About two years ago I joined a fitness/costume group that gathers once a year at DragonCon in Atlanta. My husband, being the supportive gentleman that he is, joined the group about a year ago. I had planned on making an Immortal costume for him but I just couldn’t get it together in time. Instead I made a Senator costume for him to wear so he could join us. How hard could it be, right? It’s basically a toga (or chiton to use the proper term).
Fun fact: I use curtain panels for at least half of my costumes. Cheap and easy to find, good texture and color options, and if you’re making something simple like a toga, built in hems can be left in place. Read: less sewing! For the senator costume, I wanted a linen-like fabric for authenticity. At Walmart, I found arctic white curtain panels (the color is more off-white or eggshell as opposed to bright white). For the toga/chiton, four 40″ by 84″ curtain panels (2 packages) were needed, plus one brown or tan panel for accent as shown in the gentlemen above.
Although the curtains are already off-white, they needed weathering for the antiqued effect shown on-screen in 300. I’ve read about coffee and tea staining (a brilliant suggestion by Darkstar Photography & Costuming) and decided to give it a try. The curtain panels came with tie backs which came in handy for stain testing. I was very happy with the tea staining test. I worried that they were too dark at first, but the fabric looked perfect outside in the sun.
For the toga/chiton, I basically made two large rectangles by sewing two curtains together side by side. If you’re following along at home, the methodology is pretty basic. With pleating, the resulting front and back should be squares. My husband measured 58″ from the base of the neck down, so the squares, by definition, should also be 58″ wide. Remember what I said about built in hems? Efficiency! For the white panels, cut the top off (the side with two holes running through it) at the measured length. Leave all other hems in place. The bottom hem is done, the sides of the squares are done, so the cut side should be at the top (that gets covered with the darker trim fabric anyway). With curtain fronts facing each other, stitch two panels together. This will be center seam in front. Repeat two more panels for the back. There should now be two big ass rectangles (wider than they are taller) that will be trimmed and tied at the shoulders…easy.
Dimensions of the resulting rectangles using the full width of panels sewn together is about 80″ wide, so use neck to floor (in our case, 58″) measurement for length/height of the square after pleating. Using this measurement, I cut trim fabric 58″ long by 5-6″ wide. Maybe it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), thread for the trim fabric should match the fabric. Notice the width of the white is longer than the width of the measured trim. The trim is a guide for pleating. Sew a small hem on each short side of the trim to prevent fraying (and that’s one less step needed later).
I made two senator costumes at the same time. For the senators, a variety was a nice effect, so I did the pleats slightly different for each. Try to keep the far right side and far left side unpleated, as these will be down the sides of the arms. Pleats would be weird there.
If you’ve ever worked with double sided bias tape, the trim can be ironed like bias tape for easy application. The center seam of the trim can be flush with the top of the white, pin in place across, and be careful to keep pleats in place while pinning and sewing. Sew the bias tape trim onto top of white. With spare tie backs or scraps, make two 3″ by 1″ closed strips to use as connectors at the shoulders. Adjust the position of these connectors along the top to make it custom, depending on the shoulder width of the wearer. After staining and weathering (next), a Spartan brooch can be pinned onto one of the connectors.
Look at these virgin white Spartan Jesus robes! Needs weathering, don’t you think? In a large Home Depot bucket, I tea stained the entire toga/chiton, then used two different methods for weathering.
Coffee staining: cheap household item, smells wonderful, stains like a mofo (until you wash it). I put on rubber gloves, rubbed slightly wet coffee grounds by hand into the edges, pleats, seams, hems, etc. I’ll admit it was a little dark, so I decided to give it a quick wash to maybe blend in the staining a bit. Guess what happened? The coffee staining came out completely. Damn it.
Spray paint staining: also a cheap household item, but this is do or die. Spray paint is permanent so if you mess up, you’re done. I used the spare tie backs as testers for grey, black, gold, and brown spray paint. I was happiest with the grey paint for weathering. Same method- edges, pleats, seams, hems, etc. Hold the can a couple feet from the fabric to get a more blended coverage. Remember…mess up and you’re done. Thanks for the tip, Thedarthjedi!
To finish up the senator costume, a belt is optional. My husband wore it both ways at DragonCon this year. So do you think he was a good senator or a corrupt one?
Here is the final product at DragonCon in Atlanta with the 300dc group. What a fantastic and talented group of people, many of whom I now call dear friends (if you’re reading…AHOO AHOO AHOO!). I can’t wait to see everyone again next year!