Saturday, November 5, 2016

Venture into the Land of the Sewing Machine

From the archives of the Never Quite Published On Time
Anime Boston 2015.

Just ended. Yesterday. And I still feel like I need to fall over and sleep for a week.

I didn't do very much of that the week leading up to AB'15, as tends to happen, because cosplay. Specifically, this:

And this:

Guess which one of these was the more difficult to throw together? Not, alas, the more polished one. That is what happens when other people sew my clothes for me (and then ship these clothes to me via a combination of Amazon, Ebay, and so on). The blue one is what happens when I sew my own clothes, which brings me to this installment of Duct Taped Cosplay: in which I attempt to duct tape as little as possible (for once).

Miki Sayaka is an excellent character, both in design and in personality. For those of you who have not seen Madoka Magica, I would suggest you stop reading this right now and go satisfy your curiosity. It can be best described as "dark magic girl", but honestly that comes nowhere close to describing the full impact of this series. If you, like me, are a bit dissatisfied with how most magic girl series handle their character development, then you will love Madoka.

That aside, all you need to know for this post is that Sayaka is a bad-ass blue sword-wielding magic girl who I really wanted to cosplay appropriately. That meant hiding my tape for a week and instead trying to learn how to make lasting costume pieces via sewing. [Insert dramatic music]

The costume was composed of five pieces, each one I dealt with separately before putting them all together the night of the con. I will use the picture above for reference, because (alas), I fail at taking photos of things in progress. I will get better. I swear. But here was the general set-up:

Sewing machine, fabric, scissors, and (of course) duct tape

Piece #1: Cape

I had a vague idea of where to begin with this one. A cape, in my mind, was basically a collar sewn onto a large piece of fabric. The collar was relatively easy to figure out -- cut two rectangular squares of fabric to the diameter and height of my neck, round the edges meant to be at the front of the collar, trim the "outer" rectangle with gold bias tape (double-sided works best, for sure) and then connect the two rectangles with a healthy dose of stiffening fabric in between (iron on! What a wonderful invention).

This piece, in short, required judicious measurements of my neck and then some white fabric, gold bias tape, sewing machine (for the bias tape), stiffening fabric, an iron, and some fasteners hand sewn to the front of the collar as a clasp. Not too complicated, and once I knew where I was heading it took the better part of an hour.

The larger chunk of the cape was a bit harder to think about -- I kept trying to find a nice geometric shape with sharp corners that could mold to the collar and my neckline, but finally I gave up after a few days of mulling over the problem. The real solution, to get the shape of the cape right as it hung over me, was to cut a trapezoidal shape (larger at the bottom) then have a friend trace the top around the top of my shoulder places. And cut. And sew to the collar.

Voila, the cape is done! ...minus some trim for the actual cape bit. Which. I didn't do. Not yet. (It was finneeeee...)

Piece #2: The Top

This was the first part of the cosplay I finished, mainly because I had a strong concept going into the sewing process. I admit that I did this the cheating way...the actual character Sayaka appears to have some sort of armored chest plate, but I decided instead to mold fabric over a strapless bra. The basic idea was to cut the fabric into shape and sew behind (occasionally to) the bra.

Then attach the white part just below, and hem everything with lace. Hemming curves, as it turns out, is kinda hard. Definitely a technique I will acquire over time.

One of these days I will dive into the world of Worbla. I just need to get over that one last activation energy hump.

Piece #3: The Skirt

I could have made my own paneled skirt (and indeed, a friend cosplaying Homura at the time did just that). But my habit of throwing everything together the night before meant that it was much more expedient for me to alter an already existing schoolgirl skirt to match Sayaka's outfit.

It is harder than you'd think to find a simple, navy pleated skirt online. I might have been looking in all the wrong places (I must have been looking in all the wrong places, come to think of it), but honestly the time I spent searching for such a mundane item could have been better spent actually making it. Lessons for the future.

The details on the skirt were all attached via a belt -- each one of the blue panels, and then the means to hold everything together. As you can probably guess, the skirt itself was sliced generously to alter it for the character. I did not actually end up hemming that bit. I probably should have. Check -- I definitely should have. The costume would have lasted more than a day.

 Piece #4-5: The Gloves and Leggings

Pieces of tights, cut to spec. 'Nuff said.

Lessons Learned

Sewing everything the night before is not, alas, a good idea. Or even a few nights before. As I learned the next year (AB 2016!!), the time it takes to sew something right and hem all the things actually pays off.

I rather like how the blade came out, either way (lasercut and spraypaint, for those who are interested).

But, the best costume of AB 2015 definitely turned out to be...

Psycho Pass

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