Posts Tagged ‘costume’

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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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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With the refashioning and remaking of men’s shirts, I’ve been mostly making casual and “work” wear plus-sized dresses but that’s not all I’ve needed. One of the other problems with finding suitable plus-sized clothing is when you have an special event or need things a bit more costumey. Last fall I was going to a 20’s themed event and wanted a period flapper style dress. There are some places doing repro dresses, but I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size so making it became necessary. I did a bit of research into period dress styles first to see if I was going to have to invest in a pattern but looking at how big the range of variations was, I decided it was possible to get away with just upping my modding game.

We had a couple of beaded/sequined jackets in the stash and the original plan was to salvage panels from them, mix the panels with silk or crepe fabric and make the bottom from another skirt or a scarf. We had a couple of black silk burnout velvet scarves but went looking and found another silk scarf and 2 large polyester velvet ones.

As I was laying out the various possible parts, and sketching some options, I realized that the scarves were large enough that we could just skip the whole plan of fussing with the beaded stuff and use the scarves as the upper body of the dress. The 2 polyester scarves were quite large and rectangular and had designs that were already very 20’s while the new silk scarf was long and narrow with a great chevron pattern and beading that coordinated with some beaded trim in the stash. I had seen a few period dresses that used a faux scarf detail as the low “waist” so that seemed like a good way to transition to a skirt and complete the dress.


It seemed like a good design concept, but I was concerned about how well it would work out in practice and I wanted to be sure that the fit would be right. Rather than making a muslin prototype, I figured that we had 2 of the big scarves and a pair of possible skirts so I might as well go ahead and make a second dress.

The first step was basic math. I measured the scarf in both directions and then myself, both around the widest section and then down the front to get the dropped waist length. The scarf was quite a bit longer than needed for the top so a section was taken out of the middle, leaving 2 pieces the right length. (and handily with finished hems on 3 sides) I calculated the size for a pair of fabric inserts for the sides. They were a bit narrower at the top, and slightly curved there since that was the bottom of the arm-holes. The thin black crepe that was used for the inserts also made up the bottom of the sleeves. The sleeve tops were done using the left-over section of the scarf. The split-top style really appealed to me since it gives a sense of being sleeveless without actually exposing the upper-arms and is still period accurate.


For the bottom of the dress, I used a pleated black satin skirt. It was small, but I only needed the bottom 1′ or so and there was enough flair to it that it fit just fine. It had some nice button details on the waist band so that was removed and used as the front panel of the transition section. The back was cut from some black satin we had in the stash.

The donor scarf was dark pink/purple as well as black and we had some beaded trim that matched so a line of it was added between the bottom of the scarf and the top of the transition section.

The neckline had to be hand-finished with a rolled hem but I cheated on the inside of the sleeves and did those with the machine.


The whole thing came together really quickly and mostly had simple straight seams. Making the trial version helped out since this one came out a bit bigger than needed as well as too short for me. I also found the beaded trim more of hassle than expected but figured out how to work with it by doing this one. It didn’t help that the trim was on a bright pink ribbon so any spots where it wasn’t perfectly caught are super obvious.

The biggest issue is that the burnout velvet is partially see-through. I’m wearing a sports-bra in the pictures, which is an option, but any black or colour coordinating slip, tank or camisole worn underneath will work.

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This is the larger of the two Nerf guns. The same Krylon paints in brown and silver were used

Nerf "barrel break"

Nerf “barrel break”

on it as on the Maverick, to cover the original yellow and orange. It’s a “barrel-break”, so the barrels pull out and down for loading. I had been a bit worried about how well the painting would go, but there was enough space between the sliding parts and the Krylon paints seem to have very little body so the movement wasn’t affected. (and no seam lines appeared) This one had a trio of

complete steampunk mod

complete steampunk mod

flat panels on each side so it got named “Dragon’s Breath’ and I stuck to a dragon theme in it’s Scrimshaw panels. Luckily, the widths of each panel were an exact match to the widths of the side veneers, on the smaller ones, and the tops for the wider. The only trimming I had to do was on the lengths. For the wider picture panels, each one used a pair of piano key tops. A pair of clock parts replaced the grill, on the back and a snowflake obsidian cabochon, set in copper, was added to the pommel. The joining of it could have been a bit cleaner, but since it was all going to be covered by the reclaimed leather wrapping, on the grip, I didn’t worry about it much.

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Finding a pair of Nerf guns, I decided to Steampunk them up! These are my first Nerf mods,

original condition of Nerf  Maverick

original condition of Nerf Maverick

and I had been more than a bit worried about how hard it was going to be to get them apart, and then back together, with the mechanics intact. It turned out to not be all that hard, but taking photos of their innards before taking things out is essential. For this one, the Maverick, which had held six foam darts, the magazine was cut down and each channel was filled in with vintage vacuum tubes and glass pieces. (always be sure to pull each tube out of it’s package because simply having the same code does not mean

finished Steampunk mod

finished Steampunk mod

that they will all be the same size and shape) Some of the branding patches were sanded off and it was repainted from the original yellow and oranges to silver and brown. Then some of the silver sections were gilded, to give them an even more realistic look and the whole thing was antiqued. (a small amount of accents were gilded in gold too) It got five scrimshaw panels. The two small ones are “TELM Maverick” (for Tesla Electric and Manufacturing) in Elvish script. The other three are all adaptions of Tesla patent drawings. Since it can no longer fire any darts, the end of the barrel was closed over with an antique mother-of-pearl topped brass button. While it can not fire, all the rest of the mechanics still work, the top slide will still cock and the trigger will pull, and spin the barrel. The grip was wrapped in vintage leather.

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