Phoenix Costume

Hello all! I’ve got a special one to share with you today. It’s become a tradition in my house that we hold a fancy dress party to celebrate everyone’s birthdays in December and January. You have to come dressed as something beginning with the first letters of each of our names, so for us this was M, K, P, J, R or L (for me). I decided that I wanted to be a phoenix mostly because I loved the metaphor of rising from the ashes into a new year.


The base of this costume is a leotard in two halves. For the top half (waist and above) I used a nude illusion tulle because I wanted it to be as invisible as possible. For the bottom half I used a nude powermesh which was more substantial and had more stretch to it. I chose to use yellow, orange and red feathers to make a fun gradient. Two metres of feather trim in each colour formed the ‘skirt’ and I had 20 feathers of each colour to form the bodice. I did also buy gems in fiery colours but ended up deciding that I liked the costume without.


I wanted to minimise how much of the illusion mesh was on my torso (and I also needed to be able to get in and out of the thing) so I made the bodice a backless halterneck. I did want it to be dartless but because there wasn’t so much stretch in the tulle I had to put bust darts in to fix the gapey sides. It didn’t matter too much in the end because that party was covered by feathers anyway. For practical reasons I put snaps on the crotch which was a lifesaver in an alcohol fueled party situation.


So, I had six metres worth of feather trim to attach to the bottom half of my leotard. The biggest issue was that the fabric needed to stretch, but the feather trim did not. I dealt with this by getting my friend MK to pin on each layer of feathers at the centre front, side seams and centre back and then zigzagging 3/4 of the way around the circumference of the leotard. The 1/4 of the lycra that was left free then had enough give for me to wriggle in and out of it. The 1/4 of feather trim was that not sewn down was then poppered to meet the beginning of the trim at the centre back. Zig-zagging the feather trim on got quite sticky and my machine needle got quite gunked up so that needed cleaning regularly.


Then it was time to sort the bodice feathers out. I first tried sewing them on, but it just looked absolutely rubbish so I ripped them all off and decided that glue was the answer. I didn’t have a mannequin and so I improvised by wrapping myself in clingfilm, putting the leotard on and gluing the feathers directly to me. When I was done, I got my housemates to cut me out of the clingfilm and I gently eased it off the back of the illusion tulle.


Now let’s talk about the crown! I made it with a strip of crin which was pinned to a headblock where I wanted it. I glued some stiffer feathers to the crin first which gave the floppier ones in front something to stick on to. I wasn’t too happy with the spread of the crown when I first tried it on so I slashed and spread the crin at intervals about 3/4 down the width of the crin just to give more of a halo effect. This was then just bobby pinned into my hair.

Phoenix Close 1.jpg

And that’s it! I had the best time figuring out this project, and the best time at the party. Many thanks to Sam Chapman for the photos.

Lauren xx