… or make it look more realistic
This thing we call ”colourblocking” seems a little intimidating at first, but it’s really simple.
Say I have a 3” x 3” square pattern piece. The inner box is the finished area, and the outer area is seam allowance. This is what I need my final pattern piece to look like, regardless of what colour goes where.
But we want to split this into three segments. If we simply cut the pattern in pieces, we’ll lose space to new seams because we didn’t add seam allowances.
What to do?
Cut the pattern piece into its new segments.
Trace these new pieces onto new pattern paper (or tracing paper, or construction paper, or newspaper or whatever and add seam allowance:
Label these however you want to remember where they go, such as ”Square Left, Square Center, Square Right.”
While a square is obviously a lot easier to block than random curves and right angles and whatever, there are basically endless ways to apply it if you take your time. The only rule that really matters is that the “blue” area always stays the same; you’re only adding enough “pink” NEW seam allowance area to support that seam.
There are a whole bunch of applications for this:
So in short:
Ooh, I love this question.
So first up:
You will want a fairly large trampoline in an open space, and you will want it positioned in a place where you can (more or less) shoot against the sky. Unless you want your neighbours’ houses or trees as the background, an open sky is the best because you can fake supreme heights by just removing the few little distractions that squeak in and photoshopping in some clouds or some land below or something.
You will absolutely need a photographer. I don’t think tripods really matter because you’re going to be moving around so much that the freedom of movement is much better for the photographer if they can move swiftly, too.
You want to pick a day that has nice lighting. Overcast is great because you don’t end up with harsh shadows on your face and whatnot, but it can also make pictures a little grey. No problem, you have post-production to fix that. Also pick a day where you’re not going to sweat your ass off; we did our first trampoline shoot in 40ºC weather, and afterwards, I could practically wring the sweat from my skirt where the belt had pressed it against my skin. (Beautiful mental image, I know. I’m just trying to spare you the Gross.)
Any heeled or unsafe shoes for trampolines are a no-no. Jumping around in my sock-boots with thin, flat soles for Supergirl is great, but I’d never jump in heels, both to protect my own ankles and protect the trampoline. Likewise with heavy boots. You don’t want to injure yourself or damage your trampoline (or your friend’s trampoline, or whoever’s) just for cosplay pictures. Is your footwear crucial? Wear coloured socks or make alternate shoes that are “lightweight/flat” editions of your regular shoes. You don’t need heels for height when you’re being flung through the air!
The biggest trick to actually doing these photoshoots is controlling where the cape goes. If you just bounce around and let it go wherever it pleases, you are going to end up with it going over your head, wrapping around your body, getting caught between your legs, etc. You need a cape that is long enough for you to hold onto the edges. Ideally, you are going to hold onto it to guide it as you go up, and let go juuust when you start descent. This way you aren’t holding your cape, but you have it spread out beautifully and your hands are wide and “joyous”.
Stop periodically to review the pictures with your photographer. Figure out what is working, what isn’t, and what you need to try again to see if you can time it better/get luckier. If you need to change how you’re working and start calling out timing or make suggestions, do it: communication will make it easier.
However, I also want to note that not all costumes really “work” with trampoline pictures. Josh and I did a shoot once with me in my DCAU/Danvers “white t-shirt” Supergirl costume, with the short cape and the tight-fitting miniskirt, and we found it just ended up looking awkward. In fact, we didn’t get a single picture out of it. We got better pictures out of casual clothes. Trampolines make for very weird shoots; if you only have a little cape flying around you, one you can’t really control, then it often just ends up going wherever it wants. I’ve seen Ms. Marvels pull it off with the sash as the moving fabric or even without, but short capes just tend to be like “hey, did you want me around your head? Done.” I think the “flight” illusion gets a lot of help from loose skirts and whatnot, too. Basically, the more moving fabric you have, the more “dynamic” the picture’s going to end up being. Flying and rushing fabric shows motion. By all means, put whoever you want up in the air, but the more fabric you have, the easier it is. (Unless you’re in a ball gown. Then I don’t know what to tell you.)
But all that aside, I think the hardest part of the shoot is just how much you have to control for. It’s HARD to really nail the shots because not only do you need the camera to be focused and fast enough to catch you when you’re moving all over the place, but you also need to be in control of so much. Your expression needs to be right, so you have to “act” while you’re bouncing yourself through the air. You have to watch how you position your feet and legs. You have to be aware of what you’re doing with your hands, how you’re positioning your body, where your hair is –– it’s maddening work, and while you’re doing it, you have to wrangle a cape and/or make sure your skirt isn’t flipping up. (I have no idea how many shots have been ruined because of that, so I’m going to throw in “get yourself some cute hot pants” as advice.)
And I really want you to be prepared for an insane payoff-to-shot ratio. With us, we usually get about 5-8 useable pictures for every 200 shots we take. If you’re experienced with photoshoots you probably know that lots of pictures end up scrapped in ANY photoshoot, but given the nature of trampolines, you’re just more likely to run into the “shame you’re making a fucking weird face in this shot” problem. Or “oops your cape flipped over your shoulder.” Or “PAAAANTY SHOOOOOTTTTT.”
Flying shots without trampolines.
It can be done, but I honestly don’t have much advice for it, because I largely find it’s unsuccessful. Here’s the thing: when you’re on a trampoline, you’re going to be “up” again in a second, and the elastic nature of it is going to soften the blow of impact. When you’re not, you’re climbing to the top of whatever fool thing you’re jumping off of, and then trying to land on what is probably a hard, unforgiving surface.
As such, it is extremely, extremely hard to do a convincing flying shot by jumping off ledges or stairs or whatever. You will be 90% focused on balancing yourself and not wiping out your ankles or going to your knees upon landing that you won’t even think about where your cape is going. “Jumping off a ledge” gives you “falling” shots, and they don’t even make good landing shots. Also, the distinct lack of height means it’s very hard to get a clear sky/good background that doesn’t look like you’re “falling down in front of this building” or “about to plunge off these stairs.”
It’s also exhausting.
So instead, focus on the going “up”, and have your photographer shoot from a low angle to get a more dynamic view.
The key to this is long straight jumps. You’re much more likely to get a good shot if you’re going parallel to the ground, instead of towards it. Take a good running step and leap as though you’re a ballerina or a martial artist or something.
This is semi-successful, but I didn’t push it enough:
Bend one knee and bring it forward so you’re not a flying stick, and do it dramatically enough that you look like you have forward momentum. That’s how we got shots like the Supergirl vs Powergirl one. They aren’t necessarily as dynamic as trampoline ones, but I think they are better than the “I’m about to wipe out on this concrete, aren’t I?” falling ones.
And if you’re doing fighting poses, make sure your swinging arm is up and away, so you don’t block your body/face with your own arm.
Landing shots and simple cape movement pictures.
These are a lot easier than they look, though just as trial-and-error to get the right effect. What you basically need to watch out for is speed.
Think about it this way: when you move fast, your cape is going to rush, and then it’s going to hit you as you stop because it wants to keep going. If you’re moving fast, you’re also making timing more difficult for the photographer.
What you really want to do here is keep your movements “short”. Start from a standing position and then move forward as if you’re doing an aerobics “lunge” move, dropping down to one knee. Hold the edges of your cape as you start forward and release at the mid-way point. You ideally want your photographer to snap the picture just before your knee hits the ground, when your forward leg is at the knee at about a 90º angle. If you can do this motion slow and smooth, your cape will “glide” with you and your photographer has a better chance at grabbing the picture at the right time, in focus and all that jazz.
Want to just get a “standing” shot where your cape is in motion? Instead of turning in full circles (which gets you shots like this) or running to get your cape moving, try a quarter-turn. That’s how Elemental and I got the awesome shot in front of the grey brick wall. Start with your left side to the photographer, holding the right side of your cape with your right hand. When your photographer is ready, swing your right leg to turn yourself to face the photographer and let the cape fan out. The quarter-turn gets just enough motion running through your cape (and skirt) that you get movement going on without going so far that a) the photographer loses you or b) your skirt flips up. The quarter-turn also means you can be facing your photographer the whole time, instead of trying to look at them while spinning in circles.
Hope that helps :)
Long wigs are the bane of my existence, but they can be maintained.
First of all, keep it well brushed. Make sure you have a brush intended for wigs/extensions. Lots of brushes (like round brushes) are made specifically to remove hair, which is NOT something you want with a wig –– your own head can grow back new hair, but your wig, sadly, cannot. So you want a good brush, one that looks like these. You don’t even need one meant for wigs, as long as the bristles are wide and spacious with rounded tips. Christine uses a Jonas Brothers brush she got from the dollar store. Alternately, a wide-toothed comb works, too, but you should comb at a 45º angle to prevent snags.
When you brush, you may want to put it on a wig head. I find that is most comfortable because I can adjust the stand to the height I like/need to work on it without straining my back. (I have the body of a well preserved 75 year old.) If you do not have a wig head/stand that is tall enough, lay it out on a wide, flat surface, like a desk or countertop or even the floor. Make sure the surface is clean, first, too.
Brush from the bottom up, in small layers. If you brush from the top down, you’re just going to push any tangles towards the bottom and rat them. It gets hideous; it’ll kink the fibers and then they’re pretty much dead forever, and you have to cut them out… and then you’re down some fibre! So go gently, from the ends up towards the roots. When I’m working on wigs, I like to use those big claw clips to clip the top layers up and out of the way while I work on bottom layers, and clip the bottom layers out of the way while I work on the top layers. If your wig is in a super horrible state, you may want to use the conditioner I describe below while brushing instead of after, but most of the time I find it isn’t necessary.
Eventually, you’ll have brushed it out enough that you can run your fingers through it smoothly. Once you reach this point, you have two options:
A. Put it away. (More on this after option B.)
B. On occasion, if your long/straight wig needs extra TLC, give the kinked fibers a fix up by using hot water and gravity to your advantage. Put your wig on a wig head, pin it in place. Put it in the shower. Now, pour very hot (near boiling!) water over it until the wig is completely soaked. While you’re doing this, do not touch the wig. Do not brush the wig. Once you’re finished, leave the wig exactly where it is, untouched, and wait until it is completely dry before you touch it. Then you should be able to brush that baby out very lightly and, surprise, your kinky bits are now smoothed out again, thanks to hot water and gravity warping it back into line. Perfect.
But now it’s time to put it away!
First, use a conditioning spray meant for wigs/synthetic hair. I use Cyperous’ Wig Spray –– I don’t know a damn thing about it because it’s all in Japanese, but I know it works. Christine uses Motions Oil Sheen and Motor Master Silicone Lube, which isn’t really meant for synthetic wigs, but works fine despite being a tiny bit greasy. There are a lot of brands out there; some research will find something that suits your needs. If you don’t want to do that, you can make your own from a mix of fabric softener and water — one part softener to four parts water. (So if you choose one tablespoon of fabric softener, use four tablespoons of water. You get the idea.) Anyway, the point of conditioning spray is that it keeps your hair from frizzing, flying away and generally getting weird. It’s nice. Love it. Spray it on and gently brush it through the wig.
Done? Okay. Now braid it very loosely. This is so that it doesn’t flop all over the place and undo all your hard work the moment you put it away. Use a soft elastic on the bottom, just tight enough to hold it together but not so tight that you’ll put a dent in it. Fabric elastics are better because rubber ones will interact weirdly and “stick” to your wig’s fibers.
Now get that net your wig came with. You know the one — the light-as-air mesh net. Put the “head” of the wig in first and then coil the rest of the braid in.
Then bag it.
Store in a cool, dry, place.
When you’re ready to wear it again, keep it braided until you get to the convention floor and then let it loose. Long wigs tangle very, very fast. You’re doing yourself a favour when you keep them as neat as possible for as long as possible.
Hope that helps :)
Time for another tutorial, huh? This time we’re going to learn how to make basic, single-layer bows. These bows can be optionally stuffed with batting for a puffier look, or left flat like mine.
These are really useful for bows for sailor uniforms, hair bows, lolita stuff, whatever. I made four of these suckers tonight for the bows on Madoka school uniforms, but I took a picture of it on my head because it looked super dumb on the front of my pajama shirt in pictures, and pfft, like you can convince me to get dressed at 1:30 am just for a picture. What am I, a model? (Like, a real one?) These bows are also nice because you never have to tie or untie them. They’re just perpetually beautiful.
So here’s what you need:
So let’s get started.
Picture 5 is what you want to get first. “Jenn,” you say, “what the hell is that?” That, my friends, is what you are going to make before cut any of your good fabric. (My scrap just so happened to be the same fabric as my final bows.) Take various rectangles of fabric and fold them over and around until you get a rough idea of how big you want it to be. From there, you can probably guesstimate what kind of pieces you’ll be working with, but you want to come up with three parts: the main body, which should be twice as long as the finished bow, the knot, which should be twice as wide as what you want the finished knot and the right circumference around, and the tail, which should also be twice as wide as what you want the finished tail to be.
I ended up with 6.5”x19” for the body, 3.5”x5” for the knot and 12”x2.5” for the tail. Make sure you add seam allowance.
When you are happy with your bow mock-up, cut out your rectangles from your proper fabric. You’re going to want to do the following to each:
With that done, move to your ironing board. Turn the tail and knot right-side-out and iron them flat, taking care that the seams are opened nicely. Use a pin to gently pull out the corners on the tail so they are right angles. I like to move the seam on the knot to the middle (I’ve shown you both sides in picture 7) so that it’s not visible from either side, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. When that’s done, go back to your body.
Now: move the seam-with-a-gap to the middle and press it open, keeping it inside-out. Now you get to sew the top and bottom closed. This way, you end up with a weird little flat rectangle sealed on all sides, but with an open gap in the middle of the back. Use this gap to turn the sucker right-side out, and again, iron it so the seams are brought out nicely and the corners are sharp.
Take your knot and attach the ends to each other, making sure the “middle” seam ends up on the inside of the bow (unless you want a stripe down the middle, but hey, that’s your call.)
From there it should be pretty self-explanatory, or at least you can figure out what happens. Hand-sew the gaps on the body and tail shut (or use the gaps first to stuff or fill it with glitter or whatever your heart desires), and then assemble the pieces by putting the body through the knot and centering it nicely, and then hand-sew it in place so it doesn’t slide around. You may want to spend some time manipulating the body so it sits just like how you want it, first, and if you want an extra-tight, not-budging-an-inch bow, you can gather down the middle of the body (where it will be hidden by the knot) so the ruffling stays in place, too.
Some people like to put the tail through the knot, but I prefer to just sew it in the back, as it sits nicer. No one’s going to see it anyway. The knot has the added bonus that you can put an elastic through it to wear it, or use it to easily attach the bow to headbands or sashes or whatever, and then you can hand-stitch some more to keep it from sliding around.
Pretty fast, huh?
Right! I had a picture initially, but there just wasn’t enough room for it.
In the picture, it is just pinned to Josh’s shirt, but how you attach it depends on what character you’re using it for. For Mon-El, it will attach via snaps placed over the collarbones, with decorative discs overtop.
I wholeheartedly recommend snaps as the number one way of attaching capes –– I cannot stress enough how dangerous it can be to have capes sewn directly to your shirt or clasped at your throat, simply because if someone steps on your cape or it gets caught in something, the cape releases instead of yanking you by your neck or trapping you. Of course, some cape styles don’t allow for this –– Supergirl’s Turner cape, for example, loses a lot aesthetically when you attach it via snaps — but whenever possible, please consider your own safety and comfort and just use snaps. Big snaps are certainly sturdy enough to hold it in place, and it also makes it easier to take apart to store, iron, wash, etceteras. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of being able to remove it easily, it just makes your life as a cosplayer a million times easier.
Velcro is another option, but I don’t really recommend it. I hate velcro. I hate the sound, I hate the texture, I hate the finicking to get it lined up properly when you put it on. I hate it. But most heinous of all, velcro and spandex tend to be destructive when put together, as velcro can easily tack to the surface of spandex and destroy the surface when you try to take it off. If you must use velcro, use a lightweight kind.
Alternately, you can close it at your neck with a clasp, but again, I don’t like things that join around the neck. I just cringe whenever I see people wear capes that clasp there, and we altered Emmy’s Batgirl cape so that it would attach from the shoulders instead of the neck for that very reason. I just imagine it getting caught in a door or on an escalator or having someone step on it and cringe. It’s also a matter of weight — if your cape is heavy, then you have all that pressure put directly on your neck all day… that can hurt. So please, please, think of your body when you cosplay and make it easier on yourself.
If you must, though, sew snaps to the back of the neck so that the cape is more supported by your shoulders instead of your neck. This also helps in that if someone steps on your cape, you’ll feel it on the nape of your neck before you feel it on your throat.
So you wanna wear a cape?
(God, this new uploading system is balls. It took me forever to arrange them in the right order, because according to Tumblr, despite the pictures being both numbered and uploaded in order, they should just go where-ever they please.)
In this tutorial you’ll be learning to make a basic single-layer cape that attaches from the collarbones. It is patterned as a circle so that it drapes and flows, giving it a lot of body and “flow” when you walk. It has a hand-rolled hem on all sides to give it a clean, finished look without any raw edges.
It works for characters with “trimless” single-coloured capes, such as Superman, Mon-El, or Thor. I will be doing tutorials for trimmed capes or double-layered capes (or capes that have different coloured layers) at a later date, as well as a proper tutorial on collared capes.
What you will need:
To make things easier, you may also want:
Ready? Here we go.
Spread your fabric out on the nice, clean floor. Fold it in half down the middle so that you have a square. Then fold it diagonally, so that you have a “slice”; the third and fourth pictures demonstrate this, but you basically want to have something that will open up to be one piece. This is going to save you a lot of time pinning the bottom curve of your cape.
Once you have your fabric laid out nicely and the edges lined up beautifully, take your measuring tape and decide how long you need this cape to be. Josh here is 5’7” or so, and we cut the cape to 57.5”, this way the finished cape will land just around his ankles from the back of his neck.
Remember compasses? Not the kind you use to save your lost ass from the wilderness and find “North”, the kind you used in sixth grade math class like twice and thought was really cool but had no practical use for. Well, now you get to do something Similar. Line up your measuring tape with that top “point” of your fabric, so it sits nicely in the middle. Have your friend put their finger on it, with enough pressure to keep it from sliding but still leave it room to “swing”. You’re going to use this to draw a large curve across the fabric, using whatever length suits you — if you want to cut a 58” long cape, then use the 58” mark on the measuring tape to pin across. You can see us doing this in picture six.
Finish pinning the whole way across and then cut just below the pins. When you open it up, you have a big ass cape! (Picture seven.) But it doesn’t have a neck curve yet, and you’ll want to add that so it hangs around your neck nicely. Fold it up again in half (don’t worry about the pizza slice this time) and measure your neck to see how wide you want this neckline to be. We picked 20”, which means we needed to cut an arc that spanned 10”. Now, I’m impatient with math, so I just bent my flexible ruler into a curve and used my measuring tape to make sure it was equal distance away from the corner, but if you’re better at math than I am, you can figure out how many inches you need to “swing” just like you did to cut the bottom of the cape. (A 10” half-circle needs about a 6” swing, for the record.) When you’re done that, cut.
And now you have a cape!
But it’s not finished yet.
If you’re fancy, you may have something called a “rolled hem foot” that lets you do stuff like this easily, but a) I find those things more trouble than they’re worth and b) what am I, a wizard? I’m not fucking around with a foot when I can do it manually. You might be a wizard, though, so if you want to explore this magical sewing foot, you can read someone else’s tutorial here.
But if you’re cool and want to stick with me and learn how to do it manually, that’s cool, too.
Now, if you just folded over the edges once and sewed it down and called it a day, your cape might still be okay. But you don’t want fraying –– that stuff is ugly, and you’ll appreciate the extra work of doing a rolled hem, which is just a fancy way to say “fold that shit over twice.”
Picture 9 shows this pretty clearly, I think –– fold over the edge you want to hem once, iron it, and then fold it over again, so that the ugly raw edge is trapped inside. Pin it all. You’re going to want to pin it very evenly and close together, and TAKE YOUR TIME. If you rush it, you’re going to end up with an ugly, uneven hem, and it’ll bubble up in weird places because you’re hemming a big curve, here. This can be very tedious and take a long time, especially if your cape is huge. (This is why it is usually faster to just make a double-layered cape. UGH, HEMMING.) But the results are worth it; a single-layered cape with beautiful hems is gorgeous and usually less bulky than a double-layered one, so they fly better.
Once you have everything pinned (taking care to pin down the corners neatly, too) you can sew it all. Take your time and make sure the fabric is tight/flat when you sew over it, lest you end up with weird bubbles and misplaced hems. Stay close to the edge of the hem, so that you don’t end up with overhang.
Speed will only sabotage you.
Once you’re done sewing it all down, take out any remaining pins and give the whole thing a good ironing. This should smooth out any remaining warps in your fabric, as you’re using a polyester and they can be warped back into line a little with some heat.
And then enjoy your cape. You earned it.
Go race some airplanes.
That depends on what version of Barbara’s Batgirl costume you’re making!
In general, the simplest way to do it is to put the cape on heavy-duty snaps and attach it to your shoulders.
The more complicated (but ~fancier~) way (which I used for Stephanie) has the cape attached to a whole shoulder piece. Keep in mind that Stephanie’s cape is pretty unique in that the cape itself starts at the shoulder-blades, NOT off the collarbone like most Bat capes.
Here are some pictures, which I hope show what I mean when I say “it’s a whole separate shoulder piece.”
Wooooow these pictures are unflattering. Can you tell Christine and I made the top collar the night before? It’s on the remake list!
For Barbara, if you intend to do a collared shoulder-piece like Steph’s (which presumably attaches to the cowl?) I would recommend just making a “dickie” type collar and attaching the circle of the cape all the way around, so that you can throw it over your shoulders :)
I’ve drawn this mock-up of what I’d do as a pattern for a Barbara-style Batgirl cape in which the cape is draped off the collarbones but is attached to a high turtleneck collar:
Sorry this is so rushed/brief, I have a hell of a lot of schoolwork to get to but I didn’t want to leave you waiting until the weekend! Let me know if there’s anything else I can clarify or if you need any other help :)