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!
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!
-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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.