Doing it for the fun of it.
Well it has been a few years since I made this costume but as it is one of the biggest hits on here I figured I would try to remember what it was I did and help explain the steps I took to make it.
First thing I did was a lot of research, which included watching frame by frame scenes with the blue-ray version of the movie. I did a lot of sketches trying to decide what the shape of the dress was, and how I thought I was gonna build the headdress. I also did multiple drawings of the yellow blocking all along the edge of the cloth, to try and figure out how long it was going to take me to paint. When I looked at the dress it seemed pretty shapeless so I figured it was just a tube dress, the shoulders sleeves and chest area looked like some sort of beaded fishnet, which I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle at the time. I also needed to try to find the fabric. What I ended up finding was a crinkled nylon polyester. It has the wrinkled affect I wanted and just enough weight that when I did make the headdress it would flow, but not weight 20lbs on my neck. I also bought a few different types of tulle and netting to try for the top of the dress. If I remember correctly I think I bought 5-6 yard of the crinkle, and just a yard of each of the netting. When I got it all back home I started trying to figure out the top of the dress, and after a few days of pinning and fretting, I gave up and ordered a long sleeve fish net shirt. Now I knew that the shirt would not be a turtleneck like the dress in the movie so I ordered a tank top as well to try and alter the shirt…. but what I didn’t realize until I received them in the mail was that each shirt was a different type of fish net and did not look the same at all so I couldn’t combine them. So I went with what I had and began work on the dress. the tube dress went together super easy, just cut a long enough piece to reach from the top of my chest to the floor with a little extra for hems, and sewed it together leaving a 4 inch space at the top for the cleavage space.
Before attaching to the fishnet I made a stencil of the pattern I drew up. The stencil was about a foot and a half long. I laid out the dress, placed a piece of cardboard in the middle (so it wouldn’t bleed through) and set my stencil. At first I tried to just smear the paint (a yellow fabric paint) over the stencil hoping it would leave the pattern of the cutt-out, but no, so I went and got a small paintbrush and ever so slowly began tracing the blocking. This would seem and easy feet… well unless you have cats who think fabric hanging from a table is a great thing to play with. As you can imagine it made having nice clean lines and no smearing very hard, so I also had a little black paint sitting to the side to cover any slips or smears that were caused. The dress didn’t take too long to paint or dry so by the next day I was able to attach the dress to the fishnet shirt. I ended up putting on the shirt first and then placing the dress over to mark where it needed to be tacked on. Don’t want any overexposure anywhere :) After replacing the shirt on my body form, I carefully sewed the dress to the fishnet, anywhere I could which isn’t a lot but it is secure.
Next I went to the “sleeves”. I say that because they are really only ornamental and really have no function otherwise. I cut two rectangles that bulged a bit in the center and reached from my armpit to 3 inches short of my wrists. Then hemmed the pieces and painted the few yellow dots that I could see in the screen shots and tacked those onto the bottom of the fishnet sleeve. After the dress was complete I decided to address the “beading” I saw in the movie. It looked like on each intersection of the fishnet was a small black bead, so I got some small beads and some sequins to see what I could figure out. Now I am not the best hand sewer and beading and I have had our arguments in the past, so after some trials and errors I scrubbed the whole idea of beading or sequining. Looking around at the art supplies I had I decided to try puff paint. Starting in a place further down on the shirt where the dress would hide it I did a test of about 5 square inches, and after it dried I liked the way it looked, so I began the very tedious task of putting drops of puff paint at every intersection of my shirt. After the fist pass was done and dried I decided it needed a little more definition, so I went and got a black metallic puff paint and ended up putting two more layers of dots. The build up looked good and felt like it had been beaded so I was content with how the dress looked, besides my hand was horrible cramped from the many hours of squeezing a bottle so and I wasn’t sure if I could take anymore.
Last on the costume construction was the big task of the head dress. I must have stared at that thing for hours trying to figure out how it stayed on. Finally when I was about to give up, I asked Meg what she thought. She of course looked at it and said it looked like a Tudor style hood, or French Hood. So I went and started researching hoods. I found a few tutorials on how to create them and after a couple attempt with scraps I figured it was time to try the real thing. Getting the correct shape and size of hood took a while. I would cut a piece of cardboard I thought would look right then pin on some batting and it would be took big, so I would remove batting and try again. Once I had a shape and size that seemed to work, I placed the black fabric over the hood and sewed everything down. Curling it a bit I placed two pieces of elastic on the ends, one for behind my head and one for under my chin. Hoping that this would be enough support the weight I was about to place on it. I cut out the train/veil it was basically one giant teardrop shaped piece of fabric, and I made sure it was all one piece. I hemmed it and pinned it to the hood. I didn’t sew it on yet, as I wanted to make sure the shape, size, and length worked the way I wanted. Putting on the hood the elastic seemed to work the way I wanted and held the weight pretty well, so I sewed it in place and began painting. Thinking back I should have painted it and them sewed it in place, but it didn’t really make painting too much more difficult.
With the costume complete I did the research on how to apply a bald cap, and hide my eyebrows. The first year I did this costume it went okay, but I didn’t really have the proper make-up for what I was doing and had some issues with melting/sweating off the make-up that was hiding the seem of the bald cap and my eyebrows, but the second year went much better. I also found out that with the bald cap on I didn’t need the strap of elastic under my chin on the hood. The bald cap provided enough friction to help hold the hood in place and looked all the better without the strap under my chin, so it is gone. I got many compliments the second year on the bald cap application and was pretty happy myself. Overall it is prolly one of my favorite costumes to wear. People seem to light up when they see me, I know the costume isn’t ever done, but it should be. It wasn’t that hard to construct, and if you have the pain box it is a lot of fun to interact with fans. I still need to construct the gom jibbar, but that is a quick thing I can make for next year.
If you want to make a Bene Gesserit and have any other questions please don’t be afraid to ask. Remember “fear is the mind killer”. Happy sewing in this new year everyone. May 2014 bring awesomeness all around.