Calamity: The K is for ‘Quality’

Costume Quality, one of the three points of the dreaded TRIANGLE OF DOOM™ is a simple thing that can make a huge difference in a costume’s life expectancy, comfort and if you like to compete: whether or not you’ll earn an honourable mention or a Best In Class*.

*(At least in Canadian and ICG Masquerades where workmanship is heavily weighted)

But MOOOOM Calamity, you might say. I don’t have TIME to make my costume as well as I want to!

Who has time for Quality? THIS. IS. COSPLAY!

Luckily for you, readers, I am a procrastinating perfectionist. Which my Therapist says isn’t healthy but HAS helped me figure out some quick and dirty ways to improve the quality without wasting spending days at a time hand sewing bias tape.

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Costume AMAZEBALLS

1 – Fabric Choice

Let’s start out at the VERY beginning of a costume. Fabric choice might not seem like it’s something that will affect the quality of your costume, but if you’ve ever tried to wrangle a knit into slacks or make a form fitting sleeve out of non-stretch vinyl, you already know if the struggle of fabric choice.

Don’t run out and spend your rent and/or education fund on silk taffeta though, as much as you might want to. Instead stop and really look at the source material: Does it need to stretch? What about the drape, does it act all flowy or is it stiff and structured like a jacket?

Fat cat

Most sales people are more helpful than Tubbs McGee here was

What to look for

  • Does it have a finish similar to the source?
  • Does the colour match the source?
  • Is the fabric that you need too light?
    • This is easy to fix by using an interlining: basically stitching down a second layer of fabric to help stiffen or thicken the fashion layer
  • Is the fabric something that makes sense for that character?
    • ie: Princess Peach wouldn’t wear a burlap gown unless you’re doing Farmer Peach
  • does it hold a crease? Is that Good or Bad?
  • Is there a texture that will help enhance the costume? (ie: capes = velvet or velveteen)
  • Order swatches if you need to purchase online to be sure that you’ll be getting what you need. Colours look different on different screens.

Pucker up!

What to avoid

  • Broadcloth as a fashion layer fabric
    • Fashion layer means the visible layer when the garment’s worn
  • Mirror Satin. Unless you know exactly what you’re getting into.
    • Very shiny satin shows every single mistake when sewn. Uneven seams, wrinkles, EVERYTHING. Also it annoys photographers trying to use flashes.
  • ALWAYS wash your fabric before cutting out your pattern. Dyes may fade or the fabric might shrink.


2 – Tailoring

So there’s so many great resources out there on how to properly adjust patterns to fit you perfectly That there’s no need to rehash it. But! I don’t have time to sit down and alter patterns every time I’m working on a costume. I need sleep and there’s only so long I can lock up Cat in the bathroom before she gets the door open and launches herself into a flying leap at the pattern paper, claws extended.

The Right way to Tailor Garments

  1. Measure yourself. Here’s a wonderful Measuring Guide by The Curvy Sewing Collective
    1. This should actually be done every once in a while in case you’re like me and bounce back and forth between sizes.
  2. Alter your patterns to suit your shape and make a muslin
  3. Refine fit on your body wearing the support garments you will be wearing at the time you’ll be wearing the finished costume.
  4. Repeat Muslin and step 3
  5. Make garment


Calamity’s Quick and Dirty Method to Proper Fit

  1. Measure yourself. Here’s a wonderful Measuring Guide by The Curvy Sewing Collective
    1. This should actually be done every once in a while in case you’re like me and bounce back and forth between sizes.
  2. If you’re using a premade pattern, trace it out on the largest size that your measurements fit.
  3. Sew muslin
  4. Put muslin on wearing the support garments like above
  5. Pin the muslin to fit your shape. This is easiest with a friend to help get the hard to reach areas like your back.
  6. Carefully take off the pinned muslin and smooth out the lines with a marker/pen and sew.
  7. take out pins, try it on, repeat until it fits. Then move on to your good fabric!


3 – Seams

It might seam like you can get away without finishing your seams because no one will see them. But there’s no quicker way for a good costume to unravel, and leave you pinking in the face, wishing you’d taken that extra half hour to make sure things don’t fall apart.

GET IT? PUNS. I’d say I’m done now but that’d be a lie.

A little Pink-me up

(See? A dirty, dirty, lie) You don’t need to have a serger to finish your seams, though I’ll be honest, it is a worthy investment if you’re making multiple costumers per year. It saves a lot of time and headaches. If you don’t have a serger in your budget for a while you can use pinking shears to slow fraying. If you’re still new to sewing, don’t panic, they’re just shears with zig-zag blades that I totally don’t pretend is a monster chomping on my fabric.



Alternatively, you can just sew a zig-zag close to the edge of your fabric to hold those threads together.

Time for Sergery!

Well not that kind. But you know what I mean.

*sighs, staring at Graverobber*

What? Oh hey, guys. *wipes drool off with a sleeve* So if you DO have a serger, you have NO EXCUSE for not finishing your edges or seams. NONE. It’s all zip-zip BAM. Well, unless you have to rethread your serger but if you’re just finishing seams then who cares if the thread doesn’t match the fabric?

The FANCY shit

What if you don’t FEEL like zigzags or pinking shears, but don’t have a serger? Or it’s broken or whatever? Then my friend, meet the following:

  • French Seams
  • Flat-Felled Seams
  • Bound seams
  • Hongkong seams


Bound Seams in progress on Black Canary, with an interlining

Sew Mama Sew has a great breakdown of the different seams, but I found that A Fashionable Stitch explains Hongkong and Bound Seams more clearly

4 – Press as you go.

Okay. So. Let’s talk about the one thing that I personally forget to do WAY TOO OFTEN when I’m in a Con-Crunch: pressing the garment between steps as I sew. The one thing I never skip that step on is a corset. Because there’s so many seams going on and weird lumps is the LAST thing you want to show up on a smooth finish corset. Especially if you’re using poly coutil which has a habit of not holding a crease.

coutil boning

Press. Yo’. SEAMS.

It’s so simple, but it makes such a difference:

  • It flattens the seam to make compound seams less bulky
  • makes the fabric lay flatter
  • less likely to accidentally catch part of the garment you don’t want to sew under the needle
  • reduces seam wrinkles
  • Helps the garment lay better during fittings

Plus, it’s the quickest of all the listed improvements so really: WHY AREN’T WE DOING IT ALREADY? (Just remember basic Ironing safety!)

5 – Finishing Touches

Okay so this one is one of the few tips that you can’t really get around using a ‘faster’ way. Sometimes there’s just nothing that will beat a bit of hand sewing. I’m not talking about seams or anything extensive.

But if you’ve got a thick seam that doesn’t quite want to stay down, tacking it down by hand will keep that mofo in place.


Tacking Magical draping fabric into place invisibly? Hand. Fuckin’. Sew it.

Really bumpy trim that your machine hates? Hand sew it.

Fancy appliques? Hand sew.

Need to baste something wiggly down before sewing it? Hand sew.

There’s a lot of reasons, but sometimes it’s just faster and easier (and looks better in the end!) to do it by hand.

And the best part of hand sewing? If it’s a small piece that you’re working on you can bring it with you to work on during work breaks, commuting (if you’re not not driving that is) or while on the plane to a con.*

*Current TSA rules allow you a hand needle and small pair of scissors that are NON folding. But always check the current rules before taking anything sharp, pointy or… well anything really that’s not you or clothing, as a carry on.

Hope these tips help! Looking forward to seeing everyone’s costumes from Katsu ~~

xox Calamity