Completed Project: The M7218 Peacock Costume as a Phoenix
Yaya Han’s peacock costume is a showstopper, but when I set out to make my own version of her pattern (M7218) I wasn’t planning to replicate it exactly. I knew from the start that I wanted to switch up the color palette, turning the peacock into a phoenix. I went easy on the feathers to keep the cost under control, but chose rich-looking silk fabrics to preserve the drama. I used the side panels of the bodice to indulge in some detailed hand work, and tweaked the construction slightly to suit my fabric choices and personal preferences.
My main fabric was dupioni, which is fairly delicate and doesn’t do well under tension. To support it I lined the skirt and jacket with cotton twill, and fused all the bodice pieces to a lightweight knit interfacing. Even so the fabric is showing some signs of strain, especially around the skirt seams, so next time I would probably either underline or fuse everything.
I did several trial versions of the corset to nail down the fit, which was probably the most labor-intensive part of the process. If you have a friend who’s willing to help you with pinning and adjusting, bake that person some cookies or something because it’ll save you so much time and frustration. You really want this bodice to fit you perfectly, so it lies smoothly and is comfortable to wear.
I skipped the feathers on the center front panel of the corset, but still wanted to give it some texture, so I created a scaly-looking textile for the side panels using orange dupioni and a smocking technique. The piping and bindings are made from the same color as the skirt and jacket, to help tie the whole ensemble together.
The jacket sleeves look different from the original version, but I actually didn’t change the pattern pieces at all. I just cut the lining of the sleeve flounce in a contrasting color. After finishing and attaching the sleeve, I turned the front edge of the flounce up to create a partial cuff and tacked it to the seam with a sparkly stone.
I wanted to scale back the number of feathers on the train, so it would be a little quicker and less costly to make. I decided to use three layers of silk chiffon, which I finished on my serger with a narrow rolled hem. The top layer of chiffon is cut according to the pattern, and for the lower layers, which substitute for the tulle underlay, I used the full width of the fabric and gathered it at the top. I also used the top portion of the train pattern to cut a piece of silk organza, which helped to support the weight of the feathered section. This was sewn behind the top layer of chiffon, and feathers applied over the top.
I bought my feathers by the yard, on a ribbon base, which made them much quicker to attach. I alternated rows of red and orange feathers, placed about an inch apart so that each row would completely hide the ribbon below, and covered the panel from bottom to top. I sewed mine by hand, but you could probably do this by machine as well. Just watch out for the glue used to secure the feathers inside the ribbon; it tended to gum up my needle and made for slow going.
I modified the back band piece that attaches the train so that it would dip a little lower and prevent the feathers from being abraded by the corset laces. Instead of sandwiching the train inside the band, I bound the top edge of the train with a scrap of dupioni, then hand sewed it to the back side of the band below the snaps. I covered the outside of the band with leftovers from the smocked textile I created for the bodice, using the fabric folds to disguise where I pieced scraps together. When attached as directed the band is almost completely covered by the corset, so I ended up moving the attachment point down so more of the scale fabric would be visible.
The collar feathers should probably be done by hand, as you don’t want to be machine sewing around the wire reinforcement when you can’t see it. Sewing by hand also allowed me to attach the feathers through one layer of fabric and the interfacing, without showing through to the outside of the collar. The photo above shows the collar with two rows of feathers, one red and one orange, but I later went back and added a third to give it a little more volume.
The instructions for this pattern are extremely detailed, and I’m sure they would do the trick if you wanted to replicate the peacock costume exactly. At the same time, though, I feel like you could get a lot of use out of the individual pieces. I’ll definitely be saving this corset pattern now that I have it fitted to my liking, and if you set aside the embellishments the skirt and jacket could be pretty versatile as well. I can see them as part of an aristocratic steampunk look, just for a start.
Are you planning to make this pattern? We’d love to hear how you use it!