As a costume designer I get asked all the time if I make all my own clothes. And the truth is, I hardly ever do. In theater production or fashion the end result is fabulous but the behind the scenes is a lot of long, intense hours. My entire focus is making others look good. Costume designers usually only look fabulous on opening night and the remainder of the time we wear jeans and sweatshirts that are covered in lint, thread and paint.
I've made a couple of costume items for myself over the years, but literally the last time I made myself a gown was back in 2006. Since then I've worked on, or designed for, over 40 professional productions.
I have spent a lifetime admiring the Victorian era and decided I was going to finally make something for myself using all the skills I had acquired over the last decade. This was a project partially for fun but also as an exercise to remain sharp in the historical sewing realm since most of my time is involved in the professional ballet world.
I am a huge fan of Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" and also Gail Carriger's "The Parasol Protectorate Series" which was the inspirational push to create this. So this gown is an amalgam of my love and admiration for the novels and to be honest is a fair piece of Cosplay (mostly as magician Celia Bowen from The Night Circus). It could also easily serve as a base ensemble to add accessories to for a "steam" slant if desired. As a costume designer, I feel that if "Steampunk" were really a reality and ladies were running around in gowns fighting evil, the aesthetic would be more in the Victorian time frame of "Late Bustle Period 1883-1889". During this time the skirts, hems and accessories of the dresses were not quite as long and elaborate but if a lady desired, there could be lots of hidden weapons in that bustle. ;-) But I digress.
This is constructed from 100% cotton in various printed patterns. I chose the cream and black motif since everything in "Night Circus" is in black and white. In The Night Circus story, a network of devoted fans styling themselves "rêveurs" ("dreamers") develops around the circus; they identify to each other by adding a splash of red to garb that otherwise matches the characteristic black and white of the circus tents. I put a small "pop" of red in with the lips and the small red feather in the hat band since I am a self-styled "rêveur". I also have a overwhelming personal penchant for stripes and pleats.
The gown is worn over period-correct undergarments- corset, petticoat and bustle. Construction and sewing techniques are a mix between historical and theatrical. My trim choices are not necessarily historically accurate but like I said previously, that wasn't really the point of this excersize.
The photo shoot came out awesome and it was so hard to choose only a few favorites. I want to thank Amanda Tipton for her artistry and assistance with all the planning. It was truly the most fun costume collaboration I've had to date. And special thanks to Meredith Strathmeyer Worobec for her makeup design.
Costume design and construction: Rachael Kras
Photography: Amanda Tipton, Photography for Fine Artists.
Makeup Design: Meredith Strathmeyer Worobec
To the reader: Thank you for finding inspiration in these photos. Please preserve all credits for the artists involved when sharing. All rights reserved.
Happy Halloween 2015!