Cringe Crafting: Feather Headdress (Burlesque Costume)

I made the headdress in this photo in just a few hours! I can honestly say that I made it out of things I had lying around the house, but that would be misleading because I bought these materials to make this headdress over a year ago. However, these are easy items to come by, and even if you're new to burlesque crafting, this is something you can do. Remember to let the glue in one layer of the project dry before you do the next layer. Take your time -- you don't have to make it as fast as I did -- and study the placement of items carefully. 

I call this cringe crafting because I am doing everything a bit more crudely and carelessly than it would be done by an experienced professional maker, in a manner that would make skillful and sophisticated costumiers cringe. And yet, it works and is great good fun to wear -- I'm proud of this headdress, even though I know what it's not. You can see how much fun I'm having wearing it. The amazing costumes of burlesque are part of the art form, although as I teach all my students if you can learn to dazzle them using just a bath towel, you just might blow their minds in finer gear. Importantly, there's no point in waiting until you have top-tier costuming to be presentable. Sometimes done is better than perfect, especially when not having perfection on hand is convincing you that you shouldn't do anything at all -- or you're short of time and/or money, as I was when the occasion to make this piece arose. I had to make this headdress quickly for a rescheduled photoshoot at Coney Island.  I had planned to make it over a year ago, but the pandemic. (You would be surprised if got up close to the costumes of some very successful performers.)

Ask me any questions you like in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Here I am freezing my ass off at the shoot. I was shivering so hard I bit my tongue, so I imagine I'll look a bit grim in the photos, but I was actually having a fabulous time despite the cold.

I had moved in the past year and couldn’t find all the appliqués and rhinestones I had bought specifically for this headdress, but I found the feathers and the visor I got for the base, plus a couple of similar appliqués, some Duchesse satin I’d been planning to use for a full sweep skirt, and some rhinestones I’d bought on clearance.  I also had some clear tacky glue, which I used since I didn’t have a hot glue gun or sewing machine.   You may need to clamp feathers and other layers with clips, or weigh them down, to keep them in place. 

Here's what the supplies looked like:

A visor to cover (I believe I learned this trick from Angie Pontani).
Duchesse satin. I needed something thick and opaque.
Craft foam, to cover the bumpy appliques and for the back panel.
Ostrich feathers, both full and trimmed spears.
MagnaTac glue.
E6000 Fabrifuse.
Toothpicks and dental wax to put the rhinestones on.
(Note: I ended up not using the rooster feathers on the ribbon.)

I cut out the white tag and colored the stump with a Sharpie.
Cut out your fucking tags, please.
Seeing them spoils the mystique.

I traced around the bill of the visor and added a one-inch allowance around it.
I used this pattern to cut a piece of satin to cover the bill.
I used tacky glue to adhere to it.

It looked really crappy in the back, so this wasn't a good pattern.
But it looked acceptable from the front, as you'll see.

After I'd covered the bill, I cut a piece from the glitter foam sheet to cover the bumpy writing on the base.

I covered that with the satin too.
This is all just glued on with Magna Tac.
It was everywhere.

It's a little hard to tell what's happening here, but I'll do my best to explain.
I had kept making patterns and gluing until I had covered the bill and the part adjacent to the bill.
I had forgotten how to do it, so it took a while to get something passable.
Then I glued feathers to the front (the convex part) of the bill.
I also glued them to the back.
The messier parts will be covered with appliques in the front and a panel in the back.
Gluing bits of fabric and appliques and rhinestones over my messes is part of my cringe technique.
You should do better.
I'm just saying this is what I did.
I suggest you look at this, see how it could be done better, and improve upon it.
Also, if you're doing crafting tutorials, take better pictures than these.

It looked worse, but I figured, I'll cover it someday when I find the other pieces I bought in 2019.
At least this looks more like I did it on purpose.

Are you starting to see it?

Here's how I'll wear it:
My face goes in the middle.
I'll put the visor on top of my head, and hook the velcro under my hair in the back.

I put dots of e6000 FabriFuse where I was placing rhinestones.
I put down about 10 spots of glue at a time and then add the stones.
If you want to be neat, use a bit less glue than I did.
You can also use Gemtac, but not Magna Tac.

Then I molded a pea-sized piece of dental wax onto a toothpick.
I used it to pick up and then place the stones and then adjust the placement.

These are glass stones, except for the ones on the feathers.
My placement is sloppy.
Yours should be nicer.
I figured this is enough for now.
I'll add more stones later when I find the  Looking Glass Gems and Swarovskis I had bought for this.

I had a few Looking Glass gems leftover from making leopard print pasties.
I used those on the tips of the feathers.
Use tiny stones to keep the tips of the feather lightweight and mobile.
When using tiny stones, you've got to go for quality to get any spark, and these are quality.
Don't put shitty rhinestones on feathers.

Then I let it dry for 24 hours before I tried it on.
That's basically it!

Remember, it doesn't have to be feathers!
I once made one of these with pinwheels instead of feathers.

And here I am in the dressing room at Coney Island, thoroughly happy in my crappily-crafted headgear.
There's nothing like putting something silly on top of your head to cheer you up.

Got any headdress-crafting tips to share?
Any critique about why I shouldn't even be admitting I'm this lazy?
Add them in the comments!

Please let me know if you try any of these techniques and send me a photo or tag me on social media.

And if you want to do more than the minimum, and create or buy truly exquisite work,
It is far and away the best resource for learning high-quality costuming techniques.
But don't make her look at this mess.


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