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Queen Marlene

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived next door. She loved to come visit to play with the cat and watch me sew. For every bolt of fabric I had in my studio, she could envision a garment for – even I haven’t planned that far ahead! Marlene is a very creative and bright young lady, and we spent quite a bit of time together on the weekends when her mom was busy. We painted, baked, played dress-up and watched TV.

One of the things we watched a lot of (I mean a lot) was the series Once Upon A Time. Now, I had seen the first two seasons before I met Marlene, and thought it was a pretty cool concept – a live action alternate universe fairytale crossover, just my cup of tea. Watching it again in the presence of Marlene, however, was an eye-opener. Firstly, one never realises quite how lewd a joke is until a youngster asks what the punchline means – gulp!! Secondly, and more importantly, I realised that this series is a fantastic choice for a pre-teen. It combines the magic and innocence of a fairytale with slightly darker, more mature elements that resonate with someone about to come of age.

The Brief

Ok, putting my appreciation of the show aside for a moment (and please don’t start on at me about the later seasons, yes I know they weren’t as good, but I still enjoyed them), the point is that young Marlene was in love with the show. Her birthday was approaching and I already knew I just had to sew up a dress for her. When she mentioned that her birthday party was going to be Once Upon A Time themed, I got so excited; what better birthday gift than a pretty princess fairytale dress?!

I suppose I could have gone the traditional route and left the dress as a surprise to be unwrapped on the day, but I decided nah. So I asked Marlene what character from the show she was going to be on her birthday, and does she need a costume. And naturally, naturally, the girl wanted to be Regina! If you haven’t seen Once Upon A Time, that’s the Evil Witch, Mrs I-Hate-Snow-White herself. In the show, she’s a pretty powerful character, with some endearing qualities showing through later on. She also has one of the best TV wardrobes I have ever seen! Just look at this:

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

The queen is slayin’! Out of all of the amaaaazing costumes, Marlene picked the one below. A burgundy red affair with black tulle overlay. The second picture is a stylised version done, I think, for promotional material.

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa
Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

Pattern: bodice heavily modified from Elsa #1 by Elegant Impressions, skirt self-drafted


  • burgundy embroidered taffeta
  • black glitter netting

I was skeptical about finding a fabric that would match the picture, but the local store had this stunning embroidered wine red taffeta. Plus, instead of simple black tulle, I found a sparkly glitter-encrusted netting! It had a bit of stiffness to it, as cheap netting does, but it suited the flair effect of the sleeves.

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

So, I needed to take this dress and style it down into something befitting a ten year old. To start, that neckline needs to go UP! I used a free pattern by elegant-impressions for the sweetheart/Queen Anne neckline. Turns out that it was the perfect size for a looser, more comfortable kiddy-fit. I extended the sleeves into three-quarter length, and lifted the waistline to meet Marlene’s measurements as well. The waist was about three centimeters wider than it should have been, but since I didn’t want to stuff Marlene into a super-fitted garment, that was fine. There was also no zip or closure at the back, so it had to be able to slip over the shoulders. Fully lined bodice, thank you very much.

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

The skirt was just a rectangle, double the length of the waist and pleated to fit. The center panel of the skirt was triangle of the taffeta with a layer of netting over it, sewn to the large skirt piece before it got pleated. Netting sleeves were just two circles, one small and one large, with the hole in the center to match the sleeve width.

(I started on a Medici collar, it looked awful. I cut it down to half height and it was better but still wouldn’t attach to the dress without making the whole getup very uncomfortable. Marlene wanted to have her hair down for the outfit so I scrapped the collar completely in the end, phew!)

The Final Product

Regina Once Upon A Time costume in South Africa

And that was that! I still wrapped it up and presented it (teehee!) as a gift. I never got to see what it looked like on Marlene. We had a job opportunity waiting for us in Alexandria and it was a sudden move. I was told it was AWESOME though, and that the birthday party was a big hit. Happy Birthday Queen Marlene!

If you liked this Creation Chronicle, contact us to arrange your own Studio Brinnjal costume in South Africa.

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