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

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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.

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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

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Fun fact: the original had so much bulk that I had to use pliers to pull my needle through.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Photos by Ash Snap Em Photography

Who’s your favorite character from Madoka? 

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Costume Notes: Mami (Madoka Magica)

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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: 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?