This costume was a year in the making, even though it wasn’t originally supposed to be.
The idea started after hearing Abney Park’s song “Herr Drosselmeyer’s Doll”. The song sounds like it’s talking about a busted up old wind-up doll (though it also sounds like a woman too), so I sat down and designed a costume fitting the song.
We will go from top to bottom. The hats were both shaped with buckram frames that I drafted. Each one was covered with the same fabric the corset was made of. I actually got the fabric because I made my mother a little wrap jacket with it, and when I saw it was on clearance at Hancock Fabrics, I bought it to do pieces for the doll. The mini top hat has keys and gears sewn onto it and a black satin ribbon with a bow around it. It’s finished with black bias edging around the brim. The pillbox hat has a covered button and a black feather. Both attach with clips. The wig was one I saw and knew would be perfect for the doll. I love the curls and how over the top it is.
My make-up was fun to do. Most of it was pretty basic stuff, but then I used extremely deep red lipstick (because a line in the song says “a frozen carmine mouth”) and lots of blush to look more doll-like. Once everything was on, I took a black liquid eyeliner and drew cracks all in my skin, again to mimic a lyric: “herr doktor’s fingertips trace by, on craquelature from every fall.”
I wore lots of jewelry with this costume. I had on some gear and chain earrings Ashley gave me, other random earrings from my jewelry collection, a black leather choker with a keyhole, several other necklaces with keys and other details, and black wrist cuffs.
The white shirt I wore was one I’ve had for a while that has thumbholes. It’s been worn so much it’s starting to get holes and some wear on it, so it was perfect for the tattered look. The corset is a waist cincher that has spiral steel bones and antiqued grommets. It laces with plain black cording. It’s decorated with a little pocket that I wear my pocket watch in. The suspenders button on and crisscross in the back. I used two different types of buttons for the sort of repaired by the doll look. I took a couple of problems with the costume and turned them into something that looked intentional. The fabric frayed a bit before I got the bias edging down, so the boning poked through. What I did was push them back in and then sloppily, but securely, hand stitched the openings closed to keep the boning from coming back out. It added to the busted and repaired look.
The skirt is just brown chiffon that I sewed in one seam and added an elastic waistband. Then, I cut the fabric on the fold, not caring if it was even, and then proceeded to rip it up. Some rips I sewed back closed, others I left. I then took brown and black paints and dirtied the skirt up to look like it had oil and other grime on it. The petticoat was made the same way, but with multiple layers of netting. I had lots of fun ripping both of them up. On the skirt I sewed a few little hooks and attached the chains to them. I hung gears, springs, keys, and whatever else I could find off them because I wanted it to look like she kept whatever she found just in case she needed to repair herself later. The big key hanging on the skirt says heart, and it’s the same metal as the keyhole on the necklace. I have that as if to say you have to “unlock” her heart to get emotion out of her since she is a doll.
The tights I wore were some old ones that started getting holes in them, so I just added more. The boots are some I bought at Target like three years ago that looked perfect with the costume. I also have ballet pointe shoes that I dyed black to go with the costume, but plan only to use those for pictures. In the song there’s a lot of ballet references, so I figured she would wear the shoes.
Now onto the reason the costume took a year to actually wear. The key. We had one done originally, but it was rather thick and we didn’t get the rigging under my corset made so that I could wear it. A year later my brother Skoot made me a new one. He did it out of two layers of really heavy cardboard and then covered the edges in masking tape. The way it attaches is actually a broom attachment. The part that went on the broom head is actually made into the key. Once Skoot had it set in, he painted it the hammered brass that I bought. To put it on me, he, our brother Bear, and I cut off the screw end of the broom handle and flayed the metal so that it had a flat base. We then cut two squares of some board that sorta resembled MDF. One of those had a hole cut in it for the screw to go through. The screw was glued down to the other piece of board, then the one with the hole slipped over it. We glued the two together, and then covered the edges in masking tape. All I have to do to wear it is have someone lace up the corset, placing the board in between the lacing and tie it tight. Then the key just screws on my back. We plan to make a more intricate one later, but overall, I do like this one a lot.