Sunday, August 14, 2011

Halloween 2011: Cleopatra Costume Ideas & Inspiration

Where do the fashions of the 20s & 60s awesomely meet? Cleopatra!

Theda Bara and Elizabeth Taylor- bohemian and refined at the same time.   

My choice for a not-lame, not-slutty Halloween costume is the last of Ptolemaic rulers herself.  She'd be scary enough, she had both her siblings murdered after all.  I've decided to make the costume which is pretty bold of me since I haven't made anything adult sized yet. But what to make?

I purchased both these patterns, but they are pretty costumey. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, I just know how long sewing takes me and I'd like to maybe be able to wear it more then once. The floor length is not good for me no matter what and a chiton made of cheap charmeuse is kind of a one time deal. And not historically accurate, but I'm going to have to let that go since it's not like I'm going to be hand dyeing linen in order to have a proper Egyptian dress.

I have yet to figure out how to fold these back up to look like this. 

I opened one of the patterns and was overwhelmed. The sizing is totally jacked as it is a vintage, out of print pattern which I was prepared for- I read that a size 12 in a pattern is like a size 2/4 at the mall so I bought the "EE" set for 14,16,18,20, assuming I'd be making a combination of the patterns given my slight height and major boobage. The measurements look on target, but then look at these finished sizes for the actual garments! They are huuuuuge! Even for my generous bust line. 

A quick check on confirms that these are WAY oversized and everyone who has made it has taken out several inches once they started to do fittings. So, I may have purchased the wrong set of patterns. Gumdrops!

I then started second guessing my decision to make the dress myself.  I could just buy one, I mean, a vaguely Grecian looking dress is pretty standard fair for women's formal wear and then I'd be able, for sure, to wear it again (all I own are jeans and cocktail dresses anyway, I don't have any in-between wear). I poked around on the Internet and found a bunch of things that might work with the right wig and makeup:

Might be my favorite.  Vivienne Westwood, $370.

My least favorite of those that were more literal.  Alexander McQueen, $1335.  It just feels like something my Aunt Carol would have hot glued and puff painted.  All due love and respect to Mr. McQueen's corpse.  Plus, the length would be terrible on me.

A tad formal, you'd have to imagine it with an embellished belt and a headdress for effect, I think.  LA PETITE S*****, $1600.  Far too difficult to knock off at my skill level and way too expensive for traipsing around with sticky fingered kids in the dark, but easy for me to wear again.

A more 1920s Cleopatra look, much prettier in detail.  Rue de Mail dress, $990.  Sexy!

I could never wear this.  It must be lovelier in person.  I'd hope.  Robert Rodriguez, $1160.
One I could buy and not feel bad not wearing again.  With a big collar necklace and a wig?  Instant Cleo.  And it's linen.  And it's cheap!  On Etsy, $56.00.  I do hate strapless bras though.

I still think I'm going to try and make one and buy only if I totally fail.  I bought the wig and these scarab earrings I already own.

Off topic rambling:  The earrings are fascinating as the setting is from the late 1890s/early 1900s, before the discovery of King Tut's tomb, so they belonged to a  fashion trend time traveller!  It would be like finding someone wearing Levi's in a photos from the 1860s-- sure they were around, but not popular yet.  The stone scarabs themselves are ancient so it's likely that they were custom made for a woman with a personal interest in Egyptology, just like the guy in the Levi's would probably have been a San Francisco gold miner. I once x-rayed a mummified cat that was actually a stork inside. There was a scarab in there too.

Back to sewing:  Maybe I should try this pattern?  The shorter length would be way better on me.  Instead of the tied shoulder I could tack it with thread and pin it with something gaudy.  Maybe embroider something on the other strap?  I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Cynthia Rowley designed. Might not be as cool when sewn by me.


  1. Hello from your newest follower! I love this post; I just acquired a dress that I'm hoping to turn into an acceptable-even-if-totally-historically-inaccurate Cleopatra costume, so I'm looking for ideas.

    I hope you'll post again when you've finished assembling your costume!

  2. Yeah, I really think going for a re-worked look is a TON easier then actually making a costume from scratch. I haven't begun sewing mine yet, need to get the kids costumes out of the way first. Almost done.

    You post yours and I'll post mine! Since it was cold last year, I'm very tempted to scratch Cleopatra entirely and do a Gold Rush lady's outfit since that will have sleeves and boots instead of sandals. And feathers! Those are just as fun as a wig, right??


Upcoming Projects: Not Yet Blogged

a rundown of what I've been up to: DIY wedding dress, "Back to School Night" decor, Flower Arranging for the Incomptent, more jam labels, a dog bed solution, paper embroidery, flying pig needlework, attempting to scrapbook, make your own board game kit, Link from Zelda costume, organinzing for homework, and how to build an afterschooling program!

how to declutter after a death... and how not to do it

what do you do with all your fat clothes? Make doll clothes!