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!