Okay, I don’t think I’ve written a post about completing any part of Vanille’s costume since her necklaces. And based on that, you’d kind of think I’ve been making very little progress, no? Well, strangely enough, I am actually getting close to finishing this costume. Nearly everything has been started…just very few things have been completed. But, at long last, pieces of this cosplay are finally starting to come together, and I now have my first garment of hers, her skirt. Huzzah!
Vanille’s skirt was a pain. Everything about cosplay is, really. It makes you wonder why I bother…. After inspecting my references, I found that Vanille seems to have three pieces to her skirt, a longer skirt underneath, a short skirt over that, and this front piece. It also has an orange to yellow gradient on it, which I was not able to buy in stores, so I settled for white fabric and three bottles of dye, yellow for the…yellow, and orange and red to get the right shade of reddish orange. I also bought some elastic, which I’ve never used before, but it seemed like it would be needed.
The fabric was thin, but I chose it because it was soft and very stretchy. I thought this would help me with getting the skirt on and off, but I quickly learned that this fabric is very flimsy. If you barely stretch it one way, it will tear, while it won’t stretch at all if you pull it in the direction perpendicular to this. Uh oh… I had to re-cut my fabric to ensure there would be no chance of stretching while putting it on and off. By this, I mean the stretchy side should be hanging vertical when wearing it, not horizontal, as it should not be stretched in that direction. I cut out six rectangular pieces of fabric (I’ll tell you later why this is not the right shape for a skirt…), two pieces for each part of her skirt because the fabric is thin, and I wanted to eliminate the chance of anyone seeing through it. Which would not be ideal.
I then got to work dyeing my fabric. I decided to dye bits of it yellow first, as this color is lighter and should be more easily covered by the orange. I found a plastic container that seemed like the right size for my fabric and water and draped the fabric over the sides, with what would be the bottom half of the skirt hanging in, four pieces in total, as the upper skirt is all orange and doesn’t require any yellow. I then used binder clips on the edges of the fabric to serve as weights to prevent them from falling fully into the container, which helped a lot. After a full hour of dyeing, however, the fabric was still very pale, even though an hour was recommended on the directions. An additional hour didn’t help very much, either. Another look at the directions told me that this dye apparently works badly on polyester and spandex. I thought dye worked on all fabrics and didn’t think to check beforehand, but I think a decent percentage of my fabric was polyester when I checked at the store. Woops.
I didn’t want to go down to the store and buy different fabric, though, so I kept at my dyeing with the hopes that I could make the fabric brighter. In the end, I dyed my fabric over the course of four days. Two days were spent dyeing the bottoms of my fabric yellow, which was enough to make the yellow a bit brighter, though it never got as bright as I wanted. The other two were spent dyeing the other halves orange, while the remaining fabric rested fully in the container in order to dye them orange in their entirety. The orange also didn’t turn out as vibrant as I had hoped, but at least the color was noticeable.
Each day, I dyed my fabric for two hours using half a bottle of dye, then, hung them to dry on a clothes rack. For a few tips that may or may not be helpful, I used Rit dye, of which I added a small amount of red dye to the water (the exact amount can be found in the directions, if you’re thinking of trying this yourself), along with half a bottle of orange dye, to get the shade I wanted. I think any more than that would have started to make it too red. I also recommend using a paper towel on the end of your fabric when it’s hanging up to dry. When it’s hanging, dye pools at the ends and drips onto anything below it. Simply folding a paper towel in half and running the ends of the fabric between it will help to get rid of this excess dye. I know the directions said to rinse the fabric after dyeing, but I was afraid, as pale as they were, that I’d wash some of the dye off if I attempted this.
I do admit that the colors of my skirt turned out a bit lighter than I had planned, and it may have required three or even four sessions of dyeing to get the color as bright as what is accurate, but it was pretty cool making my own custom fabric nonetheless. I’m also not sure how to get the gradient nice and smooth. To be honest, the change in color is so abrupt, it almost looks like flames, which is not really the effect I wanted. Oh, well… I then sewed each piece of fabric to its respective pair, all the while pondering if I’d be able to figure out how to use elastic or if I should just settle for a zipper. After much contemplation, I decided I would try my hand at the correct method of making a skirt and tackle that roll of elastic I had bought.
First, I cut a piece of elastic and pinned the ends together, making it smaller and smaller until it stayed on me. Even then, however, it felt a bit loose, and it would bounce when I walked. A moment of inspiration hit me, and I pulled the elastic to my stomach and made it tight. Then, when I pulled it down to my waist, it was nice and snug and no longer budged from the spot I had placed it. Perfect. Seeing as the fabric was wider than the length of my elastic belt, I thought this method would indeed be successful. The fabric, once attached to the elastic, would have room to expand, but it would be pulled to the correct size by the elastic when I was actually wearing it, keeping it firmly in place. I then sewed the ends of the elastic together and turned my sights back to the fabric.
The problem was, if I sewed each piece of fabric around the elastic one by one, each time I did so, there was the potential that the stitches from the upper layer of fabric would stop the lower level from expanding. So I devised a cunning plan. All three pieces of fabric would be sewn together before adding them to the elastic. Then, they’d all have the same potential to stretch. The lower skirt’s edges would be centered in front, due to the shape I’d need to cut out of the front later. The edges of the upper skirt would be on my right side, which should be covered by my pouch. And that third piece would be centered in front. I measured the ends of the upper skirt to be ten inches from the ends of the lower skirt. Placing the upper-skirt ends in its respective place upon the lower skirt, I sewed it together. Because the ends were skewed, it ended up making a loop. I then added the third piece. Now everything was attached.
Next, I sewed this crazy mass of fabric over the elastic band. I looped the top over the band, keeping the fabric flat and smooth (once again, if I let it bunch up when I sewed it, it would no longer be able to expand) and began sewing it together beneath the elastic, leaving the elastic free inside this loop of fabric. It was quite a frustrating task, especially towards the end, when I had two inches of elastic to cover in six inches of fabric, but I kept tugging on the fabric until it was smooth where I wanted it. Once the elastic was fully enclosed, I tried the skirt on, and it was able to stretch wider when necessary, but it also stayed firmly on. My idea worked, and I was really proud at how my careful planning had allowed me to complete this project with minimal issues.
I then went about the finishing touches. When I sewed the fabric pairs together, I didn’t sew the bottom edge because the length of the skirt would probably need to be adjusted. I ended up sewing the bottom of the front piece first. Next, I needed the shape of the lower skirt. Starting at Vanille’s sides, this lower skirt curves upward towards her front. I cut the corners off the edges of this skirt and rounded everything up until I had the right shape, with the front of the skirt higher than the back. Last of all, I shortened the upper skirt and cleaned up the edges.
Before I bring this post to its exciting conclusion, I wanted to mention one issue I had found when cutting my fabric. Rectangular pieces of fabric don’t make good skirts. The reason for this is because rectangles only take in account the circumference of your waist, but not your legs. A skirt should be more of a trapezoid shape, where the longer side is on the bottom to accommodate your legs when you’re walking. I forgot this, so that is why I left the side of my upper skirt open rather than sealing it up like I had originally planned. This made it easier to walk, and you can now see the lower skirt in this gap, so it actually has a nice effect.
And that’s that. I learned a lot from this project, including how to work with dye and elastic, and I’m pretty proud with how my skirt turned out despite all my difficulties. Everything but Vanille’s shirt is reaching completion at this point, so hopefully I’ll have some more updates before long!
Skirting Around a Duck