Power Girl cosplay Making of – Part 2

Torturing my mind

So that was it.  I would make a Power Girl cosplay.  But I would make it in a different way.  I never make things like everybody else, right?  I HAD to find a way.  But how the hell would I make a version of that costume that had never been done before?  How can you reinvent or give a twist to such a simple design?  First decision to make, and it would be a wrenching choice: which version of the costume would I make?  Adam Hughes’ or Amanda Conner’s version?   Conner’s version presents Power Girl wearing a big golden shoulder piece held with a strap and from which the cape comes out.  In that version, Power Girl has blue gloves and boots showing design details, including golden buckles on the boots and golden zippers on the gloves.  Hughes’ version presents Power Girl with plain blue boots and gloves, sometimes with a cuff.  And most importantly, Hughes replaced the shoulder piece by a smaller, more delicate golden medallion held with a chain instead of a strap.  From what I have seen, but it may only be my impression, most of cosplayers seem to go for Hughes’ version.  But my seamstress’ instinct tells me that it’s probably just because the plain gloves and boots from that version are easier to recreate than the more detailed ones from Conner’s version.  So, what am I gonna do?  What should I choose?  I personally prefered Hughes’ medallion, but thought that Conner’s boots and gloves looked fancier and more feminine, almost like designer boots and gloves.  I decided to make a mix of both versions, awared of the fact that Power Girl being  such an iconic character, mixing both versions may as well be a sacrilege.  But as you can guess, there’s not that much that people can say that will offend or bother me.  I was willing to do an hybrid version and in the end, I was mentally ready for an outcry that finally never came.

Now that I had choosen which boots and gloves I would make, it was clear in my mind that these pieces had to be made or genuine leather.  No superheroe would ever walk around wearing spandex gloves.  Ever.  Does Batman have spandex gloves?  No.  Does Captain America have spandex gloves?  Of course not.  What? Spiderman has spandex gloves.  Right.  But it’s a high tech, custom made stretch fabric garnished with a printed silicone pattern.  That doesn’t count.  It’s not plain spandex.  Don’t you guys try to fool  me.  ;)

At that time, I had just started learning how to work with leather.  I had no real specialized knowledge, I was just experimenting and applying to leather the techniques I had developed for regular fabrics.  During 3 years, I made various leather costumes that all had little technical problems and flaws.  I made a first leather suit for Soda Pop Miniatures, the costume of my character in their game Relic Knights.  It was a white suit where the boots were part of the pants, so it was also my first attempt at making leather boots.  It was during these years that I made 7 leather costumes for the characters of Heroes of the North – Season 2, including the costume of my own character in the series, Hornet.   Even though I was very proud of those costumes, I could see that some details were wrong, but I didn’t know why.  It was frustrating to put that much time and effort in making costumes that were not perfect in the end.

I hosted a panel in a convention about how I made the leather bomber jacket for my costume of Koshka, from the tabletop game Dust, and a young lady came to talk to me at the end of the panel.  She pointed out a detail of my jacket that was made the wrong way.  She was actually studying sewing leather techniques in a school nearby.  Yes, there was a school in a city around that was offering classes about leather work and leather clothing sewing techniques and I didn’t know!  The young lady gave me the name of her teacher, a passionate woman who was generous enough to come to my workshop.   The teacher stayed in my workshop for 3 hours, answering all my questions, showing me the right techniques, giving me tips and tricks, pointing out the flaws in my Heroes of the North suits and teaching me the correct way to do everything in leather.  I learned more during these 3 hours than in the past 3 years spent experienting by myself.  I was ABLE to do a perfect leather costume, I just needed to KNOW how.  And now, I knew.  My little hands could do it all.  Thanks to this teacher, I knew all the proper techniques to do any piece of clothing in leather.  It was now time to use those techniques.

I bought a blue cow hide to make Power Girl’s boots and gloves.  The leather had the perfect thickness to make boots, but was too thick to make fancy woman’s gloves.  It would have been better to use a thinner leather, like lambskin, to make Power Girl’s gloves.  I didn’t want to make big working gloves like the ones you can get in hardware stores.  I wanted to make delicate women gloves.  I had 3 options: I could try to find a thinner, matching blue leather for the gloves, I could buy white lambskin and try to dye it (changing the color of chrome-tanned leather is a speciality in itself and isn’t easy) or I could use the same blue leather for both the boots and gloves.  Chances to find a matching blue leather were pretty low and I had no skills or knowlegde in leather dying, so I decided to take the chance to use that thicker leather to make the gloves, knowing that the final result wouldn’t be as good as it could have been.

In my blog about my Scorpion costume, I mentioned a few things about leather.  One of those things is a very important step that needs to be done prior to sewing leather pieces.  It’s called skiving.  It’s the process of ‘shaving’ the edges of any thick leather piece where there are sewing allowances in order to have nice, flat stitches without too much thickness.  Working with a thick leather to sew something as delicate as gloves, it would be more essential than ever to carefully skive each piece of the gloves.

But first, I had to find a pattern.  There are various possible patterns to make gloves, depending on the types of gloves: working gloves, gardening gloves, gloves made out of stretch fabrics, delicate leather gloves for women, etc.  All of these gloves patterns are pretty tricky.  Gloves are certainly some of the most complicated pieces of clothing to sew.  No wonder why this is a piece that most of cosplayers will buy from the store.  Sewing gloves require strong skills and specialized  equipment.  Some gloves are sewed using a sewing machine for fur which makes a very narrow serger stitch. Some gloves are sewed using different styles of walking foot (sewing machine for leather.)  I only had my regular flat bed Consew walking foot, so that’s what I used.  A different sewing machine could have made my work easier, but at that time, I didn’t know.

 

The gloves’ journey: Let’s get started

I took a pair of gloves that I had and unsewed it.  I drew each pattern piece on paper and got a first pattern to work from.  I used old leather pieces from previous projects to cut and sew a first sample of glove that was… a total disaster.  I really thought that I had undertaken something that I wouldn’t be able to do.  I even considered giving up the whole thing and calling my friend Riki to tell her that I had changed my mind and that I wouldn’t be doing a Power Girl cosplay anymore.  But if gloves are sold in stores, it’s because someone, somewhere, knows how to sew gloves.   It’s doable.  Some people do it.  So I could do it too.  I needed 8 prototypes and worked for a full week before I was finally able to sew gloves that looked like gloves and that were wearable.

Here are all the pieces of that specific glove pattern.  I needed all these pieces to make 1 glove.   In fancier, delicate gloves, there’s a narrow piece that goes in between each finger.  These are the 6 pieces on the top right of the pic.  The round shape piece on the bottom right of the pic is the thumb.  Notice the hole where the thumb has to be stitched, the white marks around each piece which is where it was skived and the arrow shaped pieces on the left that will allow to reproduce Amanda Conner’s design on the gloves.   I had to skive the smaller pieces by hand using a special knife. That’s why some of the pieces’ edges are unequally skived while others, that I skived using my skiver machine, are perfectly skived.

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For a better adjustment, I decided to integrate an additional piece of design that was not part of Conner’s drawings.  It’s a piece of leather stitched on a large elastic, which gives the leather a textured pattern and allows the piece to stretch over my knuckles when I close my hand to make a fist.

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This is commonly seen in motorcycle clothing.  Some of you have probably noticed these elastic leather pieces integrated in the design of jackets and pants.

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In the industry, they will stretch a large piece of elastic in a frame and make multiple stitches through the hyde and elastic piece. When you take off the elastic from the frame, the whole piece of leather shrinks with the elastic to form that typical textured pattern and then, you can cut the pattern pieces.  Of course, I did my pieces by hand, one stitch at the time, stretching the elastic before each stitch.

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Here’s another step where I had started sewing some of the pieces together.

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And if you want to see more, you’re gonna have to wait for Part 3! You won’t be disapointed.  Power Girl’s gloves are worthed a little wait. ;)

5 Responses

  1. Gregory

    I under estimated the depth of skill required to make a costume from scratch never really considered the many facets of the task. I spent 8000 hours as an apprentice early in my career, it seems that you have spent similar time developing your craft and technique. Nice job.

  2. Jon

    I really like reading how much work you put into your costumes, MC! I’m particularly impressed by the stitching to the elastic. It looked like it was a lot of hard work and a lot of small details to pay attention to do by hand.

  3. Mike

    Awesome! It’s so great to see your passion for what you do!

  4. John Albert

    Love your blogs. Not only shows how passionate you are about your work but also shows your great personality.

  5. Robert

    Wow you really have an eye for the details, and a real perfectionist, it really shows on your projects. I never knew how much work could go in to a pair of gloves, it really shows your dedication that you choose to make the more detailed version.

    I have to say even if the Heroes of the North costumes weren’t perfect in some of the smaller details they still looked amazing. The Hornet one quite an improvement over the 2 vinyl versions, made with Polymorphe, don’t get me wrong those look great too, even if the version with the “Boob Socks” was a little silly, but comic accurate and sexy as hell.

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