Friday, May 6, 2016

Mara Jade's Bodysuit

So, it took a long time to get this right. Mostly because I kept getting significantly frustrated by it. It is also difficult to show progress photos of this, because shooting pictures of all black material really doesn’t do a lot, so ya’ll will have to live without them. 

Mara’s bodysuit has been made by any number of costumers before, so I did my homework and looked at everything everyone else had one first. And promptly decided that I didn’t want to follow their plans.

My first attempt was to make my own catsuit pattern. I liked the idea of doing so, have always enjoyed making patterns, and so, why not. I used the pattern here, as I mentioned a while ago

The pattern was great, for the bottom half. Unfortunately, when you got to the point where my body began to have curvature that wasn’t sideways based, it all went to pants. I may be able to salvage the bodysuit for something where the front unzips, but I just wasn’t happy with the upper half of the pattern at all.

So then I went back to the research I’d done on Mara’s suit the first time. I read through all the classic examples and blogs about how people had made their suit, and decided to copy their plans. So I bought myself a copy of Kwik Sew K3052 pattern that others had used and gave it a whirl. 

The typical way of using a pattern like this is to make the pattern, then cut in the lines for the piping and the panel sections on the legs as described by Pam in the classic tutorial on how to put Mara's bodysuit together.

And I hated it. Again. I wasn’t thrilled with the fabric choice I’d used this time, but more importantly the pattern was just… blah. Again, I’m pretty sure this is because of the bosom I have. While I’m sure the pattern would work for other ladies, for those of us with ample curves, to get it to fit around said curves, it just made it look like a giant tube encircling my waist, making it look tens time larger than it actually is. I would have had to do a lot of surgery and fixing to try to get it to look even semi-decent.

I thought maybe it was the fabric, which was a bit heavy, so I changed fabric and tried it again, altering the pattern by nipping it in at the sides. It still looked terrible. The fact is, these patterns are not meant for ladies who have curves. 

Enter my saviour, Yaya Han and McCalls who have put together a bodysuit pattern that is customisable and already takes into consideration the needs of the busty girl by having various options in terms of bust sizes. It is M7217 Misses' Zippered Bodysuit by Yaya Han

The bodysuit pattern itself requires a little bit of alteration to work for Mara Jade, but nowhere near the kind of royal pain that was altering completely unseamed bodysuits like the previous patterns I tried. To get it to look like Mara’s there are alterations to the pattern that need to happen. 

This is a basic rundown of the changes that need to happen. Use View B on the pattern, but skip the collar and the sleeves. The above image shows where to take out lines and where to alter or add them. So for instance, the princess lines I moved up to become the more accurate straight down from the shoulder lines.



This second one is slightly more accurate in terms of matching Mara's seam lines. You can certainly do either, depending on how much work you want to get into. I did a combination of the two in that I did all of the body changes listed in Version 2, but went ahead and extended the seamlines on the legs down to the ground because its easier to insert a seam all the way down the leg than only partially and because of the gear she wears, you can't see the lines anyway.

All of these changes I drafted into a pattern because that is my workflow. It would also be very possible to put the entire thing together, draw the lines you want on it, and then use that as a pattern for the pieces you want. I had to guesstimate in a good few places, but the nice thing is that with the stretch material it isn’t really that much of a big deal if you get it wrong as it will sort itself out. 

So here is a word version of these changes:

The princess seam needed to be extended up to the neckline. I made sure to line this up with the back seam so that I could put one long line of piping up and over. This became my main seamline on the front. I extended the line towards the crotch and remade the side to include the excess.

The side panel of the pattern is designed with a bust portion and a midriff portion, which I put together and took out the seam allowance. This gives you a single piece for the side of the torso like Mara is supposed to have. 

If you have big breasts compared to your waist measurement, I went with the largest bust option in the size that fit my bust (the 16) and then matched it up with the waist option that matches my waist measurement (10) and adjusted the line where the two met. This gave me a bodice that is still a little snug for my DDDs, but not overly so and looks so much better than anything else I tried making. 

View B has a zip in the back, so you can follow the instructions on putting in the already existing back seam and zipper.

The pattern originally calls for a front seam, so I took that out by cutting the front piece on the fold instead of cutting two (taking out the seam allowance on the mid line). You do still have to create the diamond, which I did by putting it mostly together and drawing on where I wanted it to go and cutting it out with seam allowance added. I then made the diamond bit to finish out the front.

The small diamond on the front of the middle section was a bit more of an issue, as the pattern wants this to be a curved section with a seam down the middle. I didn’t want the seam, so I again cut it out along a fold, allowing just a small part to need to be sewn. Once the body suit is on this small seam isn’t noticeable at all as its well and truly hidden. If you're not using a fabric that shows your seams as much as mine you could theoretically leave it as is, but I think its better to adjust it as none of Mara's images have a seam there.

There were two alterations involving the legs. Firstly, I didn’t want seams at my hips as is called for in the bodysuit, so I added the patterns together, taking out the seam allowance, to create the long side lines. 

Then the legs had to be split (with seam allowance added) so that I could get the piping down the leg. I ran the piping all the way to the very end of my leg, because it was easier when sewing everything together and you don't see it anyway because of the boots and armour.

The inner leg pattern wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Mara’s bodysuit has a slightly different pattern from the bodysuit in terms of the seamlines going down. If you wanted you could probably just use the seams they have, but I wanted to do the version of her bodysuit where the piping goes down to her crotch and then goes down the leg from further up.

I ended up bringing my thigh seams in quite a bit more than I had realised, but if you follow the original seam line down to the hip, you probably won’t run into that problem. I ended up remaking this so the line would be more central down my leg.

To do this, I ended up cutting off part of the original center body piece and added it to the top of the inner leg (removing seam allowance at the top of the leg and added a seam allowance towards the crotch). The front inner leg I then added an additional 4 inches from the top to the knee. This provided me with enough extra material that I could use my serger to take out 1/2 inch for each seam needed to create the horizontal lines. I did 8, because that looked well spaced out on my leg. I wouldn’t go closer than 1.5inches between lines as they looked too jam packed otherwise unless you're a lot smaller than my 5'5" frame.

I will say, that having tried it a couple of ways, I find that it looks most pleasing if the seams for the diamond lines up with where the piping going down the leg starts. It just looks better for some reason.



Then it was a matter of putting it all together. The McCalls Cosplay blog had some great tips about putting in zippers with stretch material, some of which I followed, some of which I didn’t. 

On fabric, I ended up with a matte black spandex. It has a bit of a sheen, but it isn’t glossy, and stretches nicely. It is also very comfortable and I can move well in it. The pattern has a stretch guide that gives you a good guidance on how much stretch is preferable. Mine was a tiny bit short of stretch in one direction, but had plenty in the other, so I used the stretchier side as my up/down axis as that is the axis that needs greater stretchability. The only difficulty I found in using this is that it acts like leather/pleather in that if you poke a hole in it, that hole is always going to be visible. So if you’re doing a mockup, do it in something else.

The piping I made out of excess material, and I put a piece of elastic in it. The one thing I didn’t know to do until after I’d done it wrong was that you need to make sure that both ends of your elastic is sewn down. Otherwise the elastic inside the piping will make a lovely not-so-charming wiggle all up and down your seam line as it shifts inside the piping resulting in wavy lines like this:




Thankfully it was an easy enough fix. You just have to make sure that both ends of your stretchy piping is tacked down and is a little bit tight. I needed it to be stretched just a little bit while on my body or else it would go wavy, so its a little bit tighter than the rest of the costume. If you use the stirrups on the McCall's pattern, it also helps.

This bodysuit is actually the part of the costume that took the longest for me to get together, mostly because of the patterning issues. Had I not been so picky, I certainly could have used one of the others, but I really do feel that this was a much better fabric and pattern to use overall. 


Photo by JK-KC Photography
There’s still a few things I might alter (like loosening the stitching around the neckline so it doesn’t cut my head off) but overall, I’m really happy I took the time to find a pattern that made me look good. I feel much better wearing something I’m confident in.

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