How do I make a big showgirl-type headdress?
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</center> transgender links page. It was very appropriate to my life just now since my student house-sitter (who hasn't found a place to move out to yet) is getting ready to go to the coronation of the new Empress of Alaska (Drag) and is planning his outfits as Lady Bracknell, a handmaiden to the Duchess of Fairbanks. He is most worked up since he is running for Miss Gay Fairbanks (head handmaiden or some such thing), sewing the gown of the present Miss, and is doing the gown and the 14'X20' silver lame cape for the Duchess. If that weren't enough, his girlfriend (sort of) is going as Lord Bracknell. I need hardly say my time and my rhinestone collection is being plundered unmercifully. This is why my reply is not so prompt. (That and I return to work tomorrow).
As for such headdresses, there are MANY different ways to do showgirl headdresses, each depending on one's time, budget, and intended look. Let us assume you want to do one for almost no money, and no time. In that case I would exhort you to get some kind of cap (fitted head shape base) that you can work from. A good cheap idea for this is to go to Value Village or another thrift store and butcher an old hat for the part that goes on the head. Trim this down to a sort of scull-cap cloche shape and hot glue a bias tape edge to the cap if the hat you butchered was straw. Then get yourself some 1" or thicker foam mattress pad type stuff. Cut it into a huge starburst, sun, or whatever shape with a keyhole shape in the center for the head. Then cut up some wire coat-hangers, and shove the wire up and into the points of the star (or whatever) from the center. Leave 2-3" of wire dangling into the center of the keyhole. With pliers, bend the wire back sharply, at a 45 degree angle, then loop the wire at the end to prevent injury. Hot glue the foam and wire piece to the cap, with the cap inside the circle of the keyhole. Be generous with the glue, especially on the wires on the rear. Fiddle and bend the wires inside the foam, so that the points (or whatever) get the shape you want. At this point you can spray paint the whole thing gold and add spangles, feathers, and trim with hot glue, or you can instead cover the whole exterior with fabric or decoration.
If you are wearing a wig, and you get your wigs cheap (Lacey Costume Wigs in NYC is good for this), you can also opt to use the wig as part of the headdress. In this case, make the cap piece as usual, but smaller. Put the wig on a form OVER the cap, this stabilizes the wig top. (Check on yourself to be sure it will fit you afterwards.) Make the foam and wire piece as usual, however, when you are gluing the foam to the cap, you will do so, on the form, through the mesh of the top of the wig. In this case use only enough glue to tack the wires in place behind, then use LOTS of heavy thread sewn through all the layers to hold the wires in place at the rear. If you want to use spray paint, obviously you will need to do this to the keyhole piece before attaching it. This method makes the headpiece seem to magically stay on the head in a stable position, without a visible cap.
Fancy showgirl headdresses in the real world are done with heaps of wire, soldered into shapes and covered with thread or cloth tapes then decorated with rhinestones and ostrich. These are both expensive and time consuming, but I can give you the basics on these if this is what you have in mind. For use for just a few occasions, rather than 2-4 shows a day, seven days a week as in Vegas, this foam, wire and feather method is more than adequate, looking well and truly large and spectacular, while still being light to wear. If you want to make a really huge piece you can just use scrap foam to put up extra buttresses of foam in the rear, and the foam and wire will happily support itself out up to 3' in any direction. To do a giant Carmen Miranda job, make a cone of foam that is attached to the cap. Buy folding paper party fruit (used for centerpieces) and glue it to the top of the cone, then wrap the bottom with a garish scarf print turban. This will let you make a 3' high number that weighs under a pound. Don't try to use rubber or plastic fruit, since it weighs much more and the headdress then flops about. If you have more questions, write again. Good luck. ---Tara | valign="top" |Google |- | align="left" valign="top" |
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