Tips & Tricks The Basic Costuming Tips Thread

Discussion in 'Costuming and Props' started by JediToren, Nov 16, 2002.

Moderators: Briannakin
  1. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    I got this idea when I was coming home today, so I figured we should start a thread where we give our basic costuming tips.

    So here is what I offer:


    It's good to have a couple of different types of adhesives. Mostly these will be used for props but some can be used on costumes, too:

    1) Hi-temp hot glue/caulk gun and glue sticks: The lower temp stuff should be avoided, it isn't as strong and it will get soft easier. For less than $5.00 you can get a miniature hi-temp hot glue gun and 100 mini glue sticks from Wal-Mart. This stuff is pretty strong. Down side is that it's heavy.

    2) Superglue/Krazy Glue: A good, strong, clear instant drying glue is good to have. It's good for quick repairs at cons and before events when you don't have a day or more for the more heavy-duty epoxy's to set. Down side is that it smells for quite a while.

    3) 5-minute epoxy is good to have since it is strong and is hard in five minutes, plus it's clear and doesn't smell funny. The only downside is that to fully cure it takes a couple of hours and after a couple of years it can oxidize and turn yellow.

    4) JB Weld: This stuff is hella strong. People have repaired cracked engine blocks with this stuff. You can dremel it, machine it, cut it, etc. It will bond anything to anything else no matter what it is and it will not come up apart ever again. Downside is once it's glued you don't get a second chance, it's grey so u can't use it on visible parts and it takes quite a while to fully cure.

    That's all for now. Feel free to contribute.
  2. robo_obi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2002
    star 4
    i have a feeling that i will be constantly referring back to this thread

    good job toren

    we always needed something like this
  3. Darth_Eagle Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 2001
    star 4
    My bits ;)

    Things To Have While In Costumes (in a small pouch or bag or pocket)
    -Safety Pins
    -Double Sided Tape
    -Small Sewing Kit (Needle, little scissors, threads etc)
    -Stapler (make sure can punch through the cloth first!)

    These stuffs also seems useful for fixing those sudden holes (so far for me ;) )
  4. bebo_lokk Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 16, 2001
    star 2
    The most important thing to carry while in costume: Duct tape!

    *It's like the force. Has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together*
    Attariel likes this.
  5. Benae_Quee Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Nov 15, 2002
    star 4
    I found that for hemming, fusable web is a Jedi's best friend. It doesn't show the seam, I also use prior to sewing to see that what I'm sewing sits right, the I just sew right over it. I also do 2 stitches with seams that will be stretched a lot (arm holes, pants, and sleeves) this way the costume lasts longer (i've never had a costume fall apart on me yet. It takes a little longer but it's worth the time for me. Thrift store are also a GREAT way to find fabric and pieces for your costume, I found a pair of LEATHER black knee high boots, brand new, worn maybe once boots... $20! They go great with my costume and they were CHEAP! The quality of the boots is excellent (I guess it helps since the bottem says made in Italy-damn good boots). I also found 6 yards of the PERFECT material for a Jedi robe at a thrift store for $20 as well, I swear it's an exact match. Oh well thats all I have to share.
  6. DARTHLARS Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2002
    star 4
    If you are making props out of plastic, PVC is the plastic to use. I have made several props out of PP (polypropylene, polypropene) which is too hard to work with - it "frays" when sawed/rasped/sanded, but it can be cut and carved with a knife, although some brute force is required.

    I have also used latex to coat several props and a set of alien hands. It is best if the surface has small pores - not too large. It sticks best to cloth. You may need from one up to ten layers, depending on the base material. You can only use acrylic paint or raw pigments to color it, avoid oil-based solvents. If the label says the color contains latex, then it is probably safe. Latex is white when wet and transparent when dry, so you must choose/blend the color before you pour the paint into the latex. If you have too much paint or apply paint on top of latex, the surface gets harder. To coat a smooth surface, first apply some compatible paint and then the latex. I have made textured rubber grips on my lightsabers by dabbing on latex with a brush at a straight angle to the surface.
    Dust particles and bubbles are your enemies when working with latex, because such features tend to be amplified rather than smoothened.
    When used/worn, clean the surface with alcohol and dust on talcum powder to absorb any excess moisture. Talcum powder also keeps rubber surfaces from sticking to eachother.
  7. Jedi Girl of Corellia Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 23, 2000
    star 6
    When cutting out pieces I draw the pattern right onto the fabric. A white fabric pencil and a purple disapearing ink pen are my best friends. I also always do a muslin fabric mock up version of the costume. On the muslin I just draw everything with an orange crayola marker. That way I can see the seams and stuff. So far it has worked well.

    Oh and duct tape dress dummies are awsome. I suggest that you all have one when making costumes for yourself. :)
  8. Nostradamus Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2000
    star 4
    Wash and dry your fabrics before cutting the pieces.
  9. FERDALUMP Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 12, 2002
    star 3
    I say when tackling a new project always TEST TEST TEST Also, don't be afraid to tackle something you feel is out of your range of knowledge-If you fail you will have learned a lot--what worked and what didn't--and if you succeed you will be so pleased and will have learned a lot.
    Don't be afraid to ask questions--sketch out your ideas and get fabric samples and make a palette to work from.
    Taking the extra time to do french/serged seams, and to fray check edges will make all the difference in the long run. I strive to make the "wrong side" of all my costumes look just as good as the "right side"

    A wise lady once told me "There's a world of difference between Homemade and Handmade." I live by that quote! :)

    If you use high quality materials, and finish it well the garment will look great and last long.

    Ferd :)
  10. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
    A lesson learned the hard way over and over:

    If you make a mistake while sewing (or doing anything, really), it really is better to take it apart and re-do it right away than to keep going and assume you'll live with it. There have been soooooo many projects where I've foundnd myself saying "That would be perfect, except for that one little pucker I didn't fix..."

    It is so worth taking the extra time to do something right -- your costume will be that much better, and your sense of accomplishment will be greater as well.

  11. StormtrooperPrincess Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2002
    star 3
    Don't be afraid to try something you've never done before. Just ask questions when you get stuck on something, and someone's sure to have an answer.

    Read through the directions several times before starting, especially if there are lots of little steps to get right, like with the Imperial officer's uniform. And feel free to ask people questions even then. (Thanks, Nos!)

    I always mark my patterns onto the fabric, too.

    Measure twice (or even three times) before cutting.
  12. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    Building a Case for your costume

    [link=]Obi-Wan's Jedi Academy's Transporting Your Gear[/link] article is an excellent resource for this, but I would like to go into greater detail in certain areas.

    Whether you are going to a convention on the other side of the country, or just suiting up for your IMAX premiere, you will need to make some kind of case or transport to get your costume there safely and in one piece. You don't want to lose all that money and hard work invested in your costume just because you were too cheap to get a decent container for it. Most of the time you can put togethor an excellent case for $20-$30 at most.

    Remember, your case must do two things:

    1) It must be able to store all of your costume parts safely.
    2) It must be able to fit inside your vehicle. This may require using more than one case for a costume.

    There are a couple of different sources for cases:

    Rubbermaid containers: Wal-Mart and Target both carry a variety of rubbermaid containers that you could use. They are usually pretty cheap, too. Some of them have latches on the lids, some have wheels, some of handles, etc. The disadvantage is that Rubbermaid containers are thin and could be easily sliced open with a knife if someone wanted to take part of your costume.

    Truck Toolboxes: The other day I was visiting Wal-Mart and I wandered through the automotive section and say some nice long plastic cases. Not very expensive, not too large. They are designed to be used in the truck beds of pickups. They would make an excellent case. The advantage they have over Rubbermaid containers is that they are a thicker plastic and could not be easily sliced open with a knife. You could probably rig some kind of lock on them as well.

    Musical Instrument Cases: Try visiting stores that sell musical instruments or even case manufactuers. Mars music in Nashville is going out of business and is selling some very nice cases for a fraction of what they would normally cost. You might be able to find used cases at such places or even at thrift shop. A nice thing about music cases is that they have metal latches, are very strong, and you could put a lock on them. They are considerably more expensive than the alternatives, though.

    You may need to add one or more handles and/or wheels to help you transport it. It's a good idea to make these mofications first, since they may require you to use up some internal space creating them.

    You'll want to put your name and address on the box AND the lid so someone could return it to you if it is lost.

    You will also want to get some egg-crate foam mattress pads or any sort of foam padding (trying mattress stores or craft and fabric shops) to pad them. You want to divide the case interior into compartments so that each part is seperately padded.

    Here is a good method for building a case that I plan on using to create my Chewie costume case:

    Develope a small mini-case for each part (mask, gun, etc.) by getting a Rubbermaid box just large enough to fit it. Get some sheets of foam padding and cut each layer to fit the item. You can build it up in layers and cut each layer slightly differently so that the padding fits a special prop or mask just right.

    Find out the volume and measurements of each box and then find a large case (or several of them) to put these mini-cases inside. Get some plywood, particle board, plastic, or something else to divide the interior of the case into sections for each of these mini-cases. Line the inside of each compartment with foam padding and slide the mini-cases into them.
  13. Jayne Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2002
    star 2
    Take chances and chuck the rules. If you wait to start your costume until after you have learned more/got better/had experience, you will never start. Just go for it! Also, remember that in sewing and costuming, rules are made to be broken. The pattern pieces do not need to be cut up and sewn together in exactly the order the pattern says. You don't even need to use all the pieces from one pattern. You don't even need a pattern if you don't want one.

    Finish everything. I add an extra step in between cutting and sewing. I zig zag or narrowly hem all the edges on every piece I have just cut out. It takes some time, but it is very useful in the long run, saving time in finishing seams later, and will help keep your washing machine and/or drain clog free if you decide to dye your fabric after cutting (Which I usually do). You can buy that cheapo quarter a spool thread at wal-mart for this, it works fine, and you will need a lot of it.

    Oh, yes, and finally, learn to take a compliment graciously. This one took me a long time to learn. Every time someone would compliment one of my outfits, I would say: "Oh, yes, but it would be so much better if I had fixed this, or that" while pointing out all the flaws in the outfit. Didn't benefit anyone. Learn to just say thanks, and mean it.
  14. Kazkid8 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2002
    star 3
    JAYNE SAID:"Take chances and chuck the rules. If you wait to start your costume until after you have learned more/got better/had experience, you will never start. Just go for it! Also, remember that in sewing and costuming, rules are made to be broken. The pattern pieces do not need to be cut up and sewn together in exactly the order the pattern says. You don't even need to use all the pieces from one pattern. You don't even need a pattern if you don't want one. "


    Okay... I did that exact thing not that long ago. I made a jedi costume . I had NO patturns. And I followed no rules that I know of. I put this jedi costume together in about..... A week!

    It is very good for a 13 year old... In my oppinion...

    Yes.. I still need some things: jedi belt pouches comlink and canisters but then I am finished!!!

    ( I just need to find a good place that is CHEAP and can get a belt eather like one or IS one...)
  15. Lelila Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jan 16, 1999
    star 4
    This from someone who doesn't sew: If you have a choice between buying it and doing it yourself then by all means do it yourself! It'll be a great learning experience and a lot of fun! And it will make wearing it that much more meaningful :)
  16. studiocreations Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jul 18, 2000
    star 3
    Buy a sewing book if you are going to sew anything from a pattern.

    Do you know what "Miter" , "Nap" and "Easing Into" means? No!!! Neither do the pattern instructions, but they expect you to know how to do all this when you buy that cool $9.99 pattern.

    "The Vogue/Butterick Step-By-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques " and "The New Sewing Essentials (Singer Sewing Reference Library) " are the top two books that I've found for guiding a newbie through the technical details of sewing from a pattern.

    Get a book to help you along.
  17. Jedi Girl of Corellia Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 23, 2000
    star 6
    Yes books are very very good. For my minor I am required to get the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Which I am happy because I have the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. Both are amazing books and have so much information in them :) Quality books.
  18. kreleia Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 14, 2000
    star 5
    Study, research, and take your time. If you're as much of a perfectionist as any one of us are ( ;) ), then take the time to actually research your costume and study the details. Get into it, know it. Try to get your hands on anything you can about the construction of the original piece. A lot of times, something about the costume will LOOK complicated, but really isn't.

    When you get to the construction phase, DON'T RUSH IT. Like sg said, you want to take the time to get it right. If you want it to look a certain way, take it slow and steady until your satisfied. Your costume will last longer and you'll be much more pleased with the end result.
  19. skip1 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2002
    star 3
    this may sound silly but i always expect to do it "twice".dont expect everything you make to turn out perfect the first time.use your first attemt to learn everything you never thought of.whether building props or sewing you will have alot of factors you never expected.
    if you can finish your project and learn from it then your successful.even if its not perfect or that you know what to do you can make the changes and get better materials or whatever.if you go into a project expecting perfection then youll be dissapointed.go into it with the experience in your very best and when you start to re-do it you will be amazed at how fast you throw together the next one with better results.
  20. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    Testing Your Costume: As someone already noted, you need to spend allot of time testing the costume. You'll need to wear it allot. You don't want to get to the con and be in pain because of a certain part or have your costume fall apart. The things you need to look for are:

    -Does everything stay in place? Do you find that you are regularly readjusting certain costume parts or props? Do straps come loose after a while?

    -What parts take the most physical abuse (usually this will be footwear and handwear)? What parts break and need to be reparied or replaced? What can you do to make them last longer? Do you find that you are walking or moving a certain way because you are afraid of damaging or destroying a peice?

    -What parts of the costume are uncomfertable? (usually footwear and helmets/headgear)? Do you find that are walking a certain way to avoid discomfert?

    These aren't things that you will be able to find out by wearing them in your house or apartment for 10 minutse. You need to put parts on and go do things. Walk around the block a bit or do your grocery shopping in costume. Yes people look at you a little a little strangelty but you will be glad that you solved trouble spots before the convention rather than having to stowe your costume most of the time you are there because some parts broke or it's too uncomfertable.

    I'm glad I did this with my Chewie stilts. I found out that the plastic leg half-pipe thingies just can't withstand the necessary physical abuse that comes with walking in stilts. I've discovered that my straps need something to keep them from coming loose, and that my silocone foot pads need to be repaired regularly. I also discovered that I needed some extra lyers of padding inside the shoe to keep the bolts from hurting my feet. It took weeks of use for these issues to come up, and it's too bad certain parts have broke and other mods need to be made, but it's better that I found them out here then at DragonCon next year.
  21. StormtrooperPrincess Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2002
    star 3
    When testing or doing a fitting of a costume, try to wear exactly what you're going to be wearing underneath (slips, hose, etc. for females). That way you don't end up doing things like walking through the mall constantly tucking your slip back in at the neckline. [face_blush]

    Always check the pattern measurements when buying a pattern, since dress sizes and pattern sizes are two different numbers.
  22. Mirax H TFN Costumes Staff

    Member Since:
    Aug 16, 1999
    star 3
    Buy a sewing machine! It is the best investment I have made. I thought I could sew a Sith robe by hand because I didn't want to spend the $ for a machine. What a joke! I had most of it sewn in the time it took me to hand sew one seam. Plus, you can use it for other projects as well. I just made a dress for New Years Eve and saved myself a lot of $. And don't think you can't sew if no one ever taught you. Most of what you need is online. I taught myself to read a pattern and sew all from some online sewing sights. Anytime I didn't understand a term, I just looked it up. So it can be done, trust me ;)
  23. Koshka-the-Cat Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 27, 2002
    star 1
    Don't forget to have fun! Costuming should be enjoyable :)

    Also, if you're getting frustrated, put it down, take a break. You might do something you'll be sorry about, like that 5" tear I put in the top of a skirt once. Fortunately completely hidden by gathers, but still, not something I want there!

  24. Jedi_Knight150 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2002
    star 4
    I'm asking my parents if they can buy me a dress-form. My mom said I could get one, and she also bought parts so we can fix our broken sewing machine. I can't wait to start on my costume. I think I'm gonna try and make light brown Jedi robes with light brown leather tabards. I hope I can do it.
  25. Jedi_Knight150 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2002
    star 4
    Are Anakin's tabards just two straight strips of leather? Or do they curve somewhere?
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