AVA's 2012 Halloween Costume Contest Entry

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This is an entry for the group division. Pictured are the members of my cosplay group, "...And Sewing Is Half The Battle!"

Costuming experience: We started cosplaying at anime conventions about ten years ago, and have since branched out into sci-fi, games, books and film replica costumes. None of us have had any formal sewing instruction (except for one semester of home-ec in 7th grade, which I nearly failed). We are entirely self-taught, mostly through trial-and-error! I point this out only because since I've never had formal training, I'm not very good with "correct" sewing terminology, so I'll try to describe the construction as clearly as I can. :)

About the costumes: These are replicas from the Takarazuka Hoshigumi's 2008 production of The Scarlet Pimpernel (reference 1; reference 2; reference 3). The Takarazuka is an all-female performance group in Japan, known for incredibly lavish Broadway-style productions. Since all the performers are women, we had a challenge in turning the male member of our group into a man-pretending-to-be-a-woman-pretending-to-be-a-man. (Shades of Victor/Victoria!)

The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in the 1790s, but the costumes were clearly designed more for stage function and glamour than historical accuracy. I acquired programs, photo books and a DVD of the production and tried to deconstruct the costumes and sketch out how they were put together. I drafted a lot of our patterns from scratch, making a number of muslin mock-ups to alter and fit, and modified commercial patterns for some of the less unusual pieces (pants, etc.).

I'll give a description of each costume individually...


Undergarments: I started by making a fully-boned corset to go under the dress, but later decided that it looked too historically accurate (since the stage version hadn't used one and didn't match the period silhouette), so I ended up adding some boning to the dress instead of using the corset. The farthingale (visible in progress pic below) is constructed with steel hoop boning, and I added a pair of lace-trimmed bloomers beneath it (wrong period historically, but I was more comfortable with pants!). There is a crinoline over the farthingale, with a light tulle petticoat to keep the steel boning from creating lines through the outer fabric.

Materials: The pink outer gown is dupioni silk; the white inset is bridal brocade covered in a layer of painted lace; the burgundy swag trim is crepe-back satin; the ruffles and lace trim are several varieties of vintage lace imported from Italy (lucky find in the NYC fabric district!). All the gold lace trim on the bodice, sleeves and skirt is hand-painted. The center of the bodice is hand-beaded with crystals, pearls, seed beads and sequins. The bodice is boned with spring steel, and is fully lined with cotton sateen. The "dust ruffle" at the very bottom of the skirt is also cotton sateen; it attaches around the skirt with over 100 snaps, so it can easily be removed and washed (we did not want the silk to touch the floor at any point), and -- equally important -- if someone accidentally steps on the skirt, the ruffle will just pop off instead of tearing! The dress's four-foot train is also removable, and is also silk lined with cotton. I lost count during construction, but the dress ended up using somewhere around 25 yards of fabric and 35 yards of trim.

Construction photos:

The bows were constructed from crepe-back satin and wired Christmas ribbon:

I also made most of the jewelry and accessories. The center piece of the necklace started as a child's hair accessory and a 1960s earring, before I attacked them with rhinestones and bead wire:

The mask is a plastic base covered in moleskin and decorated with jewels, fabric and flowers:

I also hand-painted the design on the fan, dyed the stone in the ring using vodka and alcohol-based ink, and created and styled the hairpieces that augmented my own hair (the tube curls at the neck are synthetic, as is the hair rat used to puff up the front; the big hair coil and all the rest is my real hair).


Layers: All three layers of Percy's costume were shown separately in the photo book I had, so we were able to make the costume accurate at all levels. The shirt and vest patterns were drafted based on reference images; the overcoat was heavily customized from an existing coat pattern to add details like the upright collar, triangular lapels, extra-full skirt, foldback cuffs, etc.

Materials: The shirt is made of baby silk; the vest and pants are microvelvet; the overcoat is crepe suiting. The vest is faced in velvet with a lace overlay, which is hand-beaded to add the sparkle visible in this reference image and trimmed in faux leather. The pants have cord-and-vinyl trim sewn down the legs, and the overcoat is trimmed in faux leather and black lace ruffles. The cravat and sash are matte satin. The gloves are leather, with the gauntlet portion lined in heavier vinyl.

Percy's mask is a plastic base accessorized with fabric and vinyl trim, EVA foam, door insulation, pearl beads and rooster feathers.

I also crafted Percy's ring and sash finials:


Materials: Chauvelin's vest, coat and pants are polyester suiting. The lapels and cuffs are faced in velvet and trimmed in braided cord. The shirt is cotton (for breathability) with baby silk cuffs. The cravat and tricolor sash are matte satin. Like Percy, all layers of the costume are accurate to the best of our research ability.

Chauvelin's hat started as a big floppy Breakfast at Tiffany's-style sun hat. I cut down the brim, wrapped it in grosgrain trim, folded up the sides and sewed them in place, and added the satin tricolor band. (I also made the hatband for Percy's hat, shown here.)

If you'd like to see the costumes in action, there is a video of us performing a short skit here: The Scarlet Pimpernel - Gen Con 2012 - "...And Sewing Is Half The Battle!" - YouTube

Proof photos:

Thanks for your consideration! :)

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Sr Member
REALLY nice work Ava! All three of those costumes have their own distinct look, and the detailing is exquisite, especially on the dress. My word, I know quite a few theatre companies who would love to put that type of thing on stage.


Well-Known Member
Great Costumes, from a home taught seamstress as well. I can tell you put a lot of work in you costumes :) if we lose out I hope its to someone like you who put heart and soul in to your master pieces. Your costumes are beautiful! Good Luck!
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