Sew, Wear Are They Now: Costumes

So, I know costumes probably aren’t really that important in a look back at the “wearability” issue, but I thought it would be a sort of fun way to wrap up the Sew, Wear Are They Now series. While I don’t think there is as much information to be gained about my “style preferences” from this post and review, I have been feeling a renewed interest in costuming during the pandemic times. It’s sort of an interesting counterpoint to the idea of creating a very functional and wearable costume as well, because a costume by its nature is not really meant to be worn in an everyday way. I’ll have more thoughts on this in the conclusion, but for now, let’s jump in and look at the costumes!

2009

When I first started sewing, I only wanted to sew costumes. It didn’t make sense to me to sew normal clothes when I could buy them much cheaper and easier in a store than make them myself. And I also wanted to focus on making skating costumes as a cost-saving measure as a poor grad student who was trying to stay involved in skating, but didn’t have a lot of money to commission costumes. So, these costumes are actually what started me on my sewing journey!

  • Butterick 6698 was a cosplay I made for an anime I was watching at the time, and it’s first thing I ever sewed! While I would like to acknowledge that cultural dress should not be regarded generally as a “costume” (I am not here referring to the academic use of the word “costume” which is often employed to describe common dress of a historical era), I was trying to portray a specific animated character and I was trying to do so in a respectful way. Of course, in hindsight, there are many issues with this garment and many things I didn’t know how to do at the time, but, for a first sewing attempt on a human garment ever, I’m still pretty proud of this. I wore it to one costumed event, but not much after that. I still have it, but I’d sort of like to refashion the fabric into something new and possibly more useable, since I don’t plan on ever wearing this again. If I were to cosplay this character in the future (I probably wouldn’t because I just have so many other things I’d rather work on) I would make a more updated and more character-specific costume to make it more clear what I was trying to achieve.
  • Kwik Sew 2601 was the first skating pattern I used, and it was the basis for nearly all of the skating costumes I ever made for myself over the years. My first two costumes really weren’t that great; the elastic was sort of wonky and the fit wasn’t perfect, but over the years I improved my technique quite a bit. I did make my first competition dress in 2009 as well, and I was super proud of how it turned out. It’s still a sentimental favorite of mine, and I actually wore it a fair amount over the next few years.

In general 2009 was the year I really learned the basics of sewing. While my first projects weren’t that fantastic, I still made one skating costume I loved and I learned a lot of skills.

2010

In 2010 I was still primarily focusing on sewing costume pieces, though by the end of 2010 I had made my first real non-costume garment.

  • Kwik Sew 2601 was my go-to skating costume pattern for nearly a decade, so I made a lot of costumes with this pattern as the base. My 2010 costumes took a lot of work, but I actually pulled them out quite a bit over the following years; they were both favorites for quite some time after I made them.
  • Simplicity 4940 was a costume pattern I used to sew fantasy style dresses. Honestly, these were both such a mess. I had so few actual sewing skills that everything about them was wonky. I did start to learn about frankenpatterning and pattern alterations, but overall these were so poorly sewn I never really wore them much. I had no idea about finishing seams, so the bodices started fraying after minimal use. At the time they felt like expensive mistakes, but now I can look back and consider them an important step in the learning process.
  • The Aes Sedai shawl was a self-drafted pattern to make a costume piece from one of my favorite book series. I can’t promise I won’t be making more of these once the Amazon Prime series airs. Honestly, I can’t even promise that this won’t become a full on costuming blog at that point really, so I think we can expect more of things like this to come. I still have this, and, while I haven’t pulled it out in quite some time, I did just used to wear this around my apartment for no reason other than that I wanted to.
  • Simplicity 9887 was an attempt at making a cape to go from the same book series as the fringed shawl. The actual sewing wasn’t too bad, but the cape itself was sort of garbage. I made it out of lycra because it was cheap, and I glued on the ribbon trim because I couldn’t stitch the ribbons without causing runs and puckers. I may actually re-make this (again, once the show airs) but I’d use much better materials (bias strips for the trim, and a wool or other natural fiber for the cape itself) the next time around. I never really wore this because I never got around to making the dress it was supposed to go with.
  • Simplicity 5840 was a cloak I made that was again inspired by my favorite book series. The sewing of the trim onto velvet was a somewhat unsuccessful challenge, but overall this was a decent project. I still have this, and while I haven’t had much occasion to wear it, I feel like it’s too pretty to get rid of. Plus, it’s a loose fitting cloak, so it totally still fits.

Overall the quality of my costume sewing in 2010 was extremely poor, but also much more focused on costume sewing that occurs in later years. I had some major life changes in mid-2010, and I think it also really impacted my outlook on sewing. By the end of 2010 I had sort of lost interest in making “fun” things because I didn’t feel like there was much purpose to it. Additionally, in a more positive vein, I found a lot of garment sewing blogs on the internet (I’m thinking specifically of Diary of Sewing Fanatic, Miss Celie’s Pants, and The Selfish Seamstress), which also inspired me to go in a different sewing direction and focus more on garment sewing. It’s a major reason why in the following years there are far fewer costumes when compared to the very early sewing efforts.

2011

In 2011 I was mostly focused on sewing skating costumes for myself. I had 3 new competitive costumes, and I really loved all of them.

  • Kwik Sew 2601 continued to be a popular go-to pattern for me. By 2011 I had gotten very comfortable with freehand cutting changes to the pattern and I had found a lot of creative freedom in creating new styles.

My 2011 costumes also saw a lot of use over the years, although these dresses were the ones that would often go between fitting and being too small in later years depending on how my size changed. I still think these were great costumes for me, and I really loved wearing them at the time.

2012

2012 was the year I made the most skating costumes for myself and also started learning how to sew costumes for other people.

The funny thing is, I didn’t realize how many skating outfits I made for myself in 2012, but because I started to sew more for other people after this point, I honestly didn’t have much chance to update my practice costumes after 2012. I ended up wearing a lot of these over the next 5 years as I continued to skate.

2013

2013 also only has a few skating costumes, because this was when I started sewing so much for others.

  • My teal sequin dance dress was a fun way to play with sequin fabric, but sort of a pain to wear. The sequins weren’t that comfortable, and this was never my favorite dress. It was pretty, just not a favorite.
  • My mint lace figure dress was also something of a fail that I turned into a mild success. The sleeves never quite worked out, so I took them off. It made the dress comfortable and nice to wear for more casual events, and I did end up wearing it more than I would have expected over the next several years.
  • The Galloping Peacock dress is probably my favorite skating costume I ever made. It was so over the top, but that’s why I loved it so much. The appliqué and beadwork took forever, and it was a mad rush to get it finished, but I always loved this dress and it’s probably one of my proudest makes.

I made a lot of other skating costumes this year, but most of them were not for me, so I don’t have a lot of documentation. I will say I learned a lot about sewing for others this year, and I got much faster at producing garments because I had to sew so many.

2014

  • The red practice dress was a quick skating costume I threw together for myself because I needed more practice costumes. This was never one of my better dresses, but I still wore it because at this point a lot of my earlier costumes had been worn to death.
  • The black and silver dress was a dress I made somewhat on a whim, and ended up being one of my favorite competition dresses. It was a really classy design and incredibly comfortable.
  • Project Dirndl was a commissioned project I made for some clients who were going to Oktoberfest in Germany. While again this brings us back to the point that cultural dress isn’t a costume, one of my clients had worn dirndls in her youth (either she or her mother had been German; I can’t quite recall at this point), and I was following a Burda pattern, which is produced in Germany, so I attempted to go as much as possible with a spirit of authenticity and respect for original German styles and designs. And I do have to say that this was a super fun project to work on. The dirndls turned out super cute and both of the clients were very happy with the results. I learned a lot about dirndl construction and some of the interesting features that are unique to this sort of garment.

Overall 2014 was a pretty decent year in terms of costumes, though I will say that this is when sewing for others started taking over my life and I was sort of starting to get over it. As much as I enjoyed sewing skating costumes, I was starting to miss sewing other things, and I was really starting to miss sewing for myself. I definitely think that burnout started to creep in in 2014, and that and a back injury are a both a big part of the reason I didn’t sew any documented costumes in 2015.

2016

Clearly the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a big influence on my 2016 sewing.

  • The 30 Minute Rey cosplay was really not that much of a sewing project. I took pieces I already had and stitched a long rectangle to wear over the top to create a Rey inspired costume. It is of course nowhere near screen accurate, but it was fun to throw on for a convention.
  • Arguably Burda 6667 should have been included in the cardigan section of this series, but it was originally made to be used as a quasi-costume, so I’m including it here. I actually really love this pattern because it’s super comfortable, but I don’t wear it often because of the brown color. Though it was of course intentionally made with the brown color to be Jedi-ish in style. I should pull this out and see if I can still wear it; it would be super cozy as a house robe during quarantine lockdown.
  • The Frozen Jedi cosplay was so fun to make and wear! It was super great to do a mash up and have some originality in the design, but also super fun to cosplay with my sister. I’ve worn the cosplay a few times, and I think my sister and I had hoped to be able to wear it out again, but then, of course, pandemic. So I still have this costume, but I haven’t worn it in quite a while.

I feel like 2016 really pushed me back towards thinking about sewing as a fun activity, which I largely didn’t during much of 2015. While I haven’t made any elaborate cosplays since the Frozen Jedi, it definitely opened my mind to start thinking along that direction again.

2017-2018

2017 was the last time I made skating costumes for myself, and 2018 was the last time I attempted to make an intentional “cosplay.”

  • 2017 was the last year I competed in skating, and so the last time I have used my trusty skating pattern to make skating outfits for myself. The blue dance dress was really the only dress I constructed this year; the burgundy dress had actually been a UFO from 2014 that I finished beading and wore for my last few competitions. I really loved both of these designs though, and they will always be a bit sentimental as my final skating costumes.
  • BurdaStyle 09/2012 #123A and Vogue 9257 were both made to be normal wardrobe pieces in 2018, but also to double as prototypes for a cosplay I wanted to do from The Magicians. While I haven’t really used these pieces for either function (I didn’t really do many costumed events in 2019 and then 2020 was 2020) I do still want to make this as a more finalized cosplay. I think I need to made a new iteration of the pants (these didn’t have quite the effect I was going for), and I need to see if the top would still fit, but I do still want to make this costume a thing that happens! I actually have the materials to make all of the accessories, so maybe this could be a quick project to help get me back into the costuming vibe.

Overall 2017-2020 didn’t produce a lot of costumes, but I think that the ones I did make really utilized a lot of the skills I had acquired over the years both in terms of sewing for skating and sewing regular garments. I think that, probably more than any other category, comparing the results from the start of the sewing adventure to the end of the sewing adventure show how much I learned over the years in terms of construction, fit, style, and design.

Conclusions

Looking at all of the costumes I’ve sewn over the past decade has given me a few things to think about:

  • I used TNTs a lot more for costume patterns than I do for sewing regular garments. Many of my costume patterns have been used at least twice, and most of my skating patterns have been used dozens of times. In terms of maximizing pattern usage, costumes have a clear advantage over any regular garment sewing I’ve done.
  • After writing this post, I can think of at least 2 or 3 costumes I made which were apparently never documented. Which is somewhat ironic because one of them was a practice dress I wore literally all of the time, and the other was a costume that never looked that great on me, but was one that I lent out to other skaters quite often, so I’m not sure why I never got pictures of them.
  • With costumes I really enjoy the design and originality aspect that I largely ignore when sewing garment patterns. I really enjoy doing mashups, or creating original designs that require some level of creative design work before starting on construction.
  • I enjoy being able to play with really different fabrics for costumes. You need to use such different and unique fabrics to create an overall costume, and that’s not always the case with normal garments. It does really allow for an expansion of skills and learning new techniques, which is always fun.
  • As much as I’ve learned a lot of skills in my costume sewing, there are so many more I want to try! I’ve been wanting to make a corset since I started sewing and I still haven’t done it. But I still want to learn to do this, so maybe it’ll find it’s way back onto my radar and sewing goals sometime soon.
  • I find that my cosplay costume sewing has very much mirrored my emotional state. When I’ve been happy, I’ve made a lot more costumes, and when I’ve been less happy, I haven’t. I don’t know that anything needs to be done about this, but I do think it’s an interesting observation.

I do have to say that, in general, while I never really became the costumer/cosplayer I had imagined when I first started sewing, I also haven’t really ever stopped being interested in it. While the skating costumes were always somewhat functional, they did allow me a creative outlet when I was sewing them, and I do feel that it is something that is somewhat missing from my sewing now. Many of my other sewing ideas have been what I would call “cosplay-adjacent,” and I’ve constantly drawn inspiration from my nerdy passions when coming up with sewing or garment ideas, but I’ve largely relied on commercial patterns to guide the finalized produces. I didn’t do much sewing in 2019 or 2020 at all, but I’ve definitely felt the lack during the quarantine. I have also become quite enamored with the members of the CosTube community who post videos about costume sewing on YouTube during the quarantine, and this has very much sparked my interest in costume sewing again. While I definitely don’t have the same amount of time that I did back in 2009 and 2010 to pump out a ton of costume pieces, I do think that creating more quality costumes and learning new costuming techniques is definitely something I want to consider and maybe focus on a bit more moving forward.


7 thoughts on “Sew, Wear Are They Now: Costumes

  1. Loved seeing all the different roller skating outfits you made as well as the different print fabrics you used – looked really good with some of the prints. Made me miss skating and competing….thanks for sharing. Mary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved seeing the skating costumes in this. Either I missed a lot of them first time round or you didn’t blog them, so they were new to me.

    I still think your Magicians cosplay is a great look on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wow, loved seeing the costumes and CosPlay. The dress you made for the Sewing Bee with the sleeves is more in that vein too I think. Hopefully you will find some new things to sew that are fun as that’s clearly important to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What fun! I can see that you’ve used what you learned from costuming for making”everyday” clothing. How have competing (and practicing) affected your life and outlook? (I’m thinking of your competitive spirit and Pattern Review contests!)

    Like

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