Introduction: 1960's Batgirl
As a red head I have always been drawn to other red haired characters. When it comes to Halloween costumes some years I do group themes with my comic shop owner pal and other years I do my own thing. This year I am banding together with a good friend and I will be the Batgirl to his Batman.
I'll be breaking out all my tricks, learning a few new ones and of course using every curse word I know (usually flung at my sewing machine when it decides it wants to eat my fabric) as I go to work creating this costume.
(Yes, technically in the 60's TV show Batgirl was not a red head, it was a wig, but you get the idea).
Step 1: The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions . . .
I started everything off by doing my research, getting as many pics for a frame of reference.
Then I bought a bodysuit pattern (never made a bodysuit/unitard), a pattern for making gloves on ebay (side note - Simplicity pattern was really not so simple.) and I also scored a vintage 60's belt that is too perfect for words.
I ordered 4 yrds of a lycra spandex foil lame in mystique deep purple (it's a good match for the textured look of the original lame fabric which is no longer made) the seller was also on ebay, the fabric store didn't have it when I went. (of course they have it now, the jerks)
At this point I still need to get the purple satin and yellow satin for the cape, the buckram fabric for creating the cowl base, and of course figure out the best way to make the mask (this is when I tend to hit up threadbanger for ideas).
Step 2: Let Me Take a Selfie (ugh, Awful)
Next came construction of the body suit. The original suit had lots of darts and seams to give it structure. As I chose an all way stretch fabric I didn't need as much done but I put in the waist seam to add just a touch of that classic look. I chose to ignore the bust darts, I didn't really want to have to find the perfect bullet bra to wear under this thing because of those bust darts.
The sleeves did come out too wide so I had to adjust that later on. I had to remove so much I end up adding side seams all the way to the waist seam on each side. (I have thin arms)
My little Simple Singer machine gave me a hell of a time, even after a good cleaning and oiling up it was still being a pain. Since I didn't have my cape fabric yet I put the suit aside and went to work on the mask & cowl.
Step 3: The Magical Unicorn
A quick tip of the hat in thanks to Threadbanger for showing me the magical material Buckram.
I have never used nor heard of this fabric but after watching a video on Threadbanger's youtube page, I was all about finding and playing with this new medium. I purchased some Unicorn Buckram from JoAnne's (online), a foam head (ebay) and set about making this up as I went.
*I freely admit I have no clue what I am doing most of the time, I go with the sink or swim method which can lead to sleepless nights and tantrums over the sewing table. (I do not recommend this method to anyone else, I am a crazy person)
So, armed with 3 yards of unicorn buckram (it was $2.99 a yard, why not buy extra), a bowl of water, my foam head (side note I actually bought two heads the women's head was just too small for me (19") so I went with the Men's 22" circumference head) and my reference picture file I set about constructing the cowl first, using layers of buckram. I fit the buckram over the head, keeping it long enough to cover the ears and lower neck. I marked that length and then cut a couple pieces of the material in it's dry state. Once I had those pieces I put them in water (1 at a time) to make the fabric malleable and easier to work with (as well as activate the starch in the fabric) I smoothed it over the head, pulling, pinching, folding and snipping until I had a shape that looked like a cap worn by the cast of The Crucible. I pined it into place on the head and thanks to all this lovely warm California weather I was able to set it outside to dry. Once dried I added felt on the top to give is a smoother surface for when I finally add the fabric cover and seam binding around the edges to give it a clean sharp line.
Next up I needed to make the mask. I bought a cheap mask ($2 bucks on ebay) that was similar in structure to what I needed to make. I pinned that mask onto my foam head and used it as a base for making a buckram mask. I followed the same steps as before, wetting, applying, smoothing, pinning and drying. I needed this to be a bit "softer" than the cap so I only did two layers. I added small pieces to the inside of the mask to stabilize the nose, cheek and sides of the eye holes after I had trimmed it and cut the eyes out, I used a glue gun for this. I took a scrap piece of buckram and used it like a spatula to smear the hot glue over the area I needed and not have any clumps. The glue also added stability.
Step 4: These Boots Were Made for Moding or How I Bend Objects to My Will . . .
In the meantime, when things were drying, I was on the ever helpful interwebs, looking for details or items to help me out. I was able to score some purple knee boots for $12 on ebay which I later cut down and hot glued into the style/shapes I needed. (sadly these will need to be remade later on as the pleather is just peeling off like mad, damn!)
*Yes, those are my actual legs in brilliant white due to the flash, remember I'm a red head we don't do sun.
After the boots I moved on to the belt. My partner in crime-fighting (graphic designer, Dave) set about creating the chest symbols for both our costumes and the belt buckle symbol for my rad vintage belt. He had the symbol cut out of hard plastic (this was super cool to watch with the laser cutter taking all of about 2 minutes to do it) and we used super strong adhesive to glue them in place, after that it was a matter of painting it out and then making the belt pouches to house the shark repellent.
Step 5: Tantrums to Put a Toddler to Shame . . .
On my next outing to JoAnn's I picked up some purple stretchy fabric (different from the suit fabric) to use for making gloves. I got a hidden zipper for the suit, the purple satin for the cape and I settled for some crap yellow satin for the cape lining. (seriously the only yellow they had was in that awful, high school graduation gown, satin. You know the stuff I mean, just yuck) I also picked up the velvet I needed for the mask and ears.
I went home and set to work making the gloves, again I was coaxing/cursing my little singer along as I tried to make gloves. I am going to make a totally childish statement now, Any glove pattern that includes gussets is stupid! Yeah I said it and I still stand by it. Oh I hated those stupid gussets and the iffy working machine didn't help my mood or my vocabulary. (I am quite a "lady" when I get pissed off, the finishing school would rescind my diploma if they heard me)
*It was round about this time that my darling husband grew weary of my tears and curses and decided to shut me up by getting me a fancy new sewing machine. (it's awesome, I love it) The lack of sleep I was suffering from probably didn't help either. (While working on my costume I was also helping to make Batman's cowl (plaster strips) & cape and find boots. Additionally, I was assisting in creating a Starlord costume for a friend's son . . . I was stupid busy)
Next I set about making the fins to add to the gloves, and the ears for the cowl. Again I used my handy buckram to make the forms and let them dry. Then I covered them in the correct material (stretchy purple for fins, velvet & satin for ears, blue stretchy for Batman's ears and fins). I had to put my glove fins in twice as I did it the first time going the wrong direction. Upon final completion of the gloves, with all fins attached in the correct direction, I pulled them on to admire my work.
Step 6: This Is Not a Prudent Course of Action . . .
With gloves done, body suit mostly done (needed to adjust those arms but couldn't do it all that well on my own so I arranged to get a little help from a friend, just had to wait for our schedules to match up) Cape fabric purchased, cowl well under construction and boots done I went back to work on the mask and cap to finish my cowl.
I used the same "technique" with the hot glue I had before. Using a scrap piece of buckram as a spatula, I smeared the glue on in the areas I needed it then smoothed the velvet over. I cut strips in the eye holes and glued them around to give a smooth finished edge. Then it was time to cover the cap. I didn't have enough of my purple stretchy material (which would have been much easier to use) so I used the abundant scraps of purple satin I had left after cutting my cape pieces.
I scrutinized the reference pics to see where the seams were on the cowl cover. The satin was unforgiving and it took me three designs before I finally got one that worked. then I glued and hand stitched it all into place. Once the satin cover was on it was time to fit the mask to the cap.
* I do not recommend the way I did this but it worked.
I did a dry fit on my own face and head with the mask & cap and had the other half of this dynamic duo mark the placement with chalk (purple of course, yes I am that silly). I was uneasy about just going off the marking and hot gluing the mask to the cap. We would only get one shot with this after all so, in the end I did it on my head. I held the mask in place on my face while my friend put a bead of hot glue on the edge of the inside lip of the cap and we plunked it down on my head and let the glue do it's work. (this is a prime way to get burned and end up with glue in one's hair. Thankfully I had left a fair amount of extra fabric on the top of the mask so it covered me completely and I was never in danger of getting burned on my head.
Once it was cool we put the cowl on the foam head and added the ears (again with hot glue). I attached purple Velcro to the cap to allow for a slightly tighter fit on my head, it is hidden under my hair.
Step 7: "I Never Play Without My Cape" - Bela Lugosi
It was cape time!
First let me just say do not cut your fabric at 2am after having next to no sleep for 3 days. You do dumb things in this state and then have to fix them later on when you finally realize what a bone head you were.
Yeah I totally did that when I cut the fabric for my cape. I used the same pattern piece we had been using for Batman's cape. Batman's cape is much longer than Batgirl's cape, and in my impaired state I simply folded the the portion of the pattern I didn't need in order to shorten it. . . .
I am sure I can hear the "d'ohs!" and face palms to the forehead from all of you dear readers . . . oh yes I did, I folded the top part of the pattern over so I no longer had the perfect triangle but a wider flat edge. I didn't even notice it until we put it all together and the neck was as wide as my shoulders. No gold star for me. (dumb!)
The details - I cut a total of 12 pieces out of each color fabric. 45" in length and roughly 20" in width along the bottom. In the end I did not use all 24 pieces for the cape & lining. Rather, I found I only needed to use 16 to make a great cape.
I laid out my cape pieces (purple satin first) until I had a cape shape I was happy with, and then pinned it in place and stitched away on that lovely new machine, so smooth. I repeated this with the yellow crap satin but since this crap yellow was the type that pin holes show up on I actually used masking tape instead of pins. I only used pins when it came time to stitch the yellow and purple together. I stitched up both sides of the cape then cut out the arches along the bottom edge to create the scalloped look the cape needed. I then pinned and sewed until the bottom was complete leaving only the over-sized neck area unfinished.
To fix that epic blunder we (I called in assistance by this point, Batman's sister was very helpful) attached a neck piece and added pleats to the cape to fit it to the neck piece. I then attached hooks to keep it closed. It worked out well.
Step 8: "Using Feminine Wiles to Get What You Want? Trading on Your Looks? Read a Book, Sister. That Passive-aggressive Number Went Out Years Ago." - Batgirl
Two hours and counting until I had to get to my costume party . . .
Lastly, I had to make my pouches and I was in a crunch so rather than make the perfect box shape pouches the belt should have, we made quick envelopes out of yellow pleather and used hot glue to keep them together. I added yellow velcro to keep the pouches closed and cut slits in the back (basically I made belt loops) which I used to feed the belt through and keep the pouches in place. The final step was to add the emblem on the jumpsuit. We tried a number of ideas but the foil on the suit made connecting it via interfacing next to impossible so we did it with the good old iron on sticker we printed ourselves. It won't last forever but it works right now. Then It was time to curl the hair, pull on the outfit and head to the party.
The husband pulled out his GL costume, found a light up martini glass and a light up "ice" cube set them both to green and he had the best party construct accent for his costume.
Next up Batman & Batgirl will appear at our local pub for a party and costume contest, will this dynamic duo win big?
Tune in next time and find out . . .
Post Construction Fog of the Mind:
I will say this costume nearly was the one that broke me. I was frustrated beyond anything I had ever gone through before (And that's saying a lot, when I made my Jessica Rabbit dress I was evacuated due to a wild fire!) It was problem after problem and I seriously thought about chucking it all and never doing costumes again. But I'm glad I pressed on, got a second, third and fourth wind and finished it. I also could not have done it with out the unfailing support of my Batman (Dave), the sewing assistance of Dave's sister (Portlyn) and my darling husband (Trevor) putting up with all my moods, tears, colorful metaphors and sleepless nights.
Step 9: Halloween 2014
Well here it is, Halloween!
Strutting the catwalk at the company costume contest, I didn't win but I had a great time (I do work at an animation studio so these folks go ALL OUT for costumes, it's crazy)
Later, I met up with the caped crusader at our local pub for a silly night of trivia and tasty treats. We did win for our costumes and the prize was wine!
Much fun had by all. And I have no doubt I shall don my cowl again for Free Comic Book Day . . .
Step 10: Bat-Boots: the Saga Continues . . .
Well, as I stated before, the previous incarnation of my bat-boots were augmented from a pair of purple pleather knee boots I scored cheap on ebay. They lasted all of three wears before the pleather shredded beyond any reasonable use. (this irked me to no end, how often do you find purple boots?! grrrrr).
As this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, I am donning my cape & cowl to spend the day at Brave New World Comics, I was in serious need of some new bat-boots for my costume. Once again I turned to my trusty ebay (hello my name "betty" and I'm an ebay addict . . .) and scored a pair of real leather, mid-calf, Banana Republic boots for very little $.
As you can see from the before pics they were black and had the basic shape of the original boots with a slightly higher heel (3 inches, rather than the 2 inch kitten heels of the original). Having learned from creating the Starlord costume that there is indeed a paint you can use on leather that won't peel off, (Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray Paint) I went to Amazon and got a can of purple paint for $6.00.
Once the boots and paint arrived it was time to augment the reality of these boots and make 'em bat worthy.
I used a seam ripper and carefully pulled out the top seam, partially separating the leather lining from the exterior of the boot, and then took out some of the center seam at the top of the boot. I used my trusty scissors to cut a curve starting at the center seam and going across to the rear seam. I then cut the lining, following the same curve, down to be about a half inch lower than the outer leather shell of the boot.
I did not have a leather needle for my machine so, I turned to my handy hot glue to help me again. I added beads of glue along the lining and folded over the outer leather to create a smooth line at the top of the boot. It was delicate work (insert curse words as I burn my fingers on the hot glue). Along the center seam, which I had ripped down about 2 inches, I folded in the sections to create the bat points. I then trimmed off the excess leather until I had the shape I wanted and I glued it into place.
I really wanted to be sure the newly glued edge of my boot would stay in place so I took it a step further. I had some very old fabric seam tape (seriously it's like 20+ years old) that was black and I trimmed the inside of the boot with it. Again using my hot glue to tack it in place, I went over the seam I had created when I folded over the leather. I don't think these will be coming apart anytime soon.
Next I needed to add a new stopping point on the boot zipper since I had cut off the edge. I simply used some thick thread (like for needle point, I actually had used it for my Hawkgirl wings, but I digress) and stitched over the top teeth on each side of the zipper until I had a thicker section the zipper would not go over. I then used some blue painters tape and folded it over the teeth on each side of the zippers in prep for painting. The painting was super easy even with mother nature messing with me and only getting windy when I needed to paint. (of course!) The hubby actually painted them for me in the garage as I do not do well with chemicals and this does have an odor when you use it. He did the first coat, waited an hour, then added a second coat. The color took very well and by morning I had rad new bat boots!
*The lighting in the pics is not so great and gives the boots a more mottled color tone then they actually have, in truth the paint saturated the leather, the color really is solid all over the boot and feels amazing. None of that sticky plastic-y feeling that you get with regular paint. Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray Paint is rad and I recommend it to everyone, use this stuff when ever you need to change the color of leather.
Now Batgirl is ready to done her cape, cowl & new bat-boots to fight evil doers and pose for pictures with the fans of Free Comic Book Day!