Hello cosplayers, and happy 2020! I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season and that you spent some time relaxing and enjoying some time away. But, in the immortal words of former Otafest Chairman Justin, it’s time to “get back to work!” (He always said it lovingly, and so am I!)
For this month’s cosplay tip, I figured I would go back to something that has caused me grief in the past, especially when I was first starting out in cosplay: choosing what fabrics to use for my projects. They are all vastly different and depending on the costume you are planning on making, picking an appropriate fabric definitely has an impact on the final product, as well as your budget.
This is the easiest and most versatile of the fabrics you can find at your local fabric or crafting store. While it’s seen as a “bad” fabric by some, the reality is that it’s available at an amazing price point and is available in every colour under the sun (as well as patterned). These qualities make it an amazing fabric to use in a pinch, whether it’s budgetary or colour-wise.
Broadcloth is just a simple fabric that is evenly woven and is very easy to sew. This is a great fabric to use for simple garments, like shirts, dresses, and pants. If your character has a piece of clothing that is one solid color, doesn’t have many accessories on it, and is loose and comfortable, broadcloth can be a good choice for you to use.
Pros: Versatile, comes in lots of different colours, easy to sew, easy to wear, easy to colour with dyes or paints
Cons: THIN! I often find that I want to double up on the material for sections of costumes, it shrinks a lot (so pre-wash your fabric!!), can scorch or turn shiny if using heat (keep heat tools like irons below 100 degrees Fahrenheit), is a very simple looking fabric so it doesn’t have much pizzazz.
This fabric is thought of as the next step up from broadcloth (aside from heritage cottons). It is made from flax instead of cotton, so it means that linen has a higher strength and heat resistance and is also more breathable.
Linen also can be found with many different textures, as it is a thicker weave than broadcloth (think of a smooth sheet of plastic for broadcloth vs a piece of wood for linen, it has more texture to it). Linen can be a bit more challenging to sew than broadcloth because of the thicker weaves available (one of the costumes I made was out of this beautiful thick weave linen but whenever the sewing needle on my sewing machine hit one of the fibers straight on, it pulled on it so hard that I’d have to stop and smooth the fabric out over and over again).
Pros: more heat resistant than cotton, doesn’t shrink much and is very breathable, has lots of texture and visual appeal, looks more natural, very strong, and irons beautifully
Cons: thicker weave can be challenging, can be damaged by adhesives containing acids, not easy to dye
Need that shimmer and shine for your costume? Silk is a natural protein fiber that creates a lustrous shine when woven into fabric. This is caused by the triangular, prism-like structures of the fibers.
Silk is quite expensive and requires special care, so make sure you are prepared for this if you plan on using silks for your costume. It also comes in a variety of textures, other than the traditional “silky” material, such as dupioni silk. Silk is very easy to wear, keeps you cool in the summer, surprisingly insulated in the winter, and is quite water resistant as well. However, it very easily shows water stains and can be extremely stressful to clean.
Pros: looks amazing, very smooth and flexible, easy to wear
Cons: expensive, can shrink when washed, hard to wash (hand wash, do not tumble dry, iron on low setting only, may require drycleaners attention), can stain easily, colours can fade with extended sun exposure, can be difficult to sew.
This is a synthetic fabric that is typically combined with cotton to make a blend.
It’s hard to discuss polyester as it comes in an incredible range of looks, from organza to fleece. Chances are, you will likely use polyester blends for many of your costumes, simply because this category encompasses a huge variety of materials, such as imitation-like silks or pleathers.
Polyester is durable, available in many different colours and textures, and is easy to sew and craft with. The main issue with polyester, is that it does not take to dye easily. There are poly-dyes available on the market, but you will want to experiment with this as much as you can with swatches, before you. With any polyester blend, you will want to take down the name of the material (available on the fabric bolt) and follow recommended washing instructions.
Pros: long lasting and very durable, dries quickly, easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle easily, flexible
Cons: can feel sticky to wear, not very breathable, dyes don’t hold well and can run or fade, very temperature sensitive (can melt or deform with high heat)
Leather and Fur
Looking to add that perfect accent or textural touch to your costume? Leathers and furs add richness to a costume, and in some cases, are vital parts to the outfit depending on the character.
Both are quite expensive but are mostly straight forward to sew with. It is essential to make sure you are using the correct threads and needles when doing so (see Leather Needles, etc). When using these types of materials, make sure to look for faux or artificial to be more sustainable as well. Don’t worry, most people won’t be able to tell the difference, and it will still look great! Just remember to use extremely strong sheers when cutting down these materials.
Pros: looks amazing, adds texture and richness to the costume
Cons: can be very expensive, requires different sewing technique and materials, limited colours and textures
I hope this brief introduction to fabrics is helpful. There are tons of resources available online so for more detail, please consult the almighty Google! The folks at your local fabric and crafting stores also are able to help you out and sometimes will help suggest materials for you, if you show them the project you are working on!
It’s a great idea to just walk around fabric stores and feel everything (the drape, the weight, the texture) to familiarize yourself with the materials available to you!
Fabric cutters often will cut swatches for you (a tiny strip of the fabric in question), if you want to take a sample of it and compare it to others! Don’t be afraid of asking!
See you next month, and happy cosplaying!