DIY Wilbur Wright Costume for Wax Museum--The Wright Brothers...I Lean Female
I Have Some 'Splaining' To Do...Why I Lean Female
About 70% of the costumes I make (and there are almost 1,000 pieces adding roof weight to my garage loft!!) are made for female characters. Of the female characters 50% are for girls 3rd to 8th grade, and 20% Women's costumes.
That leaves 30% for boy costumes. And a whopping 0% for male adult costumes. Do I get requests?
ALL THE TIME!
But why not rent adult male costumes?
My tile-shingled roof would collapse
with the added weight of any more costumes.
Also, to the chagrin of parents, I can't offer shoe or wigs for obvious hygiene reasons, and I don't offer props, because most historic props would be considered a 'weapon' (think Revolutionary War or Greek God Warrior)--and no undertoned blame on my end--let's keep schools as safe as possible...even if a gun or sword is fake.
'Almost' Costuming One Man
I almost costumed one man--my husband, Bill, of almost 20 years!
I say "almost' because I can only take credit for informing Bill of the era we were dressing for--A Great Gatsby themed garden party at Spring Mountain Vineyard in Napa--but can't take credit for dressing him. He insisted on doing ALL his own research...and costumes? so out of his element.
Bill and I at Spring Valley Vineyard's Great Gatsby Garden Party
check out the blog post here:
After a traumatic incident in the 90s during his Fraternity days as a TKE and being kidnapped by his fraternity brothers to a Renaissance Faire where he was forced to dress as wizard, he never wanted to wear a costume ever again.
After steadfast resolution, of never, ever, ever again costume wearing, Bill impressed me with his willingness and effort for the Great Gatsby party. I think the carrot of great wine helped him back-bend in my favor. I did not help him at all!
Not assisting him at all in 'Amazon-ing', he chose the 1920's iconic straw hat, bow tie, white-round collared shirt, vest, khaki linen slacks two-toned white and caramel colored oxfords.
How Did I Meet This Guy I've Know Since I Was 16?
Of all places I could meet Bill, I met him at my parents', his parents' and our grandparents' dream of dream places, Saint Gabriel's Catholic Church in the outer Sunset District of San Francisco, less than a mile away from land's end and where the Pacific Ocean begins.
And by the way, I am fully respectful of our elders' practice of religion (and wholeheartedly our chosen religion), I am just channeling my 16 year old frame of mind at the time. As a teen--like many youngsters growing up and questioning the purpose of religion, I had no interest in going to church until...
...I saw a cute boy!
And interestingly enough, soon after laying my sights on a cute boy, I became the most frequent church goer in my family.
Bill and His Grandma Josephine
Bill was going to college at the time and was living at his grandmother Josephine Heckert house 3 blocks away from my parent's house!
Grandma Josephine was an old fashioned woman, wonderfully kept with laquered styled hair, painted nails and lipstick. She was already in her 80s at that time and never drove a day in her life--but never needed to, with the MUNI streetcar (public transportation) only a block away from her house.
Part of Bill's rent was driving his grandmother--who at that time was still mobile and active--to her senior citizen meetings, the grocery store, get her hair done once a week at Richard's up on Taraval Street, and to take her to church Saturdays early evening at 5:30pm.
Grandma Josephine From Limerick, Ireland
Although Grandma Jo was born in New York in 1907, she and her family--who came from Limerick, Ireland-- moved out to San Francisco where she met her husband George, who was a San Francisco Police detective working the force against the infamously violent Chinese 'Hop Sing' gang. Grandpa George even learned Chinese!
Grandma Jo was an amazing lady, raising 6 children, with no washing machine or dryer. As time advanced from her childhood, through marriage and child-rearing, and watching grandchildren grow, every year brought more and more everyday conveniences such as (tea bags, ice trays, sun tan lotion, ball point pens, etc.), as well as life saving medical developments (insulin, penicillin, cardiac pacemakers, etc.), and industrial forward technologies (photocopying, nuclear bomb, computer, etc.)
One day, when Grandma Jo was in her 90's,
"In all your years, seeing so much change in your life, what invention were you most impressed by?"
Bill was surprised to hear her answer, fully thinking it had to be a washer and dryer from all those years of hand washing on a scrub board and hanging everything to dry--poor dry, cracked skin and raw knuckles...and laundry was not the only housework she did!
Grandma Jo said:
Grandma Jo passed away 3 weeks shy of her 100th birthday in 2007. Her answer is such a testament to her sweet, sharp, spunky, yet humble and unspoiled person.
Got Me Thinking...Not Cars, Phones, Airplanes?
When i heard this story, I was flummoxed --not cars, phones or airplanes? And Bill explained to me, that G-Ma Jo enjoyed life's simple pleasures like window shopping downtown San Francisco or enjoying one See's candy a day.
Wright Brother's Airplane...courtesy of Picryl...Public Domain
Wilbur Wright Costume For 5th Grade Wax Museum
I hadn't thought of Bill's grandmother's story for quite some time until I recently received a request for a Wilbur Wright (of The Wright Brothers who invented the airplane) costume for a 5th Grade Wax Museum.
In fact, all this blogging I am doing these days is tapping into my memory vault, retrieving memories from the mundane to the consequential, and from the melancholy to the joyful. And in all reality, the blogging I do is becoming more of a legacy/diary/journal for my daughters rather than for 'clicks' or website visits---although I do appreciate you being here! (Insert smiley emoji!).
The Blogging I Do Is More a Legacy For My Daughters Than
For 'Clicks' or 'Likes'
Wilbur Wright...courtesy of Picryl--Public Domain
Following My Train Of Thought
From leaning towards female costumes, to dressing one man in my life, Grandma Josephine, and to a request for a Wilbur Wright costume, I am so excited to introduce the Upcycle of an old thrifted grandpa polyester suit inspired by the Picryl photos of Wilbur Wright.
With Wilbur, I had a choice to go with a formal wear suit, or go for a casual sports suit. I chose the later. Why? When people rent from me, I like them to feel like they got a fabulous costume that takes them back to a bygone era. Boys can wear a regular suit any day, but a newsboy hat with some knickers? NEVER!
The Wright Brothers--image courtesy of Picryl--Public Domain
Inspiration For DIY Wilbur Wright Costume
The formal suit in the above photo inspired the color of the W.W. costume, but the photo below urged liberty with my interpretation of what a 1900's chap would wear for a sporty event.
Array of 1900's Men's Fashion--courtesy of Picryl...Public Domain
See the above photo--the guy in the middle-- I wanted to channel him and use the newsboy/duckbill sporty style hat. But long pants would not be conducive to getting in a out of a small seat on a glidder-style airplane.
Men Playing Golf--courtesy of Picryl--Public Domain
Cue the knickers in above image with argile socks!---Oh Yes! Now I see My Wilbur!
Old Man Grandpa Polyester Suit for $3.00!
A 3-piece suit at a local thrift store for only $3.00 was a dream come true for an upcycler like myself! Because if I made a mistake, the investment was not so great...(now can probably guess who sits at the nickel slot machines ; )
...now you can guess who sits at the nickle slot machines!
3-piece Medium Sized Polyester Man's Suit
This picture (above) of the original suit actually does it much justice--makes it look like a Brioni suit--LOL! Let me show you another picture (below) of the awful reality of how I started.
Before Picture of Hot Mess Polyester Grandpa Suit
Oy! The Horror!
Now you can see why the 3 piece suit was marked down from $6.00 to $3.00!
But let's return to Step 1--recreating the vest.
Better To Start A Costume From Scratch?
I knew when I bought the suit, it was a tear-down and re-build.
Is it better just to start from scratch and cut my own fabric from a pattern?...the answer is yes and no.
In this case, I needed the jacket and slacks to be same fabric. One of the challenges of upcycling is having enough yardage of the thrifted textile because I can't go buy more of it. So I have to make sure I have enough to begin with. So this medium sized man's suit pre-maid suit guaranteed would have enough fabric for a slender 5'2" 5th grader.
Leona Helmsley 80's Shoulder Pads
Because my young male customer is bigger than a child's mannequin but smaller than the smallest dress form I own, I decided to start with the vest, because once i got the chest measurement right, I would be able to build the other elements around that size.
I have a ton of experience working around mannequins--adding and subtracting inches--so I know how to account for the 'elephant in the room'--the dress form's bust.
The best way to add girth to a mannequin? Pin on shoulder pads! And I have quite the collection from my thrifting forays.
80's clothing is the gift that keep giving!
Child size dress form (chest up to 27") & X-small woman's mannequin (chest starts at 34")
#1 The Vest
You can see how large the vest was at the start. In sewing for my slender 5th grade customer, you'll see the alterations were drastic.
Buttons & Buttonholes
Because the overall suit and vest is bland--although a small houndstooth pattern runs across the vest--I had to add some 'pop' somewhere, somehow to this costume. Male costumes don't get the luxury of lace and ribbon. But buttons are one way to achieve some pizazz.
I looked in my brown and tortoise button collections...
Decided on the 'Christmas Cookie Pffernusse' looking buttons--had them from previous thrifted item--I save ALL buttons, zippers etc...why buy more when I have free?
Vest Mission Accomplished!
#2 Upcycle 'Hot Mess' Jacket
Now that I had the chest circumference established by creating the vest, I could begin to build the jacket around the vest. Remember, the jacket has to be slightly bigger to accommodate the layers of the vest and shirt underneath.
Since I do not host a technical sewing blog--rather offer you fun and shocking stories-- I will spare you the multiple action items behind each in altering the jacket. Below are the overall steps and are quite similar to the vest, but with sleeves and a lapel (no big feat!, yeah right, insert side eye emoji...)
Needing More Christmas Pffernusse Cookie Buttons
Finding the exact suede to match the color of the vest buttons which were harvested from who knows what, is like...
Finding A Needle In A 'Faux-Suede-Haystack'
Yes, I agonized--this is the part you don't see on the blog when I unearth everything to find the exact thing I need. Me, searching for just the right thing for a costume, is on the scale of CAT 5 Hurricane, and necessitates FEMA assistance to clean up.
#3 This Boy Needs Some Knickers
Having the hardest, most technical parts of Upcycling the Thrifted suit behind me, now I was able to convert and alter the pants into stylish knickers.
#4 Last and Final Steps...The Shirt Collar, Tie, Pocket Watch, Socks, Chapeux, & Goggles
My DIY Wilbur Wright, DIY Orville Wright, or DIY Wright Brother's costume, was missing a
Je ne sais quoi....
Of course I needed to add a shirt--a round collared one that I made from a pointy collared shirt.
I added the most amazing thrift store tie (DKNY!) that matched the suit colors perfectly, and could not help myself but purchase a perfect pair of Polo Argile Socks to complete the look. And the newsboy/duckbill hat with goggles that I pilfered off a $10 on Amelia Earhart I purchased from Facebook Marketplace.
And I would be remiss not to add a pocket watch that I made from a thrifted gold chain and a mini-clock.
WOW! I'm impressed how well the costume turned out! How do I know when I am finished with a costume?---besides the evidentiary raw, cracked skin on my fingers? I get the chills--like I've channeled someone from the past.
And my Happy Customer! The most Important thing of all!
Below is the ONLY photo you'll ever see of Wilbur Wright and Emily Dickinson on a date together... because Emily died 17 years before Wilbur was born....but they could have been a dashing couple right?
Links to My Other Posts Of Related Interest: