Mischief Managed

Finally, I have a post about the costume I've been hinting about!  I'm so glad to have this project finished, but I had a blast making it!  If we're friends on Facebook, you've likely seen a few of these pictures, but here are lots more plus all the construction details.  At some point I would love to do a "real" photoshoot of this dress; I think it deserves it.  For now though all I can manage are some mirror shots and a couple of self-portraits done with my camera's timer :-)

I've wanted to copy Bellatrix Lestrange's costume ever since the trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out.  But I never had an excuse to wear it, or I couldn't find a pattern, and with one thing and another it's been nearly five years since that first viewing.  But this fall the boys decided they were going to take me trick-or-treating (the first time I've ever been!) and I felt that my sewing skills were finally good enough that I could tackle this project.

A couple still shots of the inspiration costume.  I don't know why I'm always drawn to the bad guys when I'm copying costumes!  I guess they just get all the cool clothes.

This is the first garment I've ever made entirely without the help of a commercial pattern.  I draped the bodice and skirt on Coraline, my dress form, and the sleeves on my own arms.  (This is complicated.)  A single mock-up of each was enough to work out the kinks, and then I sewed it up.  The sleeves are attached to the bodice with lacing cord.  There's a section about 4 inches long which is sewn up, but the rest of the sleeve is laced.  They come to a point over the back of the hand and are held in place with a loop which goes around the middle finger.

I love the sleeves.  Also, my silver spoon ring, which is imitating a snake for the night.

Hand-stitched eyelets and a badly-exposed photograph.

I couldn't find any fabric that reproduced the movie cloth closely enough (black with silver spirals), so I bought plain black broadcloth with the intent to "print" it myself.  I bought fabric paint, glitter, and silver metallic embroidery thread also.  But in the end I used a metallic silver marker, not originally designed for fabric.  It gave me the finest line and the best control.  I added the spiral patterning after the dress was put together, since I didn't want to spend time carefully drawing on fabric which would just end up as scraps.  The patterning on the skirt ended up a little larger than that of the bodice and sleeves, and I sort of "faded out" about halfway down the skirt.  This is not "movie correct" but I think it looks good.  Also, I didn't bother hemming the skirt since in the film it looks ragged and worn.  I just bunched it up and roughly trimmed the edge.

Two different sizes of silver swirls.

The corset I drafted from my measurements.  I made a simple two-layer underbust corset, out of leftover black broadcloth and some reddish-pink cotton I had in my stash.  It's boned with plastic cable ties and laces up the back.  (That accounts for 16 of the hand-stitched eyelets.)  Then, I traced the shape of the base corset and cut out pieces of faux-leather vinyl in random shapes, trying to roughly reproduce the look of Bella's corset from the film.  I think the original is probably made of *only* leather, and much heavier, but since the flimsy leather/vinyl was all I had to work with, I felt the base corset was needed.

Bunched-up leather.  Sigh.

I stitched the "leather" pieces together using a quadrupled strand of heavy thread and a leather needle.  (Pro tip: don't run a leather needle through your fingertip.  It hurts much worse than a normal needle!)  I overlapped them just slightly and used a modified overcasting stitch, with an "x" thrown in every so often for stability.  Then I whip-stitched the leather outer to the fabric corset on the top and sides (but not the bottom, since they didn't quite line up.)  The leather ended up bunching and buckling a little as I wore it, but it's a minor enough problem that I don't care to do anything about it ;-)

Of course, to be Bellatrix you don't just need a black dress and a leather corset.  I had to try to copy the wild hair!  To do this, I plaited my hair into tiny braids - I think about 12 altogether.  My hair was slightly damp at the time, and I used a wet-set foaming lotion.   Then I coiled them up and pinned them to my head, slept on them, and wore them all the next day.  When they came out my hair was tightly crimped.  I fluffed it out a little and then backcombed the entire top of my head to give it some volume.  I still didn't end up with *quite* the crazy mop Helena Bonham Carter had, but I suspect her hair is naturally a little more textured than mine!  I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, anyway.  For makeup I used my normal powder foundation, thick eyeliner in a dusky blue, and shades of grey eyeshadow.  Then I applied black lipstick and blotted it partially away.  I wanted to paint my nails black also, and I toyed with the idea of drawing the "dark mark" on my forearm, but time got away from me.  (And anyway I'm not that good an artist!)

(Trying to take a photo of my hair and makeup - Conrad thought I was crazy.)

A snakey earring and some frizzy hair.

All in all, this was a whole lot of fun to make and to wear!  But next year?  I think I'm going to be Danielle from "Ever After" :-D

I fuzzed out the mundane living-room backdrop.  This is much more dramatic ;-P


  1. Glorious!!! I loved reading about your creation of this awesome costume. You certainly have "the look" and all the little details are just so well thought out and so well done. You look absolutely beautiful and even more wildly pretty than the original Bellatrix. I LOVE the sleeves. Great job! This must have been so much fun to make and wear!

  2. Thank you! :-) The sleeves are my favourite part too! It was really fun to make and I want to find lots more reasons to wear it (and finally perfect the hair). It's a shame all the movies have come out already... oh well!

  3. Hi! I love the sleeves, by any chance do you know what the style is called?

    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment :) Unfortunately I have no idea what the official name (if there is one) of this sleeve style is... I drafted the pattern myself based on observation of the film costume, without reference to any patterns. If I run across a proper name for it at any point I will let you know!


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