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Sewing: The Project

Inspired, perhaps, by the amazing human who taught me all I know about sewing, I decided to put my new-found skills to the test for a very particular purpose.  No everyday wear for this novice sewer; no, instead I tried my hand immediately at cosplay.

What’s cosplay?  A whole other blog project, I expect. But a less glib answer is that it’s a portmanteau of “costume” and “play”, coined by Nov Takahashi in 1984. Cosplay describes the hobby (or profession) of costuming and especially recreating the costumes of characters in television, movies, or really any media. I decided to embrace the cosplay-culture and test my newfound sewing skills by making my own costume.

I decided to cosplay as young Yeesha, a character from the Myst videogame series by game production company Cyan. (You may have heard of them from their new game Obduction, releasing so soon.)

Yeesha, from Myst IV: Revelation
Yeesha, from Myst IV: Revelation

If you haven’t played Myst, stop reading now and change that.  Myst is a wildly popular puzzle game series — so popular it actually spawned its own fan convention, Mysterium. As a fan myself, I registered to attend Mysterium 2015 in Boston, providing me with the appropriate venue to share my Yeesha cosplay, and also a hard deadline by which to have her costume finished.

Mysterium 2015 Logo
Mysterium 2015 Logo

Young Yeesha has a tan, floral, corset-esque top, with straps that tie into the body and a taper in the front.  Her pants were something of a difficult research topic, but I concluded that they were pants with a wide enough leg to give the appearance of a skirt, and were likely wrap-around in style.  For her t-shirt, I decided to use a plain white one (though a real cosplayer would have made one, to make sure to get the slight circle pattern just right) and focus on the other aspects of her ensemble.

I started with the pants.  My training (and the watchful eye of my experienced friend) suggested that I should start with a mock-up using some throw-away material, so I cut the necessary pieces out of white paper. The result was the most uncomfortable pants I’ve ever worn, but proof-of-concept for the wrap-around design.

First draft of Yeesha's wrap-around pants
First draft of Yeesha’s wrap-around pants

Next was the real material. My natural inclination was to cut the pieces too big, out of fear, I suppose, of cutting them too small. This is not good practice for sewing, however, and resulted in lots of trimming. But finally the pants were assembled!

First wear of the real pants
First wear of the real pants

The corset proved an interesting exercise — while I could follow, in general, a pattern for Yeesha’s wrap-around pants, the corset would have to be, more or less, a design of my own that is loosely based on a corset.  Luckily, corseting is standard repertoire for most cosplayers, and my friend was able to help design and test out the top.  She even suggested that I modify the fabric I chose with embroidery thread to add new color and designed that better matched Yeesha’s costume. I decided at that point that I would never have the dedication to be a true cosplayer and that the close-enough fabric I had chosen would be good enough.

I used a t-shirt and a pair of brown boots I already owned, and my cosplayer friend surprised me with a messenger sack she made, to finish up the outfit.

What a sewing room looks like
What a sewing room looks like

I then flew to Boston for the Mysterium convention, armed with my home-sewn cosplay.  The result?

Yeesha Comparison
Yeesha Comparison

Well, I could have done worse!

(If you’re wondering, it turns out Mysterium is not a cosplay-heavy convention — if you got to San Diego Comic Con, I would guess that a majority of people are in costume, but at Mysterium? I was the only one. Worse than that, people didn’t seem to recognize me.  But! It turns out that when you put in months of effort to learn to sew and make your costume yourself, it turns out that lack of recognition is not so bad.)

Final verdict: I don’t have the attention for detail nor thousands of dollars of equipment nor the disposable income for materials, but sewing is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, if you can make it work. There’s something nice about having a tangible final product, and it lends itself well to both following directions to execute patterns as well as to creating your own designs and creatively improvising.

Do it if you get the chance. Appreciate it regardless.

ELM as Yeesha gif
ELM as Yeesha gif

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