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At the zero hour before San Diego Comic Con 2013, I thought I would try my hand at a couple new cosplays, including one as Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I decided to construct her sail dress which appears briefly in the movie after she obtains legs. The costume was deceptively tricky as I quickly found out.
I’m sure most have you have seen The Little Mermaid (possibly many times), but to give a brief recap, this outfit occurs shortly after Ariel trades her voice for legs and winds up a naked drowing human. Said nakedness follows her to the surface where she’s left on a beach and decides to start a fashion trend in boat sails and rope. (Kinky kinda?)
One of the tricky parts about this costume is that the continuity of it changes from first appearance to next. She starts out wearing something ungodly lumpy that she thinks she’s “the sex” in, to something a little more like a conventional sleeveless dress. I decided to settle somewhere in the middle for my cosplay.
I started out by crying into my whiskey and asking myself why I hated life so much as to think making this costume, along with two others, with only four days left before the convention was a good idea.
Shortly after that, I went to purchase fabric. I wanted something that had a canvas look without being actual sail-grade canvas. Not only would the real deal be hard to keep up with the weight, but regular canvas tends to be a bit on the scratchy side.
After that, it was a journey to the hardware store to look at ropes and attempting not to look suspicious while feeling them up for comfort. Again, I didn’t want something scratchy that would tear skin away anywhere it touched, so I found a nice cotton and nylon blend. It was both soft and durable.
Lastly, I went and bought elastic in a colour that wouldn’t show through the dress fabric. I then took my bundle home and got to work.
To make this outfit easier to put on and construct, I decided to break it into a top and bottom. The intention being that the top would be slouchy enough to cover the divide between it and the skirt. I won’t bore you with details of measuring my chest and waist to cut the elastic and fabric to size, but I will say, make sure you account for stretch. The elastic should be shorter than your natural measurements and the fabric should be cut to give you a little slack.
After cutting was complete, I grabbed my bottle of Fabric Fusion. It looks like this:
I would have used my FabriTac, but it looked like this:
What the fuck, right? I have no idea either.
I then started gluing the elastic to the fabric. DON’T FUCKING DO THIS. EVER. I thought the unglued elastic at the ends would allow for enough stretch to get the pieces on. It didn’t. I had to cut out the glued down shit and start over again.
So I tried again, and this time I folded the fabric over and hand stitched it leaving enough room to slide the elastic in. Once that was done I, well, slid the elastic in. I then stiched the two ends together to complete the loop. I was then able to try on the bottom skirt and played with the fabric to get the look I wanted. From there it was a matter of pinning it and stitching it into place. I had a lot of freedom to play since the dress is supposed to look a little haphazard.
I then applied the same process to the top of the outfit which, without the bottom on, left me with an inappropriately short tube dress. Awesome-sauce.
The next thing that needed doing was to screw up the bottom on the skirt to look weathered and torn. Don’t fall into the trap of cutting neat triangle-shaped rips. They will look silly. The best thing to do is bunch and pull the fabric with your scissors. Alternate cutting with them and just pulling them completely open through the fabric. It messes up the edges and gives more natural looking fucked-up-ed-ness…okay, not a word, but roll with me here. Don’t be afraid to tear at the fabric with your hands and poke holes with the scissors either.
After reaching the optimal level of fucked-up-ed-ness, I needed to add a sail grommet. I looked at the ones they sell for curtains and that shit is expensive. (Guess I should have mentioned I was also working on a shoestring budget for this.) So I went over the the purse making section of a JoAnn’s and found these:
They came in a two pack and had little metal bits to secure them with one side being rounder with the clips and the other being flat with indents to receive the clips. I took both of the rounder sides with the metal clips since I wanted the grommet to look the same on the front and back. I cut a small hole in the fabric and secured them over it. Make sure you do not over-cut the hole or these will not work. To paraphrase the Mad Tea Party, you can always take more but you can never take less.
Side note on the metal nibs: during a close inspection such as above, yes, you will see the little metal bits and they look a little dorky. However, I was pretty sure no one was going to take close up beauty of it (cause that would be weird). It’s always nice to be accurate when building a costume, but allow yourself some leeway to use other materials to make your life suck less, especially when your budget is super tight. (And if you ever use these and the metal bits really bugs you, they can be easily snipped off. I left them for extra support and to save myself from glueing them to the fabric.)
Okay, back to the main story…
Now that I had the basic costume constructed, it was time to turn my attention to the rope. I could have left it as-is, but I wanted it to be less pristine. I went ahead and knotted off the ends and unwound the fibers to make the ends messy. I then took my X-Acto knife and started pulling up and severing threads all along the rope. (It’s important to work in variety when doing something like this. Change up your spacing, how much thread you pull up, et cetera. It should not be a Copy-Paste process.) When I was done the rope looked rough and nasty, but was still very soft to the touch.
Okay, so now I had a functional top and bottom and a bunch of fucked up rope, but the whole thing still looked too clean when it was supposed to be made from materials that have been marinating in ocean water and sand. I was not about to go out and spend bucks on fabric dye, so I turned to my old comrade in arms: coffee.
Here, again, I did not want a uniform look, and throwing in all the fabric was just going to make it slightly darker pristine fabric. So, I bunched it all up and took my time wetting it down in spots and just rubbing it in with my fingers in others. (Dude, what am I writing here? That last sentence was like a porno script.) After the initial round of staining, I let it dry. To my mind it wasn’t junky enough, so I made a pot of coffee so strong that I’m pretty sure the fumes let me see the future. (Kevin Cosner had gills and I think everything was under water. Seriously? That was the movie that called it?) I then flicked the coffee onto the fabric to give it some nice spatters, and made sure it was darker along the edges to give everything some depth.
I did another three rounds of this sort of staining because my OCD wouldn’t let me stop until it was just right, but the results were admittedly pretty cool:
Staining complete, all that was left was to secure some of the rope to the top piece to help make sure it stayed in place when tied (I did this by securing a few inches of the rope to the band with clear nylon thread), and to sling the other piece of rope around my waist.
Here’s the final result:
While it was a much more time consuming process than I originally imagined, the results were worth it.
What do you think? Leave me a comment below, and be sure to tell me what you’d like to see next on W.T.F.A.I.D?