For the Costume College 2015 Gala, I wanted to go along with that year’s “Plucked From the Pages” literature theme. And one of my all-time favorite book characters is Cathy’s ghost in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s such an iconic scene from gothic literature. Of course, I’ve made this costume before back in 2002 for our Famous Dead Person’s Ball. But that was a relatively simple version and less historically accurate (it was the right period shape, 1780s, but the patterning was more modern). So now I wanted to use an even more historical design and go as hardcore as possible with ghostly trims and textures, plus do even more makeup special effects.
Kendra draped a new bodice pattern on me, and I used a basic white twill for the inner layer. On top of that, I layered an ivory lace scattered with sequins. The petticoat was made of an ivory satin with both pintucks and a 3D leaf applique, and the gown’s looped-up skirts had three layers of materials — the same lace as the bodice, an abstract knit lace, a sheer muslin, and a patterned tulle. Combinations of all of these fabrics made up the “ruffles” along the neckline and sleeves. The bodice seams, neckline, and sleeves are also outlined in an ivory eyelash yarn for more dimension.
The best part was the distressing. I shredded every last edge of material in this gown — there are no clean cuts, I took my old “paper” scissors to all the cuts and rasped them back and forth to shred the edges. Each little leaf applique on the petticoat is snipped in a different fashion. I made holes and tears randomly everywhere. The gown has an irregular train. I also painted the gown with tea to further age it and bring some of the different white and ivory tones together.
The final step as to sew tiny clear and silvered glass beads dangling from the neck and sleeve trim and throughout the skirts. This isn’t visible in photos, but people noticed the bit of icy sparkle at the Gala.
I actually wore the same shoes from the first version of this costume, even though I’d passed them along to my friend Lisa. She was kind enough to return them when I was in search of something that’d go with this.
To add to the hair, I used some Christmas decorations of “icy” twigs, evocative of the branches scratching the window that Cathy’s ghost breaks through.
The final step was the makeup. I was inspired by this Victorian Ghost Bride tutorial on YouTube for the basic “dead face” makeup. I also needed to paint my neck, chest, and arms — basically, all exposed skin. What I really wanted to do, though, was add the effect of Cathy’s wrists breaking through the window, with glass embedded in her arm and blood dripping. I’d made open-wound special effects before out of wax, so tested it at home before CoCo, and used broken pieces of a clear CD case for the fake glass. It looked really cool, and I spent a half-hour with it sticking out of my wrist. Seemed like a great test! But doing it at the hotel before the Gala, nothing worked. The wax and the fake glass kept peeling off my arm, time was ticking down, so I ditched that idea. Otherwise, the whole look came out as I’d hoped.