Last year, I said what the cosplayers really needed was a decent book to show how to create costumes and here it is. Gillian Conahan has written ‘The Hero’s Closet: Sewing For Cosplay And Costuming’ book showing how to create basic costumes and get it right. She points out from the start that this is not something you should try to do over a weekend and even provides guidance in learning how to do it properly and get some practice in. With the knowledge you get here, you should be able to modify the costumes into the style or character you wish to portray.
Making your own costumes reduces the cost of getting others to sew them for you or looking the same as everyone else who buys or rents a costume off a shop hanger. Attention is also drawn to hiding zips and I hope going to the toilet, although that’s only discussed as hidden zippers, but should have been explored more. Unless you’re planning not to eat or drink all day, remember easy access for such things or a befuddling time in the loo having to strip.
There’s a lot of groundwork given for various materials, including how to calculate their stretchability and to practice before making the final costume. The nearest thing I’ve ever come to making costumes is making some for my Action Men toys when young and is making me wonder about sewing to scale again. I found the information about ironing seams and waxing thread as something I’ve never come across before so I quickly switched to learning curve.
Oddly, although various tools and fabric are shown, two things that aren’t were sewing machines and sergers, the latter was something new to me. Granted, both machines come in a variety of makes and Conahan probably doesn’t want to give any bias to any one manufacturer but I thought there might have been given some bias other than using a foot pedal and size of the sewing machine and what to look for in a machine for your needs. Mind you, considering I only have my Mum’s old Singer that never had a pedal, what do I know? The only difficulty with her machine is I haven’t mastered corners in a continuous stitch when there isn’t room to rotate the fabric and wish was covered. You’d certainly want a more up to date sewing machine for the variety of stitches needed.
A lot of the preparation is ensuring the fabric is washed properly first. Some fabrics also don’t go in the washing machine, so it’s an important lesson. Although it’s ideal to cut the material to your own body measurements, Conahan supplies some basic designs in various sizes at the front and back of the book as inserts that you can put onto tracing paper to do your own cuts. If you make any size mistakes, she has a chapter showing how to make adjustments although insists you should make exact measurements of your or whoever you’re making the costume for’s body. As I type this, I did have to ponder why there was no advise for cosplay for children here as that would surely be useful for conventions and Halloween.
Once you have all your sewing knowledge to hand, the patterns come into their own eleven to work from: Capes, Leggings, Leotard, Seamed Jumpsuit, Seamless Super-Suit, Tunic, Pleated Skirt, Blouse, Pants (I thought she meant trousers to us Brits but in this instance its pantaloons), Dress and Coat. These are all starting points that you can modify into what you need, although I still think some more attention was given to loo visits. About the only thing missing is face masks and cowls.
The final section looks at mixing some of the above and decorating them to get certain looks. There’s enough here to give you thoughts, practice and design to get you started if you want to enter the cosplay game. It might even come in handy if you suddenly develop super-powers and…er…want a disguise.
(pub: Abrams & Chronicle Books. 207 page illustrated large softcover. Price: £15.99 (UK), $24.95 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4197-2396-4)
check out website: www.abramsandchronicles.co.uk