Desiring to help bring to life a well-loved children's literary character, I searched high and low for either a grey or black pleated skirt, to no avail. The best I could come up with was navy blue. Her size. On sale. $7.99. I grabbed it.
But her robe is black and her sweater is charcoal grey. Navy just wont do.
We're at the corner drugstore the night before Friday's costume parade and I place a last minute call to my left-LA-for-Portland-so-she-could-raise-her-daughters-in-a-
decent-different-town costume designer/stylist friend. My go-to resource for all things fashion.
"Hey, I'm staring at this bottle of black RIT dye and I'm wondering if there's any chance in hell it will work on a navy blue skirt that's 100% polyester. I know it says "not recommended for polyester," but I just need to get it to grey or charcoal. Black will work too. I just need to get the blue out. Will this work?"
"Polyester? Um, well, no. You can try it, but it won't take."
"Even if I use the whole bottle and boil it? What about using vinegar? Salt?"
"You can try it, but polyester has so many chemicals in it, it's a different thing altogether. It probably wont grab the dye."
"OK, but what would you do if you couldn't find the right color skirt for a shoot? I'm sure that's happened to you plenty of times before."
"We'd have to make one."
"Clearly that's not an option. I don't even have a sewing machine, or fabric, plus I still have to hem that darn robe."
"There's always fabric paint. And if you're really in a bind you can staple the hem. Just don't forget to use a black Sharpie to touch up the staples afterward."
How Project Runway of her. I never would have thought!
In the inimitable words of Tim Gunn, it's "make it work" time.
After braiding my daughter's hair in 6 tight rows and getting her off to bed, I simmer a soup pot of water, dump in the whole bottle of black dye plus a cup of salt, and stir the inky cocktail. Meanwhile I'm in the kitchen sink washing the stiff skirt with dish soap to try to break down the fibers a bit. At first, water doesn't even penetrate the fabric. It just beads off. Shit. This isn't going to work, is it. I add more soap, agitate it, and keep scrunching it and dunking it in warm water until it softens and eventually soaks through the fabric. I toss the sopping mess into the pot of dye.
Stirring, I turn the heat to low and watch as this navy blue skirt miraculously, all 100% polyester of it, turns to black in about 18 minutes.
Yes! It worked!
Now, about that hem.
The hell with a stapler. Thank God for Stitch Witchery and an iron. But for some reason, after repeated ironings, it didn't take, so here I am hemming the entire circumference of her robe. By hand.
Then I make book titles on the secret compartment faux book "boxes" she'll collect her candy in, a fantastic discovery I found at the local discount store. With some fancy lettering in glittery gold and black permanent marker, the often-referenced volumes, Hogwarts: A History and A History Of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot, come to life on the covers and spines.
Next day, arriving at her school just before the parade, I help her into her outfit and remove the braids. A little back-teasing and hairspray and brown eye pencil create the infamous "bushy" hair and thick eyebrows.
Grey knee socks and a red striped tie complete her English schoolgirl look. I fasten her robes with the fancy clasp. She grabs her books.
It's more than a costume. It's an authentic character transformation...
Straight from the pages of the Harry Potter septogy (that's trilogy times seven), Miss Hermione Granger Lives!