Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to Make a Kyoshi Warrior Cosplay Costume

My daughter and I attended Boston Comic Con in August.  I had never attended a Comic Con before and didn't know what to expect.  We saw an impressive group of artists and comic book illustrators, and of course, attendees dressed as their favorite characters.  

The day was spectacular and I felt as if I was with a celebrity! My daughter, dressed as her favorite Kyoshi warrior, Suki, from Avatar the Last Airbender, must have had her picture taken over 70 times that day. It was such a thrill to have others recognize her and ask to have their photos taken with her.

The highlight of the day was running into other airbending friends.  Each time we bumped into another character there was an instant connection.  Seeing Aang and Toph through the crowd and watching them lay eyes on my Kyoshi Warrior, I wish I could adequately describe the reaction.  Jaws dropped, eyes popped, and they started rushing toward each other as if they had been searching for one another, just so they could take pictures and record the moment.

More fun moments were meeting up with other animated characters.

How to Make a Kyoshi Warrior Costume

Here is how we made the Kyoshi warrior costume.  My daughter drew me a picture of what she wanted for a costume.
I started with McCalls sewing pattern M2940 and a few supplies.  We purchased everything but the wooden fans at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  The wooden fans were ordered through Amazon (see the picture link below).

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For the head piece, we started with a foam visor (to be worn upside down).
We hot-glued chopsticks to the visor and then cut a square piece of foam from a craft foam sheet and glued that on top of the chopsticks.  We spray painted the visor and the wooden fans with gold spray paint then hot glued the tassel cord along the inside rim of the visor.  I found a foam sword and spray painted that gold as well.

I made the karate gee top and the kimono belt from from the McCalls sewing pattern. I then made a simple skirt with an elastic waistband and colored side panels that matched the karate gee top. (I did not have a pattern for the skirt, but will post directions if anyone is interested.)

The breast-plate was made out of some scrap vinyl I had left over from another project.  I secured the pieces together with small pieces of wire, crimped with a needle nose pliers.

The dark gray sleeves were made out of felt.

Makeup completed the look. 

We are already looking forward to next year's Comic Con and thinking of new costume ideas!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Medieval and Renaissance Dresses - Upcycle a Thrift Store Dress - Ideas and Inspiration

I have to admit, Medieval and Renaissance costumes are my favorite. I love the rich colors and fabrics, the layers and textures, and the wide variety of styles that are all recognizable as Renaissance costumes. The theater plays that come to mind when I think of these costumes are "Once Upon a Mattress," "Robin Hood," Romeo and Juliet," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Hamlet," but there are many, many more set in this time period.

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Medieval/Renaissance costumes can be expensive to to buy and sometimes even more expensive to rent. For example:
  • 'Halloween quality' costumes range in price anywhere from $40 - $80. The fabrics are brightly colored, but the light-weight nylon used in these costumes is often not durable enough to withstand the theater environment requiring multiple wearings and are often see-through when put in the spotlight.
  •  Expect to pay a minimum of $120 up to $300+ if you want to purchase 'Theater quality' Medieval/Renaissance gowns. 
  • Rental costumes will cost you anywhere from $70 to $125 per costume. If you also need to rent undergarments like a hoop skirt, add another $20 per costume.
  •  Even if you were able to borrow a Medieval/Renaissance costume, if you had to dry clean it, it would most likely cost more than creating a dress by "The Costume Mom Method" I outline below.

There are simple and cost effective ways of making Medieval/Renaissance costumes. The best part about making your own costumes is that they then become apart of your costume wardrobe to use in future productions or you might even wear one to a Renaissance faire.  You can sew a Medieval gown from scratch using a commercial sewing pattern, but this can be time consuming, especially if you need to make a large number of costumes. Or you can upcycle an existing thrift store dress!

The Costume Mom TM Method!
I was inspired by these two Renaissance/Medieval costume patterns
Butterick Pattern B4571 -
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I recreated the look of these beautiful dresses by starting with a simple long velvet gown that I had purchased at a Salvation Army thrift store for just $4.

Renaissance dress up-cycled from a $4 thrift store dress

I cut the dress up the center front, squared off the neckline, then zig-zag stitched the raw edges.

Since this dress was not full length, I added a section of fabric like in the Burda 7171 Renaissance dress as shown above.  I cut off the lower 9" of the dress and inserted a 7" section of fabric, then reattached the lower 9" of fabric.  This brought the dress to the perfect length.

I used Butterick Pattern B4571(Amazon Affiliate Link) piece #2 for the bodice front and piece #4 for the skirt front.

I agonized over what to do with the sleeves.  I had actually removed them and played around with different styles of sleeves.  In the end, I decided I liked the sleeves just plain and sewed them back on.

You may notice that I have some lacing loops on the bodice here.  I realized these were unnecessary and later removed them.  However, these may be a great solution if the dress is too large for the actress.

Another Upcycled Thrift Store Dress Turned Medieval - Renaissance Gown:

My friend Susie made - or should I say, upcycled - this dress.  She was inspired by McCalls P309 pattern as shown below. She used only the sleeve pattern pieces and added some lace around the collar to turn this long velvet gown from contemporary to Medieval in minutes.  She simply hand-stitched the sleeves on top of the existing sleeves.

Simple velvet thrift store dress turned into a Medieval/Renaissance gown

If you have made a Medieval or Renaissance gown, or if you have any tips for other costume moms on costuming for this time period, we'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

1920's Flapper Dress - Quick, Easy, and Inexpensive!

Whenever I think of a 1920's style flapper dress, I imagine layers of fringe.  However, fringe can be very costly to purchase and therefore a real budget-buster if you have many costumes to make or you are working with a public school drama budget.  So, when I needed to make a 1920's flapper-style dress for the play Chicago put on by our local high school, I started looking for alternatives.  What I came up with is a drop-waist dress that is reminiscent of the flapper style.  I found a free online tutorial entitled "How to Make a Roaring 20's Yellow Flapper Dress!!" here:  Following that tutorial, I created this dress:

1920's Flapper Dress with tutorial for the dress and rolled ribbon rose

I recommend the following YouTube tutorial entitled "HOW TO MAKE ROLLED RIBBON ROSES" to make a ribbon rose like the one shown in the Flapper Dress tutorial and pictured on the dress here. (Sorry it is not that easy to see the detail of the black rose pictured here, but it did come out nicely.) Here is the link to the rolled ribbon roses tutorial I followed -

Lessons learned:  
  • I first made the straps out of ribbon as suggested in the tutorial.  However the ribbon tie straps I first made kept coming un-tied.  So I ended up creating one long fabric strap and threaded it through the front and back casings as shown above.  The ends were sewn together so we did not need to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions!
  • The tutorial requires you to figure out 1/3 of your hip measurement and the finished length of the skirt before you can begin cutting.  If I needed to make more than one of these, I would probably created a graded pattern for myself to make the process easier.  
  • The hardest part of making this dress is creating the pattern based off your measurements.  The dress is very easy to sew and I would consider this a beginner-level project - so don't be scared off by coming up with the pattern.  I recommend drawing out your pattern on newspaper from your recycle bin.  If needed, you can tape newspaper sections together to create a larger sheet, and if you make a mistake, return that page to the recycle bin and grab another page.     
I agree with the author of the tutorial, this dress does have great movement, and it looked fabulous on stage!

Below is a photo I found on Pinterest of a similar flapper dress done in red and black. Here, the costume designer used a black flower and feather instead of making the rolled ribbon rose.  Love it!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mermaid Costumes

One of my daughters was just in a middle school production of The Little Mermaid.  She had the role of a jelly fish.  I had the role of "the costume mom."  I was so excited to make mermaid costumes!!  I used this pattern:  McCalls M5498 

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I made only the skirt portion of the costume and had each of the girls bring in a matching tank top.  I added a zipper and an elastic waistband to each skirt.  During rehearsals, the director and the "mersisters" decided that each mermaid would have their own unique style.  So we had one that was "goth," our only non-colorful mermaid.

Here are some tips if you need to fit many of these at the same time.
  1. Make all the skirts in the size of the largest actress.  Note, this takes little additional fabric as the difference is width, not length with this pattern.  This also allows each actress to select her favorite color.
  2. This pattern makes REALLY LONG skirts.  So, my advice is not to add the darts at the top of the skirt until after you have fit the actress.  This way, you can simply remove fabric from the top of the skirt rather than hemming the fins at the bottom of the dress.
  3. Leave a 6-9" opening at the back seam (where the zipper will go) and bring safety pins.  This way you can pin the skirt closed while fitting the skirt.
Lessons Learned

  • If I were to make these again, I would taper the skirt to be more fitted at the knees. 
  • This pattern requires a lot of fabric - mostly for the "fins."  You can reduce the fullness of the fin without losing the affect.
  • Skip the zipper and the darts at the waist.  I wanted these to look nice and fitted, as if they were apart of the mermaid.  At dress rehearsal when the girls put on the tank tops, I realized the waistband doesn't show.  I could have saved myself some serious time if I had just  skipped the zipper and the fitting at the waistband!  Next time, I will just use some of the additional fabric at the top to form a casing and run elastic through the waistband. Affiliate Link