or, How Someone With Absolutely No Experience Somehow Managed to Engineer Her Dream Cosplay: Seramyu Eternal Sailormoon
It took me three years and a sum of money I try not to think too much about, using bravery gleaned from hundreds of hours of research, reading and re-reading Cosplay.com threads, DeviantArt tutorials, and the sewing skills I’d gained from my surgery clerkship (yes, I used subcuticular stitches for much of the hidden hand stitching, and a curved needle with suturing tools to sew the top skirt on!), but the results were oh-so-worth it.
When I was in high school many, many, moons ago, I stumbled upon Seramyu — the ridiculous, campy, musical version of Sailormoon. My first thought was “… this is ridiculous and gaudy and looks awful.” (See also, Anza’s wig from the first musical, and her shoes that were partially orange-red with metallic pink shoe covers.)
Image Credit: Seramyu Antics
But then as I fell in love with the music, with La Soldier and La Moon and Knockin’ Down Hestitation, I bounced my way around to falling in love with the costumes. (In fact, I love them so much that I found the PGSM live-action costumes lackluster. And the new Seramyu costumes? They’re lovely and all, but they just aren’t the same — to the point where I’d almost say I hate them. And don’t even get me started on the music.)
When I discovered that cosplay was a thing, I became possessed with the desire to wear that costume myself — oh, Eternal Sailormoon! The wings! The colors! The utter beauty! The serenity, the passion, the utter pureness of Usagi’s love, all belted out in ridiculous musical numbers and wonderful songs that celebrate the end-of-musical ai araba (if there is love) IT’S ALL RIGHT feels. Bounce with me!~
I remember standing in the fabric section of Walmart, gazing longingly at the tissue paper lamé in gold, pink, and blue, and imagining what it would be like if I was ever allowed to even try…
And so it was that I found myself standing in the fabric section of JoAnn’s in the spring of my fourth year of medical school, looking at that same tissue paper lamé and realizing that it was too gaudy and cheap and thin to ever work. I’d spent months and months working up the courage to go all-out by reading this Cosplay.com thread; I was by no means a teenager anymore, and months away from becoming a professional (and my philosophy became something akin to “if I’m going to go out in public looking ridiculous, I’m going to look damn good while doing so.”) A trip to LA’s fabric district was totally out of the question as my husband hates downtown LA… but then he surprised me by finding this discount fabric place in Anaheim (M&L fabrics) that we could go to instead.
Based on bunches of research, I finally figured out that Eternal Sailormoon skirts are made of tricot lamé — a thicker but still papery sort of material that was white on the underside. I found it at M&L, but I didn’t like how it was white on the underside, which meant possibly needing way more material. I went for metallic spandex instead — 3 yards each of pink and blue. They didn’t have gold — I ended up buying that online at SpandexWorld. I also picked up the metallic confetti dot fabric that I needed — blue for the underside of the collar, and pink for the glove bands. I think this came out to over $60 — the first big purchase and no-turning-back-now point. Truly, I didn’t end up really needing all 3 yards, but it was a darned good thing bought that much, because I ended up making the collar about 3-4 times over (and I’m still probably going to remake again at some point)…
Based on tutorials I found online, I made 2x tiered circle skirts (with the blue skirt being the longest). Then I put 1″ horsehair braid in the hems to fluff out the skirt to give it that ridiculous body that all Seramyu skirts should have. I won’t lie — cried, swore, and tore my hair out a lot while doing this. My machine messed up many a time because of the thickness of the layers of spandex and the horsehair braid and I had to unpick so many seams, too. I have since learned that if your horsehair braid doesn’t come with the loops that you can pull up to curve it… you’re supposed to sew in a stitch that you can pull to gather it in the shape of the hem. You can see where there’s puckering in the spandex because I didn’t know that; my hems look awful. My subsequent experiences with horsehair braid have been much less violent. Also, in retrospect — I should have made the inner circumference longer to allow for more pleating, and I would not have made the skirts tiered but all the same length because of all the extra circumference it meant.
For the leotard, I spent ages trying to wrap my head around the oft-used Green Pepper Crystal Lake Skating Outfit. I do not understand patterns. I still do not understand patterns. I hate patterns. Seramyu leotards aren’t meant to be stretchy, but at this point in my sewing, I didn’t trust myself to make anything fitted (and still don’t, to be honest). I used white matte spandex from JoAnn’s, and lengthened the back seam so that I could add an invisible zipper in the back since Seramyu costumes zip up in the back. (The downside to having used spandex for the leotard is that it makes it difficult/near impossible to make the gold trim strips on the leotard work; I still haven’t done that because I don’t exactly relish the idea of pinning trim through my skin. :P)
The pink puffed sleeves were somehow drafted using this tutorial, mocked up in some cotton I had lying around, and then made in the beautiful metallic pink spandex. The bottom is ruffled and attached to another ruffle attached to a casing in which there is elastic. The sleeve was unfortunately not quite stretchy enough, though.
The belt was made from 1″ upholstery cord cut at an angle to make a perfect V-shape. I pushed a single bent wire into each side to make the V hold together, then taped the ends to make it a nice sharp. This version of the belt had the ends left out, because I was initially planning to sew the skirt to the belts. I did the hand stitching to make the V-ends meet together with a subcuticular stitch. ;)
And then, just like that, I had somehow made it this far. The pulling at the skirts from the horsehair braid being stretched too much over the spandex irritated me immensely (and still does, to this day) but I was so freaking proud, you have no idea. By this time in the project, I was days away from graduating from medical school. \o/
Then I started on the collars, after drafting many a pattern that I wasn’t happy with. I used Lynleigh’s pattern initially and tried to modify it to work, but I was either inept with following the pattern or it just didn’t look right. This version was way way way way too curved. I don’t know what I was thinking. Seramyu shoulders stand up and are pretty darn stiff, so the shoulders were made by cutting out a layer of the thickest interfacing I could find at JoAnn’s (really, it’s pretty much cardboard) and fusing that to a layer of blue spandex to which the blue metallic confetti dot had been sewn, sewing another layer of blue spandex on the other side, and then flipping the pocket around neatly.
Also, at this point, I hadn’t found the right trim yet (actually that’s a lie; I found the gold on cosplaysupplies.com, but it was too costly and the gold they have there is too yellow, as you’ll see later on) so this was the best alternative I could find — gold soustache braid… which frayed horribly and also made me scream at the machine to no end (which as you might imagine, by this point, was very much a recurring theme ;)
The collars stood up waaaaaaayyyy too much, but… oh well. Also, by this time I realized that the V-neck that I’d cut into the leotard was wayyyyyy too shallow, but I was too scared (and crunched for time) to change it. Next up was a huge wing/bow shape — drafted by hand initially on scrap fabric, then transferred to interfaced prismatic spandex and gathered. I made glove rolls by taking sandwiches of fabric, turning inside out, then sewing the three channels in place and stuffing. I did the gold wings on the gloves with heavy interfacing fused to gold spandex and cut out. It looked wonky, awful, but… at least it was done. At this point, all the fabric things were essentially done.
I also spent a lot of time feeling frustrated at my lack of ability with clay. I failed really hard at making things symmetric… I was so frustrated, I actually ended up cutting my earrings and choker out of interfacing and gold spandex.
Next came the wings– another surprisingly fun project. I like a different shape of wings than is typical — some of Marina’s very first promo photos had this very feathery, wispy, defined wing shape as opposed to the typical board-like wings. Of course, I also had to keep in mind fitting through doors and walking about in convention halls, so these wings pivot and can bend in half, and they’re also smaller than they’re supposed to be. The wings are also supposed to zip up with the outfit and not be separate, but I didn’t trust my leotard structure to hold up to the wings, so wire it was! Wire “skeleton”/structure was made of the stiffest wire I could bend comfortably; felt strips hotglued around the edges, and then more felt on either side to give the base onto which I glued individual feathers one by one, and then feather boas. The back was made with the same holographic spandex and more feathers and feather boas. There’s a wire loop down the middle that I slip into the corset bra (repurposed from my wedding mwahahaha) I wear underneath to hold the wings and I tie a ribbon through the loop and around my waist underneath the skirts for extra security. The back bow is made of heavily interfaced holographic spandex and interfaced metallic pink spandex for the ribbon tail, attached to the bottom of the wings. It still flops around a bit too much for my liking, but…
AHHHHHHH SO FLUFFFYYYYYY <3 <3 <3 You can’t see the holographic spandex part on the front very easily, but it’s there. I think making the wings was easily one of my favorite parts of making this costume.
During this whole time, there had also been several months of alchemy during which our kitchen was entirely out of commission. We didn’t cook (not that we did much before, but…) Following tons of research and watching YouTube videos of people make Sailormoon wigs, I purchased an Arda Chibi with a long ponytail clip in Platinum Blonde — at this point, they didn’t have the crazy bright yellow that was key to the Seramyu look, so I researched dyeing methods and eventually settled on trying to do the Rit Dye method. I used bottles and bottles and bottles of dye, to no avail; it ended up more of a buttery yellow than the bright yellow I’d hoped for. Then there was straightening it all out again as it had turned into a royal tangled mess. I was about to scour the town for Sharpies, but never ended up having the time.
I used this tutorial for guidance in making my wig, 2am the morning before the con I was going to… even despite the stress and craziness, I learned that I enjoyed working with wigs, and these days it’s really, truly easier than ever! Having the Arda Chibi was really lovely and cut out so much time/effort/stress; in high school and beyond I read of crazy sorcery that was required to make an odango-styled wig — things like extra wefts passed under the wig cap and heat sealed, a cap sewn in underneath to make it more tolerable to wear, hot water curling because back in those days wigs/fiber weren’t heat resistant. I honestly doubt that I’d have been brave enough to try that right off the bat without any experience with wigs before.
I didn’t finish in time everything in time before the con, though. I collapsed into bed instead. But throughout the rest of my summer before starting residency, somehow, I put together something that looked somewhat like what I’d dreamed of all those years ago.
And then I took a huge break on it for months, because residency. If I ever thought I didn’t have time before… did I ever learn the meaning of “no time to myself”, courtesy of 80-hour work weeks…
In digging through the depths of the Internet, I discovered that the so-called “Myu-accurate” trim is something called pineapple-pleat lamé. I researched it thoroughly, went on excavation missions to find it, you name it, I tried it. So I’d resigned myself to going without it initially. But by this point, I finally caved and decided to trim the skirts — partially to camouflage the horrible hems, and partially because what’s a Myu costume without going all-out on ridiculous glittery bling-bling? I have no idea if the trim I bought in the end is actually pineapple-pleat lamé — most pictures I’ve seen of cosplayers saying they used pineapple-pleat lamé don’t seem to be similar to what I ended up with, but the more recent hi-res pictures I’ve seen of Seramyu costumes seem quite convincingly similar to this, and the trim is imported from Japan so somebody must be using it for Myu-accurate costumes, somewhere. Alas, the gold I had to buy is rather yellow-gold, rather than its cooler cousin which is more accurate (cosplaysupplies.com didn’t have it.) It bothered me immensely that the pink and blue tiers of spandex matched exactly the trim color whereas the gold didn’t… yeah, I’m kind of a perfectionist. The trim ended up being a Christmas gift from my husband, who, while watching me twirl around under the lights at Anime Expo 2013, declared that it had all been worth it after all. :D
The trim was sewn on in the mornings after night float, and a couple of times I brought the ridiculous box with me to work and on quieter nights with few kiddos that needed to be admitted, I was able to just sew away on it bit by bit, because it was a lot of trim! Three rows each, and that blue skirt which is so much longer around the hem than any others was particularly time consuming.
I also remade the collar for a second time, this time with the trim, and it looked much better. My initial collar was so stiff that it had to be buttoned down; this time, I used two layers of a thinner interfacing which was perfect. Still wasn’t happy with the shape at this point though…
Then time for all the other accessories that had been missing! The feather hairpins were wired to a clear headband — still not clear enough though, it’s actually a very light green. I also remade the compact — a heart gem purchased off Etsy, laid on a bunch of beads I made from super lightweight Sculpey, painted in pearl acrylics, and then threaded on wires which crisscrossed in the back to make a “bed” for the gem. Then I cut out a clay heart shape slightly bigger than the heart gem, baked it all, hot glued the gem and pearl beads threaded onto string onto it, and plopped it in the middle of the wire cage.
The bootcovers were made of pink metallic spandex fused to interfacing and all hot glued in place, with a moon of gold spandex fused to interfacing. I broke a needle trying to sew the top line… They slipped into my boots to give that V-shape without me having to cut the boots. (The image of the full boots was taken at the con by JediDarkKnight on Flickr!)
Photo credit: Top two photos by JediDarkKnight@Flickr; bottom right was taken by my husband, bottom left is a photo I’d been sent with no source.
My very first con, Anime Expo 2013. <3 I was missing the moon on the belt, my collar still drove me nuts, the chest wings/bow was still not heavily interfaced enough, and my earrings and jewelry were all interfaced gold spandex… but there was such an amazing sense of accomplishment being mobbed at AX for photos! To be able to stand there wearing something that I’d somehow crafted with the behemoth of the Internet behind me — I think this is proof of how amazing putting technology out there in the hands of people who use it to communicate what they’ve learned with others is huge (and really, the whole reason I’m writing this long long long post)!
There were still things that needed to be changed/fixed:
The edges of the skirt being visible really bothered me. I re-gathered and re-pinned this about fifty billion times, cursing how I hadn’t allowed enough additional circumference around the waist for pleats fifty thousand times (at least). I remade the belts much more cleanly this time, and made clay the moon on the belt, which was then sprayed with gold spray paint and decorated with acrylic gems.
What a difference a little experience makes — I had new ideas for making things better! I remade the wings on the glove bands to have more dimension — used less stiff interfacing, and cording in the roll. I also finally made a bunch of things in clay, and finally had a very lucky find at Michaels one day — gold star gems that fit perfectly. I made a tiny moon of clay, covered it in iridescent glitter, and stuck it to the heart compact. By the way, if you’re ever working with tiny tiny gems like I was here, don’t skimp on the $3 wax sticks meant for working with small gems… I regretted it when I couldn’t get things placed right without them… I made mistakes with gems sliding with superglue attached to the back, which made the surface of my beautiful heart gem frosted… had to fix it with some modpodge to bring back some of the shine, but it would be better to not have to cover up the mistake. ;)
I also remade the collar. Again. And then took it out for a photoshoot with my amazing friend Renato Daluyen! At this point, I hadn’t yet velcro-ed the belt to the skirt, or curled the tails of the wig using a PVC pipe and a heat gun. I added a short bang clip from Arda as well to add more fullness to the bangs.
As the cherry on top, I entered the AnimeNewsNetwork/Viz contest “What Does Sailor Moon Mean to You?” with this cosplay, earning an honorable mention:
Sailormoon stands up for and selflessly gives of herself to help others, despite the cost. She holds onto hope even when things seem bleak. She believes that everyone has kindness within. She trusts in the power of her love to dispel anger and hatred, choosing instead to purify and heal.
I started crafting this costume in my final year of medical school because of my love for Sailormoon. But beyond cosplay – with patients and families, no matter how difficult, she reminds me to seek the kindness in others, to never lose hope, and to keep fighting for those who cannot.
Improvements I still wanna make:
- I’d initially been given the understanding that the collar was a single piece and my head kept breaking how it was flat at the neck and then flared out… I have since studied a high res Seramyu poster and discovered it’s actually two pieces. ANOTHER COLLARRRRRRRRR–
- The wings need to be braced better, so they aren’t constantly folding backwards.
- The top layer of trim is still not fully tacked down in all the places it needs to be… more night float sewing goodness, perhaps!
- I wanna make the bangs better — more anime-style so the wig can be used for multiple Usagi/Sailormoon cosplays (which yes, I am planning for mwahaha!)
- Better sleeves — these ones get flat sometimes! They need to be interfaced too; I probably will be extolling the virtues of interfacing to my grave as I use it for almost anything and everything in order to make things do what I want them to!
- Improve that stupid V-neck in the front — I still think it’s too high, and when I pose/move about it shifts too high.
- Get brave enough to trim the leotard with gold trim the way it’s supposed to be!
- Probably a billion of other things that make it so I’ll make a whole new costume by the end of all of this. HAHAHA \o/
Finally — if you made it through this far, thank you! I wrote this all out because I believe that cosplay is a hobby that depends heavily on people sharing their experiences. I was once someone who thought they couldn’t do something like this, especially for my first cosplay (I was encouraged to start smaller, but I couldn’t because I was expecting this to be the only costume I ever made… boy, was I ever wrong! ;) Reading about how other people made their costumes, whether it was a Myu costume or something else entirely, really helped me be confident enough to try it or adapt it to make it work. If I can help someone else achieve their dreams with my experience — well, then, that’d be the icing on my glittery floofy ridiculous Seramyu cake! <3