Sure Halloween has come and gone, but you can’t beat this elaborate Marie Antoinette costume created by Elyse Regan for the ILM-Lucasfilm-LucasArts 2006 Halloween Costume party. It’s an amazing feat and detail in crafting. CRAFT friend Bonnie Burton got a chance to talk more with Elyse to find out how she created her elaborate look.
Let Them Wear Wigs!
The Making of a Marie Antoinette costume
By Bonnie Burton
When LucasArts employee Elyse Regan stepped into the spotlight at the ILM-Lucasfilm-LucasArts 2006 Halloween Costume party, little did she know she’d be the Belle of the Ball. Her impressive custom-made dress was breathtaking, but it was her sky-high wig topped with a French sailboat that made everyone gasp in complete awe. Elyse Regan talks about how she was inspired by the misunderstood, but stylish queen.
Bonnie: Why did you decide to create a Marie Antoinette costume for Halloween?
Elyse: I was watching the movie “Amadeus” one night and was inspired from the masquerade scene. As I did more and more research on that time period, I stumbled across Marie Antoinette. I loved everything about her so I new I had to do something along those lines. It turns out that Mozart actually played for Marie Antoinette and her family when he was a child, so it was exciting to know that the two were tied in history.
Bonnie: Did you design the dress? What fabrics and materials did you use?
Elyse: I got to pick out all of the fabrics, colors, and jewels on the dress and then I had Belinda Barry at RomanticThreads.com sew it for me. She specializes in these types of period gowns and she did an amazing job to boot! The main fabrics on the dress are Dupioni silk and rose brocade. Here’s her site: http://store.romanticthreads.com/manstfago.html.
Bonnie: Did you also make the mask and fan? From what kinds of materials?
Elyse: I made the mask and the fan out of paper mache and used acrylic paint on top. I wanted the mask to look like waves from the ship (on top of my wig). As for the fan, I purchased a lace fan and then added my own décor. I did some research on fans during the 1700 and 1800’s, so I tried to give it that kind of look. I found pictures of Marie Antoinette, printed them out, and made a collage on both sides of the fan. I put a layer of pearl acrylic over the picture to give it a shine and added gold ribbon around the edges. I also painted the wood gold.
Bonnie: How did you make the wig? Is this the first wig you’ve made?
Elyse: Wow… the wig! What a project! I’d like to start by saying thank you to my grandmother and mom for helping me with the wig! The wig was a lot of fun to do, but it took a lot of careful planning before hand to make sure it would stay on top of my head! I actually started out with a base wig (one I purchase online) so I could get a good fit around my head. To give the wig height (lots of it) I started out using chicken wire (thin wire with big holes — this is better for bending the wig into shape) and making a column out of it. I lined the inside of the chicken wire with light weight cotton padding and attached it with a few stitches to keep it in place. I purchase a ton of long fake hair (you can usually purchase this at any wig shop) that I could curl into shape and later glue onto the wig. To curl the hair I used steam and any type of cylindrical object (I used a broom stick) to roll the hair on while steaming it. After I prepped all the hair I’d be using, I started gluing hair the base and kept adding layers until I was happy with the results. I used spray glue to attach the hair (3M) which worked REALLY well. Once I was happy with my results I went around the whole wig attaching the hair to the chicken wire with a needle and thread. I did this to make sure the hair didn’t sag and to keep it tight and secure to the chicken wire. I attached the wig to the base wig with very thick thread and added some cushioning around the bottom so it would be comfortable once on. Finally, I intertwined the hair from the base wig into the extension wig so it would look like one piece. I had to do a few minor adjustments so it would sit correctly on my head, but after that I was pretty much done!
Once I was done with the wig I attached the model ship using gold ribbon with thin wiring in it. The chicken wire came in handy at this point since I could use the chicken wire to loop the ribbon around. I could also bend the wire to give the ship a secure fit on top of the wig. I purchased silk flowers from Michaels and attached them to the wig using spray glue and a needle and thread.
Bonnie: Did you make the ship and flowers as well?
Elyse: I made the ship from a model kit I purchased online. I tried to find a French ship from that time period to go with the theme of Marie Antoinette. The ship’s actual name is called “Le Gladiateur.” The model was a lot of fun to do but it was VERY time consuming. It came with 615 pieces all of which I put on. I painted the ship in gold, champagne, and pearl to make it look more like a decoration than a regular model ship. The flowers were purchased from Michaels and are make out of silk. I tried to find colors that would match the dress and the ship.
Bonnie: What is the story behind putting a ship at the top of the wig?
Elyse: While I was doing research on Marie Antoinette I stumbled across a painting of her wearing a ship in her hair. I knew then that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Marie was famous for putting objects in her “poof” that represented a mood she was in or something that was going on in politics and war. She wore a ship to represent a battle that was won, but I cannot remember the exact one of the top of my head.
Bonnie: How long did it take you to sew and construct the costume?
Elyse: I started planning back in June, and started really working on everything in July 2006.
Bonnie: How heavy is that wig? Was it hard to move around (and dance) while wearing the wig?
Elyse: The wig wasn’t as heavy as everyone thought it was. I think it weighed in somewhere around 7 or 8 pounds. I wouldn’t say it was easy to get around with it all night, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I stitched gold ribbon on both sides of the wig to tie around my neck and I also used the ribbons from my mask to secure it. It actually stayed on pretty well!
Bonnie: Why do you think Marie Antoinette would appreciate your costume?
Elyse: I think she would, because I wanted to glorify her as much as I could. She was an amazing woman and it was fun pretending to be her for the evening.
Bonnie: Were you inspired at all by Sofia Coppola’s new film about Marie Antoinette?
Elyse: I haven’t seen the film yet, but it was a nice surprise to see there was a movie coming out on her too! I stumbled across the trailer while I was doing research on the Internet! Since Marie loved champagne so much, I brought a bottle of Sofia to the party with me as one of my props.
Bonnie: What was the reaction from people who saw it at the ILM Costume Party?
Elyse: I had no idea it was going to be such a hit! It was fun taking pictures with everyone and I loved all the little kid’s reactions the best. I was very happy people liked it so much… it make all the long nights of work worth it!
Bonnie: What did you win for your costume?
Elyse: I won the “Have a Blast” package, which included a vacation, digital camera, iPod, Herman Miller Chair, one night stay at the Drisco in San Francisco, and a gift certificate to Silverado Country Club in Napa! I was blown away!
Bonnie: Where else did you wear it? Now that Halloween is over, what will you do with the wig and dress?
Elyse: I’ll find ways to wear it again! It was so much fun to have on! I already have a lady who wants me to wear it at one of her parties.
Bonnie: What costumes have you made in the past?
Elyse: This was the first real costume I’ve ever committed to, and it’s definitely not my last! I had so fun putting it all together and seeing an end result. I can’t wait for next year’s party!
Bonnie: Do you have any advice for budding costume designers who want to make their own custom wigs?
Elyse: I’d tell them to plan ahead, do your research, collect all your supplies, and think everything out before you dig deep into your project. It makes things so much easier once you start your costume. Doing research was especially important for me because you can add so much to the theme of the costume and all the additional details really paid off!
To see more photos of Elyse Regan’s costume, check out the ILM Halloween Party Flickr set.