Creating Custom Rocknroll Capes for The DRAMASTICS

Last month marked the third installment of my creative collaboration with multimedia artist Nathan Carter.

This time Nathan brought his multimedia exhibition of The DRAMASTICS: A Punk Rock Victory Twister in Texas to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. If you've been following along, you'll remember we first collaborated on a T-shirt and tote bag for his exhibition at the MOCA in Denver, then we made more tees & totes for the Casey Kaplan Gallery in NYC. 

For the tees & totes, Nathan sent me scans and cutouts of his individual motifs and figures, and I laid them out into designs and oversaw the production and printing.  It was a true design collaboration, a lot of fun, and they resulted in successful sales for the museum shops! 

For the exhibition at the Nasher, we printed up more tees & totes like before, but Nathan had a more ambitious idea for The DRAMASTICS' live performance.  Since the band would be playing live at the opening, he had a vision for making custom rocknroll capes for each member. And he wanted them in pink satin.


I started brainstorming what kind of pink satin cape silhouette could look cool and still function while people were singing and playing instruments. I wanted the capes to be lined, so that they looked punk but polished. I have a giant full length wool cape from the 1960s that has a front panel and two long slits for arms to come through. I sketched a shortened version of that and Nathan approved it. I traced off a pattern based on the wool cape and quickly stitched up a sample out of cheap satin that I could take on a trip to New York with me. I also created a little sampler to show how the applique and paint would look.  

 Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Since Nathan's studio is in Brooklyn, we set aside a few hours to hash out the final cape design together in person.  Again, he had a collection of shapes, words & motifs that we could choose from, so I guided him through what was possible via paint and applique with satin, and together we chose what should go where. We worked quickly and decisively, and he had the resized and recut stencils ready for me before I left town. Easy & fun!

 Figuring out yardage & yield

Figuring out yardage & yield

Once I got back to my studio, I needed to make 3 smaller capes and 3 larger capes. I revised the original cape pattern into a larger version based on measurements I took from Nathan's shoulders. I don't have any formal patternmaking education, so I was really winging it. Then I had to figure out how much yardage of pink and black satin I needed. You have to place pattern pieces in order to get the best yield, which basically means you're wasting the least amount of fabric. I gave it a good guess and when it was all done I only had a little left over.

After buying the fabrics, my next step was to determine which shapes got painted, and which got cut out and sewn down. Here are all the pieces I had to cut out:

  • 24 cape pieces out of pink satin
  • 24 cape pieces out of black satin
  • 36 silver glitter lightning bolts
  • 24 hearts
  • 6 guitars
  • 6 giant lips
  • 12 glitter eyeballs

Each cape was a little different (with custom names & guitar shapes on each "sleeve") so keeping track of all the pattern pieces was a huge challenge. I embellished each individual pattern piece first, whether it was appliqueing the motifs with my sewing machine, or painting letters or designs using the stencils Nathan gave me. I used an assembly line technique, and had to time everything correctly so that the paint could dry before I started constructing the capes. It was about 5 straight days of being immersed in capes. But it all came together!  For the cape closure, I decided buttons or snaps wouldn't hold up to a punk rock performance, so I used giant silver safety pins. Appropriate for the overall look and function.

I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see our capes in action, so we took a road trip from Austin to Dallas for the opening event. This was the most fun I've had on a design collaboration yet. I'm still high from the experience and I can't wait for an excuse to make some more capes.

Here's a great video montage of the capes and the opening event by Native Process Films: