Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Failed Empress Theodora Barbie

After the Egyptian project, we had a Toga party so that took care of the Roman and Greek part of the lesson. After studying about chitons and fibulas, we went on to the Byzantine era. The project for this part of the course was a mosaic which I did, but sadly did not photograph. I did another project for the heck of it, and that was the Empress Theodora Barbie.

The Empress Theodora is the Emperor Justinian’s wife and his ruling partner. Some historians depict her as vulgar and insatiable, shrewish, calculating and mean-spirited; others depict her as not only beautiful, but intelligent, witty and amusing. However historians see her, it is undeniable that Theodora is the most recognizable symbols of the Byzantine Empire. She represented the prosperity of their rule by combining the influences of the East and the skills of Byzantine artisans in jewelry making, embroidery and weaving (having developed a special form of fabric called samite)

MATERIALS USED: CRAPTASTIC, smiling tanned Barbie with hard to style hair, Chinese brocade, Black Satin, plastic gems that came in small packs of ten, assorted beads, assorted faux pearls, gold lace and trim, hot glue gun, fabric glue, Elmer's glue, needle and thread.

t took me two days to make the clothes for the doll. I had gathered the fabric and materials the day before. I picked Chinese brocade with a geometric, mosaic-like pattern (as opposed to flowers and butterflies) and black satin. It was sheer luck that I was able to find lace in my stash that resembled the gold embroidery on the hemline of Empress Theodora’s paludamentum and the gold, crown-like trim above it. 

Drafting the pattern of the dalmatica was easy enough. Cutting the brocade was difficult for me, as someone with only rudimentary sewing skills at best (at the time) After much tucking and folding, the dalmatica fit the doll decently, I had to sew the dalmatica on it though. At the time, I had no idea how to put on any fastenings. The doll’s paludamentum was a little easier, I drafted a circle, cut a smaller circle in the middle and cut the fabric, following the paper pattern.

I used fabric glue for the gold embroidery lace, while the other trimmings were stuck on with hot melt glue. I styled the doll’s hair in braids wrapped around her head and made a crown for the doll out of gold trim.

This project drove me crazy. Styling Barbie's hair proved to be a lesson in futility. I had no idea that she came with a layered cut (serves me right for getting the cheapest Barbie in Toy Kingdom) There was hair everywhere and anytime I got one side right, the other side would self-destruct.  Having lost steam with her hair, I did the rest of the work (like the her dalmatica and paludemantum) rather half-assed. 


You can see all the hot melt glue strings.

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