Posts Tagged ‘cosplay’

My very first altered jacket had found a home and I was ready to get started on more. The second was straightforward because it was very much a copy of the first. The base jacket in this case was a bomber style in a lovely brown leather that already had a some nice, genuine wear. It was also a men’s XL which I loved, since it gave a bigger range of people who can wear it. (I’ve also found that some of the nicer “geek” clothing often isn’t made into the plus sizes so I specifically wanted to have that be an option)


The official Firefly embroidered patch set that had started the whole concept had all 4 of Wash’s flight suit patches. I’d used 2 on the first jacket and that left another pair. In all cases, I placed the patches as close to screen accurate as I could and then added in several other vintage ones that I thought suited the design. For this, the second version, one official patch went below the right shoulder and the second partway down the left arm.

This jacket again, had the Blue Sun logo on the back and left breast. Rather than going for another patch right below the “Wash” one on the right sleeve, a version of the Browncoat insignia was painted along the forearm.


I made up rank pieces for the shoulders and distressed some funky little metal pieces to make additional ones for the collar. The shoulder ones were I think salvaged from vintage furniture, they already had worn paint over their metal, and then silk ribbon was added to make colour details. The collar tabs were some earrings that I roughed up a bit with sandpaper and then let sit in vinegar and salt for a few days. This dulled the shine and gave some nice rust detail.


The existing wear meant less work on distressing but I still added some cuts, “bullet” holes and “energy weapon” damage. All were patched in different ways and using different fills for the holes so it was consistent with long term wear and repair. Lastly, it was also “dirtied” up and then sealed so it could be worn as a regular coat.

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My first altered jacket was a “Firefly” themed leather bomber. I wasn’t sure how well the altering and distressing techniques I was planning to use would work, and if the finished jacket would still be wearable, so it seemed safer to start with a smaller trial and I used a vintage men’s small/medium. The slimmer fit limited who could wear it. I had planned to use it as an example for custom work but it did find a home. It’s new owner was a cosplayer and was also kind enough to let me take some shots of him in it too! (the rest of the outfit is his, except for my raygun) Model: Jack Sabbath.


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A while ago, I decided I wanted to combine a number of different techniques, as well as trying some new ones, and attempted to alter a leather jacket. I like to both have a general concept for any new type of project and it helps if there is a specific item to lead the way. In this case, it was a set of official, embroidered patches that were copies of the ones on the flight suit of Wash, the spaceship pilot in the series “Firefly”. The set was perfect for someone who wanted to do a totally accurate cosplay copy of the flight suit but I knew I would never use them that way. Rather than just keep them as a collectible, I wanted to use them to make a real, wearable leather jacket, into something that could be used for regular wear, but still would work as part of a costume.


The concept was that it would be the jacket of someone who went through some of the same pilot training as Wash, but had gone their own way. They had worked for the Blue Sun corp at some point, and this was possibly a company issued coat that they had altered, so it had their logo on the back and left breast. The show had a limited run, and a great range of costume options that I felt pretty free to make things up since there was so much that was never shown. Rank insignia was done using metal scraps and silk ribbons. Instead of an official style patch, the Browncoat logo was painted on the left arm. “Energy weapon” damage was added by carefully burning cuts in the leather and then patching it with scraps and in some cases, metal wire. A bullet hole was added and the whole thing was then distressed and dirtied up.



I’ve seen a number of post-apocalyptic jacket distressors who will do things like drag coats behind cars and run over them, which is one way to go, I suppose. I’ve found that careful use of various roughness’s of sandpaper and acetone do the same job. Then some layers of “dirt” and “dust” are applied and sealed to finish the “I was a rebel solider on a desert moon and survived” look.


I was really happy with the finished look, but as always, it was a learning experience which I carried over to later jackets!

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There are tons of vintage and salvaged parts you can use to mod weapons as well as in other altered art projects. One of my favourites are buttons. While using them is pretty common in vintage/antique collages, they don’t have to be limited to those. While a standard, flat 2 or 4 hole is always clearly a button, there are so many styles that can give you other effects. The ones I like using the most are all sorts of the dome or shanked styles. (although I usually cut off the shanks before using the tops) They can have great details that give a pop of texture, and real metal finish, to a gun. In other cases, they get painted over. When I’m modding a gun, I’ll often end up cutting off areas or parts that don’t go with the finished design I want. While it’s possible to use various sculpting compounds to create covers for these spots, it’s often much faster and easier to use a button.


In this example, I used buttons in 3 different ways on the same gun. One pair of textured metal buttons were added as accents to the sides. The circular spots originally had the logo of the base plastic gun. While I was able to mostly remove it, the centre was still rough and read as strangely empty due to the raised edges. A pair of buttons solved both problems and their authentic aged, metal finish helps sell the gilded and painted “metals” on the rest of it.


The bottom of the grip had had a pair of small, uninteresting domes on either side and they were cut off. I covered the holes with a couple of flashing fibre-optic buttons in black and grey. Finally, the back end of the top had a small open slot, where you used to be able to load the plastic disks it fired. This was both blocked and decorated by a very modern looking button in silver and matte black.

You never know where you’ll need a little bit of fill so I just stash all the interesting buttons that cross my path!

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This is probably the most striking of the wall displays for my modded prop guns, but it was still very simple to do.


I wanted something special to show off my Steampunk barrel-break shotgun, Dragon’s Breath. We have quite an number of interesting bits and pieces coming through the shop all the time and I’d had a damaged , but still beautiful carved tray set aside, waiting for inspiration. It had fine chip carvings and a nice aged finish on dark wood. The problem was that it either got too wet or too dry at some point and had cracked right across the back. It had also lost one of it’s brass handles along the way. The edging frame was still solid, so it was stable enough to hang but could never be used as a tray again.


I took off the remaining handle and added a hanging wire to the back then attached a pair of bell hammers from a salvaged clock. Each stretch of hammers were bent and reshaped so they would cradle the gun and I did have to unscrew, flip and rescrew the hammer bumpers, so that they face in and protect the painted finish on it. To make this work, I had to commit to only having one side of the gun facing out all the time so I choose the dragon carving I liked the best. The background was a bit darker than I might have chosen but I’d hand-carved the scrimshaw dragon drawings into salvaged antique piano keys and it pops against the brown background. As an additional bonus, The placement of the gun mostly covers the crack in the back panel so it’s a win all around. The genuine age of the finish and the quality of the carvings on the display frame really help sell the vintage feel of the whole piece and I’ve had many people be surprised that it’s a “fake” and not an actual antique.


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After figuring out how to make my own custom plus-sized 20’s “flapper” dress, I wanted to finish the look off with a period headpiece. The dress was an evening style, so a fascinator or headband was the way to go and I ended up with something that was a bit of both.

We had recently found a group of tubular peyote bead woven necklaces and bracelets. One necklace had beads that matched the beaded details on the waist scarf and trim from the dress so it was the starting point. It was a bit too short to work as a headband so was sewn to a short band of black covered elastic. That gave the needed additional length and some flexibility to the fit. Plus, I find a bit of stretch is always more comfortable and stable on headpieces.


The necklace/headband looked pretty good already, but I wanted it to have more impact. The scarf that makes up the main body of the dress had been cut apart in the process and some of the middle was also taken out in shaping the neckline. I’d held on to the leftovers and was able to salvage a piece with some nice shape and sparkly accents that was about as long as my palm.


The edges were sealed by burning, like the dress neckline,and then it was mounted to a piece of black felt with some interfacing. This gave it body and stability. Some rhinestones were added. A scrap of the black silk velvet was used to make a small poof and a vintage rhinestone button was added to the centre. An ostrich plume and a few coque feathers were an easy way to get impact, height and movement with very little weight. The velvet poof was used to cover the bottom of the feather cluster. A bit of the same beaded trim that was used on the dress was added along the bottom edge. A pair of felt straps on the back secure it to the headband but allow it to slide freely so it’s very easy to position for the best look and comfort.

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After making a prototype plus-sized 20’s flapper style dress for myself from some scarves and a refashioned skirt, I felt confident about trying another and using the “better” scarf. What I liked about it was that it had a very period appropriate, Art Deco pattern and sparkly details. I’d also found a black satin, tiered skirt to use for the bottom.

Having had a trial run at the design, I knew exactly the length I needed for the front and back panels of the dress. This scarf was a bit shorter than the “practice” one, but was the same width. I still cut from the middle, but this meant there was a bit less left-over for the sleeves.


To finish the top, the cut seams were sewn together to close the shoulders. I then cut out the neckline, working around what looked good with the pattern and my comfort. The scarf looks like silk but is polyester, so I was able to finish the edges of the neck-line by careful burning. This is a great trick when it works but you MUST do fabric tests before risking a bigger piece. It’s also important to keep safety in mind at all times when setting fabric on fire!


The sides were done with pieces of a fine black crepe from the stash. I used the same fabric for most of the sleeves but was able to edge the top of the sleeve slits with what came out of the middle of the scarf. A vintage black button with a white rhinestone, closed each sleeve slit.

A pretty black silk burnout scarf was used to make up the dropped waistline. It had beaded details on each end as well as long beaded fringe and a pair of small black fur balls on each end. All of these were perfect for the period and I wanted to show them off as much as possible. To do so, I figured out how much I’d need of the ends to get the look of a knot and some swing. Those pieces were cut from each end. The centre piece was then roughly hand-sewn down to a strip of black satin along the top and bottom edges. The satin was slightly narrower than the scarf so it has some bag and movement, to further sell the look of the waistband being a scarf. The centre wasn’t long enough to cover the whole waistband but I had another black silk scarf and I was able to cheat and use it on the back. The removed ends of the scarf were shaped into a knot and then hand- stitched back on to the waistband.


The light satin skirt that was chosen for the bottom started with 3 tiers of fabric. The top tier was too small to use so it was taken off. The gathering along the top of the second tier was really helpful because it made it very easy to exactly match the width to the bottom of the waistband. I just had to let the gathering out enough to line them up! Losing the top layer also kept the length from being too long. It came to below the knee on me, but would be almost floor length for a shorter person.


We had some beaded trim in our supply stash that not only matched the beading on the waist scarf, but also tied into the bead and sequin details on the skirt! A line of the trim was added between the top and waist and again between the waist and the bottom skirt. There was also a fine fringe on the main body scarf that was left and it falls over to further accent the beading.

This design came together very quickly with the waistband details being the most complicated sewing involved. The finished dress has great swing and flow and is light and comfortable to wear. There is still the issue of the burnout in the velvet being see-through but I just wore a camisole under it and that worked perfectly. I realized after you could tie in any other colours you wanted by wearing a close-fitting tank or even long-sleeved shirt underneath and it would show through.

I made a headpiece to go with it, but that will get it’s own post.

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