March 3, 2010

Construction of a Costume

I like costumes, and I end up planning more than I will ever be able to wear.  I start out each one with a lot of research.  I scour the internet and look for images of the costume I want to replicate.  If it's from a TV show or movie, I'll dig through screenshots.  Or if I'm lucky, other people have already made the costume and done the hard work for me.

In the next step, I print out a few of the photos and start making lists.  I try to keep it to three categories: pieces of the costume I have, pieces I need for the costume to be effective, and pieces I want.  The wants are extras that would be nice but aren't absolutely necessary pieces.

At this point, if I the "need" category is crazy long or full of weird items, I think about whether I really want to do the costume.  With some costumes, I might decide that what I need is too specialized and I'll considering getting it custom made (like my Number 6  costume).  That depends on how much I want it and how much cash I have in my bank account.  ;) If I decide the list is reasonable, and I want to make the costume, I print this sheet out. By the end, most of the white space is filled with scribbles.

I start with the "need" list.  I spend a lot of time (okay, more time) on the internet seeing what others have used and where they got their supplies.  For example, the Kaylee costume above has been done lots of times.  I already have a long list of links where I can get coveralls, patches, and a parasol from.  I plan to wear this costume to Comic-Con one day this year.  In fact, I'm hoping for a different costume every day: Kaylee, Princess Leia, Star Trek officer (new movie version), and maybe Poison Ivy.

And because I'm a nerd that likes to organize, I keep electronic files on each costume as well as paper ones in sheet protectors.

Do you have any special methods when putting together your costume?


  1. a big factor for me, (if i get past the list point and decide i think it's worth it) is to then go to the best local fabric store and see what i can easily get and how much the yardage is. If i can only find one fabric that's even close and it's $25 a yard, it's time to rethink the costume. Sometimes actually finding the right kind of fabric is harder than it seems. Though sometimes it's easier, i'm working on a Fat Princess Costume right now, and it occurred to me when i went to the store that for something that came from a cel shaded video game, a broadcloth would actually work quite nicely and is one of the cheapest fabrics you can buy.
    i totally agree with you about searching for other people who've cosplayed what you're looking to make. I'm kinda a snob about it too, in my own secret way, there's probably as much of that phase that is finding how other people did things as there is of me deciding how i *don't* want to do it. it also gives me some perspective on which elements of the costume are the most important. imitative costumes are hard and sometimes you really have to pick and chose which parts of the costume are most accurate. The pink fat princess actually wears pink gloves,but i've realised the added expense and shear difficultly in finding pink gloves that exactly match the dress isn't worth it, and that it's unlikely anyone is going to notice if i just wear white gloves instead. But i also noticed the only other cosplayer i could find photos of used a much deeper magenta than the real game character, and it was important to me to try to match the color at least a LITTLE better.

  2. Good tips! This will actually be my first time constructing a costume myself as Wonder Woman for ECCC.

    I took a more visual approach: I found a picture of the Wonder Woman version I wanted to replicate (in this case from animated Justice League) and printed that out. Then I went to American Apparel's website and printed out the product pages of different pieces I thought could work to try on. My next step will be the fabric store to make the accessories I need.

    I think now I'll make a list of "have" "need" "want" on my photo just like you have above. :) That'll probably be more helpful as I'm routing around the fabric store.

  3. Lisa - Which princess are you doing?

    you are so right about the fabric. Sometimes the fabric and texture are really important to the costume too, that can make it a no for me as well. I can't wait to see your finished costume.

    eye-shuh - I love Wonder Woman costumes. Great idea to print out pictures of pieces that will work. I just found a great store this weekend that has lots of solid colors - tanks, tees, hot pants, cardigans, etc. Makes it really easy to pick out base layers and things to add too.

    ECCC is soon right? Look forward to seeing photos. :)


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