Firefly on a Shoestring


My friends and I are firm believers that if you have a costuming niche, you should totally exploit it use it your benefit. A great example was this amazing Scotty at DragonCon:

Even though this picture is from 2011, he was at DragonCon again this year, and he looks exactly the same.
Picture from

I, of course, have my Asian niche. I do try to branch out sometimes and try non-Asian characters (they are costumes, after all), but people are always less confused when I’m an Asian character.

My husband’s niche is Nathan Fillion. He really does have an uncanny resemblance to him. He’d gone as Captain Hammer the last two years, so when our friend said she wanted to go as Zoe from Firefly this year (she’s got the Black female niche covered), I decided my husband had to be Mal.

From browsing some of the Firefly fan sites, I know that some hardcore Browncoats drop serious cash buying or making exact replicas of the costumes and props used in the show. I was just going for passable, though, so this is what I came up with.



The (mostly) authentic pants cost upwards of $50, so I found some khakis on clearance at Walmart for $7, ripped off the beltloops, changed the back of the waistband,  added jean buttons for suspenders, and added stripes down each side with brown grosgrain ribbon.


The back of the waistband before finsihing and adding buttons


I bought some replacement suspender ears with sew-on attachments off of eBay for a few dollars and made some suspenders out of brown bottomweight material (I couldn’t find canvas in the right color, and I didn’t feel like dying anything).


Boots are expensive! While I can (sorta) justify spending money on boots for myself because I can wear them again, there is no place in my husband’s non-costume wardrobe for knee-high boots. I was looking around for cheap men’s boots to no avail when I learned that Mal’s actual boots from the show were just slip-on Steve Madden shoes with spats glued on to them. So my being cheap was actually leading to a more authentic boot! My husband happened to have a pair of brown shoes that he hated that were close enough to the Steve Madden shoes. I made spats out of brown vinyl and glued them on with rubber cement. I meant to paint/weather the vinyl to give the boots a more uniform appearance, but I never got around to it. Maybe next year.

The actual boots from the show





The holster was made with some leftover brown vinyl scraps, brass studs, and a sandal buckle (the same ones I use in Zoe’s costume below).  I coated the back of the vinyl with a layer of glue to stiffen it a bit. The back and edges of the vinyl are white, so I painted them with brown acrylic paint to make them look more like real leather.


I also added a stud and snap to the trigger strap, but I didn’t get a picture

I also helped my friend with her Zoe costume.


I happened to have the McCall’s M5800 pattern on hand, and the bodice had the right princess seams for Zoe’s vest.



This is before trimming and finishing the straps

I didn’t realize until after I already made the costume that the back isn’t exactly right (Zoe’s had one seam down the back instead of two princess seams), but I don’t think most people cared. I lengthened it a bit as the bodice was supposed to hit at the waist, and Zoe’s vest is a bit longer. I opened the two side seams and added four sandal buckles on each side (I found a pack of 20 for $5 on eBay!).


The holster is basically a T with one side of the top arm longer than the other. I used a gold buckle that was leftover from another costume, so it’s not quite as big as Zoe’s, but it worked. I didn’t have a shotgun shell on hand, so I used a AA battery as a guide in making the bullet holders. In hindsight, I should have tried to get my hands on some fake bullets so that if she ever intends to put some in there they’ll be functionable. The real holster had a hook to hold the gun in place, but becasue my holster was not made of stiff leather, there was no way to put a functioning hook on. I sewed on a couple of straps instead, which means that in a gunfight, my Zoe would be shot before she could get the first strap unbuckled, but it looked fine.


Don’t Call Me a Cosplayer


Once again, I got too busy working on other things to post on this blog, but now that I’ve had a week to recover from DragonCon, here’s my review of the three costumes I made for myself this year.

My post-apocalyptic Mulan costume was the first one I wore this year. It was part of a group costume, and my friends went as Snow White and Belle. The Snow White costume was definitely the most recognizable out of the three, and I think I only had one person get who I was supposed to be when I wasn’t with her. I also don’t know if people really got the post-apocalyptic theme. At one point, someone referred to us a “bad-ass” Disney princesses, so we went with it for the rest of the day except for maybe my Belle friend, who realized she looked more like Angry Black Panther Belle.


One of these days I need to pick a costume where it’s acceptable for me to just smile and look happy. I tried getting into character at first, but my attempts at looking bad-ass usually look and feel ridiculous. What can I say? I’m not a cosplayer. I’m a costumer who happens to wear her own work sometimes.


Bad-assery FAIL.

That night, I changed into my Once Upon a Time Mulan costume because it was way too hot to wear during the day. Having worn the costume two nights now, I’ve learned that drinking alcohol in a tight-fitting quilted vinyl costume is a horrible idea. The costume was sweltering to begin with because vinyl doesn’t breathe. The alcohol made my body temperature rise even more. I almost passed out a couple times  the first night, and I only had it on a couple of hours. Luckily, I had brought a cooling towels and wore it under my neck and back, so that helped somewhat.


PSA: Alcohol and vinyl don’t mix

I never did get any great pictures of this one. I got photoed a lot in this, thgough, so maybe someone else got a good shot. I haven’t seen any on the internet yet, but if you run across a photo, by all means, let me know.


What I really loved about this costume was the conversations it sparked. Other costume-makers would stop me and ask what I made it out of, how I made it, etc. I got props from hard-core cosplayers and professional costumers. One person even told me it was the most intricate costume they’d seen there, which is saying a lot. I even got invited to a OUAT photo shoot. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it. I hear there was another Mulan there, though, and I would have loved to have seen her take on the costume.



My last costume this year was the skant from the original Star Trek series which I made from the official pattern from I’d heard that the pattern was “wonky,” and they weren’t kidding. The arms were so tight that by the end of the day, the crooks of my elbows were sore from rubbing. There’s also no room in the underarm area, so I could only move like a T-rex all day. I’d also been warned about how short the dress is. Even after adding an inch and a half to the hem, it was still ridiculously short.

Still, even though this costume took half the time of the post-apocalyptic Mulan and a tenth of the time it took to make the OUAT costume, I got my picture taken more in this dress in the first hour I wore it than the other two costumes combined. Of course, it also helped that I was part of a trio in Star Trek dresses.


I’m going to attribute the popularity of this costume to the intense nostalgia of Star Trek fans rather than the obscene length of our skirts.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet


As always, I underestimated how much time it would require me to work on something. So, at the end of my last post when I said I’d be done in a week–that was a down right lie. At that point, I only had the gloves, the sleeves, and some finishing touches left. Since then, I’ve managed to finish the gloves less the aforementioned finishing touches (by “finishing touches” I mean little metal triangle button/shield/charm thingies that appear all over this costume and apparently are not sold anywhere).

It was a huge pain to find good pictures of the gloves, but this was the best I was able to come up with:

You can still barely see all the details.

The weekend I started working on the gloves, my parents happened to visit for the weekend. My mom, who is a seamstress by trade and taught me most of what I know about sewing, saw me working on the gloves and opined that gloves are “really hard to make” and that I’d be better off buying them from a store. Yeah, mom, I’m pretty sure I can’t just go down to Walmart and buy Mulan gloves.

Turns out my mom was probably right. I could have totally just bought a pair of black gloves and added on the parts I needed. Not that I’m ever going to admit that to her. But anyway, I started out by making a pair of basic black gloves using the Butterick B5695 pattern.   I actually had to do this twice because the first set was made out of the same vinyl I used to make the rest of the costume and had no stretch. I could barely fit my hands inside them, so I had to start over with a scrap of pleather I used on another costume that Joann’s doesn’t carry any more. It had some stretch, so it saved the day.


I then added a long wide cuff and some decorative touches in red. I won’t bore you with all the details on how I did that. It was time-consuming and while the process was fun to me, it’ll be tedious to explain. Once again, I failed to take any pictures while making these, so I only have a picture of the almost complete gloves.


Now I only have to make the little triangle things and apply them before these gloves and most of the costume will be finished. I won’t say I’ll be done in a week because that would again probably be a lie, but I do think I’m nearing the end of this project.   Read the rest of this entry

When Once Isn’t Enough


It’s that time of year again when DragonCon prep takes over all my spare time. Despite the lack of posts on this subject, I’ve been busy working on a couple of costumes. This year, I’m making two Mulan costumes. Yes, two.

It’s not that I have a particular affinity for the Mulan character (although she IS the most awesome Disney Princess). Last fall, when the Mulan character showed up on Once Upon a Time, she had this gorgeous quilted leather armor with lots of metal details, and I just knew I had to make that costume.


Then, a few weeks ago, my friends and I decided on doing post-apocalyptic Disney Princesses as a group costume. So, of course, Mulan was the obvious choice for me.

The post-apocalyptic costume is about 95% done. Of all the Disney Princesses, I’d say Mulan has one of the least distinctive costumes. Unlike the other Princesses, she wears several outfits during the movie. I decided to base my costume off of the following outfit mainly because I liked the color combination:

I decided to make a simple underbust corset instead of the obi (or whatever the Chinese equivalent is) and shorten the skirt. I also went with more muted colors, this being post apocalypse and all. I’ve done a horrible job of documenting my work this year, so I have very few pictures of the work in progress. This is the completed corset:


And here’s a horrible picture taken just after midnight of the whole ensemble:


The skirt is just a rectangular piece of fabric folded and pinned, and the top was sewn in about 20 minutes. The beauty of making a post-apocalyptic costume is that everything is unfinished and rough! I think I may go a different route for the red belt. I also still need to dirty and rip the outfit some and find some accessories, but other than that, I’m done.

The OUAT costume is taking much more time. I started with the shoulder piece, which has been a complete nightmare. In order to get the textured looked, I first thought I’d make it out of crumpled paper. The paper had just the right texture until I started to paint it, and it also didn’t lay correctly, so I scrapped it.


I then tried craft foam which I painted with gold acrylic paint mixed with a texture medium.



Once that dried, I brushed over the gold paint with black paint using a stiff bristle brush making sure not to get too much paint into the crevices. I’m still not entirely happy with the result, but I think it’ll be good enough. Sewing the collar on has also been a pain, and I still haven’t figured out how to get it to lay correctly, so I’ve moved on to other parts of the costume and will get back to this later. I also thought I had some pictures of my progress on this, but I don’t. I’ll post them as soon as I can.

The chest piece, which I thought would be the most difficult, turned out to be fairly simple to make. I started by wrapping myself with masking tape (much easier to work with than duct tape!) over  a plastic bag to make my pattern. I’d never sewn a quilted design in anything before, so this was actually a lot of fun.


I hate when I forget to turn off the flash!



I used the same techniques to make the bottom flappy thing (I have no idea what it's called). I used a pin to mark out my pattern.

I used the same techniques to make the bottom flappy thing (I have no idea what it’s called). I used a pin to mark out my pattern.

I think in the actual costume, the red pieces are sewn in, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that without driving myself crazy. I decided to paint them in instead.


Iwas able to track down the antique two-tone slotted conchos used in the actual costume.  However, as I don’t have the money to pay $6 PER PIECE for these things, I went the much cheaper route by buying silver-toned ones and painting them. They don’t look exactly right, but for the price, they’ll do.

Before and after gold paint

Before and after gold paint

Finished (L) and prior to antiquing (R)

Finished (L) and prior to antiquing (R)

I finally got to put my Bedazzler to use (I got it on sale, okay?) in attaching the studs between the conchos.

I finally got to put my Bedazzler to use (I got it on sale, okay?) in attaching the studs between the conchos.

That’s all I have for now. I should have most of this costume done by the end of the week and will post more then.

Cash Envelope System Wallet


I’m a fan of plastic. And by that, I mean the kind that fits in my wallet. I rarely ever have much cash in my wallet because unless I’m at a place that takes cash only, my purchase is going on a credit card. I don’t care if I’m just buying a pack of gum. I know that’s not the most financially sound thing to do, but I hate using cash. I think it’s because I always feel like I might need the cash later somehow, and that’ll run out if I use it. The credit card, however, magically lets me use it as much as I want. Of course, I suppose I have to pay the credit card company sometime, but that’s only once a month, and my husband usually does that before I even have to look at the statement, so it’s like I never had to pay for anything! There’s always some grumbling from my husband about how high the bill is, how we need to stop spending so much, blah blah blah, but I just tune that out.

 A couple of weeks ago, though, I was out at dinner with some friends, and a friend of a friend pulled out an adorable wallet with all these little pockets. I asked her where she got it, she explained it was a “cash system” that she’d made based on a tutorial. I looked up afterwards and learned that the “cash envelope system” is a way of budgeting developed or endorsed by Dave Ramsey where you set aside a certain amount of cash for different spending categories and organize them in envelopes. The cash envelope system wallet is just a neat and pretty way to keep all the envelopes together.   

The tutorial for the wallet is sold on Etsy, so I bought one (for the bargain price of only $1.61) and decided to take a stab at making one. I did make some modifications. First, I couldn’t find any oilcloth, so I made the outside cover out of outdoor canvas and the inside out of coordinating cotton prints. I reinforced the cover and pockets with fusible craft interfacing to stiffen them a bit. I decided to give the outside cover a more finished look by giving it a lining and topstitching the edge.  



It’s hard to see, but there are 3 card pockets and an ID window here.



I added a pen holder and two extra card pockets to the top of this side.

One of the biggest modifications I made was making the envelopes removeable. Instead of attaching them directly to the wallet, I attached them to another piece of cotton that I reinforced with interfacing that can be inserted into the two large pockets or removed when I don’t feel like carrying the envelopes. This also eliminated the neccessity of having to have the unsightly stitching on the back spine of the wallet.


Wallet with envelopes removed


Envelope insert

I’ve been using the wallet itself for about a week now, but I still haven’t used the envelopes. That would require sitting down an actually coming up with a budget. Good thing I made the envelopes removeable!

Checking in


I decided to write this week’s post in my other pretty much abandoned blog about faith. I just wanted to reference it here so that some of my Jesus group friends who sometimes peruse this blog could see that post. Thank you, ladies! I can’t express how much joy and clarity you bring to my life.



So, I resolved to not be such a complete slob at home, and it has now become clear that I really need to extend that to my car as well. On the homefront, things have actually been going fairly well. The countertops and kitchen table have stayed mostly clutter-free, and the laundry room and pantry have stayed organized. Sure, there is clean laundry in the living room that needs to be put away, but all the dirty clothes had been making their way to the hamper until yesterday when my children and their cousins decided to scatter the clothes all over the bathroom floor in an attempt to climb inside said hamper during a game of hide-and-seek (Note to self: set better groundrules next time the kids have a playdate).

Back to the car, though. About once a month, my office has a birthday lunch, and we all go out to eat. I usually try to catch a ride with someone else or make up some other excuse so that no one sees the inside of my car. Last Friday, though, I was caught off guard when one of my co-workers asked me for a ride. I couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough, so I agreed and instantly went into a state of panic. You see, my car is a total and complete wreck on the inside. There are always toys, jackets, empty Happy Meal boxes, juice boxes, snacks, wadded up napkins, and sometimes even a petrified chicken nugget or french fry on the floorboard. And I can’t blame it all on the kids. There are usually also receipts and junk mail and empty containers and cups from my own meals. It’s disgusting. I try to clean out the big trash every week or so, but that still leaves all the crumbs from the countless meals that get dropped on the floors.


And this is after it was straightened up a bit on Saturday.

I thought about running down ahead of time to see if I could straighten it up a bit, but (maybe keeping with my resolutions to be more honest and not care as much about what others think) I didn’t. I’m a slob, and I should feel the shame that comes with that instead of trying to hide it. He, of course, was very gracious about it and assured me the car was fine (while sitting atop some junk mail I had left on the passenger seat), but I knew better.

So, I need to add another resolution:

16. Keep my car in such a state that I won’t be completely embarassed next time I have an unexpected passenger.