Mirror Mirror Movie Swan Headdress
If you are a young college student who would love to design costumes for movies, then you may enjoy this blog to help you work out some of the unusual pieces you will commissioned to make for stage and theatre. For me, designing has nothing to do with any classes I could take and frankly I never took any. Everything in my life has been about what I see in my head and how I work out how to get the end results. Not normal I know, but that is why I enjoy doing what I do. I think outside the box. I just wanted to share my techniques here so that you too can work out unusual pieces.
How it all started. Did you ever want to make something ‘just because”? For some unknown reason, something will pop into my head and I can’t get it out until I design and make it. It starts with all kinds of ‘how to make it’ clips that run through my brain until I give into it and get it done. That’s what happened to me when I saw the ads for the new Mirror Mirror movie, a spoof of the Snow White story.
To view a clip of this movie
I never want to make something exactly like something I see as part of a costume. I like working out my own rendition and challenge myself to come up with my own style and a way to get there. The one thing that was important, it had to be light weight for balance on the head. So I began thinking about how to make it lightweight.
Many years ago I played around doing wire topiary sculptures for my garden. I had a lot of fun doing it and made several animals that I planted with ground cover plants. With this idea in mind, I thought topiary frame would be a way to keep the piece lightweight but strong. I began work by making a few round rings which I thought looked about the thickness of a swans neck.
I linked those circles together with more wire and built what I thought looked like the shape of a swan neck and head.
I stared at it for awhile and decided the head needed more shape so I added more wire until I was happy. If this was to be a wire topiary, I would now stuff its core with sphagnum moss, at a bit of soil in the center and soak it with water to plant some ground cover.
However, I had to cover the frame and keep it lightweight. I thought about it for awhile and decided the perfect medium would be buckram. I soaked strips to form over the frame and added glue to hold the strips together. Buckram is a glue soaked fabric and when you wet it, it forms quite nicely. Adding more glue to an already glue fabric works well and it is lightweight when dry. At this point I left it to dry because handling buckram too much can turn it into a frayed mess and it sticks to your hands. This project is all about patience.
This was a great project to use up all those buckram scraps I’d saved. Once the swan head was covered I let the project rest to dry thoroughly.
Once dry I added another layer of buckram to firm the piece and make it more stable.
I had printed out two images from the Internet so that I could stare at the shape of a swan head the entire time I worked.
At this point I wondered how well the swan would balance on the head, because it was lightweight but top heavy. I perched it on top on a mannequin head and it looked like it would work well.
I decided the beak area needed a little building up so cut pieces of thin batting and glued it where I thought it should go.
I stared at the photo of a real swan and took pale gold felt to form a shape that looked right.
Then I layered black felt with the pale gold and laid it aside.
I decided I could cover the buckram frame with white stretch velvet as a base for the feathers. I pulled it over and cut and glued as I worked. I never worried about the smoothness of the frame because when you think of a bird without feathers, it is boney and lumpy. Feathers cover and make the bird look smooth and marvelous.
Once the neck and head were covered I added the beak felt pieces and started adding feathers above the beak.
If you study swan faces there is a lump at the top of the beak so I made mine from black stretch velvet that I stuffed with a small piece of fiberfill. I added eyes by using toy animal eyes and pieced holes and pushed and glued the eyes in place. I covered the beak with tiny crystals for fantasy.
I used natural white goose feathers and hand cut every feather to form around the face of the swan.
It took many hours and many feathers to cover a big part of the swan head. I did not cover the entire neck because I had to attach it to a cap frame. I knew the head would be easier to cover with feathers while I could hold the neck, so I did as much as possible before attaching it.
I added more black felt under the beak and put as many feathers on the neck and head as possible.
These different views, shows you how the head shape is formed.
I molded the cap shape over a plastic hat shaper because I wanted a rounded hat crown. I wrote a book length tutorial on how to mold buckram over shapers or hat blocks.
You can email me email@example.com if you are interested in purchasing this book.
Once I liked the shape, I hand stitched wire around the bottom edge for support. There was already a wire at the top under the rounded crown.
I perched the swan head on top of the cap and marked the best position for balance.
I hand sewed the neck to the cap and then added glue around the stitches to keep the form in place.
Then I used buckram pieces to form a body on top of the cap at the base of the neck.
Here you can see the back. Part of it has millinery wire running through the body for strength.
Once the body was done, I covered the rest of the cap with white stretch velvet.
The form now looks so much better.
I hand sewed the rolled elastic that would hold the piece under the back of the hair so that the wearer could move and it will not fall off. Then I wired a shaped buckram tail that I covered under and on top with white velvet and hand sewed it to the back of the swan.
Then I began cutting and adding feathers from the bottom of the cap.
Finally the top and bottom feathers met up and the piece was covered.
Here you can see how the feathers flow together at the back.
Another view to show you the shape or the headpieces finished.
So now you know how you can keep unusual head pieces lightweight. Time for you to experiment and have some fun.
About the Mirror Mirror costume designer.
I took this except about the designer from the following link.
“Eiko wanted to evoke a true fairy tale,” Singh told me over the phone. “She was not well during the movie; she was undergoing chemotherapy. But Eiko had only two gears: full-out or no gear at all. Her work kept her alive—it was her reason for being.” Like all of Eiko’s movie projects, the costumes for Mirror Mirror are elaborate, richly detailed manifestations of character. A lace collar around the evil queen’s neck is designed to evoke the backs of reptiles; Snow White‘s gossamer gowns include touches like overlapping leaves and climbing velvet vines that subtly underscore her exile in the forest. And, of course, there is the judicious use of what’s become known as Eiko’s Red. “Eiko would say that red is the most difficult color,” Singh explained. “But in many ways, red was Eiko: strong, intense, brilliant.”
See more photos of costumes from this movie.