10 costuming rules that work

When it comes down to costuming, there are no hard and fast rules that work for every project. Costuming is about what works for you. Different types of costuming require different choices in design and material. A costume made for a one time wear during a renfair is different from a (belly) dance costume that has to withstand years of vigorous dance performances. I started at a young age with making clothes for my dolls. When I was sixteen, I made clothes for myself instead. I have made retro dresses in fiftees and sixtees style, went through a phase where I would make a lot of tie-dye and flared pants, made a truckload of Gothic clothes (never cut black velvet in a house with carpeting. Really.) ventured into historical costumes and made medieval dresses, corsets and Victorian outfits. For the past fifteen years most of my projects were bellydance costumes. In short, I did a whole lot of sewing and costuming and I developed a couple of rules that work for me. Take advantage of my mistakes and try the following rules when you’re on your next project.

My white flower fairy costume from 2001.
White flower fairy costume from 2001.

1. Use high quality material for time intensive costumes. You don’t want to spend many hours on a costume, only to have it fall apart after your first performance

2. Make costumes that can be adjusted for size. When I started costuming, I was an A cup. Years later, I wear a C cup. I always make my bellydance bra one cup size bigger and leave a bit of overlap in my belt. It takes just a little bit of extra effort to create a costume that can be adjusted to size changes. You’ll get more wear out of your costume and it will be easier to sell.

3. Work tidy. I am not referring to your workspace because mine is a mess, but to your sewing. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well, tidy stitches will hold a long, long time.

Victorian fantail skirt
Victorian fantail skirt and a pvc corset.

4. No sewing after 23.00. Most of my errors in judgement were made after 23.00 when I was too tired to think straight or work tidy (see nr. 3).

5. Don’t wear clothes in the same color as the costume you are sewing. For example, working on a black costume while wearing black pants and black t-shirt. Way too easy to stitch things together that shouldn’t.

6. Always work with good light. Daylight is best but if that is not available, make sure your workspace is well lighted. Save your eyes, you’ll probably want to use them later in life too.

7. Take breaks. It is tempting to keep on costuming because you’re soooo close to finishing your costume. A break will allow you to rest your hands, back and head and place things into perspective. Also see rule 4. As a life long costumer I can tell you that you might finish this costume, but there will always be a next project right around the corner so don’t rush it.

8. A quick trick to check if your design is balanced is by looking at it through a reflection in the mirror.

9. Think before you act. I spend many hours on sketching and planning a costume before actually making it. The times that I rushed into it, I regretted some of the choices I made and had to go back and fix it. Save yourself the effort and think it through before you start.

10. Enjoy the proces. Costuming takes time, so make sure you are enjoying yourself. I like to settle on the couch, watching movies or series with one eye while beading my way through another inch of rope beading. With a nice pot of tea within arms reach and no dead lines, I can relax and let my mind relax too. After finishing the project I can look back on hours that I spent being happy and relaxed, and a costume imbued with good mojo.

Those are my ten rules for costuming. What are yours? Leave your reply in the comments or on facebook!

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7 thoughts on “10 costuming rules that work

  1. I agree with many of your rules, but there’s one that has saved lives: DO NOT touch my sewing project when I have to leave the machine! If I drop the pieces and put them back together, it’s my fault. If you drip BBQ sauce on it, well- hope your life insurance is paid up

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    1. Wahaha, my husband doesn’t dare to touch my machine. I have my own corner upstairs in a seperate room. He had his fair share of ‘don’t use the fabric scissors!’. I hate it when my scissors are dull.

      Do you have a picture of how the bbq sauce project turned out?

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  2. Just expanding on Carol’s comment: It’s important to have crafting space away from the rest of the household. I have 3 kids and for the longest time my sewing desk was in the living room. I didn’t realize how everything around can be so distracting. I moved my sewing desk to the bedroom and have since found it easier to get started and FINISH projects. ^_^

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    1. I have an upstairs craft room but often find myself on the couch, especially when I am adding beading to a costume. I can’t lock myself away for the many hours it takes to finish beading fringe and such. But my upstairs room is great because I can sew, draft and cut in peace. Unless the dog is searching for me and starts to play with fabric scraps.

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