It is rare, that a costume just appearing in one episode gets somehow famous like Kaylees Shindig dress. Kaylee is my favourite character in the cult TV show Firefly. No, most acutally she is not, cause: Frankly I can’t tell you which character I like most in this epic series. But what I can tell you: it is one of my all time favourite shows ever. And especially the „Shindig“ episode stole my heart. And this is just because: The main character is this Shindig dress layercake monster aka THE kitsch as kitsch can ruffle dress. I dare to say: This cosplay is so fluffy you wanna die!
The ruffle dress is such a great example of how much fun bad taste outfits can be! Of course in the show ship engineer Kaylee, who is normally wearing overalls and works in the engine room of the „Serenity“ being all hooked up with smuggling and survive in the outer areas of the universe with her crew, is of course not the Core Fashionista that is usually invited to a big society event. But she’s a girl and she loves girly princess dresses with ruffles and poof sleeves and for her the layer cake monster is her perfect Shindig dress. Or to say it in her own words: When I saw the ruffles I just could’t resist!
Actually the Shindig dress is one of my very first cosplays I did! It was a challenge in every single aspect of dressmaking. The Shindig dress design is a basic roundabout 1860 crinoline dress design. That is refferring to Firefly as a show being a mixup between Sci-Fi, Western and Chinese influences. So I first try to get my hands on a pattern for a crinoline dress that had somehow the look of the Shindig dress from the show. I used the Burda 7880, because the pattern for the bodice was working very good for the original design from the sho. It was the first time I tried to alter a pattern I bought and found it was not so difficult at all. For all newcomer cosplayers: Just get you some paper and cheap testing fabric and try it! You will learn so much <3 From the day I made the bodice for Kaylees Shindig dress I have an idea about how constructing patterns for puffy sleeve works, circle skirts and so much more.
For the skirt I used a solid white polyester fabric, cause I knew the skirt might be really heavy with all the ruffles plus: I didn’t want the hoop skirts hoops to push through the fabric. Back then I had no idea about things like: pettycoats! The ruffles are all made of a light chiffon, and I can tell you the ladies working in the fabric store had to laugh more than one time, cause I miscalculated the needed amount like three times and I went there week for week for more ruffle chiffon 😀
The bodice is made of tulle lace – I first pleated it in the front part and then sewed it all together. The sleeve is also pink lace lined with apricot satin lining. Fun fact: Kaylee has a border on the sleeves seam that is gold – pink – gold … As I couldn’t find the exact same border I ended up with a pink textile pen handpainting every second tassel of the golden border on the sleeve! For the ribbon I used left over fabric rom the bodice and ruffles. And well then it was – almost – done!
The really challenge was to create all the ruffles! I had no idea that stuff like a ruffle foot existed back then so I made all the ruffles with an ordinary sewing machine. I also had no overlock machine, so the ongoing zig-zag stitch for the yards and yards of ruffels made a great piece of noise for hours and days! Yes… until our neighbour was standing at the front door wondering, if we’d break the appartment down! #cosplayerproblems
I love the Shindig dress and to cosplay Kaylee in this outfit, because it is really comfortable and easy to wear. It is just like a victorian dress, simple makeup and a wig. Actually I can put on in 10 minutes – if the hotel room is big enough 😀 When I debuted the shindig dress at Fedcon we stayed at an Etap Hotel with tiny business rooms and we found not a single spot in the hotel room with enough space to spread out the hoop skirt that is necessary for the big skirt (plus: due to be able to move comfortably with the dress the skirt even is 20% smaller than the original Shindig dress, but the room was still too small!). In Firefly the skirt has a width that is appr. the same as Jewel States height:
So, having no opportunity to dress in my hotel room, I ended up carrying the skirts in the hotel lobby and finished dressing half in public. But the great thing about cosplay is: You have friends and help at every convention! So some checked the audience and the others helped me with the fastening.
Here you also can see how my cosplay developed over the years! These early days of cosplay back in 2008 buying wigs or even find wigs was not usual, it was difficult, expensive and really rare to get for cosplayers. So I used my own hair, having no idea to style it much more than blow dry it with a barrel brush XD
Today you have easy access to affordable wigs, contact lenses and all kind of cosplay material with a few clicks in the interwebs, and that is another reason I am so happy I had the opportunity to shoot the Shindig dress once more with my current cosplay skill set. The new cosplay photos really to it justice.
Shooting the Shindig Dress
Finally after about 8 years of having this cosplay in my wardrobe I found the great photographer Carmen Palma from Human in Time Photography AND – and that was a real problem before – a great location to shoot the Shindig dress: The Künstlerhaus am Lenbach in Munich, Germany. I was there when the Munich Comic Festival took place – I hosted the Cosplay Contest – and I knew instantly: This is the perfect place for Kaylees layercake monster. A perfect mix of late victorian architecture and modern art elements were the perfect location to have an environment of a Firefly’s universe Core Planet. I was so happy to get permission to shoot there and to get Camen on board. Her photos are just unique and always show the very soul of the model and in my case the cosplayed character. I loved to show the awe this cute grease monkey Kaylee had to have whilst her adventure facing the wealth of the Firefly universes high society, something the character has not known all her life.
And last, but not least of course a selfie with the talented person behind the camera! Thanks Carmen for shooting with me!