Thursday, 5 March 2015

Columbia in the Making; Rocky Horror at the Regal

Some good friends of mine are regular patrons at the Regal theatre in Newcastle, which is a Cool little Retro Theatre that shows a cult classic movie on the first Friday of every month (plus New releases on other days). When they mentioned that the next movie they were planning to go see there was going to be Rocky Horror Picture Show, I knew I had to go with them, and of course dress the part.

My friend immediately claimed Magenta (so her husband is going to be Riff Raff) which left me with either Janet (BORING!) or Columbia (very skimpy, but glittery costume) So naturally I chose the harder to find/make costume and went with Columbia. At least  Eddie's costume for the Husband will be easy, I'm sure I can find a old/cheap vinyl jacket to rip the sleeves off, then just add some strategically placed drops and smears of fake blood. The Movie version of Columbia's costume his quite unique and comprises of a gold sequined top hat and jacket with tails, a red sequin bow tie that seems to have a studded collar underneath, a mutlicoloured sequin strapless bustier, rainbow stripe tap pants, fishnet stockings, blue socks and glittery high heels.

Movie Columbia
So I went shopping and found a $2 plastic glittery top hat, as well as a $2 red sequin bowtie, both from the reject shop, which I thought were perfect for the costume (I could make a nicer top hat, but why bother?) Then I went up to Lincraft to see if I could find any Suitable fabrics. Luckily they still had their 50% off sale, so I grabbed some gold sequin fabric, some black sequin fabric, as well as some black lining satin, then I wandered around the store about 5 times before I found anything close to suitable for the shorts. I was just about to try and find some metallic shiny ribbon to stitch on to black fabric when I spotted this stripey silky type fabric. It's not a perfect match, but it's close enough for me. I could not however find anything in a multicoloured sequin. *frowny face* So I will either have to keep searching, or just make the bustier out of the black sequins. The black sequin shoes and Red hair dye, I already had.

Columbia making supplies
The Pattern I used for the Jacket was a heavily modified version of the bodice pieces for Butterick B5824, which is the 1940's/50's style Coat pattern designed by Gertie (that I used for my Wedding coat)

Wedding Coat made from Butterick B5824
I traced out the size 14 instead of the 18, to make it a snug fit, then as this coat has raglan sleeves, I replaced them with a normal self drafted armscye and sleeve. I also reduced the collar width by 1.5". I started by making the lining, that way I could check the fit, and if I messed up completely, I would have enough fabric to make another. I started with the darts, then shoulder seams, sleeve headings, sleeve and side seams, then the upper collar (which I had reinforced with iron on interfacing before sewing)

Lining and Upper Collar

Once I had completed the lining, I cut out my outer jacket pieces and sewed them together as well.

Outer jacket pieces cut out

Starting with the Darts, Shoulder seams, center back collar seam and back neckline seam.

Outer bodice draped over lining

Then the Sleeve headings, side seams and sleeve seams.

Outer jacket and lining
The lining and outer jacket were then sewn to each other, right sides together along the outer edge of the collar. The tails then had their darts sewn, then sewed to the lining right sides together, turned right side out and attached, slightly overlapping in the middle, sandwiched between the lining and outer jacket.

Before I had quite finished on the jacket, but well after I went fabric shopping, I asked my friend what costumes her kids were going to be wearing, only to find out Bogface Chucklebum (who you may remember from this post) wants to dress up in the same costume as me, and would I be able to sew her something? The fabric Gods must have been smiling down on me, as I somehow managed to have enough scraps left to cut her out a jacket as well. I had to cut the collar pieces separate to the bodice front, and some of the grainlines aren't going the right way, and the tails pieces will have a seam down the middle, BUT I MANAGED IT!! It will be a bit snug on her (mine is on me too) so I'm going to leave her's unlined so the jacket will still have a bit of stretch to it.

All the pieces cut out

Bodice and Under Collar

Bodice, Under Collar and Sleeves (the Mannequin is a
bit bigger than Bogface)
I had to sew this one together with pretty minimal seam allowances, and used the overlocker for most of the seams, to keep them neat and allow a bit of stretch. Once I got to this point, I then sewed the center back seam of the upper collar, then I sewed the upper collar to the lower collar, right sides together along the outer edge. The collar then gets turned right side out and I hand stitched along the inner edge of the collar, folding the raw edge under. Then it was time for the tails! I sewed each tail together with a seam down the middle, then cut out and sewed black lining just the each tail and turned right side out. I then sewed the them to the back bodice, overlapping the tails slightly in the middle. Because of the weight of the tails, and the fairly delicate nature of this fabric, I decided to sew a ribbon along the bottom hem of the jacket bodice, just to help stabilise it a bit.

Cupcake Ribbon!
Once both the jackets were roughly at the same level of completion, I hand sewed 4 buttons to each, 2 above the tails and 1 each on each side of the front

Front View

Back View
For my Stripey Shorts I used my slightly graded up version of Burda Style 6966 that I previously used to make some casual pants to take on a weekend away, only this time I made them much much shorter, but made the waistband a little wider. I was going to have the zip at the side, as I think I spotted a button on the side on the waistband of Columbia's Shorts, but decided I would be more comfortable with a back zip with some cute buttons. At first I was hoping to use some cute rainbow buttons I had, but they turned out to be just a little too big for the waistband, so I went with polka dot ones instead.


I tried my best to make each side have the same stripes so the shorts would look balanced. I really didn't want a wide pink line down the inner front of each thigh, but my limited amount of fabric didn't allow otherwise. At the point of taking these photos, they still needed to be hemmed and cuffed.

By now you should be getting used to my
horrid mirror selfies

With less than a week to go, I still had to make a top for my outfit. with multicoloured sequin fabric being such a rarity, I settled on a burgundy sequin fabric from my stash, as the colour went quite well with the colours of the shorts. As time was of the essence, I decided to forego making the top accurately, with points at the top edge and a slight dip down at the front bottom edge. Instead I just made a straight bustier, in stretch fabrics and no boning, for maximum comfort, and ease of sewing. I used the Bodice pieces from view A/B of New Look 6457. It is lined in a black stretch cotton and has a zip at the back

The Bustier Pieces
Close up of the Fabric
My Bustier

I also ran together a quick top for Bogface, out of the same sequin fabric, but using a black stretch satin for the lining. I just made a very simple boob tube, with elastic in a casing along the top. To add a bit of visual interest, I gave hers a point at the front bottom edge, which I'm not sure I like now that I've made it. But as she is away at school camp, I don't have her here to fit a more tailored one to. Hopefully it will look OK on her. Worst case, we can tuck it into her shorts.

Bogface's Top

Completed Columbia Outfit
So yesterday, with only 2 days to spare, I finished all the sewing required for this outfit. I have upgraded to a better top hat, which actually fits, that I found at an op-shop. I gave the plastic one to Bogface. I also have some white frilly socks from my favourite shop, Elsie George, as well as my previously mentioned black sequin shoes. I know I have a pair of fish net stockings somewhere, but of course, have not been able to find them. So I can either wear plain black, black with polka dots, or buy some new fishnets from Elsie George, and hope the one size fits all will actually fit me. I'm hoping to have time this evening to dye my hair and work out my make up.

Now you'll just have to wait til this weekend to see photos of the full ensemble, plus all my crazy friend's costumes. I love being able to sew costumes for these type of things, It's so much fun to dress up, don't you think?

Dixie O'Dare


  1. Here in the states Rocky Horror is a BIG DEAL. There are groups that perform the show along with the movie and people actually audition to get into these shows, provide their own outfits and show up week after week after week, for FREE, to play. I know because my daughter did this and played Columbia for years :)
    I can even attest to their rabid attention to detail, everything had to be "screen accurate", which meant watching the movie over and over and over (and for those of us who aren't rabid fans having to listen to it again and again made for several kill-me-now-moments) to pick up every single detail. Yes, there are sites that will walk you through the various bits but my daughter decided to research it out herself. What cracks me up is the original budget for costuming was only just north of about 5 bucks (OK, so I exaggerate some but not much) and they used stuff that was easy and cheap to find at the time. The sequins on the bustier were one of the cheapest and crappiest fabrics of the era. I know because I was doing costuming way back then and would shudder everytime I passed that stuff. Now fans are going to ridiculous lengths to recreate the crap we held nothing but contempt for :)
    I won't go into the agony my daughter went through to recreate those shorts, let me just say she bought six different colors of lame, cut her own bias strips and carefully pieced them together. I'm reasonably sure the originals were thrown together in less than an hour... And the weirdest bit that every Columbia HAS to recreate is a little band of white along the back closure of the bodice. When my daughter asked me to look at the footage where you can see the band it took me about three seconds to scope it out and laugh. I said "They only had white hook and eye tape, what you're seeing is the edge of poorly installed tape up the center back. Why on EARTH would you want to recreate someone's sloppy sewing, that they figured would never be seen unless you could go frame by frame through the movie?" Big sigh from my daughter, complete with an eye roll, "Because, mom, it has to be Screen Accurate."
    Smile and nod.
    Without all the angst that she went through you've recreated a lovely outfit! I hope you and your friends have a great time at Rocky. If you ever get to the states give me a call and we'll take you to one of the Rocky performances here :) You're on your own with the toast, however....

    1. Hi Loran, Thank you so much for your comment, I love hearing about other people's adventures trying to accomplish similar things to myself. This outfit might not get too much wear, so I didn't want to spend too much money or time on it. Understandably. if I needed to wear it as much as your daughter did, I would have spent much more time getting it screen accurate as well, even if the original costume had less thought put into it, lol.
      Be careful what you're offering, I work as a travel agent, so I will most likely be going to the states some time in the next few years, so I may take you up on that offer! Haha! (I will bring my own toast)