Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Can Can-trooper

V.1 2010
In 2010 I launched my favorite costume ever, and a costume that I must say I've become quite famous for. It's the can can trooper. It's based on a Star Wars storm trooper, but I've reimagined it as a can can dress, all in plastic fabric. There were several reasons and how I came up with this idea, and it had been brewing since 2005 before I finally set out to make it.

First of all the inspirations for this:

1. Moulin Rouge! I love that film, and it was that film that led me to making corsets. I love all the characters that you see in their character driven can can gowns. I've spent hours looking at them and wanting to make character can can outfit for myself.

2. In 2005 at  Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis I took this picture of a friend of mine. We just loved the face of the guy in the background and we joked around and called it the picnic trooper. Then I started to think that it would be so fun to make a can can trooper, the idea was born.

3. There are a lot of "sexy" Star Wars costumes out there, including the femtroopers (just google femtrooper and you will find a lot of examples). Most of them are basically a Star Wars costume where you show as much skin as possible and show your great looking body. I wanted to make a costume that was sexy, but still covered up and abtainable for us curvier girls. I would never show my midriff for example.

The plan from the start was to get a stormtrooper helmet, make a corset and skirt, add pieces of armour and other things that made it look more like a stormtrooper. The first thing was to get a helmet. Thanks to my contacts in the Nordic Garrison, I wasn't a member there at the time, I heard of a guy selling an FX-helmet. FX is an early brand of fanmade stormtrooper armour, today it's known to be unproportional. The reason why he sold it was the he wanted to upgrade to a more accurate helmet. Since this costume wasn't about accuracy I bought it.

Next thing was the boots. I found them on ebay, they are a pair of platform gogo boots with wide calves and a quite chunky heel, rather than a stiletto heel. They are actually quite comfortable to walk in, and I've worn them for disco parties and stuff like that as well.

Under the gown I wear a pair of black shiny/plastic leggings. The black chemise that is poking out is actually a shiny black 3/4-length sleeved top. I never used it since it ended way too high, but I sewed a skirt to it so that it would be a protection against the corset the whole way down, and the skirt part isn't visible.

The corset is made from my favorite corset pattern, the Truly Victorian 110. The pattern goes together like a charm and fits really well without any alternations. It's made in two layers. One strength layer of coutil, with sewn on boning channels and one outer layer of very heavy and shiny vinyl. It's boned with spring steel on every seam and in the middle of each panel. this is definitely the best corset that I have ever made, I was so proud that I managed to do it in such a tricky fabric as the vinyl. The straps are tacked on by hand, and are simply two layers of vinyl with batting in between, then I sewed down seams to make them look like the ribbed shoulder pieces of the stormtrooper armour.

The outer skirt is a full circle skirt of the same vinyl as the corset. And then the main piece of the whole ensemble is the petticoat, which you don't even see in most of the photos. I had decided to make all the ruffles of the petticoat into the shape of the imperial seal. In order for the fabric to be able to hold the ruffles I used a heavy satin, then the ruffles themselves were made out of black and white interlock. I chose interlock because then I didn't have to finish the edges of the ruffles, since it doesn't fray. On the other hand the interlock that I found was quite heavy, which added a lot of weight. In the end I think I cut and gathered around 120 meters of ruffles for the petticoat. In hindsight I could have gathered a lot less with the same result, but I really thought that the tighter I gathered the more poof I would get in the skirt. I spent three months on the petticoat alone, and still the only way you can see the result is to lay it flat on the ground.
around 120 m of handgathered ruffles

Imperial Seal

 Other bits and pieces to the costume is a neckseal of black vinyl, made in the same way as the straps to the corset, but with horizontal seams. For version one I made some ruffles out of the vinyl and attached to the shoulders. Then there are gauntlets of the white vinyl and black satin gloves.

I debuted the costume at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando in 2010. I entered it into the costume
Me with the original "picnic trooper"
contest and got a lot of applause from the audience, but I didn't win. I also discovered that it was almost impossible for myself to walk on the con floor, but thankfully I had a friend who rescued me and acted as my support/bodyguard for the rest of the day. The thing that made me most happy though were the comments I got from a couple of women who came up and said that I was their favorite costume because I showed that you could be both sexy and classy at the same time, and that sexy doesn't have to equal slutty.

The costume was definitely a success, and I've even been up on a list of the 15 funniest stormtroopers that's been floating the net, there I'm called Lady Stormtrooper. Unfortunately the list itself isn't available anymore, and I was stupid enough not to save it. Also when I wore the costume again at Star Wars Celebration VI in 2012 I was approached by two women who told me that I had inspired them to make their own "Star Wars princess" gowns to wear at local cons. This shows that even if I call it a can can -trooper, it's seen as a princess, or lady-like gown.

For Celebration VI had done some small alterations. I had cut off the ruffles and just made simple tubes of vinyl to wear on the upper part of the arms, and I didn't wear the heavy petticoat. Instead I had made a simpler tulle petticoat. It isn't the full seal, but it gives the same black and white swoshiness, but with a fraction of the weight of the original petticoat. That's important when you travel by plane.
The "travel" petticoat.

Some things happened at CVI though. A good thing was that the corset is now too big, I can lace it fully closed in the back and it would definitely be possible to lace it tighter. Also some of the boning broke through the channels and is now sticking up in my armpit, not comfortable. I'm planning on wearing the costume at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2015, but that means that I will have to make a new corset. I have also bought a proper stormtrooper backplate, thermal detonator, belt and handplates, and I'm hoping to integrate these into the costume to make it more armorlike. One thing I'm going to ditch though is the helmet. Remember what I wrote up in the beginning that the FX helmet is unproportional. That means that it's 3 cm too big to fit into my suitcase, which in itself is the maximum allowed size. So when I'm flying I need to carry it in some kind of bag, and technically it's too big to be a carry on piece as well, and then cram it by my feet or risk it getting crushed by other bags in the over head compartment. I'm tired of that. My idea for 2015 is to skip the helmet, buy a white wig in a bob hairstyle and simply paint my face white with the helmet markings.

Status: under reconstruction

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