Introduction: "Seamless" Body Suit

This instructable is a 'how-to' on making a body suit for a costume appear to be seamless.  One of the things I hate about doing body paint was that it was expensive and rubbed off, or it was time-consuming to apply, or there's paint brush marks, or any number of other issues.  Using a bodysuit restricts needing paint to only my hands, feet, face, chest and neck - ideal if I'm not competing in a costume contest.

I made a few of my own bodysuits to take the place of paint, but I hated that there was a seam along the side of my body and/or legs. This is fine for Spiderman or another character who wears a tight-fitting suit super hero suit, but a couple of my characters have skin tone that is not flesh tone, and a simple body suit was a quick solution when I want to wear say, Midna, but didn't feel like spending 2-3 hours on make up.  

This suit would also be good for Avatars, Shiva from Final Fantasy, Night Elves and any other number of revealingly dressed characters.

The motivation of creating this tutorial is to help you make a body suit even if you don't have a firm grounding in using a sewing machine.  You only need a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch for a wide neck suit.  If your suit needs to be closer fitting at the neck than Midna, you may need either a zipper, snaps or possibly just an elastic band or velco in the back, if your back will not be visible while in costume.  If your back will be visible and you need a close fitting neck, you're stuck with a zipper, but you do have a few placement options depending on the character - You might luck out and be able to put a seam on one side under clothing or put it in the lower back to leave the upper back zipper free .  For the truly hard core, you can put the zipper along the *ahem* derriere, assuming that that is the only place that won't be visible.  This is even doable if making an Avatar, since you'd have a tail  - it's just a matter of how dedicated you are to having as few seams visible as possible. (I have not done one of these)
 
This tutorial will only be covering a basic bodysuit - no hands or feet - for beginners who just want some smooth lines.  Personally, I'm rather anit-covering hands and feet because gloves and a single toe foot covering just break the illusion that much more.  These suits are all about maintaining as much of the illusion as possible.  

With Midna, I studied a number of screencaps and finally determined that she is actually topless.  Her only clothing is a skirt and cloak, and her skin is dual-toned - both black and pale blue.  Her skin is actually more black than blue, but starting lighter and painting darker will work for you better than starting with black fabric and painting light on top of it.  I didn't saturate the black as much as I could have on the body, because I think it adds to the look of having dual-tone skin.

Since my body suit ended up 2 colors, I'll cover painting later on, but you may not need it.

if you need to dye your fabric, do so first, before cutting.  I was lucky enough to find this fabric on ebay, in the color I needed.  Rit dyes and Jaquard acid dyes work equally well.  

Needed for this project:
Sewing machine
Four way stretch fabric - Lycra, spandex or in that family
Scissors or Pinking Shears
Measuring tape
Matching thread
Knit or medium weight machine needle
Chalk

May need:
Lots of paper
Pen
Fabric INK (not paint)
paintbrushes
Sharpies of your color choice
Fabric dye


Pros:
Bodysuits are more flattering than bare skin, can give you a better waistline, smooth curves and it allows you to wear shapewear underneath ::cough:: should you feel the need to do so.  It's even possible to make a fake bellybutton.  They're fast and easy to get on, and it's simply a matter of matching paint to your skin.  Additionally, you can wear a push-up bra or other bra under a bodysuit.   Pasties do nothing for support, just sayin'.  A suit makes it easier to cross play - a male cosplayer can have fake boobs with little extra effort and a female can bind securely and the suit can still be nice and smooth.

Cons: no matter what you do, it will not look like real skin - but it can still look great in photos - and looks a lot better than smudged or fading paint.  In my case, I don't mind the extra 'help' smoothing out my curves.  Another con is that if you snag part of your suit, you have to either repair it or replace the entire suit to maintain the "seamless" look.  One good sized frayed snag will ruin the illusion.  Another disadvantage comes with bladder control.  You must have it for most bodysuits.  I can go 5-8 hours in this and not need to pee, as long as I don't drink anything.

Step 1: Why I Made a Seamless Suit

The image pretty much says it all.

The side seams aren't always visible, but when they are, they REALLY REALLY are.

When I decided to make a new bodysuit I went with a full shoulder to ankle suit to make the leg/hip area more believable.  Depending on what you need one for, a leg-less suit could work fine- Even if your legs don't show, making a swimsuit type body suit rather than just a top will still help with smoothing, and help avoid loose fabric around the waist.   If you have a mid-driff baring character in pants and a skimpy top, a swim type leotard or suit will go a long way to improving confidence and keep you from wondering if the bottom edge of the modesty top is still tucked in.

This is especially helpful if your character would otherwise need assistance getting your back painted - if nothing else, it's good backup should your find yourself short on paint or painting help with a convention fast coming up.

Step 2: Fabric

Any fabric you choose for a suit needs to be 4-way stretch fabric.  It may stretch more in one direction than another, but Lycra or lycra/spandex may stretch 40% one way and 30% another - it will rarely be equal in both directions.  You'll have to test your fabric by holding it next to measuring tape and seeing how far it stretches when pulled-do this with a scrap piece so you can pull the snot out of it to test it's limits.

Don't be afraid to do some light (LIGHT) pre-stretching - your suit will lose elasticity over time, and it's better to lose a bit of it now so you won't have sags later.

Pick a fabric that has a slight sheen to it.  Human skin is slightly reflective - it shimmers just enough that it is not truly matte.  You want a fabric that is not overly shiny, really just enough to not be flat.  Take photos of fabrics in different lights and angles, and find one that you like best.  Fabrics will show up differently on camera than in real-life. 

You can go with thinner fabric, but mine is actually fairly thick, but still came out great.  Thicker fabric looses less stretch over time, and provides more support.

Depending on your pattern, you are going to need at least 2 yards.  More if you decide to do arms as well. Because of the type of cutting involved, there will be a lot of waste, or scrap fabric.

Make sure you wash your fabric first!  You will have to wash your suit at some point in the future, and you don't know how the structure of the fabric will change until you wash it.

If you can get 60" fabric, you can make this using the fabric laid out top edge to bottom edge, if the fabric is not as wide as you are tall from the shoulder to ankle, you will have to get extra fabric and make your left-right direction as your top/bottom, bearing in mind the stretch difference one way or another.

Step 3: Patterns! - Don't Panic!

In preparation for cutting your super stretchy fabric, you can do this one of two ways.

The lazy way, which will take longer to sew, but much less preparation time.  I made my first suit the lazy way, and it actually worked out pretty well, despite having to take in my seams several times.

OR: The exacting way .  Either way, you will need to take measurements.

Break out your measuring tape and take the following measurements - or take out your list if you already have this written down and add or compare.

Shoulder length
Hip
Bust
Natural waist
Inseam
Lower thigh
Upper thigh
Knee
Calf
Ankle
Back
Shoulder to waist
Arm hole size-where arm meets the shoulder

Lazy: 

Using measurements, make marks in chalk at the thigh, hip, calf, knee, etc - then join the marks in a trace out an outline this exact size.  All of these are laid out flat, which is why the pattern looks especially wide.  Because the fabric has stretch, making them this exact size will be too large, but you can take them in after the first pass. 


Cut the fabric along the trace, folded over along the center front.

The crotch area is tricky.  You will end up with a seam here, but where you want to place it is up to you.  Keep in mind the center bottom of the pattern is where the seam will begin - my character is wearing a skirt, so this area was not important to keep it seamleass.  If you are making an Avatar, you would want the seam to be under your loincloth (front) and have a more form fitting behind seam that joins in the center and goes along the back.

Pattern one is what I used for Midna - there is a center back panel because this was my first attempt at a body suit and I wasn't sure how the curves would work along the hips if I made a single central seam.  The narrow back panel is invisible because of the cloak I wear with the character.  This has a v-neck.

The Exacting Way:

Take all of your measurements and multiply them by the percentage the fabric stretches and reduce your overall pattern size by this much.  If the fabric stretches more in one direction than the other, you will have to use a calculator accordingly.  Always leave 5/8 inch seam allowance.  I was too paranoid that I would cut off too much fabric and ruin the very large single cut of fabric that I had, so I stitched the legs and back once, tried it on, then took them in, one seam at a time.

Both ways:

With the ankles, I did not turn under the hem because I wanted it to lay as flat as possible, so the arm holes and ankle edges are not hemmed.

The back top edge does not come all the way up to my neck with this pattern so that I could get in and out of it through the neck hole.  The deep v-shape makes this easier as well.  Your character may require a higher neck, in which case you may be looking at adding a zipper.  If you must have a tighter fitting neck, I'd recommend leaving it unhemmed as well, trim with regular scissors rather than pinking shears.  Please don't use a turtleneck.  I hate seeing bodysuits with turtlenecks, it's always very obvious- if you really really want to cover the neck rather than paint it, make the neck long enough to end right under the chin, so you can blend the edge better by hiding it under a natural feature.

One of the reasons I do not use footies on my bodysuits is that I think a natural, painted foot (and hand) looks a lot better than an attached footie.   You CAN go to the trouble of making toes and feet, but I'm not covering that here.  You can usually disguise the edges of fabric at the ankle and wrist (if you make arms) with jewelry or armor.

Step 4: Stitching

If you have a serger, I highly recommend using it for this project, but if you do not, no fear! you can still make this with a regular machine.

On your first pass of sttching, simply use a "2" zig-zag stitch, around medium width.  You can make a closer stitch, but I find it'll bunch the fabric if you aren't careful.

If you're doing this the lazy way, don't do your straight stitching until the suit fits you the way you want it to.

On the second pass, use a straight stitch - this will reinforce the zigzag.  If possible, place your straight stitch toward the inner edge of your zig-zag.  If you wish, do two passes of straight stitch, next to each other, within the range of the zig-zag.Trim excess fabric off with Pinking shears to prevent fraying.  it's unlikely to happen with Lyrca, but I always use them anyway.

When you think you're done, take time to wear the suit and walk around the house with it on.  Jump and fall into any poses you'll be expecting to do as part of the whole costume when you wear it to avoid any unpleasant surprises, such as popping a stitch when you drop down into a lunge.  Flex your legs and calves, bend over, stretch your arms above your head.  The suit should be skin tight, but have just enough give to let you be comfortable in it and move.  If there's any place with sag, fix it.  Problem areas can occur behind the knee and at the lower back.  

Step 5: Fake Belly Button

Practice on a scrap first!

Method 1:


Cut a very small hole in an 0 shape where your natural belly button is on the suit.  Taking a 2 inch or so length of fabric, machine stitch it into a tube.  using small stitches, hand stitch wrong sides together the tube to the hole in your suit.  Tie the tube into a knot close to the opening and cut off the excess.  If you don't want a knot, press together and superglue, then cut off excess fabric.

Method 2:

Poke or cut a very small hole in a long 0 shape where your belly button is on the suit.  Take a circular piece of fabric about an inch around and hand stitch so stitches are inside the suit.  Bunch the circle as you go.  When done, stitch the inside cone tip of the circle flat, reduce to make smaller and clip excess, or leave it be. 

Step 6: Other Uses:

I had too much fabric from Midna, so I ended up dying a couple of yards aqua blue for Aayla and made her Lekku and modesty panel out of it.  In this case, I used a paint pen to put markings on her lekku - similar to what she has in the movie, though they're hard to see.

Step 7: Painting

I used black fabric ink for the black areas on my suit, but you can use fabric paint if you wish.  I found that the ink looked more like skin and less like 'paint on top of fabric'.  Fabric ink has to have outlines so it doesn't run into the rest of your fabric. Fabric paint has the advantage of staying put and being very opaque if that's what you are looking for.

Since my suit was already assembled, I used cardboard to back the fabric as I painted - this kept the wet areas from touching places I did not want it to.  I also did a bit of a no-no, I painted parts of the suit while I was wearing it and let it completely dry before removing it.  The ink came off okay after a day or so.  The ink may require a hot iron to fix the color.

Wide tip sharpies are an option, but not one I recommend for large areas.  I used a sharpie on my first, legless suit and the color was not even for large areas.

Any reference images of the game model (or what I am assuming is the game model) property of Nintendo, or whoever it is that actually owns the Zelda games.

Step 8: Tips:

Once your suit is assembled and/or painted, there is one other thing you should consider - using eyeshadow the same color or slightly darker, and brushing it into crevasses, after you put it on.  Skin tone is not perfectly even, and it should not be when in a suit either.  Trust me, adding this extra step is still much faster than doing all over body paint.

Take a wide, fluffy brush and get a loose eyeshadow, or even a regular packed eyeshadow and very gently brush the powder behind your knees, inside elbows if your suit has arms, armpits, lower back and under the ribs to generate false shadows.  Use an eyeshadow the same color or slightly lighter and brush lightly long the front shin bone, sides of thighs, top of arms and upper chest.  If your suit is white, just use very pale grey shadows.  This should not be dramatic, just enough to look like natural skin variation.  Stippling or taking a stiff paint brush or toothbrush and flicking darker eyeshadow specs randomly on the suit will also add to the effect.

When you are done with the suit for the weekend, wash it right away, preferably by hand, and hang it up or fold it and put it away.  It's easy to forget and leave it in your bag until you're getting ready for your next convention, but take the time to unpack and clean everything as soon as you get home.  Checking it over right away will also help you find that one popped stitch and fix it immediately so you don't find it the day you're packing up for the next weekend photoshoot.

Comments

author
NadineQ2 (author)2017-06-07

Love this tutorial! Would you see any way of adding press/stud buttons in the crotch area to make bathroom trips easier?

author
LoganD27 (author)2016-12-31

Is there anyway I can have the PDF emailed?

author
Batmanthony (author)2014-10-09

so how would you go about making a faceless hood in it ?

author
cismael (author)2013-10-31

I'm so sorry I've never sewn in my life!

author
cismael (author)2013-10-31

I'm so lost! Is the first picture of the pattern for the lazy way or the exacting way? Also could you show me a picture of how I could transfer my measurements to a pattern I can use?

author
arkhamite (author)2012-08-02

I'm going to try this for my White Violin cosplay. I used a leotard and stockings last time, but want to up my game. Thanks for being awesome.

author
Zanaji (author)2011-10-27

This is awesome, and I think i'm going to use it with one of my more revealing bellydance costumes.

author
fluffydragon (author)Zanaji2011-10-27

thank you !

You can totally do just the top part too, for your belly dance - it's easier to eliminate side seams when you don't have to do the full leg. If you don't already have something for it, you could get some dangly jewelry and have it hang down along the back seam to make it harder to see.

author
Cyber.Wolf (author)2011-10-23

Yay! Twilight Princess! =D

author
fluffydragon (author)Cyber.Wolf2011-10-25

^_^ shes my favorite to cosplay too. Though my Aayla is coming in at a strong second.

author
Nightfox17 (author)2011-10-24

i have twilight princess

author
jonikam (author)2011-10-23

Most excellent costume and construction. I too make cosplay costumes for my kids and their friends and a few have been unitards.The ones I've made are side seamed and have a single back seam but the leg seam is on the inside of the leg and joins at the crotch front (hope you understood that). It also provides no side seams but is a pain to alter the girth (measurement around shoulder down through the crotch, torso length if you like) Where did you get your pattern, are you one of these lucky people that can create their own? I can alter commercial patterns to suit my needs, but that's about it. This is the most recent cosplays Glados and Ladypool http://snowboardingtaco.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d486ane
and Ladypool, Headpool and Dogpool http://snowboardingtaco.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d486b3m
If you could provide info on your pattern, I'd greatly appreciate it as one costumer to another ;-) Jonikam

author
normalicy (author)2011-10-23

Wish I had seen this last year. Had to try to make a bodysuit for a pair of Tron costumes & these had seams down the front & rear. Didn't like the outcome. Not for the feint of heart.

author
Mechanic2011 (author)2011-10-23

This is a very good and informative instructable.
Thanks.
I have looked at your other ones also ,very nice .
You know I forgot all about the hook and loop closures like used on Braziers and corsets.
I don' think that I would want them to be in the crotch area though as it would be too bulky and uncomfortable to walk with and may also pinch.

Depending on the costume a body suit would probably be a good idea if the costume incorporated a lot of Chain Mail .It would help to keep from getting your skin pinched all the time.I don't know how it would hold up to the snagging from the metal Chain Mail though as they are just metal rings pinched together and woven.

My costume is pictured with my name above.
The vest is laced together on the sides and the front to give it the authentic look of the renaissance period.
It has a full length cape as I am 6' tall.

Me next project is ti find a way the make the fairy wings articulated via motors and such so that they could actually fold up just like the real wings of a butterfly. I would incorporate some strings of tiny little LED's within the wings themselves that are made of the cellophane type of see through plastic so that would be visible from either side. The battery pack would be located in the center of the back where the wings mount along with the motors and transmissions. I am trying to keep the weight of it all down to say 5-7 Lbs. so its not too heavy to wear all day.
It should really neat when its done.
The LED'S I'm using would be cannibalized from those LED garland ribbons you now see in the stores in the Christmas decoration stuff.
I seen them at Mills Fleet Farm stores here in Minn.
Open the garland ribbon up and pull out the led string.
Be careful of the very fragile tiny wires .
They run on 3 Volts DC so you won't need the power adapter that comes with them ,just a battery holder.
Same thing goes for the battery powered LED Christmas light strings you see at Wal Mart right now. They are the smallest ones that I have been able to find right now and are easy to hide the tiny wires.
Christmas is the best time of year to find custom costume stuff ,I think.
Halloween is the second best.

author
Mechanic2011 (author)2011-10-23

Such a costume would be great for some venues such as Halloween and Renaissance Festivals and the characters would be winged fairies ,elves , belly dancers and such.
I have never seen a body suit up close.
Are any made with the seams on the INSIDES of the legs where they are less visible??
For a tight fitting neck :
You were saying something about using an "entry" seam in the lower back or more so down and underneath?
Could something be made loosely based on the old time long underwear with the trap door on the back for using the toilet but with just a single seam?
How about an entry / exit seam that starts just above the buttocks and wraps down , through and underneath to the front side?
Most of the time , costumes would have this area covered by something else to give the appearance of covering the , err , unmentionable body parts ?
Yes , with such a costume you would need to be very agile and flexible to get into and out of it but you WOULD have the option of using the toilet if needed.
This is kind of how scuba divers get into and out of their one piece dry suits only their zipper starts at the neck in the back and down , around and back up to the neck in front.
They need help with the zipper , however due to the bulk of the suit.
What do you think??

author

You can adapt the pattern to have them on the inside. mine are not because my inner, mostly non visible leg is sometimes visible, if I have a photo taken from the side with the open skirt.

All you have to do is move your inner leg seams closer together and the outer leg seam further away - just measure around from the front of your leg to the back middle, and that's where your new 'center' is. It might even work better than having the seams in the back, depending on what your character is. it'll use more fabric because it'll be more of a rectangle than a square piece. You'll get a bigger 'V' shape along your butt that will look more like a panty line. With seams straight up the back of the leg, those seams will continue straight up and in until they meet or are stitched to the back where it comes together to make a middle seam.

author

Oh and as for the trap door idea, yes - absolutely, assuming you are using each body suit for one costume only, just position your opening where it will not be visible - the butt area usually is not visible, making it the 'safest' place to have the most seams and a zipper or other type of opening. Heck, Velco would probably work just fine too, or a bra/ corset type closure with hooks and eyes.

I haven't done one this way yet, but it would be an enormous help at conventions. I've been known to wear my costume for 8 hours at a time with no pee breaks, because I really can't. I just don't drink anything while in costume, and for a few hours before.

author
craftylittlemonkey (author)2011-10-23

Very interesting technique, thanks for the info. I would love to see a picture of the finished crotch area or a drawing of how it's assembled for clarity, that seems as though it would be the trickiest area.

author

It really is, there isn't a good way to avoid seams in the lower back, unfortunately. But hopefully no one will be staring at the crotch. You basically end up with a \ / seam like an unfinished panty line in front for just a few inches, and the two seam lines wrap around under and back and should blend in with the natural leg/crotch line. The back area is very tricky. I ended up having to sew in an extra 2 inch tall x 4 inch long panel across the small of the back on this one - if my back were visible, I'd have to redo the whole thing, which would be a huge disadvantage. I've hopefully updated the pattern suggestion to reflect it.

author
lordofducttape545 (author)2011-10-23

WOAH

author
scoochmaroo (author)2011-10-21

Fantastic! Very clever. I had forgotten the technique for making belly buttons. It's surprisingly satisfying!

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Bio: We have cats. I like to costume and make fun things.
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