Monday, May 9, 2016

Cosplay by McCall's Pattern Review: Belle Rogue and Belle Noir

 I was excited to get a close look at these two new patterns because I think they have a lot of potential for steampunks.  I'll start with Belle Rogue because it's my personal favorite.

First the tulle skirt.  Everything about how the skirt is put together and made makes sense.  There's a lining under the tulle and an elastic waist.  Really the more I look at this skirt, the more I want to make myself one.  Now I just need the money for a metric crap-ton of tulle.

The detachable train is a little more disappointing.  It's made from pre-ruffled chiffon, so basically it's just a piece of fabric shaped into a train with a bow.  It's not exactly something most people would need a pattern to figure out.  I like it ok as a design feature, but as a pattern it's fairly useless.

Then there's the corset.  I said some pretty negative things about this corset based on the photos, but I do have to take some of those back.  I was totally surprised to find the instructions for the corset construction are actually...pretty good!  It's got a floating fashion layer, which means the bone casings aren't sewn through the top layer.  The base lining layer is constructed with seam allowances pressed to one side of each seam, and the bone channel sewn into the seam allowances.  You'll note this method avoids the problem I had with the other corset patterns from this line, the weakness of pressing seam allowances open in a corset.  If I were going to make a corset with a floating fashion layer, this is how I would do it.  In fact, I have done this.

The pattern also recommends using spiral steel boning and gives good tips on cutting boning yourself instead of buying it pre-cut.  The top and bottom edges of the corset are put together in a non-typical way.  The floating layer is sewn to the top and back right sides together and then flipped, so the edges are finished without binding.  I've never tried this, but it is a neat option for a corset with a floating top layer.  The bottom is then sewn closed and there is a large pleated ruffle that goes over it.  I would almost definitely still bind the bottom edge to prevent fraying and just for neatness sake, though the pattern doesn't call for it.

I like the ruffle and bows (which are removable or movable as they are attached to pin backs) on the bottom of the corset.  It definitely adds a lolita flair and helps the corset blend into the skirt.  So all that is fine, in my opinion.  The only problem I still have with the corset is the shape of it.  It's not very curvy.  The panels are really pretty straight up and down other than at the very front of the bust.  So this might work ok for a thin, straight figure, but would be uncomfortable or poor fitting on anyone curvier.  And I haven't tested the sizing, but I'd imagine you can safely go down two sizes from the recommended size for the corset portion.

There is also some good advice given in the pattern to keep from getting your pattern pieces mixed up and making sure your color alternates panels.  Plus a special section of tips on working with tulle, which seems like all good advice.  The pattern also includes some small wrist cuffs with ruffles and a hair bow.  I do like the instructions for making the bows in this pattern, which are something that sound a lot easier than they actually are to make look nice.

So overall, I think this is a well-written and designed pattern.  I like the striped effect, and it brings a real burlesque/circus vibe to a gothic and steampunk outfit.

On to the other pattern from this designer: Belle Noir.   This outfit is a lot harder to see detail on in the photographs due to the dark colors.  It's actually not all black, there's some dark red that I couldn't see online.  So it's worth looking at the line drawings to see what all the pieces actually are.

The skirt has an ankle-length part with lace trim around the bottom, and a handkerchief over-skirt that is shorter in the front and longer in the back.  This is all attached to the same elastic waistband, which reduces bulk at the expense of not allowing for mixing and matching.

The blouse is a wrap-style sleeveless top with flutter sleeve caps.  It's closed only with a tie.  As someone who is busty, I wonder how secure that really be.  The pattern also includes some detached sleeves with long kimono-style panels and a lace edge.  I can see how the wrap top, waist piece and sleeves add up to be a modern/gothic deconstructed kimono, but I'm not sure that is totally successful.  Personally I don't like the sleeves.

The bustle and waist piece are really interesting, though.  The bustle is quite complex, with three separate swagged drapes which are each attached to a base panel, so that's six actual layers.  Quite a lot of fabric.  It's all attached to the wide fabric belt/corselet.  This has plastic stays on the front side seams and gathered elastic shirring in the back.  This is actually a pretty clever way to attach a bustle and a nice alternative to wearing a corset.  It should be comfy with the elastic, but still look fairly nice in the front.  The plastic is an appropriate choice in this case because it's not under strain, but just there to hold the piece upright and taut.

My only concern with this piece is the weight of the bustle pulling on the elastic back and making it sag or not look nice, especially over time.  I think this is something you'd have to test, and possibly consider when choosing your fabrics.   The pattern actually calls for the drapes to be made of lace and organza, so it's meant to be lightweight.  The bow is attached with a pin-back again, as is the chain hanging on the bustle.

Finally, the pattern also includes what they call a fascinator.  I couldn't make it out on the photos among the model's hair, and I thought the line drawing just showed a gathering piece of veil.  But in actuality, it's a mini top-hat.  It's made from craft foam with fabric fused to it, and constructed with hot glue.  The trim covers the seams.  It's really a quick way to make a nice little hat with veil and bows.  Not something you can't find instructions for elsewhere, but a nice bonus addition to the pattern.  I was concerned when I read on the inside flap that trim was attached with hot glue, but that's only for the hat; everywhere else in the pattern the trim is sewn on.

So overall, how do I feel about these two patterns?  I'm glad they exist.  I like that they are a blending of lolita and Japanese fashion with goth and steampunk.  (At least Belle Noir is.  Belle Rogue is pretty standard goth.)  Ultimately, whether a purchase of these patterns is worth it for you is going to depend on your personal taste.  On the one hand, I know there are cosplayers out there who always say "I can make that without a pattern."  But I also see new cosplayers and sewers asking for patterns all the time, so I think there is a market.  Personally I am a pattern hoarder because my creative time is always limited and I'd rather not spend it reinventing the wheel if there's already a pattern available for what I want to do.

And I'm fairly itching to make that tulle skirt.  If I get the time and materials, of course I'll report back on how that goes.


  1. It is very helpful to know all these details, thank you!

  2. The Belle Noir top looks almost like a corset cover, to be worn over the corset but under the bodice. Because there are never enough layers.