Blog

Costume Notes: Mami (Madoka Magica)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photographer Credits: 

Completed: May 2017

Hours Spent: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I kept track up until April, when A-Kon told us our group was too big to compete. After that I stopped caring.

Debuted: A-Kon 2017

Why This Costume: When the Cosmic Coterie crew decided to make Madoka as our major group build this year, I jumped at the chance to cosplay Mami. She’s by and far my favorite character and design, and had a couple of crazy design elements I wanted to jump at to improve my prop making and wig making skills.

Purchased Pieces: 

  • Contacts: Etia Coeur in Caramel Gold
  • Base gloves: We Love Colors solid wrist gloves in white (dyed and altered)
  • Soul gem base kit: The Dangerous Ladies
  • Wig: Arda Chibi and long clip in extensions in Fairy Blonde

Patterns Used: 

Super Helpful Tutorials: 

How I Made it: 

17353518_10208220917630722_3396655048034029457_n

To create the hat, I dug up some books on millinery. After looking at multiple reference sources (including my Mami figures. Knew they’d pay off eventually!), I realized that Mami’s hat isn’t a standard pillbox hat; it tapers in rather dramatically. I used the information found in Basic Millinery for the Stage to create a buckram base. The shell fabric is a chocolate velveteen from OnlineFabricStore.net with a matching lining. It stays in place with sewn in wig combs.

17309884_10208220917550720_2491169382086285628_n

My wig was an intense experience, which I detailed here. It took several tries to get right, but it’s one of the pieces I’m proudest of with this build! Sparkle Pipsi’s drill curl tutorial was an invaluable resource.

17353392_10208220916030682_2344573408982344629_n

Initially I wanted to make my own mold for Mami’s soul gem, but when I stumbled across the kits provided by TheDangerousLadies (I got the fabric for my stockings from them too!), I decided to save myself the trouble. The kits come unpainted, so I lightly sanded the base gem, primed and painted it, and then used jewelry wire I had on hand to create a flower backing. The wire is held in place with scrap Worbla, and I used e6000 to glue hair pins onto the back of the Worbla.

17353397_10208220915990681_1433543540128030853_n

My blouse was one of the easier parts of this build. Yaya’s peacoat pattern in my size required minimal alterations. I went with view A and used the puffy sleeves (shortened to appropriate Mami proportions). I decided to leave the peplum shape on this top since it was tucked into my skirt anyway, which meant that it acted as a slip. I created strips out of gold satin and attached those to the center front of the bodice before adding in my invisible zipper. For the neck piece, made the collar according to pattern instructions, then cut a small strip of gold on the bias to create the trim on her collar. The center front buttons on the blouse were a lucky find from Jo-Ann’s. They have adorable flowers embossed on them! The gold buttons on the sleeve cuffs were harvested from my old Captain Marvel, and the trim on the arms is the same velveteen I used for my hat. It’s a bias cut strip that I carefully pinned around the arm hole after attaching the sleeve. It’s edgestitched down. The sleeves are underlined with tulle to help them retain their puffy shape.

17992169_1196670407125730_4232792802380428444_n

The arm warmers are made from the same peachskin I used for the blouse. I drafted a bell-shape that started at my bicep and ended at the wrist. I left enough room at the bicep to create an elastic casing and gathered the base for puffy sleeves. As with my blouse sleeves, the arm warmers are underlined with tulle for maximum puff.

17203214_10208220917590721_8784624598872418228_n

My gloves were far more of a hassle than I anticipated. I picked up a base brown pair from We Love Colors, but they weren’t quite brown enough. I attempted to dye them, but the dye didn’t take AT ALL and actually made the gloves lighter. I picked up a white pair instead and dyed them to a deep brown (2 parts brown dye, 1 part black) and that did the trick. Once the gloves were dyed, I cut off the fingers at the knuckles and hand stitched gold neoprene bands on the ends.

17353526_10208220922430842_6913508637466330353_n

The corset was my showpiece, and I spared no expense. Since Mami’s design is relatively simple, I went for an embossed floral vinyl from Mood and stained it to a deep chocolate color using Eco-Flo. The patterning is a lot to explain in one post (don’t worry, a more detailed write-up is coming soon), but essentially I made a closure to cover the busk using information from Lucy’s Corsetry and made a hidden lacing panel in the back that closes with a separating zipper. I made 2 corsets total: one using a floating strength layer and another using the welt seam approach. The welt seam approach was my final corset, since I made the first one just a hair too big. It makes me so sad the first one didn’t work out, because I used adorable lining fabric designed by Sparkle Pipsi! Maybe one day I’ll feel up to adding a lining to my second corset and buy more fabric. Both corsets use cotton coutil as the strength layer and use a combination of spiral and flat steel boning.

18199208_1211094495683321_7961581771573391582_n

Mami’s skirt has very noticeable box pleats, so I combined two full circle skirts and marked off 4″ box pleats with full returns and then skipped 4″ sections between pleats. The hem has 1″ horsehair braid, and the brown strip is chocolate peachskin cut on the bias. It took a little math to figure out, but essentially what I did was completely encase the horsehair braid so it’s not visible from the top or bottom of the skirt. Super clean for the win!

17862594_1191007771025327_6873224480676141283_n

For Mami’s thigh-highs, I used Yaya Han’s stockings/bootcovers pattern and some lovely ribbed knit from The Dangerous Ladies. The tops and bottoms have elastic in them for a super secure fit. I still had issues with my stockings falling down at A-Kon, so I stitched them to my dance tights for AX.

17343066_10208220919430767_7638786908905397595_n

I was pretty darn pleased with how my boots came out. I had a pair of chunky heels sitting in my closet, so painted them gold with Angelus paints, painted the heel and sole white with acrylic paint and gesso, and then made boot toppers out of the same fabric as my corset. To create the boot toppers, I used the duct tape/saran wrap patterning method, then made a mock-up of my boots to tweak fit issues. Once that was complete, I created the toppers and lined them out of gold leftover from my skirt. I glued the boot toppers to the base shoes using Shoe-Goo, but then went back in and hand sewed the base for aesthetic appeal. The white strips at the top are vinyl bias tape I found on Etsy, and the gold tabs are leftover material from Hannah.

17362003_10208220916430692_6684252441165610973_n

Another reason I chose Mami for this build was the chance to work on prop making. I love Mami’s rifles and wanted to flex my prop muscles here, so I did a lot of research on creating weapons out of foam. Kamui’s eBooks were an invaluable resource, as was the pattern vectorized by The Dangerous Ladies. This is another lengthy upcoming post, so the short version is that I made it from an EVA foam base, covered it with Worbla, used PVC pipe for the barrel, then primed it. I was running short on time at this point, so Storietellers took over painting for me.

18342504_1223258491133588_7070292891813097625_n

The bow was self drafted and mostly made out of looped tubes. It snaps onto my choker!

Final Thoughts:

All in all, I’m very pleased with this build. There are a few things I might do differently now that it’s complete and I know more, but that’s true of any build. I’m a bit sad I didn’t get a chance to compete with it, since I built it with that in mind, but there’s always next time.

Who’s your favorite character from Madoka Magica? 

Advertisements

Madoka Magica: Madoka’s Petticoat & Skirt

Almost as soon as Cosmic Coterie officially decided to tackle Madoka Magica for our big build this year, Koholint and I started brainstorming Madoka. We split the labor so that Koho took the upper half of Madoka and I took the lower half. I’ve followed several Madoka cosplayers over the years, and I was absurdly excited about making that ridiculous donut skirt.

The Petticoat

17212079_1161109750681796_2774636300181773856_o

My first step in tackling my portion of Madoka was the petticoat. That giant donut skirt needed a support structure for the floof, so I turned to Jessie Pridemore‘s Madoka petticoat tutorial as a starting point. There are 10+ fabric layers total in the petticoat: 5 layers of chiffon circle skirts with serger-gathered satin ribbon ruffles, a layer of cotton crinoline, and 5 layers of gathered double-circle skirts made from tulle. There are also 120 yards of satin ribbon attached to the hem which also add to the overall fluffiness.

17434642_1168709593255145_1279044575384425384_o

17493218_1174052239387547_6492470779913621385_o

As Dani and I started leveling the hems, I realized I wasn’t getting the volume I wanted out of the petticoat, and I was worried the donut skirt would ultimately weigh the petticoat down. Koholint pointed me in the direction of some tutu research she’d done. Tutus layer shorter layers on top of longer layers to create a fuller silhouette, which was perfect for our needs. Plus, it was kind of a cool nod to the ballet inspiration behind Madoka!

Bulk at the waist was a major concern, especially since Dani has a fairly short torso and we needed the bodice to be snug, so I attached all the skirt layers to a short yoke with an elastic waistband (and some pink satin ribbon I had on hand just because).

The Donut Skirt

19467703_1271371406322296_6839536040878118718_o
Fun fact: the original had so much bulk that I had to use pliers to pull my needle through.
19477603_1271371312988972_6706484657809752085_o
Round 1

The donut skirt was way more of a challenge than I initially anticipated. I went back and forth on a couple of approaches, but ultimately wound up using The Dangerous Ladies guide to Madoka’s skirt as a starting point. I originally set out constructing it as a super long gathered rectangle on both the top and lining layers. I quickly realized this would create far too much bulk under the bodice. To counter this issue, I opted to just gather the fashion layer (underlined with tulle) and create a circle skirt lining. Both layers were attached via a waistband which went under the bodice. The gathered portions sat just beneath the bottom of the bodice. The skirt closes with a lapped zipper.

19467964_1271371282988975_641012828332015920_o
Getting there…

Figuring out an appropriate length for the fashion layer took some trial and error. Ultimately the fashion layer was about 3-4″ longer than the lining, which gave me room to stuff the skirt with extra tulle for that ridiculous puff.

19467897_1271371266322310_2195571758670118774_o
Still trying to get that shape!

The ruffles on the skirt are made from 5″ bias cut peachskin. Since the magical girls in Madoka Magica don’t really have a uniform design, we decided to make sure we all had peachskin ruffles with rolled hems in our accent colors to bring a little uniformity to the designs. Koholint took care of the rolled hems, and I gathered them on my serger. The ruffles are sandwiched between the lining and fashion layers.

18527476_635189116684621_7244721511600651299_o
You can see me stuffing the crap out of that donut skirt in the top left! Bows and bodice by the crazy talented Koholint.

The Top Skirt

21894865_1689301737746915_607775211_o

21850573_1689301854413570_1456586329_n

The pink top skirt was mostly handled by Victoria Bane. I drafted out the pink skirt based on the circle skirt we used for the petticoat and lining of the donut skirt. We had to remove a petal to get it to lay right on the donut skirt, so in hindsight, I would have drafted it as a 3/4 circle skirt instead.

21849379_1689302261080196_1033803124_n

21849292_1689302361080186_1928478365_n

Vickie airbrushed the white gradient onto the petals using Creatix paint and sewed up the skirt (side note: I’m still dying over how smooth that gradient is. Vickie rocks). The gems were scrapbooking stickers we found at Jo-Ann’s and glued on.

21849176_1689302464413509_1656137703_n

Other Pieces

Since the skirts are so ridiculously short, I made a quick set of bloomers using Colette’s free Madeline pattern. I kind of wish I’d added a higher waistband for these since they ride pretty low, but they do the job.

Dani’s stockings were generously donated by We Love Colors. To create the ruffles at the top of the stockings, I stitched some reject peachskin ruffles from Dani’s skirt onto elastic bands. We tried using 2″ ruffles for the skirt initially, but they were waaaaayyyy too short to show up properly. We added a little extra flair to the stocking ruffles by adding some leftover trim from Koholint’s fabric stash.

Final Thoughts

Despite the crazy amount of work that went into these skirts, I’m quite pleased with the final result. There are a few things that I’d go back and fix if I were doing it again (side eyes spots with uneven gathers), but the silhouette is pretty damn nice. On to the next build!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Ash Snap Em Photography

Who’s your favorite character from Madoka? 

Commission Notes: Super Sailor Moon

16830904_1142489569210481_4226702176260783512_n

Completed: February 2017

Hours Spent: About 40 hours

How I made it: I know, I know. ANOTHER FUKU. I keep promising myself/y’all that I’m going to cool it with these, but apparently they’re becoming one of my staples.

For a long time I told myself I wouldn’t take Super Moon commissions since I definitely prefer the gradient dyeing we did for Cosmic Coterie and lack an airbrush. However, my client was fine with the stripe approach from the 90s anime and I did a few other experiments with this build, which I’ll focus on today.

16473444_1129417023851069_5378495403887002738_n
Prior to tapering the hip rolls.

Let’s start with that pesky double hip roll again. I’ve made a couple of double hip rolls with upholstery piping, but I honestly am not in love with it. So I went back to upholstery foam and even further back to my Jupiter 1.0 days when I used Zan‘s pattern. I used her hip roll pattern piece for the front, and then tapered it down to almost 1/4 the original size. This gave me a chance to really control the depth of the taper and make it even (this is something that drove me crazy with our original group build). I know that Moon has a brooch that covers up the point of the V, but having messy work drives me batty, so I’m glad I was able to clean this up! The gold hip roll is 3/8″ smaller all around than the white one.

Both of the hip rolls are sewn into the seam. I basted the gold one about a half inch above my normal stitching line on the bodice to accommodate the clunkiness of both rolls. Once both hip rolls were in place, I then hand stitched the entire hip roll with a back stitch for durability, using my basting lines as a guide.

16830773_1140858806040224_5627557063756885891_n
Pro-tip: Don’t use ribbon or straight grain fabric for the stripes if you’re using the circle skirt approach. It won’t curve around the skirt properly and will lead to bubbles and wrinkles (like this when I hadn’t pressed my seams).

The skirt was a… special challenge. I wracked my head for weeks with this. My initial inclination was to level the skirt then cut off the portions I needed and use them as a template, but that would have required INSANE precision. Eventually I realized I was making it way too complicated and cut super long strips of fabric on the bias. I had originally ruled out continuous bias tape (so apparently this approach has a shit ton of names, because I was chatting with the girls and we realized that we were all talking about different techniques lol) because I didn’t want lots of seam lines showing, but I made sure that my seams were tucked into the folds of the pleats for the most part.

16807536_1143301539129284_8054626000879624703_n

To create the sleeve petals, I cut a strip of Worbla (1″ wide X 10″ long), layered it on another strip, and heat formed it over my dress form. Once it cooled, I glued each layer of the Mylar/Organza petals one at a time with e6000. I let each layer get to the point that it was dry to touch before I added on a new layer. Once all 3 layers were attached and mostly dry, I glued a strip of Velcro on top and fleece on the bottom to make it slightly more comfortable. There’s a matching piece of Velcro on the lining of the chest armor to keep it in place. Credit for this idea goes to MASK Props. I love how he did the sleeves for PockyPants‘s Chibi Moon

16708217_1135553809904057_117553361457305699_n

The last major change I made on this fuku was on the butt bow. I used my trusty Pellon 808 interfacing instead of vinyl and like it a lot better. I hate that the bow isn’t transparent, but it holds its shape much better with interfacing versus vinyl.

That about covers this fuku! You can find more details on my other fukus here, and tutorials on how to make a Cosmic Coterie style fuku here.

What’s your favorite version of Sailor Moon? 

Nightmares and Drill Curls

I recently knocked out the first major portion of my Mami cosplay: the CRAZY ASS WIG!

This wig was such a steep learning curve. Part of the reason I specifically chose Mami for our Coterie build (aside from her adorable design and the fact she’s my favorite Madoka character) was because I wanted to flex my arguably tiny wig muscles and learn more about crazy styling techniques. Well… I definitely learned a lot!

img_0552
Recurring statement: EVERYTHING IS TERRIFYING AND I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING

My main resource with this tutorial was SparklePipsi’s drill curl tutorial. There are a lot of tutorials on the packing tape method of drill curls, but hers is my favorite. Overall it’s a great comprehensive guide and has a lot of useful tips and techniques (pro-tip: make sure you get CLEAR caulk. I had to get mine off of Amazon because my local hardware stores didn’t have any). Plus, all her tutorials are beautifully designed and in PDF format for easy downloading and printing.

img_0160
Sad wig is sad.

So my first major tip if you opt to take the packing tape/jewelry wire route: you will need WAY less wig fiber than you think you do. I hacked my stubs in half, and they were still way too thick. So thick that they literally separated from the tape when I tried to curl it.

img_0244
F*ck you wig.

This lead me to my first big deviation from this approach. Every time I tried to start curling the packing tape, huge chunks of the wig fibers would start popping up. After consulting with my wig guru Vicki Bane, I went back and laid the wefts down while the packing tape/wire was in a curled shape. Placing the wefts on the interior while the tape is in a curled formation is difficult, clunky, and time consuming, but it’s really the only way to get the fibers to lay flat.

img_0247
Getting there…

That brings up the next technique: actually laying the wefts on. After I gave up on my first wig (RIP), I got a Chibi and two ponytail clips instead of another Leia (pro-tip: if you get the Leia as Suzanne notes in her tutorial, make sure to straighten it first). I tore apart the netting on the ponytail clips and laid two layers of wefts on at a time until I got the thickness I wanted. Basically, it was caulk, 2 layers of wefts, thinner layer of caulk, 2 more layers of wefts, hair spray.

img_0538
Almost…

I had the best results when I brushed out the wefts just prior to laying them on the tape and then gently adjusting them with my fingers (definitely keep water and paper towels nearby). I’m not sure if I was doing it wrong, but using a comb to smooth my wefts resulted in a chaotic caulk-ridden mess.

img_0582
Zip ties were my best friend when attaching the drill curls. Alligator clips are also super helpful for keeping the wefts in place while drying!

Suzanne’s tips about the clear filament (aka fishing wire) were super helpful! I threaded mine through each curl around the wires and then stitched it to the base of the wig. The curls were far too heavy to get Mami’s gravity defying bounce, but the the filament helped me place each curl exactly where I needed it to go.

img_0624
Without (left) and with (right) filament.

So what’s my take-away from this experience? Wigs are expensive and terrifying and I don’t know how people deal with them LOL.

Not really. This experience reminded me to constantly research, talk to people who know more than you, and to not to let fear of failure keep you from trying. I really thought that I’d have to scrap this project a couple of times and commission someone. I still see a lot of mistakes when I look at this wig, but I feel a lot more confident trying something outside of my wheelhouse now.

Have you ever chosen a project specifically to enhance your skill set? How did your experience go?

Costume Notes: Super and Regular Sailor Pluto

15822941_1120691494706190_7015554878153765944_n
Photo by Cosplay Illustrated

Completed: October 2016

Hours Spent: Approximately 30

Debuted: Anime North Texas

Why This Costume: After A-Fest, the Cosmic Coterie crew decided we wanted to switch up our fukus a bit and decided we wanted to go Super! Our affiliates expressed interest in joining us to have a full set of senshi again, so I offered to take the role of Pluto! (I got extra tall boots so we can be almost height accurate 😉 ).

I think most Moonies have a favorite inner and outer senshi. While Jupiter is my all-time favorite senshi, I have a soft spot for Pluto! I actually considered making Pluto before Jupiter back in 2014, but decided against it since I didn’t know how to build props (or who to ask for a commission) at the time.

15073451_1038106289648810_6006304744769954203_n

Purchased pieces: 

How I made it: 

Note: I made regular and Super Pluto pretty much at the same time, which is why I combined these costumes into one post.

I swear, every time I make a new fuku I learn something new to improve the process. I don’t want to get too heavily bogged down in details since pretty much everything you need to know is over on the Cosmic Coterie fuku tutorials (seriously, I’ve written a damn novel at this point). However, I do want to point out a few fit tweaks that I’ve noticed since making Jupes 2.0.

15780989_1120690904706249_6027103839683644263_n
Photo by Cosplay Illustrated

One of the biggest game-changers in my fuku process comes courtesy of Katie Cosplays. She noticed a few of our fukus in the past have had issues with puckering at the point of the V. Turns out, lowering the point of bloomers fixes that problem! When I redrafted my pieces for Pluto and sewed the skirt on, I actually turned to Space Cadet Cosplay for feedback because I was convinced I’d done something wrong. It came out right on the first try (don’t mind the puckering here too much. My belt needs to be shortened by about 8″)! Normally there’s at least a little profanity and seam ripping to get the hip roll just right in my experience.

Another issue I noticed with Jupes 2.0 was skirt length. The pleats lose their shape at a certain length, and I definitely needed to shorten the hem for my Jupiter. Some of my front pleats almost look like they have puckers, and it’s just because the skirt is a hair too long. I’m finding that about 8″ from the bottom of the V to the hem and about 10.5″ in the back works well for me. This one is 7″ from the point of the V to the hem. If/when I get around to re-making this fuku (I noticed some minor holes in the base leotard last time I wore it), I’ll lengthen that to 8″. The horsehair braid is also much more effective with the shorter skirts as well.

15823232_10105317878630630_5708056190166910789_n
Hanging with my trash nerds, Callula and 10th Muse at Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve.

Working on the boots for Pluto was a fun experience and great practice for my upcoming Wonder Woman! I thought about buying pre-made Pluto boots, but the ones I liked best were close to $120, and all of them looked too short for me. My frugality won out, and I decided to make my own. I used NyuNyu Cosplay’s tutorial on how to draft the toppers. My first set of boots was a pair of knee high boots from eBay. These came out perfectly, but when I tried them on, they were a bit too short for my Amazonian legs. However, I did keep them for wandering around the con days. For round two, I bought some over the knee boots, cut them down to the right length and shape, and used scrap vinyl from Huntress to create the white topper.

I redrafted the Supers clear sleeves a bit with the input of the other Coterie members. We decided to go with clear mylar for the sleeves, which we did with Super Moon and Chibi Moon. While the vinyl I used for Super Jupes was more comfortable, the Mylar definitely holds its shape better. We covered the mylar with clear glitter chiffon using 3M, which did a much better job than the spray e6000 I used for Jupes. Tutorials and pattern are available here.

15085650_1041371079322331_8435729970027912328_n
Super Pluto selfie before ANT!

Koholint Cosplay reminded me both of the joys of sewing on an interfaced collar (seriously, soooooo much cleaner than non-interfaced collars) as well as faux mitered corners. These are so much cleaner than the ones I did on both of my Jupiter collars.

I’d like to take a minute to give MASK Props a shout-out for my insanely beautiful garnet rod. He pulled this together for me in a pretty short period of time while working on another big deadline, and it’s absolutely stunning. I’m so grateful to him for taking this project on when he toooootally didn’t have to! I’m planning to hang it above my craft closet for display purposes when it’s not in use.

dsc_3411-edit
Cosmic Coterie group photo by Stereometric with guest David as Tuxedo Mask!

Thoughts on this build: All in all, I’m so, so happy that I was able to make this costume happen. Pluto’s been on my wishlist for nearly as long as Jupiter, and it’s absolutely thrilling to be part of a full set of senshi! Now that this is done, I’m looking forward to a nice long break from fukus, haha (well, aside from commissions lol). I’ll add more photos as I get them!

Do you have a favorite inner and outer senshi? Who are they? 

10 Essential Tips for First Time Commissioners

tumblr_o7fhtwvc761sxq29yo1_500
Peggy Carter commission for Lady Amaraldi.

1. Be brutally honest with yourself:

Before starting commissions, you absolutely need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I willing to do? Are you good with wigs? What about foam? Or resin? Or leather? The idea here is to ask yourself what type of work you excel at and emphasize it. For example, I can do some wig styling, but I don’t consider myself an expert on it, so I don’t offer it in my commission services.
  • Is my work good enough for commissions? I ask myself this ALL THE TIME. The reality is that there’s a certain expectation of quality with commission work, and if you can’t meet that quality, then you don’t need to sell. My commissions are the same if not higher quality work than my personal costumes, because each piece is a representation of me and my brand.
  • Are you good at customer service? Being able to communicate with people is one of the most essential tasks of commissions. Many potential commissionees approach the commission process thinking they can get costumes cheaper than eBay or Amazon, or that different tasks are simple when in reality they’re quite time consuming. Being able to clearly and calmly discuss these issues with potential clients is an absolute necessity.
  • Do I have the time? This is one of my big personal hold-ups with commissions. Working full-time puts a big damper in the number of commissions I’m able to take on at any given time, and it also impacts which costumes I can make for myself. If I have a deadline for a commission coming up around the same time as a con, then I’ll likely have to re-wear a costume, because client work comes first.

2. Pay yourself FAIRLY

Again, this is something I struggle with, but I’ve gotten better at over the years. Due to the rise in fast fashion, many people misinterpret the skill involved in sewing (and any form of custom work, honestly). The reality is that creating a custom piece will ALWAYS cost more than something you can find in an online costume shop.

Much like car or home repair, labor is often one of the largest expenses involved. I used to barely pay myself minimum wage when I first started, and I was miserable. I felt like I sacrificed all my time to creating things for other people, and when all was said and done, I’d barely made enough profit to make it worth my while. Pay yourself an amount that’s commiserate with your experience and skills to prevent this issue. I pay myself $12-15/hour these days, much to the dismay of my friends and SO. I feel like this is a fair price FOR ME since commissions are my extra play money and allow me to get crazy with my personal builds. Keep in mind: this is a low-ball charge compared to some folks who do commissions as their main source of income, so don’t be surprised if you see higher charges as you do research.

10712694_592341230891987_4100483587874620488_n
This leotard was one of my first commissions, and a big learning curve in how to handle pricing! Cosplayer is Jade Cosplay. Photo by Tobious Cosplayious

To come up with a quote, I use the following formula: Cost of materials + Labor (Est. Hours x $12-15) = Final Quote charge (normally rounded down in favor of the client). When I get a quote request, my pricing process looks something like this:

capture

3. Talk to your clients

This is often one of the biggest frustrations I see with potential commissionees. They get everything set up and send off their money, only to never hear back from the commissioner or have minimal contact. Their deadlines roll around, and they’re in a panic, wondering if their costume will arrive in time. I’ve been in this situation before, and it SUCKS.

A quick message or post to let clients know what’s happening is so, so, so useful. Be honest and open about time frames and when you expect to work and ship so that clients have an idea of when to expect their items. For example, if someone’s at the bottom of my commission queue, I’ll let them know that I won’t be in touch/won’t have progress to show for at least so many weeks, or I’ll let clients know that if I have to order materials online, that they shouldn’t expect to get updates until at least a week or two after said materials have arrived.

14797418_1014619951997444_2139492400_n
Saturn commission that I recently finished. I send clients updates anytime there’s visible progress to keep them up to date on progress. Normally this translates to updates every 1-2 weeks once a project has started.

4. …but don’t let them walk all over you

On the opposite end of the spectrum, clients messaging every single day is only a situation that should occur if the commissioner fails to deliver or ghosts. If a client harasses you for photos/progress, reiterate that you need time to work.

Likewise, stand your ground on your policies and pricing. People will always ask to bend things here or there. Every case is different, but at the end of the day, you have to stand up for yourself in order to make commissions an enjoyable (and profitable) experience.

5. Remember: Your name is attached to EVERYTHING YOU SAY/DO

Social media is both a blessing and a curse for commissions. If you do it well, it’s an easy way to market yourself and gain clients and followers. But at the same time, you have to be conscientious of your online presence. Insulting another cosplayer’s work, shaming (of any kind), or bullying are obviously huge no-nos (and key indicators that you’re a crap human being, let’s be honest). But there’s more to it than avoiding the obvious. You have to evaluate what your brand represents and how much information you’re willing to share. For example, I’m not comfortable sharing much of my personal life online, partially because I feel odd letting the whole world know what’s going on in my day-today, but also I don’t want to impact mine or my fiance’s day job (or future job hunting).

Think about what works for you and for the brand you’re trying to create. Individuals have a bit more flexibility than companies, but branding still requires conscientious curation.

6. Promote yourself

13015638_887490788043695_8260122334560396191_n
Shadowcat Cosplay for Taffeta Darling of Fangirls of Dallas.

Again, this is another task I’ve struggled with in the past, but it’s a necessity to generate business. A lot of my promotion work happens at cons. I often wear nerd-inspired outfits on Fridays or Sundays (a.k.a. lazy con days), so any time someone comments on one of my outfits, I try to plug my name and distribute a business card. Most of my friends and family will do the same thing!

In addition to in-person marketing, online marketing is a must! There are lots of Facebook groups that put clients and commissionees in touch with one another in addition to standard social media marketing practices.

Here are a few groups to keep an eye out for:

7. Keep track of EVERYTHING

One of the most challenging components of commission work for me isn’t the creation of costumes. It’s the juggling work of keeping track of commission inquiries, where they’re coming from, and staying up to date with all the orders you need to make (not to mention deadlines). I get commission inquiries through all my social media platforms, as well as through e-mail and in-person chats. To keep myself organized, I keep track of all this information through Google Sheets and Trello.

Likewise, HOLD ON TO YOUR RECEIPTS, both digital and physical. Anytime I purchase anything related to my commissions or business, I put it in a bin just for tax related purposes. I also keep track of money via PayPal and Etsy’s shop setup. I definitely prefer spreadsheets as a way to keep track of money, so I make sure to go through all my receipts as meticulously as possible so that my headache isn’t so severe when tax season rolls around.

My workflow looks something like this:

  • Client reaches out to me for quote, and I make a note of the client, along with where they asked and other relevant information in a Google Sheet.
  • Once the client has agreed to terms, payment, and details, I send them a commission agreement form with fields for measurements and shipping information.
  • After the client has sent me their down payment, I begin ordering materials and starting on their piece.

I use Trello to organize out individual tasks for each commission, since it’s easy to drag and drop checklist items when they’re completed.

8. Even if you’re not organized, GET ORGANIZED

15267806_830459113723631_1361382315393543549_n
Sailor Chibi Chibi for Charming Darling. I completely misplaced the original gloves I bought for this commission, so I had to replace them. Derp.

This ties back in with point number 7. Again, I’m awful at this, but commissions have forced me to get better. There’s nothing worse than needing to work on a commission, only to realize that you’ve misplaced supplies. It’s an obnoxious hold-up and can cut into your profits.

I’m in the process of setting up a new storage unit in my craft room that doubles as a quick pressing station. It is only for commissions and business related purposes, so I won’t have to rummage through my other bins and storage units to find what I need. Knowing where everything is supposed to go will save you time and stress!

9. Have fail safes in place

Shit happens. Your sewing machine breaks. The fabric that’s perfect for a commission is out of stock. You (or a loved one) have serious health issues. Having back-ups will help you keep your sanity as you work on projects when shit hits the fan. I build extra time into my commission quotes for this reason so that clients are pleasantly surprised when their items get to them early, rather than infuriated when items are shipped to them months late.

14068051_1168884519851449_2864084275978705302_n
Negasonic Teenage Warhead bodysuit for Callula Cosplay (logos by her). Photo by Gear Owl Photography. Good grief this costume was an exercise in patience since EVERYTHING WENT WRONG. Thankfully, we got everything worked out and Dana looks awesome as Negasonic!

10. Take time for yourself

Burnout is a real thing with commissions. It’s easy to take commission after commission, and then realize you haven’t made something for yourself in six months. It’s okay to close up shop for a while and take time to work on things for you. In fact, you should do this every now and then to recharge your creative batteries. Your work will be better for it!

Have you commissioned costume pieces before? What was your experience like? 

Skirt

I’m very excited to share a new tutorial with all of you! The Cosmic Coterie crew and I are super close to being finished with our Supers upgrades for ANT, and we also managed to get two tutorials published today. The one linked here is on how we construct our skirts, since that’s one of the topics we get the most questions on.

I hope you find this helpful! If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me or Cosmic Coterie!

Materials Needed: 2.5 yds matte bridal satin Contrasting thread for basting Matching thread for hem Measuring tape Tailor’s chalk Optional: 7 yds 1/2″ horsehair braid Draft 2 full circl…

Source: Skirt

Costume Notes: Angel Dust (Deadpool)

Completed: October 2016

Hours Spent: Approximately 10 hours

Debuted: Dallas Comic Con Fan Days

14691148_10207060304416117_5188005275056992143_n

Why This Costume: This costume was partly a matter of convenience, partly a matter of wanting to cosplay with Callula, and partly a nudge from everyone and their dog. As I mentioned in my last post, I was out of the country for a week on vacation at the beginning of October, and I knew I wouldn’t have much time to finish up a full build for Fan Days. I loved the Deadpool movie, but wasn’t really sure who to cosplay. I think at least half a dozen people suggested I make Angel Dust before it actually clicked in my head that I look like Gina Carano’s character. And as an added bonus: it was pretty simple to make!

14671332_1010136202445819_8160876698111279431_n

How I made it: All in all, this is a pretty simple build. I bought all the pieces and modified the corset, top, and belt to be more film accurate.

Purchased pieces:

tumblr_ofrutgyrck1sxq29yo1_500

The corset was definitely the most time-consuming piece of this costume. This tutorial from Lucy’s Corsetry was a massive help with this project. I compared it to my Wonder Woman overbust corset and marked where I needed to cut. From there, I seam ripped the binding, removed the boning, and cut the corset down to the right shape. Once that was done, I cut the boning down to the new length, re-tipped it, and put the boning back into the appropriate channels. I used the excess fabric to make the straps and I used faux leather scraps from Lulu to make the bias binding, which is also what I used for the diagonal stripes. A lot of reviewers on Amazon complained about the sturdiness of the zipper, so I tore that out and replaced it with a heavy-duty zipper as well. I also swapped out the lacing for black parachute cord. Finally, I stitched some 1″ black webbing I had on hand to the center front of the corset and to the straps.

The only other part of this costume I had to sew was the shirt. I didn’t think to purchase a shirt before my cruise, so I picked up 2 long-sleeve crew neck shirts at Wal-Mart for $5 a piece. I marked where I wanted the neckline to go, cut it off, and made a neck band out of my 2nd shirt. I also cut off the sleeves to 3/4 length and made bands from my second shirt to finish it off.

tumblr_ofrusylepd1sxq29yo1_500

I styled my wig much in the same manner as my Captain Marvel wig: tease, hair spray, blow dry, and repeat for crazy volume. Though the braids are film-accurate, I think I’ll remove them for future wears as the side burns of the wig don’t come down quite far enough on me.

14731345_10208746945605877_2717021903127198274_n

Thoughts on this costume: This might be one of my comfiest costumes to date! Even though a lot of people had trouble recognizing my costume, lots of people thought it was cool and I had a ton of fun derping around with Callula and trolling Deadpools. Next time, I’ll pay a bit better attention to my shapewear (my silhouette wasn’t quite what I was going for), shorten the straps a touch, and tweak the wig a bit. Otherwise I had a lot of fun with this build!

What’s your favorite comfy costume? 

Sewaholic Davie

~Quick announcement!~: Cosplay geeks, Humble Bumble has an exciting book offer for us this month! Get up to $142 worth of craft-friendly digital books for as low as $15. There are tons of great topics in here, including foam smith books from Volpin Props and Punished Props along with Kamui’s prop making books. I’m especially excited to check out the wearable electronics and 3d priting books! And as an awesome added bonus: proceeds go to the charity of your choice! Check it out here (no, I’m not getting sponsored. I’m just an education junkie, lol).

Happy Friday! If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I was in the Caribbean on a cruise last week. My beau/now fiance(!) and I have been planning this trip since early in the year, and it was a much needed break after the insanity of the early fall semester.

I had grand plans to take the month after A-Fest off and make a bunch of new non-cosplay garments for the cruise, but alas, I didn’t quite live up to my grand expectations. Still, I managed to pack several me-made garments on the trip, including one of my backlog patterns: the Sewaholic Davie!

868122796430340387-account_id1

I’ve been eyeballing this pattern since it came out back in March. Everything about this pattern appeals to me: the knit design, the A-line skirt, the princess seams, and the minimal number of seams. Nothing about this pattern is complicated, but it’s super cute and very flattering! I’m pretty sure that it took me longer to print and assemble this pattern than it did to complete the FBA and sew the whole thing.

Aside from the FBA, the only change I made to this pattern was making the front portion of the sleeve black. I thought the color blocking went up to the shoulder, but it doesn’t. Herp derp. I thought the grey blocking this way would look more flattering on me, even though I tend to wear most of my dresses with cardigans.

5611645144464738987-account_id1

Since this is essentially a wearable muslin, I opted to skip the topstitching and keyhole. I’m not really a fan of the keyhole on this design, but it’s easy enough to eliminate by just stitching straight up the seam. Alternatively, you could cut the center piece on the fold.

The Basics: 

Pattern: Sewaholic Davie

Fabric: Mystery reversible scuba knit. I honestly can’t remember where I got this from.

Alterations:

  • Added 1.75″ FBA
  • Altered front to have black sleeve
  • Added 2″ length

Notions: Clear elastic, purchased bias tape

Make it again?: Absolutely! I’d love to make every variation of this dress for fun and work, and maybe even make some nerdy versions. A Rogue-themed yellow and green number would be perfect for casual con days!

5930711792902554818-account_id1

Favorite parts: A-line shape, speedy to make, and easy to wear!

Changes for next time: I definitely fudged a few details with this make since I kind of wanted a palate cleanser project after A-Fest. For next time, I’ll need to raise the arm hole about an inch, possibly more. I think the FBA lowered this more than I realized. I’d also like to tweak the arm hole finish for next time. I might finish it off with bias tape like the neckline and see how I like it. I wasn’t happy with just folding down the edge. It looks messy to me. I also need to make a swayback adjustment.

Other thoughts: All in all, this was a very fun (and fast) make! I’ve worn it a few times since finishing it up, and I’ve gotten several compliments on it. This one is definitely going into my tried and true collection, and I’m hoping to knock out a small collection of them in the near future! Who knows? Maybe this will be my new Cambie 😉

What’s your favorite tried and true pattern? 

Costume Notes: Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Today I’m featuring another recent(ish) commission I completed. This one was for Callula Cosplay!

The Basics: 

Pattern: Kwik Sew 3052

14054935_1168884523184782_2984578143861905817_n
Photo by 10th Muse / Gear Owl Photography

Fabric: Stretch pleather from Yaya Han’s new Cosplay Fabrics line (available at Jo-Ann’s), yellow moleskin from Spandex World, and stretch netting from Golden D’Or.

Notions: Invisible zipper, stretch elastic cording, fabric stabilizer

Make it again?: Already have! I made a second one for 10th Muse of Cosmic Coterie a little while back!

14068186_1174899475916620_6932673061033127480_n
Photo by Ash Snap ‘Em Photography

How I Made it: As with most of my spandex bodysuits, this one involved a mock-up out scrap fabric and using a Sharpie to draw in the seam lines. Once the seam lines were drawn in, we cut the pieces apart and used the mock-up as a new pattern.

Callula’s learning how to work with spandex, so we’ve been working off of a version of this pattern that’s altered to her measurements. Each time we make something we tweak the fit a little more. Eventually it’ll be perfect!

14068051_1168884519851449_2864084275978705302_n
Photo by 10th Muse / Gear Owl Photography

 

For the most part, this suit came together quite well. I did encounter some trickiness with the netting wanting to shift as I was stitching. In hindsight, I should have done more underlining with the yellow fabrics. I did that for 10th Muse’s Negasonic and it was much easier to handle.

There’s also a lot of inset corners with this suit, especially around the shoulders. Atelier Heidi’s tutorial is a great overview on how to get these points perfect. I also used topstitching to secure the edges.

13924841_1168708036535764_9092420733280689829_n
Photo by Cosplay Illustrated

For the piping, I cut 1″ wide strips of the yellow moleskin and filled them with elastic cording. I used my zipper foot to install them on one side of the fabric before stitching pieces together. Twinklebat has a great mini-tutorial on this process!

By far the trickiest part of this costume is the front belt-looking piece. I’ve seen cosplayers handle it a couple of different ways, but I opted to embed it into the fabric. This required quite a bit of finangling, as there’s lots of inset corners to work around, and it’s a highly visible part of the costume. For Callula’s, I had to go back and hand stitch most of this section down since I flubbed a few places.

Callula made the awesome patches for this costume!

14064207_1168884526518115_5029860809821906389_n
Photo by 10th Muse

Thoughts: All in all, this was a fun build that came together pretty quick. I can’t wait to knock out Angel Dust so we can beat each other up for photos and troll all the Deadpools!