Off to See the Wizard: Behind the Scenes at the Painted Ladies in the Land of Oz Meet & Greet

Last Saturday I attended a Wizard of Oz themed meet and greet called “Painted Ladies in the Land of Oz” organized by Steve Freeman at SlyHorse Studio in Rockville. I hadn’t done a meet and greet in a while and the theme sounded fun, so I hopped on board.

Steve was very meticulous in his planning. Over the course of at least 2 months he painted backdrops of multiple Oz scenes to use for the shoot. Each of these back drops was amazingly detailed and very well done. Also, instead of having everyone come as whatever character they wished, he discussed characters with each of the attendees ahead of time and planned out the concept. He had planned the event out so that each person showing up would be a different character, and we wouldn’t have 50 Dorothys and Wicked Witches of the West running around. By the time I had joined in, the main canon characters (Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Wicked Witch of the West) were all taken, so I had to select from the more obscure Oz characters.

I never realized prior to this event just how extensive the Oz universe is. Steve sent me a chart of characters, and it floored me to see how many characters comprised the Oz universe that I had never even heard of. When I, like most people, thought of the Wizard of Oz I thought of the 1939 movie….and to a lesser extent the “sequel” from the 80’s: Return to Oz. The story actually came from a series of books by L. Frank Baum, and the movie barely scratches the surface of the story he wrote, from what I have read. All the research I did really makes me want to read the original books.

Steve suggested to me that I play Princess Ozma, and sent me some information on her character. Princess Ozma is a central figure in the original books by L. Frank Baum, but was never really mentioned in the films aside from the 1985 Wizard of Oz “sequel” Return to Oz. I was iffy about it, but as I read about her, I liked her character and instantly got ideas in my mind on how to design her costume.

Princess Ozma original illustration.

Princess Ozma original illustration.

Steve was offering body paint for many of the concepts but I felt for Ozma that the paint would not work so well. She wears a long flowing gown, so I felt a costume would be much better. I decided to go all out and make everything for this costume.

Everything.

It seemed easy when I started. I made the crown headpiece first from some aluminum wire enameled with a gold color. I basically wound the wire around the section of my head that I was designing the headpiece to sit on….it sounds much easier than it actually was. I made the basic frame shape with the wire, and glued some cloth flowers that looked similar to the type of flowers I had seen on to the frame. I went looking for metal letters, but I couldn’t find any that were the right size, so I ended up buying some wooden letters, spray painting them gold, and gluing them on to the crown. I didn’t add the ribbons until the day of the shoot. All I did was tie them on behind the flowers.

The base of the crown.

The base of the crown.

Finished product with Oz logo.

Finished product with Oz logo.

Though I started looking early on for fabric for the dress, I didn’t actually go about sewing the dress until the week of the shoot. I decided to go with green, even though I had seen depictions of Ozma in white, blue, and even red. The green seemed to fit better, in my opinion, and conjured up the image of the Emerald City. I even managed to find a button at a fabric store that looked almost exactly like the brooch like object in the center of the neckline on Ozma’s dress. I had the elements. All I had to do now was put them together….

The dress was comprised of two layers: a satin under dress, and a sheer over layer that would create the flowy look. I got a pattern for the under dress that I had decided to follow pretty closely (aside from the top of the dress). As for the over section….I knew I was going to basically be winging it. I hadn’t sewn anything like this before, and I knew it was too much work to sew by hand so I arranged to borrow a sewing machine from a friend. It seemed like everything would be a piece of cake…..

…Until the thread kept getting caught repeatedly in the machine, preventing me from completing even the starting seam.

ダメ!ダメ!

ダメ!ダメ!

I didn’t know what to do, I hadn’t used a sewing machine since I was about 12, and even then I had never sewn anything this big, only small projects like a bag,  a simple top, or a decorative pillow. After a lot of back and forth with my friend Kat (the one who had loaned me the machine) she eventually told me to bring everything over and she offered to help me out. I don’t know what she did, but whatever adjustments she made quickly fixed the problem and I was finally able to sew my dress. Kat explained a lot to me that day about sewing that I never knew and was a really big help completing that project. I’m glad that she was able to help me; I don’t think the dress would have turned out even half as nice if she hadn’t been there to assist me in my sewing crisis.

I hadn’t initially planned on it in the beginning, but I ended up deciding on a whim to make a staff. Ozma is often depicted holding a golden staff with the Oz logo of the Z overlapping the O, just like what is on her crown. I saw some supplies that would definitely work for making the staff, so I decided to go for it. I got some fancy large letters, a 36 inch long wooden pole, and a wooden candlestick from AC Moore. I painted them all gold and glued the pieces together and voila! I had a staff. It wasn’t exactly like Ozma’s staff, but it looked awesome, so it didn’t matter. 😛

Any excuse to use gold spray paint is a good excuse.

Any excuse to use gold spray paint is a good excuse.

The only problem I had was the hot glue I had used on the top part of the staff wasn’t the most solid substance in the world…the Oz logo broke off at least 3 times that day at the studio. Luckily, someone had a hot glue gun at the studio and I just glued it back the first two times, and by the last time the shoot was over so it didn’t matter as much. I will definitely have to look into a better adhesive to anchor the “Oz” part to the rest of the staff if and when I use this costume again. I’m thinking gorilla glue……

I was glad that some of my friends from MAIM were also attending the shoot. Jenny was Scraps the Patchwork Girl, which looked AMAZING. Steve probably spent the longest amount of time painting her, and she looked incredible. Vicki was Sea Fairy Queen Aquaerine, which also looked pretty kick ass. Nikki came in costume as Glinda the Good Witch of the South, and even though we were joking that it was so Barbie and not her typical style, she nailed it. I knew another model there, Alexia Pik, from a previous shoot I had attended in PA, but aside from her and the MAIM girls I didn’t know any of the other models.

We had a blast though, and everyone got along great. I can easily say this is one of the most fun and rewarding M&Gs I have attended in a while. We even had a little bit of fun at the end of the shoot and made this video. 😛

Photos will be posted on my facebook as I get them, and some teaser shots of the other MAIM girls (along with myself) are currently on the MAIM facebook page. I will leave you with a sample of photos, as per the usual. Enjoy! 🙂

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