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Our 19th Quarterly Shear Madness Costuming Challenge was “BEADS” which was all about glittering beads (of course) and sequins!

Shear Madness is a celebration of all costuming genres. We were so pleased and proud of the costumes submitted to this challenge.


Honorable Mention: Excellent Accessory DESIGN

Pearl and Lace Bib Collar” by Chantal Olthoff

“I wanted to do a small project to celebrate my love for both historical fashions and the Japanese street fashion Lolita Fashion (of which I was a part of for about 8 years). I used a cotton base and added chiffon ruffles and gathers, lace decoration and a good amount of pearl beads. I finished the look with a satin ribbon. The back is closed by ribbons and a tiny button.”

*Judges’ comments

“Charming, clean and tasteful.

“Elegant and tasteful use of materials.


Galactic Disco Corset” by Leslie Davis

“When I bought my LED skirt (as seen in the photos) I thought to myself “how can I give myself even more sparkle?” After stumbling on these mirror beads I decided I needed to make myself the craziest, sparkliest corset I could manage.”

“The top layer of fabric is an irredescent “oil slick” polyester/spandex mix backed with cotton muslin. The structure of the corset itself is two layers of coutil with 3/8″ spiral steel boning. The mirror beads were individually sewn to the backed “oil slick” fabric before topping the coutil. I’ll probably continue to play with this to make the spandex sit a bit better. Other then the late night concerts at Dragoncon, I’m not sure where else I’ll have a chance to wear this, but it sure was fun to make.”

*Judges’ comments

Clever use of unusual materials

“The placement of the mirrors is well done and gives it a good flash of light and color.

BEADS CHALLENGE: Second Place Winner

“A War Bride’s Wait” by Julie Smith

“A War Bride’s Wait tells the story of the HMAS Sydney, and Australian war ship sunk in WW2 off the coast of Western Australia.  The date was 19 November 1941, and all 645 souls on board were lost.  Inspired by the memorial at Geraldton, the seagulls represent the lost men, with one large and beautiful bird soaring above them all.”

“Made from milk bottle plastic, an old mosquito net and thrifted scraps of fabric and lace.”

*Judge’s comments:

“A very small beaded piece, but the entire outfit was handmade from creative materials…the bird itself looks to be very well done

The bird is gorgeous, the swirled beads really evoke feathers and the beads are well-used to ensure there are no gaps despite the fluid design.


BEADS CHALLENGE: First Place Winner

Madame Butterfly” by Jalea Ward

“The dress was inspired by a Worth Fancy dress [Costumer’s blog post with pictures of original dress available here].  I wanted to push myself, see if I could stick out a long detailed project and produce something even I’d be impressed by.  I managed that, even though it took some months! “


“The dress is made of silk with glass beads.  The beads are all hand sewn.  The wings are devore silk velvet which I etched and dyed myself (after lots of experimentation and mess!)  Both the devore and the beading were new techniques.  The dress has been worn twice, once for the photoshoot (a Christmas gift from my husband!) and once at the gala at Costume College in 2018.”

*Judge’s comments:

THIS IS AMAZINGI love the idea and execution of this dress. It looks to be well made, and finished. The beadwork is creative and mixed in terms of difficulty and style.”

“A beautiful recreation!”


The following two entries absolutely astounded the judges with their designs. These pieces were made outside the allowable time limit for this particular challenge and thus could not place. However, they are worthy of merit and have been awarded an Honorable Mentions for Outstanding Craftsmanship.


Kali: Dance of Destruction” and “Something Purple This Way Comes” by Lisa Ashton


“[Kali] has many areas of beadwork, including 2 wide belts (after I made the first wide belt, Kali began to tell me she wanted a second one), wrist cuffs that are part of the actual sleeves, edge beading over petals and panels, a front and a back beaded chest pieces that attach with large snaps, and a headpiece with beaded panels. It is a representation of the Indian goddess Kali, who is both a destroyer and creator. I wanted to use the beadwork to create texture in different parts of the costume, while staying within a particular color scheme with blues, turquoise, reds and gold.  There are many skulls on the costume, including small and medium bone skulls in the beadwork. There is also coral, holographic disks, acrylic and glass rhinestones, small mirrors, a glass snake, the tooth of a wolf,  and many old recycled earrings. There is also a great deal of edge beading over all the shoulder pieces and the tiers in the back. The beadwork pieces are built on heavy wool felt (NOT craft felt) with a stabilizer sewn to it, The beadwork is all by hand, there are really no shortcuts. I use a peyote technique to attach the cabochons and flat-backed found objects, the a peyote stitch to secure them, then continue expanding the beadwork. Except for some basic measurements when symmetry is required, there are no plans or drawings.”

“[Something Purple This Way Comes] has a lot of beadwork, including a very heavy large beaded “collar”, actually more a pectoral shield. There are front and back photos of it. I start with heavy wool felt (NOT craft felt) and baste a stabilizer onto it. I usually machine- sew piping around the edges before I start to bead, then I can sew beads literally right up to the edge of that.  Once I decide the basic shape, I start beading, with peyote beading around various cabochons (which involves a peyote stitch and using #15 beads, which holds the cabochons in place) and then extending outward. The cabochons are acrylic rhinestones, glass pieces, or semi-precious gemstones like amethyst or laps lazuli, and I try to get a lot of texture by using different sizes and types of beads, including bugle beads, seed beads and pressed glass beads. On the front  part of the collar (see the close up photo), I also do a great deal of 3D work, adding flower beads and other types of sculptural techniques. I usually will allow myself 1 week to do the 3D additions, but I have to stop at some point!  There are several “cut-out areas” where I have done beaded netting, or added a spider-web like section with special beads.  The back side is then lined with  a heavy faille or taffeta, this has to be completely hand-sewn of course, because of all the beads going up to the edge, and I use heavy thread.  This collar was made in two pieces, back and front, that were then sewn together at the shoulders. The hat was made by doing four triangular pieces of beaded embroidery (or as I Call it, “bead collage”), which were then trimmed and glued to a foam core “pyramid”, and I used foam core to make the brim as well, then covered it with fabric.  The hanging pieces, which sort of looked like hound-dog ears at first, were also beaded individually, then lined and added on.”

*Judges’ comments

[The Kali Design] uses multiple types of beads and has solid coverage instead of placing the beads here and there or along a single strand. The beadwork is smooth and even, their patterns are well-balanced and aesthetically pleasing, using color, shape, size and style to multiple elements on this costume. If I saw this in person I am confident I would gasp at first glance.

[Something Purple This Way Comes] is a tremendous piece, and looks like it weighs a ton. Sensible of the maker to have the weight on the shoulders and not pulling on the garment, as this ensures a longer life of the ensemble.


Thanks to all the wonderful entries we received for Challenge #19!

And a big thank you to our panel of Challenge #19 Judges as well!

Leah Lloyd

leah lloyd judge

Leah Lloyd of Lamia Creations has been making costumes since the ripe young age of 4, when she wrapped a bunch of scarves around herself and shuffled out to the living room where her mother was watching the classic Mummy. It’s been downhill since then, including receiving a degree in Costume Design, a Clothing/Headwear Laurel in the SCA, and winning “The Way You Wear Your Hat” Shear Madness Challenge. And someday she will cull the fabric hoard in the attic. Really.

Laura Ulak


Laura Ulak is the founder of Shear Madness and co-founder of the MN Society of Costumers. She has been costuming for over 20 years, and has costumed everyone from bearded Santas to Drag Queens to Ren Fest Queens. She is a Master’s level award winning masquerade costumer. She currently spends her spare time outfitting high school students for fall plays and spring musicals. She learns something new everyday at Shear Madness, and loves the supportive environment of people who remember the fun in costuming.

Amanda Fineran


Amanda Fineran has been making her own costumes since she was in high school and specializes in Star Wars, kids costumes, and leathercraft. She won 3rd Place in the Shear Madness Adorable Alert Challenge with her daughter’s Willy Wonka costume. Amanda is also a member of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion – organizations whose members create screen accurate Star Wars costumes and wear them at parades, events, and hospital visits. She is also President of Costumers for a Cause – an organization that helps connect the costumers with the people who need them.

*The order of judges’ comments has been randomized for each entry.

We are always excited to see the talented artists of Shear Madness share their creations with us. We want to see what you’ve made, too! Shear Madness Challenges are open to all costumers  of all skill levels and genres. Entering is always free and winners get nifty digital badges to display on their websites, blogs, Facebook Profiles, or anywhere else. They are called “Challenges” because the aim is to challenge yourself to et inspired, make your design dreams a reality, try a new technique,  and take pride in your artistic accomplishments. Check out past challenges and challenge winners by clicking the “Past Challenges” link at the top of the page to see all the other fabulous creations from the past 5+ years!

Looking for other like-minded, fabric-loving, costume-wearing folks like yourself? Request to join the SHEAR MADNESS FACEBOOK GROUP!


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