Category: How to

Kendal’s Elsa Costume Tutorial

Do you want to build a costume?

Seriously, I don’t know how I went from not even wanting to see the movie, to spending weeks making this costume. I’m such a sucker for a sparkly dress.

I made my dress in 2 seconds.
I made my dress in 2 seconds.

On about October 11, I started to make my Elsa costume for Halloween and for prancing around in Hollywood (what? The kids can do it….).  Since it’s been a large part of my life this past month, I figured I’d share the process here. It’s the most creative thing I’ve done in a while, so I’ve found it challenging and rewarding, and I’m proud of the outcome. Most of you regular readers probably won’t care and aren’t interested in making a dress for yourself, but this is for those wandering the internet who may want some tips.

It’s been a bit of trial and error, but I want to share what’s worked!

First! The supplies, and in some cases, quick links on where to find it.

Skirt material

Corset

Rhinestones – sorry, they were vintage. 🙁

Shimmer Sheets

Quick shirt

DIY shirt fabric – I haven’t tried this yet but I’ve read that you should order samples, because the colours are different on the website.

Clear shoes

The easy shoes

Rhinestone strands, glue, Foamies, paint, etc, found at Joann Fabrics.

Now, step by step….

I purchased fabric for Elsa’s skirt on ebay (you can also find some on etsy.com), along with a basic white corset. I had a hard time finding the exact corset shape I wanted, and didn’t want to spend a lot on it, but what I got seems to work. It’s a bit difficult to sit in, and after putting all the shiny things on it I wouldn’t recommend driving in it!

First, I used a New Look pattern (6584) and modified it to create Elsa’s skirt. It worked well, fit great, but then the dry-cleaner kind of ruined the fabric (and I dripped super glue on it too….) and I got to make a new one. I lucked out and found patterns for $1 at Joann’s Fabric (OMG I found the master of all Joann’s…. it’s heaven…) right before making my new skirt, so now I’ve done it the “official” way. I do like it better.

$1? Gimme two! I've already ordered my tiara....
$1? Gimme two! I’ve already ordered my tiara….

 

My cat loves to help.
My cat loves to help.

For the corset, I began with hand sewing the same material over it, in case I had to use it before it was completed. It was a good thing I did that, because I’ve pooped out before finishing the back.

I bought some silver cord to lace it up in the back. I purchased blue as well, but it was too thick. I hope I can return that. Where is the receipt….?

I purchased some blue iridescent Shimmer Sheets and cut them into tiny little round-edged rectangles of various sizes. How many packages will depend on your size and how much of your coset you want to cover. To date, I’ve used 4 packs of them. Could use another pack or two, so I’m ordering that now! I tend to lose a few here and there and if I’m going to use it consistently I should have repair materials!

scraps

 

I bought a string of rhinestones at Joann’s… it’s actually 2 strands supposed to be some kind of trim, but I cut them apart. Later at the monster Joann’s I saw some beautiful rhinestones for $14.99 a yard. But even with the sale going on… I’ve spent so much on this. That will have to wait for the costume upgrade.

I used fabric glue for the “sequins” (what can I call these?) and superglue for the rhinestones. Though things still fall off if they’re in an area that bends. I’m wondering if there’s a solution to this? I thought of perhaps painting over the whole thing with some kind of clear, flexible protective layer but I’m not sure what will work. The glue seems to dissolve the colour on the sequins… I guess it would take some trial and error if I decide that’s the way to go.

I purchased the little rectangular rhinestones off of ebay, and alas, they were vintage so I can’t really point you to them. If you want to search for the exact things, the title was “Vintage 288 Swarovski Crystal Flat Back Baguette”.

This was the most time consuming part of my costume.

corset close corset front corset back

 

I confess, I cheated on the cape/train. Since I’d ordered the Chinese Elsa costume, I had that train available to me. I’d spent so much time on the corset and could see the train being a giant time-suck as well, so I used the pre-made one. If you want to do the same, you can find them on ebay from China (allow a month for shipping…) for about $60. Or less if you don’t want the same kind I got. It’s not bad, but the darn thing spreads glitter everywhere. It looks like there’s a constant party in my car, so be aware of that drawback to a glittered train. DON’T unpack it or wave it around indoors! Unless you like glitter. At some point I may make my own.

I purchased some tiny little nuts at a hardware store and glued them to a few points at the bottom of the train, to try and prevent it from just crumpling at my feet, and perhaps flow a little nicer behind me (but not outside, it gets so dirty if it touches the ground).

Speaking of my feet! I had a pair of silver shoes I’d used for Halloween but really lucked out the other day when I stopped into a Crossroads Trading Company. I found THESE!

 

Can't get much easier than this.
Can’t get much easier than this.

And what’s great is that they aren’t discontinued yet. I found them on Amazon! (click me, click me!)

OK, so they aren’t exactly Elsa’s ice shoes but oh my gosh, they match so well, and the shape is so close.

If you want heels, however… well, I can advise on that as well. 🙂

While I was at Crossroads I also happened to find a pair of nude coloured heels with open sides, and an ankle strap (which seems like a good bonus to me). So I bought them too, so I could try my hand at making Elsa shoes worthy of a photoshoot. Heels always look better with long dresses….

So back to Joann’s, where I finally learned what Foamies are. I bought a blue Foamie for 99¢, some Foamie glue (which is kind of useless and I might return) and a bottle of FolkArt Metallic Acrylic Paint in Ice Blue.

Looking at the various pictures of Elsa’s shoes online, there are a few ways you can go. In the poster, they’re quite transparent, and you can find some clear shoes on Amazon (for $50+….but they aren’t pointed at the toes, and I like that look…. it’s also difficult to know what size to order when you can’t try them on…) or model them after her shoes in the film, which seem more solid. So that’s what I am going for. As much as I love the glass slipper look.

Take a close look at what we're dealing with here.
Take a close look at what we’re dealing with here.
Magical shoes!
Magical shoes!

I feel as though they have a bit of a greenish iridescence to them, I’m not sure if I will imitate that or not. I’ve made mine a little more likely to stay on my feet (not a fan of shoes that are hard to keep on, as these might be, plus, I didn’t feel like cutting the existing leather). I also made the design a little thicker, since I wanted it to be a little stronger and less likely to bend or rip/break off. I really can be a perfectionist, and I still wonder if I’ll redo it at some point…. most likely, yes, if I wear them out. It’s foam. It won’t last long.

If you want to take the long way...
If you want to take the long way…
Shine, make 'em wonder whatcha got....
Shine, make ’em wonder whatcha got….

So far, I like the Foamies. It conforms well to the contours of the shoe.

After hot-gluing the Foamies to the shoes, I painted them with about 4 layers, and then decided to spray some sparkles on them as well. Then I sprayed seriously about a dozen layers of a clear protective spray (not sure where it is right now) to make them shiny and maybe tougher. They did last through a photo shoot, but there was some cracking. 🙁 I’m thinking another product I recently re-found (from my jewelry-making days) that says it’s more flexible might have been a better choice. Next time.

My feet are too smaaaaaaall.
My feet are too smaaaaaaall.

Elsa shoes

 

Backing up a bit to the sleeves/shirt. This also proved frustrating. I couldn’t find a good material for it at Joann’s, and I kind of dislike going downtown for things. So after making a temporary top from a non-stretchy mesh, I took some photos to a highly rated yet affordable seamstress I found on Yelp. The first draft was horrible. A right itchy mess. They also chose a non-stretchy mesh, covered in glitter which I found in my shoes a day later. I told her that it couldn’t be so itchy and glittery and I needed to be able to move my arms. So…. please try again. The next version was better… A blue sparkly (but not glitter-shedding) mesh on top of another skin-toned mesh… anyway to cut a long story short, she needed to extend the sleeves, cut the neckline down farther, and then I finally called it a day. By that point I’d found this on Amazon. So yeah, I ordered it. Because I’m a perfectionist and it’s the closest I’d seen. If it’s made for dancers, I’m pretty sure it’s made so that you can move your arms above your head. Like this girl.

dance shirt

 

Someone else had pointed out a good shirt on ebay that was slightly more off-the-shoulder, but they were all sold out and never plan on being in stock again. So forget that.

It arrived quickly, and I have to say, it was REALLY bright blue. So off I went to Joann’s for some Design Master Colortool Spray in Blue Sky. And I got to work, praying I wasn’t going to just ruin the whole thing.

Don't mess up, don't mess up....
Don’t mess up, don’t mess up….

I managed to do a good job, but after some wear, it started rubbing off in some places. I don’t know if it would make it through a round in the washer. I also still want to cut the neckline but I’m afraid of just ruining it. I’m not going to attempt putting the silver patterns on this one, because the colour isn’t staying well so I don’t know if it’s worth that much effort. It did give me an idea for the other shirt, and I’m going to see about buying some elastic and altering it, since the other one seems to get bunchy at the top.

Hmmm. OK, last but not least (I think… am I forgetting anything?) The hair. I ordered clip in extensions from aliexpress.com and they’re OK. I ordered them 30 inches long, and I’ve trimmed them a bit because I have trouble with it getting tangled. It takes 15 minutes to braid my hair in the morning. Well, I think I’ve gotten faster, actually. My hair is kind of blue, so I tried to dye a few strands to match, so it would blend to the end. Here’s a pre-blended photo:

Get your hair done!
Get your hair done!

Then, the last detail to arrive before my first photo shoot were these lovely snowflake hair clips (purchased on Amazon). Which you can’t see at all in the photo I’m going to share.

snowflakes

And now….

Wait for it…

This is going to be awesome…

Kendal Brenneman, as Queen Elsa….

 

I can't stop staring... at myself... is that OK?
I can’t stop staring… at myself… is that OK?

So since I know you can’t see everything I made (except the shoes), here are some un-retouched photos so you can get a good look at the front of the dress.

elsa 1

 

 

elsa 2

I know her train begins a little farther under her arms, but mine must have been made for a big-chested girl, so it wraps around me a little farther. Ah well. Overall, I’m pleased with things. I would still love to perfect the sleeves, but I need a rest for now, before the next project….

Queen

Let me know what you think….

How Can You Afford To Travel?

It’s asked. It’s thought. And sometimes my answer is “I can’t.” At the moment I’m in a space where I just have to have faith that if I keep working hard and smart that I will get out of this hole and back to a bit of stability. But the answer to the question of “how can you afford to travel?” right now is…. “How can I afford not to?”

I’m realizing that I can’t afford to stay in Paris, at least not comfortably. But I have to stick around for a few more months for some classes, meetings, and to get to India in November with a shorter and cheaper flight (and vaccinations). My solution to the “I can’t afford to live here anymore” situation? Travel. Yeah. That thing you think you do only when you have money.

But I can explain. I took the leap and bought a round trip ticket to Barcelona, and another roundtrip from there to Ghana. In total, this cost me less than 900€ and will take me from July 31 to September 19. To couchsurf or rent a room in Spain will end up costing me maybe 200-300€. And I can easily couchsurf the rest of September in Paris. So right there is about 1200€, or 600€ a month, which is equal to or less than what I would pay for a room or studio in Paris. BUT I get a grand new adventure out of it, in places where everything else is cheaper. So I’ll be lowering my living costs. Yes, for the moment, I had to put the tickets on a credit card because I don’t get paid that far in advance and am squeezing every last dime (er…. centime?) but I think it was worth it.

I think traveling can frequently be cheaper than staying in one place, especially if you use couchsurfing.org or helpx.net for your accommodations. Yes, airfare can be a big cost, but if you plan carefully, you still could be saving more money than you’d spend at home on rent and food (and gas, etc….). If you have a mileage card, that can help you out. I don’t have one, but maybe I’ll get one in the next year if they’ll approve me!

So that said… yes, surprise! My summer plans are to go to Barcelona and Ghana. While in Barcelona I want to make a music video for an original song (still being composed, and still seeking a musician to help me record it!) and while in Ghana I will be filming at my friend’s computer school.

In other news… I’ve made a little video about the past 2 weeks, since I’ve been doing some kind of interesting things! Filming a short starring my dog, pretending to be military, going to the White Dinner, dancing along the Seine….. It’s summertime. My favourite time in Paris. Well… if it would stop freaking raining.

And now…

Working Online

So as you probably know, I’ve managed to avoid “real jobs” for a long time. I did background work and stand-in work in L.A., and painted houses for a time. Then I sold things on eBay… what else did I do? More background work. And then I started fumbling around online because what on earth could be better than being able to work any time, anywhere? I mean other than acting, of course. But nothing! So my main form of income became Adsense. A few years ago I got involved in some affiliate programs. Some flopped, but one was a straggler. I kept my rep page active because I still got the occasional check. I knew it worked. I got customers through Adwords, and because of the commissions and autoships, I got paid even when I stopped promoting. Downside is, I am spending more on the monthly fee than I make. The upside is… that was with very little work! So I figure if I put in a little more work, I can remedy this situation and turn this into another basket of eggs. You know what I mean, right? Don’t put all your eggs….

But wait, there’s more!

I Know Things

So I’ve decided to teach a few of the things I know, on YouTube.

So many times, when trying to come up with something I could get paid to do, I just think “I have no marketable skills, I’ve been doing odd jobs, background work, playing around on the internet, and acting.” The only résumé I have is my acting résumé. I look on elance.com and don’t find much that I qualify to do (though I did pass the French>English translation test at 95% and in the top 10%! haha… it was multiple choice….).

I read an article online recently (and I can’t remember where!) that made me realize something. I may not be a specialist at anything, a professional, uniquely talented in any one field and ready to teach you everything about it. But I do know some things that other people don’t know. And I can share those things.

But wait, there’s more!

Steps to a Better Blog

Well, I have been keeping up with this blog for about five months now, yay me! I’m still feeling my way around, and finding my groove, and I thought I’d share a little bit of the behind the scenes thinking.

My blog is different.

It’s not just a blog about acting.

It’s not just a blog about travel, or Paris.

It’s not just a blog about adventuring, or volunteering or vegan food or anything.

It’s everything.

itsruchir@yahoo.com

So I’ve had a hard time finding a “niche” for myself and feeling confident in how to move forward. Because yes, somehow, I want this blog to make money. I’m a wandering creative and you know, I’d like to live in a nice apartment, buy a nice house, not be in debt, all those lovely things that everyone else wants, too. But I also want my freedom. Another funny balancing act in progress.

I’ve been gathering information on blogging, and observing what other people are doing, and trying to apply it to my own efforts. But I feel like I need a bit of accountability. Sure, I’m a member of 3 websites that should provide some of that, but they’re private and I want to make this public.

So. Steps I’ve taken this week.

1. I’ve signed up for Google Analytics. I thought I had before, but I guess I didn’t complete the steps. So now I can start tracking the traffic to my site. I need to learn how to find information for each individual page and see what’s popular, because the next step would be to analyse that myself and make sure future posts are something you’re interested in!

2. Blogging! I’m trying to post regularly, though I don’t have a schedule for it. I’m afraid to make it into “work” yet. I do have many things I want to blog about right now, I just haven’t had the time. But I know it’s important to blog regularly. Otherwise you might think I’ve died, and unsubscribe. And that would be sad.

My next steps:

1. I need to review and post affiliate links for products and ebooks that I’ve purchased that are related to the things I talk about here. I know affiliate products can be a large part of a bloggers income, and I’m hoping you guys trust my opinion enough to check out things that I’m excited about (and maybe you are too). I need to figure out the best way to organize these product reviews, too.

2. Search the web for other people like me. Travelers, actresses, vegans. Get connected. I need to expand my network.

3. Videos. I still want to interview people who have used social media to kickstart their creative careers. Right now I’m thinking more about film and music, and I have a few people in mind to contact. I need to get on that. I need to come up with a title for the series, and a tagline. Something to keep it focused. Then I need to contact people. I should probably start another YouTube channel for it then as well.

So there are plenty of things I need to do, and these are only a few. But I’m starting there.

If you have a blog, what are you doing to get it out there, build traffic, monetize? I’d love your suggestions!

Google Analytics and WordPress.org

So this whole time, I thought I had Google Analytics set up for my website (and just um… never looked at it), but it turns out, I didn’t. I went into the Analytics all excited to get some information on y’all, my visitors, and there was nothing. 0! Whaaaat? So I finally got the chance to sit down and deal with that today.

0 Visitors. You didn't count.
0 Visitors. You didn’t count.

But wait, there’s more!