Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cosplay by McCall's Pattern Review: Flight

You've probably seen my previous posts on the new Cosplay by McCall's pattern line.  If not, they are here and here.  I'm grateful to have the chance to review these patterns and share my observations with my readers.

Today will be a bit more of an in-depth look at one of the patterns: Flight.  You'll remember this as the one with the large angel wings on the rugged, attractive, tattooed man.  This pattern actually has two "Views": View A is a simple faux leather harness and View B are the large angel wings.

First let's talk a little about the wings.  This isn't your typical sewing pattern, and you can see where this cosplay line diverges from more typical costume patterns by its willingness to really jump into building rather than just sewing.  I've photographed the materials list to show you what I mean.

Materials List
This isn't just stitching.  There's wood, screws, brackets, wire, rubber bands, drills and drill bits involved.  The base of the harness, strapped to the back, is wood covered by faux leather.  The wire wing frames are attached to the base with various hinges and brackets to allow them to fold in and out.  Then all the feathers are cut from laminate flooring underlayment foam.  For more realistic feathers there are instructions for adding a vein to each feather with hot glue and cutting and shaping them with a heat gun.

The instructions for all of this look pretty good, but it's difficult to say how difficult or realistic this all is until someone really tries it, and I certainly haven't.  This is a big build and I don't even have any need for a giant pair of white angel wings.  In fact, that's one of my questions about this pattern: how many people have a need for giant white angel wings?  Ok, I can think of some characters that would use this style of wings, but not THAT many.  Maybe feathered wings would be useful for other looks if you make them other colors like black or red but there's no mention of whether this foam underlayment stuff is available in anything but white, or whether it's possible to paint or dye it.

Building the wing frame base, from the instructions.
Now, if you are looking to make big wings of some other type, maybe this pattern is still useful for instructions on building the frame base and harness.  But again, I'm not sure if the instructions are even very good.  I'm used to looking at full-color photo tutorials and videos for building this kind of stuff, and while the line drawings are pretty nice, it feels a little like reading instructions for IKEA furniture (which I happen to love, but YMMV.)  I think it wouldn't take much to get confused because I'm not fully clear on some of these steps just from reading it through.

So let's move on to the item from this pattern I actually DID go ahead and make.  It's the View that isn't actually pictured on the website or the pattern envelope, except in line drawing.  The plain harness or "belt" as the pattern calls it.  This is a pretty common item for steampunk cosplay as well as other styles such as apocalyptic fashion.  Usually they are made of thicker leather hide, but this pattern calls for faux leather and felt backing.  I had a piece of faux suede on hand large enough for the pieces, so I decided to test it.

At first I was thinking I would substitute some other material for the felt to stiffen and thicken the belt, but decided I needed to follow the instructions to really evaluate the pattern.  So I went to the fabric store and bought some craft felt.  The one place I diverged from the pattern was that I added a lining of soft cotton to the inside of the belt, not wanting the felt to be seen on the inside.

So how did it go?  Well this was extremely frustrating to make for me.  The materials were difficult to sew with and I got a lot of shifting of layers and wasn't terribly happy with how my finished item looked.  I didn't expect the difficulty, because I've worked with faux suede and leathers before in corsetry.  And this was pretty close to a corset.  Except that there was no boning and no vertical stitching holding all my layers together.  Attaching the binding was more of a struggle than usual since my layers were shifting and my binding fabric wasn't cut on the bias (since not specified that way in the cutting layouts).

The closer strap is the first one,
the second is the one I did 4 times.
The worst part was the straps.  They call for pressing the seam allowance under and then pressing the strip in half.  It's difficult to get the SA pressed exactly with no markings to judge by, since it's not exactly 1/4 of the width.  I got the first strap made ok, but the second one refused to cooperate.  I redid it 4 times.  Finally, in desperation I remembered a tip I'd read in a forum somewhere to place tissue paper under your presser foot and stitch through the tissue to prevent the leather from sticking to the foot.  That saved me and I finally got the second strap made (and spent a while picking tiny bits of tissue paper out of the stitches.)

The final result after using tissue paper.

The closure on the side is done with velcro.  I originally thought "bah, I'll figure out a better way to do it" but then I didn't.  With a real leather item you'd use straps and buckles, but with the floppiness of my materials, I wasn't sure that would really work or look much better.  And I was tired of working on this, so I added some velcro and called it done.

The impression given by the finished object is a cheap costume piece.  One of a quality I'd expect to get at a party store.  And that's find for a Halloween costume, but generally I expect much better for cosplay.  I mean yes, you see some costumes that are made of inferior materials, but they're not what I would aspire to.

I made the XL size, going by the chart and my waist measurement.  I wasn't sure this was going to work at all given how curvy I am.  It didn't work over a corset, because it's just not curvy enough.  And it does get a bit crushed by my bust.  It turned out a bit too small for me.  Close enough to close, but I felt like that velcro was going to pop open if I took too deep of a breath.

Maybe I ended up turning under too much to make the closure, but with the thickness of the felt layer, I couldn't fold under less and get it to stay.  So that may be why the loops of the straps on the back are totally off-center.  I placed them according to the marks on the pattern before trying it on.

You can see how much the belt crumples and bunches up since there's nothing holding it taught.  It's kinda like what a corset would be with no bones.  And it doesn't look like real leather.

Here's the velcro'd closure, slightly under strain.  You can see all the wrinkles from the fabric pulling  And the close doesn't look neat.  It's the part I'm really most unhappy with.

Guess we know why there isn't a photo of this on the pattern, just a drawing, right?

So, ultimately, what is this pattern worth?  Well, the actual design of the belt/harness isn't bad.  The style is worthy.  But if I were going to make something like this, I'd use real leather and rivet the pieces together, probably a buckle closure.  I'd use this pattern for the leather pieces, though, cause it does work.  But the materials need to be much stiffer.

Or you could use faux materials, but with a much stiffer inner material like maybe buckram, and/or the addition of boning.   You fancy cosplayers could try constructing it of craft foam or worbla or something also.  (I did think of using craft foam for the inside.  It may not be a whole lot better than the felt, as least with my boobs pressing down on it.)

So I don't know what conclusions you can draw from my experiment and whether they would apply to the pattern as a whole, or even the pattern line as a whole.  But at least for this project, I don't feel like most cosplayers I know are the target audience of the instructions and materials the pattern uses.

I'm still really interested/excited for the upcoming corset patterns and I'll be back with close looks at those and hopefully a test or two.

No comments:

Post a Comment