Behind the Scenes: Tips for Burnout Prevention and Recovery from the Habitica Team!

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The “Behind The Scenes” series is a chance for us to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of HabitRPG, Inc., the company that makes Habitica. Every so often, we’ll treat you to some silly staff shenanigans or show you the work that goes into your favorite features. Enjoy!

Hello Habiticans! It’s November, which means we’re right in the thick of the school year and at the start of the rush into the holidays. And after that, we’re into the New Year! How time flies. At times like this, we may find ourselves extra busy, and when we’re extra busy there’s a chance that we may experience the dreaded burnout! In this Behind the Scenes post, some of the Habitica Staff + Mods share their tips and tricks for preventing and recovering from burnout.

Beth, AKA Beffymaroo:

My number one tip is to remember that being overwhelmed shouldn’t be a natural state of being or a state to aspire to. There’s a lot of pressure from different parts of our identities, surroundings, and the people in our lives to be constantly on the go or busy, and then when we actually have a moment where we’re not doing something work-related or “productive”, we feel guilty, like we’re wasting time. You should have moments of quiet, fun, or even just inactivity in your day so you can recharge your body, mind, and soul. Don’t let the “always busy” culture or comparisons with other people make you feel guilty for taking a moment for yourself or for keeping your workload manageable. The time you take for yourself and the boundaries you set for self-care time are an important part of being sustainably functional and productive!

Alys:

Make sure you take regular time off no matter what, and ask for help even when you know the people you’re asking are also busy. Accept that your feelings of burnout are normal and correct. You are meant to feel like this when you have been working too hard. It’s your mind and body’s way of letting you know that changing your processes is necessary to help yourself and to help the people you are doing work/favours/etc for. Also check out Vicky’s post about Meditation.

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Even the bravest bug-smashers need break time!

 

Paglias, AKA Matteo:

I’ve found it super useful not to work after a certain hour in the evening. It’s improved my sleep a lot and together with trying not to work during the weekend, this has really helped with burnout 🙂

Vicky AKA Redphoenix: Things that are on my short list for burnout recovery:

  • Physical workouts. Running, hiking, yoga, calisthenics, helping a friend move, whatever. This is because the next item on my list is
  • Sleep. Burnout for me frequently manifests physically, and one of the issues is that I start not sleeping well. The point at which I realize I need to pull back a little for sustainability is when I basically lose an entire day to sleep recovery.
  • Non-work blackout times. This frequently self-enforces without my consciously noticing it, but I do try to carve out spaces in my day where I tell myself I’m allowed not to be working. Generally applicable tip: Look for activities where you hit flow state, but are not work-related. Then SCHEDULE THEM IN as a non-negotiable obligation, either by putting them on your calendar, or scheduling to meet with a friend, or pulling together the physical supplies you need to do the thing.
  • A Treat. ideally something out of the ordinary. This doesn’t have to be expensive. My favorite little treats for myself have been: dressing up for a gallery show, trying out a new coffeeshop, sub $5 fountain pens. Occasionally, the Treat has been as small as “going outside where I can sit in the sun for a while”.

Leslie AKA Lemoness:

  •  Pay attention to your own personal burnout triggers. Productivity and self-care are very personal things, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Finding a way to keep track of what does and doesn’t work can be useful in developing your own strategies.
  • For me, I have to be cautious about getting too into the zone with work, to the point where I’ll keep working all night, every night. I can handle a few days like this, but long-term, it’s proven to be a recipe for disaster. The way that I combat this on a day-to-day basis is by setting a designated time where there is a very clear break point to stop working — in my case, dinnertime. Then I have someone who can keep me accountable and prevent me from returning to my work afterwards.
  • The time when I have to be the most cautious is actually during the burnout recovery period, when I start feeling energetic again, but my battery has a more limited charge (so to speak). History has shown that I tend to think, “I’m better! Time to massively overcommit again!” and then REALLY wreck myself. This is the equivalent of injuring your ankle and then, after a week of rest, saying, “Hey, I can stand again! Let’s run a marathon this weekend.” Although it can feel frustrating, like you’re holding back your potential, it is critically important to continue your recovery behaviors for longer than you think is necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be out of commission much longer.
  • Finally, if your burnout becomes a long-term, persistent depression, consider seeking help from a professional. There is no shame in reaching out to a mental health professional when you’re suffering, just as there is no shame in going to the doctor when you have pneumonia.
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Don’t let this guy turn you into an Exhaust Spirit!

Sabe AKA SabreCat:

The “take a break” type advice tends to send me into a spiral of doing nothing / doing only recreational-recuperative things. So rather than step back, I prefer to scale down:

  • Reduce sources of pressure and overwhelm. In Habitica, move things from Dailies to Habits wherever possible, and drink a Fortify Potion to blank out the stressful redness. Swap in low-pressure social activities, like board games, for high-pressure ones, like dinner hosting.
  •  Find a minimum comfortable degree of productivity, and stick to that: the “No More Zero Days” approach. Does working the inbox feel crushing and impossible? Resolve to respond to just one message. Too many dirty dishes? Polish one up and put it away. You’ll almost always end up doing more, but getting started won’t feel so frightening.

Keith AKA TheHollidayInn:

Building small habits of doing work daily helps prevent burnout. Slightly counter-intuitive, but for me building coding, reading, etc in small bits to my daily routine outside the 9-5 helps integrate the flow so that I don’t get the feeling of “Oh, it is 9 o’clock, time to change my mindset completely and work hard on problems.”

***

We hope these tips and strategies help you prevent burnout, and help you recover if burnout has already taken hold of you! We’d also love to hear your tips, either as comments here on the blog or in the Tavern Chat! Until next time. 🙂

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Use Case Spotlight: Money Matters

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Illustration by OuttaMyMind

In last month’s Use Case Spotlight, we featured tips and tricks from Habiticans about using the site and apps to work on Cultivating Positivity. This month, as the holiday season approaches, we’re changing it up and looking at ways to use Habitica to build and improve your financial well-being — particularly in a season that can leave us strapped as we shop for gifts, decorations, and other festive things! Let’s look at some great ideas for using Habitica to set (and maintain!) new tasks and goals related to Money Matters. These come from your fellow players in the Use Case Spotlights Guild!

James uses Dailies and gets extra accountability through the Financial Discipline Guild and Challenges!:

I have used Habitica extensively to work on my finance game. I have dailies every two weeks (on payday) to balance my checkbook, pay my credit card bills, make savings deposits and do my budgeting.

The Financial Discipline Guild is also a great place to share information, with lots of great challenges, too. It’s where I queried the group to find the best budgeting app.

I’m also running a trilogy of Challenges in the Guild and my party to save up for the emergency fund, and also some fun to-dos to work on taxes, charities, and account management.

Shallan combines Habits and Dailies with a spreadsheet to track expenses and savings:

I have tried to keep things simple. I have a Habit, called “Find where you lost gold,” which I click up whenever I enter an expense. I also have a Daily, which I only get to click if I’ve logged all of my expenses for the day. I have a really simple spreadsheet with my budget, which also calculates how much money I have left “for each day” in the month. I find that number really helpful, as it reminds me how quickly $5 here or there stacks up / eats away at my monthly allowance.

I hope to expand this by adding categories, which will help with future budgeting (“fixed” costs, like personal grooming items) and when tax season comes around.

NickyJay creates a daily budget and watches the savings add up!

I created a daily: “Stay within allotted budget.” I set up a budget for every day of the week, varying from day-to-day based on activities and work schedules I usually have during certain days. I set them all up side by side on a spreadsheet. When I don’t use all of my budget for one day, I set it up so it transfers to the next day. Finally, it shows the amount leftover from my allowance at the end of the week, and I take 20% off of that and move that to savings. It’s been keeping me honest and responsible with my spending and it shows me where I’m spending and rewards me for not spending more than I should. Plus, saving is becoming a lot easier.

Fox_town uses a Habit to stop impulse spending in its tracks!

I have a + habit for “Saw something I wanted to buy – but didn’t, because I didn’t need it”. Once you start paying attention, it’s amazing how many times you can keep your dollars in your pocket for something more important. 🙂

This month’s topic generated an exceptional number of awesome tips and ideas — unfortunately too many to share here! But you can see them all and join in the discussion in the Use Case Spotlights Guild — one of your ideas could be featured next month! Look for an announcement of next month’s theme from Bailey soon.
Also, if you missed it you may want to take a look at our most recent Guild Spotlight, which showcases groups dedicated to Cultivating Positivity!

The Habit Loop

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Illustration by erikari

It’s Wiki Wednesday! Once a month we highlight a helpful post from the Wiki with tips about productivity, wellness, and optimizing your use of Habitica!

We can’t believe 2017 is already almost over! With the end of the year and the busy holiday season approaching, it’s a great time to take another look at the methods you’re using to build better and healthier Habits! Luckily, the Wiki Scribes have great information available for players who are interested in habit-forming methodologies and concepts, such as the Habit Loop!

The Habit Loop is a neurological loop that governs any habit. The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones.

Want to know more? Head over to the wiki to check out the full article!

Behind the Scenes: Spotlight on the Joyful Reaper

The Behind The Scenes series is a chance for us to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of HabitRPG, Inc., the company that makes Habitica. Today we’re doing something a little different: we’re expanding on the fictional world of Habitica by spotlighting one of the characters who commonly crops up. Enjoy!

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The friendliest skeleton in all of Habitica also happens to be our much-beloved Master of Healers! The Joyful Reaper has been a cornerstone of our land for a long, long time…

Backstory

The Joyful Reaper is one of the oldest Habiticans, though her tireless energy and gentle enthusiasm have never waned over the decades. Her exact age eludes scholars, as does the question of how precisely she came to be. Is she a talented healer who took on the guise of a skeleton to study anatomy? A magical spirit, animating some bones to appear more human? Perhaps she, like her many skeleton pets, simply hatched one day from a large and mysterious egg. Whenever a new theory is presented, the Joyful Reaper cheerily agrees that it sounds very plausible, so we are no closer to learning the truth.

Regardless, her origins are less important than all of her accomplishments. It’s known that she was a member of the very first class of the illustrious Academy of Ensorcellment, where she became quite popular for her helpful spirit and proclivity to bake interesting new desserts. Not every friendship was successful; for example, she briefly dated Recidivate, who would later become a dreaded necromancer. It quickly became apparent that the match wasn’t going to work out. The Joyful Reaper liked sunshine, and Recidivate liked gloom; the Joyful Reaper was majoring in Agriculture, and Recidivate was writing an independent thesis on Raising Undead Habit Hordes for Domineering and Profit…. “In retrospect,” the Joyful Reaper has mused, “there were several signs.” Still, aside from the occasional bumps, her time at the university was overwhelmingly positive, and she graduated as valedictorian. Many theoretical magician jobs were offered to her, but she turned them all down in favor of building a small cottage in one of the most barren and inhospitable areas of Habitica: the Fallow Fields.

Few would choose such a difficult place to work, but the Joyful Reaper saw the potential in the empty land. She spent many sleepless days and nights tirelessly working her healing magic on the dusty flats, dreaming of an area that could be devoted entirely to growth and the celebration of all the life and loveliness that hard work could achieve. After decades of tireless effort, the once-forgotten western lands of Habitica were transformed into some of its most fertile grounds, and soon they were called the Flourishing Fields. Many Habiticans moved there, drawn by the promise of productivity brimming in every orchard and wellspring.

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The Joyful Reaper was not content to limit her healing to the land, however. She stretched life magic to its limits, developing creative crops, such as candy that grows on trees, carrots that can be wielded in battle, and more. She even developed many fascinating new hatching potions! (She’s known to be particularly fond of the skeleton varieties, even lovingly crafting papier-mache bodies for the freshly-hatched spirits of creatures like caterpillars and octopuses so that they won’t feel left out.) Her unparalleled devotion to life magic and the healing arts eventually led to her being named the Master of Healers.

That being said, it is possible to work too hard. In fact, the intense productivity of the Flourishing Fields made it susceptible to an attack from the dreaded Burnout. Like the rest of her fellow citizens, the Joyful Reaper was transformed into an Exhaust Spirit during that frightening time. Luckily, all Habiticans pooled their efforts to defeat Burnout by focusing on their self-care tasks, serving as a reminder that even the most hardworking of us all needs to take some time to rest.

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Personal Life

The Joyful Reaper can usually be found working on one of her many projects in the Flourishing Fields, or taking a break to sample the delicious desserts that she grows in her garden. She’s devoted to her small cottage, and while some may find the decor spooky, she considers it to be quite charming!

In her spare time, she loves to prepare elaborate feasts, even hosting the yearly Fall Festival. She also works with Lemoness and King Manta to create fun transformation spells that Habiticans can use on themselves and friends, such as the Supernatural Skins and Spooky Sparkles.

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In fact, she and King Manta often collaborate on spell-crafting, as they’ve known each other from back before Dilatory sank. She also remembers the April Fool from when he was just a youth, though she kindly keeps his secret identity to herself. Clearly, she sympathizes with the desire to keep one’s past mysterious. She helps heal Lady Glaciate’s pets and mounts whenever they fall ill, and though her sweet demeanor is sometimes at odd with the brusque manner of the Master of Warriors, the two women have developed a meaningful rapport over the years.

Believe it or not, these accomplishments are only the beginning. The Joyful Reaper also runs Habitica’s most illustrious healing hospital, personally oversees each season’s new crops, and has opened three separate universities for healers, farmers, and party planners (respectively). “She’s an inspiration, that’s for sure!” attests one of her many students. “Somehow work always seems more fun with the Joyful Reaper around. Plus, she found a way to grow candy that is also a vegetable. What more could you ask for?”

We hope that you enjoyed this month’s spotlight! Read more about the other Masterclassers of Habitica here, and stay tuned for more in the future.

Gatherings of Good Cheer: Guilds for Cultivating Positivity

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Illustration by Katy133

This autumn, you’ll be hearing many folks around Habitica talking about all the things about the season that make them happy. Sharing these kinds of positives in your life and working to be more aware of them is an important part of self-care, and making sure you’re taking care of yourself is key as you pursue your goals. In this month’s Spotlight we’re focusing just a few of the many Guilds in Habitica where you can find fellow players to support you in your quest to create and maintain an optimistic outlook!

Happy List Guild! https://habitica.com/groups/guild/a1d9d3fd-fa2f-4eb5-89b9-194246963ac0

The Happy List Guild is a group built around its themed Challenges! Each Challenge asks you to post a list of ten things that make you happy and fit the Challenge theme. As you make and post your own lists, you can enjoy hearing from fellow Guild members about theirs!

Good Things Today: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/6193e183-4dc8-4d50-9744-121c45305b7b

Good Things Today is all about sharing the little moments that make you happy every day. Check it out for an active chat full of folks looking on the bright side. Good Things Today also runs monthly Challenges where you can win gems for consistently sharing your good things!

Daily Positivity and Updates: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/f131d416-834f-49c2-9554-300edf23ed65
This Guild focuses on positivity and inspiration along with check-ins about how you’re doing on your goals and habits. The idea is to stay accountable and to cheer each other on!

The Optimists: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/4f11eb55-fe44-4805-8a30-9009fd7d7979

The Optimists is a group for those who look on the bright side, or wish to look there more often! Check out their chat for tips, recommendations, and quotes to help you shape a more positive perspective on the world!

These Guilds and many, many others are here to help you remember and focus on the good things in your life .  And if you’re looking for more advice on using Habitica to cultivate positivity, be sure to read this month’s Use Case Spotlight, featuring tips and tricks from fellow Habiticans!

Use Case Spotlight: Cultivating Positivity

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Illustration by Katy133

In last month’s Use Case Spotlight we featured tips and tricks from Habiticans about using the site and apps to work on Learning Languages. This month we’re changing it up a bit and looking at not only keeping your mind active, but keeping it happy and healthy as well! Let’s look at some great ideas for using Habitica to set (and maintain!) new tasks and goals related to Cultivating Positivity. These come from your fellow players in the Use Case Spotlights Guild!

Gumnos starts us out by emphasizing the importance of gratitude:

I’ve got an item in my Habit list for thankfulness/kindness. It usually takes the form of going out of my way to thank someone for something that would otherwise go unthanked. Sometimes it’s a genuine compliment. Other times, it’s going out of my way to lend a hand or send a note/tweet/PM of encouragement. They don’t come naturally for me in many occasions, so it helps nudge me over my generally-apathetic nature.

TheOutlandishPeabody wrote a great post with a number of tips! We’re including an excerpt here, but you can read the whole post in the Guild chat!

One thing that has really helped me with a gratitude practice is a bracelet I bought for the purpose. It is woven from 5 strands of leather in a really pretty pattern, and when I notice it on my arm (many times a day), I list 5 things I’m grateful for, or I take stock of my 5 senses (plus body sense). The gratitude obviously “positives” me up, but the 5 sense exercise really makes me mindful, and more mindfulness is associated with greater positivity.

MissBirdee reminds us of the importance of our connections with people who make a positive impact in our lives:

For cultivating positivity, I have a daily for reaching out to friends. This could be anything as small as texting someone I having seen in a while or talking to a stranger to create new friendships. It really helps me to stay motivated to maintain positive connections.

Lalaitha notes the importance of reminding those closest to you that you value them!

Every month for.. quite some time now, I am part of the challenge Choose Your Partner Today. The challenge is about writing why you choose to be with your partner that particular day. Doesn’t matter how small or big the thing is. It really helps to bring out the positive each day, even if you had an argument or things don’t quite work out like you had hoped.

The challenge is hosted in the guild by the same name (Choose Your Partner Today).

 

Last, but certainly not least, a great positivity tip from Habitica’s own heroic bug-smasher Alys:

Each day I write down three things that have made me happy or that I’ve liked in some way. They can be as simple as seeing a pretty flower or hearing a moment of birdsong. They can also be good things that I’ve done or things I like about myself. It’s far from a novel idea and I’d seen it recommended on many websites but I’d always been dubious about how much it could help until my anxiety therapist recommended it as a daily task. It’s surprising how much it helps! Being aware that you need to write three nice things every day helps you focus on the niceness around you.

There were so many helpful and exciting tips we couldn’t feature them all here! You can see them all and join in the discussion in the Use Case Spotlights Guild– one of your ideas could be featured next month! Look for an announcement of next month’s theme from Bailey soon.

Also, if you missed it you may want to take a look at our most recent Guild Spotlight, which showcases groups dedicated to Learning Languages!

Dealing with Variable Goals

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Illustration by Leephon

It’s Wiki Wednesday! Once a month we highlight a helpful post from the Wiki with tips about productivity, wellness, and optimizing your use of Habitica!

Autumn is in full swing, and it’s a great time to do a little “fall cleaning” in your Tasks list! If you have tasks that are season-specific, or are otherwise not on a regular schedule, the Wiki Scribes have some great tips for how to manage them with Habitica!

This page compiles tricks for using the Habitica system with schedule irregularities, such as:

  • Tasks that need to be done a certain number of times per week, but not on specific days
  • Tasks that repeat monthly, seasonally, or on some other schedule

Postponing or skipping sets of tasks (e.g., due to changes in health or work shifts).

Want to know more? Head over to the wiki to check out the full article!

Places for Polyglots: Guilds for Learning Languages

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Illustration by OuttaMyMind

Happy Fall! Whether you’re in school, or just learning on your own, it’s a great time to expand your knowledge. Habiticans love to learn, and one of the things they love to learn most are new languages. In this month’s Spotlight we’re focusing just a few of the many Guilds in Habitica where you can find fellow players to support you in your language-learning journey!

Duolinguists of Habitica: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/22360759-fd87-444d-86bd-42724be07bd7

Do you use Duolingo? It’s a language-learning app that many Habiticans love, and you can find them here! Duolinguists of Habitica has a supportive, active chat and a huge variety of Challenges for different languages you might be interested in learning.

The Language Hackers: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/283171a5-422c-4991-bc78-95b1b5b51629

This Guild is for anyone who wants to learn a new language, or even many new languages! They have a great resource list of apps, sites, and books that can help you reach your goal. They also offer Challenges to help give you extra incentive as you work on your linguistic skills.

The JRPG Club: https://habitica.com/groups/guild/df76bff9-28c8-4aed-8ba9-ac83095f9530

If you’re learning Japanese, or interested in learning Japanese, this Guild is here for you! The JRPG club runs several Challenges for extra motivation. You can discuss your approach to learning, post in Japanese, and share tips and resources in their chat.

Learning French – Apprendre le français:
https://habitica.com/groups/guild/3272dfab-2b42-4ccd-ab12-eeeb4aed63ad

This Guild is here for any Habitican who speaks French or aspires to! You can post about your favorite strategies and resources in their Guild chat. They also have challenges (in both French and English) to help with motivation and accountability as you learn.

These Guilds and many, many others are here to help you become bilingual, trilingual, or a polyglot. We’ll definitely be highlighting more language-learning Guilds in the future as well, so let us know if there is one you’d like to see featured!  And if you’re looking for more advice on using Habitica to learn languages, be sure to read this month’s Use Case Spotlight, featuring tips and tricks from fellow Habiticans!

Extra Motivation or Undue Rewards?

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Illustration by CitrineSun

It’s Wiki Wednesday! Once a month we highlight a helpful post from the Wiki with tips about productivity, wellness, and optimizing your use of Habitica!

As autumn approaches, you may be re-evaluating your Tasks and the way you use Habitica. Maybe you’re wondering if your approach is making things too easy, or if you’re rewarding yourself too much. This month, on our ongoing tour of some of the most helpful articles the Habitica Wiki has to offer, we’ll take a look at some advice the Wiki Scribes have about what “cheating” is in Habitica and how you can balance staying motivated with keeping yourself accountable.

Habitica is here to help players learn good habits (and unlearn bad ones), not to stress them out and make them feel guilty. The right way to play is the way that is the most productive and effective for you.

To that end, “problem cheating” would be any dishonest play by which a player avoids being productive (possibly rewarding them as though they had been).

Want to know more? Head over to the wiki to check out the full article!

Behind the Scenes: A Costume-Making Adventure with Beffymaroo!

The “Behind The Scenes” series is a chance for us to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of HabitRPG, Inc., the company that makes Habitica. Every so often, we’ll treat you to some silly staff shenanigans or show you the work that goes into your favorite features. Enjoy!

Hello Habiticans! In this post I’m going to talk a little bit about one of my hobbies, which is costuming.

You may have seen my moderator avatar before, either in my profile or maybe on an image somewhere on the site. Like all the Moderator and Staff avatars, mine was created by the fabulous Lemoness! (Look for an upcoming Behind the Scenes post in the coming months about how she creates the Staff and Mod avatars!) And, also like the other Mod and Staff avatars, the way my avatar appears is based on requests I made, and how Lemoness incorporated those requests.

In my case, when Lemoness asked me if I had any requests for my Mod avatar, I sent along a photo of myself in costume- specifically, a picture of me in costume as a fantasy character I like to dress as at various events.

 

(left photo courtesy of Fantasies Muse Photography)

You can see the resemblance, I’m sure!

Are you interested in creating your own costumes? Here are some tips from what I’ve learned:

  • It’s totally OK to use something pre-existing to create a costume. Making things totally from scratch is great if you have the time and skills, but you can definitely look great using pre-made items. If you’re interested in Renaissance Faires or events like the Masquerade I attended, you can find lots of things you can use as a base just at department stores (particularly if you want to use garments from the womens’ and juniors’ sections) because a sort of Renaissance/Medieval look is in-style right now (I’m guessing this is Game of Thrones-related). Thrift stores also can have some great hidden gems if you have time to hunt for them.
  • The internet also never ceases to amaze me with what you can find. It’s easier than ever to get wings, prosthetics, special-effect makeup, lights, pre-made embroidery, and all sorts of fun things by searching Amazon and other sites. If you see me around Habitica, feel free to ask for recommendations!
  • If you get a pre-made garment, item, or prop, try dressing it up with your own touches to make it unique! Try adding paint, jewels, flowers, or hemming it to a length you like, or anything! You’ll stand out from the crowd.
  • Never be afraid to try something new. When I came up with the plan for this costume, I was pretty intimidated because it was all things I’d never tried before or was new at, such as dyeing and wiring lights into a garment. Definitely take it slow and be careful, especially with expensive materials, but don’t let fear of failure keep you from trying!
  • Join a group or community of fellow costumers/garment makers. It’s awesome to have support and folks that you can come to with questions (or people who can re-wire you when something breaks…). Maybe you have crafty friends, or maybe your community center or school has sewing or crafting hobby groups or classes you can meet up with. Habitica also has some wonderful Guilds you can join! Check out The Seamstress Collective or  Cosplay and Costuming.

If you are interested in how I create costumes, read on for a step-by-step adventure with me as I made a very special outfit for a big event!

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The costume I created for Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade. Image courtesy of Fantasies Muse Photography

This year, I decided to attend the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball, a huge costume ball held in Los Angeles each year. I had many friends who had attended in the past, and it sounded like something I’d really enjoy. Plus, it gave me a chance to try a fancier costume! Most of the things I have are designed for outdoor events where they may get dirty, or where I will probably be way too warm all the time and will sweat a lot. Hence, they tend to be things that are light, easy to wash, and made of natural fibers. A masquerade ball indoors, at night, at a hotel, definitely opened up some new possibilities.

For some time I’d wanted to try something with LED lights- they’re getting cheaper and easier to find these days, especially with small and easy-to-conceal battery packs. At some point this idea clicked together with my bridesmaid’s dress from my brother’s wedding in May. It had layers of mesh, which provided some interesting possibilities for adding lights.

I decided I wanted to dye the dress a darker green, attach flowers to the mesh layers to create a floaty and fun classic fairy look, and then wire in the lights. I wanted the lights to shine through the flowers, so it appeared that the flowers themselves were illuminated. I also wanted to create matching accessories for my hair to unify the look.

So, first things first! I acquired my supplies:

-Dress (a rather expensive one at that, but I guess the conceit with bridesmaid dresses is that you’re never going to wear them again, so any re-use is a win, right?)

-Green dye (as this dress was polyester, a dye specially made for artificial fabrics was needed- you can find these at most craft and fabric stores)

-Lots’ o silk flowers!

 

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They’re surprisingly expensive if you’re picky about realism.

-I also supplemented the flowers with feather butterflies for even more magical fae vibe.

-stiff felt or other backing for hair accessories

-strong clips for the hair accessories

-Multicolored LED lights, lots of them!

 

Image uploaded from iOS (8)
Fingers shown for scale
Image uploaded from iOS (9)
Cat shown for scale

The very first thing I did was dye the dress. Dyeing artificial fabric takes a long time and has to be done over the stove, so it was quite an undertaking.

The next step, unfortunately, was a LOT of very gentle, careful ironing on a very low setting. The dyeing process had wrinkled the dress a lot. Polyester is by definition a wrinkle-free fabric, so once you get wrinkles in they don’t want to come out! If you encounter this situation I recommend extreme caution (and research) to avoid burning or melting delicate fabrics.

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Duct tape: never overrated.

Next, it was time to attach flowers! In order to have the dress hang similarly to the way it would fit on me, I rigged up a homemade dressmaker’s dummy from a duct-tape form of my torso stuffed with a pillow, a chair, and a few dowels.. It looked weird, but it worked! If you are doing costuming and would like a dressmaker’s dummy, but don’t have the money or space for one, I highly recommend trying out the duct-tape dress form technique (you can google to find lots of tutorials for this!). A duct-tape dress form can also be a great addition to a traditional dressmaker’s dummy if you want it to be more customized to your shape.

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At this stage my Instagram captions became increasingly ridiculous.

I planned out the shape of where the flowers and butterflies would go more or less in my head and started to pin them to the netting layers. After pinning a half-dozen or so, I’d hand sew each flower on with thread that approximately matched them in color. Does that sound tedious? Because let me tell you, a hundred or so flowers in, it was.

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It’s all fun and games until your fingers start getting sore.

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Now the fun part: wiring in the lights! I cut small holes from the inside of the dress through the solid layer so I could snake the wire with the LED lights through. As I positioned the wire, I sewed the wire to the netting layers so it would stay up and hold its shape.

 

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Photography in dark closets was another skill set I developed in this process.

Finally, wowee! A light-up dress!! Time to accessorize.

I created the hair accessories by attaching lights to stiff fabric backings attached to strong clips with hot glue. Then I added flowers and butterflies on top (with more hot glue!) so the lights would shine through them. Each one had a battery pack on the back of the piece where I could switch them on and off, and even put in new batteries if needed.

The very last thing I did was wire more colored lights around my antlers so they would also light up.

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Yet more selfies in dark closets. Good times.

All in all I estimate that all of this, not including shopping time, took about 40-50 hours.  And if you’re wondering, yes, when I checked off my checklist To-Do for making this outfit, I got a LOT of XP. 😉

As you might imagine, I was very excited to share the results of my work at the ball! But [dramatic music] there was one more trial ahead!

As I put the dress on the night of the ball, one of the battery packs snapped off the wiring! [cue Scream emoji] My friends Michael and Ale stopped their own getting-ready processes and actually wired both sets together to one battery pack! Using a grooming kit and sewing scissors, they stripped the wires, twisted them together, and then we insulated them with band-aids and doused them in hot glue for security. I can’t even convey how lucky I am to have such caring friends with awesome MacGuyver-like skills!

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After this very tense moment and happy resolution, I was finally time to share the outfit by wearing it to the ball! I was super proud of my creation, and had a great time with my friends enjoying the fantasy scene and admiring the beautiful costume and makeup work of all the other folks in attendance! If you’d like to see more of these fantastic outfits for yourself, you can find a gallery from this year’s event here.  And if you ever get a chance to go to this event or another masquerade ball, definitely do!

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While I still consider myself a novice in the world of sewing and costume, I hope my discussion of one costume-making process and the tips I’ve given here inspire you to look into the subject for yourself! I’d love to see you all posting about your projects on Habitica! And let me know if you enjoyed this post! If there’s further interest I’d like to make more posts about sewing, crafting, and fantasy costuming.