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Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Corpse Bride Halloween Costume

It’s a well known fact that I LOVE Halloween. Ever since I was a child, I have never been one for plain old costumes and created ever more unique ensembles, ranging from Dracula with a puppet snake (made out of a pair of tights and worn like a sock puppet), road kill and Charlotte (a famous girl ghost of Warwickshire who was locked in the family tomb in the plague as they thought she was dead, only to re-open the tomb later to find her dead on the steps with her fingernails worn away from clawing at the entrance and chunks of her arm missing…presumably from hunger and madness).

Last year I experimented with a 1920’s harlequin and sugar skull makeup and this year I have been given the opportunity to try and recreate Tim Burton’s fabulous Corpse Bride! I have longed to do this ever since watching the film, but finding the time and excuse has been difficult. With an aptly themed Birmingham Dr Sketchys on the way and a small Halloween get together, I think I may have found the excuse!

Candee, Birmingham Dr Sketchys curator and my dear friend, donated a wedding dress for me to play around with. After trying it on to test the style, I carefully cut out the underskirts and set about cutting off the sleeves and bodice, so that I could re-attach with a more A-line look. The silk gave the gown a fabulous vintage feel from the offset, whilst the Venice lace around the edge helped give a ragged feel to the train. I dyed the bodice and skirt separately in a tin bath with China Blue Dylon dye, taking the bodice out after a few minutes as I wanted this paler. I started getting concerned that it was turning green but luckily it did eventually go pale blue! The Corpse Bride’s dress was actually white, but I loved how the dress took on a blue hue in the moonlight and shadows as it gave it more atmosphere. I played the movie again and again to get a feel of the train with its holes and jagged edges and to get the other small details right, such as the purple-blue edging. I managed this with some BMW Topaz Blue spray paint and hand painted over the top with blue and purple acrylics all the way around the train and bodice edges. I also added spray paint around the holes and tears to make them really stand out.


Back of the gown with new panels to increase bust. Created by Kitten von Mew

Next came that hole, revealing the Bride’s ribs. After searching online for costumes and SFX latex body parts I decided to make my own simple version. I didn’t want gory or bloody and bits of flesh hanging off the bones. The beauty of Tim Burton is the clean lines and purity. Death was portrayed as the colourful happy place compared to ‘upstairs’ (Life), which was tinted with sepia and dull greys. I used high quality black velvet for the background as this fabric is perfect for absorbing the light, giving the illusion of a dark cavity. For the ribs I found some off-white ribbon sewed 2 lengths together to make a tube and stuffed it with polyester stuffing. I made 4 of these and then sewed them onto the black velvet with a slight curve to make the effect of ribs. This was then glued to the inside of the bodice and left to dry whilst I danced around the room with excitement.


Corpse Bride Costume by Kitten von Mew


Bodice detail showing ribs. Costume by Kitten von Mew

This weekend I managed to complete the headdress and veil! The veil in the animation is made from Muslin, which has a good tatty feel to it. I happened to have some spare and kept it off white, whilst cutting jagged edges and spraying them with the car paint. In some parts of the movie, you can see swirly vine detailing on the veil. It is sometimes portrayed in grey and others in purple, so I took the theatrical route and went the latter so it stood out.


Corpse Bride Veil by Kitten von Mew


Handmade Headdress by Kitten von Mew

Next came the headdress. I had bought a long wig from Ebay which ended up being purple and not dark blue! It doesn’t look too bad, so sprayed a little paint on it to add some matting. The headdress itself I made out of thin plastic corset boning wrapped with leaves, berries and flowers. There are more on one side than the other, which is true of the film too when you see the piano duet scene. I sprayed with the same blue paint and over-painted with grey acrylics. The veil was then attached to the back by folding over the top edge.

Next the legs…The Corpse Bride has one skeleton leg with skin on her foot and ankle like a baggy blue sock, whilst her other leg is blue skin. This is easily done by cutting off 1 blue leg from your tights and attaching a skeleton print one in its place. You can then use the cut off blue leg to use as the baggy skin. Genius huh?

The arm has been a little more difficult. I haven’t got the pennies to buy a prop skeleton arm (my first idea), so will be doctoring a skeleton print glove by adding more length and extra bone. This will then be sewn to the underarm of the bodice and held on the shoulder with some toupee tape if needed.

I have the makeup ordered (light green for the base, then blue and white to blend with purple eye powder for shadows) and will post about this when I have tried it out!

Enjoy the photos of my costume and I will get some shots IN the costume on Halloween!

Hazards In The/ In My Field

On a rather soggy weekend at Wartime in the Vale (June), Mother Nature slapped me round the face with the back of her gale-force hand and tested my hairspray and heels to the limit with rain. It then struck me how different and more prepared you have to be as an entertainer at WWII and other open air events.

Walking around as a visitor, you bask in the glory of vintage vehicles, reenactors, stalls and entertainers, but forget that those singers, dancers and models that enthrall their audiences aren’t effortlessly immaculate. They have to walk the same cobbled streets you walk, brace the same weather and still have to look as if they stepped out of a magazine or movie, no matter how boggy the fields.

Image donated by Lola Lamour

Lola Lamour in the rain, by kind donation of her good self (please do not use without her authorisation!)

I always love watching such performers as Lola Lamour, who (like me) is a complete devil for iconic 1940’s fashions, but to abandon her original snakeskin heels for a pair of wellies would degrade her star-like status and outfit. So we must hop, wobble, hobble and skip to dodge the hazards that may turn our nylons into “Goodbye, so long!”s and beloved pinup shoes from ‘irreplaceable’ to ‘untraceable’ under the mud. I stare enviously at those wearing military gear and warm boots, but am hell bent in wearing my lovely hats and 40’s dresses! Sure I could shelter in a tent for the entire event, but what would the fun in that be? I want to be out, meeting people, seeing things and buying bargains!

Portaloo’s can also be a strategical nightmare as you force your layered outfit into the confined space, dodge the floor of mass disruption (the glory of mud caught in the deep tread of boots), try and balance your handbag as you struggle with your straight-jacket underwear and test the endurance of the wall and door with many an accidental elbow ‘thwack’ as you try and rearrange your outfit again. You either exit looking as if you have been wrestling hippos in there or with an upturned nose and shudder. Classic signs of a girdle struggle is when you can hear the lady in question jumping up and down in the cubicle and she comes out all red faced and puffed out. I almost feel like waving a little flag and giving a cheer to those poor souls that survive the porta-hoopla.

Performing at field events can be the most tricky of all, especially if the changing room is in a completely different area. I say room, when this could actually be a tent depending on the event. I remember fondly getting ready in the back of the USO tent with just a gas lamp and tiny compact mirror; ducking and diving behind stacks of debris to change into my Burlesque outfits and praying that my pasties would be somewhat even…

My most recent event was a huge challenge because of the weather! Getting changed in a nice large mess hut was great, but then negotiating the journey back to the performance tent (where I would have to wait outside to make my entrance) in the mud and rain was a different story. I had decided to do my Pipe Dreams act, which is a gorgeous, sparkly WHITE costume (silly, silly kitten….), which would also showcase my new, spangle-tastic silver shoes from Johnson’s Originals (yes…I know…).

Kitten von Mew, 1940's Burlesque 'Pipe Dreams'

Pipe Dreams being performed at War and Peace Show 2011 – Image by Mr Mew

As I hid beneath my ghillie ‘tobacco’ cloak and staggered towards the entrance of the tent, a rather lively German reenactor didnt realise I was creeping up behind him and gave me a prompt kick on the knee (He was performing an energetic Morecombe and Wise dance move that would have been impressive without the plastic beer glass in hand). As the mud gave me friendly pat on the back of my fishnets and greeted my NEW SHOES with as much enthusiasm, I suddenly realised that the front of my white panel skirt also now resembled a piece of used toilet paper and I hadn’t actually started my performance yet. So what happens in this sort of situation? Do you storm off like a big stroppy Diva? No, you ruddy well get on with the show and laugh it off. Yes there were swear words later and even a disgruntled huff with furrowed brow (I know, stand back when you see these signs), but those are the hazards you have to face when working in these environments. They still enjoyed the show and I fear most of the audience were more ‘moths to my light bulbs’ than my disgraced shoes, but that is all the better. More importantly the shoes are now clean and lovely again! Huzzah!