Introduction: Jyn Erso: a Commission Story
I have been struggling my way through making costumes for a little over 20 years. I have never taken on a commission because I always feel like I never know what I am doing. I don't mind failing my way through something when it is just for me, but for others I demand a higher level of near perfection. I have helped create costumes for others but it was always a team effort, we all failed or succeeded together.
When my dear friend and comic shop owner, at the time, asked me to make her a costume for Free Comic Book Day I was crazy enough to agree. This is the first time I was ever paid for my work so I tried to be as detailed about it as I could be, including making an invoice.
When I started this project it was early 2017, not a lot was out about the costume for Jyn so I did as much visual research as I could (staring at the poster images online) and of course as soon as the film was available for purchase I bought it and watched it, a lot.
I sourced a vintage 70's shirt pattern on the ever handy ebay, as I said this was early on so there wasn't as much detail out about the shirt and what you see here is not actually accurate. [I will be re-making the shirt at a later date] I also got a pants pattern that had a lot of options to work with (front center seams included, yay!) and was recommended on the RPF forums.
3 YRDS Yarn Dye Chambray Union Indigo
3 YRDS Black Cotton Twill Spandex Fabric
2 YRDS Red Nylon Fabric
Butterick Pattern 4625 - Shirt
Simplicity Pattern 2860 - Pant
1 Brown Nylon Vest
1 Pair Style & Co Qwinn US 6 Brown Ankle Boot
1 Vintage Rucksack strap hook
1 Set Vintage Lange Ski Boot Buckles
Leather fingerless Gloves
blaster - 3D print
Vest details - 3D print
General Items: Thread, zipper, snaps, rivets, needles, Velcro, webbing straps, hardware, paints and other weathering materials.
Step 1: It's All in the Details or How to Drive Yourself Crazy
Jyn's shirt looked to be made of some kind of linen blend but all my source materials also showed it in a ranged of blues (from almost denim like to steel) so I guessed at the color and purchased a cotton chambray that had a great texture to it.
I have since found another fabric and I am internet stalking it until I am ready to dive into this again.
Back to the OG shirt. Using my vintage 70's pattern (I was very proud of this pattern as it looked so darn close and the nod to A New Hope was in the back of my mind) I cut out my pieces using my pinking sheers, as this fabric does have a tendency to fray. I pressed every seam with my iron to keep it as crisp as possible. Any trimming to my original cuts I did with my fabric scissors. It was my silly way of remembering what was the original pattern and what was my augments. In my research I found images that indicated there was a seam across the width of the back on the shirt, roughly mid to lower shoulder-blade range, my pattern did not have this detail but it was super easy to add it.
The structure of the shirt was very simple, I augmented how to insert the neck pieces to give it the folded over design rather then the wide open neck the pattern called for. I took my finishing up a step by folding over the edges and doing a French seam. Once the neck was in I attached the sleeves and had my client come in for a fitting. I knew I would have to take the shirt hem up and shorten the sleeves from the original pattern so it was not a concern that I kept them long. I did have to end up taking in the shoulders but the width was perfect as it was for the bust. I cut about 3 inches off the hem of the shirt and nearly cut the sleeves by half to create that 3/4 sleeve.
Another design element I added that turned out to be inaccurate was a back collar piece. This detail really should have been on the vest, but at the time I couldn't be sure from my reference art so I added it to the shirt.
With the shirt complete it was time to start pants.
Step 2: I Just Want Some Pants! a Decent Pair of Pants!
I have never made pants from scratch before and I was dreading it. I was sure I was going to screw it up, a seam wouldn't hold (this happened on Batgirl actually but Lamé is another animal) and closure would fail, I'd make them too short. It was a million little doubts bouncing around in my head like a ball in pong. Doubt swirling behind my eyes, I started cutting my Black Cotton Twill. (I purchased a 4 way stretch cotton twill, makes life way easier when it comes to fittings)
Putting in the zipper took the longest (until I got to the pin tucks but we'll get there later). I spent so long trying to figure out the instructions before hand that once I just started pinning it together, it clicked in my mind and made way more sense. I'm one of those do it to learn it kind of people, I like having the instructions, diagrams, etc but I learn more by doing (failing and trying again). With the zipper in I needed to add the waist band which took but a few moments then it was on to those pin tucks.
There were 7 pin tucks on each leg, I used chalk to measure out the spacing and pinned the fabric in place, I ran an iron over it all to help lock in the shape for stitching and got to work. Making the pin tuck panels was time consuming but not hard. And then I promptly sewed them into the pants the wrong way. So I unpicked the panels and put them in the correct way.
There is a white strap that runs through a channel on each pant leg. I took a strip of fabric, hemmed all the sides and hand tacked it into place, the pant legs were just a little too narrow to allow me to machine stitch them on but I used my hem stitches as a guide and just went over what was already there.
Step 3: So Much Fluff!
I thought I would make it easy on myself and augment a vest rather than attempt to make one form scratch. I was having a hard time figuring out what materials it was made out of (ripstop, nylon, cotton, etc) and I happened to score one on ebay that was a perfect shade of brown. This was by far one the dumbest choices I have ever made.
To start with it was filled with down . . . and I needed to shorten the length a few inches. I did not document the feather storm that filled my little condo but they were everywhere!
I will never cut into a down filled item of clothing ever again.
I will never cut into a down filled item of clothing ever again.
Let's move on.
I cut into the vest and attempted to contain and remove the unneeded feathers. I knew I needed to create a waistband that looked like it had been ruched with elastic thread. I did not have the know how at the time to attempt this so I simply stitched rows into the fabric I had just evacuated of feathers. Is it correct, no, did it work, yes! I then had to go about adding in the horizontal and vertical stitching details on the front sides. I eye-balled this mostly since I was working on an already made garment and not flat fabric. Again, not the right way to do it but I made it work, and I think it turned out pretty good.
The vest came with a storage bag made of the same fabric, it wasn't very big but it did give me enough material to make 2 front pockets. I cut the bag in half and pined each half in place until I had them where I wanted them. Then I pinned them into the right shape. Again I eye-balled this since each pocket piece I was using wasn't exactly the same it took some work to finesse them into similar shapes. Once I had the shape, I took them off and added the stitching details along the top of each pocket with my machine, then had stitched them in place.
I re-lined the inside of the vest with red nylon. I know I probably could have gotten away with not doing that but it was how Jyn's vest was in the film and it hid all my stitch work so I figured, what the heck! I cut my pieces using the vest as my pattern. I cut 4 pieces, 2 for the back and one for each side. I chose to cut 2 for the back because it was easier on my machine to maneuver so I did end up with a seam down the middle of the back in my lining, but I'm okay with that. I left the bottom long and open for now because it was time to get tufting.
Since creating this costume there are now tons of tutorials about the tufting/quilting pattern that is on Jyn's vest back, I had none of that to go on. I stood in front of my TV pausing my film each time her back was to camera counting how many tufts I could find. I drew a basic grid pattern to reference and tufted by hand, making small "x" patterns with my stitches to create this pattern. You can see the little white feathers poking through my stitches here and there on the back. Curse you feathers!
With this major construction done, I got to work on embellishing. I used my last scrap of brown bag fabric to create the flap on the front. Felt was used for the darker sections. I used a little piece of vest fabric to create the loop form my vintage metal hook (thank you again ebay) and had stitched it into place. I ordered 3D printed embellishments that looked like the closure and "card" attached to the bottom of the vest. They were awesome, coming in multiple parts so you could hand stitch them in place then the next layer could be glued on to conceal the stitch work. Thank you etsy!
Lastly, and I'm sorry but I was so frustrated with the cording for this I did not take pictures, it was time to play with plastic tubing. Again this is an item that now has a lot more info about it than when I was working on this so I found a roll of thin black tubing and hot glued the ever living heck out of it to get 4 pieces to stay together and hand tacked it into place. Now, when I say hand tacked that involved getting needle-nose pliers to help me force the needle through the tubing and ALL that glue to stitch it in place. I had to do this twice. One side had to be longer and have some kind of square end piece on it. No one knew what that piece was. I thought it looked a lot like the plastic pieces on a backpack strap you use to adjust the length, so that is totally what I used.
With the tubing completed I trimmed the red lining, folded the end under and hand stitch it closed. Vest was complete. It was time for a final fitting and you'll have to take my word for it that the client was happy in the picture.
**I later learned that there were patches under the arms that I did not have and that the long piece of tubing should be going through the side of the vest, secured on the inside closer to the bottom hem. These are adjustments I will make later.**
Step 4: Free Comic Book Day
All in all, it was a successful costume build.
I did do some quick versions of the boot covers for this costume as well, but they were last minute and not final so not even worth saying what I did. I scrapped them right after the event to make new proper ones, which I have yet to finish.
The client was happy and I was proud of what I had accomplished for her as well as tackling some of my fear of doing commissions. That being said, mad props to those of you out there who make a living doing this! Maybe it would be less stressful if I did it more but I don't see me doing it all that often. Now and then I think I may take on a commission for friends (and I have actually taken on 2 more projects since making this) but I will not be setting up an etsy store or anything like that.
Costuming is fun for me, yes even when it taxes my brain to the max or sends me into a tirade of curses, I still enjoy the process and accomplishment of a final product. I hope you enjoyed reading up on this build.