Dragonfly Designs by Alisa


1850s Beetlewing Dress

I’ve been utterly enamored with beetlewing embroidery for a long time now. When I visited the Fashion Museum in Bath, England, I requested they pull out all their beetlewing embroidered items for me to examine (as well as a bunch of 1830s dresses). They had three beetlewing items, and the most impressive was this skirt.


It was an amazing experience to pull on those white gloves and handle these historical items!





And one from the back side:


Beetle wing embroidery uses the actual wing casings from real beetles. These beetles are extremely short-lived, and after they swarm to mate, they die, and the wings can be swept up and used. They are extremely beautiful; the glint and shine of them is hard to capture in photographs! It’s not surprising the Victorians were captivated by using them on dresses.

I’m finally sewing one of my own, using sheer cotton voile as the fabric, in a light beige. The crinoline period of history has never really been my thing, but I really do want at least one proper hoopskirt gown, so after browsing Pinterest for literally weeks, I chose a basic dress design. It’s going to be roughly modeled after Queen Victoria’s 1850 dress, shown below. I also had a chance to see this one in person, so I have a particular fondness for it.


I will be changing it slightly, however. As a beginning, I’ve been embroidering the middle panel of the skirt, which will be the most heavily embroidered. Although it’s not quite finished, here’s what I have, so far:



It is going to be wearable by December 17th, for a presentation I’m doing on the stranger aspects of Victorian clothing. Hopefully, it will be completely done, but as I’m intending to put embroidery all around the bottom hem of the skirt, I’m not sure I have time to completely finish. I can always add that after the event – they people attending will be mostly looking at the front, anyway!

Update: 1/6/2020

I have now worn the dress for the first time! As I suspected, I did not finish the embroidery around the hem of the skirt.


Besides that, I need to adjust the fit of the shoulders…the straps had a tendency to want to slide off. But that’s easy enough to fix. I also want to stitch over the metal grommets with thread so they appear handsewn. I know I should probably done spiral lacing on the bodice, but I frankly dislike the appear of spiral lacing, so I never use it.





I wore it to a presentation I did at my local library: Arsenic, Corsets, and Flaming Hoopskirts, the Myths and Realities of Victorian Fashion.




1912 Champagne Dress

Wow, it’s been an age since I worked on a new costume! But my library workplace had a Downton Abbey Celebration, and I did a 20min presentation on post-Victorian undergarments called “What Did They Wear Under There?” I did make a 1912 dress before (which I completely love) but I’ve since gained a few pounds, and it doesn’t fit. Rather than go on a diet (I also love my new weight) I decided to make a new dress – especially since I’ve long had this wonderful beaded vintage sari that I wanted to repurpose.



It was also a happy accident that I had the perfect matching faile/bengaline laying around.


PLUS…it was chance to wear a tiara!



On me, the skirt is a wee bit longer, so that I have a tiny sweep of a train behind.



The thing that I love about using vintage saris in historical costuming, is because they give the whole outfit a vintage feel…as if it’s actually a real 1912 dress instead of one I made!




1830s Yellow Dress

This one is mostly done, but not quite. I’m making a blue sash to go over the shoulder, because this dress has a particular purpose. It’s going to be on the cover of my upcoming steampunk book series: The Journals of Miss Winnifred Sebastian-Veals. Set in 1839, it follows the adventures of a group of intrepid women, the Society of Queen’s Own Monster Hunters, as they travel to exotic places in service to Queen Victoria.  The first in the series, A Manifestation of Monstrosities, will be published in December.

I bought the yellow satin in the fabric district of Los Angeles last year, when I was visiting my dream dress, the also yellow “Canary Dress” from Crimson Peak.

This one turned out to be good practice for that one – if I ever get the time to devote to making it. For instance, I can’t find the right color of greenish-yellow anywhere…but I learned that if you need to flat line a yellow satin dress, and you only have black fabric, lining yellow with black actually gives it a greenish tint, and adds a whole lot of depth and texture. Totally doing that when I make the Crimson Peak dress!

If you’re interested, I am posting the first half or so of the new book series on my Goodreads page. It’s still a bit rough, as I haven’t finished the editing yet, but I’ll keep posting new chapters until the book actually comes out in print. You can find those chapters here:

Since the dress itself is mostly finished, I am turning my attention to the various props that will also be a part of this cover, and of the covers to come. A mermaid mask from Venice. A rag doll with the head of the Egyptian god Anubis. A skull. A birdcage. A mechanical heart.

Boggart Snape Progress

Except for buttons, and finishing the bottom of the skirt, I’ve got the suit finished and ready to distress, stripe with fabric paint, and sew on spiders. Ignore the color; my camera didn’t capture the color AT ALL accurately. It’s actually a dark mossy green. Fabric sample shown in the previous post.

Cute little pockets are cute.

The back is a basic as you can get.

Next up, I get to begin all the fun stuff – the accessories!

Reference pics and fabric choice 12/4/15

I just love this costume. And I love it even more after I saw it in person, with all the funny details.

Reference shots from the Warner Bros Studio Tour:

The cat boa has mice in their mouths!

Spiders, spiders everywhere. I hate spiders. I still love this costume.

The problem with the Warner Bros Tour though, is the lighting. They are all dramatic, which means that a costume like this one, that is actually quite a dark green, is turned rather…grayish lavender.  The actual coloring is more like this:

This fabric is friggin’ impossible to find. OF COURSE.  But I did find a plain green with a similar texture.

I’m going to darken it, and add the streaky look by hand brushing on black fabric paint.

Emerald City ComicCon & Star Wars Exhibit

My friend was also feeling the Can’t-Quite-Get-A-Costume-Together blues too, so in the end we hit up the thrift store and I dressed as a MiB agent, and she went as the undercover alien tourist I was keeping an eye on.

I didn’t take more than a couple of pictures while I was there, because honestly, at a packed and crowded con like ECCC, it’s just too much trouble.  But you can see” target=”_blank”>pictures by the professionals here.

It was fun, but I really prefer smaller, more intimate cons.  The celebrity guests were a definite perk, though!  Alex Kingston, Anthony Daniels, and Clark Gregg were my favorites.  OMG Clark Gregg!   :) And Alex Kingston!

The next day, we went to the Star Wars Costume Exhibition at the EMP Museum.  Guys, I think my mojo is coming back!  After seeing all the gorgeous costumes, I want to start making some of my own again.  I had planned to take all of this year off, but who knows?  Maybe I might do a little something after all…

You can see all the pictures I took here.

We also took in the rest of the costuming stuff at the EMP.  Bowie’s Labyrinth costume, a couple from GoT, Princess Bride, and various others.  You can see them all here.


Victorian 1879 Petticoat

I bought the Truly Victorian 1879 Petticoat with Detachable Train pattern.  As always with Truly Victorian patterns, it went together perfectly and sewed like a dream.  No problems whatsoever!  Whoever does the patterns for TV is a frickin’ genius.

The only thing I changed was the size of the ruffles – I made them smaller, because I didn’t have quite enough fabric to go big.  The fabric is this silky shiny pale gold faille/bengaline that I bought because 1) it was on sale, and 2) gorgeous.  Even though it ended up just sitting there because yellow/gold tones are not a good match for me.  For a petticoat, though, it’s perfect.

I especially like the detachable train, so the same petticoat can be used for daywear or evening wear.  That bottom row of ruffles at the back?  It buttons right off!

Or it will, once I put the buttons on.  For now it’s just pinned.  See?

I need to go through my buttons and see if I have something suitable.  It was quite a fun, quick project…though the rows of netting inside the petticoat got a bit tedious to sew and gather!


Cardiff Doctor Who Experience

It’s fantastic, guys. If you’re a fan, and you’re ever in the UK, I highly recommend a trip here. I did a small write up about it on my other blog, here:

It was particularly great for a costumer, because none of the costumes were behind glass, and, while they didn’t allow you to actually touch any of them, you were free to stick your camera as close as you wanted, and in most cases, you could walk all the way around them.

All the pictures I took are here:

All the Doctors’ clothes where here, including Ten. Guys, you can’t imagine how difficult it was not to reach out and touch!!!!

And River.

And many of Clara’s costumes, including one of her Victorians.

Also Missy!

The Queen (which I was much more impressed by in person!)

And River. Who was sadly hard to photograph from the back, because of the way the lighting was.

Her dress, by the way, is a lightweight poly stretch.

My surprise favorite of the costumes, though, was the Red Dress worn by the cybermen’s queen.

It’s officially added to the list of Things I Want to Make Someday. Just look at the pretty!

One thing I found interesting about the whole Experience was how few kids where there. It was almost all adults, of all ages. I found that just cool. I love things like Doctor Who and Harry Potter that bring people of all ages together!

And there was something else I was going to tell you…but I forgot what it was…

Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour

One of the most amazing things I did was visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. It’s a vast, incredible collection of about every costume and prop used in the Harry Potter films, as well as many of the actual film sets.  If you’re in the London area, it’s a must-see.

I took around 500 pictures while I was there, and I’ve uploaded them here, if you care to have a look.

It was great to be able to see some of the costumes in person that I intend to recreate one day.  The Grey Lady (which is a for-sure!) Fabric shopping is beginning for this one already. I have samples in the mail….

And Dolores Umbridge. Hate her. Love her clothes. Love to cosplay evil gits.

Tonks.  Fellow Hufflepuff!

Snape. I’ve always wanted to do his actual movie costume, but after seeing his Boggart costume, I really, really want to do that one too.

I mean, look at this cat stole????

Ron’s Dress Robes. I don’t know why. I just love this.

I also blogged about visiting here on my other blog. Interested?” target=”_blank”> Read it here.


Bath Costumes

First up, I’ll like to share the pictures I took in Bath. I booked a session at the Study Facilities at the Fashion Museum. It’s completely free; you just book ahead, tell them what types of fashion/eras you’re interested in, and they pull out a selection for you to examine. It’s amazing, guys.  They just spread the dresses out on a table, give you white cotton gloves, and leave you to it.  I still can’t believe they let me handle all these wonderful things!

I asked for beetlewing embroidery, and 1830s dresses.

The first dress was red, and covered in the most spectacular beetlewings. There wasn’t a date on it, just a note that it was silk, and made in India.


Second was the most delicate beetlewing skirt. The notes say it was made of cotton, in India. BATMC 1.19.42

Third, a beetlewing purse. 1820-1830, silk  BATMC V1.01.269

Fourth, 1833-1837 Day Dress.  Woven wool, with printed design. BATMC 1.09.996

Fifth, a silk and net gold embroidered dress from 1830. BATMC 1.09.1400

This one wasn’t even pulled for me, but I saw the box with its printed description, and commented that it sounded lovely. She said they don’t usually show this one because of its fragility, but she brought it out anyway. Guys. I can’t believe they just let me handle these things! I mean, they know nothing whatsoever about me, other than my name!

Sixth: 1837 Day Dress. The sleeves were put in in the 1840s. Silk, woven taffeta. BATMC 1.09.1001

Seventh: 1836-1840 Evening dress, woven silk. BATMC 2005.49

Eighth: 1833-1837 Evening dress, silk, woven. BATMC 1.09.1286

Ninth: 1836-1841 dress printed cotton BATMC 1.09.2884

Tenth: 1832-1836 Dress. Wool and silk, woven. Silk brocade stripe in textile. BATMC 1.09.993

Eleventh: 1835? Cotton dress, printed. BATMC 1.09.995

I had two hours, and I took as many photos as I could. This last one was my favorite 1830s dress – it was such a pretty print, and very lovely.

Anyway, there you are, and if you’re ever in Bath, I highly recommend booking some time at the Study Facilities.

All the rest of the photos are here.


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