It’s been years since I’ve had a reason to sew something for Halloween. I’m pretty sure the last time was when I made the badger and fox suits for J and myself, and that was 6 years ago. So when I found out we’d be in Cornwall over Halloween AND there was a local outdoor fancy dress party, I started plotting. And when a friend said she’d be hosting a vampire party on Halloween weekend, I really got down to some serious planning.
You’ll already be aware from my tribute teeshirts how much I adore the recent “Interview with the Vampire” tv show (Brits, it’s on iPlayer now!), so my immediate thought was to try and recreate one of the vintage costumes from it. The first season takes place from 1910-1940 but the main female character, Claudia, is introduced in the 4th episode and spans 1920-1940. Unfortunately, for a good portion of that she’s dressed pretty juvenile, so those early outfits really didn’t appeal.
As her character ages (inside!), however, her fashions become more adult, and there was one in particular that really captured my imagination – worn as they celebrate New Year’s Eve 1940 in episode 7. The scene is barely a minute long, with Claudia’s costume only partly visible for a few seconds, however!
Thankfully, though, the costume designer for the show, Carol Cutshall, shares incredible details of the vintage inspirations, costume design, and behind the scenes photos on her Instagram page after the episodes air, and shared details of this outfit along with sketches and behind the scenes photos of the actress, Bailey Bass!
I could get a MUCH better idea of how the garments were constructed between the photos and the sketches, but then the stuntwoman for Claudia, Mariah Dyson, also posted some photos on her Instagram showing the outfit (and also how they achieved the seamless jump with Bailey Bass crouching on the ground to pick up after the landing)!
So now that I could actually see what all three garments were in the show, I could think about what I wanted to achieve. First and foremost, this is not cosplay. I’m not trying to BE the character or the actress – it’s my tribute to the character and the costume design of the show. I am sewing my interpretation of the clothing worn in the show.
It was also important to ensure that I would be able to (and want to!) wear all three garments on their own, outside of Halloween or vampire meetups. I try to avoid sewing “fast fashion” as much as I avoid buying it, and I strive to only have clothing in my wardrobe that I will wear again and again.
This was front of my mind the whole time – not making it 100% accurate, but close enough and tweaking it so that it fit with my own tastes.
My first step was to source some fabrics!
I knew I’d never be able to find the exact fabric used for the cape, so I instead went with the mindset to find something in the same colour palette and style. I searched quite a few UK online stores before I found a few possibilities at MacCulloch and Wallis. These were really pricey fabrics, though, so I didn’t want to risk buying them sight unseen and being wrong, or not buying enough. So in August I cycled up to their Soho shop to purchase in person, ultimately deciding on some beautiful Italian floral cloqué.
Thankfully, I already had some black satin in my stash for the cape lining, and textured black silk for the shirt, which just left the trousers. Happily, I found the loveliest deadstock Japanese acetate viscose twill in the perfect shade of plum from New Craft House, which matched the plum of the cape fabric really nicely.
I’ve got SO MUCH to say about the construction and details of the cape, shirt, and trousers that I’m going to split these off into three separate posts of their own (hopefully all this week?), but I know you all love to see a finished result!
Thankfully, my friend’s vampire party got postponed until late November, which was a blessing considering the crushing fatigue I’ve had since catching Covid in September. I was so thankful to be able to go at all, to be honest, since so many of my other plans got cancelled and this gave me something to look forward to and work towards in small bursts. I literally sewed all three of these in 15min bursts, lying down for 45min in between!
Not only did I finish the set in time for the party but I got so many compliments, too! Everyone wanted to try on the cape in particular!