Like most of this project, I had yet to decide how the shoulder cap and back would actually connect. Having reached a satisfied point with the front, I knew that the strap in the back would be essential for not only continuing the quality of the costume, but also providing necessary support to the structure in the front, and before finishing or even adding to the front, I knew I would have to resolve the back. I started by simply creating a 2 row chain of scalemail, hoping that this would be a quick solution for attaching the back pieces together. When I did this however, the angle that I needed to support the front caused the new strap to twist and stick out instead of staying flat, in addition to simply not looking great. So, the next solution was to go thicker and strengthen the connectors underneath to prevent it from twisting. To accomplish this, Stefan created a mock strap with extra scalemail with a 4 in 1 weave method, (found in Danny Ace’s PDF entitled, “A Brief Tutorial to Crafting Armor from the Ring Lord’s Scales”), which naturally expanded the strap to 3 rows. This strap wasn’t absolutely atrocious, and certainly was a more logical solution than the thinner strap. However, this method used significantly more resources than I was prepared to use, needing at least 4-5 extra scalemail per side, plus additional scalemail to blend the strap into the back to make it look less bulky. Further, the transition between the shoulder cap and the strap was awkward, and wasn’t as nice as the transition in the front. So, in consideration of resources, appearance, and the overall pain of creating the strap (4 in 1 is annoying), I decided to investigate other methods of connecting the two pieces.
Having explored the possible options for scalemail (at least what I could think of at the time), I decided to consider alternative methods for attaching the pieces together using material I already had. The most readily available resource was actually the chainmail I was using for the scalemail (brilliant!). I recognized that a single chain would not do, as I feared it would not provide enough strength to support the weight of the scalemail. So, like always, I took to the internet for research. Eventually I stumbled across this amazing chain mail tutorial website, www.cgmaill.com/tutorials.sthml, which had a shockingly large variety of chain mail techniques, and very detailed constructed images and tutorials. Browsing through the selection, I was instantly drawn to the Dragon Back pattern, not only because of the name, but also because I liked the rib pattern and thought that might be an interesting design on the back. Working in small scale initially, I was amazed by the quality of the weave, and even found, if the dragon back failed, that I could remove the central ribs to get another amazing design. Having approved of this method, I continued to construct a 6 “ strap for use, which was a good margin larger than what I needed. Once I got the piece constructed however, I found that when I pulled on the two ends of the strap it created a tube of chain mail even when pressed again the body, which made it look chunky and odd next to my costume. So, continuing with my hunch, I proceeded to remove the rib of the dragon back design, and flattened the scale to create a large strap. Although it was strong, and looked gorgeous on the my craft mat, when applied to my costume I realized it was a stark difference to the scalemail, which made it look cheap in contrast to the front, so ultimately chain mail was scrapped as the possible medium.
The last possible solution at this point would be to consider a fabric medium, but instead of being just a strap, although still an option, I would create a full back piece that would act as my wings in the costume. You might have noticed, at this point, that I have not mentioned the incorporation of wings at all. Shockingly, I actually had two possible solutions, which were actually dependent on time rather than uncertainty. The first solution, with time, was to create a cape that would suggest wings, as inspired by Thea Tholsma feathered necklace. The other, was actually creating makeup bumps or slits to suggest a pending terror, and this was a last minute solution. Given that I am actually far ahead of schedule with my bodice construction, I started to give consideration into designing wings that would support the scalemail bodice piece instead of being just a cape. Initially, I had considered having a design, much like Thea Tholsma’s necklace, that started at the shoulders, and swopped around the back, connecting to the back portion of the scalemail bodice. Soon, however, I began to realize that I did not like the feathered look, as I had always imagined the dragon wings being similar to reptilian skin, with bone and cartilage connected with thin skin/membrane (although this is certainly a result of my upbringing, as certainly some dragons in history have been depicted with feathers and fur). Soon I began to look at simple wing depictions online, and even found some stained glass wing designs, but many of these were simply too flat.
While slowly defining my own vision of a dragon, I began to focus on the idea of having a folded wing, as a retracted wing has generally been depicted as slightly folded. Within the scope of my costume, I thought that a folded wing would fit perfectly into the regal refined nature of a queen, and quickly started embracing the idea more. Furthermore, there was a perfect way to test folded wing concepts easily before working with fabric, specifically through origami. Although I was inspired by a couple dragon origami images online (and I thought if all else failed that I could actually create large scale origami wings), my ultimate design did not come from these images. In fact, the ultimate design, although initially constructed in paper, actually appears quite frequently in fashion design, but it was one of several I considered through origami exploration. Ultimately, through trial, I found that I liked a folded wing that started at the shoulder cap, and worked around to the lower hip and back, and that the two wings would overlap in the middle. For my large scale assessment of this design, I had constructed the folded wing out of tissue paper, as it was more fibrous and closer to the appearance of fabric. I found, after construction, that I loved how the thin paper created different shapes and hues of the same color, and thought I could find a sheer fabric that might be able to replicate the design. Although I wasn’t set on red, I certainly loved the color as it was, again, going to be part of my makeup. Lastly, I thought that I might be able to mimic the cartilage that lined the wing along the exposed fold (along the top of each new layer), that would hopefully suggest a wing in addition to fashion.
To make this work, I realized that I would have to find the right fabric. So, excitedly, I rushed off to the local fabric store, Mill End Store, to browse for sheer fabrics. To achieve the look I saw in my head, I decided to stick with sheer fabrics and tulle, as clearly a thicker fabric wouldn’t achieve the same effect. I had also not considered a particular color, and so I investigated a number of colors and hues. It took some time, but soon I stumbled across this amazing dark red fabric, which had a black thread weave, was a bit shiny, and was incredibly complex and multi-dimensional in look. Most importantly, it only became more beautiful with layers, and could show variances up to 4 layers. This fabric, I thought, would be perfect for the skirts of my costume, let alone the back of my bodice. Although this certainly wasn’t an impulsive buy as it had to meet a number of criteria, the beauty of the fabric made me a little nervous, as now I was hoping that the fabric would work in the back, as now the image I had in my mind may have been obscured by the revelation of this new fabric. Once I got home, however, my uncertainties were relieved, as it looked beautiful next to the scalemail, especially thanks to the shine, which blended the two mediums together.
For the time being, I will be focusing on the fabric as a back strap solution, as it worked unexpectedly well in the design. Unfortunately failure is always an option in terms of ultimate stability of the bodice, but for now I am optimistic and look forward to showing off the final produce. For construction part 2, I will focus on the construction and attachment of the back potion, completion of gold portion of the back plate, and even describing how I plan on getting in and out of the bodice.