I don't know how much costuming use it'll get, but it's technically a costuming accessory so it goes on the list (and wouldn't it look lovely with an over-the-top late Victorian evening gown?).

Falling headlong into that was directly linked to my brain deciding I should be hyperfixated on the RMS Titanic and all things related like I was 7 years old again, so I decided the hellscape of early 2021 was the perfect time to start Rose's boarding suit. But to still go easy on myself, I decided to start with just the accessories: mostly pieces that could be customized or used as-is, with just a little scratch building. Over the winter, spring, and summer I picked away at the accessories and got the earrings, tie pin, hat pin, digital file for the hat ribbon, and some hat experimenting done. I also got base shoes for modification and fabric swatches to go along with it. (Still don't have any photos of these things, so hopefully I can get a post about some of that stuff done soon.)

Throughout the spring I was also working on Agnes/Agatha Harkness from WandaVision. Her 1990s tracksuit was a great easy project to kind of whet my need to costume without being overwhelming.

I loved the project and the result, and was really pleased with testing out some new techniques, but I wasn't totally happy with the weird fit of the premade tracksuit. So I'm thinking about making a new one from scratch. Might end up being another fun light project for 2022.

I also finally started on Evie's library/prison costume from The Mummy. I already had a pattern and fabric for the skirt from the year before, and then bought a shirt, earrings, belt, and shoes, and started modifying the shoes. I think I need to replace the skirt fabric with a khaki that's more tan and less pink-y, and at that point I might look at different fabric types too.

In October, I did a project on Instagram where each day on the week leading up to Halloween I posted a sort of closet cosplay of some character. I wasn't at home with my whole costume collection so that made things more challenging, but also more in the spirit of doing makeshift ensembles. I managed to put together a library Evie Carnahan (The Mummy), Janet Snakehole (Parks and Recreation), Morticia Addams (live-action The Addams Family), 1950s Agnes/Agatha Harkness (WandaVision),  Constance Hatchaway (The Haunted Mansion ride), and Mother Ghost (Crimson Peak).

So the 2021 breakdown (heh) was:

  • The Mummy: Evie library ensemble (earrings, shirt, shoes)
  • Titanic: gratuitous Heart of the Ocean, Rose boarding suit accessories (earrings, tie pin, hatpin)
  • WandaVision: 1990s Agatha tracksuit
  • various closet cosplays

At this point I'm making almost no definite plans and just continuing to pick away at things and see what happens. But there is something of a list to go along with that:

  • French Revolution Zombaes: continue weathering dresses, play with new makeup
  • Hocus Pocus: continue spellbook 2.0, upgrades for Ice (new pants, new jacket for events), Mary upgrades, start Billy and Winifred
  • Indiana Jones: continue Grail Diary pages, Indy pants, Jock shirt, Marian Nepal bar shirt, Elsa desert undershirt
  • Kingsman: start Agent Tequila
  • Letterkenny: start Wayne
  • The Mummy: continue Evie library ensemble (shoes modifications, scarf, new skirt fabric, skirt mockup)
  • Shadow and Bone: continue Kirigan research and fabric swatches
  • Titanic: finish Rose boarding suit accessories (hat, gloves, shoes)
  • WandaVision: new fabric for 1950s Agatha dress, research on other Agatha costumes
Stay tuned!