Introduction: Disney Tangled Rapunzel Costume

About: Aimee Major Steinberger is an animation artist most recently working as Assistant Director on “Futurama”. She has previously worked on “The Simpsons”, “Phineas and Ferb” and various animation projects for Wa…
I loved the design of Disney's Tangled Rapunzel. The costume used a lot of different techniques including pattern modification, embroidery, fabric design and wig styling. Hope you enjoy this "how I made it"!

You can see more photos of my costume on my website here (scroll to the bottom for the gallery.)

Waterfall photo by Annie Kim, other by Joseph Chilin.

Step 1: Planning and Choosing the Fabrics

The trickiest problem to solve before I could start the costume was to find or make a suitable fabric. Rapunzel’s center-skirt-panel fabric in the movie is kindof a brocade (with some slightly reflective threads) so that it changes color in the light or how the fabric drapes. I could either find a brocade I liked that didn’t have the exact floral pattern of Rapunzel’s… or I could make a printed fabric which wouldn’t be brocade/woven, but would have the exact pattern. I chose the latter. I decided to design the fabric myself and have it printed at spoonflower. (There are other fabric printing places like Fabric on Demand as well.)

I wanted to make sure that fabrics printed at spoonflower matched the surrounding fabrics properly, so I decided to buy the base fabrics first, and then create my spoonflower fabrics to match them. If I did it the other way around, there's no guarantee that I could find fabrics at the store that would match what I made at spoonflower.

A note on color matching, I had bought a Tangled children’s book which I felt had pretty color accurate images of the 3d models from the movie (ie not 2d illustrations or color skewed mood screenshots from the movie). I took this book with me when I bought the base fabrics (for the cap-sleeves, the lower sleeves and the non-printed-pattern part of the skirt). I highly recommend doing this sort of thing when you are picking out fabrics. Often the color that you remember in your head is not very accurate. You can also just find good shots online of your character and print them out, making sure your computer print-out is as color accurate as possible. When you look at the images of Rapunzel, her skirt is a little shiny with a little bit of texture, so I was not only matching the color, but the sheen of the fabric.

Step 2: Creating the Printed Fabric

After studying the reference materials for Rapunzel, I drew out the repeating floral pattern for her bodice and skirt. They’re both the same pattern, but the bodice is a smaller scale. I used spoonflower to have my pattern printed. Since I bought my cap-sleeve and rest-of-the-skirt fabric first I was able to color-key my floral pattern computer drawings so that when the printed spoonflower fabric came, it would match all my other existing fabrics as well as possible. The bodice spoonflower fabric was Cotton Sateen and the Skirt spoonflower fabric was Silk Crepe de Chine.
Note: You can now get the fabrics I used publicly on Spoonflower! Enjoy!

Step 3: Embroidering

For the embroidery, I drew out the patterns for the lower-sleeves and the skirt. I studied multiple screenshots and worked out what I thought was the repeating pattern of the embroidery. This took several days. I really wanted the embroidery to look like Rapunzel’s and if you look at close-ups in the movie, her embroidery has some gaps and loosely spaced threads. I drew the “gaps” into my designs as well. I drew them to scale. I sent my scanned images to my friend, AJ, who digitized them for me and then I embroidered them with my machine onto the fabrics. The skirt was actually particularly difficult to embroider because it’s more than one color of thread and each pattern has to be matched up very carefully around the skirt in order for it to work. Sorry, my embroidery files are not for sale.

Step 4: Constructing the Costume

For the skirt pattern, I used my muslin for my Belle blue dress skirt, and then split it into the same number of panels as Rapunzel’s. Sorry, I no longer remember the pattern I used as the base for Belle’s skirt (it’s been a few years.) Basically it’s a skirt that is full at the bottom and relatively fitted around the hips. Each skirt panel is roughly “A” shaped. There is a matching white petticoat with lace on it (the same bow lace from the bodice). I added a sequined trim along the hem of the skirt and up the separated front panel for some extra detail.

On the bodice, I used my previous Belle blue dress bodice as my initial muslin and then drew out where the new seams would be and lowered the hem a bit. I also took the bodice in some knowing that I’d be lacing in like a corset. My Belle’s bodice was based on McCalls 4107. So basically, I cut a muslin based on McCalls 4107 and then took a pen and drew the new seamlines on it. Then I cut it apart and added new seam allowances where needed. I tried to match the seamlines of Rapunzel’s bodice as closely as possible by studying screenshots and then sketching out where the seamlines should be. The double boning chanels also match Rapunzel’s. I really loved that they actually showed the boning channels in the film!

There is pink piping around the edge of the bodice and then lace is gathered into that on the collar and the lower hem. This same lace is also gathered into the lower sleeve/wrist and it’s the same lace used to hem the petticoat of the skirt. The lower hem lace on the bodice was dyed pink with RIT DYE. The bodice is fully lined in coutil and corset-boned with working grommets/lacing in the front with a modesty panel for her faux-under-blouse.  The coutil lining and the boning makes a nice smooth bodice and also allows the bodice to be used as a proper corset.

When cutting from my spoonflower printed floral fabric, I tried to match the position of the florals on the bodice to the screenshots of Rapunzel. So I’d look at a shot of her and see what floral bit was on what part of her bodice and then lay the pieces out accordingly.  I also tried to match the floral patterns around the seams to get a seamless look (since that’s what is shown in the screenshots.) For an example/tutorial on matching designs over seams, see this page (or google more tutorials similar.) The pink ribbons on Rapunzel’s cap-sleeves have topstitching detail. The back of the bodice has a faux-under-blouse, too, with small pink flower buttons (Rapunzel’s are round, I decided to go with flowers.) The lower sleeves (also embroidered) are made out of a slightly transparent silk.

NOTE: The WIP photo shown is before the sleeves were put on and before the bodice was boned, grommeted or laced. Once boned, grommeted and laced, the "pulls" and wrinkles get smoothed out.

Step 5: Modifying and Styling the Wig

Really long wigs can be difficult to keep in good shape and even more difficult to style.  A loose unbraided Rapunzel wig as long as her hair is in the movie wouldn't be practical. Even a long loose wig just long enough to reach my knees would get tangled extremely easily. (Rapunzel gets her hair braided for a reason when she goes into town!) Also, Rapunzel's braided wig with the flowers is just so beautiful, there really was no question on which version of her hair I'd do. Even the braided wig, though, is not for the faint of heart. Working with all the long hair can be very frustrating!

My braided wig is two "New Look" brand Godiva wigs put together plus about 6 packs of blonde colored Black ‘n Gold Braid (which is very fluffy!) If you were able to get extensions in the same color as your wig, a duplicate wig wouldn’t be necessary, but I wanted a duplicate to help blend the color of the base wig into my extension hair (since I couldn’t find the same color and I very specifically wanted a certain color in the base wig…)

For Rapunzels Ariel-esque swoop bangs I used Tristen Citrine’s bang curling technique. I also did a small braid on each side of the base wig for looks-sake and to work into the large braid down the back.

To make the large braid down the back, I was basically working the remaining hair from the base wig (still attached to the base wig) in with additional hair. The duplicate wig’s hair was cut off and added to the Black n Gold Braid extensions. I separated all this loose hair into three sections and secured each one with a tight hairband. (Or you could turn each section into a weft.) I then attached these three sections to the back-neck area of the base wig. Look for one of the lower wefts (the long horizontal bands where hair is attached) on the base wig so that you are sort of sandwiching the new hair inbetween the existing hair of the base wig to hide the attachment. You can handsew the three sections onto the base wig’s lower wefts. Use a really strong thread and knot repeatedly to make sure it’s secure.  Then I worked the base wig hair into the three sections and braided them all.  After that I made some smaller braids with excess base wig hair and inserted them where I thought they would be pretty.

Then I made lots of small bouquets of silk flowers. I tied them together using the wire of the flowers themselves, and then attached them to the wig the same way.  One of the nice things about Rapunzel’s hair being braided and covered in flowers, is any spot that has an attachment of hair extension, or a spot that looks funny… you can just hide it in the braid or stick a big flower on it. 

So to recap, one long wig is the base. Then I had a 3 separate long piles of hair made out of loose hair extensions, gathered together at one end with a hair tie (or you can create 3 wefted extensions out of the 3 piles of hair). I attached the extension hair (by the hair tie) into the base of the neck area of the base wig (at the wig lace).  I worked the long, loose hair from the base wig into the 3 piles of attached extension hair and then braided the 3 combined piles together into one long braid. Then I worked some separate extra small braids in for decoration, and added the flowers.

Because I used a lot of the yaki/fluffy type hair extensions, the wig is not as heavy as it would be if it was all silky hair, but it’s still pretty heavy. It’s about 48″ long from the base of the neck. 

To wear the wig, I put pincurls at the front of my hairline with a few bobbypins and secure that and the rest of my hair with a wig cap. I then bobbypin the wig into the pincurls and wigcap to keep it secure. I'm able to wear the wig, spin around and enjoy myself for a god long time (2-5 hours or so ) before the wig becomes too uncomfortable. 

Step 6: Goodluck!

You can see more photos of my costume on my website here (scroll to the bottom for the gallery.)

Detail photo taken by myself. Mirror photo by Joseph Chilin. Other photo by Jason Nishi.
Halloween Epic Costumes Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Epic Costumes Contest