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Hey everyone,

I have a little treat for you today. This October my cosplay group MetaCosplay and I will be debuting a new steampunk group at New York Comic Con. Here I have a fashion sketch on which I am basing my costume. I did this little doodle in pen and colored pencil one day while I was trying to work out all the colors. Now, I may not end up following every detail to the letter; I edit costumes heavily during construction as I see exactly the way things fall. In fact this is not my preliminary sketch by any means, but actually my third or fourth revision. But seeing as I am already half way into this costume’s construction, I think that it will come out looking pretty close to this particular sketch.

This method of costume planning may be helpful for you to see if you like to make original works. I always start with a sketch, even when cosplaying an existing character. I can better get my head around a costume’s construction if I draw it out myself, even if I know exactly what it is going to look like because I am following another’s design. But in the cases of original costumes, I find sketching and re-sketching to be an essential part of the process.

Here are some tips for designing your own original costume:

1. Start with the silhouette. Details, in the beginning are not important. Start with the general shape of the costume, and chip away at it as if you were carving a block of wood.

2. Have a color scheme in mind from the start. Don’t just make two garments in two random colors and hope that you can find a third color to tie the two together. Have an idea of a color family that you want to stick to. If you do get in a color pickle, remember the neutrals. Neutrals help tie together colors that seem totally unrelated.

3. Look at what you already have to work with. Dig through your fabric bin at home, get out all your old patterns, and see what undergarments and accessories you can already use to cut down on your work and expenses. I’m not saying you should assemble things you already own and call it a “new” costume, but if you already have a boat load of blue fabric, maybe you should consider using blue in your design. If you already have a hoop skirt, you can achieve great skirt fullness without that added expense. Etc.

4. Remember that light colors make you look bigger, and dark colors make you look smaller. Keep this in mind when placing your colors on the body. If you want your waist to look smaller, don’t wear a yellow belt. If you want your shoulders to look wider, don’t wear a black sweater.

5. Don’t forget the footwear. Shoes may not be the star of your costume but they can ruin the illusion if they don’t fit the style. For an original costume, why not look at the shoes you already have and design something that goes with? Or you can use your costume as justification to buy shoes that you’ve wanted anyway. Unless you have extra money to burn, don’t buy shoes that you will only wear once for an original costume. You have flexibility here! So flex.

6. Be realistic about what your body will look like when the costume is done. Don’t design a risqué costume with the intension of losing weight. Don’t make a costume a size bigger because you plan to “bulk up.” Even if you manage to lose or put on the weight, it doesn’t mean you are going to feel any different in your skin. Design a costume that you would be comfortable wearing TODAY. If you look even better in it in three months, that’s great.

One final thought: I always like to make things that I can wear on multiple occasions and with multiple costumes. This isn’t always possible, especially with statement pieces or costumes that are made as one big piece. But things like your standard white bloomers, khaki adventure pants, a white chemise, or a black belt are things that can act as a base for thousands of costumes. Try working some of these basics into your design and then when you’re in a pinch for a halloween costume, you’ll have plenty to start with.

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I am seriously thinking of making a steampunk outfit to wear to cons, festivals, and whenever I feel like confusing civilians on the street. I’m so serious that I’ve begun meticulously researching and sketching my steam-punk ambitions. There are two pencil sketches to get my thoughts in order, and one color design that combines my favorite elements from both.

Sketch by Shauna Leva

Sketch by Shauna Leva

In this color sketch, the skirt will be made with four draw-strings, allowing me to change the length and degree of bustle of the skirt at will. I can make the front shorter, the side shorter, the whole thing shorter….you get the idea. Or I can wear the whole skirt at full length, which will be near my ankles.

Sketch by Shauna Leva

Please, let me know what you think!! Should I make this costume? It would be a lot of work, so I want to get opinions on how I can improve the design before I get started.

Thanks in advance!

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