Sunday, March 24, 2013

Into the Vinkus

So Emerald City Comic Con came and went and it was mind-blowingly terrific. I've got a Con report slated for Tumblr over the next week but that will have to wait in lieu of an update on the next project!

A chance discovery in an obscure comic shop in Seattle rekindled a latent childhood fascination with the Witch's Guard from the 1939 Wizard of Oz. Known rather ignominiously as the "Winkie Guard," these chaps, with their voluminous uniforms, their furry kolpaks, and their general air of badassery, were bound to hit the "Must Costume" list at one point. And so, with two weeks into the project already, it's time for an update.

Let's get some reference images to start with...

This was the photo I found in the bin at the comic shop that sparked a neural explosion. I mean, seriously! Just look at that stuff! Totally voluminous!

 Not to mention those halberd/glave polearms...

The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 MGM Classic by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman also gives a nice costume break-down plus some interesting development insight on the Winkies themselves which will help immensely here:

So it was off to Fabricland the moment we laid foot at home again and some digging through the bargain section yielded a butter-soft gray polyester coating that could just about pass as doeskin wool if you don't get too friendly with it. The rest of it, aside from the red trim, was pulled from The Stash.

I wanted to make the bodice for the under-tunic first thing so I could set it up on the dressform and start to pattern up the armour right away.

Here we go with an initial stab at the 'necklace' too. The bodice is interlined with a quilted cotton to give it a nice rigidity one might expect in a uniform. My version closes with hooks and eyes and is generally much simpler than the movie version which you can see in the book scan above. Coming from Hollywood costumer designer, Adrian, the guard design is an interesting hybrid of Hussar/Steppe attire plus some potentially Japanese influences in the simulated lamellar and plated armour. The combination of both plus some green skin and majestically hooked noses definitely produces some intimidating, malevolent-looking guards!

The bodice came together easily. I used the base pattern from Dr. Jacquin's coat because I knew it fit without much adjustment. The collar took some tweaking and is significantly different from the movie design:

I don't know how I am doing the sleeves yet. The chaps in the film have knitted sleeves to simulate maille, which I WILL have, but this almost seems like it needs half-length sleeves or something too. If you've got any suggestions, I'm all ears!

The 'necklace' is made from 1 1/4" dowel that was cut and drilled by Walter, our intrepid collections' tech at work. I sanded the pieces down a bit, gave them a coat of off-white paint, and a bit of light-brown dry-brushing to simulate bone. I don't know if it's actually supposed to be bone but the potentiality of them wearing the bones of their enemies around their necks is appealingly badass. The tassels are made of yarn and came together with this tutorial. The final versions will be a lot more refined.

I didn't want to start on the skirting until I had the pants finished because I think they add to the 'fluff' of the skirts. Did a rough mock-up last week with an widened version of Marius' pants but they didn't have the right shape.

Or... any shape at all. Things got a little more oblong with the second mock-up - 

 - and this worked out much better.

Because the pants generally keep their shape while the guards move around during the film, I think there is a fair bit of interlining in there. There was also the issue of the strange gray and black dagged outer fabric, as seen here:

I had initially thought to paint the fabric (gross) but woke up in the middle of the night thinking that it could be pieced together from multiple shades instead.


The gaps wouldn't be an issue since they would be covered up by white bias tape. Mum had the ingenious idea of ironing the panes directly on to the fusible interfacing, eliminating any need to sew the panes together (which would only have ended in tears and elaborate self-hatred).

The cat, of course, had to help with the bias tape bit but it slept most of the time.

I ran out of bias tape immediately so I started on the hat aka the 'kolpak.' According to extant examples, the kolpak - or 'busby' if you're feeling British - requires an interior framework to wrap the fur around so I dredged an ancient roll of Wonderflex out of the 'Rents' basement, left over from an aborted attempt at Sanguinius from Warhammer 40K four years ago.

Contrary to expectation, the kolpak framework came together flawlessly in no time at all. I started with two initial rings slightly bigger than my head as the base. One was just a tad smaller than the other so I could pinch the vertical pieces between. This saved me wrapping them around the base or some equally awkward mode of attachment.

Here are all the vertical pieces gathered together with the crown pieces waiting on the side. The crown was cut bigger than the base by 2.5" to give it a bit of flare at the top.


Getting the height figured out took a few tries. I like the height of the kolpaks in the film but there was something appealing about keeping it shorter (and more practical), as per a sketch from the trip home.


Once I threaded the vertical strips through the crown pieces, I could play with the height as required. Settled on 13.5 cm, which seems very short, but once the fur is added, the whole thing will be considerably bigger. To achieve a slight domed effect, I bent the vertical strips to right angles, crossed them across the top, and glued them to the opposite sides.


Not beautiful but it'll be more than enough to support the fur.

And that is where things sit at the present.  In other news, it's still winter here as it is in the rest of the world, apparently.


  1. Just to let you know, your costumes are so fab that I had to nominate you for "The Very Inspiring Blogger Award." I don't know if you've received it before or not. If you have, well, you're so inspiring you earned it twice! If you've never gotten it before, well, you deserve it ten times over, if not more! :P


  2. You *have* earnt the award *at least* twice, here it is again : :)