You Can Hack It, Costume Edition

Jenny Maker Menalippe Cape 1

Well, I know the title gave it away, but I have a rather different type of outfit for you today. You see apparently, when you move to Atlanta with someone who loved comics and superheros as a kid, attending an event called DragonCon is inevitable haha. And when you attend this event in the clothing I commonly wear, as we did last year, you stand out. So this year, we decided costumes were in order.

Of course, being an avid sewist, it was a given that I (or we) would make my costume (actually, we made both of ours). While, I fully understand buying what you need, my head just doesn’t really go there anymore. So, once I picked my costume, Menalippe as seen in Justice League, it became a matter of breaking it down into parts and trying to figure out where on Earth I was going to find the necessary patterns. For the sewn bits, I knew I would need a cape, but one that hung pleated on my back only, with a zigzag hem. And I knew that I would need a cotton bodysuit to protect me from the armor that I had now apparently decided to wear (I reeeally didn’t give much thought to what I was getting myself into when I picked the character haha).

After searching every available cape pattern I could find, I decided to use the one I’d bought years ago and modify it to suit. I used, now out-of-print, McCalls 5957 View A, leaving off the hood. To create the fullness I needed, she is royality afterall, I used all four panels of the cape, but then free-handed pleats at the neckline to allow it to fit along the neckline of the decorative piece to which it was attached. Note: this means that yes, the shoulder curves are still built into the cape, but the fullness of the fabric allows them to go unnoticed. For the hemlines, to give them their angular look, I measured the straight edges of both layers and cut at the same point along the curved edge. This means that the curve of the shoulder took up length, bringing the cape up on those seam lines. This gave the short layer and front panels of the long layer the exaggerated zigzagged look from the movie. For the center back of the long layer, I simply cut the hem straight across. To be honest, it was a rather easy look to achieve.

But, I didn’t just “hack” the pattern for the cape. The fabric got a bit of that too. I knew that what was used in the movie was likely an upholstery weight fabric, and likely polyester; but I also knew that Labor Day in Atlanta was going to be a guaranteed scorcher. So, I went looking for a lighter-weight and breathable alternative. But, I did want to keep a bit of luxury to it. So, when I saw Cali had a champagne silk taffeta, I thought it would be perfect! Oh, how I do love silk taffeta. Once I’d started picking out the other colors in my costume though, I decided I needed a slightly richer color for the silk. With it already in hand, I decided to have a go at dyeing it.

I used the color guide on Rit’s website to choose a color I thought would work and purchased both the Golden Yellow and Cocoa Brown liquid dyes. To ensure I had the best chance of achieving my desired color, I first used two boxes of Rit’s powdered color remover in a pot on the stovetop. I realize now that two boxes was overkill, but I’d read the package in a hurry and selected the amount for the washer. But, it worked a treat and the silk was back to it’s natural color within mere seconds (it’s actually supposed to take 10+ minutes!) From there, I followed the helpful instructions on Rit’s website and dyed the yardage in my [front-loading] washing machine. And then, I dyed it again haha.

This wasn’t my first time dyeing fabric, or even silk for that matter, but it was my first time dyeing fabric in the washer. I’d always been concerned about evenness since my machine is meant to keep the water to a minimum. And, to be honest, my concerns weren’t unfounded. My results, as you may notice, aren’t perfect. Some areas are significantly darker than others, giving an almost ombre look in places, and if I were making an evening gown with the silk, I would have been very disappointed. But, for a costume, I decided to embrace the more organic look, especially since the original had a bit of an ombre look (though, certainly more intentional) and I have to assume that fabric on my character’s isolated home island would look more natural as well. And honestly, the fabric moves and folds so much, that a lot of the inconsistencies aren’t noticeable. 

From there, the cape was straightforward (I used French seams and simple double-turned hems), so with that out of the way, it was time to consider the bodysuit. I knew I needed a fuller coverage, vintage-style bottom because it actually needed to show beneath my skirt a bit. But, I would also need very minimal straps and a low-cut bodice so that it would be completely hidden beneath the chest armor. The Nettie was an obvious choice for the bottom, but as you may know, the upper half is on the fuller coverage side as well. So, to give it the v-neck look I was going for, I decided to mash it with the Watson bralette pattern I’d been wanting to try. And you know what, it worked! It actually worked really well. Which just goes to show, you really can hack anything! To read more about this pattern mashup, hop over to my blog.

So, the next time you come upon a fabric that isn’t quite the right color or a pattern (or two!) that would be amazing with a tweak here or there, don’t be afraid to hack it and make it unique to you! Slash, spread, hack and mash to your heart’s content! That’s the power of this awesome hobby, isn’t it?!

Happy sewing!

Jennifer M, from Jenny Maker

Hi! I’m Jennifer, or Jenny if you’d like, and I blog at Jenny Homemaker. I currently reside in Atlanta with my fiancé/sounding-board/photographer, Brandon, and fur baby/supervisor/photobomber, CoCo.

I started sewing in 2009 after a long-distance move, when it became clear I needed a new hobby. I was fearless, choosing a fully-lined, polyester satin, bubble-hem party dress as my first garment. As you might expect, it was a bit of a disaster and was never worn (we dubbed it the “shiny trash bag” dress), but I saw potential in the idea of sewing my own dresses and didn’t hesitate to jump back in.

What started as a way to pass the time has turned into one of the things I’m most passionate about! I’m well on my way to having a fully handmade wardrobe, sewing everything from lounge clothes to silk dresses! When I’m not sewing, I’m learning. When I’m not learning, I’m planning.

Since fabric is such a great part of sewing (sometimes the best part, right!?), I’m really looking forward to being a part of the Cali Fabrics team, sharing some amazing fabrics and helpful tips with you!

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