My friends and I decided to dress up in a group theme this year for Disneyland’s “Halloweentime” opening event … our theme? Marvel Superheroes!

As you know, I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! to make costumes … and while I’ve gone MIA, that doesn’t mean that I’ve grown timid … quite the opposite … I’ve taken on larger and more challenging projects over the years.  In the spirit of “challenge” and “complexity” I picked Jean Grey’s “Red Phoenix” from “XMEN The Last Stand”

This costume is very uncommon … even among the Cosplay crowd.  You can’t buy a halfway decent pattern for it and the various textures of the 5 coordinating wine colored pieces make the sourcing of materials difficult.  On top of that, you have a custom underbust corset!


I started a list of stuff I would need.  There would be easy items to find, and then there would be items I would consider “more difficult” to locate.  I started by scouring the internet for fabrics that I thought might be suitable for Jean Grey’s outfit:

  • Poly Dupioni (obvious choice) for the coat and corset
  • Stretch Suiting or Ponte for the pants
  • Mesh for the chemise

The problem with this was the matching of the colors to the movie.  I went ahead and ordered 5 yards of poly dupioni, and decided that this was going to be the focal point and I would need to work with it as my primary material.

Somehow, while I was shopping for the non-existent burgundy/wine stretch suiting, I stumbled upon a GORGEOUS wine colored trilobal at … in case you don’t know what trilobal is … it’s a lightweight breathable windbreaker type fabric used in flags or activewear.  I ordered 2 yards.  I thought it would be a good backup for the pants, in case I never found a fabric for them.

When the Dupioni arrived, I realized that it might be uncomfortably hot given that the weather forecast in Los Angeles for Sept 25, 2015 was going to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I waited for the trilobal to check the color match … it was perfect! but it was now Sept 10, 2015 and I was about 1.5 weeks out and had not started the project.

At this point I totally neglected to mention that I was planning to COMPLETELY hand draft this project.  Due to the time constraints, I started to flip through my binder of Burda World of Fashion and Burda Style issues.  I wanted to work off of something that was structurally similar for Jean Grey’s coat.  There was a nice princess seamed trench coat that I thought would make a good starting point for the coat.

I started with a general full length coat pattern, and added princess seaming to the front and back.  It was along these lines that I was going to create the vented effect in the costume.  I also added to the sleeve cap (approx. 2″) to create the fullness seen in the costume.  The most difficult part of this effort was the collar of the costume.  As you can see in the photos, the original costume had an asymmetrical cut in one collar, and my trench coat was a traditional notched collar.  I carefully examined the two lapel pieces and drafted an all-in-one label.  This was done via many iterations on the dress form, using my usual butcher paper technique.

Once I was happy with how the pieces fit together, I started to consider construction.  This was the point where I had to decide to go with the poly dupioni, or the trilobal for the coat.  I was decided on the poly dupioni for the corset, but the coat could go either way.

  • Poly dupioni, pros:  same color and texture as corset. It has a rich look and feel, with no need to stabilize or interline (resulting in less yardage used overall) … plus I bought 5 yards of it vs the 2 yards of trilobal.  If I go with trilobal, I will need to buy more.
  • Poly dupioni, cons:  hot! too hot for 100 degree weather!

Ultimately, I decided that comfort over fashion wins (this time).

Now that I’ve decided on the trilobal, I have a completely different set of problems.  For starters, I only have one week to put this together, and I need more fabric.  Secondly, it’s whisper thin and needs support.  I also don’t know exactly how it will take heat for fusible interfacing.  I threw caution to the wind and started cutting … might as well find out how much I need to order, and also find something else for my pants …

I was able to cut everything, except the sleeves, from the 2 yards of trilobal.  I did piece a couple of panels. This was because I knew that I would not have time to finish the coat if I had to wait for more fabric for the panels.  They were some of the earliest steps of assembly.  I also did not fully line the coat.  I only lined the front.  I calculated that I needed one more yard for the sleeves.  Fortunately, I found some wine colored ponte in the same online store, so I ordered that for the pants.

As I cut the pieces, I draped them on the form to get an idea of how they would respond to gravity.  It was fairly obvious that support would be required.  I interfaced the jacket lining with medium weight fusible weft from Fashion Sewing Supply and lined the lower panels with poly organza that was found in my stash.

I went as far as I could without the fabric for the sleeves, but needed to move on to the other pieces to stay on schedule.  I now had 4 days to go and needed to get all 5 pieces drafted and completed.

I tackled two easy pieces while I waited for the ponte and trilobal: the chemise and tank top.  Both were also roughly based off of Burda back-issues from around 2007.  I used a raglan tee pattern and scooped out the neck, and added fullness in the center and at the top of the sleeves for the ruching effect.  I created a self casing and utilized a pretty burgundy FOE from my stash as a “drawstring”

The tank top was also from a BWOF back issue, originally a summer knit tank dress.  I made it into a tank top and used the same FOE for the straps.

2 pieces down in one day, but still no ponte or trilobal! I’m really worried about the shipment at this point!

with so little time left, I need to start the corset.  The problem is that I’m out of coutil and steel boning.  If I want these things, I would need to drive up to Richard the Thread in LA and lose a whole day.

I decided to suck it up and get plastic boning at JoAnn – this is a decision I wound up regretting.  The corset rolled up on me all day! I also substituted denim for coutil, which turned out to be fine.

To draft the corset, I took my Laughing Moon Dore pattern out and carefully examined it.  I traced off a few pieces and started tweaking on the form.  I finally got it to where I felt the proportions were comfortable and cut the fabric.

If you’ve never made a corset before, let me tell you – it’s not hard.  It’s actually easy.  Here are my steps:

  1. sew together all pieces for inner and outer shells
  2. (only for invisible boning channels) apply boning tape to inside (wrong side) of lining
  3. (right sides together) sew each end where the grommets will be, and turn
  4. sew lacing stay channel
  5. Insert bones
  6. bias bind raw edges
  7. use awl to poke holes for grommets
  8. attach grommets
  9. lace up!

And guess what? My ponte and trilobal are here!  I have 48 hrs to go …

I quickly made my pants from a tried and true skinny pants pattern that I reuse over and over and over … maybe 1 hr?  The sleeves were also simple, the only thing I needed to do at this point was create a sleeve head pouf from organza and attach.  I was feeling lazy at this point, so I used stitch witchery for the hem.

Then I realized … I almost forgot the belt! 24 hrs to go and I found a belt kit at a local brick and mortar … phew!

Don’t ever forget how the brick and mortars save your butt! Remember to support them so that they can keep a healthy business!