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Red is very selective with the commissions she takes. She'll gladly point you elsewhere if she doesn't feel she has time or is the best sewist for your project.


No More Fan Commissions 

I made my first set of feather fans back in 2008. I got a discount kit from Ostrich.com and made a nice set of baby blue fans. A costume designer decided that fall that my fans should be peach and green, so I traded out the feathers.

My next pair of fans was a gorgeous pair of baby blues, designed by Catherine d'Lish and built by Evie Lovelle. I did some costume and fan assembly with Catherine and Evie, and asked to be paid with a new pair of fans. In December 2009, I got this huge pair of gorgeous fans that I still have.

I learned a little more about technique and made a pair of coral fans on my own. I got staves from Ostrich.com and a volume of feathers from Fancy Feathers. They were double layered beauties built in 2012.

The James Franco Bukowski movie (still unreleased) required three fan dancers, so I built another set of coral fans with staves of my own making. We passed those fans and my original coral fans between the three of us when we filmed in 2013.

Along the way, I've made other people's fans from scratch and done plenty of rebuilds. Every fan presents its own challenges, the greatest being poor-quality feathers. To be honest, the fan will only look as good as the feathers on the staves.

I built my boa fans for my birthday this year. I sought guidance from Donna Touch, a fellow performer who has focused on innovating feather fans. Donna makes fan staves and assembles fans far more frequently than me. I ordered big staves with a copper penny finish, and followed her advice closely for my own assembly.

Let me tell you, if I'd tried to navigate my first boa fans on my own I would've gotten very angry and destroyed something. It was wiser for me to ask someone more experienced in this milieu for tried and true tricks. Her kits include staves, hardware, video instructions, and wrenches in the correct size that can be dedicated solely to the fans.

Fan assembly is time consuming, even when you've done it a few times. I always charged too little for the hours required. I didn't want to manage feather purchases for commissions, but I was also frustrated when people didn't get the best feathers to do the job.

I won't be taking any more fan commissions. There are other people out there like Donna who can guide you to do your own, or charge an appropriate amount to do them for you. (I get paid a lot more as a writer than I ever have for a commission.)

My colorful boa fans won't see the stage for a few more months. They move a bit differently from my other fans, and that requires conditioning. I don't want to put something into the world that isn't quite ready if I can avoid it.

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Must 

Photo by Naked Lens.

I've stitched every sort of garment except gloves and shoes. Bras are the worst to me, along with trying to use knit fabrics in situations best suited to woven fabrics. I love learning and I am confident I could learn to make anything.

But, I'm not doing that any more.

My Greedo costume consists of mostly purchased pieces: Amazon vest and belt, sale jumpsuit that I rhinestoned, Amazon gloves and sunglasses. I made the head piece and rhinestone appliqués for my face. I commissioned a custom panty from Ruby Lead that I love.

I could've made the entire thing from scratch, but it wasn't worth it to me. The time involved in getting the right shape in the jumpsuit or figuring out the best way to make the panty weren't worth the hassle.

Besides, Ruby makes panties all the time. She's made so many panties that she's worked through the kinks that I'd have to endure to make it right. She nailed it, and I didn't spend too many hours trying to get it right.

I prefer to get experimental with my own costumes and garments when time allows. Having to learn on someone's commission is stressful.

If you talk to me about a commission, I'll refer you to someone else on the pieces on which others are expert. Ickymuffin's body harness for the Mr. Gibbles act that won Mr. Exotic World 2018 was made by Doris Night. In the hours I've been working on corsets and gowns, she's been honing her harness skills. I have two harnesses she's made and I love them.

Don't let people shame you for buying ready-made pieces for your costume. Buy that $50 corset online if you can't afford custom. Get that jumpsuit that's on sale. Spend $20 on a cheap bra that fits. Just cut out those tags and make those manufactured pieces look fabulous.

Taking it Ease-y: The Importance of Garment Space 

Commercial patterns for the home sewist give a list of measurements on the envelope flap. This is where you discover you may be a size 4 off-the-rack but you're maybe a 10 or 12 in sewing patterns. However, those numbers on the flap are not the measurements of the final garment.

You see, patterns are built with ease. Commercial pattern exceptions are corsets and knit, fitted garments. Manufacturers give wearers an extra three or four inches of room in the garment for a few reasons.

First, you want to be able to get into and out of the garment without the aid of a lubricant or pair of pliers. Let's not forget that scene in Dazed and Confused when the young lady had to lie flat on her bed to close her zipper.

Second, our measurements fluctuate on a daily basis. Last night's cheeseburger may hang out in your tummy area today, but a day of salads mean you have a half inch more space to get into your outfit.

Finally, human beings are vain and numbers can seem like a big deal. We get so hung up on measurements indicating one's value-- height, weight, bra size, hip width. That garment ease really does help one save face with oneself when they fib a little on the number.

If you select a commercial pattern, your garment will have ease. Don't expect it to be a second skin unless you tailor it that way.