Costume Walkthrough: Princess Small Lady Serenity

Costume walthroughs are exactly what they sound like: me walking you through the construction process for a costume I’ve made. Today’s is on my Small Lady/Chibiusa gown! Please feel free to ask questions about this or any other projects you might be working on; I love giving cosplay advice! 😉

Photo credit: Rachel Joy for the left & my mom for the right!

BASE DRESS: is white casa satin; it’s lined with some cheap-o fabric I had lying around from when I made my senior prom dress. Woohoo for recycling! I patterned it myself. The skirt is just a super long circle skirt; I didn’t add too much to the waist of it for pleats, but I did make it 5 or so inches longer than me in stocking feet since I planned to wear this in 4.5 inch heels (I lasted all of an hour before switching to flats, lol). The overskirt is white casa chiffon, which DOES NOT MATCH the satin (WHY?! You’re both white from the same collection: WHY DON’T YOU MATCH?!), and is made in the same way as the lower skirt. The skirts I had to make in two separate half-circles which I then sewed together. There’s another seam in the back where the invisible zipper goes. I sewed the two skirts to the bodice at the same time, and then added an invisible zipper. I don’t have a serger, so I do my “cheapo serging” by doing a straight stitch to sew whatever I’m trying to sew together (i.e. two pieces of skirt) then going over it with a zig-zag stitch, and then a second straight stitch. Then I trim it and fray check the ever living bejeesus out of it. I made the mistake of not fray checking the hems of the chiffon layer for a while and paid dearly for it; I had to re-hem it in a lot of places and it looks pretty messy. I actually fray checked it in the car on the way to Katsu.

DETAILS: PrettyDeer and I decided we wanted to do manga-version details for these dresses, but with anime colors because we noticed in hall shots a lot of details of other Princess Serenitys get washed out when they’re white/silver. Originally, I planned on doing the gold donuts out of embroidery, but that didn’t work, so I tried satin stitching gold fabric, but my machine’s smallest zigzag was too wide & the foot shredded the fabric. So eventually, I cut the donuts out of the fabric using a razor, fabric glued them to a piece of white casa satin, and then cut off the excess with a razor as well. I needed a way to avoid having the outside edges fray, so I found some gold sequin trim and fabric glued it to the edges of the donuts. I hand sewed this piece to the dress. Then, the arduous process of rhinestone-ing the donut holes began. ; A ; In total, this dress has ~2,000 silver rhinestones on it and 14 hours of labor on rhinestones alone. (Fun story: after Katsu, got this dry cleaned, and asked for them to just clean the skirts, not the bodice; get it back, about 1/4 of the rhinestones are missing, and all of my hand-stitching had to be redone.) I ordered some fake white pearls in bulk and hand strung them onto a stretchy jewelry string, and then hand sewed those to the dress using clear thread. I was scared of making the string too taught, so I just made it the length of my bust & waist without stretching it, and then made the string tighter after the pearls were sewn on the dress. (Thank goodness for dress forms!) After that, I left a gap under the top row of pearls for the 3 lines of trim PrettyDeer and I picked out (sewing them flush hid the first one). I had to hand sew the trim with the rhinestones on it because there was no way to do it with the machine, but I machine stitched the other two on there, as well as the “u” shaped trim. Unfortunately, my bust is bigger than donuts + 2 rows of pearls + 4 lines of trim, so the gaps I have on there were pretty large/made my inaccuracy spidey senses tingle, so I added some rose patterned lace trim (because Chibi-Moon is the daughter of Tuxedo Mask, I figured roses would be fitting), and hand-sewed a 2mm pearl to the center of each rose because I clearly like suffering.

JEWELRY: I wasn’t sure what color pearls I should wear with this, so I borrowed some pink and white ones from my mom but pink won over, haha. I bought a pink pearl bracelet from the wonderful Starlightslk the Friday of Katsu because a white one of mine had a broken clasp. I love love love this bracelet so much!! It’s so pretty and matches the pearl necklace I borrowed from my mom and the earrings I have perfectly! I made my pink forehead crescent (Chibi-Usa technically has a Pink Moon Crystal, so I figured her crescent should be pink too!) For AB, I had more casting issues, so the gem is actually made out of hotglue and painted with pink nail polish. The older version was resin painted with body paint, lol.

For the armor sleeves: this didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to (should have made the circles /much/ smaller but: I drew the circle on paper to use as a reference, sketched out the snail shell and cut that out (two going one way for the front, and then flipped the other side for the back part of the arm), and then used the side part of the circle as a guide for sketching out the flippy bits – three of those for the edge of the front and back panels of the circle. Then I sketched out the middle parts (four pieces total, mostly straight with the v cutout in two different lengths), cut everything out of the craft foam. I glued the front and back pieces so they were touching each other on top of the middle circle, then did the snail shell for each side so that the “tail” of it faces towards the middle, then glued the flippy bits for one side of the circle down, then the middle parts for the side closest to that circle, and repeated with the other side. The front/back flippy bits should cover some of the middle parts so it took a little bit of finagling to get it. Then I heated everything up on the stovetop and formed each circle over a styrofoam ball to get it to be sticky-outy, fixed any hot glue that came loose, and then painted everything with glitter mod podge. To get it to stay up, I sewed three pieces of clear jewelry elastic (which snapped between judging and my walk-on ofc) between the front & back circles.

For my bun flower, I found a bouquet of fake flowers from Joann’s with pink tips, and just cut some of the outer petals off so it wasn’t SUPER HUGE OMG FLOWER and just stuck it into my wig.

For the wig, I bought a Chibi in Bubblegum Pink from Arda, and covered the odangos with wefts from there as well! I more or less followed HezaChan’s tutorial on how to make the odangos, but I didn’t stub my wig. The odangos just slide into the wig with bobby pins, so I can remove them and use the wig for other projects.

This was super long, but I hope you find it helpful!

 

Cosplay 101: How to get help

Learning how to get help in the cosplay community is one of the most important skills you can learn! Before you bug a cosplay senpai with a question that they’ve probably already answered in their FAQ, try these things first:

First, you have a ton of online resources that I didn’t when I started out. Everyone and their mom is making tutorials now, and you only need google to find them! Search terms: “X character Y item Z series tutorial” will usually get you some results. Also, most tutorials can be applied to other costumes; even if a tutorial is “how to style a wig for Axel from Kingdom Hearts” you can apply learning how to make a widows’ peak and spikes to other wigs/characters who aren’t Axel. Familiarizing yourself with some basic sewing terminology can be really helpful for googling tutorials on how to do that thing. On that note, don’t be afraid to look at non-cosplay-specific tutorials either; there are a LOT of sewing tutorials that can be used for cosplay even though they weren’t written by/for cosplayers. Cosplay-specific forums are also really helpful (read: cosplay.com, ACP, & even your local cons’ “cosplay” subforum)!

Most cosplayers will do detailed write-ups of how they made their costumes on their social media/cosplay-specific accounts like cospix or ACParadise so looking through those or FAQs of their blog/pages can be helpful. (This is especially useful for finding out what wigs/lenses cosplayers use for specific characters!)

If you’ve exhausted both of those resources or are struggling to figure out a step in a cosplayer’s tutorial, then send senpai a message asking for help and maybe they’ll notice you.

Senpai_Title

Something along the lines of: “Hey, I’m trying to make an X character costume, I really like the way yours looks, and I read through your tutorial/write-up, but I’m struggling with Y piece; do you have any tips for how to make this work properly or do you know what I’m doing wrong?” If you show them that you’ve made an effort to solve the problem on your own, it’ll a) make it a lot easier for them to help you and b) make them a lot more willing to do so.

A lot of your senpais get a metric butt-ton of messages (and a lot of repeats!) every day, and they don’t have time to answer all of them– so don’t lose heart if you don’t get a response. Check their replies to see if they’ve answered a question similar to yours. If they haven’t, then try asking someone with less status/prestige within the community (read: not Yaya Han). Also: shamless plug for my own line of work, but if you can find a person that’s local to you and/or responds when you ask them questions, nominate them to become your mentor! Mentors are amazeballs and I’ll do a writeup about how to recruit one soon.

Another thing to remember is that it can get irritating for cosplay senpais when people don’t bother to check their FAQ or do a simple google search before asking them a question that they’ve already answered or that someone else has already taken the time to go into detail with. USE YOUR GOOGLE-FU. Their time is valuable and the most important thing to remember is that you are not entitled to it simply because you’re a fan. Not naming names, but one of my senpais recently stopped taking questions entirely because people were giving her too much of an attitude– which essentially robs everyone else of a valuable resource. Not cool. Mind your manners.

Time is money, and most of us have other jobs/school/volunteer work/hobbies outside of cosplay. Not everyone’s willing or able to make a tutorial for everything they produce and it’s not fair to them to expect them to as this could easily double the amount of time that it takes to finish costumes, not to mention putting more stress on them to create more content.

Would it be nice if everyone made tutorials for everything? Sure. But sometimes, you just gotta figure things out by yourself.

Cosplay on a Budget: Save Money on Fabric & Sewing Stuff

I live in a suburb outside of Boston, and even Boston doesn’t have a ton of independent fabric stores, so this post is largely going to be about Jo-Ann, but you should be able to apply the same concepts to other chain stores.

Sign up for their emails, sign up for their circulars, if you get the paper, great! They probably have an ad in that. Download the app for your smartphone, and before you go shopping, open their website in your browser & go to the coupons & deals page. ALSO: You can sign up for a student discount with a high school or college ID that gives you 10% off your entire purchase. If you’re a teacher, you get a discount too, woo! Grab the paper circular they have in the store when you walk in. You now have coupons from up to five sources, go you!

Now, say you want something really pricey, like casa satin or duponi silk. Wait until those items are /not/ on sale because coupons cannot stack on regular sale unless it’s the rare 20% off your total purchase of all merch, regardless of sale/non-sale status (& unless the fabrics are 60% off, in which case buy the thing!), then go into Jo-Ann’s armed with all of your coupons. You can use as many coupons as you have items but only one of the “x% off your total purchase of fabric/notions/whatever”. Usually those coupons are for 40-50% off the price, which means instead of 12.99/yd for casa chiffon, you’re paying $6.50.

miwako

Miwako would be so proud.

Muslin will also occasionally go on sale for something stupid cheap like $1/yd so if you have the cash to burn, just buy the bolt. Muslin can be used for mock ups (which means fewer trips back to the store if you mess up with your pretty fabric) and for lining your projects which will increase the lifespan of the garment. You’ll almost always need it so it’s not a waste, and future you will thank you.

Notions wall items & thread also goes on sale pretty frequently so keep your eyes peeled.

Jo-Ann’s usually does pattern sales every month, where for a weekend, all patterns from x brand will be $1/$5 if you buy 5/3 of them. Do not pay full price for patterns if you can wait. JoAnn’s has actually started to cater to cosplayers which means there are a lot of patterns that you can use for multiple projects/Franken-patterning. There’s also a ton of free patterns on the interwebs, and learning how to draft your own is a skill that is super duper useful.

Dressforms, sewing machines, and storage items will usually go on SUPER sale immediately after Christmas so if you can wait until then, do so. Good sales on these usually happen 2-3 times a year.

Also, Jo-Ann will usually match competitors’ coupons for the same item, but it depends on your particular stores’ policy.

Buying in-store is much better than online, because online you can ONLY get one coupon code per order, and you have to pay for shipping, boooo.

Finally I know their store title is “Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts” but– don’t buy crafty stuff from Jo-Ann/fabric-specific stores if you can help it because they’re usually more expensive than places like AC Moore or Michael’s that are “craft specific”. Do the same thing with craft stores that you did with Jo-Ann’s- download their app if they have it (retailmenot will also save you some $$), sign up for circulars/emails, etc. Compare prices before you shop, and also, check amazon, especially if you’re going to need to buy something in bulk. ALSO: with things that come in ounces, check the price per ounce. It’s usually cheaper to buy the larger size especially if you’ll use it again for another project (like resin).

Stay thrifty my peeps! ❤