Capezio Can Can Boots VS American Duchess Renoir Button Boots

This morning I took photos of the two pairs of boots to illustrate the differences between them.  Surely not many people out there are comparing these, especially since the Can Cans are discontinued now and custom made only, but here we go anyway…  (Actually, this website appears to be selling the Can Cans, but I cannot vouch for them personally, and the price is significantly less than I was quoted by Capezio.)

Can Can vs Renoir victorian style boots.jpg

Capezio can can & American Duchess renoir.jpg

Capezio vs American Duchess.jpg

So far the Renoirs win on comfort, I believe.  The lower heel is of course easier on me since I barely wear heels at all, and they are a size US8.5 which my toes appreciate.  While I have always found the US7.5 Can Cans to be wonderfully comfortable I’ll have to admit that the feel caused by the heels is not optimal (nor is the size now, but that isn’t their fault.)

As noted in a previous post, I’ve worn the Can Cans for thousands upon thousands of steps over the course of a decade.  They are very sturdily made and have been the most wearable shoes I’ve ever had.  I’m looking forward to the look once the Renoirs have been broken in, and I anticipate that they’ll win the wearability contest.  They appear almost equally well made with the Can Cans looking just a bit better in some way that I cannot put my finger on.  Thicker leather?  Something about the construction?  It is a tad difficult to compare with the Renoir pair practically unworn yet too, but I have hopes that they’ll fare well over the years.

Nearly $200 for the Renoirs is pricey indeed, but I generally select shoes in that price point.  Seeing them in person I have no complaints about the cost at all.  In fact, they are a bargain compared to nearly $500 for the Can Cans.  So, there you are: my thoughts on these two beautiful Victorian/Edwardian-ish boots.  I hope that seeing “after” photos of the Renoir boots may be interesting to someone even if they aren’t truly broken in yet.  I was scouring the internet for reviews and images that didn’t look the same as the pristine pairs on the original website.  I hoped to see them after buttons were adjusted and after conforming to someone’s feet.

Most of the original boots I’ve seen have a gorgeous shape which the Renoirs are lacking, but I’m not sure if that might change with more wear and button adjustment?  Perhaps anatomy and tolerance of discomfort have something to do with it too?  Or did the leather shrink?  I don’t know.  I love these curves!

The Met 1883.jpg

Will the Renoir boots approach this look after a while?  I hope so and will report back some day to let you know.

PS: I was able to get the most lovely little folding button hook!  IMG_7046.jpg

A funny thing is that although I am a rather ambidextrous-leaning lefty it was much more natural to hook with my right hand.  I was surprised at how easily it went with my right while my left fumbled a little.  Maybe that is since my left is used to the idea of buttoning normally?  Heh.

Halloween 2016: 1918

This year I didn’t take the time available to me to create a new costume, I am sad to say.  Mostly the reason was that there aren’t that many days of good weather left for staining our house.  That is rather unfortunate since, with IVF luck, perhaps next year a newborn might complicate the costume matter?  (I’m afraid to hope so too much, but it is a possibility.)

We didn’t even go out to a goth night on Saturday, because L made reservations at a really neat restaurant for my birthday instead.  I’d already scraped together old pieces to form a costume for going out though, so I wore it to our local haunt on Sunday night.  (They are closed Mondays.)

Versión 2

While I had no great idea for a costume I’ve been looking for an excuse to make something 19-teens-ish.  I’m certain, after watching Downton Abbey this summer, that this is my favourite fashion period in all of history.  Even before the show I was drawn to it and even based my wedding dress in the era, so I had some pieces that I could put together for this Halloween’s look.

I used the old under-bust corset, a thrift store silk skirt that I’ve had for years, the fingerless gloves from our wedding, a leather mask from Etsy, and a silk chiffon wrap tunic that I made some years ago.  I think it has a ‘teens look.

This shot from the trial run shows more of the fabric details:

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At some point I’m certainly going to make at least a few good ‘teens pieces.  A coat is a must too, like one (far right) in this fashion plate?

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Meanwhile, I am thrilled about some new shoes…  L has pre-ordered REAL button boots for my birthday gift, and as soon as I have them I’ll be sharing photos and a review.  (I Googled forever, but no one seems to have shared photos beyond those from the actual website or upon first arrival.  I’d like to see what they look like with the buttons adjusted and all broken in, so I’ll have to be the one to put that online it seems.)  I’d wanted to get a pair of my beloved can can boots, but they are really expensive and now only custom made as it turns out.  (I realistically need an entire size larger than the pair that I’ve worn for more than ten years.  They still look pretty good, after tours of Barcelona and NYC, but my feet grew…)  Maybe another time, but I’m seriously excited to get my hands on actual button boots!  Even when I was a little kid I wished I could have a pair like I saw in antique shops or worn by Shirley Temple in The Little Princess.  OMG, the want.  😀  I already ordered a few antique button hooks, and I look forward to a post or two about the boots when they arrive and after a while.  I’ve also gone ahead and received a pair of Edwardian shoes, but I have yet to adjust the buttons or anything.

 

In Time for Halloween: Borg Queen Cosplay

I still find the term “cosplay” a bit odd.  Didn’t we used to just say “costume?”  😀  It seems I have to add the word to my vocabulary permanently though, so here is my Borg Queen cosplay that I did for the Star Trek Mission New York convention last month:

Star Trek Missions New York cosplay contest Borg Queen.jpg

Unfortunately I don’t recall where I pulled this photo from, and when I tried doing a Google image search just now it didn’t bring me to the source.  (Perhaps I didn’t search correctly?  Google only led me to the definition of “female.”  Weird.)  I expect it was from the Mission New York event itself?  Sorry to whoever ought to be credited, but thank you so much for taking the best shot that I have of the costume!  Once again I failed to take decent photos for myself.  😦  This is a serious problem when I want to show my work and have crappy mirror selfies only.

So.  I made this Borg Queen costume at the end of August after vowing never again to wear such a costume after last Halloween.  I’d made my first rendition for Halloween 2014 and thought it turned out great.  I even won a contest for the first time!  However, I barely had any photos of it.  When Halloween rolled around last year I decided that I could re-use it easily enough, but I still didn’t end up taking great photos!  Wtf?  (The problem seems to be that L. rather dislikes taking photos, or taking the time to properly take photos, and also it always gets dark before I’m done putting everything on.)  Anyway, the weight of the headpiece caused a massive headache, and the adhesive was unpleasant to remove, so I vowed never again.  Then L. asked if I wanted to go to a Star Trek convention, and I simply couldn’t not try the Borg Queen again.  At least I had enough experience that I knew I’d have just enough time  and mostly which materials I needed.  Even with the bald cap I knew what I was getting into.  This post is going to be extremely long, but I hope you’ll enjoy seeing so much of the progression of this costume.

First of all, the Borg Queen is a character in Next Generation and Voyager.  This is what she looked like:

In general the Borg seem like really fun costumes to tackle, but L. suggested I go straight for the queen saying that I resemble her enough to pull it off well.  It would be really neat to do a drone costume, and perhaps easier in many ways, but I went into the unknown territory of bald caps and makeup.  Yikes!

For Halloween 2014 there was so much trial and error.  I probably spent twice as much as I needed to by trying materials and finding they didn’t work as planned.  I also re-made several things over and over too.  For example, I first attempted to sculpt with silicone from the hardware store, and it worked decently well… until I discovered that nothing would stick to this material (liquid latex in particular.)  Another dead end was using bits of latex gloves for sculpting rippled skin.  It looked good but wasn’t functional.

2014:

I’d hoped to do a really cool body too, but that did not work out.  Generally I thought that the neckline and head were iconic enough not to require an amazing body anyway.  These were the best photos (and pretty much the only ones.)  :shakes head:

For this costume I used beads and picture hanging hooks for the neckline attachment, and I sculpted the pulled skin with liquid latex and bald cap sculpting ended up being done with latex painter’s caulk.  Bottle caps made great neck bits, a cap from teflon tape, and some cable management coils were wonderful for the headpiece.  I did research and purchased Prosaide (normal and a thicker formula) besides the liquid latex and bald cap as far as real FX supplies.  Great stuff!

 

2015:

Last Halloween I only bought a bald cap, cut the sculpted portions off of the old one, and adhered them to the new cap (with Prosaide.)  I re-used the neckline hooks, and I added a corset (that I made some years ago.)  The makeup was not as smooth nor were the edges and transitions of latex.  These are my best photos.  :sigh:  I wore it to hand out candy and then we had a few beers at our favourite neighbourhood bar.

 

 

Okay, so now that I’ve shared all of that backstory, on to 2016:

This time I wanted to go all out.  I had to do something better for the torso and planned even on the legs and footwear to be amazing.  However, time and creativity did not allow for as much as I dreamt.  L. told me to expect all sorts of awesome costumes and competition at the convention and in the contest, so I tried really hard with this costume.  I am proud of it although I see plenty of things that could have been done better.  This time I can most likely even wear it again, but I do not have plans to.

I began with some print-outs to refer to and these basic materials:

The Golden’s iridescent paints were an old friend by now.  I absolutely love what the coarse stainless steel paint has let me do for previous costumes, and I tried out a few new ones too.  InstaMorph was new to work with, but I found it to be very useful and versatile.  Colouring the InstaMorph with this for a metallic look worked out very well.  I did give a coat of the stainless steel paint for an even better look.  Another new material that I hadn’t tried before was Worbla.  I’d seen it used in wonderful costumes online, but before this I hadn’t bothered to buy and try it myself.  If you look on Youtube there are people creating amazing things with it, but they made it look much easier to work with than I thought it was.  😉

The first thing I worked on was the Borg Queen torso.  Since I was using a new material it was the part I was most concerned about having time for, but it did go faster than I’d anticipated.  To make her torso I laced my old corset onto my dress form to use as a base.  I wanted to be certain of measurements, and this made the perfect sized form.  My plan was to wear the corset underneath the costume also, because I didn’t want to bend and break something!  It was not too difficult to sketch out a general shape on pattern paper, pinned onto the form, to use as a template to cut craft foam.

I bought two large pieces of black Worbla on eBay, and I sandwiched Worbla over craft foam to make the torso pieces.  The process ended up killing my cheap heat gun (RIP) and was very uncomfortable for my fingers.  Perhaps I am particularly wimpy in that regard (I have circulatory issues) or maybe I wasn’t patient and should have held the heat gun farther away?  The Youtubers looked much happier when moulding it than I was.

When the Worbla portion was all sculpted I began to work on the headpiece, because it must be done in layers and left to dry for days between.  First, I glued a teflon tape cover in place with latex caulk and let it dry.  Next, I hot glued the cable management coils into it, the other ends onto the cap, and filled the void with more caulk.  Caulk is perfect for sculpting the skin where the coils enter the skull, but it has to be done in two or three layers before doing the detail.

You can see that I began sculpting the plastic parts with InstaMorph while the layers of caulk dried.  It was nice to work with but also made my fingers somewhat uncomfortable.  I wished I had tried this product long ago, because it was so perfect to use.

To attach the neckline stuff to the leotard I only had to heat it up and stick it on.  It was really easy, but I accidentally melted a hole through the fabric in the back… so an extra bit was added not inspired by the real Borg Queen to cover it.  The only other problem was that the plastic did not stretch to fit over my hips when dressing.  I encountered the problem when in a rush to get ready!  My solution was to keep pulling until it broke enough to put on, and then I contorted with the heat gun to re-stick the pieces that separated… while I wore it.

After making the torso with layers of Worbla and craft foam I wasn’t too certain the Worbla layers would stay together, and I saw a tutorial that advised brushing a layer of Elmer’s glue onto it before painting.  Instead I used several thick layers of Modge Podge.  Then I gessoed them, with black gesso to save steps, before painting the metallic effects.  The shipping time for the iridescent paint caused worry, because it might arrive too late for the event, so I tried one with mica instead.  I didn’t like it for this costume though.  It was too shimmery rather than metallic, so I ended up coating the back section with gesso again and sending L. to Blick for the proper paint since he works nearby.  The irritating thing is that I have plenty from past costume but could not find it ANYWHERE.  I spent an entire day sorting through every box in the storage room and unpacking some that were still unopened from our move a year and a half past, but the paint is missing.  L. saved the day by going to the store for me, and I also asked for a bottle of the copper paint too, because I’d noticed that the Borg Queen had bronze-red accents too that I now felt could not be ignored.  Adding some warmer tones would really bring things to life, I thought.

completed-borg-queen-torso-piecesAll done, aside from the makeup and assembly of course.

I’d really wanted to make the legs look good too and bought a few types of metallic and black pearl fabric paint, but I couldn’t really figure out a way to apply it and not have problems.  Finally I chickened out of trying, because I was afraid to ruin the leggings too soon before the convention.  It is a shame though, because I don’t like that portion of the ensemble as a result.

The convention was really something else.  I did not realise just how much attention this costume would attract.  It was surreal and amazing to experience.  When we first arrived to the Javits Centre area I was almost worried we had the wrong place or day, because we didn’t see anyone dressed up at all.  Even inside it was a bit echoey and empty when we entered, but we met up with our friend and found seats at the back of a panel event.  along the way I received some smiles and stuff, but it wasn’t until the panel audience exited that I experienced the full effect.  We were some of the first out of the door, being so close to the back, and before we could figure out where to go someone asked for a photo.  Suddenly it was several people, many people, tens of cameras and phones ringed around me in a swarm.  I wasn’t prepared at all, so it was really bizarre and overwhelming for a bit.  I couldn’t decide how to smile, or not smile, and I’m sure the photos taken then showed a very awkward Borg.  This kind of thing continued all day though, and very soon I was admittedly enjoying every second.  😀  L. and our friend S. kept joking about the fact that we couldn’t walk more than a few steps before being stopped again for more photos.  I’d hoped to snag a bunch of them online, but only a couple popped up that I could find.

A highlight was that when we went for autographs the actors were really kind and impressed.  I’m going to totally pat myself on the back here and forget any semblance of modesty, haha.  😀  It was really neat to exchange a few words with Armin Shimerman, for example.  Wearing all the bald cap and all made me better appreciate how hard it must have been to act while wearing such uncomfortable and limiting things.  The reactions from him, Jonathan Frakes, John de Lancie, and Robert Picardo really made me proud of the costume although I did not win in the cosplay contest.  Speaking of, I do believe that Terry Farrel thought it was pretty cool, because she asked me tonnes of questions about making it and really checked out the details while she was judging.  😉

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Borg Queen cosplay contest onstage.jpg

Federation Trump cause me to giggle far more than I should have when I first saw him, by the way.  Khan-ye West and Kim Cardassian really cracked me up and had hilarious presence on the stage.  The Enterprise dress was a cool idea too, and I wouldn’t have come up with it ever.  The Khann that won did a really great job too with all sorts of details, and I think the holodeck duo would have won if Khan-ye and Kim weren’t there, because they did really well too.  There was a very good Garek too, but she wasn’t in the contest.  Actually, I saw plenty of fun costumes out there all day.  🙂

I asked on the convention app if anyone would share photos since I took too few, and here are two I found:

I will not lie, this is the coolest thing that happened that day… Robert Picardo asked if he could take a photo with me and Tweeted it!  😀  So, here is that:

Borg Queen with Robert Picardo.jpg

Creating a Costume of Skyrim’s “First Dragon Born”

It is never too early to think about Halloween.  I know it is only April, but I enjoy Halloween very much and love to create costumes.  Sometimes gathering the materials and building a costume can take a lot of time, and maybe this post will be helpful for someone planning ahead or going to some sort of event?  So, here I am posting in spring about the ensemble that I made for my husband in the fall of 2013.

first dragonborn side First Dragonborn first dragonborn back

He is an avid gamer, and for a while he was thinking of little besides the Skyrim video game.  Every year I’d dress up for Halloween, but he’d stick to his usual black t-shirt and cargo pants.  That fall I asked him if he could think of anything that he’d be comfortable dressing as, and he showed me images of The First Dragon Born from Skyrim.

inspirtation 1 skyrim first dragonborninspiration 2 skyrim

Challenge accepted!

He really didn’t seem to think that it was doable, but I had some ideas brewing.  I went to a few art supply stores in Manhattan, browsed for hours, and brought home bags full of materials that had potential.  While Blick and Utrecht had some very neat materials I also bought some kiddie type sculpting foam (Model Magic) from AC Moore and also some cheap props from Ricky’s.  Off the top of my head I had: black gesso; a wood carving knife; the Model Magic; Balsa Foam; sheets of black craft foam; strips of black leather; metallic paint made with stainless steelplaster of paris gauze strips; black, pewter, and silver glitter fabric paints; a thrift store belt; a plastic sword, a child’s sized craft foam shield, and a ghoul mask; coarse and fine black linen fabrics; brushes; leather work gloves; Gorilla and wood glues; and blue battery operated LED lights.  I already had certain supplies such as black grommets and aluminium foil.

paint and gesso skyrim supplies foam shield

I do want to advise against the Model Magic although it worked pretty well to start, because I found that it is far to fragile to be worn and also shrinks and cracks during long term storage.  😦  I’d use something like paper clay if I’d have known better.  This past Halloween he re-used the costume, and although it was stored safely I had to make many repairs to the mask, shoulder pieces, and sword.

I began with the mask.  It seemed best to use a very cheap plastic one as a base, so I chose the cheapest one with a good shape then cut all of the gauze off of it.  The First Dragon Born helmet is rather angular, so carving and gluing Balsa Foam would work out well to form the planes and angles, I thought.  I began by sketching out a rough outline of the mouth shape and began to carve.  Next I cut two side pieces into shape.

building mask

It is quite easy to carve the Balsa Foam, but it is brittle, so you must take care.  Gorilla glue held things together perfectly.  Once there was a foam frame to work on I began to sculpt with Model Magic and even aluminium foil.  Foil is cheaper than the other stuff, and it gave a neat, organic, bonelike look to the horns too.  The Model Magic happened to be white, but it was kind of fun working on it with the two-tone look.  It also wasn’t possible to smooth it as I wished, so I topped some areas with craft foam to give it a hard edged, smooth metal appearance.  Then I highlighted places to keep in mind while painting to create the illusion that they’d been sculpted.

building mask 2 sculpted mask

Meanwhile, I began sculpting Model Magic into scales of armour.  This was very simple and worked out well except that I’d use another medium next time due to a lack of durability.  They fared alright, but if starting from scratch why not use something better suited?  Anyway, they took only a few minutes.  I draped them over jars and cans to dry with a rounded shape suitable for wearing on arms.  Sculpting the shoulder pieces was far more difficult, (and I practically remade them with Paper Clay for last Halloween.)  Then I began the sword by crumpling up more foil and hot glueing it to the plastic prop from Ricky’s.  After that I wrapped it with plaster of paris gauze strips.  When that was dry I sculpted again with the Model Magic.  *Insert the same warning to use another material here.  😉  The child’s craft foam shield was embossed and perfect to cut up for a belt buckle.

sculpting armour scales

sword sculpting

At this point I painted the leather work gloves black and cut little holes into the palms.  The idea was to thread the LED lights through so that there would be a blue glow like in the inspiration image, but the wires broke easily.  I didn’t think it important enough a detail to try anything else.

wiring the glove lights

The next step once everything was dry was to gesso them.  Luckily they sell black gesso, so there weren’t extra steps.  The most fun part was carefully applying the metallic paint to make the pieces look like blackened metal.  I really loved this part!  It felt like the pieces were transforming and becoming real after planning them in my head.

painting the sculpted skyrim pieces gessoed mask

gesso sword and arm pieces belt sword

metallic paint skyrim

I don’t believe that I took photos of the sewing portion of the costume.  All I did was draft simple patterns for a simple wrap tunic and drawstring pants, cut them of the rougher linen, and sew them.  The neckline of the tunic was bound with a wide bias strip cut of the finer linen.  The hemlines were “finished” by attacking them with scissors and pinking shears to look artfully tattered.  That was nice since hemming is boring.  😀  Then I painted the bound edge with fabric paint in rough zigzags loosely calling to mind the inspiration images.

The arm pieces were simply two layers of foam, with the scales hot glued on, cut into rounded oblongs with holes to lace them up with leather strips.  The set on the upper arm were pointed to the tunic through grommets in the border there (which was inspired by 16th century European clothing.)  Actually, I was lazy and attached the sleeves that way too, I believe.  (Pointed simply means tied on, btw.)  The hood was a quick thing too.  I just folded a fairly narrow strip of the linen, tucked a corner to round it to fit over the back of a head, sewed that seam, folded over and hot glued the front to cover the edge of the mask, and tattered the bottom.  The front below the mask edges was bound and painted like the tunic.  It just gets pinned under the chin, and likewise the tunic pins closed before being belted.

pointed on shoulder armour closeup

Here it is again:

upper closeup first dragonborn First Dragonborn

Also, here are a couple of shots from this past fall when I repaired the damaged portions:

broken patching

I have to say that I am really proud of how this costume turned out.  My husband received a lot of attention and compliments while wearing it although only a handful of people knew who the character was.  (Most assumed it was a demon or devil but still thought it was done well.)  🙂