Sewing the Sink The Pink Summer Ball Costumes. An overview of all the bits with video.

Sewing all these costumes for Sink the Pink’s Summer Ball was a blast. And this is the last installment for this gig, I swear. This was one of the biggest sewing projects I’ve ever had and one of the most fun. I still can’t quite believe it all happened. But it did.


In a previous post I mentioned that context was the key to appreciating garments and creative work. So, in the spirit of contextualising what the hell I’ve been banging on about these past months, I’m adding youtube footage of the Sink the Pink Summer Ball. Enjoy, I did.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

Opening act, 6 harness and cube costumes for the dancers. They’re down the front at the beginning of the clip. Song – XR2 by MIA.

Same costumes. Song – Satin Sheets sung by Glynfamous. And look at that headdress by Ivan Dauriz.

And again, Britney Spears’ Slave For You. Be warned, big snake. Big, big snake. Not a euphemism (for once).

Moving on to the Goddess theme. 6 individual Goddess Costumes for the 6 dancers.


Plus sequinned top and pants for AmyZing, centre front. And an extra cape (below) which I think was worn by Ness Abbot. Please note the McGyver Skillz I employed in creating “arms” for my tailor’s dummy


This one had lots of very dynamic choreography to consider. The guy centre front, in the Statue of Liberty headdress, is the choreographer Jonno Kitchens. He’s a talented, lovely and wickedly funny human who can teach pretty much anyone to dance in nosebleed heels. In fact, he put this costume together from bits of left over set.

Chester. Sweetheart.

Chester. Sweetheart.

If you’ve every thought about going to a Sink the Pink night, go. You’ll fit in because the whole concept of fitting in or being part of the “in crowd” is redundant. Just go. Turn up in a suit, in a graduation gown and mortarboard, in jeans and a t-shirt, in your pyjamas, in someone else’s pyjamas, whatever -wear it all at once if you feel like it. Just go, bring an open mind and an open heart and give yourself a chance to let go.

And if your shoes are falling off (like A Man to Pet’s) find me. I’ll probably be around and I’m bound to have something to patch them back together.

Too long didn’t read? Watch this.


More detailed posts over here if you can handle me banging on some more.

Harness costumes

Goddess Costumes

Ribbon Costume

Bubblegum pop costumes

Leopard print pvc (NSFW)

RocknRoll Cat remains unimpressed but he’s a tough critic so let’s disregard him for now.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball.

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball. Part IV. Because if you’re going to wear a fake penis, gift-wrapping it is always a nice idea.

It’s not all sequins and harnesses in this sewing costumes gig you know. Sometimes it’s leopard print pvc, fringing and fake willies. It’s a drag show, what’d you expect? We’ll get to the genitalia in a minute. First, the bow, let’s not rush things, we’ve only just been introduced.

Xanadu inspired leopard print bow.

This was for Amy Zing, founding mother of Sink the Pink and all round sweetheart.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

It was a straightforward case of the chance to make a childhood dream a reality.  That reality involved wadding, fringe and pvc that left my hands gold and shiny like some kind of  reverse King Midas.

Back to the inspiration, do you remember Xanadu? Of course you do, if you need reminding have a look at this clip of the song All Over the World. At about 2:30 there’s a blonde woman hanging upside down from a clothes rail. She’s wearing a big yellow bow and hot pants. My 7-year-old self was impressed by her monkey bar skills but even more impressed by that outfit. I swore that when I was a grown up lady, THAT is what I would wear. All the time.

Go on, have a look at the clip. There’s even Gene Kelly on rollerskates.

I didn’t quite get the same look as Xanadu but I think Amy styled this out way beyond anything I’ve ever seen Olivia Newton-John in.

This was worn for the Gay Bar number at the Sink the Pink Summer Ball. It was beautiful, hilarious chaos.

Brace yourselves for a big fake willy.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

I warned you. Too bad you didn’t even get see all the boobs I cropped out, huh?  You’ve come this far, go on have some more pics. See if you can spot where the rest of the leopard print pvc ended up. But you’ll have to sing a long, you’ll pick up the lyrics pretty quickly.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

“You. I wanna take you to a gay bar. I wanna take you to a gay bar”.

At the gay bar.

Gay bar.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

Gay bar. (there’s the rest of the leopard print!)

Superstar. At the gay bar.



Sink the Pink Summer Ball

Can you guess what happened next?

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Sewing the Kung Fu Panda Costumes. And loving every minute of it.

Everybody was Kung Fu Panda fighting, sewing fast as lightning.

In fact, it was a little bit frightening….especially seeing this in the kitchen

Kung Fu Panda.Yes, my flat is a mess but who cares when there’s so much fun to be had with faux fur and feathers.

Kung Fu Panda Costumes

It’s been brought to my attention that many of my pictures feature a can of Polish lager. Bugger your Mood Sewing network, come on with the sponsorship already Polish beer people. And also Mood or Minerva. I’m not above free fabric….gift horse, mouth. Foot in mouth etc.

Jessica, who is behind Magical Quests themed parties and events, asked if I could make three costumes for the Kung Fu Panda event she was hosting and I was so grateful for the opportunity. I ended up making Master Shifu, he’s the red panda above on the right, Lord Shen the evil albino peacock and Snake, there’s Jessica below as Snake.

Kung Fu Panda Costumes

A regular Saturday night.


All in all, these costumes took 8 days, that covers conception, sourcing fabric and construction. In reality, three of those days were consumed by my day job, teaching English at a university, and it was the end of a course so when I say 8 days, I don’t really mean 8 days. This truly was a case of Get the Fuck On With It. I’ll detail them in later posts but for now enjoy these pics of the costumes, I really enjoyed making them.

Thanks to the investement from the Olympics, we live near a pagoda. Perfect for Kung Fu photo shoots.

Master Shifu. Kung Fu Panda costume


Lord Shen headdress and cape.


Lord Shen. Kung Fu Panda costume


Snake looking a bit cobra with that neck extension.


Snake. Kung Fu Panda costume


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Sewing, get on with it. 5 things I’ve learnt.

I’m rounding up this summer’s sewing with a bit of self-reflection. I make my language students do this sort of thing all the time, so I’ve decided to take my own advice.

Sewing-wise, I’ve produced quite a lot and most of that has been for other people. I’ve loved every minute of it and I’ve learnt some important lessons. In the spirit of Buzzfeed and the rest of time-wasting internet, I’ve narrrowed it down to 5 points. It’s a good number and it will curtail the “blah, blah, listen to me zzzzzzzz where are the cat pics?”

Gratuitous cat pic


That cat, anything for attention. We have a lot in common.

Alright, get on with it Vanessa.

1. Get the fuck on with it. This is, without a doubt, the most important thing I’ve learnt. In fact, I’m printing myself a Get The Fuck On With It t-shirt. Don’t get me wrong, I love the process of sewing, the planning, designing, choosing fabric, making decisions, playing with different ideas and possibilities. All those things are very necessary but eventually you have to sit down, shut up, commit and do the thing. Making mistakes is inevitable but by committing to an idea and making it real, there might just be enough time to rectify mistakes or abandon an idea and start over.

In fact, let’s add a sub-point.

1a) Less bitching more doing. Bitching about the shitty light, lack of space or the fact you’ve just sewed something to your own leg isn’t really helping. By all means, have a good old swear, walk away for a bit but don’t let it consume your time. To quote my less sweary mother, “in the time you’ve spent complaining about it, you could have almost finished it by now” She was probably refering to housework or paper work when she said that but it applies. Multi-task, bitch and do. Cheese and whine.

2. Context is everything. It bears repeating. Context is everything, really. At the dress rehearsal for the Sink the Pink Summer Ball I was sat back watching. It was a technical rehearsal for light and sound cues but I’d tried to get as many costumes on the dancers as possible. I was pretty pleased but then I overheard someone I didn’t recognise say “hmm, the costumes look a bit flat”

THE COSTUMES (you’ve just spent days and nights on) LOOK A BIT FLAT.

I didn’t know whether to cry or sweep out like a misunderstood creative genius. I did neither because I just shrugged and  (as I burned her face into my memory for later reference) I thought “Fuck you. lady. It’s 4pm, the set’s not complete, there’s no make-up, the dancers are wearing their costumes over their rehearsal clothes, we’ve all been here for hours. Things are bound to look flat. And OMG shuuuut up” But with lights, sound, atmosphere and all the other things these pieces were designed to complement, they worked. So fuck you lady.

Observe. On stage it reads Lampshade Goddess. In the fitting it’s a crime against Chester and a terrible example of what can be done with gold PVC and fringe.

3. I’m going to qualify that last point with, criticism is useful. Consider it but balance that with trusting yourself. It’s very easy to find fault so negative feedback is far more common than positive.

4. Perfect is relative. AKA People cannot see what you envisioned so stop beating yourself up. That’s kind of it. That’s not to say that you do the minimum but you have to know when a thing is finished. All the flaws I saw in the finished pieces and all the things I wish I’d been able to incorporate are safely tucked away in my head. Or in sketches somewhere.

5. Learn, re-use, recycle. This time last year I had just finished the 6-foot vagina piece for Sink the Pink. I hadn’t made anything like that in years. This September, I was working on a bunch of Kung Fu Panda costumes. An anatomical extreme to a wholesome one, right? Couldn’t have anything in common except….on the inside, they’re made of the same stuff and the same construction concepts applied to making labia and a clitoris as to panda ears and tails.

That last one was a fun sentence to write……







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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball Part III

Sometimes more is more. Here are the doubly gorgeous Joe and Ted at rehearsal with the evidence.

Costumes for Sink the Pink

So sweet, until you scroll down. Dirty boy! These were for the “OMGsuperlolsbubblegumpop” (yes, really) theme. As you can imagine it was a lot of pink, hearts and colour. I hope these pieces weren’t as scratchy as they looked.

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

Here’s Chester just before going on stage. “Put EVERYTHING on me”

Sink the Pink Summer Ball

I made a bunch of headpieces as well. Raven smouldering at an early rehearsal in Limehouse Town Hall.


Sink the Pink Summer Ball

Sink the Pink Summer Ball


And me at 1am, convinced this was a good look for me.

Sink the Pink So many hearts, so much glue gun.


And here’s Chester again. Just because.Sink the Pink Summer Ball

See if you can *spot him and more Sink the Pink in The 2 Bears video. You won’t regret it. It’s amazing, and hey, if Madonna likes it, it’s good enough for me.

*as if you can miss them.

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Disco Car Wash. Sewing the Sink The Pink Summer Ball Pt 3. The Ribbon Outfit.

“Hey, how do you feel about sewing a ribbon dress for the Sink the Pink Summer Ball? Do you reckon you could?”

Ribbon costume

Try and stop me, GlynFamous. Try and stop me.


Sewing a Ribbon Dress

This outfit was a spur of the moment decision we made whilst buying fabric for costumes. Glyn fell in love with the ribbons and I can’t say no to him. And why would I? Especially when it involves playing with so many gorgeous colours. I mean, how hard could it be?

Sewing Ribbon Costumes

You better open another beer, Ness. And you better go buy more ribbons (thanks Mermaid Fabrics). In fact, Emil and the cats might need to move out, this is going to take up a lot of space.

Sewing a Ribbon CostumeIt looks pretty straightforward and, no doubt, it is but it’s also really, really easy to make these things look cheap and shitty. There’s a great ribbon costume Alison Golfrapp wore at Glastonbury 2008 but, I was sewing for a tall, lean man in nosebleed heels so my proportions were different.  It took longer and a lot more ribbons than I thought.


Let’s talk practicalities. That stuff is HEAVY. I mean use-weights-to-hold-it-down type heavy. Really heavy. And you’re probably going to end up hanging that weight off someone’s neck. I used two rows of petersham to build up volume and attached the ribbons to it. I tried hanging them diagonally but, ugh, so ugly, ended up hanging them perpendicular/straight down.

Then we had a fitting. Glyn can make anything look good but I’d like to think I can do better than “good”.





So, I went home and bought more ribbons. It needed more volume so doubled the amount we had, added another petersham ribbon and stitched it to the original ribbon for a bit of volume. I didn’t like how it split and looked flat so I wove ribbons horizontally through the vertical ones. This gave a bit more substance to the torso and allowed for movement.

Ribbon costume


It still lacked something but then a friend on twitter mentioned Randy Savage  (he looks amazing) and it all fell into place. I added the arm pieces and it started to look right. Nice and easy, two bit of elastic round the arm, ribbons attached to black horizontal ribbon then attach to the main garment.  You better believe I was a perfectionist arse about cutting these ribbons at a 45 degree angle.

I love Luke’s set for the show. There’s a wonderful balance between design and what looks like casual, accidental beauty. I wanted to do that justice.

Ribbon costumeThis. This is my favourite photo. Glyn and I met in Perth, Australia when he was over from Bristol for a kind of gap year in 1998-ish. My mum and I made him a pair of PVC trousers, apron and velour, animal print top for a gig in Connections. 16 years later here we are and here he is singing about homosexuality and his 12 inch.





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Colette Hawthorn AKA Well, if everyone else is…..

A year or so ago you couldn’t move for Colette’s Hawthorn dress. I stubbornly refused to be drawn in and resisted the temptation to download it. But I eventually caved.

Colette Hawthorn

I’d done that thing where you get seduced by print in the fabric shop and before you know it you’ve taken a few metres home with no real plan for it other than look at it. So my fabric sat there getting stroked a few times but with no future. Enter Hawthorn.

Colette Hawthorn


I have to be honest and say that I had to make a load of adjustments to this pattern. The bust fit more or less OK but the back was huge, I had to mess about with the waist darts and ugh, the bust darts! Maybe I’m in denial about how shit my bras are or maybe I missed the part where my tits have migrated south * but, what the hell is up with Colette’s bust darts? The Sorbetto tops I’ve made had the same boob-strangling feature too.

*Disclaimer – I’m pretty sure they’re both where they should be.

I was a bit concerned the fabric combined with this kind of design would end up looking a bit twee but I think I managed to dodge that look. It definitely needs a belt though, possibly in a red or some other contrasting colour.

Final verdict. I like it and it’s nice to have something so traditionally feminine in my wardrobe. I’d make it again but in a block colour possibly even adding a short sleeve. I think I’m not used to having such full dresses but I’m happy for the change.


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