Category Archives: costumes

Firefly on a Shoestring

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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 http://www.wingedmammal.com

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.

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Pants:

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.

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The back of the waistband before finsihing and adding buttons

Suspenders:

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:

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

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Holster:

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.

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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.

Vest:

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

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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!).

Holster:

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.

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Don’t Call Me a Cosplayer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My last costume this year was the skant from the original Star Trek series which I made from the official pattern from Roddenberry.com. 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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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

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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.

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I hate when I forget to turn off the flash!

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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.

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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.

Space Man

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Remember that space man costume I started making for my son a few months ago? No? Well, my son thought I’d forgotten about it, too. He said this morning, “MOM, you’ve been working on my costume for YEARS! I wanted to wear it LAST Halloween!”  I know I’ve been a little slow on this project, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been that long (OK, I just looked at my post on it. It was mid-July, which is further back than I thought it was, but not as long as my son thinks it was.).

Anyway, I started working on it again a few weeks ago (on and off, admittedly), and it’s morphed a bit from what it was initially supposed to be. I learned about  electroluminescent (EL) wire  a few months ago, and I’ve been dying to try it out. It’s basically a lightweight, bendy wire that’s fairly cheap and a great way to light up a costume (think Tron). Well, every space suit can use some hi-tech-looking lights, so I thought this would be my perfect opportunity to try it out.

I ordered two nine-foot strands of EL wire in blue and green with controllers from a seller on eBay for $9.88 each including shipping.  They weren’t fancy but seemed to work fine once I installed two AA batteries in each one.

Attaching the wire was easy if somewhat time-consuming.  I made a black jumpsuit as the base to the costume, and I drew a design in white chalk on it where I wanted the EL wire to go. Once that was complete, it was just a matter of hand stitching the wire to the costume with transparent thread. I tied the thread off at every turn in the design.

I went into a bit of a panic when after hours of sewing in the green wire found that it no longer lit up. I started fidgeting with the wire and controller to see where the problem was when the EL wire just completely FELL OUT of the connector. Luckily, my husband who can be handy when he wants to be (or, in this case, coerced) was able to reattach the wire , and it seems to be working just fine now.

Not pretty, but fixed.

I debated whether to hide the controllers inside the suit, but I thought they’d look fine attached at the hips to look like weapons of some sort on a holster. The controllers came with a clip on the back, so I sewed one flat strip of elastic that the clip would hang on and another strip above and one below that strip that went around the outside of the control box.

I have to say, I think Cael is going to be the coolest trick-or-treater in town on Wednesday. I hope he thinks it was worth the wait.

Finn approved after careful inspection.

Look at that pose. He is SO going to be a cosplayer some day.

 

The suit looks even better in the dark/semi-dark, so I’ll have to see if I can get pictures of that posted soon.

Spats Tutorial

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I know it’s been a while. I keep telling myself I’m done with my DragonCon preparations, but I can never leave well enough alone, so I’ve been busy reworking some things and adding various details. One thing I decided my Steampunk Baroness costume needed was a  pair of spats. I had looked online at a lot of tutorials on how to make these things, but when I actually sat down to make the pattern, I couldn’t really get the other methods to work for me. After some trial and error, I came up with a pretty good way to make the pattern and was able to replicate the process (with a few changes) a few days later when I made another pair for my friend.

Of course, I learned a few things in the process. First, in making my spats, I thought it would be nice to line them. You can choose to do this or not, but I found that lining was completely unnecessary, so I skipped that step in making my friend’s.  Also, I thought it would be cool to have working buttons on my spats, but I’ve found that they really are a pain to use in practice.   I have ten working buttons on each of my spats, and it’s hard to button and unbutton them, especially because I’ve tried to get the spats to fit tightly over my boots. I used zippers on my friend’s spats, and they are definitely the way to go.    However, I used invisible zippers on hers, and they look fabulous, but the problem is that the bottom of the spats are too narrow for the foot of the boot to go through. She’ll have to put the top of the boot through the spats and then put her feet in before she zips up both. Separating zippers would work much better, but you won’t get the nice clean look you do with the invisible zipper.

Materials

1 yard fashion fabric

buttons or zipper

1 yard iron-on interfacing

thread

1 yard muslin or other scrap fabric for the pattern

small binder clips

chalk or marking pen

pins

boots

Step 1

To make the pattern, cut out two rectangles of scrap fabric a little taller than and as wide  as your boot.  Hold the two pieces together and use binder clips along one side of the fabric to temporarily hold them together. Then, wrap the fabric around to the boot with the binder-clipped side to the back to the boot.  Pin the other edge of the fabric pieces down the front side of the boot as closely as possible from the top of the boot to the top of the foot. Once the front is pinned, remove the binder clips from the back side and pin.

Step 2

Once the pattern is pinned, take a marking pen or chalk and mark along the seams that were pinned. Then, mark a line at the bottom from the heel to the front of where you want the spat to go, following the curve of the boot.

Step 3

Remove the pins, lay the pattern flat, and retrace the lines to make them more clear.  Cut the pattern out with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Once you have the pattern cut out, sew along the front and back lines and put it back over the boot to check the fit.

Step 4

Once you are satisfied with the fit, rip out the seams. Take one panel and draw a straight line where you want the buttons or zipper to go and cut. You should now have three pieces.

Step 5

Trace the pattern pieces on to the fabric you plan to use for the spats. Add a seam allowance where the buttons or zipper should go. If you plan on using buttons, add a 1 inch seam allowance. For a zipper, add a 5/8″ allowance. Cut two of each pattern piece. Repeat the same process with the interfacing. Iron the interfacing pieces to the fabric pieces.

Step 6

Match up side seams with the right sides together. Sew. Clip curves and iron out the seams.  Topstitch one line on each side of the front and back seams. Fold down top edge of spat  5/8 ” and edgestitch. Do the same with the bottom edge of the spat.

Step 7

If using buttons, fold side seams in one inch and edgestitch. Add buttonholes to one side and buttons to the other. If using a zipper, install as you normally would with the pull at the bottom of the spats. Decorate away, and you’re done!

My spats

My friend’s Wonder Woman spats

Well, after months of preparation, DragonCon is finally here. We’re heading to Atlanta tomorrow. I’m hoping to post some pictures from the convention, so stay posted!

Mary Marvel(ous)

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I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but even superheroes need a break every now and then. After finishing my Baroness costume, I was just costumed-out. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the whole process of making it, but after working on it every spare minute for a month and a half, I just needed some down time. So, I vegged out a bit, caught up on some shows (I’m still mourning the loss of Eureka), and read some books (I was a bit disappointed in the last volume of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series). After a few days, though, I remembered I had another costume to make for DragonCon, and time is running out! Luckily, in a moment of clarity, I chose a simple costume: Mary Marvel.

Of course, I say it was simple, but the costume required me to work with knits, and I hate working with knits. Knit patterns seem to always have vague instructions like, “stretch slightly while sewing,” so it ends up being trial and error until I get it just right. I was going to attempt drafting the pattern from scratch, but I decided to play it safe and found an easy pattern to work off of.  I used McCall’s M6612:

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Seriously, who thought this was an attractive pose?

Line Art

I’ve had some cotton jersey print lying around my fabric stash for years, so I decided to make a version from that to check out the fit.

My bonus dress!

I’ve got to say it may be one of my new favorite dresses. It was just so comfy! I made a few adjustments to the pattern, giving it a boat neck and cap sleeves.

For the costume version, I raised the neckline from the pattern and shortened the skirt (I think it’s actually a rule that comic book heroines have to show ample amounts of skin). I used some gold spandex for the trim and to make a Shazam symbol applique.

For the cape, I cut a large semi-circle out of white satin and a smaller one for the collar. The edges were trimmed with the same gold spandex from the dress. I used some gold chord to add the cross(?)/star(?)-shaped embellishments along one side of the cape. I ran out of chord after I finished the one side, and I’m not sure whether I’ll do the other. I guess I’ll see if I’m up to it one of these days. I used some gold buttons and the left-over gold braid from my Baroness costume for the closure.

Phew! I’m more or less done with my costumes, and I still have over a month left until DragonCon. Maybe I am a superhero after all.