Cosplay is fun at any age. No matter how old we get we can still enjoy popular anime, comics, video games, and movies. And we can definitely have fun dressing up as our favorite characters when the opportunity arises. Dedicated to the older cosplayer. For the kid in all of us.

You're only as old as you choose to be in your mind and heart.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Making a Steampunk Bustle from a Thrift Store Skirt

Cosplay on the Cheap
Carol Holaday

1871- origin unknown
In the latter part of the 1800s, the hoop skirt that was so popular during the Civil War period was replaced by the bustle. A bustle is a device or framework used mostly in the middle to late nineteenth century that was designed to hold up and enhance the fullness of the drapery attached to the back of a woman’s skirt. Many women liked having a bustle, because it helped balance the push-up effect in the upper bodice front, created by a tight-fitting corset that did nothing to enhance the backside. 

Most bustles were worn on top of the skirt and were a bit less voluminous than crinolines had been, which women loved because the new bustles allowed them to enjoy the bell shape of crinolines without the annoyance of cumbersome hoops.

Over its lifetime as a fashion accessory, the bustle took on many forms, sometimes as a cage or roll covered with fabric, and sometimes as a complete piece that required no underpinnings. The period of bustles was fairly short, approximately 1870s-1890s, but the bustle has been given new life in the late 20th and 21st century in bridal fashions, and as a Lolita or Steampunk accessory.

Here are two examples of 1870s bustles from Harper’s Bazaar, 9/21/1872.
If you have basic sewing skills, you can repurpose an old gathered skirt to create your own Steampunk bustle. It can be fun to prowl through thrift stores in search of gathered skirts in dressy fabrics. In fact, the thrift store can be a great place to find many items that can be repurposed for Steampunk or Victorian cosplay.

This is a purple satin skirt I found at a Goodwill store in Scottsdale, AZ. The skirt cost $4. The first thing I did with the skirt was use a seam ripper to carefully open one side seam and remove the elastic form the waistband.

I folded the opened side seams under twice, and I stitched them to create finished edges.

Next, I ran two rows of basting stitch along the folded-over top edge of the skirt, where the gathers had been. You can see my first row of basting. When I was done the rows were about 1/8-inch apart. When I ran these basting stitches I knotted the thread at one end and left it dangling at the other so I would be able to pull the threads to make the gathers.

Once the basting was done I pulled the threads of the two strands of basting stitches and gathered the skirt until the waist was about half as wide as my full waist measurement. For example, if your full waist measurement is 33 you might want to make your bustle between 16 and 17 inches wide so it fits neatly across your backside with just a hint showing on the sides.

After I tied off my gathering threads, I cut a piece of 2” wide satin ribbon three times my waist measurement. So if your waist is 30 inches you want 90 inches.  You can always cut off the excess if you feel it’s too long but it’s not as easy to add it back on. I pinned the edges of the ribbon so that they met on either side, and then I stitched them together so that my gathering stitches were hidden and the ribbon formed a waistband. The ribbon cost $3.99 and JoAnn Fabrics.

Once the ribbon edges were stitched together I ran another stitch down the center of the waistband to add support. I also stitched the waistband ends shut for the same reason.

In order to give the bustle fluff and body I decided to use ribbon ties, like they do on bridal bustles. So I measured the width of my bustle and then created alternating rows where I could attach ribbon ties. They need to be offset so that, when tied together, they will make little puffs in the fabric.

At each marked point I attached a 12-inch piece of ¼ inch wide ribbon, at the center, so there were six inches on either side of the attachment point. I tacked them to the skirt with needle and thread. Then I just tied ribbon halves to other nearby ribbon halves until I had the fabric bunched up just the way I wanted it.  

After I tied the ribbons together this was the result. By the way, I stitched this entire project by hand just to show that you can do these things even if you don’t have a sewing machine. It took longer, but I think it turned out great!

This is me at a Burlesque show wearing my new bustle.
I can wear this bustle with all kinds of costumes—Burlesque, Steampunk, Victorian, Lolita and more! Total cost, $8.

This is me at a Burlesque show wearing my new bustle. I can wear this bustle with all kinds of costumes—Burlesque, Steampunk, Victorian, Lolita and more! Total cost, $8.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making a Dread Pirate Roberts Costume

From the movie, The Princess Bride (20th Century Fox)

Just about everyone I know loves The Princess Bride movie. I have my own copy and watch it on occasion. Of course the main and most beloved characters are Buttercup, the Dread Pirate Roberts (beloved Wesley), and Inigo Montoya. Recently I was invited to a costumed going away party for a friend, and I only had a day to figure out what to wear, and it came to me that making a good Dread Pirate Roberts costume could be doable on the fly, so I got on my scooter and hit the DAV, Goodwill and The Salvation Army in search of as many things as I could find to build the costume I needed fast.

I looked for:

*Gloves (I couldn't find anything like what I wanted but found a felt glove and scarf set that I felt I could use to create the right style of glove).
*Wide belt from DAV.
*Big black scarf from DAV for the head covering.

*Black shirt with loose puffy sleeves from the DAV (that light line is just sunshine coming in through my blinds).
*Camisole from Goodwill, since this shirt was somewhat see-through.

*Black pants from the Salvation Army.
*Boots (I was lucky enough to already have some great pirate-style boots).

When you are making costumes thrift stores can be your best friends. I find most of the bits and pieces I need to make my costumes at thrift stores. Sometimes I can use them the way they are and sometimes I alter them to my needs. When I can't get what I want from the thrift store I go to the fabric or craft stores and make things myself.

Making Gauntlet Gloves

I had a costume! Except the gloves weren't right. I needed them to have gauntlets, so I had to make some adjustments.

I used a seam ripper to take the red parts off of the felt gloves.

Next I utilized the scarf by cutting it in half and folding each half in half. Then I measured around the edge of the top of the gloves and cut out two glove tops that looked similar to the gloves in the picture I had of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I made sure the bottom edge of the gauntlet pieces were the same length as the circumference of the tops of the gloves (if your glove measured ten inches around the top, the bottom edge of your folded piece would be ten inches, plus maybe 1/4 inch extra for when you stitch and turn the gauntlet).

I trimmed away any red, pinned it together (inside out) and hand-stitched around the curved edge about 1/4 inch from the edge (you could do this on the sewing machine, too). Then I turned the gauntlet right-side-out.

Here's where the tricky part came in (I did it backwards the first time and had to re-do it). When I attached my gauntlet to the main glove I had to be careful. I laid out each glove, right-side-out, thumb-side down. Place the gauntlet on each glove so that the curved part was aligned to the side where my pinky finger would go (I was also careful to make sure the side of the gauntlet I wanted people to see was facing in towards the glove). Then I pinned the gauntlet to the edge of the glove, stitched around the edge and turned the gauntlet right side out.

Here's one of my gauntlet gloves from the thumb side.

And this is the pic of my gauntlet from the top. Notice how the curved part is on the side of the pinky finger.

When I put it all together this was the result:

The image on the right is from the movie, The Princess Bride (20th Century Fox)

The only piece I forgot to do was the little black bag the Dread Pirate Roberts carries attached to his belt. I was also bummed that I couldn't get a long sword at the last minute, so I had to use a pirate sword. When I wear the costume again I'll correct that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So what if you're over 40. Cosplay anyway!

I started this blog to promote cosplay for those of us who are getting a bit older but still love creating fun costumes and dressing up as a favorite character. I was introduced to cosplay (outside of Halloween) when, at the last minute, I was given complimentary passes to Comic-Con International, 2011. I wanted to dress up so I quickly created a simple woodland fairy themed costume with a party dress from Ross and other bits I had at home. It wasn't really fancy, but it was fun to dress up. Comic-Con was amazing, and the costumes some of the attendees made were phenomenal. The whole thing made me wish for more opportunities to dress up and have fun.
Woodland Fairy Girl - SD Comic-Con 2011
I didn't have to wait long. That fall my friends and I got tickets to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Globe Theater in Balboa Park, San Diego. We decided to dress up, and I decided to go as Magenta. For my costume I used witches costume and a man's dress shirt from Goodwill that I cut up and repurposed. I was pretty happy at how it turned out.

Costume prep for Rocky Horror play 2011

Dressing up for Rocky Horror was so much fun, and it reminded me of all the midnight trips to the movie theater with toilet paper, newspaper, toast, rice and all the other stuff we dragged to midnight showings in the 70's.

Once I was bitten by the bug I could hardly wait for more cosplay opportunities. For Comic-Con 2012 I planned for Victorian Steampunk, a sort of Gothic Lolita Hello Kitty, and Breakfast Princess from Adventure Time.
Victorian "slightly steampunky" ladies, SDCC 2012
Gothic Hello Kitties, SDCC 2012

Adventure Time Characters, SDCC 2012
I spent weeks on Breakfast Princess, and I think the costume turned out fantastic. I also made the Flame Princess costume for my daughter, Sarah. We had the most fun the day we dressed up as Adventure Time characters, because we got to interact with kids. Bubble Gum Princess won the popularity contest with the kids, and it was lots of fun.

Earlier this year I went with two friends to the Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. It was very steampunk and I again made trips to the thrift shop to find bits for a costume. I also found an old leather jacket that I turned into a great steampunk vest. Steampunk is fun because you can use all kinds of old stuff and found objects to create a look.

Thrift store steampunk.
Shortly before Comic-Con this year we found out we had to move, so I had to apartment hunt, pack, move, and prepare for my daughter's visit within weeks of the Con.  My daughter told me she was going to be Poison Ivy, so I chose Harley Quinn Arkham Asylum because I didn't have time to sew a traditional harlequin style costume. My costume was very last minute, and I made it mostly from finds at thrift stores. I ordered the corset online, and I created a pattern for and sewed the boot covers, myself. Overall I was pretty satisfied with the result (I finished it just a few minutes before we left the house). The only bummer was the boot covers, which looked great until I had them on for a while. I couldn't get purple and red pleather at the last minute, so I put fabric under clear vinyl. I didn't think to put holes in the vinyl, so the boots steamed up. It was a serious costume fail and a lesson learned.

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy -  Arkham Asylum, SDCC 2013
As you can see, I'm definitely older than everyone else in the pictures. In fact, I'm 56, and nobody else I was photographed with is over 35.

Last year after SDCC I read a blog where the guy showed pictures of older cosplayers who he dissed and made fun of. It really rankled because it hadn't occurred to me at the time that I was too old to cosplay. Wasn't this about having fun? Did it really matter if you didn't look exactly like the character you were portraying?

Okay, so maybe this year I was the oldest and saggiest Harley Quinn at the Con, but that was only on the outside. Underneath the lukewarm grandma exterior was a smokin' hot 19-year-old playing a fabulous comic book character. As unrealistic as that may seem, it is how many of us internally think of ourselves as we get older. The inside image doesn't reconcile with the scary person staring back in the mirror.

I may be getting older, but I'm not willing to stop having fun just because my body is betraying me. I don't want to be old on the inside just because I'm getting older on the outside. And that's what made me so angry about the blog where the guy made fun of older cosplayers.

Are you an older person who loves cosplay and still wants to participate?  Let's connect. I'm looking for guests who want to write about their "senior" cosplay experiences.