• pattern similar to what you’re trying to make
  • muslin
  • marking pen or chalk
  • pins
  • a very patient friend

As we’re sure you’ve noticed, a lot of costumes (especially anime ones) are not constructed like every-day-wear clothes. If you’re super industrious (like Judy), you can draft a pattern from scratch but for the rest of us who are a bit lazier, there are commercial patterns that can be used as starting points.

We’re going to show you an example of how you can take a commercial pattern and alter it to fit better and to look more like your costume design. We do this by using muslin to make a mock-up of the garment, fit it, make modifications and then tear it apart to use as pattern pieces.

For this example, we’re going to be walking through the construction of the bodice on AJ’s Five Star Stories costume: The Bride. (You can see the other Five Star Stories costumes HCC is doing on our livejournal.)

The first thing to do is to print out your costume reference and take it to JoAnns or Hancock Fabrics and sit down with the pattern books. Flip through them until you find something that is close in shape to what you want. In this case, the Titanic-wannabe dress has a similar bodice section as The Bride’s dress so we’ll use that.

Using muslin as your fabric, put the pattern together in your size following the instructions. This is your mock-up.

Now we lace AJ into the corset she’ll be wearing under the costume (ugh) and put on the mock-up. Obviously, the corset isn’t a mandatory step but if you’re doing any body shape alterations (like binding), you’ll need to do it now, so you can make sure the outfit fits properly.

Just a note that we’re going to do the bodice in 2 steps: the “bra” piece, and then the bottom of the bodice. If the garment you’re modifying is simple (fewer seams), you can just do the entire thing as one step.

Here’s where the friend comes in. Standing straight so you don’t make the mock-up hang all funny, have your friend pin it closed as if there was an actually zipper there: that means pin it closed with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Now that the outfit is on, we can start to fix the fit. The mock-up is a little big so we take pins and move along the seamlines, pinning the outfit so it fits more snugly. If the outfit was too small, we’d use a seam ripper to open up seams and re-pin them so they fit.

Take a your marking pen / chalk and draw along the line of pins. We’re going to use a sharpie so it’s easier to see but sharpie bleeds through the muslin so using a pen or chalk is safer. This sharpie line is now your new seamline!

Take off the mockup, go back to your machine and sew along all your new seamlines. Try on the mockup again and make sure everything fits properly. You may have to do a couple iterations of this to get everything to your satisfaction.

Now we add on the rest of the commercial pattern to the bodice so we can finish drafting the pattern. Again, use pins to adjust the fit. Once the fit is good, take your sharpie and draw out the shape of the bodice so that it matches the reference material.

If your design is symmetrical, you only need to do the pattering on one side.

At this point you’ll also want to draw in any other seam lines you need to add. For example: The Bride’s dress has an open section down the side. We need to draw in a line so we know where to cut the fabric for that. We also added a line in the back to indicate where we wanted to add boning to the bodice.

And now you have a mockup of how your outfit will look! Using scissors and a seam ripper, take apart the mockup. The resulting pieces can now be used as patterns for your costume. Just remember that in places where you added a seam (where there was none before), you need to add seam allowance.

You can get far more advanced with fitting / altering techniques, but we wanted to keep this tutorial simple. We recommend you check out a sewing book and read up a little on the alterations sections.

And how’s the final product look?

It’s a little hard to see all the seamlines in this shot but the final product came out very well fitted and just like we drafted it.