Amy March from Little Women

This dress didn’t begin life as Amy March. It just kind of…happened.

Picture it: my junior year of college, 2000 and something. My English literature class was doing group projects, and mine decided to do an Oprah-type interview of Jane Austen. Who was selected to play Jane Austen? Me! But I needed a costume.

I ran to Joann’s and grabbed Butterick 6630, their regency-era pattern, and whipped it up in white muslin. I mostly followed the pattern to the letter, although the laced back was a little tricky- I ended up using little white eyes for the loops instead of messing with punching eyelets. I also added a little bit of eyelet to the sleeve cuffs and added a full lining to the skirt, also trimmed with eyelet (I’m always a slut for eyelet). I pulled my hair back in a loose knot, added a pair of black ballet slippers, and it made for a pretty decent Jane Austen costume!

Flash forward to Akaicon 2016. I was planning on attending the masquerade, but I didn’t have a ballgown cosplay completed. And I was running out of time fast (and money- the yardage for ballgowns ain’t cheap). I played around with a couple of options but ended up pulling my white Jane Austen dress out of storage and set to work with a different literary character in mind.

In the book Little Women there’s a scene in the second half where Amy, the youngest sister, is preparing to go to a ball. She ends up taking a hand-me-down white ballgown, adds tulle and some flowers, and goes to the ball without anyone suspecting that she’s wearing someone else’s old dress. In fact, it’s that scene where she runs into Laurie again and…well, I would say spoiler alert but the book was published in the 1880s. But it’s a great scene. Amy’s a great character (not in the beginning, I know, but she grows up to be awesome) and I thought the scene would the perfect setup for an (admittedly obscure) amazing cosplay for the masquerade.

It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately prinked that night. Time and absence had done its work on both the young people. She had seen her old friend in a new light, not as ‘our boy’, but as a handsome and agreeable man, and she was conscious of a very natural desire to find favor in his sight. Amy knew her good points, and made the most of them with the taste and skill which is a fortune to a poor and pretty woman.

Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she enveloped herself in them on such occasions, and following the sensible English fashion of simple dress for young girls, got up charming little toilettes with fresh flowers, a few trinkets, and all manner of dainty devices, which were both inexpensive and effective. It must be confessed that the artist sometimes got possession of the woman, and indulged in antique coiffures, statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. But, dear heart, we all have our little weaknesses, and find it easy to pardon such in the young, who satisfy our eyes with their comeliness, and keep our hearts merry with their artless vanities.

“I do want him to think I look well, and tell them so at home,” said Amy to herself, as she put on Flo’s old white silk ball dress, and covered it with a cloud of fresh illusion, out of which her white shoulders and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect. Her hair she had the sense to let alone, after gathering up the thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like knot at the back of her head.

“It’s not the fashion, but it’s becoming, and I can’t afford to make a fright of myself,” she used to say, when advised to frizzle, puff, or braid, as the latest style commanded.

Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion, Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azalea, and framed the white shoulders in delicate green vines. Remembering the painted boots, she surveyed her white satin slippers with girlish satisfaction, and chasseed down the room, admiring her aristocratic feet all by herself.

“My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves fit to a charm, and the real lace on Aunt’s mouchoir gives an air to my whole dress. If I only had a classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy,” she said, surveying herself with a critical eye and a candle in each hand.

In Amy-ish fashion, I dug around to see what I had in my costume supplies, and lo and behold, I found a set of white Ikea Lill curtains, still in their packaging. Basically I had a panel of soft, already hemmed tulle. I cut up the curtains to make a multilayered tulle skirt and added a waistband and a hook and eye and voila! The addition of the long tulle skirt made my simple muslin dress look dreamy.

It wasn’t quite complete though, so I added a blue satin ribbon sash, a blonde wig (the same one I wore for Eleven), and a flower crown from Claire’s. My boots are a beautiful pair of ivory high heeled Seychelles Romance boots that look gorgeous but HURT. I was relieved I was only wearing them for the masquerade because wow, so much pain.

I have a couple of (awkward) photos in the costume, and while no one knew who I was, I was really happy with how it turned out. The fit could have been better and it could have been a little fancier, but for a costume I only wore for two hours it worked really well!

Astrid Hofferson from How to Train Your Dragon

The only way I can describe this is “Princess Astrid.” Really.

I love How to Train Your Dragon, so for Not So Scary in 2015 I decided to make a costume inspired by her. Her full outfit was going to be impractical, especially for Florida (faux fur! Leather! weaponry!) so I designed a one piece dress reminiscent of Astrid using my trusty Simplicity 1873 as a base.

The bodice is made of a red brocade that I bought online. Sadly it is far too shiny in person and I wasn’t happy with it at all. I also wasn’t happy with the faux lacing- the neckline sits too high and the waistline sits too low, making me seem lumpy and uneven. The sleeves were fairly simple though; I used cream cotton from my stash and stitched on brown ribbon to look like the lacing of her arm guards.

The skirt was a brown cotton that I originally purchased for my Vanellope Von Schweetz cosplay (although I found a much better fabric later). I used a wide burlap ribbon to cover the waist and stitched stripes of narrow burlap ribbon onto the skirt to look like the fur and leather panels. I tracked down skull buttons on Ali Express that literally arrived at the last possible second.

The headband was a length of brown twill belting with elastic stitched to the center, and I wore navy Walmart leggings and my Rocketdog boots. Super classy, eh?

Here’s where I really messed up, though. Because…I’m a procrastinator. A really dreadful procrastinator. I waited until the day of Not So Scary to get started on my project. And I slept in too. And also I was working on my friend’s Belle costume, which I hadn’t completed either. I am literally THE WORST. I cried. Often. And I wasn’t happy with the final products of either cosplay. But oh well. We still made it to Be Our Guest on time (so Bri got to eat at the castle while dressed as Belle) and we still had a great time at the party. Will I wear my Astrid dress again? Not without significant changes. But at least we had a good time!

Genderbent Kristoff Bjorgman

So I sewed a young Elsa cosplay instead of the ice dress or the coronation dress, right? So of course I’d make one of those next.

Nope.

I made a genderbent cosplay of Kristoff’s outfit from Frozen Fever. As one does.

So I was going to the 24 Hour Day in Magic Kingdom with my friend Carrie and we were debating about what to wear (because of course you have to dress up!) She ended up being the Sven to my Kristoff and it was the most magical thing.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked about which pattern I used- Simplicity 1873! Seriously, so versatile. So great.

I used sportswear fabric (sturdy with a bit of stretch) for both the bodice and the skirt; the skirt is a nice simple A-line. The neckline and armscyes are edged in bias tape rather than a full lining (too hot for that!) and I wore the same blouse I used for my young Elsa cosplay underneath, rather than making the collar and sleeves. The sash was a length of maroon fabric stitched together to make an extremely wide long panel long enough to tie and drape. The best part was busting out the embroidery options on my machine- I never use them, but they worked so beautifully on the bodice. I might have used too much embroidery, actually.

For 24-Hour Day, I wore a pair of black T-strap flats from Blowfish (which were amazing, but I wore them out and I can’t find a replacement pair and ergo am devastated) and my custom made Kristoff bow from Ever After Bowtique. Simple, but effective. I also stuffed my Malco Modes petticoat under there, because of course I did.

I pulled the costume out again for my first Akaicon in 2015. The basic costume stayed the same, but I styled it differently. The biggest change was wearing my pale blonde Arda wig instead of using my own hair; I added a gray knitted beret from Claire’s too. It seemed very Kristoffesque.

I also skipped the simple flats and went with the more Kristoff-appropriate option of gray tights from Target and my black Seychelles Gallium boots (also the same ones from my young Elsa cosplay).

I also eliminated the petticoat and added my eyelet-trimmed Wendy Darling bloomers instead. While I truly love my petticoats, they’re not always necessary, and this cosplay definitely looked cuter and more character-appropriate with just the circle skirt. And look how cute the bloomers are with the lace peeking out under the hem!

I haven’t pulled this one out in a long time, but maybe there’ll be another great time to cosplay as everyone’s favorite weirdo ice harvester

Cinderella’s Rags

Why are these rags so pretty? I’ve always wondered that, even as a kid. Maybe it’s the color combination- the warm golden brown, the chocolate brown, the robin’s egg blue. There’s just something appealing about it.

I decided to make my Cinderella rags cosplay for Not So Scary in 2014. What pattern did I use? If you guessed my trusty Simplicity 1873, you are correct! It’s just the best fit and flare pattern there is. I used all cottons, mostly because I couldn’t find any linens that were the right color. If I ever go back and remake this dress, I’ll use a wider range in fabric textures. The skirt was cut as a half circle and I added pockets- really deep pockets, because if I’ve learned anything from my Not So Scary trips it’s that I NEED POCKETS. I mean, I had my car keys, my phone, and my umbrella in that bitch.

The first time I tried on the bodice, it was too small. This is why I always pin the zipper and test the bodice before I add sleeves or the skirt! Luckily I had enough fabric left to add gores at the sides, and that was all I needed.

The apron was a hemmed rectangle of white cotton pleated onto a waistband (super simple) and I wore black ballet flats from Target and a royal blue ribbon in my hair. My hair was surprisingly easy. I curled my bangs back from my forehead with a 1” curling iron and pinned the perfectly formed curl into place; the rest of my hair was curled, teased, and tied into a low ponytail. I was also very pleased with my makeup (although I can’t remember what products I used!)

I also made a Fairy Godmother costume for my friend Song using the same pattern. The dress was a plain blue, but the short cloak was self drafted. If I remember correctly, the cape part was cut in one circular piece; the cape and hood were both lined in pink and I added the big maroon ties in the front to make the bow.

I wore the Cinderella costume again for Akaicon 2015; I wanted a simple and comfortable cosplay for Sunday so I pulled this one out of retirement. This time I added my beloved Malco Modes petticoat, white gave just enough softness and fullness. My friend Kimberly also took some gorgeous photos of the costume, and my sister lent me her Cinderella mice toys (from a playset I bought her for her sixth birthday!)

Also I got to meet Jason Mardsen in this dress and I got super shy and he was literally the nicest and his chin scruff touched my shoulder when he hugged me and it was the best okay bye.

“Are you Blonde Belle?” (no.)

Let’s go back to an earlier, simpler time. Fall of 2014. The Frozen craze is at its height. I’m going to Not So Scary, and do I have the time to make Elsa’s ice gown? Or her coronation gown? Absolutely not, I’m a procrastinator. So I settle for young Elsa.

(Source: Britt Myers Art)

I was already off to a pretty good start. I had a Forever 21 blouse in the correct color with the correct collar already, plus I had white gloves, white tights, a black headband, and a pale blonde Arda wig (from my yet-to-be-completed Alice in Wonderland cosplay). I also swapped out the black ballet flats for my black Seychelles Gallium ankle boots. Pretty much I was just looking at the dress.

I used a navy knit from my stash from the bodice; using a knit meant I could eliminate the zipper, and the fit was a lot more comfortable and forgiving. I pretty much just cut rectangles and pinned and stitched until it was a good fit. Originally the skirt was made out of the same knit, but it was too dark and too heavy, so I pulled a medium blue cotton from my stash and made a simple dirndl skirt (plus pockets- you always need pockets, especially for Not So Scary.

Elsa’s dress has a lot of really beautiful embroidery, but did I mention that I’m a procrastinator?

I ended up bringing my Elsa Disney Animator’s Collection doll to Joann’s with me so I could match her embroidery to embroidered ribbon. That’s right, I was that crazy lady walking around in public with a doll. But in the end, I found a great scalloped black trim for the hem, a pretty burgundy satin ribbon, and two kinds of embroidered ribbon in the right colors. Worth it, I guess? Oh, and I also used a navy satin ribbon as a sash.

The floral shape on the bodice turned out to be a nightmare. Originally I cut the petals from fabric and I planned to satin stitch them on as appliques. My sewing machine, it turns out, did not agree. At the last second, I used black fabric paint and traced around the edges; it simulated a stitched edge while also attaching the petals to the bodice. It’s not great, and I fully plan on changing it at some point in the future, but it could be a lot worse.

(Speaking of a lot worse, I hadn’t learned about wig caps. As such, the wig situation was a mess the whole night. Yikes.)

The only real downside to this cute, comfortable, on-trend costume…was that no one knew who I was. All night people asked me if I was blonde Anna or blonde Belle. What a let down. At least Anna and Elsa knew who I was.

All in all, I call this one a win. I really want to pull it out again at some point, especially since my sister is getting me the Sir Jorgenbjorgen plush for Christmas this year. Or maybe I’ll be crazy and remake the whole thing.

Do you want to build a snowman?

Ellie Frederickson

I need to wear this dress more often. That’s really the biggest takeaway from this. I like this dress and I like this pattern.

Way way way back in 2011, a friend of mine was getting married and since I had done her alterations, I wanted to make a dress. I picked up Vogue 2960 and some really nice floral print cotton that a vintage vibe to it, and got to work. It’s a shockingly simple pattern, especially with the changes I made. The original pattern calls for the dress to button up the front, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

I cut the front bodice pieces on the fold and inserted a red zipper (a fancy exposed zipper!) in the back. It made it so much easier to assemble, and honestly it made it simple to wear too, since I wasn’t worried about my boobs popping out as they are wont to do with a button front anything. I did make a full bodice lining as well, which gave a little more heft and a little more opacity to the fabric.

A few years later, when I was teaching, I needed an outfit for Spirit Week for fictional character day. For some reason my usually overactive brain completely stalled out when it came to what I wanted to wear, so I ended up pulling this dress out of my closet so I could be Ellie Frederickson from Up. I added a red cardigan, red heels, a petticoat borrowed from my sister, and a Grape Soda Ellie Badge pin borrowed (begrudgingly) from my mother.

Lanyard of teacher keys optional.

I ended up revisiting this pattern for my Dapper Day Wendy Darling dress, and still love it- but I’ve since learned I need to take some of the ease out of the back. It makes more sense if you read that post; you can see where things didn’t quite work out as easily as it did with this dress!

Baby’s First Cosplays

I’ll admit it- I was bit by the cosplay bug when I was still very much in my weeaboo stage. I was a sophomore in college, and I was intrigued by the idea of dressing up like characters that I liked. So I headed to the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention for a…very strange weekend.

It’s been a long time, so I’ll just say that I’m no longer friends with any of the people I attended the con with, and since hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz, I totally understand why I had an absolutely miserable time there. It also didn’t help that I knew absolutely nothing about conventions or cosplay and I was woefully unprepared. But it makes for some hilariously terrible pictures!

I tried cosplaying as Anna Kyoyama from Shaman King for the first time. It wasn’t great. I bought an ugly black dress from Goodwill and wore it with a pair of Skechers slides that were way too big and a piece of red fabric that I don’t even think I hemmed. The bracelet and rosary were all right, and I was even able to use the rosary for the second time I tried the cosplay. But overall, not great. Especially since my idea of hair and makeup at the time was…not good.

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I also tried cosplaying as Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, in an attempt that can only be described as “what on earth was I thinking?” I wore a navy dress (also from Goodwill) that for some reason I thought looked exactly like Tohru’s school uniform (spoiler alert: it did not) with yellow ribbons, white knee socks, and brown mary janes. I also didn’t know anything about wigs, and while there are a lot of great cosplays that allow the cosplayer to use their own hair, this was not a good choice for me. But I was excited, and that was the most important part.

The most important part of this whole ill-fated attempt was that I finally tried sewing for the first time. One of my roommates in college had a sewing machine; she taught me the basics and set me loose. I bought McCall’s 4948, their token Alice in Wonderland pattern, and gave it a try. Overall it wasn’t the greatest construction, but it also wasn’t terrible. The fabric especially was beautiful; I honestly wish I could find it again so I could remake the whole piece. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I never added the collar, the seams weren’t finished, and the zipper was…not the best.  I also made a petticoat dress underneath using McCall’s 5095 (a sundress pattern) that didn’t offer a lot in the way of fluff but still looked pretty cute peeking out from under the skirt.

The pinafore was a little more misshapen, but again, I made a wearable garment for the first time, zipper included. As you can see I once again didn’t wear a wig and showed off my great MySpace styled hairstyle instead, but it could have been worse. And yeah, some kids made fun of me because I was more Disney/storybook Alice than American McGee’s Alice, but I was pretty happy with how the costume turned out.

I had such a negative experience with that con that I didn’t try again until Akaicon in 2015, but it turns out I do like cons when I go with the right people! And at the end of the day, all that really matters when it comes to cosplay is that you have a great time. So if you’ve thought about trying it, go for it!