Monday, 20 July 2015

Snow White and the Curse of the Ice Queen: The Ice Queen

Photo by Ashley Foster
The evil Ice Queen was casting curses over the majority of the characters in the panto, but who doesn't love a good panto villain. 

The Ice Queen was the only costume I made from scratch for the recent Juniors panto. The idea of the design was to be able to use the same dress for two costumes, for example the main dress worn whilst playing the Ice Queen would be worn with the icicle crown and cape. Then when pretending to be Snow White at the cafe with Prince Charming and his page, the icicle crown and cape would be removed and a shawl worn covering her head and shoulders in order to hide her face from the Prince.

At the wedding whilst still pretending to be Snow White, we ditch the cape and Icicle crown and instead a veil and a floor length elasticated waist skirt which is worn underneath the main dress, and a bow is added with a belt: this creates the wedding dress.

The Main Dress:

Design by Katie Pollitt
The original idea was to make a simple elasticated waist dress, with a point to one side due to the script making a joke  in Act 1 Scene 1 "'ve got a point." "No, it's just the way her skirt hangs". However before designing I was 'umming and aring' about whether she should be wearing a handkerchief skirt or a skirt that hangs as a point at the centre front and back, but decided to go for an asymmetric look instead.

In the script, it was described that the Ice Queen had to take two apples out from under her cloak during the performance. However because of the material I wanted to use for the cloak, I didn't think that the apples should be held within the cloak, in some kind of pocket; as that would cause a lot of stress on the organza itself, in time creating holes around the line of stitching. Also seeing as the production's costumes were supposed to be modern, it seemed perfectly fine to have pockets feature on the dress. Funnily enough I actually had a dress with a similar cut so I used the dress as a template to make the right sized pockets, to make sure they could hold an apple in each.

However for the rest of the dress I took measurements from the actress and made the bodice pattern and skirt patterns myself, using what I had learned at a pattern cutting course a year and a bit ago. The patterns would then be altered depending on how the fitting went (as can be seen in the photo of the bodice patterns to the right).

The colours I had intended on using were a silver lining and a see-through white top layer; giving an icy look through the use of the colours.

However when toiling, I had used a light blue fabric (I tend to use supermarket bedding, because it usually works out quite cheap for the amount of fabric you get) because it was what I happened to have around at the time as a toiling material. Did my fitting with the actress and in the mean time the silver lining fabric I had ordered online  had arrived; but was actually much darker than the silver advertised and looked more like a dark grey which wouldn't give the right look. I had a think about what I should do whilst staring at the toile which was next to the organza, so I placed a layer of the organza over the blue toile and decided that the combo worked just as well, and still gave an icy look, just a fresher ice...if that makes ANY sense...

Now I could say that the toile was perfect... but what's the point in this blog if I'm not going to tell you the mistakes as the rest of the dress was pretty good, except the height of the waistline. This was because during one of the weekly rehearsals I only had a couple of minutes at the end of the session to measure the actress up; and in the rush of things forgot to take the' nape to waist' measurement. However, I couldn't wait till the following week to take the measurement because I needed to get the pattern and the toile done by then, so I thought if I use the measurements I have and use my 'nape to waist' measurement, as I'm a bit taller than the actress. This would mean the measurement would be slightly longer, which in the case of altering, would be much better to adjust as we'd have spare fabric. Whereas if it was a shorter measurement...well then we would be in trouble.

Tip: ALWAYS write down the measurements you need to take before you have to, in order to make sure you take all the necessary measurements, and don't forget any. (This is what I do, however this time I thought I had packed the piece of paper in my folder before I left for the session but clearly didn't or at least I couldn't find it in my folder.)
Photo by Ashley Foster

When fitting the dress to the actress all I did was find her waist and mark directly onto the toile how much I needed to move it up. Once the dress was taken off I  re marked the marks of the true waistline at the same measurements, to ensure it would be level, and not sloping up on one side.

Photo by Ashley Foster
The neckline was marked on during the fitting, as I wanted to make sure it scooped nicely, so wanted to do this whilst it was on the actress; it also meant that I could discuss the height of the neckline to make sure the actress was comfortable with it. I would normally use a 'tailors chalk' triangle or 'dressmaking pencil' (basically tailors chalk in the form of a pencil, giving a more precise line because of the chalk being more pointed) however these didn't show up as well on the blue material without pressing really hard. Instead I used a light pencil, but don't worry, during a fitting I make the actors wear their costumes inside out if it needs altering, as this allows me to take in seams but also put on markings that won't be seen on the right side of the costume. Another marker you could use is a 'Water Erasable Pen', but before using it you should always test it on a scrap of the material you will be using, just in case the water doesn't completely take off the mark, as the pen is coloured (mine is blue, I don't know if you can get any other colours). However I wouldn't really want to use this in a fitting because it goes straight through the fabric so if the actor/actress if wearing something underneath, it could stain their clothes because I wouldn't have tested the material of the clothes they're wearing. I also don't know whether it would stain skin.

I had found these lengths of small silver balls threaded onto wire at intervals, and I thought they would have to appear on the Ice Queen's costume somewhere because they would just fit in so well and add something more to the outfit. So I took a couple of the lengths and bent them into shape round the neckline of the dress; weaving them in and out, reaching up to the shoulders. I then sewed them to the dress at intervals to secure them but also keep the shape.

I finally attached a detailed silver button on either shoulder, for the cape to be buttoned onto.

The Cape:

Now because the main dress was going to have a layer of white chiffon to give that icy look, I decided her cape would be made out of the same top layer fabric. This meant buying even more fabric, because we'd need at least 1m 1/4 just for the cape, if not more. So I searched online trying to find the cheapest deals. Found some very good priced ones on Ebay, however cannot vouch for the quality, seeing as I didn't actually have to buy any; as I later looked in the group's 'stock shed' again and came across a box of organza and netting. Had a route around and luckily enough found some white organza with a slightly lilac tint. Perfect for the top layer of the dress and the cape, and just enough for both...what a lucky find!

The left over amount of organza was literally folded in half, and angled slightly so it overlapped in the centre but not all the way across. I then fastened a strip of organza ribbon into a loop, to the cape, putting a piece of fabric in between the layers in order to make it just that bit sturdier. I then ran a thread though a section of the cape from the edge to about a fifth of the way in on either side and pulled the threads to gather the fabric so it fell nicely against the back of the dress. I had pinned the centre of the cape to the centre back seam, to make sure the amount of material on either side was equal and wouldn't move whilst gathering. Stitching the gathers into place around the button loops, created a lovely little shoulder cuff, making the cape sit nicely on the ball of the shoulders.

The Icicle Crown:

I came up with the idea of making an icicle crown for the Ice Queen, so started thinking of ideas of how and what to make the crown out of. I was originally thinking of using the plastic icicles from  the icicle fairy lights that you see around Christmas time, but couldn't find any cheap enough really. Instead I tried to think of a cheaper and more resourceful way of making them, using stuff around the house. I found this website explaining how to make icicle decorations for the Christmas tree out of plastic bottles, Had a go myself and thought, "Yep. This is a winner", and we'd just happened to have a few plastic bottles of lemonade, which worked great. Which also decided the drink that would be accompanying me whilst I worked.

Tip: If you have a go at making these icicles (which you should because it's fun and you get a great outcome, as long as you don't singe your fingers...ouch!) I would suggest going for the cheaper supermarket's own brand, where the bottles are more rounded, and the plastic seems softer. These tend to give a better effect of an icicle I personally think, but try with different plastic bottles and see which ones you prefer and give better effects.

After making numerous plastic icicles , it was time to somehow turn them into a crown of sorts...

I was originally going to use the head measurement of the actress and thread the icicles onto a length of thread a bit longer than the measurement, and do this three times, making three rows for the icicles to hold on. However when holding it up to a head the way it would be worn, the icicles pointed out more than I would have liked, which quite a few people liked, but I wasn't quite happy enough with it. Instead I got a heads widths amount of the organza material, doubled it over and made a head band backing to sew the icicles on. Again sewing them on in three rows, making them more stable.

Photo by Ashley Foster
I still had some lengths of the wire with the silver balls on left, so I also attached some to the icicle crown. Using a couple of lengths, shaped them round the bottom of the icicles and sewed them on in intervals, just to secure them but so it could still keep its shape.

I then used more of the organza ribbon I had used for the cape button loops, to attach to the ends of the organza band to make it easy to tie to the actresses head measurement, and make tighter/looser if needed. Again I added a little swatch of fabric in between the layers to make it sturdier, especially as these stitches will be tugged, depending on how taught they have to be pulled in order to tie to the actresses head.

The Wedding Outfit:

Design by Katie Pollitt
Now to save time and money, I decided the main dress would also act as part of the wedding dress. Which would also save on the time needed to make the costume change.

The wedding outfit was created by wearing  a floor length white skirt underneath the main dress, putting a bow belt around the waist of the dress and of course adding a veil to the hair.

Again to save time and money, for the white skirt to be worn underneath, I searched in the stock shed, but didn't find any, however did find a white satiny dress, with an empire line making it just the right measurement for the skirt needed! I grabbed the dress and started unpicking the waistline, I then sewed up the back seam which previously had a zip in part way down. I then sewed the lining and outer fabric together, stitched another line; making a chamber for the elastic to be threaded through, making the skirt quick and easy to just pull on. I made sure the elastic was cut to just a bit less than the waist measurement of the actress, so the skirt would fit well underneath the dress.

Now in order to not have to faff with making sure the bow was tied nicely/neatly, and wouldn't come undone; I pre tied the bow separately and stitched in place to the belt. I then sewed on a popper to the back of the bow, and at the measurement where they would meet to fit well to the size of the actresses waist.

Originally I had also planned to use the cape of the main dress to be used as the veil of the wedding costume as well, thus saving more money. However after looking in the stock shed I found several veils so the cape was no longer needed to be used as a veil as well.

As a finishing detail, on the day of the performance I also drew on some snowflakes around her eyes. I would have liked to have done more, but I am in no way a make-up artist and this wasn't the time to have a go at it for the first time. I thought it would be nice to have something more fitting than the group's usual performance make up of foundation and lipstick.

Well that's all for now...

The Links:

Thank you to Ashley Foster for the character portrait and 'behind-the-scenes' photos, if you want to have a look at his other work or more photos from the junior production please visit his website at  

If you are interested in the drama group itself that I do the costumes for please check out their website at or their facebook page
Talk to you soon.

~ K

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