I thought there was an extra week in November and I was really disappointed to find out I was wrong!
I have been very busy and the phone has been ringing off the hook, in fact I turned down a project because I just couldn't add one more thing to the list. Anyway, I am trying to keep up with blogging.
So, I recently made a toile for an opera costume and fit it. It is quite a challenge to fit disproportionately larger body types for a number of reasons. One is that people do not get larger with any kind of controlled change. Each person gets larger in their own unique way.
I have to rely less on standards and more on modifying my basic drafting to interpreting the person's
shape from photos that are provided. One other challenge is the pattern shapes change in ways that you may not be used to: the pattern no longer looks proportional. I often find too, that men's wear gets a bit more challenging because there are fewer accepted style lines and darts than in women's wear.
This project reminded me of something I made earlier this year: a body padding for Falstaff.
It is never easy to make a body padding nor to wear one.
The actor and designer had a definite take on the shape they were after, and what they didn't want, and it was my job to create something. (in much too short a time, I may add)
They wanted a more realistic take on what had been done here in the past.
What has been done in the past? Well, everything from layers of batting hand stitched layer upon layer to an inner base, which could be as simple as a t-shirt with a small "belly" added, to a full unitard with combinations of rigilene frameworks and small crescent shaped bags of Lycra filled with styrene or plastic beads.
They wanted the padding to act like real flesh, compressible to an extent and be more realistic looking.
I decided to try to work with memory foam. I had never worked with it before and we had a difficult time sourcing what we needed in a short time frame.
I wish I had taken photos of the whole process, but it was so busy and this show had a very "organic" approach to it, that I barely had time to think at all. Sigh.
I started with a base of fine power net/Lycra.I knew I was going to have to build up the arms and legs, so I made a pattern for a close fitting bodice and a shorts. This way I had a waist seam where I could adjust the fit if needed. I fit the base on the actor first. In the fitting the designer and I drew on it indicating key areas that I could reference once I was back at my table. I took quite a few measurements as well, and we tried to establish a final chest and waist size to aim for.
I returned to my room and then adjusted a stand to be more like his natural shape so that we had a reference point from which to build on. This was so important because we couldn't be making major changes in the actual fittings with the actor.
I began with my own sketch of a body shape, and figured out what attributes of that shape I could try to reproduce. I have to say that this is where my early training in life drawing painting and sculpture comes in handy.
I started with the belly, using some air conditioner foam to build up a bit of solid understrucure.
I then built up and created rolls of fleshy areas with memory foam. We punched holes in the foam wherever possible to allow a bit of air flow through to his body. These areas of foam often consisted of two or three layers or blocks of foam that had a larger piece laid over top and wrapped to create three dimensions. We glued the under blocks in place as well as the wrapped edges with plain old white glue which seemed to do the best job of the many glues we tried.
Those foam shapes were then were covered in another lightweight power net/Lycra which gave us the means to attach the rolls to the base layer or to another roll. The pieces were kept separate to simulate how I thought real flesh would behave. So, there is an overhang/apron of foam in the abdomen and another at the waist. this allowed the actor to wear his trousers waist up under the belly roll if he wanted. The chest padding was separate as was the shoulder blade area. The arms and legs and seat were also padded up.
It took a lot of time to figure out and make, as I was also busy with the rest of the show and finishing up the previous shows. We proceeded in stages, I would figure out a shape, hand it off to Karen to glue and cover. Sometimes the shape is not quite right and we had to modify the chest by adding in a piece of foam covered separately, as we didn't have time to re cut and recover that section.
Once the padding was finished, we could then start on the clothes.
I confess that I just draped the clothes right on the stand rather than try to draft and work it out as a flat pattern. Draping just seemed more immediate and time was of the essence by then.
I found out in a fitting after it was finished that they wanted him to appear in a set of long underwear over this padding and I just about fainted! I mean the foam we were able to get was green and pale blue, and what was that going to look like? would it show through? Could we get long underwear on short notice that covered the padding properly? Of course we ended up making a set of long johns and Henley. At that point the actor wanted some "anatomy" made for realism's sake, which needed to be removed at one point (they gave him tight jeans to wear at one point and there wasn't enough room) so we made him a "package" using the Lycra and styrene beads, and it was a complicated bit of business figuring out how to make that work.
Oh our work is never dull, I tell you!