Introduction: "Seamless" Body Suit

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

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

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: 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
Natural waist
Lower thigh
Upper thigh
Shoulder to waist
Arm hole size-where arm meets the shoulder


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.
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