Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

This was first published on the Curvy Sewing Collective.

When I first started sewing, my main objective was costumes, costumes, costumes! I bought my first sewing machine because I was participating in a burlesque show and wasn’t able to find a costume in my size. I ran out and bought a little pink sewing machine for $100 and fabric and got started. The first thing I made was a costume that I called Little Red Riding Wolf. The idea was that at first glance, I’d be Little Red Riding Hood, but I’d take off costume pieces to reveal she was the wolf all along. It was made completely without a pattern. I had no experience with patterns so I just winged the whole thing.

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This was almost 10 years ago!

I started working with patterns around Christmas of that same year. I was annoyed to find out that most patterns didn’t go up to my size and costume patterns really didn’t go up to my size. I felt like I was back to square one with my dilemma. That Christmas/January, I made my second costume piece by just using a woven wrap dress pattern. I choreographed an Alice in Wonderland routine. I made a blue wrap dress using an out-of-print Butterick pattern and then found an apron to wear with it.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

Over the years after that, I mainly made costumes from RTW clothes. I’d use them as a pattern and then hack them into new things.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

This Harley Quinn costume was made using three RTW pieces: a t-shirt, a hoodie, and leggings. I hacked the front and back of the shirt into 4 pieces (2 for the front and 2 for the back) and I added the diamond to one side of the top. You can’t see the top in the pictures I have, unfortunately. The hoodie had the back hacked into 2 pieces. The arms were spit into two pieces as well in order to incorporate cuffs at the end that went on my thumbs. The leggings were split into 4 pieces. All pieces were made using cotton lycra in red and black.

I moved from burlesque to improv comedy and made costumes for our Star Trek improv show Holodeck Follies.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

Both of these were made with a polyester ponte. I hacked my husband’s trek shirt using a long sleeve top. I split both so there was a panel going down the centre with an asymmetrical V at the bottom. My husband’s top got a v on the shoulders.

For each of these RTW hacks, I made a pattern first using the clothing and then did the hacking using the flat pattern.

After a few years of doing this, I found it was easier to start with a pattern and just hack that up rather than starting with a RTW garment, making a pattern, and then hacking the pattern. Using an existing pattern also meant that I had more accurate drafting that wasn’t muddied by worn out RTW clothing. In both of the above ponte costumes, I hadn’t accounted for the lack of stretch in the material and needed to add panels on the side.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

For the three additional Trek-inspired costumes, I used two different patterns. For the male tops, I used the Tahoe Tee pattern from Peekaboo Patterns and for the female version I used a Burda knit top pattern. For the Wesley Crusher inspired shirt on the left, all I added was horizontal stripes across the chest. That character in our show was called Weasley Pincher so we didn’t want the top to be an exact copy. 😉 It is an improvised parody show after all!

For the other two shirts, I cut off a yoke for the black and then cut the asymmetrical V-shaped panel for the bottom. You can read more about this and see more pictures in this entry.

Some things to remember when pattern hacking is to add seam allowance back into the flat pattern. You can do most hacking to cut panels and colour blocking details, but make sure you add seam allowance or the pattern will be too small.

After these costumes, I got into more complicated hacking using a single woven pattern of a costume jacket for my husband. M7216 is where I started. I did tissue fittings on this to ensure that the pattern fit at various stages of hacking it. That is the bonus of working on a costume for someone else. A dress form is also good for pattern hacking and saving time by doing a tissue fit instead of a muslin. I do not have a dress form, sadly. We wanted a duplicate of Captain Picard’s dress uniform from Star Trek: Insurrection.

In order to get this look using McCall’s 7216, I had to add panels to the front and make sure there was seam allowance to add in the zipper. For the stitching on the V panels on the shoulders and the shoulder yokes, I just did machine stitching and added gold lame bias tape. If I were to make it again, I would have lined the entire jacket and added quilt batting to that area before stitching. It would have also meant that I didn’t need to use shoulder pads to get the structure. It would have made my husband a bit hot, though. I’d use it for my version of the jacket, though, since I am always cold. 😉 The only other pattern hack I did was to add cuffs to the sleeves and a collar stand to the jacket.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

You can read more about this project on in this entry.

The final two projects to share are, yes, more Star Trek, two more jackets. One for me and one for my husband. My jacket mimics the dress uniforms of Star Trek TNG and my husband’s jacket is a nod to Admiral Kirk’s uniform. For my jacket, I used McCall’s 6887 and I used the same jacket pattern, M7216, for my husband’s jacket.

Pattern Hacking for Cosplay

Pattern hacking for my jacket involved adding a V panel to the shoulders and the sleeve pieces and adding a yoke to the bodice on the front and back. I doubled up the centre panels in order to have the jacket overlap at the centre. The jacket closes using snaps, which don’t sit perfectly, unfortunately. They are just sew-on snaps and I keep meaning to replace it with velcro for a flatter look. For my husband’s jacket, there was more complicated pattern hacking required. I needed to make two panels for overlap for the front. This involved extending the front pattern piece. I also made panels for the inside of the jacket as well and added facing for the neckline. The turtleneck is just a dickie and I added sleeve tabs and made pins and a belt buckle with polymer clay. You can read more about these two costumes in this blog post.

I have plans for several more costumes for the future. Some are surprisingly not Star Trek. 😉

The key with pattern hacking for cosplay is to look through your patterns and envision what needs to be done for each to make it into a costume.

  1. Start with basic patterns or a sloper.
  2. Make your fit adjustments first before hacking the pattern.
  3. Trace your pattern! You’re going to want to use it to hack other costumes.
  4. Hack the pattern and don’t forget to add seam allowances to any new panels.
  5. Make a muslin or tissue fit to make sure the hack worked like you wanted.
  6. Make your costume.
  7. Add embellishments, tabs, bias tape, quilting and other details to make your costume even better.

You can often do a lot with just making new panels and adding embellishments to a regular pattern. There are also a lot of characters that you can cosplay by using a simple dress or skirt or top/pants combo in a specific colour or with a patch on it or some applique.

Want to be Mabel Pines from Gravity Falls? Take a sweater pattern, add a turtle neck, add some rainbow patches or applique to the chest, make a skirt, put on a matching headband, white socks, black shoes, grab a stuffed pig and you can even buy fake braces for your teeth! Go solve those mysteries.

Want to be a dalek? Take the Upton dress, lengthen the panels, cut some plastic ping pongs in half, spray paint them and stick them on the skirt panels, use bias tape to get the lines on the bodice, wear a miner’s hat with a light, carry a plunger and you’re exterminating the whole Comic Con.

Want to be Sailor Moon? Take a circle skirt and make pleats in it. Take a t-shirt pattern and add some stuffed rolls for the V on the hem of the top and the sleeves. Add bows, white gloves, a tiara, a wig, and some jewelry. Grab your moon stick and, in the name of the moon, punish!

With basic patterns, there are almost limitless possibilities for cosplay. Don’t feel confined to just using costume patterns and getting frustrated by the lack of selection. Use any pattern, hack it, and make it your own.

Want more suggestions? Let me know what costumes have you always wanted to make and I will give you tips on how to do it. Leave a comment and I will get back to you or feel free to fill out my contact form on my blog and I will email you. 🙂

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C4 Winnipeg, Shatner, and Star Trek Costumes

This past weekend, my improv troupe, the Dandies, headed to C4: Central Canadian Comic Con in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to open for William Shatner with Star Trek improv. In true Andie fashion, I had to make some new Star Trek costumes for the event.

My inspiration for my costume was the dress uniforms from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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I have been feeling a bit body conscious lately and felt that the shape of my current uniform and these would not make me feel quite comfortable. So I adapted the look into a fit and flare dress with a wrap front and the gold trim. I chose M6887 as my base pattern and planned out my costume with that in mind.

Plans with the #curvysketchbook #sewing #sewcialists #startrek #cosplay #costumeideas

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I made flat pattern alterations and just cut right into my fabric since I knew the pattern already fit me well. The first step was to raise the neckline. I did this using M6696 and used the collar piece from that pattern for the costume. After raising the neckline, I took the center front and back and slashed for a yoke piece. I used the sleeve piece from my test version of the Auberley dress pattern since I knew that is was close to fitting. I made a 2 inch large bicep adjustment and narrowed the sleeve toward the cuff so it wasn’t a bell sleeve. I may have narrowed a bit too much since I like rolling up my sleeves and am unable to for this dress. For the back shoulder piece, I traced and cut a triangle from the sleeve head that matched with the yoke, added a seam allowance, and then topstitched the pieces on before putting in the sleeves. They *almost* match up. One side is off on each, but that can be solved by trimming off a bit of excess seam allowance before sewing the detail on. The dress has a wrap front and sew-on snaps are put in along the princess seams. I will be replacing them, however, with velcro tape since the snaps don’t really provide a very clean look. Because of the curved princess seam, they do show off some bumps and pulls that I don’t love and are a direct result of the snaps not being quite in the right place/matching up correctly. Velcro will make that a bit cleaner and take out all the guesswork. I will replace the snaps with velcro now. However, it being last minute and needing to pack meant that I just wore it as is all weekend.

My dress is made with blue polyester fabric (I got a huge bolt of this so expect to see many more things made with it), black cotton rayon, and gold lame bias tape.

For my husband’s jacket, my inspiration was Kirk’s admiral uniform from a few different movies.

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I really wanted him to wear a jacket that was an homage to Kirk since we were meeting Shatner himself.

More plans. Not for me this time though. #sewing #sewcialists #startrek #cosplay #costume

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I didn’t make many changes from the inspiration for this except in very tiny details such as adding the black bias tape to trim the inside white panels or adding a thin gold strip on the sleeve above the cuff or on the cuff itself. It was a result of not enough time and realizing that it wasn’t really worth the trouble.

I used the same pattern as his Picard jacket, M7216, as the base for this costume. I lengthened the jacket by 7 inches and turned the fronts into a wrap style. I raised the neckline using the M6696 pattern, but for this one I finished the neckline with red bias tape using the twill from the body. Other than that, I only added a cuff, a white rectangle at the shoulder, a belt, and belt carrier at the back of the uniform. The white turtleneck underneath is a dickie using white rib material. I also made the belt buckle and cuff pips using polymer clay. The fronts are closed with snaps and the belt is closed with velcro.

This costume is made with red and white twill, black cotton rayon for bias tape and the belt, gold lame bias tape, and white ribbing.

In the pictures below, I made all the Star Trek uniforms that our troupe is wearing because I am freaking amazing.

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

 

Star Trek Costumes

Star Trek Costumes

We had a great time. Other than opening for Shatner, we got our first paid gig at a private birthday party and we had a show in a local board gaming cafe called After Dark. It was a great time for bonding with the troupe as well. Now for a world tour. Errr, after our monthly home show tonight. 😉

Other than that, C4 was a lot of fun. I got my picture taken with Mark Pellegrino who plays Lucifer on Supernatural.

And I got my picture taken with the first blade and an impala to round out my Supernatural love:

I got my picture taken next to the impala #supernatural #c4winnipeg #baby

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I saw some great cosplay.

Shatner is sad it’s over:

That being said, con exhaustion is a real thing. I didn’t get con flu, though, but I’m ready to sleep for the next week! Ha!

If you want to check out more from that weekend, check out the troupe facebook page here. Here is the wicked video of us singing Shatner on stage:

Laugh long and prosper!

Star Trek Insurrection Captain’s dress uniform

Last night I finished the most involved project I’ve ever made in a short space of time.

About a year ago, my husband and I were watching Star Trek: Insurrection. Occasionally, my husband points out costumes or items of clothing that he wants me to make him. This time, he happened to point out one that I was in love with:

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The dress uniform has quilted panels across the shoulders and in the zippered front panel, extended front tails, a cropped back, gold lame bias tape accents, red and gold piping details, red bias tape in the collar stand, and red bias tape on the deep cuffs. To my husband’s disappointment, I did not make the funky braided ceremonial hat for his head.

I definitely procrastinated on this for a while. I was a bit fearful of fitting another person in such a tailored looking jacket. I assembled the materials for it after we watched the movie, but they sat around until last week.

I was able to find gold lame bias tape from fabric.com. It has a fusible back. While it was thin (1/4 inch), I used two lines of it in most places. I got red bias tape from fabric.com as well, but it is the low quality poly/cotton stuff. I should have bought the good stuff locally, but it is just a costume piece. I also got white poly cotton twill from fabric.com, but the grey stuff to eventually make a lower rank dress uniform for myself with the grey zippered panel. I did not find a good choice for the red and gold piping. Most stuff I found was thicker, upholstery grade and would have been difficult to sew in because of the many many layers of fabric. I decided to leave it off.

I started with M7216 for my pattern. PSA to all, it’s so easy to fit someone else, especially a guy! I started with a tissue fit to see if the pattern out of the envelope would fit him. There were some adjustments to make: full belly adjustment and a narrow shoulder adjustment, but overall it fit him really well. After those adjustments, I modified the pattern to have a front panel, as well as a bit of a curved side panel to make the fit over the stomach a lot cleaner looking. I raised the neckline and then used the collar stand piece from my M6696, because it was the closest pattern with a stand. Collar stands are pretty universal. I also added shoulder pads to give more structure to the shoulders.

Instead of adding panels for the quilting to the shoulders, I just sewed detail lines there and in the front zipper panel, too.

That lovely shoulder V in gold lame! 😍😍😍 #sewing #sewcialists #costuming #cosplay

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The sewing process was quite involved with all the lines and bias tape that needed to be matched as well as the cuff and collar.

The construction on the collar was a bit rushed as it was a half hour before we left for Fan Expo to perform, but I am not going to beat myself up on it.

DONE!! Just in time to leave for #fanexpo2016 #sewing #sewcialists #costuming #cosplay

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I love the cuffs.

My husband looks absolutely fantastic in it and it showed in his improv last night, because he kicked ass.

We performed last night at Fan Expo with PJ Phil from YTV’s the Zone. He was PJ in the 90s and I came rushing home from high school to watch Sailor Moon during the Zone every day. PJ Phil is a Canadian celebrity, especially for us 90s kids.

It was a lot of fun and Phil was a great Admiral Sulu!

I made the other uniforms excluding the other female performers’ uniforms which they purchased on their own. You can read about the guys uniforms here.

The jacket is my crowning achievement, though, and has given me so much confidence with sewing going forward.

Star Trek Insurrection Captain's dress uniform

Star Trek Insurrection Captain's dress uniform

The back fits incredibly well, but you will have to take my word for it since I didn’t take a picture of it.

Next up is to adapt this pattern into a Captain Kirk uniform from the early Star Trek movies for our performance at C4 in Winnipeg in October opening the Con and for William Shatner:

Kirk-Uniform-022614

My husband is eventually going to have an entire Star Trek cosplay closet along with his TNG uniform. It’s going to be great. I need to get business cards with my blog so when people ask him who made his spiffy costumes, he can pimp my blog. 😉

If you are in Toronto, come see the Dandies perform Star Trek improv at Fan Expo again at 5:30pm tonight in 701B. If you can’t make it to that, we also have our regular show Holodeck Follies on Wednesday night at Social Capital Theatre.

In terms of the pattern and giving it proper review, I feel I can’t really rate it fairly since I changed it so much. I do think, though, that the mark of a good pattern is being able to adapt and change it without the fit falling apart.

Live long and prosper or, as we say in the comedy business, Laugh Long and Prosper!

 

Star Trek Uniforms: Tahoe Tee pattern

This past week was a wild ride. Other than our regular monthly show, Holodeck Follies, on Wednesday, we also performed at FanExpo on Thursday night, the opening night of the convention.

My husband wrote a wonderful entry that recaps the whole affair. So this entry is about sewing, since that is the theme of my blog.

I sewed up four uniform shirts in four days using the Tahoe Tee pattern from Peekaboo.

Because of the time constraints, I didn’t have time to take detail shots. I have quite a few other shirts to make for the rest of the crew. I pushed through to get the shirts done for our FanExpo performers.

Dale and I already had uniforms. Although, I will also be making new ones for us to match the rest of the crew. I have about 7 more shirts to make before the October 7th show! I will be so tired of making Star Trek tops by then.

With some cast members, I was able to take measurements in person. With a couple, I was only able to go by their shirt size or get measurements from their wife. It turned out pretty well, though. The fit is reasonable on all the shirts. They are meant to be a looser fit than the original uniforms to give the cast some breathing room for human pyramids.

Each t-shirt got individual treatment. I traced out every size. I hate tracing patterns. This was seriously a labour of love. Some of the cast members are the same size so I will be able to re-use those patterns.

For Tracy, our blue shirted Bajoran lady on the left of the photo below, I did a small FBA to allow for a bit more room in the bust without making the shoulders ridiculous. I will have to shorten her sleeves before the next show, but overall the length and fit work for her. Tracy was fine with me using a men’s shirt pattern.

The fit was less complicated for the guys. For all shirts, except Chris’s, who is behind me in the below photo, I simply slashed the pattern to get the colourblocking and added in seam allowances in various areas. I sewed them all on my serger, except for the hems and sewing the topstitching on the neckband, and did a simple neckband in black. On Dale’s uniform and my dress, I did a Mandarin collar, but found that process to be difficult with a knit fabric. Because our show is a parody, it’s doesn’t require 100% accuracy. Leaving off that infernal collar saved my sanity…what’s left of my sanity.

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Photo credit for group shot: Quentin Twaites

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Chris (pictured above with my ire directed toward him) plays Weasley Pincher, our resident Wesley Crusher parody. I got to say, “Shut up, Weasley!” at one point during the show! I’ve been waiting for that opportunity for a while.

I made a basic grey t and added in the stripes in the three colours just below the armscye. Just don’t look closely at the stripe matching. It was the last one I made and I was exhausted. Bloody exhausted. Stripe matching that basically blew my mind. I couldn’t even…

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The Tahoe Tee is a pdf pattern and goes together really well. It even conserves paper by having smaller pattern pieces on a corner of the other pattern pieces. I liked that part. The only issue I have with the pattern is that there is a cutting guide rather than a pattern piece for the neckbands. I totally get this is personal preference, but I really hate cutting a square of fabric. I’d much rather use a pattern piece. I’m a princess. What can I say?

There are fit issues here and there. Without getting a ton of time to test the garments out or get accurate measurements for each cast member, I think they turned out really well!

Nothing else to say about the pattern. It’s a great base for a Star Trek uniform shirt!

Here are some choice actions shots. All taken by AltoVenue, like the picture above.

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TL:DR Review

  • Pattern: Tahoe Tee
  • Pros: Super fast, basic t-shirt for men.
  • Cons: Runs large. Check the pattern pieces for finished measurements. I found they were off from what was printed.
  • Make again?: I HAVE TO! Lol. But honestly, if Dale wants a t-shirt, I’d make him one using this pattern in a heartbeat. It’s a nice basic t and comes with long, short, and no sleeves! Totally worth the 9 bucks.
  • Rating: pink-star-black-md pink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-mdpink-star-black-md5/5 stars

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