Arguably you do not have to make a costume from scratch, and there are even those that flat out buy their duds, but there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you made the costume that people are asking to take a picture of. Oftentimes there is one question standing in the way between you and the perfect do it yourself project: “Where do I even start?”
Answer: Find a Great Base Pattern.
This base pattern is your go-to, your must-have, and the easiest way to attempting what you once thought was out of your reach. One overall base pattern is that of the short dress—common enough to create a chunk of different cosplays, and easy enough that a sewing machine does most of the work.
In April this year I attended the 2012 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and made all three of my costumes with one pattern. For this con, I created Vintage Supergirl, American McGee’s Alice Classic, and Nagisa’s St. Miator Uniform—I used the same pattern for all three.
Simplicity Pattern # 4015 is a pattern that is filled with variations of the same short dress. This pattern is so basic that it is easily manipulated to get what you desire—I am no seamstress and I got Cs in home ec., but I changed these patterns with a little bit of common sense and hemmed and stitched them with my old machine.
Vintage Supergirl – 1970 Silver Age
I am a Superman fan, but I knew I couldn’t pull it off well enough so I sought out the most Superman-esque Supergirl dress—less revealing the better. For this dress the only real changes that I needed were long sleeves, the House of El symbol, and a belt. Cape to taste. Here’s how I did it:
- Sleeves: I used the sleeves from the witch costume, but rather than cutting jagged edges I cut a straight edge and sewed them tighter than they were supposed to be. I made them tighter by making the pattern the same width as the brief arm sleeve at the bottom of the shoulders from the Alice costume. Simple enough.
- Neckline: I allowed an extra half inch on the top of the bodice line and made it a straight edge rather than a sweet heart. (I also handmade the House of El symbol by using a colour sheet as a pattern and a sharp knife to cut)
- Belt: I used the pattern for the Santa Belt, but rather than cutting two pieces I cut one and sewed it in half with some sticky no-sew Velcro on the ends.
American McGee’s Alice – Classic Dress
This is your standard Alice Dress with a little extra: a full sized apron, and blood and details.
- Apron: This was easy enough because there is a pattern for one but I added some quick pockets and the upper portion using some left over fabric. For the pockets I just cut what I thought was a pocket shape, and for the top I used the inlay from the top of the Red Riding Hood Dress but just cut it a few inches wider to fit the dress. I used a sharpie for pocket details and spray blood from the dollar store (although I’ve seen recipes online as well).
Strawberry Panic!’s Nagisa – St. Miator Uniform
All three school’s uniforms from Strawberry Panic! can be made with this Simplicity Base Pattern but the St. Miator’s arguably needs the most adapting: longer black skirt, even longer white under skirt, long waist and back tie, lace underlay, tie, white collar and sleeve caps, and those long sleeves.
- Longer skirt: I used a bit of common sense to elongate the right sides of the skirt pattern. Just check which sides are meant to sew together and elongate the opposite side (meant to be the bottom) to your desired length.
- Underskirt: I took those longer pieces and used them as a pattern to make an even longer white skirt by lengthening the same sides even further. Add lace.
- Sash: I used the waist piece from the apron pattern, and cut it three times: once for the waist, and twice for the ties. Sew it all together and you get a long sash.
- Tie: Use an old tie as a pattern; I traced it twice and just sewed the two pieces together.
- Collar and sleeve caps: This was the hardest part. I stared at pictures and hand drew them onto the excess white fabric I had using a rule for straight edges. This is probably the biggest area for improvement on this costume
- Long sleeves: For the long sleeves I used the same pattern for the witch dress but kept the puff shoulders from the Alice dress.
Whatever pattern or costume you choose, remember to find the base pattern first. Not only will you have a great start, but you will also get more bang for your buck! Once you’ve sewn the base for the first time, it is almost like second nature. This pattern cost me maybe $5 thanks to my discount card at the fabric store and I can make endless costumes with this set: a great three-in-one, maybe even fifty-in-one, base pattern! From here you could make the other Strawberry Panic! uniforms, almost any of the other Alice costumes, and it could even be easily adapted to some other anime garbs. Which leaves one question: what will you start with?