The Catt Box
I have made this page 'friendlier' for printing out, so that's why it's so plain looking.
I just want to add that several people have emailed me and asked for pictures of the construction. I don't have any such pictures and I don't have the kind of time it would take to provide them.
For starters, the best fabric I have ever used for Elvis suits is Gabardine...it's incredibly washable...doesn't fade....doesn't wrinkle easy, is very affordable, and you can't kill it!It wears very easy, too. And these are all the things you want in a suit. You'll be washing your costume yourself, and you need something that will hold up real well. Dry Cleaners will not touch these suits. Use a mild detergent, such as Wool-ite.
It's not hard to make the collar, just a little time consuming, but worth it. I figured all this out myself... I'm a costume designer anyway...so, there were certain things I already knew.As you read the instructions, it may seem a little over-whelming, but hang with it.....there is nothing difficult about it, okay? And you may need to read it a few times so you can actually visualize what I'm saying....it'll make better sense as you start to do it....and I'm always here if you need to email me and get more help.I've helped a lot of Elvis impersonators and I am just as willing to help you. On my page Elvis Tips And Ideas , (the link is near the bottom of this page) I provide some tips on how to promote yourself and how to do this for fun, or even money....you'd be surprised how far you can take this on a local level...and how much fun it can be.....and how much in demand you'd be.....
The tips and ideas are there to get you thinking......to give you ideas that you might be able to use. You can look at the area in which you live and decide which ideas are right for you.Fringe... any fabric store has it.....and especially if you live near a fabric place that deals a lot in upholstery....they have that nice long fringe....just look around. Fringe looks really nice on the underarms of the suit.
Anyway...in case I forgot to mention this in the information...no matter what color your suit is, always use black fabric to line your collar with ...it adds great depth to your collar and also, it keeps any dirt from showing up on your collar. And watch those aggressive women and their lipstick...one wrong move and they will mark you.
But no matter how clean you are, you'd be surprised how much dirt can show up on the back of those collars......use black fabric to line the part that goes against your neck and you'll never see a dirty collar.
This is more time-consuming than hard....trust me. But, it's worth it. Nothing looks worse on an Elvis jumpsuit than a broken collar, or one that has fallen and lays flaccid along the neck. I have seen some of the Elvis jumpsuits that were owned by Elvis, he had over 150, and some of the collars looked terrible.
Of course, he never had to wear his suits too many times.....and his did not have a lot of the hand work that mine had. Knowing that my suits were to be washed in a bathtub and wore, and wore, and wore to death, I had to make them to last forever....and they have.
Oh, and before I forget.....another thing I did to 'sharpen' the look of the suit so it would not look so.....weird...was to crease the leg section, as though you were going to iron a crease in them.........and then, on the front, stitch along that crease as close to the edge as she can get with the sewing machine...it will make a beautiful crease that makes the leg section of the jumpsuit stand crisp and sharp....not flared out to the sides.
With each suit I made I got better and better and better....learning little tricks and secrets as I went. It's been several years since I made my last suit...so, please excuse me if I'm rusty....it's coming back to me, tho....
Now.....the collar requires a lot of hand sewing....and it is time-consuming. Hand sewing is my favorite way to sew, but not everyone feels that way. It's good to sit in front of the TV and keep yourself occupied...this will take a while.
You need to purchase some single wide bias tape..... you need to purchase several packs, in the color of your collar....this is very important. You can print out this letter and save it for future suits.....but this will help in the construction of your collars and how to make them.
When I was cutting out the collar for a suit I was to make, I would also cut out several layers of the iron-on and even the sew on interfacing....this helped in some of the stiffening. I also cut out a sort of 'lining' for the collar. Like I said, I learned to construct my collar differently than the pattern instructions called for .
You will need to purchase several packs of boning. Boning is little strips of plastic 'boning' used mostly to help shape women's dress bodices and such...but you will need it for your collar....this will make that collar stand forever. Purchase several packs. You can always use any that's left over for the future suits. It's not terribly expensive...and I can't remember how much I used, but get at least two or three packs. It's clear and won't show through, so, don't worry about making it match.
So, that's several packs of single wide bias tape, in the color of your collar and several packs of boning. Also, cut out a 'lining' for the collar....this piece will go on the side of the collar that no one will ever see...the under-side.
On the underside of the collar that no one will see....not the part that goes against your neck...everyone will see that...but the other side of that...the part that actually faces the suit, cut long strips of the bias tape to go end to end on both long ends of the collar. Make sure you leave enough to tuck under. Make sure you stay close to the edge of the collar....lightly pin that in place and hand sew both sides of the bias tape in place. You cannot use the sewing machine because it will show. Must be hand stitched. So, the one long strip will be sewn on the neck portion of the underside of the collar and the other long strip will be along the outer edge, of the underside of the collar. The neck end of the collar is right at the stitching place where you joined the collar itself to the neckband, or whatever they are calling it. But you won't be placing anything over what you have stitched....you are only tracing the collar section itself.
Both ends of each long strip is left open, at this point. when you get both strips sewn in place, take only one end of the bias tape and turn under, making it look neat, and stitch that in place....stitch it very good.....you don't want the boning to be able to poke through.
Now....with that done.....cut a strip of boning....you can use scissors very easily....make sure that you make the boning shorter than the bias tape...just a little....you want to be able to stitch and not hit the boning. Cut boning to fit each length of bias tape that you just stitched in place. Now, you will notice that the boning curves....you want the curves to curve downward in the collar...in other words, if you place the boning in the bias tape casings the wrong way, you will actually be flipping the ends of the collar upwards. You'll see what I mean when you insert the boning and see how it makes the collar lay. Now....do not worry too much that it curves down too much....you will be correcting that when you place the other strips of boning.
Also, if you want, you can iron the boning so that it will be straighter....do this by placing the boning on the ironing board and placing a towel over the boning and then ironing it...leaving the iron in one place for a few seconds until you begin to see the boning straighten. It is plastic, it will melt if your iron comes into contact with it...I'm sure you realize that. But keep this in mind...sometimes, no matter how straight you iron this stuff, it can creep back into it's original shape and if you have put it in the casing wrong, it will screw up the way your collar lays......
Also, very importantly ....round each end of the boning strips you just cut. This will keep the boning from being sharp and squared and cut thru the stitching and bias tape. Just take your scissors and snip until you have rounded the edges...just the ends....the sides of the boning is smooth and will not be a problem...but where you just cut will, if you don't round them...and then, if you want, you can take a fingernail file and make it smoother, if you need to. Boning is very easy to work with.
Okay....both long strips of bias tape and boning is in place. Tuck in the last ends of the bias tape, once the boning is in the bias tape casings, and stitch very well in place. The good thing about bias tape is that the long ends are already creased and turned under...saves you a step. You could make your own, but that would take you even more time.....
Now....next step.....just take the bias tape and place the small piece right where the collar ends....the pointy parts....it's going to be a short piece. What you are actually doing is out-lining the entire collar with bias tape and boning....giving it a framing...a skeleton.....so, finish out this step by making the bias tape casings and boning on the ends of the collar. When you are done with that, your entire collar should be out-lined with the boning.
With that done.....every couple of inches across the collar, put a strip of the bias tape, vertically lined, and sew in place, tuck under one end, stitch it down, place a strip of the boning, round the boning, stitch the end shut. Just keep checking how the boning curves and do what looks right. I do things more by 'feel' and work as I go. It's much easier for me to do than to explain.
Okay....by this point, you should have out-lined this collar section with boning and also put little 'bracing strips' of boning across the collar in a vertical position....
Now comes the collar band....This is the part of the stand up collar that actually goes against the neck....same thing....on the part that no one sees, out-line it with the bias tape and boning strips...doing your long pieces first, and then doing the "bracing strips" last. You can only do the bias tape one section at a time, or you stand the chance of stitching over a place that makes it difficult to slide the boning in once you're ready for it. Of course, if you are really careful, it can be done....I did it....but just be careful.
So, to make sure you are placing the boning correctly, the boning on the collar section, (the first part you did) and the boning on the collar band, (the second part that you did) should be facing each other....ugly part to ugly part....
What you now need to do is cut a piece of cloth, the same fabric as your collar and collar band, and hand stitch this in place, covering your entire boning and bias tape work. This way it won't be seen and will neaten up your work. So, you are, in effect, re-cutting out one piece of collar section and one piece of collar band and recovering what you made. But this must be stitched by hand so it won't show...besides, if your machine hit that boning, it could really mess things up....this is where I like to use the black fabric so that neck stains will not show. Even if your suit will be white, do the facings in black...they look wonderful, trust me on this...
Another trick I did....the front opening of the suit....I also did the boning trick there....I think that there are facings there and I just went on the wrong side of the suit, did the bias tape casing from the bottom of the collar band all the way to the zipper and put the boning in and then cut out the facings from the same type of cloth and hand stitch it over the bias tape / boning part....this kept that part of the suit fitting sharp and neat....and kept it's shape. It kinda pulled the collar and front opening together very nicely.
So, this is how I did it....and the collar never falls and it looks sharp and retains it's shape. I know it's a lot of extra work, but that collar makes the suit...and if the collar fails, then it takes away from the rest of the suit and you lose all that you did by the wayside.
I sure hope I haven't confused the fire out of you...and if you have any questions, by all means, please let me know....
Oh, and I also stitched the bias tape / boning thing where the split is in the sleeves sections, too...
Like I said, with each suit I made I added new techniques to make it better....and it made a world of difference. The boning keeps the important parts of your suits very crisp and sharp and never loses it's shape.
If you find that the studs and other decorations that you use 'stick' you while wearing the suits, I have an idea for that, as well....I made linings of the suits for my dad's suits. You just pretty much re-make the body of the suit in a nice lining fabric and stitch it in place, by hand, inside the jumpsuit. This makes it much more comfortable to wear. Of course, this is much easier and faster than making the suit itself...and you only stitch it in place in certain areas....the front facing, zipper, neck areas...and also the sleeve sections and leg sections.
Elvis always had flare whether it was his scarves his suits or his jewelry. Tungsten Rings make great flare for any Elvis impersonator.
I hope these directions are of use to you, and if you have any questions, just email me.
August 1999 Copyright © Cathy Palmer-Scruggs / Catt Alexander
Elvis Costumes Elvis Tips And Ideas