Goodness, that took a long time! I promised you Halloween photos long, long ago. Then I left for my trip, returned and immediately got sick, had house guests, waited for many days of rain to pass…. But at last we’ve taken some proper Halloween photos. You may be in the middle of Christmas preparation, but we’re still in Halloween mode, apparently.
And so, I present to you Don Juan de Austria.
OK, that’s the original Don Juan. He’s the inspiration, mostly chosen as the focus of our costume-making ventures this year because of those fabulous ribbon-festooned pantaloons. Plus, after King Carlos IV we were ready for yet another good Spanish history costume challenge. We found Don Juan while visiting the amazing El Escorial, where he is buried, not too far from Madrid. (If you ever come for a visit, it’s well worth the drive to see this stunning monastery/palace/basilica.)
And here is our rendition of the fabulous Don Juan.
We seem to have a penchant for picking the not-so-illustrious Spanish leaders. King Carlos IV failed quite miserably as a king, and Don Juan played very much a secondary role in Spanish history (and had a strong reputation as a ladies’ man, as it were). But apparently both of them were sartorially skilled, because we make our choices based solely on their portraits and dazzling wardrobes, with no historical research involved until after the costumes themselves are planned.
In any case, a little technical explanation: I based the pantaloons on our free Sunny Days Shorts pattern. I used the same technique as the Building Block Dress puffed sleeve (page 52) to give them extra width. I sewed them using the same technique as our Bubble Dress pattern to create the puffed shape, with elastic at the leg openings. We chose a fancy jacquard home decor fabric for the shorts themselves, and I applied the ribbons afterwards. It was so much fun to watch how it all came together once I started basting the ribbon in place.
The armor is made with a fancy metallic-covered foam that’s apparently used mostly in costumes for spring Carnival. I did quite a bit of test sewing before I started constructing it, since any needle holes would be permanent. In the end, it wasn’t difficult to sew at all, and was actually quite fun. I used the Building Block Dress bodice to develop the pattern itself, adding a little metallic braid just below the yoke and building up the neckline itself to almost a mock turtleneck shape, like the original portrait. I used a walking foot and installed a two-way zipper in the back so she can get it on and off. She totally loves it because it looks quite rigid but is actually very flexible. I love how the shape worked out, including the little belly and the–for lack of a better word–peplum at the bottom. Topstitching really enhanced the effect and helped to hold the seam allowances in place, since you certainly can’t press the foam.
And Pedro, our trusty Ikea dog, was also up for a little role play as the lion in Don Juan’s portrait. (Pedro is named because it was really hard for S to pronounce the rolled R sound in “perro,” the Spanish word for dog, when we first arrived in Madrid. “Perro” sounded more like “Pedro” when she said it, so we named him Pedro el Perro. Now her accent is the best in the family, of course.) S was in charge of making his yarn mane while I was busy sewing the armor and pantaloons.
I love it that S still enjoys dressing up for Halloween. Here in Spain, Halloween is a relatively new event, and her friends didn’t really understand her costume because it wasn’t scary or gory. Everyone else at the school party was dressed as zombies and witches. I think that may have put a bit of a damper on the experience for her, but obviously she still enjoys posing in her finery. I’ll keep sewing it as long as she enjoys wearing it. It’s great to see a costume give kids such confidence and sense of presence, isn’t it? (And we kept the tourists at Plaza de la Villa, Madrid’s old Town Hall, entertained as well.)
The chatter about next year is Infanta Margarita. I may need to enlist the help of some friends with expertise in historical costume for this one. I’ve never made panniers. But then again, I had never made armor or wigs before, either!