Labyrinth Sarah Cosplay: How To

“Through dangers untold and hardships un-numbered

I have fought my way here to the Castle beyond the Goblin City

To take back the child that was stolen …”

Many of the people I know have deep and powerful memories associated with the film Labyrinth.  Released in 1986 it stars David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, and a young Jennifer Connolly as Sarah, the girl trying to win back the baby step-brother she wished the goblins would take away from her.  She has to beat the Labyrinth within the 13 hour time limit set by the Goblin King to claim back baby Toby.  But this is a goblin labyrinth that changes around you and is full of surreal perils that need all of Sarah’s wit and cleverness to overcome.

Labyrinth is a coming of age story about Sarah’s growing acceptance of responsibility and her sexual awakening, but one that recognises that we all carry an inner child within us.  Regardless of how adult the world requires us to be, we all have the need to play and our imaginations are a core part of what makes us who we are.

Bowie’s Jareth had a huge influence on many of my contemporaries, who were all at extremely impressionable ages when the film came out.

Jareth dancing with the Goblins, with prominent bulge
Dance magic dance!

Let’s get that one out of the way now: the bulge is even more impressive when you finally get to see the film on a proper cinema screen for the first time as a grown woman.  (Previously, I’d only seen it on tv.)

This is a film with a huge number of iconic sequences, but one that is particularly visually striking is the Masquerade Ball scene.  Enchanted by a magic peach, Sarah is whisked away from her friends and shown what life could be if she opted to stay with Jareth: a glamorous life as a beautiful princess.  It’s a scene full of emotional intensity that shows how Sarah has got under Jareth’s skin.  This is about so much more than a stolen baby for either of them.

It’s a classically 1980s vision of a fantasy ball: off the shoulder meringue dresses and big hair.

Jareth and Sarah dancing at the Masquerade Ball
Jareth and Sarah

I’ve always had the urge to do this as cosplay.  Who wouldn’t want to dress up as a beautiful princess and get to be on David Bowie’s arm?  But it’s difficult to do on your own.

Black and white photograph of Jareth and Sarah standing side by side in the Ball scene
Jareth and Sarah

A little over a year ago I met a woman who has since become a very dear friend.  She does the most astonishing Jareth cosplay.  It’s uncanny.  So it was with some trepidation that around the end of last year I suggested that perhaps I could be the Sarah to her Jareth.  She was incredibly enthusiastic about it.

So we did it at WorldCon in Dublin.

Me as Sarah from the film Labyrinth with a friend dressed as Jareth
Jareth and Sarah

And it was the most magical day you can imagine.  It’s instantly recognisable, and there is huge love for the film still.  I felt like a princess all day.

Jareth handing Sarah one of their crystal balls
Insert your own jokes about playing with Jareth’s balls here. (We made them all.)

A friend kindly gave up most of the afternoon for a little photo shoot.  (Though we are both considering a pro photo shoot at some point.)  My Jareth has done some modelling work in the past, and it was fantastic to do this with someone who knew how to set up interesting shots.  (Left to my own devices I tend to stand fairly awkwardly and self-consciously.)  Playing off someone for the pictures was wonderful.

Jareth and Sarah

But how did I go about making it?

The dress

This was the largest cosplay project I’ve undertaken since Missy.  As with Missy,  I needed to mix two different dress patterns to get the look I wanted.

Photograph of the two dress patterns I usedI used the pattern on the left (Butterick 4743) for the base of the dress.  It had the right shaping for both the neckline and the bodice and skirt.  I opted for the full length skirt with fishtail, and added a thumb loop to help manage the skirt (SO important for practicality).  But I used the puff sleeves from the pattern on the right (New Look 6031).  With modifications – the sleeves were fully lined.

The fabric was from one of the little fabric shops on Goldhawk Road.  I found this perfect polyester satin.  It’s white, with green lurex thread woven through it.  That gives it the perfect shimmer for the pearlescent look of the film.  As with much Goldhawk Road fabric it wasn’t perfect – it had a flaw running through it close to one selvedge that I had to cut round.  But 8 metres of it was relative cheap and gave me plenty to play with in case I needed to recut.  (And I did: I had to recut the same lower sleeve twice after it got stained by some spilled balsamic vinaigrette I’d failed to spot on the black dining table.  Wah!)  I spent more per metre on some good quality cotton lining for the bodice and sleeves.

After that it was a fairly straight sewing job to make the dress.

  • I bound the raw edges on the inside of the sleeves.  The puff sleeves are stiffened with netting between fabric and lining, and the raw edges would have been extremely scratchy otherwise.
  • I added little bra strap keepers, made from bias binding.

  • I used some 1 mm white rattail (Kumihimo braid) for the button loops on the sleeves.  I sandwiched this between the lining and the outer fabric.
  • The sleeve openings were trimmed with a lace and pearl trim.

The biggest challenge with this dress was the decoration.  There is a lot of sparkle going on in the original.  This was always going to be a case of “More Is More”, but finding the right sparkle proved to be a challenge.  I spent a lot of happy hours searching “Wedding Dress Applique” on eBay and looking in the trimmings section of every haberdashery shop I came across.

Dining table covered in trimmings
Too much?

Yeah, that got a bit silly …

Ultimately I settled on a few key bits of sparkle.

  • The bodice of the dress is decorated with a crystal applique design.  This came ready attached to a net backing.  I trimmed it and then couched the whole thing down using silver embroidery thread.
  • I trimmed the seam between bodice and skirt by couching on a resin crystal drop trim.  This was an embellished cup chain that came in a single piece that was a perfect length.
Back view of the dress, showing the train
Dress!

 

The accessories

The other key part of this look is the accessories.  They present another key opportunity to add MOAR BLING to the outfit.  The key one here is getting the hair to look right.  To me, the solution seemed pretty obvious: embellished hair combs.  Attach the right feathers, beads and streamers to them and you have an instant, easy approach to the look.

There are lots of You Tube videos about how to embellish combs.  The principle is simple: you need comb blanks, beads and other embellishments and wire to attach everything.  (I used 0.3 mm silver plated.)

Hair comb embellished with beads, feathers, cord, braid and ribbon flowers
One of the finished combs

The combs were embellished – in roughly the order I added them to the combs – with:

  • Two different kinds of silver feathers – silver sprayed feathers for the top (the more rigid ones) and silver goose feathers (the longer ones are the bottom).  Each feather was individually wire wrapped onto the comb – if I lost one I didn’t want the whole comb unravelling.
  • Lengths of cord tied to the bottom.  I used 3 mm white rattail (kumihimo cord)
  • Lengths of lighter Kreinik Balger tapestry braid (#12) at the top.  The shade ‘Easter’ has a green shimmer that matches the fabric of the dress.  (This took most of a reel of braid.)
  • Fabric flowers made by gathering lengths of silver organza ribbon around a large central bead.
  • A picot edging made from small Czech fire polished AB crystal beads plus some crystal AB leaf shaped beads.
  • Larger Crystal AB Czech fire polished beads in a row along the base of the comb (largely to hide the untidy wrapped wire)
  • A couple of Crystal AB drops at the bottom edge of each comb.
View showing the combs in place in my hair
The final combs

On top of that I added a large paste crystal necklace that I already own.

And I made some earrings from Swarovski crystal drops (also Crystal AB) and chandelier findings.  (As I don’t have pierced ears I used screwback findings.)

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Missy Cosplay: The Final Result

So, after all that effort, I’m sure you want to see the final result.

*fanfare*

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This is me, all Missy-ed up, and wearing the hat from my last post.  I put my hair up in a messy up-do and hoped that the hat would cover any unevenness.

And here are a couple of full-length pictures:

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If you see a Peter Capaldi standee, it would be rude not to
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Missy stealing the TARDIS. Photo by Harriet Monkhouse.

Missy Cosplay: Part the Seventh (The Skirt)

Onto the skirt (it’s a bumper blog update today!).

IMG_1732You’ll remember I was planning to use this pattern to make the skirt, using View D.

I found out after opening the pattern that the skirt has four panels, which means that the zip would have been offset slightly on the seam between one of the centre and side panels.  So I decided to alter it to use six panels rather than four.

I cut an extra two side panels, and then adjusted the seam allowances to get it to fit.  I think I ended up with 2″ seam allowances in the end.

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It’s a bit fuller than I was planning, because of the extra panels, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

IMG_1826I ended up machining the hem, rather than doing my usual invisible hand-sewn hem.  That was just for speed, but I don’t think it will show.

I also machined in my first zip.  Achievement unlocked!  I had to use the special zipper foot for my machine and everything.  It’s just a basic zip in a grown on waistband.  But it works, which is quite exciting.

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The original costume shows Missy wearing a petticoat under her skirt. I found this bridal petticoat on Amazon for a bargain price.  It was quite tricky to track down a straight petticoat, rather than a more A-line one.  It gives a good, Edwardian shape to the skirt.

Missy Cosplay: Part the Sixth (Finishing the Coat)

I’ve been a bit quiet on the Missy front recently.  Sorry about that.  But with just a week to go, I’ve finished the jacket.  It needs a bit of a press, but I’m pleased with how it’s come out.

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The new braid proved to be a dream to work with – much better than the other one.  I decided to sew the braid on the collar pieces, the front facing and the body of the coat before sewing them all together.  I secured the braid in all of the seam allowances to make sure it wouldn’t come loose.

IMG_1828It all went together well, though I did have to fudge the seam allowances a bit when I attached the lining to the coat at the neck edge, because of the modifications I made.  If I’d had more time, I would have topstitched the front edges to make them lie a bit flatter.

cyberThe original coat has a back vent, with the braid running up one side of it.  But my braid needs to be secured in a seam allowance, so I wasn’t going to be able to have braid on the outside of a back vent in the same way.  Instead, I created an overlapped back vent, and put the braid on the inner flap.

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If I were making this again, I’d sew the braid further away from the bottom edge.  My hem allowance turned out to be pretty small, so i ended up making quite small turned hems.

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The buttons are sewn on the outside, but the coat was fastened with snap fasteners.  This is lazy, but also screen accurate: Missy’s costume is fastened the same way.  I attached those on the front of the coat before sewing the main fabric to the lining.  This was for neatness, as it keeps the untidy ends inside the garment without them showing.

IMG_1822The ones on the cuff are added in the same way.  The buttons are purely decorative, but I’ve added a small snap fastener in the point of each cuff, as I’d found the cuffs would otherwise fall down and turn themselves inside out.  I’ll see how that works out, but I might need to add some more snap fasteners down the outside edge of the cuff.

I’ve also sewn the pockets closed as the light fabric meant they were gaping open a bit while the jacket was being worn.  I can open them up if I want to at a later point.

 

Missy Cosplay: Part the Fifth (The Braid)

I’ve discovered one thing I hate more than gimp braid.  Running out of gimp braid.

I’d bought a 10m card, thinking that would be plenty for the whole outfit.  And it probably would have been, if it hadn’t been for the section that unravelled and needed to be replaced, and there being a flaw in the final length that rendered it unusable.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll buy some more from the same supplier.  Except I went back to them to find they’d sold out.  Much cursing ensued, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a replacement that would be identical or close enough that I could get away with it. You would not believe how much variation there can be in a simple 15mm wide scroll gimp braid.

Given time pressures, and the challenges of unpicking the existing braid, which is now heavily secured into seam allowances to stop it fraying, I’d rather have a close match even if it’s not perfect.  I can always come back later and replace the other sections so it all matches.   But I’ll still have to rip out where I’d tacked the original braid onto the collar and the body of the coat – which took me several episodes worth of House of Cards – and tack on the new braid.  I want it to at least be consistent where I’m using it.  So I ordered two lots to try and get a close match.

Conscious of time, while I was waiting for it to arrive I also started making the skirt (which I’ll cover in a later post).

So here’s what arrived in the post:

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The one at the top is the original braid.  The others are the possible replacement options.

You’ll see neither has the internal channel of the first braid.  I think I marginally prefer Bachelor No 2 (the bottom braid), as it has a sheen and definition closer to the original.

I have 45m of it.  Do you think that will be enough?!

Missy Cosplay: Part the Fourth (The Sleeves)

I got an email two days ago saying that there are fifty days to go until the event I plan to wear my costume at.  Gulp.  Better pick up the pace.

My coat now has sleeves, which is a big piece of progress.

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More of the evil gimp braid

Most of the work was in the cuffs.  As well as assembling and braiding them, they had to be attached to the sleeves.  Because I’m not lining the jacket, I needed to fasten off the raw edges of the seam joining the cuff to the sleeve somehow.  In particular, I can’t rely on the ends of the braid not fraying, unless they’re secured somehow.  So I’ve finished off the raw edges with some grosgrain ribbon sewn to the seam allowance and then hemmed to the sleeve.  This should hide and protect the raw edges.

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Marvel at my wonky seams and rough hemming.

The sleeves themselves went into the jacket a treat.  I’d been slightly worried about them not fitting, given that they’re from a completely different pattern, but there was no problem at all.  I gathered the sleeve heads and they’ve gone in beautifully.

IMG_1762Next step, is the collar.  It’s going to require some quite complicated sequencing to work out in what order to add the braid and sew the pieces together.  More on that in the next post.

Missy Cosplay: Part the Third (The Body)

For the last couple of weekends I’ve been assembling the body of my Missy coat.  Here’s what it looks like right now.

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It needs a bit of a press, but you get the idea.

The body has gone together well so far, but in working with the crepe fabric I’ve decided that it really would benefit from being lined.  So I’ve decided to line the body, but not the sleeves.

You’ll see I’ve also started to put the curve on the bottom hem of the jacket.  This was done with those old reliables, a dinner plate and a Sharpie.

I’ve not sewn the front facing to the lining yet, as I need to think through how the collar will work, particularly the order of construction with the braid.

The braid

I’ve added braid above and below the pocket openings, mirroring the direction it’s sewn on for each side of the jacket.

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The braid I’m using is gimp braid.  I already hate it with a burning passion.

You can only sew it in one direction through the machine (with the point of the ‘v’ facing away from you) if you want to avoid it getting snarled up in the machine.  And it frays like nothing else.  I made the mistake of trimming it back close to the seam allowance after I’d sewn it on and sewn the side seams, only to find it unravelling on the right side.  I had to unpick the seams and insert a completely new piece of braid.

The fact that it needs anchoring within seams, and sewn across several times to secure is posing a few problems about how I attach the long stretches of braid along the bottom edge and fronts, and the collar.  That’s going to need lots of thought.

Meanwhile, I’m working on the sleeves.