Cosplay Tutorial: The Most Redundant Fabric Questions, Answered
Hi everyone! Let me introduce everyone to a new segment that I want to run in this blog–all about the most redundant cosplay questions. These are questions I’ve seen TIME and TIME and TIME AGAIN that you almost get sick of seeing them. ^^;; I hope to run three articles in this set–today we’re concentrating on Fabric questions.
Before I get onto serious business, let me give a short intro on why I felt inclined to write this.
I often see very, very redundant questions asked by newbies that are easily solved by a quick Google search or a walk right out of your house and right into the mall/shopping district. If you can bother to type out a question, how’s that any different from typing some keywords to run a search on Google? This is mostly applicable to cosplayers in my country (Philippines, which is the country with the most social media and cellphone usage in the world) where people are quicker to post a question in Facebook or in a forum before Googling.
I don’t mean to say asking some questions and asking for help is bad. By all means, go and I don’t intend to stop you. But I also wish to say that a little altruism never hurt anyone. There are SOME questions that are better solved by self-studying, Googling, and walking out of your house into the real world.
Some people are “too shy” to ask the people that are supposed to answer their questions irl face-to-face–like being too shy to ask a makeup sales personnel how much the makeup they are interested in is, and so instead rely on people online to tell them how it is when they are in perfect capability to just go to the mall/store and ask. I encourage you to just go for it, don’t be shy. You’re gonna be walking around being seen by other people in a costume, heaven’s sake! No need to be timid.
With that being said my answers to these questions will encourage an altruistic approach instead of spoon-feeding all the answers. I hope these answers help you on your journey to perfecting your cosplay!
“What fabric is good to use for this costume?”
- Take a VERY close look at the costume you want made–some costumes already speak of what fabric they are made of just from the photos itself.
Tifa’s Advent Children costume is obviously some sort of leatherette. I cannot find photos that are HD enough, but if you watch the Advent Children movie, you’ll notice the light reflect off her costume in a way that spandex-leatherette/pleather will reflect light. Do you ever wonder why lots of Tifa cosplayers choose that fabric? That’s because that’s what Tifa’s costume was probably intended to be made out of by the original artists, based on how the fabric reacts to light.
Anna’s capelet is obviously some sort of wool. You can even see the wool fuzz on the details of her capelet here. Since wool is expensive, a lot of cosplayers use fabric that resembles it, like anti-pill fleece or matte-er versions of velvet.
Even if you don’t know what that fabric is called, if you walk into the store and find fabric that LOOKS like your references, then that’s worth a look.
- Check the photos/videos of how the costumes move. In that way you can get an idea of the weight of these fabrics, and keep these in mind when shopping.
Anna’s capelet is stiff and retains its form instead of dropping to the hollow space when she opens her arms out. It does not cling to her own body shape and retains its own shape. Your fabric, if wool, needs to be thick enough to hold its own shape, and if it’s not, you need to look for a supporting material for it to make it stiffer. Obviously I wouldn’t use a flimsy cotton or peach twill to make this.
With these details in mind, you can go to the fabric store with a good idea of what fabric is needed. Touch the fabric. Run your fingers through it. Pull out a section and see how it falls. Is it stiff? Does it move? Will it cling to my body? Will it stay in the shape it’s been tailored in? Is it matte? Shiny? In that way even if you don’t find the optimal fabric the costume is presumably made out of, you can still find a close match.
I don’t go by recommending X type of fabric for X sort of costume on the get-go. I always tend to advise people to go to the fabric stores themselves and feel the fabrics instead of supplying a fabric type. I think this is the best way for a newbie to familiarize him/herself with fabrics.
“How much yardage do I need for this costume?”
This question is easily answered by some knowledge, and some imagination. First off, know how much a yard actually is (36 inches!). And know that fabric is usually sold from 40-inch and 60-inch bolts. With just those two knowledge in mind, and maybe a tape measure, you can safely guess how much yardage you need, and add a half-yard or two for safety purposes.
When all else fails, remember that before the personnel at the fabric store cuts a yard, s/he will always show you how much your yardage is. Feel free to drape it around yourself to see if it will cover what it has to! We have different bodies, so some need more yardage and some less, so don’t expect anyone who hasn’t seen you before to know exactly how much yardage you need.
Remember that details like pleats, which is fabric folded into itself, need more fabric.
If you’re making a skirt, don’t just think if the fabric goes around your waist then it’s okay–consider the widest point of the garment (say, the hemline if you want to make a skirt that’s full on the bottom)
“How do I make a pattern? What’s the pattern for x type of item?”
A pattern is, essentially, the fabric when it’s laid out flat on the floor without any stitching done to it at all… yet. With some imagination, you could get a general picture of what clothing looks like before its tailored into what it is.
For the most part, there are free patterns available online for basic shapes and classic styles of clothing. Read up on some tutorials and you’ll find exactly what you need.
Also feel free to lay out your own clothes (non-stretch ones in particular) and study their general shape and how they were stitched. Study their seams, darts, and tucks. This is how I learned to make patterns for my own clothing.
If you look closely enough at your costume reference photos–especially from newer games/movies/anime, it’s easy to study them and take a look at where the seams are and piece together what this clothing looks like when flat.
Pattern making is half part measurements and geometry, and half part imagination~! xD
With those questions answered, here is a wrap up of my general tips:
- Study your reference photos closely–see how they reflect the light, how stiff/flowy they are, how them move. This helps you get a good idea of what fabric to buy.
- In anime where colors tend to be flat, use your imagination and think of what these clothing items would be made of if they would be reproduced for a real-person counterpart of that character. No actual school uniform is made of shiny costume satin or velvet, for example
unlike what cheap slutty Halloween costumes say so.
- Get yourself off of Facebook/tumblr/wherever and go touch and feel the fabrics in your local fabric store.
- Never be afraid to ask the personnel in the fabric shops what they think and recommend. An intelligent fabric store personnel who has been doing it for years is like a bff for costuming needs. The dude at the fabric store I go to has saved my ass more than once by recommending fabric and knowing what stuff is piled in the end-cut/scrap fabric/bargain pile of the store. He usually asks me what color I’m going for, and what fabric weight and flow. He has helped me save money by recommending fabric in the scrap pile, or saying which fabric is good for sewing what. I may even go so far to say that if the store personnel has no idea what they’re doing and talking about, don’t buy from there. (This may be true for helpers in, say, Divisoria, who have no clue and seem reluctant to assist you; there are a hundred fabric stores along there and if one personnel has no idea what he’s talking about, just hop on to another store.)
- Google is your best friend when it comes to patterning, sewing, looking for fabric stores, and everything else.
- Go out there and have fun! <3