When I started on my overdress, I decided to use a piece of leather-look vinyl that
I already had on hand. It had been purchased for a project that fell by the wayside,
and I was glad to finally have a use for it. The vinyl had come from Stretch House
and was a good quality, heavyweight material. Since I didnít want to risk wasting
any of the vinyl (I wasnít even sure if I would have enough of it), I used a heavy
material to make a ďmuslinĒ mockup of the dress first.
This is the dress pattern I used, and the modifications that were made to the pattern:
Lengthen the dress to nearly floor length.
Change the neckline to a mock turtleneck.
Enlarge the cap sleeves.
Reduce the fullness of the skirt.
Leave one front seam open to the hip.
I also cut a triangular shape off each side of the open seam. Without that cut,
the dress opening tended to fall closed and you couldnít see the red dress underneath.
With the adjustment to make it gradually wider toward the bottom, the inner dress
will be visible in the opening.
Once I had the muslin looking as close to the reference images as I could make it,
I took it back apart and used the pieces as my new pattern. It took a bit of finessing
to fit all of the pattern pieces on the vinyl, but I did manage to do so. There
was no room for re-doís, though... it took up nearly every inch! Working very cautiously,
I cut out each piece of the pattern and then took them outside to lay in the sun
for a while. Since the fabric had been stored for well over a year, it had quite
a few fold line creases. The sun quickly warmed the black vinyl, and I was able
to smooth out every line. Taking it back into the house gave it a chance to cool
again, and it remained flat and smooth.
The next step was to get started on the pinwheel stencil. In the beginning, Visas
Marr costumers had a hard time with the gray design on Visasí overdress. It didnít
help that there are a few different artists interpretations out there. Someone did
eventually figure out the pattern, though, and they were gracious enough to share
their discovery with the rest of us:
I started my stencil project by enlarging the pinwheel pattern to the size I wanted.
The pinwheels in the reference pictures are fairly close to the size of Visas' palm,
so I sized the pattern to fit a similar relationship to my own palm, a bit smaller
than a CD.
Starting with the central pinwheel (the brightest one in the reference
pictures), I copied that one circle. Then, opening a new file in photoshop, I pasted
the circle into the file. I then pasted a second copy of the cirlce in a new layer,
making this one less opaque so I could see through it. I lined the two circles up
as accurately as possible and then merged them. A copy was made of the double circle,
and then I pasted that in several more times, making each pasted circle transparent
so that I could match them to the previous circles visible underneath. The size of
the pattern grew quickly since I was soon pasting entire lines and then several lines
at a time into the file. Before long I had a square that was about 18"x18" in size.
In order to save ink I created a negative so that the pinwheels became black and
the background turned white. I then printed it on multiple sheets of paper and taped
them together, making sure to line everything up as perfectly as I could. When that
was finished, I taped the pattern onto a sheet of styrene and used carbon paper to
trace the pattern onto the plastic.
Once the pattern was transferred, I used carving bits on my dremel to cut out the
lines. It took some experimenting on scrap styrene to find out which bits created
lines in the size and look that I wanted.
As anyone who has ever used a dremel can vouch, the thing can sometimes jump when
you least expect it. Normally that is a problem... but this time I WANTED a rough
edge, so I held the dremel loosely and let it snag and jump about as I cut the lines.
I had to leave connections between the various pieces of the styrene, but I kept
the bridges small and randomly placed so that they became part of the design itself.
The process of cutting so many lines began to weaken the styrene, so I covered each
area with blue painterís tape as I worked. If I didn't, little pieces of the stencil
tended to vibrate and flex until they broke off. If you use this technique you MUST
wear safety goggles, as the dremel will throw pieces of hot styrene all over the
place. (If you're smarter than me, you'll wear more than just a top and shorts while
you work, also. Chunks of molten styrene landing on bare arms and legs burns just
a wee bit.)
Here's the back of the completed stencil. You can see the blue tape still on the
other side. I left the tape on the stencil until I was ready to start painting,
and then put it back on again afterwards to keep the stencil in good shape for future
To paint the dress, I set each piece of vinyl under the pinwheel stencil. Everything
else was covered with a protective layer of newspaper, and then I sprayed a very
light coating of Presidio Gray SEM vinyl paint over the stencil, making sure to hold
the can a foot over the stencil so it would create a light coating with fuzzy edges.
SEM paint is designed for painting vinyl car seats, so you know itís durable stuff!
When the first coat dried, I moved the stencil down, lined up the top of the stencil
pattern with the bottom of the painted edge on my fabric, and then painted the next
section. Each piece of fabric took about 4 moves of the stencil before they were
covered completely with the pinwheel pattern.
In this picture you can see one section of the dress being painted. I used the piece
of wood to keep any overspray from getting under the paper, since that edge kept
lifting each time a breeze blew through the workshop. I appreciated the breeze,
but didnít want any extra gray spots on my dress!
It was challenging to give each section exactly the same amount of paint, so some
of sections came out a bit more heavily painted than others. I also felt that the
finished pattern was brighter than it should be. In the game renders it looks far
So.... I gave the whole thing a very light overspray coating of black vinyl paint,
holding the can about two feet over the fabric and keeping it constantly moving.
It served two purposes... not only did it tone down the intensity of the pinwheel
patterns, it also toned down the shiny midnight-black quality of the vinyl itself
and made it look more like leather.
Hereís the finished dress. I made the collar a bit too wide and there are some gathers
around the base of the invisible zipper in the back, but other than that it wasnít
bad for my first attempt at sewing heavy pleather. Now that I know what Iím doing,
Iíd like to make another one and see if I can fix the too-wide collar and make all
of the seams lay flat a bit better. Iím always looking for another challenge!