gretchen jacobsen

Things I Forgot To Mention From 2014, Part 2: Totoro

You might have noticed from my last post that I have been, in some ways, spending the start of 2015 in the past.  I figured why not continue that theme with the 2nd installment of “Things I Forgot to Mention from 2014”.

You might remember that I never finished running down my costumes from DragonCon. My epic Sunday cosplay was The Blue Totoro Bustle Gown. I did this cosplay with my great friend, designer and costuming cohort Ms. Megan Maude. We were at my house one night far too close to DragonCon brainstorming our cosplays. We were sort of at a loss. I mentioned Totoro and her eyes lit up. Yes. We were going to do this!

“You said you you liked hand sewing…” Image by Leo Photography 2014.

We decided to make bustle dresses that were recognizable both as Totoro inspired and also as straight up Victorian fashion. We both wanted to make gowns that were period fashion appropriate versus some odd semi-historic fantasia. This gown seemed very doable to me as I have made several bustle gowns and I had all the foundations ready to go. It was much more work for Megan who was new to this period of sewing and also had to make her bustle and undergarments.

It was decided, due to our considerable height difference, that Megan would be the main gray Totoro and I would be the small blue Totoro. We discussed designs and even got into a couple of heated discussions about what was and wasn’t appropriate. In the end, we went with this:

Totoro Bustle Design Sketch. Drawing by Megan Maude.

You can see some of the variations we discussed on the right side — how many pleats, what do to at the cuff. The only non-historial concession we made was to add the Totoro ears to our bonnets. We had a design and were ready to sew our respective dresses.

We used all patterns from Truly Victorian. The 1884 French Vest Bodice with a modified square neckline for the bodice. The 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt with no modifications for the skirt and hats from the 1880s French Bonnet Frame.

My fabric was white and periwinkle Kaufmann Essex Linen Blend (55% Linen / 45% Cotton). I bought a small piece of bright green linen to make ginkgo leaves for my bonnet. The leaves, beyond being a super cute Totoro reference served to cover some of my hat’s wonkiness and my needle puncture blood stains. I bag lined my bodice per the Truly Victorian pattern using some vintage cotton curtains that had been gifted to me. I thought the texture, color and pattern of the curtains matched the mood of the gown perfectly. I had the lining cut out and then realized that there was actually a tear in one of my pieces. So I added a funny little patch since there was no more curtain to cut another piece.  I also happened to find some perfect leaf buttons so I added those as accents to the collar, cuffs and above the back bodice pleats.

Vintage curtain lining complete with patch and leaf button details.

Megan opted to finish with facings, thinking that it would end up being a cooler garment to wear in the DragonCon swelter. This is actually the more historically accurate way to finish but ended up being a bit of a frustrating choice for the hand sewing adverse Ms. Maude.

I made a little reticule out of some natural cotton and a drawstring made of braided hemp twine. The blue Totoro always seems to be running around with a sack and this was extra convenient for my cell phone, cash and hand fan.

We were both thrilled with how our gowns turned out and had a fabulous time on promenade Sunday night. I have to say this was probably the most squee-able cosplay I have ever done. The squees were audible as we heard people exclaim “OMG Totoro!” and the like. We also had our share of people wanting photo ops. I think I pretty much giggled and smiled the entire time we wore the gowns!

Classic Totoro by RBC Image.

I even have a Totoro fan in my hand. RBC Image

Urban Totoros by RBC Image.

My latest interview – DJ Yoon Nam of Jet Lag 88.5

I just interviewed DJ Yoon Nam for ATL Retro. Yoon produces the amazingly curated Jet Lag, a radio program of predominantly 60s and 70s prog, psych, trippy sounds — and almost all on vinyl. It’s a really cool show from 8 to 10pm Sunday nights on WRAS 88.5 FM Atlanta (and folks not local — you can listen via Tunein! How to notes in the article.)

DJ Yoon Nam of Jet Lag on the decks.

Venusian Flora Bustle Gown


Venusian Flora Bustle Gown by Gretchen Jacobsen aka Wilhelmina Frame. Images by Max Egon.

I purchased the skirt fabric on clearance from a few years ago. I was super excited about its “Seussian” pods and originally planned to make a tea gown. I was pretty new to buying fabric online and consequently, I didn’t look at the sample photo and accompanying ruler very closely. When the fabric arrived I was surprised and bummed to find that the motifs were much larger than I had realized. So into the stash it went for a while.

Fast forward to me wondering what to make for TeslaCon 2012. TeslaCon is an immersive Steampunk convention. Every year is a new chapter in an overarching storyline. The 2012 the chapter revolved around “A Trip to the Moon”. Con attendees were passengers on a luxury voyage to the moon ala Georges Melies. I thought of my fabulous pod fabric. I also thought of the Ray Bradbury story “All Summer in a Day” (read it here. It’s short) and I had my idea. The pods would become rare flora from the rain planet Venus; exquisite flowers that only bloom for a few hours every seven years when the sun shines.

I used Truly Victorian’s 1883 Tail Bodice with Keyhole Neckline and the 1885 Four Gore Underskirt, modified to have a draped front.  The hat is a vintage find. I replaced the ribbon and netting. The hat brim still had its original decoration of purple flowers. I added purple berries to compliment the pods.

As per usual, I went to TeslaCon still needing to do finishing work on the gown. I had opted to make covered buttons out of the contrast silk I used for the collar and also to line the bottom folds of the tail bodice. I made the covered buttons and sewed them on in my hotel room. The day came to wear the gown but it was all for naught. I put on the skirt and realized that the hem was too long. OK, I will just need to be careful when I walk. And the bodice, despite a perfect fit on the mockup (maybe too perfect?) was a little too small. I just need to tie my corset just a little…bit…tighter. I started buttoning. Covered buttons from kits have a dome shape. I had set my button hole foot to the correct diameter, but the holes ended up being too small because I did not allow for the curve of the dome shaped button. Still determined I began forcing the buttons through the holes. One button popped off its shank. I had an extra. Two buttons popped from the shank. I had yet another extra. Three buttons broke from the shank. And that was it. The bodice was unwearable. The outfit was a fail. So close but yet so far.

It sat until early this year when I decided to give the gown another go. I found perfect gold and pink buttons, in two sizes! Fixed all the button holes by hand. Redid the berries on the hat. Fixed (sort of — it’s still a little too long) the hem. I don’t have to tie my corset quite as tight as I did at TeslaCon 2012. The Venusian Flora Bustle Gown successfully made its belated debut at AnachroCon 2014.