Wednesday, September 16, 2009
CROWNING GLORY: CONSTRUCTING HEADRESSES AND CROWNS
Over the years, many people have wondered about my stage name, Princess Farhana. Reactions to my royal moniker have run the gamut from those who “get” it, to people who are confused or once in a while, even outraged. Many individuals show tongue-in-cheek deference and call me “Your Majesty”, or “Your Highness”.
Sometimes when I was teach and perform in Europe and the UK, where there are people who are true royalty, dancers earnestly and politely asked my sponsors if they should refer to me by my “title”. I even recall a review of a an early video performance of mine where the mean-spirited writer not only dissed my dancing but seemed to be downright disgusted that my name was Princess Farhana. I should have taken a cue from my royal sister Marie Antoinette and told her to go eat cake!
The truth is, when I started dancing, I was just plain old Farhana. But like an ancient legend, my royal title was bestowed upon me; the “fairy-godmother” who started calling me Princess Farhana was the dancer Atlantis. Her reason? The fact that I wore my trademark crown or tiara every time I performed. Like many nicknames, it stuck immediately!
Before I even set foot onstage, I had a crazy, big-ass collection of crowns and tiaras, ranging from vintage beauty queen numbers I’d found at flea markets to plastic kid’s tiaras with blinking LED lights to cheesy “Halloween Headquarters” Cleopatra-style Egyptian cobra-crowns to Victorian –through- 1920’s headpieces glittering with semi-precious stones purchased (sometimes for budget-breaking sums) from auctions and estate sales. I was an addict! It got to the point that rhinestone tiaras were simply not enough, I needed CROWNS. Then, in total junkie mode, crowns were not enough and I needed full-on headdresses. I soon realized that merely wishing for royal headgear wasn’t going to make it a reality… so I got out my craft supplies and started to play.
After a lot of experimenting, I got pretty good at fabricating fabulous head pieces… so here are a few ideas and tips for doing it yourself. You will need some or all of the following materials, many of which can be purchased inexpensively at craft or sewing stores, or even- if you are a crazy crafts/costume hoarder like me- found around your home. Here’s what you’ll need: a glue gun and glue sticks, craft glue, glitter, a yard or two of 1” elastic, rhinestones, artificial flowers, Mardi Gras beads or pearls-by-the-yard, feather plumes, sequin appliqués, and scraps of decorative material, such as brocade, sequin-dot fabric, or lame’. Get a couple of cheap plastic headbands – Goody, Scunci or any dime store brand is fine. Also- have a Styrofoam wig-head on hand, they are invaluable for the crafting of your headpiece, and the perfect place to store crowns and headdresses.
Coquette Feather Spray:
This cute headpiece is like one that a can-can dancer or saloon girl would wear, and is an awesome topper for cabaret, tribal, Goth or burlesque style dance costumes. Place a headband securely onto a wig-head, and with your glue gun, draw a line down the center of surface of the headband, thinly and evenly, then press sequin trim or decorative ribbon down on the line, turning the ends of the trim under at each end of the headband. Wait a few minutes for the glue to set, and then squirt a healthy blob onto one end of the band, the part that goes over and behind your ear. Press a feather plume or two into the glue. When the feather is stable, squirt more hot glue onto the “join” of the feather and headband, and cover it with glitter or rhinestones, which will cover any excess glue as well as look adorable!
The difference between crowns and tiaras is that crowns encircle your head, and tiaras are U-shaped, affixed to your head at each end, behind the ears, for dance-worthy tiaras, it’s a good idea to secure the headpiece with elastic from end-to-end. You may want to buy a couple of a pre-made tiara forms, which are basically wire-framed buckram or net crowns, available from most bridal shops or on the Internet. These range in price from about $5.00-$15.00, and make wonderful bases for embellishment, as well as save you some time in fabrication. If you get one of these, they usually have a covered wire attached from end to end. You can either leave it on, or snip it off with a craft scissors or wire cutter, and affix elastic either to each end by hand-sewing it with sturdy thread or dental floss. If your hair is dark, use dark elastic, so that it matches your hair.
You can cover the tiara form with decorative material (trace the tiara, c and cut the material a little larger so you can fold back the edges for more coverage. An easier option would be to lightly spray the tiara form with regular spray paint (from a hardware store) to match your costume. After it has dried thoroughly, and affix sequin appliqués or faux flowers to the front of the crown with a glue gun. You may also want to line the top edge of the tiara with sequins-by-the-yard trim or grosgrain ribbon, to give it a finished look. Make certain to turn the ends under, so they do not fray.
To fabricate a headdress, begin by measuring your head from ear-to-ear across the top, and using a plastic headband for a guide, draw a curved crown shape on a sturdy piece of cardboard… any stiff cardboard is fine- I’ve used everything from (oh, the GLAMOUR!!!) water bottle or beer boxes to mailing cartons from the recycling bin! Cut the shape from the cardboard with a sturdy scissors. You may need a couple of tries to get a good shape that fits your head snugly. You may also have the crown rounded or with a point in the middle, at the top- your choice. Personally, I like the ends to be about 1-2” in size, and the mid-point, or top of the crown, about 3-5”. Once you have a shape that works for you, fits your head and is the height you want, trace it, and cut out another identical shape. To embellish, you can either spray the crown-shapes again, or lay them flat on a two scraps of decorative cloth, tracing out the design on the cloth with about an inch to spare. After you’ve cut out the shapes on your material, lay each of the cardboard crowns on both of the pieces of cloth, and glue them down by folding the cloth over the edges, and securing with a glue gun.
Next, place one crown-shape with the decorated side down, take your feather plumes, and lay them out on the wrong side of the crown, end-points down (you may need to trim them a bit from the bottom) on the crown. An uneven number is best for this, so start from the center, and place the other plumes on each side of the center plume. Measure for even spacing, mark with a pencil, and using your glue gun, trace the lines you’ve marked, with a good amount of glue, and press the feathers into the glue. Let this dry, try it on, and measure a length of elastic (white or flesh tone is best) from ear-to-ear, with about an inch left over on each side. This will be your headdress chinstrap, so make sure it’s a tight fit, but not so tight that it will strangle you! Again, with the glue gun, squirt a healthy dollop on one end of the headdress, at the bottom, on the wrong side (the side you’ve affixed the feathers to) and glue down the excess elastic. Making sure the elastic is straight; repeat this step on the other side.
Now, take the other crown-shape, and its wrong side, cover the entire surface with hot glue. Making sure it is laying evenly on top of the first form you made, press it down like a headdress-sandwich onto the feathers, so that they are held between the two layers of crown-shapes. After it has dried, you may want to make sure that top ends of the headdress-crown or held together in a sturdy way, and add a little glue for re-enforcement, being careful not to get any of the goo on the feathers.
Make sure to practice your dancing with the headdress or tiara a lot before you hit the stage- because the added height can throw you off a bit. Turns will also have a different feel, because of the height and resistance-factor, and some moves, like head-tosses, may be impossible! Also, warm up your neck and shoulders properly, because if you don’t, even that little bit of extra weight on your head may cause some discomfort the next day.
Have fun being a dancing diva!!!!
*Photo by Don Spiro