In the lead up to the San Diego Comic Con this year, I got a commission from my fave little nerd. Last year I made her a Ms Marvel costume that garnered a bit of attention. This year, she wanted something a little trickier....
Admittedly, Squirrel Girl is a little beyond my comics knowledge but some internet sleuthing got me everything I needed to know. I formed a plan--black unitard with a fur leotard and cuffs over the top. They could snap into place! And then her dad asked if the fur could be attached to the leggings and my whole design shattered. Leggings? No, it was a unitard! And I started to actually think through my design's practicality for a little girl to wear all day at a convention. She'd have to take the whole thing off just to go to the bathroom! It simply wasn't a good design.
Back to the drawing board. There's this universal force I sometimes employ when I'm stuck on a project, I call it the Dream Costumer. It works like this: when I'm stuck on how to do a thing, I sleep on it. Inevitably, I'll wake in the morning with a new plan. Dream Costumer. (She lives in the same realm as the Goodwill Fairy.) In this instance, the Dream Costumer figured it out while I was watching a live comedy show. Good thing she's working even when I'm not. So it would go like this: leggings with fur cuffs underneath a leotard that snaps at the crotch. Then you just have to unsnap the crotch to pull down the leggings and do your business. Perfect.
I went downtown to buy some fur and some leather-look vinyl and then hit up the internet to buy a leotard. For the very specific order of kids size turtle-neck long-sleeve snap-crotch leotard, I had to order from the dance company Capezio. I'd never ordered directly from their website before so I was hoping it would arrive fairly quickly--even though I had about four weeks before first fitting and 6 or 7 before SDCC itself. I also put in an Amazon order for kids costume gloves, but I knew that would be here in two days. Prime, baby.
While I waited for my various internet purchases to arrive, I started making some pattern pieces for the belt and belt pouches. I wanted these to be little rustic cube pouches so I just made a simple two-piece puzzle box of a pattern.
I didn't consider that vinyl doesn't really fold cleanly. So when I began to put them together from the fabric, I had to zigzag stitch over the folds to keep them in place. But that actually added a nice raised seam detail that I was pretty happy with.
Before I put the boxes together, I set heavy duty snaps into each piece. Every time I haven't done a snap in a while, I forget how much I hate snaps. Why do you have to hammer them SO MUCH?!
Now, the only snaps I have are nickel. I'm not about to pay out more money to Big Snap to get brass ones, so I just painted the snaps. (Weirdly, Jo Ann doesn't carry brass belt buckles, so I had to paint that too...) I used a couple of different layers of metallic paints to get the right tone.
Then I put the boxes together and stitched the buckle onto the belt and set it all aside.
The gloves arrived first. And they were shaped like no human hand I've ever seen. So I did a little quick altering on them and hoped that my hands are at least somewhat child-sized.
The leotard arrived and I went to Target to pick up a pair of leggings to go under it. And then, at last, I was ready to cut the fur. I recall from my old mascot shop days that when you're cutting fur, you have to use a sharp blade to cut the weft from the back so that the fur doesn't look all choppy. I cut the leg and arm cuffs first. I had a bit of a time figuring out the best way to attach them--attaching a woven (non-stretch) fabric to a knit (stretch) fabric without a body inside to stretch out the knit fabric is a little tricky. Plus, I wanted the fur to lay neatly. I figured out that if I just sewing around the lower edge of the cuffs, they would stay in place just because of the stiffness of the fur fabric. So that's what I did for both pants and sleeves.
Then I used the leotard to trace a pattern onto the fur. I had the same stretchy-fabric/non-stretchy-fabric issue here, but I did my best. I knew that I would attach the fur suit to the leotard at the leg holes and the zipper. That meant that I would have to face all the other edges (the armscyes and neckline), which I did with a black fusible interfacing...except when I tried to fuse it, I ran into the stretchy fabric no-likey all other fabrics thing, so I whip stitched the facing to the inside of the fur suit.
Then it was ready to attach to the leotard--which I did by hand basting the back to the zipper and machine stitching over that (my sewing machine reaaaaaally hated this fur) and hand stitching the fur to the leg-holes in the leotard.
The tail. Again, it was time for me to draw from my mascot knowledge. I drew a pattern for the tail and cut the fur. Normally, what I'd do here was back the fur with foam to give it some body but for time and budget reasons, I used layers of batting.
I stitched a swirl pattern into the fur to give it a bit of movement and texture and then put the tail pieces together.
I stuffed the tail with foam and batting to give it a full, plushy feel and then hand-stitched it to the back of the costume at the base of the zipper.
Then all that was left was to add some belt loops and string the belt through.
Then it was ready for it's San Diego debut!
I think it was a hit...