Thursday, October 19, 2017

DIY Deco: I Made An Art Deco Headdress!

I've got several projects in the works right now, but I thought you guys might like to see this one I just finished up. It's not a home run by any means, and I'll tell you where things went wrong and what I'd do differently, but I hope this inspires some similar craftiness out there:

I MADE DIS. Wha whaaaaat.

This is probably a good time to mention our Harry Potter Party will have a Fantastic Beasts spin this year, so many of our guests (ourselves included) will be dressing up as 1920's era witches and wizards.

Say it with me, now:


My struggle, of course, is finding ways to make a generic Flapper style a bit more magical. Since the President in the movie is wearing a funky headdress I started there. (Plus I just really like headdresses. :D)

As always I've done this on the cheap, so you could recreate your own for as little as $10 or $15, depending on how fancy you get with the jewelry. The primary materials are stiffened Friendly Felt (much stronger than the floppy kind), glue, and beads.

Close up of the jewelry bit:

The center piece is a combination of elements - I'll show you how they went together in a sec.

In fact, let me walk you through the whole build, starting with this simple mock-up John put together at the very beginning:

This was to test the shape on my face, so the strap is just taped in place.

I knew I needed something pretty spectacular for a focal point, so I went digging through my jewelry drawer of cast-offs. I found this $6 necklace and liked the wings:

I needed it to be gold, though, to match my dress.

We don't have a great gold paint at the moment, so instead John applied faux gold leaf with a little spray adhesive:


Testing the fit:

Here I've got an elastic band attached for a strap - I later replaced it with fabric-covered felt.

Next I paused to hit the craft store, and came back with all this:

This cost around $15, but only because the star pendant was $7 or $8 on its own. I splurged because I thought it had a Deco vibe, and because it looked pretty sweet layered over the wings:

To attach it I used a tiny gold brad through the top, then a little super glue around the edges to keep the star from shifting.

The finishing touch is a plastic gem I cut off the back of the dress I'll be wearing:

It fits perfectly, and ties in with the design on my dress. (I plan to wear something over the dress, so the missing gem won't show.)

Next I hand-strung & attached 14 strands of beads to hang from the edges before moving on to the really tedious part: gluing all the beads.

To do this I used a thick coat of E-600, a toothpick, and patience. (Blegh.) I had to work in one-inch sections so the glue wouldn't dry out.
I'd squeeze out a small section of glue, place my longer beads first (the end-to-end lines), then fill in with the tiny beads.

 [NOTE: If you do this, make sure you work in a VERY well-ventilated area; E-6000 is seriously stinky, bad-for-you stuff.]

One side done!

So here's one of the snags I hit: E-6000 is NOT the best at sticking down plastic beads to Friendly Felt. Honestly, I'm not sure *anything* is great for that, so if you have recommendations, please tell me in the comments!

Since I wasn't confident in my E-6000 holding, once I was done I went back and covered the entire thing in glossy Mod Podge:

I really drenched those suckers, which gives it a lot more strength. Plus Mod Podge is flexible, so I don't have to worry about it cracking.

For the feather flourish I bought a $4 pre-made piece from Joann's, ripped off the brown feathers, and replaced them with white feathers I pulled out of an old pillow:

Yes, I scavenged an old pillow for this. WHAT.

Now that the pretty parts are done, let's talk actual structure.

That one layer of Friendly Felt is going to feel mighty floppy after you glue a ton of beads and jewelry to it, so John helped me make a second layer of felt to reinforce it. This second layer also has two head straps attached, so the whole piece can sit on my head like a hat:

The head straps are more Friendly Felt, covered with a silky black fabric I found in our fabric drawer. (That's optional, but you know how felt attracts dust and pet hair.)

Getting the angle of these straps right is crucial, and unfortunately turned out wrong on mine. :(  My straps are too high, where they should have angled back a bit more. I can still wear it with a few strategic bobby pins, but without them the headdress wants to slip forward down my nose, ha.

Assuming YOUR straps are angled properly, though, go ahead and hot glue the beaded outer piece onto this inner one. This will sandwich the straps between the two pieces of felt for added support.

After that I hot-glued the feather piece in place, and voila! Done!

Closer look at the hanging beads:

If I were to do this again I think I would add more; I really like lots of dangly bits.

You can see here I sewed a few lines of beads to the upper head strap, too:

I know I should add beads to the second strap, too; I just ran out of steam. Turns out sewing beads is even more tedious than gluing them - who knew? ;)

And there you have it! I hope you guys enjoyed, and maybe try making one of your own? I'd love to see what improvements you'd make, like a better inner material, or at least a better glue. Plus you could have all KINDS of fun with the design. What do you think? Tell me what you'd do/change in the comments!


  1. Wow! It looks amazing! :D Maybe you could add some kind of padding underneath the straps to get the angle better?

    1. Or you could hang some more dangly bits from the back, including something heavy enough to counterbalance the weight at the front of the headdress, so it's less inclined to slide forward. it's beautiful!

  2. Oh, that's lovely! I can't wait to hear all about this year's party. :)

  3. Gorgeous! I can't wait to see the whole outfit and party in action! <3

  4. That gold piece reminds me of the symbol of the Jedi order. Nice look!

  5. I wish I was invited :) It's gorgeous!

  6. Try sewing the beads to some Tulle, then tacking(sewing by hand) the tulle to the felt. Or try Alene's Jewelry Tacky Glue. Or cut up some less than lovely sequined dress to add to the head dress. You could add a rhinestone zipper to the top strap for a little more glitz.

  7. This looks SO awesome- very occult-looking, like something Aleister Crowley's priestess would wear. I'm trying to think of a great costume for next week's Halloween party - I have a costume (or three) but I am ALWAYS looking for something new to add to them. Something like this for myself could let my brain run amok!
    amok amok amok!

  8. That glued beads technique might have been a pain but it looks AMAZING. Great job!

    - Jamie

  9. I think your only really safe bet is to couch the beads to the fabric. Is it tedious? Yes - this is why high quality beaded clothes are so expensive, every single bead is couched properly instead of glued. Couching is the art of sewing non-fabric items to fabric. Is it worth it? Yes - if you want something you can wear over and over; No - if you just want it for one night.

  10. Very cool. I love how the wings remind me of gold wings for a snitch. :D

  11. Oooh, love this! Really unique looking but could be a period piece, nicely done! We just rewatched Fantastic Beasts the other night and I was oogling the costumes, I always love costumes from the Twenties. Looking forward to hearing about your party!! When the kids get older I am hoping to start an annual Harry Potter party tradition, so I've loved all your tutorials over the years!

  12. Please please please post the finished costumes! Everyone's costumes!
    Those beads do look frustrating. How much time would it save if only the long beads were strung with thread and glued down first, then filled in the round ones after? Or would that not help much?

    1. I seem to be losing only the smaller beads - and then only off the very edges - so I'm not sure stringing the longer ones would help much. Unless of course I put the longer ones around the edges, which in hindsight probably would have helped? Ha!

    2. Oh, and I'll absolutely be sharing costume photos of everyone who lets me! John and I plan to have our flash rig set up at the party, so we can give everyone a semi-professional portrait as a souvenir. I AM EXCITE.

  13. This is lovely, and I thought of Fantastic Beasts right away! I had a project a while back that involved attaching fabric purse pouches to glue-in plastic purse frames. I went through various glues, including E6000, and finally settled on Aleene's Super Gel Brush On adhesive. It worked great for adhering fabric to plastic, dried quickly, and held no matter how hard I tugged on the purse pouch.

  14. I'd string the beads and then glue down the strings. Or go with glitter. Can't go wrong with glitter!

  15. Tee hee, dangly bits...

    In all seriousness, I freaking LOVE THIS!

  16. So, this is completely fabulous! But you have to post a photo wearing it with your dress!

    Please? Pretty please? Will all of the sugars on it?

  17. Only thing I would do, and this is the result of having to figure out how to paint a miniatures army with a lot of shiny metalic gold, is go back in with a wash to get into the recesses, and make it pop. Then I would lightly drybrush it with a silver paint or lighter gold to make the edges pop and be sharp. This miniature tutorial shows how to get it into the recesses. (side note they do sell gold spray paint like they show in their tutorials but for this I'd recommend using their small pot or something else. I mean its pricy and a lot of paint. It is a really nice metalic gold but water soluble in the pot. Gorgeous gold though) I say drybrush the highlights because I'm lazy but you also could paint the wing color back in as shown in this tutorial. Basically very similar to the wonder women sword tutorial a while back.

    1. Although I would point out usually the gold coat is put on over a black primer. If you're not using the one from the can.

  18. I'm sure this has been said on previous posts, but when in doubt I always check for glue advice. Also this headdress is making me insanely jealous. I would literally wear this around my house.

  19. That's amazing! What a great idea.

  20. Felt is hard to glue to because it's fuzzy and bits of fuzz can come off (with attached beads). Try sewing a layer of regular cotton fabric to your felt base and then gluing to that. Also make sure the piece is in a curved position while gluing and drying. If you glue when flat and then curve the piece, things can pop off. The straps are a matter of careful fitting, a very small difference in angle and length can make a huge difference. Try holding it together with strong tape while fitting if it's hard to get pins through. A little elastic (maybe an inch?) as part of the strap can also help with a snugger fit. Or maybe just an elastic strap or ties around the back? You can cover that with your hair.

  21. Love it - although I thought maybe you were celebrating the amazing success of the Miss Fisher crowdfunding campaign - there's going to be a film! eeeee! (if you're not a fan yet deffo check it out!)

  22. Hi Jen, love the head dress! I saw these Harry Potter potion bottle lights on sale (unfortunately in the UK) and thought of you. I'm sure you and John could make a DIY version!

  23. Random various thoughts. At some point experiment with red primer-adhesive-gold foil (or a red adhesive). The red adds a warm tinge to the gold and makes it feel golder? To attach the beads to your straps faster, start by stringing them. Then stitch over every other break between beads. (This is called couching if you want to google it.) I use either Aleene's Jewel-It or the E-6000 beads one. You might, if you feel like fiddling, try holding a string of small black and gold beads at the top/bottom to further define the edges. Also, it is not too late to fix your straps, either a discreet pleat, or by cutting the bottom one, fixing the angle, and then adding a beaded patch to make it look intentional.

  24. Found the example I wanted

    Also, I'm a doof, I forgot to say that it is Gorgeous! I love it.

  25. This looks gorgeous! I know you said the angles on the headstrap weren't working for you, so something to consider for future headdresses - dropping the headstrap below the curve on the back of your head (where your head transitions into your neck) will help keep it on more securely. You can always opt to cover the functional straps with some creative hair parting! There's a great book on hat making called "From the Neck Up" that is full of little tidbits to help you figure out how to keep a hat on your head!

  26. O.M.GOODNESS! This has sparked my imagination for my Star Wars VIII cosplay! I've been wanting to add a simple-but-effective headdress to my costume but I didn't want to go too crazy and this has some serious 'Amidala' vibes! I'm loving it! I'm thinking that the 'Jedi hood' could attach to the back of the 'forehead piece' (Probably with magnets knowing me) and the hood would sit a little further back on the head to show the draping beads! OOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo I haz ideaz!!!!!!!!

  27. Jen,

    I didn't read the comments so I don't know if anyone suggested this but you could couch the beads on the last strap. I hope I used the right terminology. You basically string the beads you want and then use additional thread to attach them to what you are putting the beads on to.
    A better explanation may be that you string your beads, lay the string of beads on your fabric, and use an overcast stitch to attach the string of beads. A piece of black elastic thread could be attached to the back of the headpiece (I assume you are wearing your hair up) and put under your hair so it doesn't show much but adds some security. Don't forget hatpins. This is why they were invented - to help keep a hat on a lady - and one or two could add a little more sparkle to your costume.


    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburgh!

  28. This to that recommends something called 3M80 or 3M70

  29. I used Gorilla Glue Gel Super Glue to attach plastic battery cases for fiberoptic hair clips to a fosshape headpiece for a Halloween costume - the textures should be a good match to smooth beads/felt - it worked well for me.

  30. Just a thought, and sorry to butt in late, (I stumbled upon this post and fell in love-- it's gorgeous!) but if you ever do a similar project with glued beads, rather than individually gluing each of the long beads that you used to make the boundary lines, you could actually thread *strings* of the beads, and then glue *those* on. Theoretically it might be a whole lot easier and quicker, as well as more secure/more apt to stay? Then again, my own projects are usually haphazardly throw together and this may be an idiotic suggestion. ;) Anyway, I LOVE the headdress! I am officially jealous. Thanks for sharing your incredible work!


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