Tips & Tricks The Basic Costuming Tips Thread

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

Moderators: Briannakin
  1. Jedi_Knight150 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2002
    star 4
    Does owning a dress-form make making a costume any easier?
  2. StormtrooperPrincess Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2002
    star 3
    YES, it does. I probably never would have gotten my ceremonial Leia gown together without mine.
  3. Jedi_Knight150 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2002
    star 4
    Is it really hard to make a costume like Jedi robes? I don't exactly consider myself very good, and this is my first time trying to make a costume.

    BTW, sorry about all the posts, I'm new.
  4. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    Your First Costume:

    There was a nice little inro on a Lord of the Rings costuming site that said something like this:

    1) I want the costume now
    2) I want it to be great
    3) I want it to be cheap

    You only get two out of three so choose carefully.

    That is honestly some of the best advice for the first time costumer and veteran alike. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. If you save some money on something, it will cost you more time and/or work and sometimes quality. If you need something done very fast, you'll probably take a quality hit no matter how much you money spend, simply because you won't have enough time to thoroughly research it.

    Also remember that some costumes have limits to how much they can cost and how quickly you can make them. A decent Chewie suit is gonna take a few months, unless you can glue fur on continuisly for a week or so without stopping to sleep, eat or use te bathroom. Not all costumes can be made on all budgets. Vader is gonna run you close to $1000 for a decent suit, even if you do everything yourself.

    Choosing your first costume:
    There's an old saying "Don't bite off more than you can chew." I see many first time costumers trying to tackle Chewie or Vader or Boba for their first project. Sadly, most of them get burned out on the costume AND the costuming hobby in general before they ever finish the suit.
    I believe that all of your costuming projects should challenge you and require you to learn and try new things. But you don't want the challenge to be too great or you will get burned out. Mountain climbers don't go after Mt. Everest for their first climb.
    Starting with a mostly clothe costume such as a Jedi or an Imperial officer has a few advantages that you lose when you do the big and rare costumes:
    1) It's much cheaper
    2) It can be done much quicker
    3) It will teach you to sew AND get you started with making some small items like food pellets and sabres or a blaster.
    4) Lots of people have done these costumes before, and you will get plenty of advice, every question you have about that particular costume can be answered by hundreds of people, and there are plenty of tutorials already available on-line.
    5) Not many people will ask you to pose for a picture. If and when you decide to do one of the more expensive and more impressive costumes, you will want a more casual costume to wear most of the time, as all you will ever do in those other costumes is pose for pictures.

    That said, here are the steps I and many other costumers go through when doing a project:

    Research:
    I dare say this is the most important aspect of a costume or prop project. If you choose the quick and easy path here, you'll have to put in extra money, time, money, work, and money to fix mistakes and redo parts later on. Many costumes such as Vader and Chewie, cost what they do because you end up having to redo many parts. Don't make the problem worse and more expensive by being lazy in this phase of costuming.

    Research starts with researching the original costume. Find lots of pictures of the costume, the props, and all the little accessories. Find out who made these things and what materials they used. Was an existing gun used as the basis for that blaster? What kind of fabric did they use for the undertunic? Etc. Find out everything you can. Some of these things can be found on-line, but many others are still only available in books such as the Star Wars Visual Dictionaries, the Star Wars Chronicles, and so on. Visit the library or the book stores and see what they have. If you think you might use a certain book later on, you may want to buy it then. On less common costumes, action figures are sometimes an invalueable, if not the only resource available.

    Another part of the research is finding out what materials, techniques, tools, and vendors/stores they went to. Where do you get sabre parts? Lowe's and home depot are good places, but so are camera shows and antique stores. What do you use for use for Wookie hair? Synthetic hair extensions from b
  5. Neimhaille Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 12, 2002
    star 3
    I love that 2 out of three quote. And the thing is if you are happy with cheap and now then fine. I personally love a well constructed well made garment over something more like somehting from the store, but that's me and shouldn't be imposed on others. But I also love taking thrift store finds and transforming them.
    http://recital.tripod.com/costume/allgood.htmwas a white leather bat wing jacket.;)

    Oh and yes, a form makes things infinately easier. case in point I just cut out the fabric for my white Eowyn dress (yes it's supposed to be cream but it looks white on film and I could only get white :p) I could never have done that without someone of my measurements standing still and not minding being poked by pins;)

    I have a duct tape double with is fantastic. It means I have my exact shape not an approximation using my measurements on some model. I mean my shape is *very* different to that given by a standard dummy even with my measurements plugged in.

    However I am about to make some changes to mine:
    I'm going to cover it in a lyrca fabric. I have yet to decide just what but something that is solid enough to hold the weight of fabric as I pin and drape.

    Possibly reduce the size of the dummy slightly so I can get a layer of padding between the tape and the lycra. It will mean I get a better idea of how my flesh will squish in the garment as worn:)

    I would suggest people read the manual that came with their machine though. You might well discover that there are more stitches than you might think of using. And it will let you know if that rattle is bad, good or neuatral;)
  6. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
    I can't believe I didn't mention this one sooner...

    Press, press, press (or steam!) your garments!

    It seems like such a small thing to do, but pressing your seams as you go (or steaming them, in cases where doing so is more appropriate) makes such a mammoth difference in the finished product.

    As a corollary, really learn how to use your iron. It's so tempting to just crank up the heat and go, but there really is a reason that irons have multiple settings. It's a good idea to learn what textiles require what kind of heat, and what textiles shouldn't be ironed at all.

    I suspect most long-term sewers have had at least one horrible experience where a fabric morphed into something ghastly as a result of using the wrong pressing treatment.
    I know I sure have! (More than I care to admit, in truth...)

    -sg


  7. FERDALUMP Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 12, 2002
    star 3
    SG : Amen, sister! Ironing is Key! And, I'm ashamed to say, I too have ruined many a garment from cranking up the heat like a fool :(

    Other great tips:
    Measure twice (or 3 times), cut once
    Test * Test * Test
    Use the right tool for the job
    Don't skimp on the details--they'll MAKE the outfit
    Invest in the right materials--it will be worth it in the end
    Give yourself enough time to do it right
    Read the directions--THEN you can break the rules. :) :)

    Ferd
  8. Jeffrek Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2002
    Hey Toren, glad you mentioned these forums over on the rebel legion. Sheesh now I have another one to chek regularly :)

    Back to your original post, dont you guys have Evo-Stik adhesive in the US ?

    Its indispensible for costume making. Its a flexible adhesive that is really really strong and can be used to glue just about anything. Metal, wood, plastic fabric etc. Its especially good for fabric and leather as its still flexible when dry (sort of rubber like). It only takes about 15-20 minutes to dry too so its very handy for running repairs.

    And whoever it was that mentioned gaffer tape, you are soooo right :)
  9. Woofer Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 2001
    star 4
    Iron you say?

    A costuming forum on the internet?

    So who here resembles this picture?

    [image=http://dragobit.com/AllSet.jpg]
  10. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
    Blarharharhar

    Edit: You know, that picture seemed really hysterical, and then I flashed back to the other night when I thought I would try stitching on my regular machine while serging something else at the same time... just to see if I could.
    Now THAT was ridiculous.
    It's harder than it sounds. ;)
    But if I one day master such a feat -- think of how my productivity would skyrocket!

    Ok, I'm clearly insane.
    I guess we could call this a tip on what NOT to do.
  11. Theatrix Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2001
    star 1
    A few tidbits from 25+ years of learning from "oops..."

    1) Don't wait until the last minute to finish off that "must have costume" for the convention. You'll just end up frazzled and the chances of something going dreadfully wrong multiplies as you toil into the wee hours of the morning.

    2)Plan ahead as much as possible. Do that little bit of stiching today, cut those linings now, stich your interfacing this evening, pick up that bead work/embroidary/applique. A hour a day adds up over 2 months and your costumes will look and your will feel much better at the con for it.

    3)Also, while someone has mentioned it before, press your seams and finish them (at least with a simple zigzag). Also, when possible, line your jackets, they move and look much better than an unlined one.

    4) Shop the fabric stores, make swatch books, stock up on cool patterns when they go on sale (in your size and perhaps one above and below). Pick up interesting buttons, clasps, trims. I created one costume just because of an excellent miliatry-esqe flat braid that I wore for years as a hall costume.

    5) Make a pilgrimage to the biggest garment district you know of at least once a year. You will find all sorts of wonderful fabrics that your local chain fabric store can only dream off. There is nothing like your fellow costumers just drooling over some wonderful brocade you are wearing.

    6) Learn to at least modify commercial patterns, better yet, learn to draft slopers/patterns from scratch. That way you aren't limited to what you can find from stock patterns.

    7) Keep your supplies well organized. Nothing burns time like, "Now where did I stow those excellent cape frogs....? >:-(

    8) Buy the best shears you can afford and keep them well sharpened.

    9) Eventually buy a good, hardy sewing machine with an all steel drive train. They sew like tanks through anything. Bells and whistles on a sewing machine mostly go unused for making clothes, but a machine that can easily sew garment weight leather or multiple layers of heavy denim or wool without missing a stitch is worth its weight in gold. Also, keep it well maintained.

    10) A soon a possible, create a layout/cutting table that fits your height. I am 6 foot 2 and nothing kills your back more than bending over your dining room table to draft, work on and cut out a pattern.

    11)Don't expect to get rich sewing for pay. Folks don't seem to really appreciate the hours it takes to create a well tailored garment from scratch. Sew for your friends, have them over, chit chat and have fun. Maybe you can even teach them a few tricks. They can pay for their materials in their costume, you get more practice and some company and they get a nicely done costume to wear with you at the convention.

    12) Network as much as you can. Visit other peoples studios/homes to see how they do things. Don't be shy, ask questions, the only foolish question is the un-asked one.

    13) Be kind, if someone asks your opinion of an outfit, be tactful, find the best of their work on it and comment on it. Most folks at conventions are looking for a validation of what is their best efforts to date, not a stinging disection of minutia of tailoring. Remember, you too were once just starting out.

    Well that is my two bits off the top of my head.

    Theatrix
    www.imperialinfo.com
    www.ctarmory.com
  12. Zam-the-Assasin Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2002
    star 2
    From my own experiences, Don't get in over your head..... I decided that doing a Leia Slave costume as my first would be easy...well...*big surprise* it wasn't. Start off with something that is fairly easy before jumping to the more complicated.Even if it looks easy (like the Slave Bikini) it is best to research and learn and be sure of yourself before starting, or else you will be disappointed, like I was . I know that has been said a couple times here, but this advice can not be stressed enough. Be patient, and don't take the easier, cheaper routes if you want all the time and work that you put into it to be worthwhile....
  13. Theatrix Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2001
    star 1
  14. Darth_Eagle Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 2001
    star 4
    Okay, this question been bugging me ever since I found Silk Velvet in Singapore and gotten involved in LOTR Costuming too:

    How do you tell that the Velvet you see/bought is Silk Velvet?

    The situation I'm in now is that the place I bought my Black Silk Velvet at Arab Street had ran out of the nice one. (The current bolt seems crinckled/crushed) so I turning to the other fabric "district" in Singapore (Chinatown). Found a shop selling Silk Velvet (as he claimed) but most of the sellers there are known to know little of the real name/fabric content of their fabrics. The "Silk" Velvet that shop has also ranges in thickness (the black one seems to have an elastic-like backing and is thicker than the kind I bought from Arab Street). Price is lower ($2-5 less) and the seller claimed it came from Japan (the Arab Street one came from India). So how to tell that I'm not cheated?

    Thanks! :)

    (Ps: I can't provide a little scan of the 2 comparing fabric swatch currently cause the scanner cable is missing! :eek: )
  15. Astuce Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2003
    DarthEagle asked:

    "How do you tell that the Velvet you see/bought is Silk Velvet? "

    The short answer is a burn test:

    http://www.fabrics.net/fabricsr.asp

    Hope that helps! Give it a shot. In your case, because you (I think) are trying to determine between polyester and silk, it should be pretty conclusive. But make sure you don't just try and burn a couple of threads, get a couple square inches so you can really see what you're doing.

    Let me know how it turns out!
    Astuce
  16. Nostradamus Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2000
    star 4
    1) I want the costume (it) now
    2) I want it to be great
    3) I want it to be cheap



    Pick 2.

    Toren that holds true of all custom-made work.

    People who have the attitude that they can have all three have never, ever made anything in their lives.
    I experience this every day at my job as well. I design, make and sell custom framing. So many customers can't understand why custom framing is so expensive when you can just go and buy a cheap frame at Target.
    You can also buy inexpensive clothing at Target, but that is not a Jedi costume or an Imperial officer's uniform. I don't even know where anyone would think of finding an of-the-rack Vader or Chewie.......
    Hopefully, anyone who is reading this thread in this forum will no longer have that mentality.
    It takes a lot of time to learn the skills and practice what you learn before you can construct quality garments that look and fit great.



    re: pressing -- do it.

    --If you are unsure of what heat setting to use, start with a cool iron on SCRAP pieces of you fabric and turn it up slowly until the fabric is being effected by the heat.
    Stop when it starts to melt, pucker or burn. I too have scorched and burned.

    --I can't remember the last time I made something that was not lined. Don't skimp on the quality of your lining material and don't skip your lining. It shows! Trust me.

    --I will add, if you are purchasing the final fabric for a costume you have never made before, buy some extra yardage.

    --Don't skimp on your details such as proper notions and interesting trims.
    In many of the costumes I have made, I have spent more money on all of the trims and details of a costume than on the fabrics themselves.

    It makes all the difference.



  17. Jedi_Riibu Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Nov 14, 2001
    star 4
    --I can't remember the last time I made something that was not lined. Don't skimp on the quality of your lining material and don't skip your lining. It shows! Trust me.

    I'd just like to reiterate this. Lining my Jedi tunic is one of the best things I've done. And since then virtually everything I've done has been lined. Spend the extra time to do it. It is so worth it.
  18. Darth_Eagle Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 2001
    star 4
    Astuce, thanks for the link! :)

    Nostradamus, I couldn't agree more! I used to be the kind (and still is partially) who want to do something cheap like "assembling" my costumes. Of course, throughout the years, I had learned that this will not get me far or increase the accuracy of my costumes (face it: I can't stop saying my costumes is horrible even if it look good in photos unless it had been professionally made). So that's why I'm pledging this year to learn how to make gowns and other fitted costumes for myself (my sewing skills is still between basic and intermediate :( ) by taking proper sewing class (now which Community Club here have it? ?[face_plain] ). The amount of money I spent on getting the fabrics for my costumes had also increased dramatically since last year (I'm starting to use Silk & Wool!). :eek: Giving myself the time to do the costume (and not rush it) and being more realistic on what costumes/props I can do is also being done (the list of costumes to do is dropping very steeply).

    Oh ya, I kinda need lots more practices to use acetate/satin/polyester linings. The last few attempts had been disaster. :(
  19. Darth_Eagle Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 2001
    star 4
    1) I want the costume now
    2) I want it to be great
    3) I want it to be cheap


    Forget to say; I choose 2 first cause it reflect to a certain degree about how serious one is about SW Costuming.

    3 will be an added incentive (saving can be channel to making more Great Looking costume! :D )!
  20. JediToren Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 4
    There's no such thing as a finished costume. You'll end up redoing or modifying some part eventually. You won't be able to resist.

    If your like Skip, you'll have something new added to your costume every week.
  21. JainaMSolo Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 19, 2001
    star 3
    All right, here's a really stupid question:

    How do you line a garment?

    I genuinely don't know how. The costuming I've done has been theater stuff, where it only matters what the costumes look on the outside, you don't have time to carefully finish your garments, and "It won't read from stage" is your favorite phrase.

    I did line the Imp officer's tunics for the Musical, because there was a lining in the pattern instructions. That was a "sew the lining to the garment all the way around, then pull through the armholes" lining, but I know there must be other, better ways. So. How do I do it?

    Caitlin
  22. Jedi_Samantha Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2002
    star 4
    There's no such thing as a finished costume. You'll end up redoing or modifying some part eventually. You won't be able to resist.


    Very true. Very true.
  23. surlygirlie Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 1, 2000
    star 4
  24. LeiaYT1300 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 3
    Coming out of lurkdom in this thread to comment...

    There's no such thing as a finished costume. You'll end up redoing or modifying some part eventually. You won't be able to resist.

    Hear, hear! Already, I'm redoing some of the embroidery work on my Bespin gown.


    1) I want the costume now
    2) I want it to be great
    3) I want it to be cheap


    I have always chosen #2. It promises the greatest results and the ultimate happiness. Stellar costumes are time-consuming and expensive, but it's worth it, and I never forget to remind myself of that when things get frustrating.


    And one that EVERYBODY who sews should read...
    20 Ways to Improve Your Sewing


    Thank you for posting that link, Surly. That's one of the best I've read in a long time, and it's a darn good refresher, too. :)

    Ok, back to sewing lurkdom I go... :)
  25. Woofer Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 2001
    star 4
    Since the topic at the moment is linings, I'll ask here.

    I plan to make a new outer tunic for my Jedi costume, I've found some nice silk noile, and I definitely want it lined.

    What do you suggest would work well to line raw silk with? It should be natural. No point in going for a breathable natural tunic and then line the thing with 100% poly!

    The raw silk is fairly thin, the lining should be as thin or thinner?

    Suggestions most welcome.
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