project – Snow Queen dress and crown in process

Those of you who follow me on twitter have been getting lots of hints that I was working on a particularly challenging project this November, and its a pleasure to finally be able to post some snapshots of this project in process.

This is a dress for an original Canadian musical adaption of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”, performed by November Theatre in Bancroft, the small town where I grew up.  My mom is playing piano for the production and when I was asked to design the costume for the title character, I took it as an opportunity to contribute to the community I grew up in and collaborate on an ambitious project with some of the people I love most in the world.

snow queen sketch

This is the original sketch I did quickly in my tiny notebook.  Because the play is for families and especially appealing to little girls, I wanted to create something that would have enchanted me as a young child growing up in a rural area.

The project started with a wedding dress which I forgot to photograph – it was an off-the-shoulder style popular in the late eighties and early nineties – an off-white dupioni affair covered with lace, pearl plastic beads and lots of sequins.
Snow Queen dress lining
The last thing I wanted was an off-white snow queen – yellow snow was not an option – so I stripped off the outside of the dress and discarded it.  On request, I brought the train to the front because the character is limited to a platform area of the stage, and the back of the dress is not very visible.  The idea would be the front of the dress drapes over the platform like, well, snow.  I also created a hood to hide the hair and give a base to secure the crown to.

Selecting fabrics was difficult because there are, in fact, a million shades of white.  I had to search far and wide for “optical white” fabrics with the qualities I wanted.  I went with polyester “crystal” organza for the skirt and polyester sateen for the bodice because these fabrics magically un-wrinkle themselves and I don’t want to trust the shape of this dress to any iron.
Snow Queen dress in progress
I made a mistake at this stage of the design.  Because I lacked fabric for the bodice, I eliminated the v-shape at the waist.  The actress was worried with the original design that the sleeves would impair her movement. So I added circular sleeves which I won’t show you – but the effect at the first fitting was that of a giant marshmallow and was somewhat discouraging for the actress.  The fact that the “crown” I made looked kind of like a chef’s hat didn’t help at all. Once again I had to discard a lot of work, and I went and bought more fabric (putting me over my small allotted budget).

Snow Queen dress bodice
I went back to my original sketch and created something much closer to my initial instincts, and it worked fabulously.  I had to come up with some creative piecing to recover the V style line at the waist, and I used hoops both in the skirt and at the sleeves to get the over-stated “Disney Princess” shape that I loved as a little girl.  It worked – the waist became defined even though it is not tight, and the massive shoulders give the queen an impressive presence.

A theatre piece needs to be embellished in my opinion, but I wanted to avoid the contrived look of sequins. So with the help of my boyfriend Ray, we came up with an inventive way of making the dress look really snowy.  After many tests, we discovered that white construction silicone had the right amount of stickiness and flexibility.  We pressed in a mixture of faux polystyrene snow with a bit of sparkly faux snow from Canadian Tire, a bit like flocking, to create a look that read from both near and far as sparkly, clean, magical snow.
Snow Queen dress finished with Evey
Here is the finished dress displayed with the help of my adorable neice Evey.

After the “chef’s hat” fiasco I needed help with the crown and I called up Ray for ideas.  He volunteered to help me create something really exciting – an icicle crown.  Ray and I have often collaborated on projects, but right now circumstances mean we live far away from eachother and we don’t get to work together so much any more.  I was so excited at the prospect of being able to work with Ray, he’s an incredibly creative and resourceful man who has always encouraged me to pursue new projects and a creative career.
Snow Queen crown after grinding
The crown started with pile of scrap plexiglass.  We cut out the shape and using a special glue we attached narrow shards of plexi to the icicles.  Then Ray ground them down and carved them to give them a round shape.

Snow Queen crown drying
The next step was to paint the crown with Crystal Clear, a plastic molding material that as it dripped down the carved icicles and slowly dried created a look that was marvelously drippy and wet looking.
Snow Queen crown dripping

Once it was dry I stitched the crown to the headband I had made (with laces in the back for easy adjustment).  We glued on some more sparkly snow for a final touch.
Snow Queen crown

And that was how we made the Snow Queen costume.  It was well received as being both comfortable and it looked perfectly Snow Queen-y.  I will post photographs of the entire costume on the actress as soon as I get them.

If you are in Bancroft, you should go see the play!  The performances are brilliant and the original music by acclaimed composer Howard Baer is so evocative and beautiful.

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41 thoughts on “project – Snow Queen dress and crown in process”

  1. Oh, Danielle, this is lovely. Thanks for explaining the steps involved in the process. The community and November Theatre must have been thrilled to receive such a wonderful contribution from such a talented designer. The crown is magnificent. I can’t wait to see the rest of the photos.

  2. So beautiful! I really enjoyed reading this / looking at the pictures. It’s interesting to see how a design evolves…all the problem-solving along the way and what your process is. Can’t wait to see more pictures!

  3. Just wonderful – this is exactly the princess costume that would have sparked my imagination as a child, and I’m so glad you were able to bring your vision to life! Congratulations, and I’m excited to see more photos!

  4. AMAZING!!!! You are crazy talented — don’t ever stop pursuing all things creative. This is what you meant to do!

  5. Ho-ly hell. That is some FANTASTIC work there! All the buildup on Twitter was totally worth these pictures. I particularly like the organza (my closet princess approves) and the icicle crown is truly inspired. I’d love to see how it looks on stage, too. (And, as a sidenote, I’ve been told that you can solve almost all of life’s problems by going to Canadian Tire. Which you’ve just proved to be true. :3)

  6. OMG Danielle! I love it, soooo much! I can’t imagine having enough talent to make something as fabulous as this!!

    So glad you sent this link 🙂

  7. Holy cow Danielle! That crown is absolutely amazing! I read your description but I still have no idea how you guys made it look so real. At least in the photos it honestly looks like ice. Well done!

  8. Danielle- What an amazing contribution you’ve made to our production!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve loved reading the details on the process of creating this masterpiece. (Thanks for your kind words too.) I was disappointed to have missed you at the Playhouse… maybe some day!

  9. I am getting ready to play the snow queen for the 3rd time and I have crown envy! I love your crown design. I can’t wait to see productions photos. Congratulations 🙂

  10. oh woh woh what a beauty.i have never seen that before. i have try to make a costume , i whise i could buy it from you. greeting jolanda frome holland

  11. Hi Danielle, I love the costume you made. Great job!! My niece is a ballroom dancer and wants to be a snow queen this year. I love the way your crown turned out! Can you tell me where you got the icicles? Are they plastic?
    Thank you in advanced!

  12. i have a hairdressing competition in feb and my theme is the ice queen and i was wondering if you would make me a crown like above and what will you charge me?

  13. This look is absolutely flawless. I’m especially taken with the crown, so I have to ask how you managed such a perfect bend in the plexi. I’m constructing props/costume for The White Witch, and would like to make something similar for her to wear… trouble is, I’ve only ever made simple, angular bends in plexi before.

  14. I would like to buy the crown for my 30th Birthday party, would you think about selling it to me?

    It is the best Snow Queen crown i have ever seen, fantastic job!!

  15. Can I commission you to make a Snow Queen Crown for me? Name your price.

    If not, can you explain in detail how to make one? It is exquisite!

    Please let me know when you can. THank you.

  16. Absolutely stunning! Really, the best I’ve seen. I would love to buy a crown from you if possible. I desperately need one, and this is exactly what I am looking for. If you are not able to sell one can you please give me step by step instructions on how to make it. I am truly flawed by your talent…absolutely fantastic!

  17. Hey,

    Great work! I am currently in the works of trying to make a crown similar to the one you made. I was wondering where you purchased the plexiglass?


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