The first costume I ever made was Sailor Moon
I was seventeen. I bought a lycra onesie and some acrylic satin that more or less melted when exposed to the sun. I sat in the floor, fabric in my lap, back hunched, and sewed gold and blue ribbons to the poorly pleated skirt by hand – a skirt which, no matter how hard it tried, could not, and would not, ever cover my butt.
It was a poor costume. I mean, I was thrilled with myself then, but let’s face it: I was young, inexperienced, and there wasn’t really the internet yet. It was THERE, but it wasn’t what it was now: everyone’s grandmother posting multi-part quilting tutorials (these are great, by the way,) and pre-teens who are better at makeup than I have ever been at my actual job.
I was dissatisfied with how my clothing usually fit. I’d get a pattern, take my best guess, pin it on the floor, sew it blind, and wonder why the intricacies of my unique shape couldn’t be captured by McCall’s Pattern 1708B Womens’ Sizes 10-16.
As I grew as an artist and a fabricator and expanded my skillset, my toolset grew as well – much to the chagrin of my mother and later, my husband.
Valarie has been one of the greatest additions to said toolset. Valarie is my double – my human body jig, my dressform. Without a dressform, I would have been absolutely unable to produce any of the pieces shown here. And now that Nova Labs has two fully adjustable dressforms, I can bring the ambitious costumes and props that I could never fully fabricate at home to the labs, work easily, and get that perfect fit!
If I sound like a salesperson, that’s because I used to be one! But now I do this, and I am VERY EXCITED about dressforms! What a nerd!
Here are a few of the pieces I have made, or am making, using the dressform as a critical part of the process.
This waistcoat (PLU-coated lycra, interfacing, viscose) and trenchcoat (PLU, viscose) required a body-con fit. Anime characters tend to be long and lithe, and I… do not tend to be that. I’m kinda short and squat. I otherwise wanted to create the sleek silhouette of the Persona 5 protagonist as closely as possible, so the fit had to be perfect, skin-skimming. The length of the coat was critical, as was the waist and chest fit of the vest. This is a flat-chested costume, but by making a few adjustments, it could still be fit on a feminine dressform.
Francesca here is displaying Link’s Barbarian armor set from The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild. I used a dressform to wet-mold the leather vest to my size and shape, and support the vest while adding the faux-fur shoulders and shoulder padding beneath.
I hadn’t realized it, since I had again jumped feet first into something new, but half the project was just draping goat skins around the bottom half of the form to get the right look. Had I been limited to doing this on myself, it not only would have been frustrating, I never truly would have seen the butt – leading to yet more more butt-related costuming snafus! Fortunately for everyone, I used the form!
This year, my biggest self-inflicted goal is Mercy’s Combat Medic skin from Overwatch. I don’t play a lot of Overwatch, because loud sounds and teenagers scare me – however, I am ready to wear those robot wings!
Potentially the biggest, and least glamorous part of bringing this costume to life is making sure that the humble shoulder harness fits both me and the power sources, Arduino boards, and other equipment needed to run the wings. It needs to look just right, but act just right too. Later, I’ll check that I can fit the wing struts at the right angle, and finally, I’ll be able to program and test my animated wings by strapping them to Fran here and getting a 360, hands free look.
Aside from just gaining experience, working on a dressform has elevated my costuming and fashion work more than any other tool, even a better sewing machine (her name is Eliza, thanks for asking).
And, though they may appear to of a particular size, believe me, they’re adjustable. I took one look at Fran the first time I saw her and was like, “who has purchased this child’s mannequin??” Yet, right now, she’s got hips just like me. We have two mannequins now, with a variety of pads to further expand their range of sizes and shapes. Finally, if you’re not sure where to start, well…
I’m gonna teach a class on April 28, 2019 at 2p! So check out Meetup if you’d like an introduction to Dottie and Fran!