It’s my favorite time of year. Time to dress up; debut a new character or be an old favorite. No, I am not early for Halloween. It’s convention and Faire season! Events where merely wearing a corset or a pair of cat ears is yawn-worthy. I find dressing up as a beloved character to be fun and freeing. I have a full closet of various garb ranging from cats to steampunk to pirates. But I am always on the lookout for new characters and challenges. In fact, new planning and construction can be almost more fun than the actual wearing.
As a self-taught maker, I love to design and make my own interpretation of a character. This however, means that a variety of skills are needed to enact my vision. While I can use a sewing machine, scissors and a glue gun with the best of them, there are other less common tools that are quite useful during planning and construction. I thought I’d highlight three of my favorite—a French curve set, a heat source to shape craft foam, and my anvil with a hammer.
I often start planning a new costume construction by choosing an existing sewing pattern close to my character design garment. But there are times a common sewing pattern does not get close enough to my vision, and this is where my French curve set comes in. Sometimes I need to mix a couple of patterns together (frankenpattern) in order to recreate the perfect pattern in my head. Often this mixing needs minor pattern redrafting to work. The French curves help smooth out and balance curved seamlines, allowing the changes to match correctly with other adjoining pieces. I anticipate needing these soon on the new Cosplay I am currently working on. (Hint, it’s a DC villainess).
Using a heat source to mold Craft foam is a big trend in our cosplay community. It’s used to make armor, weapons, and common accessories. It’s also a technique I am just learning how to do, but I love the results of my initial experimental accessories. The best part is all you need is a heat source like an oven, a carefully used stovetop, or a heat gun. How great is it to not need an extra expensive special tool to complete your costume? First thing you learn working with foam—be careful, it’s hot! It’s fairly easy to use, especially if you follow one of the many tutorials on the internet, and if you are careful and precise, you can make just what you need for your next costume—accessory or armor.
I left my all-time favorite tool for last. My friends and family thought I was crazy when I told them I bought a mini anvil. It has been one of the best tools I’ve ever invested in, mainly because I love Renaissance Faire. I LOVE a good-looking bodice. Bodices and corsets are a passion of mine, so I am fairly skilled at setting grommets. However, my grommets became better looking and more enduring after I started using my anvil to set them. Basically, all you need to do is mark and cut, insert grommet pieces, properly align the garment and grommet on the anvil, and finally hammer the grommet carefully and precisely in place. It’s also a great skill for stress-relief. The anvil with a hammer can also be useful when setting rivets and snaps, depending on the type. I also sometimes use them when setting closure hardware-like magnetic snaps and turn-locks in a bag. But I frequently look for any excuse to break out my hammer and anvil.
Of course the most important tool of all when cosplaying is your imagination. With imagination and determination, you can create any character that strikes your fancy. You don’t need any other specialized tools beyond that. Whether you sew, gather, or buy new, it’s the fun of donning the clothes of your favorite character that matters. But tools are fun too, and for me, I lose motivation to finish a costume if the making isn’t almost as fun as the wearing. However you love to Cosplay, get out there, make it, wear it, and have lots of fun with it.