Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Danger of Shortcuts!

In my last post, I hinted that my next cosplay would be a fiery version of Elsa from Frozen, combined with Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This translates to a dark-haired Elsa dressed in fire colors, with Zuko's scar and Fire Nation accessories. I ran out of time before the con, however, and didn't get a chance to add Zuko's accessories to the red Elsa dress. So I went as simply a Fire Elsa this time around (the Zuko parts will be ready in time for my next con, though!).

A fan artist's rendition of a Fire Elsa

Months ago, I found a pattern for an Elsa-like dress at JoAnn Fabrics, since she's such a popular character. I thought making this costume would be time-consuming, since it's so elaborate, but not difficult, since all I'd have to do was follow the pattern. I also thought the pattern would reduce the need to use much math during the process.

How very wrong I was.

This was my first time using a commercial pattern, but it was definitely not beginner level. If I had been following a typical path in learning sewing, I never would have used this as my first pattern. But cosplay goals tend to motivate cosplayers to sew projects more difficult than their supposed "skill level" would call for. I started this over Thanksgiving break, working in my parents' dining room, and I needed to finish before the Con-Alt-Delete anime convention on Dec. 18-20, while also being in the midst of end-of-semester finals. I didn't have time to practice with easier patterns!

Commercial sewing patterns come in envelopes containing the pattern pieces on thin tissue paper and folded instruction sheets. Often they contain more than one outfit. This one had Anna's outfit as well as Elsa's dress, in both adult and child sizes. The pattern pieces had marks corresponding to sizes S-XL, and you had to select the size matching your body in order to cut all the pieces to that size. The outside of the envelope contained a body measurement chart somewhat like this one telling you what size corresponded to your body measurements. I got help from my sister to take my measurements with a flexible measuring tape, and it appeared that, according to this chart, most of my measurements were size L. I am not size L in any of the other clothes I wear, but I'd been told that pattern sizes were different from usual clothing sizes. L sounded too big, but I figured that it was better to cut things too big than too small, because I could always cut down extra fabric later.

That was my first mistake.

Me sewing the skirt that at first was 4 inches too wide!

Everything ended up too big. I started cutting things down to a size that approximately fit me when I held it up around me, but I didn't realize that you can't just modify one part of a garment made from a pattern without making the corresponding changes to all pieces that will connect to the piece you modified. And when a piece is size L, it's size L all the way around. You can't just trim off the ends.

For instance, the sleeves ended up way too big on me. I tried to trim them by getting some help from family members in holding up the sleeve piece to my arm, and trimming the ends where they met under my arm. But I failed to realize that the size L sleeve was meant for someone with much larger arms than me, all the way around. This meant the shoulder was too big for me, and the ends met below it to make the armhole much farther down than where my own underarm was. So when I trimmed the ends, because the sleeve was on a slope, the shoulder remained too big while the armhole shifted away from the body. When I tried to sew them on the dress, they pulled my too-big bodice outward in a weird way, and I couldn't lift my arms. Basically, because I had not cut them proportionally, the sleeves no longer reached all the way up to my underarms. I had no choice but to cut them off.

Yeah...the underside of that sleeve is nowhere near my armpit.

Fortunately, my artist friend Gail helped me fix the bodice with a couple of last-minute side-darts. This was the night before the con, so we had no time to fix the sleeves. I wore them as sort of gauntlets instead, like handless gloves. And honestly, the costume ultimately turned out pretty good! I have never gotten so many positive comments on a costume at a con before! That was a real confidence booster, after so many things had gone wrong with this cosplay.

Bad bathroom selfie! Hopefully I'll be able to get a better pic at the next con.
I thought I could use a premade pattern as a shortcut to make sewing easier, because there would be less measuring involved. Well, it turns out that trying to avoid the math was more of a headache than a shortcut! Taking my own measurements precisely, and comparing them to the measurements of the pattern pieces would have worked better than trying to alter after the fact. I should have also used proportional reasoning to trim too-big pieces, rather than just trimming in one place. But I have learned so much from this experience, and I know I'll be more careful the next time I use a pattern!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing excellent pictures. I really love them...dealstoall