The Time I Became a Swan
Last year, I was Hit Girl from the movie Kick-Ass which, while a warm costume, had people think I was perhaps 11 years old. This year, I decided to do a costume based on the movie Black Swan. There were a few ways to go with this costume, and my first idea was just to join up with a friend and have one of us be the White Swan, and the other be the Black Swan. But let’s just say all my dancer friends either moved away, were pregnant, or were otherwise unable to do the costume, so I had to think of a new idea.
So I decided to go half-and-half with my left side white and my right side black. I know nothing about dance costumes, and had never dyed fabric before, but I wanted to give it a shot.
I first went on eBay and bought a white corset ensemble that I ended up seeing on every other Black Swan on Halloween. For about $20 and free shipping from China, I got myself some sort of ruffly travesty that had a tutu skirt much, MUCH more transparent than this image would have you believe. I ended up supplementing it with a second skirt from China, which cost about $6.
First, I ripped off all the bows and ruffles, which left me with a plain corset shape. I then bought polyester fabric dye that you paint right onto the piece to be dyed, as well as tons of silver and black rhinestones and a glue gun. A trip to Michael’s left me with five bags each of black and white feathers, which would need to be glued individually. I also bought two hackle pads (one black, one white) in the Garment District, some hair clips, pink tights, real ballet slippers from Capezio, and black and white face paint. All together, these supplies cost me about $60 or so.
It was finally time to set to work! I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I’ll describe it as best I can. I fit the corset to myself, then tried to dye only half of the white base black while laying it flat. This failed miserably, and fabric dye bled substantially into the white half. I grabbed a bleach pen to try and salvage the corset, but to no avail. I later just ended up covering it up with feathers to hide my mistake.
I performed the same half-assed dye job on both sets of tutus. The idea was to wear the much thinner and poofier skirt that came with the corset underneath the somewhat more modest 5-layer second skirt. This would give it some volume, and make it look a little more like an actual ballet tutu (if you were blind). The dripping garments stained everything they touched, so the multi-day drying fiasco coated a good portion of my apartment with black splotches of paint.
Once they were finally dry, it was time to glue on the feathers and rhinestones. I hadn’t used a glue gun in many years, and I had forgotten how the little strands of glue get EVERYWHERE. I found little strands and rhinestones for MONTHS afterwards in my hair, my clothing, my bed, the bathroom, etc. I burned myself a good half a dozen times, but eventually managed to affix all the crap to the corset. I then took the hackle pads, glued on some rhinestones and hair clips, and called them hair pieces. I wore this costume three times, and by the end, hardly any feathers or sparkles were still attached. I shed pieces of the costume everywhere I went.
Finally, the day of, I did my nails and makeup. Each side had a different color scheme, with white being prominent on my left, and black on the right. My roommate helpfully sewed pink ribbons to the top of my slippers, making them look a little like toe shoes. One half of my face was done in the Black Swan style, the other in White Swan. My hands and arms were similarly coated in body paint, and I was ready to go!
I was freezing, and my ballet slippers got filthy in the New York streets, but I was still proud of my (semi) homemade costume. Several pairs of black and white swans grabbed me throughout the evening at the Village parade, wanting me to pose in between them. In the third photo below, you can even see the Black Swan side of my costume in the mirror to the right.