Monday, January 29, 2018

One Month, 17 Decks of Cards & One Playing Card Dress Later

Every year, the mister and I go to a masquerade ball. In previous years my costumes have been pretty simple. Hoops, a skirt, and a corset. A basic black and white circus performer getup. But this year I got it into my head that I wanted to make my entire costume out of cards, and so (over a period of three weeks in January) my playing card dress was born!

A lot of people have had questions about my gown! The one I've gotten most often is, "How many decks?" The short answer is about 17, but I didn't use every card from every deck. And of course people want to know how I attached the cards to each other and to what was underneath. So I thought it would be fun to share some 'under construction' pics and a bit more about how I actually made my playing card dress.

Having gone to the ball in previous years I already had a tiered hoop underskirt handy along with a cheap white corset that was in no condition to ever wear again. I started with a borrowed dress form, a few packs of cards I got from the local Buy Nothing group, the skirt, and a whole hell of a lot of staples.

I discovered after the first row that I was going to need a longer stapler to get the second and third rows onto each tier. Thankfully, long-ass staplers are a real thing though not at all fun to use when you're trying to staple playing cards onto a vertical hoop skirt. My wrists hated me but I powered through...

The best decision I made was using a tiered skirt because it meant it could collapse onto itself even with hundreds of cards stapled on AND it moved beautifully when I danced. The biggest mistake I made when making the skirt was not using more cards placed more closely together on the lower layers. You can see some gapping I had to fix with crazy glue in the pic below.

Once the skirt half of my playing card dress was mostly complete I started on the top! Again, the secret it in the staples. I got as far as the pic below before I had a mental block and had to let it sit. How could I conceal staples at the very top? How could I place the cards so they were curving around my curves naturally? And should I add some color? Or use the jacks?

Eventually I got past my block by working up experimental sections of cards using hot glue and crazy glue and clipping them to the top to see what I liked and didn't like. I definitely liked having a little more color!


More color...

And then even more color! With the help of a friend who literally hand cut clubs out of playing cards with a tiny pair of sewing scissors, I embellished the top (and my mask) further. Then, because more is more, I stuck rhinestones here, there, and everywhere. I wasn't like mega sparkly but I did flash a little when the light hit me just right.

Having never made or worn a playing card dress before, I didn't really know what to expect. People have asked whether it was comfortable... and my answer is that it was slightly less comfortable up top than your average off-the-rack corset. The skirt of my playing card dress actually swished beautifully but as it was so heavy, I definitely felt a lot of drag when the mister spun me round the dance floor.

I'm thrilled to say it photographed BEAUTIFULLY - and I'm glad because so many people (who were in amazing costumes themselves) stopped me during the evening to ask for photographs. 

In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that the mister helped me stay photo ready by occasionally applying a dab of glue to playing cards that went askew.

And now for the very best part: I won first place in this year's costume contest, which means the mister and I are all set for our tickets and hotel stay for next year's masquerade ball!

Best night ever!

I'm sure that next year I'll go back to being low key glamorous but it was fun to go all out just this once!


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