Dragonstone Landing Part 2

This is the second part of my blog about recreating Daenerys’ Dragonstone Landing dress from Season 7 of Game of Thrones. Click here to read Part 1.

Where we left off, I had just reached the part of this build that I was most looking forward to: the embroidery. There are two major sections of embroidery one this costume: the shoulders of the dress, and the shoulders of the cape. Both form vague, stylized dragon-shapes that wrap from front to back, and there are a lot of elements that evoke dragon skin, scales, wings, or tails.

My first step was to get the basic shape I would need for the dress embroidery piece. The major embroidery isn’t done directly on the garment, but embroidered on organza in a hoop, then appliquéd on with a bit more embroidery done around the edges to mask the join.

I used a piece of scrap linen to trace out were the embroidery needed to go. The dragon head sits on the bodice front, while the rest of the design falls on the sleeve-capes. The line of pins below marks where an area of smocking will sit below the embroidery.

This gave me a pattern that I could transfer onto the charcoal grey silk organza that forms the base of the embroidery.

I used a silver sharpie to sketch in a rough idea of where the major design elements needed to go, and started layering the bottom portion with crumpled and pleated fabrics. Almost none of this shows in the final design, it’s just there to add some texture behind the sequined dragon wings that will come later.

I added another element of texture to this portion with a bit of wool roving, and a few rows of black, grey, and silver backstitching.

After deciding that the grey lockstitch would look very dull against the plain organza, I added a layer of linen and wool over that portion as well before doing the lockstitch.

The large chunk of lockstitch got broken up with sinuous lines of long stitches in light and dark grey wool.

A dragon head rests on the front of each shoulder, outlined in couched silver cord and filled with a web of the same.

I gradually layered more of the grey yarns, the silver cord, and sequins. The sequins are the same ones that were used in the show. They were purchased from Top Fabrics of Soho.

Layers of sequins fill the top portion, where they will stick up along the shoulder of the gown like the spikes on a dragon’s neck and back.

The raw edges at the bottom edge are ok, because they will get covered by a lay of chainmail-like Italian Mesh Ribbon. Mine came from Specialty Beads on Etsy. They seemed to have the best selection I could find on the internet. Italian mesh is used as embellishment on quite a few Game of Thrones costumes.

Believe it or not, this is only the base stage of these embroidered shoulders! The next step is a 3-d element. Each side has three pieces evocative of dragon wings that flare out along the upper arm. I made these from buckram covered first in a layer of the grey organza, then a layer of Italian mesh, and finally with rows of sequins. I did not actually attach the wing pieces at this point, because I wanted to be able to see them placed on the curve of the sleeve before I sewed them in place.

It’s funny going through the pictures again, when I can’t remember why I did things in a certain order. Clearly, at this point, I started working on the cape, but I’m not sure why I didn’t attach the embroideries first! Anyway, that’s what I did!

I had to do a lot of fiddling with layout in order to get the undersleeves and the cape cut out from the fabric I had left, but I managed it!

In order to get the desired fullness in the cape, while keeping it flat along the back of the shoulders, there are two pleats at the back of each shoulder. I think that the original costume only had one (though it’s hard to tell in the one blurry back view available), but I liked the fullness I got from two, and the way it evoked an 18th century robe à la Française.

Like the dress edges, the pleats were topstitched in place with metallic thread.

The structure of the shoulders comes from Pellon Flex-Foam interfacing. I had to play around quite a bit before I got a scale of shoulders that I was happy with–the original pattern I draped turned out comically large once it was made in foam!

The cape is constructed over them the same way as the dress–corduroy outer and linen lining prick-stitched together at the edges with metallic thread.

The large embroideries on the shoulders of the dress and cape are not the only pieces that need to be made! There are also smaller embroidered scales–one at the closure of the cape, and one on each sleeve.

I sketched a little pattern on a scrap of buckram, and used that to test the size and shape, then transferred the pattern to some more organza. The shapes are outlined with couched silver cord, filled in with herringbone stitch in cotton floss and augmented with silver bugle beads and red seed beads.

I braided together several lengths of grey crochet cotton to make the ties that hold the back of the dress. This is one of those little steps I had been putting off for no particular reason, but at this point I wanted the dress to be supporting itself a little more accurately on the dress form.

Before attaching the dress embroideries, I added some red accents to them. This was done between the dress’s first wearing in season 6 and its second appearance in season 7.

Here, the embroideries have been attached, with a section of smocking pinned below. It looks like a bit of a mess around the edges here, but you’ll soon see how that gets blended in!

The edges of the smocking are masked and blended in with lockstitch in black silk and metallic thread.

The dragon wings are placed along the center of the embellishment. I stitched them on only at the corners, so that they maintain their dimension.

Here you can see that the back corner is blended in with rows of long stitches in silver cord, additional sequins, and grey lockstitch.

Finally, the tops of the sequins around the shoulders are strung together and wrapped with more silk thread.

Here is the finished dress embroidery.

I made the sleeves as separate pieces that were attached to the finished dress, because they were only added to this costume for the second wearing on the show. They are quite a simple straight sleeve, but with an added seam at the front of the arm, which is embellished with feather stitch, which spread out to become a triangle of fly and feather stitch at the wrist.

The base of each of these embellished seams gets one of the embroidered scales I made earlier, which is incorporated into the design with grey herringbone stitch and a line of alternating silver bugle and red seed beads.

Instead of being left raw, the sleeves are finished at the top, and whipstitched into the armscye.

At this point the dress is finished! Now, back to the cape.

I marked out the embroidery design on the cape with pins, then sketched it out on organza once again and put it in the hoop.

This one starts with some of the Italian mesh ribbon along the shoulder.

Like on the dress, there is a dragon head sitting at the front of each shoulder, done in silver cord and metal thread.

The base of this design is made from braided and twisted wool yarn, picked out with silver cord, which defines areas of the design that will be filled with other textures, and fans out at the back to become three dragon tails.

I used a kind of modified fly stitch in grey crochet cotton to create the shapes of scales along the ends of the dragon tails, then filled them in with wool yarn and created a spine to connect parts of the tail with yarn and silver cord.

I accented the bottom two tails with red–heavier on the bottom and lighter on the middle tail.

The ‘body’ of the stylized dragon is filled in with lockstitch. I did this portion in grey silk thread.

Layers of sequins form a ridge from the back of the dragon’s head all the way down its back. The sequins divide into two lines and break up the large lockstitch section, and they also form a fringe along some of the braids.

The base of the sequins are stitched over with thread and silver cord, and surrounded by a sea of red beads like smoldering embers. I used a combination of size 9/0 and 11/0 3-cut seed beads in two different shades of red. The 3-cut beads have a gem-like appearance compared to standard round seed beads.

Following the advice on Michele Carragher’s (the GoT embroiderer) website, I painted the backs of the embroideries with glue to help hold the stitches fast. I did this on the dress embroideries as well, but must not have taken photos at that point. I used watered down fabric glue.

Before attaching the cape embroideries, I built up a little area of fly stitch for them to sit in, and attached an embroidered scale over the cape closure.

Here are the cape embroideries pinned in place:

I clipped and turned the edges of the organza under as I stitched the pieces in place.

The backs of the pieces are left as-is, but the front gets a bit of additional blending in the form of beads. There is also a row of red yarn and beads that masks the shoulder edge.

And that’s the cape and dress finished! But, there was still more to do…

I made the wig as part of my job at Custom Wig Company.

I made the boots by dying down a pair of my own boots, and making covers to go over the tops and make them taller. The covers are made of faux suede backed with heavy interfacing to give them structure.

I made two of Dany’s pieces of jewelry as well: her iron ring, and her three-headed dragon hair-stick. Sculpting does not normally form a part of my costuming, so this was an adventure! They are made out of Sculpey, and pained with acrylic paint. I know there are lots of other, probably better options, but I was in a hurry and wanted to work with things I was familiar with and could acquire easily. This was the part of this costume I was most nervous about, and I’m actually really happy with how they turned out!

I pictured the iron ring next to my actual wrought-iron dress clasp because I was pleased with how similar the color I painted turned out! The clasp was made by a blacksmith I know–I thought about making it, but I was not confident of being able to make something strong enough to bear the amount of weight it needs to. It’s not perfectly screen accurate, but for something he threw together after I ran up to him at a re-enactment with nothing but a sketch, I’m really happy with it. It makes me feel pretty bad-ass.

I did watch a tutorial about making this piece on YouTube, and then I used some of the things they did, and went in my own direction for some parts.

And there we have it! I only have some behind-the-scenes images from a photoshoot so far, but keep an eye out for the finished photos coming soon! I will put them in a separate post and link them here.

Dragonstone Landing Part 1

It’s been a wild five months, y’all. In January, I embarked on what I thought would be a 2-3 month project, and here at the beginning of June, I’m still putting the finishing touches in place. It’s been a long, inspiring, frustrating, and all-consuming project. It has pushed two months worth of other projects back, and has been the reason you haven’t heard from me here in more than three months.

But, the other day I put on the completed pieces. I’m still working out the details: jewelry, and wig, but the main part of the costume is done. I’ll be honest with you all, I was terrified when I put this costume on. I hadn’t actually tried it on for several months, not since I started working on the major embroidery. I had never tried it with the sleeves, I wasn’t sure how much things would weigh, and how that weight might affect the way the dress hung. I was afraid the whole thing might fall off my shoulders and be a disaster that I had to waste another several months fixing. Honestly, if that had been the case, I might have just thrown out the last five months and tried to forget that I ever attempted Daenerys Targaryen’s Dragonstone Landing dress from the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 7.

Luckily for my sanity, it wasn’t a disaster. Much to my delight (and somewhat to my surprise), I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so proud looking at myself in a costume. Even with no wig on (not to mention no pants, since I was just testing the fit of the dress and cape) I felt so. utterly. badass.

I’m not going to show you the finished product on me just yet–hopefully it will be photographed soon in all it’s glory by someone with more skill and a much better camera than my iPhone 7. But, here is the beginning of my saga of making a replica of this incredible costume, originally designed by Michele Clapton, and embroidered by Michele Carragher.

Hi-res images from FarFarAwaySite.

I have been wanting to make another Daenerys dress for quite a while now (you can see my first one here), and as soon as the promo images from Season 7 started to appear, I knew that this was the one. I loved, the structure, the cape (those shoulders! This was the first of Dany’s costumes to feature this silhouette, which she rocked through the final two seasons), and I especially loved the idea of attempting to replicate some of Michele Carragher’s embroidery.

But, before I could think about that, I had to think about understructure. Looking at the above photos, you can see that her torso is very smooth and stiff looking–the fabric fits closely with no bunching at the waist. You just don’t get lines like that without a corseted body and boned bodice. In this case, we also know from interviews that Emilia Clarke did wear a corset under her costumes. Because the waist is smoothed out, but the bust still has a natural roundness, I went with an underbust corset. I used Laughing Moon #113 to get the silhouette I wanted. (Now that I have this Late 19th century underbust corset lying around, I’m feeling the urge to add an 1890s riding habit or bicycling outfit to my wardrobe!) I’ll just go over the corset quickly before I get to the good stuff.

I made a very quick mockup of the corset out of heavy linen. This was mostly to check the length, since I have a very short torso, and have to shorten most commercial patterns. I wasn’t looking for a ton of waist reduction with this corset–I’m wearing it more for structure than anything else.

This corset is made with a single layer of coutil, no lining. The first step of the actual construction is to put a facing at each center back, which gives a nice double-layer to put the eyelets through.

The center fronts also get a facing, both for strength, and to give you somewhere to put the busk. In the left hand photo, the breaks in the seam that holds the facing to the front are where the loops of the busk will stick out. The posts of the busk come out through holes in the front made with an awl. Once the busk is in place, with the posts and loops through their holes, you stitch along the edge of the busk to hold it in place.

The next bit is simple: all the pieces get sewn together.
A piece of twill tape at the waistline helps to strengthen the corset at its highest stress point.

Pieces of bone casing get placed, first covering each of the seam allowances.

And then through the center of each piece.
Bones go in.

The top and bottom are bound with bias tape.

And voilà! I padded out my dressform to match my shape in the corset as closely as possible.

Well, that’s the understructure out of the way, now on to the main event. With my dressform padded out, I was able to start draping my pattern.

Working on the front.

The back has a particularly interesting shape. The black tape helps me lay out the seamlines before I start working with fabric.

The cape!

I am am always way too focused to remember to take photos during fittings, but rest assured that I did sew this up into a mockup, try it on, and make lots of adjustments (I think that’s the third iteration of the bodice front you see there, and I actually ended up altering it to have a princess seam instead of darts after this photo was taken) before I went ahead and did this:

Turns out I had JUST enough fabric. I spent a long time figuring out a layout that would get everything I needed on the right grain-line!
In order to stiffen the neckline, I catch-stitched a piece of buckram interfacing along the center front and neck edge.
And then sewed the front into a single piece.

I did the first round of bodice embellishment while the front was still in two halves. This started with making a section of smocking to look like dragon scales. Mine is done in silk habotai. Michele Carragher (the embroiderer from the show), has a useful tutorial on how to do this.

Here is a little video of the smocking process:

When the pieces were finished and pressed, I stitched them to the sides of the bodice.

The rest of the fronts are filled in with variations on fly stitch and feather stitch in grey and black silk thread.

This costume is particularly interesting in that it was actually used twice in the show. The dress was originally created for the finale of Season 6, and the cape, long undersleeves, and some details of the embroidery were added for the first episode of Season 7.

The red fly and feather stitch along the neckline and center front was one of the additions for the later appearance.

At this point, I decided that my grey thread was too light, so markers to the rescue!

The next stitch was an interesting one to undertake. There is hardly any information about lock stitch online at all. I had to base my entire process on observing the finished stitch, and seeing what other cosplayers had done. The key to the lock stitch in this costume is to make it irregular and organic, so that it gives the effect of reptilian skin.

The stitch is formed by wrapping thread in alternating directions around long stitches. In this case I worked the stitch in two different threads: black silk, and a silver and black metallic.

With that preliminary embellishment done, I went ahead and put the dress together. It is grey corduroy lined with grey linen. The construction itself is not the most exciting, but the edge finishing is a nice little detail. The edges of the fabric and lining are turned under, and finished with prick stitching in metallic thread. There is also a row of metallic prick stitching where the skirt front attaches to the bodice. I love it when costumes incorporate period handsewing techniques that are rarely used in modern sewing!

Adding the side backs:

Constructing the back:

I made the sleeve drapes separately, and stitched them to the dress afterwards. They will tie at the center back.

Here I am trying on the dress before finishing the edges and attaching the sleeve drapes.

At this point, it was time to finish the remaining edges. They are all prick stitched together with metallic thread.

The sleeve drapes are stitched to the dress along the top of the shoulder, and left to hang free in the back, where they will be tied together. These ties are what will bear a lot of the weight of the major embroidery later.

And with that, the dress is made and ready for the major embroidery!

I’m going to stop here, because this next bit definitely deserves its very own post, but here’s a sneak peek of what will be happening in the next installment! You can now read Part 2 here!

Meredith as Margaery: Complete

Finally, I’m back to tell you that the journey we started in this post was completed *just* in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con a few weekends ago. Meredith and I were working on it until all hours the week leading up to the Con, and we succeeded!

The original gown, designed for Game of Thrones by Michele Clapton.

When we last left off, the pattern was made (by both draping and drafting), and the mockup fitted, but there was, as yet, no gown! We quickly remedied that. To save time, I put together the bodice and bodice lining, Hannah W. put together the skirt and skirt lining, then we put them together on a big Saturday sewing day.

In order to get the kind of weighty drape that this dress needs, we did both the dress and the lining out of cotton sateen, which makes it very heavy. Here are Hannah W. and Meredith holding everything steady while I sew the lining to the fabric.

Despite the weight, we did get it all put together that afternoon:


In addition to putting the dress together, we also got the hem and the armhole edges pinned in place and ready for stitching that day.


I did the stitching in the evening:


Meredith and I had hoped to get a lot of the embellishment done the next Saturday, but we were hampered by having miscalculated how much cord/vines we would need. The vines are made of silver vinyl cord, which we dry-brushed with black acrylic paint to give them a bit of tarnish.


Meredith also got a pile of roses made and put onto the train. We dyed a few handfuls of the roses in diluted black ink to get the color variation.



On our next big work day, we started to give the fabric a bit of it’s fuzzy texture with wire brushes. We were able to make it a bit fuzzier, but had to move on to other, more noticeable things if it was going to be wearable in time!


Meredith went back to train embellishment, and I put on the rest of the cord before moving on to the clumps of roses and leaves on the front waist.

Here’s the front of the original gown.

I started with the roses, which are different from the ones on the train because they need to lay flat and be seen from the front, rather than from the side. The roses on the train are made by coiling up strips of fabric to form a spiral. To make the ones for the front, I had to fold the strip as I went to create a more complex rose shape.


I used some velvety millinery leaves, cut down to the right size and shape to make the rest of the piece.



The cords at the bottom haven’t been dry-brushed with the black yet. You can see what a difference it makes.

In the meantime, we discovered that all those flowers make the train so stiff that it can stand up on its own.

With the bulk of the flowers on the train, Meredith was able to turn her attention to the cascade of vines and smaller roses that flows down the back of the skirt.


And I began preparing the dozens of little felt leaves that, along with thorns and more small flowers, will adorn the bodice.

Here are the first few bits of vine with their leaves and thorns. I ended up removing one thorn from each and re-spacing them since they seemed very squished together. Natalie Dormer, who plays Margaery, is a few inches taller than Meredith, and I decided it was more important to preserve the proportions than the have the exact number of thorns.

Making progress!

Here is the bodice front with its full complement of felt leaves, millinery leaves, small thorns, large thorns, fabric roses and teeny felt flowers with bead centers. It wasn’t until the next night that I thinned out the thorns.

We called it quits for the night at this point, and started again the next day. My first task that day was to make the large flower that hangs where all the dangling vines in front converge. It is made of a combination of felt, beads, and scraps of the millinery leaves that had been cut apart.



With it in place, I could embellish the rest of the hanging vines around it. Their decoration includes large thorns, felt leaves and small silver, gold, and green glass beads.


The train just needs some felt leaves and vines running through it.

After all the practice, I made short work of adding small thorns, large thorns, beads, and more leaves to the back of the dress.


Painting the embellishment was the final big step. We did this for two reasons: some things, like the large thorns and the millinery leaves, needed to get toned to match the color palette of the rest of the dress. Others, like the felt leaves, we painted to have more detail and depth.



We did get it done just in time! I actually didn’t even have a chance to take the final photos until after Lexington Comic and Toy Con, so I apologize if there are a few wrinkles!


All told, I think we did four really big days on the embellishment, watched six Harry Potter movies, Tangled, Hogfather, How to Train Your Dragon, Waitress, and The Princess Bride. The dress, true to the spirit of Game of Thrones, has both blood and red wine stains hiding under all the flowers.

I’ll be back next week with new historical pretties!


Edit: Here are the stunning photos taken at our Game of Thrones shoot with Ben Marcum Photography. He is the most amazing. Wig by Custom Wig Company.


Mother of Dragons

The project I was hoping to have done a month ago is finished! Daenerys’ Qartheen dress is officially ready for the runway.

Last week, I described the process of making the belt and shoulder pieces out of brass sheets. You can read all about that here.

This is the original dress from the show.

This dress is an interesting one to recreate. The shape is very simple, but the simplicity is a bit deceptive. This is not so much about dressmaking as about pure fabric manipulation. There is no structure to the dress, it all falls straight down from the shoulders and is gathered in by the belt. People recreating the costume get a special treat with this one because there is a shot of the dress before Dany gets into it, and you can see the structure (or lack thereof) of it off of a body. The trick is getting enough volume of fabric, and then controlling in a way that doesn’t turn it into a giant messy poof.

Before I get to that though: the fabric. The dress is sheer, but it is actually quite stiff, which is really apparent when Dany is walking. The dress doesn’t flow around her, it swings and is stiff enough that it appears almost heavy despite how transparent it is. In order to get both the crispness and the sheer, I got 12 yards of undyed silk organza from Dharma Trading Co. My boss, Heather, ended up dying it for me, since she has more experience dying, and it’s a tricky color and fiber. The color is especially hard, since it looks quite different in different lightings on the show. So is the color we ended up with; sometimes I look at the finished color and think it’s too aqua, and then I see it in a different light and think it’s perfect. You can see the variation in all the photos later in the blog. It’s very strange.

The color isn’t all. Once it was dyed, I stamped the gold pattern into it using the base of my palm and a little wire spiral I made. The pattern is pretty loose: there are some sort of wavy stripes in places, and in other places the gold is all over. To try to replicate how the pattern falls on the dress, painted the fabric with stripes down the center and with more abstract gold at the edges. As I went, I stamped a few spirals here and there. I already had an idea of how the dress was going to go together, and I thought that would give me the best pattern placement.

Since I was stamping it all as one piece, I needed somewhere for all that fabric to go as it dried, my solution was a laundry drying rack on top of my table:


Now comes the volume, and how to control it. Every piece of the dress started out as rectangle the width of the fabric, there were no shaped pieces at all. Each piece was doubled up so that there were two layers of fabric. The front is made of two of these pieces, one hanging from each shoulder, so I started by pinning the shoulder pieces to my dress form and arranging the fabric in pleats so that it was the same length as the bar at the bottom of the shoulder.

I pleated this very carefully instead of gathering it because the original dress has a very clear permanent pleat in the fabric all the way down: this is what controls the large volume of fabric without making it look like a tutu. The pleats at the shoulder had to be stacked on top of one another in order to fit all that volume into about four inches. After that, it was just a matter of following the pleats down, pinning as I went, and arranging them over the shape of the dressform. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but it was time-consuming. The result, however, was worth it. You can really see in the process photos the difference between pleating the fabric and leaving it loose.

The front panels each make up about a third of the dress, so they extend a bit past where a side seam would normally fall.

Once the pleats were all pinned down, I did something that almost made me throw up in terror: I steamed silk. Because the gold already gives the fabric a mottled look, I decided that any watermarks probably wouldn’t show up too much. I got lucky in that it also didn’t de-lustre the silk, so it still has that lovely silken shimmer.

This is my wonderful Rowenta iron that I got for Christmas, and I’M NEVER GOING BACK! It is absolutely worth the money.

I oh-so-carefully removed the top of the piece from the dress form and whip-stitched the top of it together.

I was then able to give it a really good press and steam on the ironing board. I didn’t want those pleats going ANYWHERE.

I whip stitched the front together along the selvedges, keeping the two layers separate. Having two independent layers that don’t hang right together will help make the dress slightly less sheer.

At this point I also sewed the fronts securely to the shoulder pieces, though apparently I didn’t get any pictures of that.

The back panel is one piece (two layers).

The dress also has a cape-like piece that hangs from the back of the shoulder pieces. It didn’t need quite as much volume as the front, so I made each side out of a single width of fabric folded in half lengthwise.

Sewing the halved fabric together at the top before turning and pressing it.

The cape was done in the same way as the front except that it was easier because there was half the amount of fabric and no boobs to contend with.

Here it is freshly out of pins and unhemmed. The cape piece is sewn together down the top layer, but loose ion the inside so that it can spread out at the bottom.

I hemmed it using the roll-hem feature on my serger. I’ll tell you what, I don’t need a serger that often, but when I do it is invaluable. There were eight widths of the fabric that needed to be hemmed in total, and I think it only took me about half an hour.


Since I already had the belt done, the only thing left was to make the bead strings that hang from it. Most of the beads I either had lying around or bought from Joann, but I ordered the cicadas from DIYbeads4u on Etsy. They got here yesterday and I was able to finish everything up. I chained the beads together using eyepins that I bought at Joann. I made the hooks out of the eyepins as well because waste not, want not.

Here are those cicadas I mentioned.

Brandon cut these shapes out of particleboard for me, and I painted them.

They get nice little tassels of beads hanging from them so that they really fly around and sparkle when you move.

And that was it. I just got pictures on the dressform for now, because I want to save the whole thing until I can get some good pictures on me (and because I’m still waiting for the stick-on bra and Spanx shorts to arrive). The dress looks at least three different colors in just these photos, and I took all of them in the same place with the same light.

IMG_1528IMG_1529IMG_1530IMG_1531IMG_1532IMG_1533IMG_1534 It will be appearing in public for the first time at Lexington Comic and Toy Con in a couple of weeks! If you want to see photos from the event, like Fabric & Fiction on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram @fabricnfiction!


Update: Here are a few amazing photographs by Ben Marcum. There is nothing more fun that doing a shoot with him! If you’re in Louisville and need new headshots, or a stunning portrait that makes you feel better about yourself than you ever had before, he’s the man to go to!




Mother of Metalwork

I gave you a taste of our next set of Custom Wig Company cosplays in Meredith as Margaery 1, now here’s the first part of my costume.

As soon as we decided on Game of Thrones characters for our next cosplay set, I knew I wanted to do Daenerys. I love her as a character: the young woman who begins the story as a manipulated and controlled object, valued only for her usefulness as a bargaining chip in her brother’s quest to regain the throne of Westeros. Instead of remaining his docile tool, however, she uses her newfound power as a Khaleesi to turn the tables. Throughout the show, though Dany is stubborn, often angry, and makes many mistakes, she is driven by a very strong moral compass. Terrible things have happened to her, but they have forged her into a woman of Valyrian steel. She is a wonderfully layered character who shows that being a good person does not necessarily mean you make good decisions.

We already have wonderful images of our work on a Season 5-style Daenerys wig thanks to JediManda and Benjamin Marcum Photography, so we decided that I should go in a very different direction. I chose one of the gowns that Daenerys wears in Qarth in Season 2. It’s a popular look among cosplayers, but it is such an interesting piece to make that I decided I wanted to try my hand at it.


This costume is very simple in shape, but full of interesting and tricky details that make an enormous difference in the final appearance: the great volume of the skirt, the pleating in the fabric, the gold pattern, and, of course, the metal belt and shoulder pieces.

Now, in case you haven’t picked up on it from some of my other projects, I’m slightly a little bit insane, so I decided,”Hey, why not make those pieces, not out of craft foam like a sensible costumer, but out of actual metal, wouldn’t that be neat?” So I set out, with no prior metalworking experience, to create those pieces from scratch.

I started with the shoulder pieces, since that way if I gave up partway through, it wouldn’t be too much work wasted.

I copied as much of the design from what is visible in different shots as I could, but the shoulder pieces are usually covered by hair, so a lot of the design had to be made up. I measured on my shoulder about how large the piece needed to be, then drew the design within that rectangle and cut it out with an X-acto knife so that it could be used as a stencil.

The shoulders pieces started life as a sheet of .01 brass from Tower Hobbies. I taped the stencil down and spray-painted over it to transfer the design; any part of the metal that was turquoise had to go.

I cut the brass using the smallest center punch and the smallest chisel from this set of metal punches and chisels from from Northern Tool. I bought the whole set since I didn’t know exactly what I would need, but only ended up using those two.

I clamped the brass to the work bench over a piece of particleboard. I used the center punch to perforate each shape at the various corners, then drove the chisel between the holes with a rubber mallet. I was pretty discouraged with how ragged the holes came out, but a friend of mine who repairs band instruments told me to get a set of jewelry files, so I did. I knocked off the jagged bits that way, and it helped a lot.

The difference is most obvious in silhouette. The left side has been filed, the right has not.

I still wasn’t entirely satisfied with the look however, and that’s when Brandon had a great idea: to bend down the edges with tiny needle-nose pliers to give everything a nice, finished look. It seemed crazy and time-consuming at first, but once you got started, it went a long pretty quickly. I did end up with a bruise on the palm of my hand from squeezing the pliers, though. In the final image below, the bottom piece is all bent down, and the top is only filed.

Brandon and I sanded the shoulders with several grits of sandpaper form 220 to 800. They didn’t have to have a perfect mirror finish–the pieces on the show have more of a dull shine, but the sanding made a huge difference in the quality of their appearance, and took off most of the excess blue.IMG_1377.jpg

I used the handle of my rubber mallet as a mold to carefully curve the shoulder pieces into their permanent shape.


In order to protect both my skin and the fabric of the gown from any remaining sharp edges (and the cold!) I filled the troughs created by bending down the metal edges with hot glue.


The belt is made in exactly the same way. I started by measuring and drawing an outline for size, then filling it in with the actual design–as much of it as possible what is visible in the show. It is much easier to copy exactly with the belt than the shoulders because much more of it shows. I only had to draw one half of the design, with a line of symmetry at the center front. The belt isn’t completely straight across, but curves up from a central point, with more curve at the bottom than the top, before straightening out where it goes around to the back of the body. I realized later that I could have curved it up even more at the hips, but it’s a tricky thing to maintain the proportions as much as possible on a different body, and I’m really happy with how the finished belt fits me.

My instrument-fixing friend also gave me a good source for getting a brass sheet big enough to make the belt. It is slightly thicker than the sheet for the shoulder pieces, but that was the thinnest they had in this size. I had the cutting process down to a T by this point, and I got through the belt cutting about four inches per night.

I didn’t do much filing on the belt because we realized that most of the problems could be taken care of by bending up the edges, clipping off any really egregious jagged edges, and filling the troughs with hot glue. This saved a lot of time.

Halfway through bending down the edges.

Here I am checking the fit of the belt before sanding. Not that there’s anything I could do to fix it at this point if there was something wrong. Don’t mind the awkward closeup of my torso.


I’m going to leave it here. I was going to go out and do all the sanding, but it turns out (surprise, surprise) that it’s way more exhausting to sand an entire 26 inch long belt than a 6 inch long shoulder piece, so I’m taking a break from that. We’ll just say that this way the finished belt is a fun surprise for later.

I’ll see you next week with (hopefully) the completed costume!
Wish me luck!




Meredith as Margaery 1: Draping and Drafting

It’s time for Custom Wig Company to work up out second group of cosplays, and this time we’re doing (drumroll…..) Game of Thrones! We’re all pretty excited about it, since it’s a show that has such incredible, detailed costumes, and we’re all a bit obsessed with that sort of thing. The costume designer, Michele Clapton (who sadly isn’t returning this season), blows me away with her ability to create culture in a fantasy world through clothing. Every item a character wears speaks to that characters personality, family, and background, and each location has its own set of fashions.

This time, in addition to creating out own costumes, Hannah W. and I are tag-teaming Meredith’s costume, and it’s a doozy: Margaery Tyrell’s wedding gown from the Purple Wedding.

This is the original gown from the series, designed by Michele Clapton.

We started by draping the bodice, using Meredith herself rather than a dummy. We were quite nervous and ready for it to be a huge headache, but it actually turned out to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever patterned! It’s all one piece of fabric which starts in the front, wraps over the shoulders, and connects at the side seams.

I first placed the fabric with the grain line down the center of Meredith’s torso and cut a quick neckline so we could wrap it over her shoulders. It was nice to have two people working on it, since one of us could be holding something in place while the other pinned or marked. Everything started lying better when I cut away the excess fabric from one armhole so that it could mold around her body. Once the piece around the back was pinned at the side, we could start playing around with darts.


The back lies quite nicely with just a single dart at the shoulder blades. It’s quite difficult to see any seam lines or darts in the original gown since it is not only covered in vines and roses, but also made of an almost fuzzy fabric that obscures any lines. This gave us free reign to listen to what the fabric wanted to do as we were patterning, since we weren’t trying to mimic construction lines, only shape.


Between adjusting the darts, and the side seams, we were able to make it fit Meredith beautifully in less than half-an-hour!


When we were finished draping and had marked darts and seams, I simply cut the muslin down the center front in order to create a pattern piece meant to be cut on the fold, then it was just a matter of neatening up seam allowances and adding a bit more of a wing at the shoulder as I cut out a mock-up bodice.

This is the shape of the draped pattern when we took it off of Meredith. Front on the left, back on the right.

I added about an inch, plus seam allowance, to the shoulders to create that wing-like look.

It took about five minutes to zip this tiny bodice together!

Hannah W. flat-patterned and sewed the mock-up of the skirt, and then we added them together and tried the whole thing on Meredith.

The first thing we had to do was slice a large chunk out of the neckline to create Margaery’s preferred narrow-but-plunging look. I purposely left the first pattern higher because it’s easier to cut a chunk out at this stage than to add more.

We’ll have to add another half inch or so to the bottom of the bodice so that it hits at Meredith’s natural waist. We also had to add a tiny dart to the armholes, so they wouldn’t gap. It actually does gap in the original gown, but we decided to get rid of it. It will mostly get covered by a trailing vine anyway.

The lower green line marks where I’m planning to widen the back of the armhole a touch.

I’m very happy with how the back of the bodice fits, though we will have to add about a quarter of an inch to the closure so that there’s enough seam allowance. When it’s finished, the two edges should line up and hook-and-eye together.

The gap means we need to add more to the back pieces at the side seams. This will maintain the center grain line, and eliminate the wrinkles that stretch from the side to the bottom of the opening.

We’re also going to take a bit of volume out of the hips and add some more flare to the skirt!

Hannah W. pulled off a gorgeous train on the mock-up. Marionette decided she needed to help us adjust the shape. You can see where we’ve added a piece to make it rounder. This will be the final shape of the train piece.

We’re planning to cut the real fabric this week. The dress shouldn’t be too big of a deal to make but the devil’s in the details. I’ll admit. I’m pretty excited!




See you on the other side (where I will hopefully not be rocking back and forth and gibbering)! At least there will be three of us attacking it.