Refashioning Project: Boho, ethnic, romantic skirt/dress fusion Part 2 - Making a chatelaine

I've worked on costume and window display projects in the past and my best friend has always been the glue gun. This includes the time I made thousands of fabric roses for an artists' group working on the Spring windows at Fortnum and Mason and I still have the scars to prove it. This time however, with camera close-ups and strenuous physical movement by actors, I decided I would stitch and often hand-stitch most of the costumes and accessories, which is probably why it took me so long! Being a glutton for punishment, the worst design idea I had was the witch's hat veil but more of that later.

How to make a hat veil
   Hand-sewing black on black, not a good idea, felt on tulle, even worse....

The Chatelaine

I'm starting with this accessory as it is one which certainly should make a comeback into everyday life. It was also a relatively easy piece to source and put together, furthermore it involved a satisfying mix of refashioning and upcycling. The chatelaine, being worn either by the housekeeper or 'lady of the house' carried all sorts of useful items such as keys and scissors but I, imagined the old woman/witch would have a different set of accoutrements.

how to make a chatelaine for a costumeExample of a fine old chatelaineThe chatelaine on the right comes from the Pinterest boards of, which has many other fine examples on show. Instead of silver filigree and chain, mine has as its basis, a surprising find from a French haberdashers. To wit a bikini scarf made from blue thread interwoven between feng shui lucky Emperor coins!

Feng shui lucky emperor coins upcycled
It's probably not the usual item on a tourist's bucket list but fabric shops in France can be wonderful Aladdin's caves and well worth a visit. Our local one is piled high, from floor to ceiling with folded lengths of fabric, which are sold as whole pieces or you can purchase metre lengths. There are rolls of fabric too, mainly furnishing fabric and also a great deal of carnival and fancy dress material. There are hundreds of metres of lace and ribbons, sequins and buttons and made-up parcels of 2 Euro 'Lucky bags' from which I got the above. The shop owner buys from auction, so you never know what is going to turn up but I've bought 1920's original metal lace pieces and 1930's silk and cotton spools.

recycling fabrics and shoes

The other ingredient in the mix was a Turkish-style slipper. I had bought this for pennies at a thrift shop and worn them to destruction over the previous Summer but had saved the uppers for future use. Seen here above is the remaining piece of one upper after I had cut out the central motif to use on the costume collar. As the upper was lined with a faux silver leather and the top fabric could be split from it, this gave me options to use thinner or thicker sections of slipper, so as to cut out complete motifs (as above) and/or to remove individual beads and sequins more easily. Somewhere in all my belongings resides the actual Turkish slippers I bought in Istanbul, which I was lucky to visit as a child. They are not to be compared with the false ones. Their workmanship is exquisite formed onto a beautifully shaped piece of leather sole and it was this visit which informed on my life-long love of beadwork and embellishment. However, with the magic that is cinema, the witch wore rich rubies from her red slippers.

making a chatelaine from a bikini scarfSo having found a suitably narrow, navy blue belt on which to base my chatelaine, one given me by my cousin, I started to deconstruct the thread and tassels of the bikini scarf, so as to rebraid and remake them into the supporting hangers for the witch's paraphernalia. To keep each chain separate and facing forward and also to carry on the theme of fortune telling and introduce a far eastern theme to my witch, I used the emperor coins and held them in place with beads taken from the slipper. Feng shui coins are considered to be even luckier when associated with the colour red and I do like the fact that this detail will, according to the shooting schedule, be picked up by the camera. In reality whether minute detail is seen, is not an issue, I will know it is there!

Vade mecum or Grimoire

I had real fun planning and making this. I had decided to use only one slipper on the whole costume and as most of it already had a designated place in the design, I was down to small sections but these made the finished book look even more ancient and mystical.

making a spellbook from recycled fabric

how to make a small book for a witch's costumeFor the book covers I used one of our standard materials (other than pallets), fruit crate wood and covered the front and spine with slipper fabric.

how to make a grimoire for a witch's costume
The pages were made from a paper napkin, which had a great mediaeval illuminated manuscript design. The back cover had the same design but in a thicker tissue paper (shown above left) I had found some years earlier and used to cover and upcycle an old dressing table mirror.

using tissue paper to make refurbish a mirror
This sort of ephemera turns up regularly in thrift shops for a few cents, relics of defunct craft and card making shops. It is well worth squirrelling away for further use and keeping all the scraps too!

sewing a spell book for a costume
making a witch's spell bookI sewed a row of beads from the slipper onto the spine, to both embellish it and define the edges of the book. The whole piece was glued together including adding a 'lock', of which I'm sure the witch would approve.
making a grimoire or witch's vade mecum 
making a grimoire from upcycled materials
When the character moved  it would not matter if she was in close-up as the book would have interest visually from both sides. I also wanted to make the accessories look real. I think costume should help to carry the narrative. This also helps to expand the character, particularly within the limits of a short.

Potion or Poison Bottle

Again this was another fun thing to make and used up yet another item from my hoard, this time one of those small perfume bottles that come in duty free collections.

making a potion bottle for a costume

How to make a potion bottle from upcycled materials

This was created with the aid of an old wine cork, sculpted to fit, gold thread, beads from the slipper and some purple/violet watercolour paint! This time the glue gun proved invaluable!
Chatelaine from upcycled materials

I also added a bouquet of feathers both from my own chickens, which I always collect when they moult and some Guinea hen plumes from my neighbour's poultry. This I decided was some unexplained aigrette, a totem of the witches fabrication and gave  balance to the chatelaine. I made it from a bunch of feathers, with the ends enclosed in a piece of slipper.

Rosie Willis on the set of the Golden Goblet
You can find my Pinterest Costume Inspiration Board here and find out more about The Golden Goblet and Climb The Ivy Films here

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All the very best,


Refashioning Project - Boho Chic, Ethnic skirt and sheath dress fusion

I made this as part of a witch's costume but it is eminently suitably streetware or a party frock.. read more

How to Make a Gothic Witch's Hat from Remnants and Found Objects

This project was a great deal of fun because although I had the design firmly set in my mind when I started, I still allowed it to more

© 2015 Sue Cross

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