This post has been a yang-xiao-LONG time coming! Ha-ha! Get it!? ^_^ What would you guys do without my terrible puns?
If you follow me on any social platform, you might remember that back in September I had a bitter-sweet experience at my first convention since becoming a mom, where I cosplayed as Yang Xiao Long from the anime RWBY. Though this was not my first cosplay rodeo (some of my favorites being The Morrigan/Babd from The Wicked + The Divine and Hannah from The Rat Queens), it was one of the more challenging costumes I've sewed because I was so out of practice. Being a mom has really drained my free-time, as well as my energy!
However, when my partner and I committed to bringing the kids to the Rose City Comic Convention this year, I knew I had to cosplay. It was the only way I'd feel like I hadn't lost part of my identity entirely. So, I embarked on the quest I'm about to outline for you all below: a DIY Tutorial on how to create your own Yang Xiao Long cosplay from RWBY (season 1 outfit).
Let us begin with materials, shall we?
*NOTE: as I've mentioned in my other posts, I'm not a professional seamstress. I don't know all of the proper terms for specific fabrics, so the best I can do is describe their textures. Hopefully, if you're into DIY cosplay though, you have an idea of what fabrics work! If not, do what I do: ask the employees at the fabric store! They're brilliant.
TOP PIECE (vest + undershirt + scarf)
2 yards of stretchy orange fabric
3 yards tan/light brown vest-like fabric
3 yards darker brown vest-like fabric
1 spool tan/light brown thread (I use Gütermann)
1 small spool orange thread
1 package of large gold buttons (3+ count)
1 package of small gold buttons (4+ count)
1 spool of dark brown trim (1/2" thick)
1 yellow tank top (purchased from thrift store)
BOTTOM PIECE (shorts + "skirt")
1 pair of black short shorts
Scraps from tan/light brown vest-like fabric from above
1.5 yards of sheer white fabric
1 belt (purchased from a thrift store)
2 boards of peach/light orange foam paper (mine were 6 x 8 or so)
ACCESSORIES (hands + head +feet)
1 pair of light brown boots (already owned)
Scraps of orange strechy fabric
Scraps of purple stretchy fabric (already owned)
1 pair of black fingerless gloves (purchased from thrift store)
4 boards of light yellow foam paper
Needles (for stretch, regular, and denim)
Hot glue gun & hot glue
Step One: Get Motivated
As I mentioned earlier, taking on this cosplay after a full year of not cosplaying, had me nervous. Any time I'd sit down to start working on the costume, I'd get too overwhelmed to actually work on it.
So, although usually I like to start by making a pattern, this time I decided to start with a small win: Yang's scarf.
This accessory was really easy.
I decided that I wanted a sort of thick scarf, so I took about a 1/2 yard of the fabric and folded it over itself so that it looked like a long "hotdog". Then, I just started sewing the side where the edges met together.
Ta-dah! See? easy-peasy!
You'll see below that it created this long "tube" of orange that was open on either end. Basically, it looked like a sleeve if I shoved my whole arm through it. Which was perfect. I wanted it long so that I could twist it in loops before putting it over my head, to give it some added weight.
But, until I sewed the ends, it would remain a sleeve instead of a scarf. So, I folded the two ends on top of each other. Once they're together, you want to pin the closest sides together, leaving the outside sides to be sewed together once you reach them.
Once you start sewing, you'll notice that you have less room to work with. The fabric starts tugging a little because it's kind of an awkward angle to sew. What's great about this scarf though is that it's made from stretchy fabric, so it's not as bad as some other scarves!
Stop sewing once you are about 2 inches away from where you started, leaving a hole like this:
You will use this hole to pull the fabric that's on the inside out through the hole. This removes that ugly seam you just created.
So start pulling! Here's a really confusing picture of my scarf mid-way through the pulling process. The fabric is so vibrant, it's difficult to tell what's really going on here...but my thumb is holding the hole open and the fabric below it is what I'm pulling through.
Note: the smaller your hole, the more difficult this process will be. However, I recommend not making it too large either. I was able to fit three fingers through the hole I created and that seemed like it was perfect for the length and width of this scarf, and for the type of fabric I was working with.
You'll keep pulling, and pulling, until you have something that resembles this:
Okay, but here's where I messed up... The scarf I made was too long and just drooped from my neck way too low, but it was also too short to be able to successfully wrap it (like an infinity scarf), so I wound up having to cut an 8 inch section off and do this process all over again.
This actually worked out great though because this discarded section wound up being a perfect already-sewn loop that fit my calf perfectly, so I wound up tucking it inside one of my boots, and using it as the orange accent Yang has on her own boots.
See? I just hiked it up my calf (just below my leg). (Sorry that I'm not wearing the boot in this photo...I wasn't wearing socks and couldn't bring myself to stick my sock-less foot inside an old shoe).
And just like that, I completed not one, but TWO of the accessories I needed for this cosplay! Talk about motivational!
Step Two: The Pattern
After my success with the scarf and boot accent, I was starting to take this cosplay seriously. And with that, came the time to create a pattern.
Before starting on the pattern, I hadn't really realized how complex Yang's top piece is. It's a vest/jacket with puffy sleeves and a WIDE neckline. Not to mention, when I looked at images of her online, I realized that there was a curve to the front panels, one that accentuates her figure. AND, it being a jacket and all, it clearly needed to connect in the front, but how? I wasn't sure...
Her vest/jacket also seems to have a second layer that starts somewhere on the sides and circles around the back, so that the front side of the jacket is shorter than the backside.
Thankfully, the backside seemed a little more straight-forward.
Once I had achieved artistic vision, it was time to transfer vision to paper, to pattern paper, that is.
There is no way for me to adequately convey just how painful this part of the process was...I had my measurements, but because of the curves of the neckline, my rather busty bust, and those extra dark brown panels on the sides, I really struggled to create the best pattern. Every time I looked at it, it just didn't seem like it would work.
I was stuck there for a few days, erasing and re-measuring and re-drawing, but I kept coming up with the same designs. Finally, with the convention only a week or so away, I decided it was time to just dive in. Worst case scenario: it didn't work and I wouldn't be cosplaying at RCCC 2019, which was the same scenario I was in if I didn't at least attempt the design.
Best case scenario: I master my Yang cosplay and feel badass about overcoming such a challenging concept design.
I'm all about feeling badass.
Step Three: The Jacket/Vest
After I cut out my templates for the front of the vest/jacket, it was time to use them on the fabric.
Now, if you're new to sewing, rather than having to cut out two of everything, what you can do is layer your fabric and use one template to cut out two sides at a time. For example, below I'm about to cut-out the weird curvy neckline front panel of the vest. I'll need two of them, one for the left side of the vest/jacket, and one for the right, but instead of cutting two of them out individually, I just folded the fabric over itself and laid my template on top.
See? The specific fabric I used had this faux leather/faux velvet side, so you can really tell the backside from the front side! It also served as extra warmth considering this cosplay is rather skimpy.
I did the same for the underarm panels too, and once I pinned the templates to the fabric and cut out my designs, I wound up getting something like this—
Oh my goodness SEAM ALLOWANCE! I almost forgot to talk about seam allowance!
You'll notice the picture below has like a centimeter of fabric hanging off the patterns? That's for the seam allowance. Because of the way I create my templates, they don't account for the seam, so I had to add some as I was cutting.
You only need seam allowance if you plan on sewing that side of the fabric. In this case, because I wasn't sure how I was adding the trim yet, I went ahead and added for seams all around.
The next step is lining up the backside the panels and sewing. The best way to do this is to lay the backside of one panel (lets say the dark brown one) facing the table, and laying the other panel (the light brown) with the backside facing up.
Because of the strange geometric shapes, you'll notice that the lines don't match up at all, which is where pinning comes in. I tried taking pictures of this part, but they did not come out pretty. The truth is, while you're pinning fabric together, it looks like a giant, impossible mess. It's not until you actually start sewing the thing together that it'll resemble anything.
So, here's the part in the tutorial where you go sew! Go ahead and do the back of the vest/jacket too (it's a lot more straight-forward than the front, so I didn't take pictures of that).
Once you're finished cutting and sewing, you should have one long string of fabric that has one light panel on either end. DO NOT SEW THE LIGHT BROWN PANELS TOGETHER! We will deal with them later.
Depending on the kind of fabric you used, you might also like to add an adhesive interface. This will add some weight to the fabric. I'd advise just buying fabric that is already thick and vest-like, but since mine was this weird faux-leather stretchy thing... I had to add my interfacing retroactively.
Once your front and back panels are sewn together (and if you're like me and needed to add interfacing), your top should look a little like this... Wait, I'm actually just now realizing that the picture I took is pre-sewing! Oops... well, you can imagine it all the same, I hope.
And remember how when you pinned the light fabric to the dark brown fabric and it looked absolutely bonkers? Well once it's sewn, it'll look a little more put together:
But, you're not done yet! This jacket still needs buttons, it still needs sleeves, and it still needs a collar!
I always start with the least daunting task so I can build-up a few wins before taking on something that's going to make me want to bang my head on the table. In this case, I began with the collar.
The design I kind of winged. I mean, I traced the curve of the vest/jacket so that the curve of the collar would align correctly, but as far as the rest of the boomerang shape, I just sort of estimated it to create a pattern, cut it out, and had planned on trying something new if I wasn't happy with the outcome (especially since I had SO much extra light-brown fabric.
I added interfacing to the collar too because I wanted to make sure it was heavy and laid flat. My guess is regardless of the fabric you use, you'll want to do the same.
The rest of the collar was pretty simple. The next step is to add the trim. I used brown 1/2" ribbon, folded it in half, and just sewed it on. When doing this, it's important to make sure that the needle and thread are going through both sides of the ribbon, so that the backside gets sewn on too.
Here's a closeup of the horrific way I sewed the edge. Like I said in my Procrastination Cosplayer post: this costume was very last minute.
And obviously, then there was my cat trying to prevent me from doing work... Do you see how she just thinks she owns the place? Well, in truth, I guess she does.
Also, shout-out to my POP! RWBY figurines! I still can't bring myself to take them out of the box.
Here is what the collar pieces looked like after the trim was added. You'll notice that there's no trim on the inner side because that's where they will be sewn to the rest of the costume.
Speaking of: let's sew it all together now!
For the collar, you'll want to make sure the seam is not sticking out at your neckline, but rather tucked under the collar itself, like so:
After I got the collar on, the next thing I did was add the buttons. I saw a few people who just made one whole piece with a zipper in the back, or used Velcro, or other things, but I wanted an authentic vest-look so I opted for the buttons.
Fortunately, my sewing machine has a very helpful button placement option, so unless yours does too, you'll need to watch some videos on how to add buttons manually. Basically, if your sewing machine has anything on it that looks like the picture below, then your machine will create button holes for you!
After I got the collar and buttons on, I honestly thought I was done. I was walking around in my Yang vest, checking myself out in the mirror, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what was missing.
Then, as I was watching an episode of RWBY, I realized that Yang totally has sleeves and my vest did not! Oops.
But Yang's sleeves for this vest are a little tricky. They are puffy/scrunched and I had never done sleeves like that before. Thank goodness that Youtuber Anjalee Sharma has a super helpful video on How to Make Puff Sleeves. Check out her video and saunter on back here when you're done!
Welcome back! If you went and watched her video, then the following pictures will be a bit redundant for you and you can skip on down to the skirt phase! If you opted not to watch the video (I'm sure you'll go back and watch it later), I tried taking some photos to document what to do.
First, you need to cut out your sleeves in the shape below. The fabric is folded and I cut out two pieces, one for each arm. The flat side (left) will be the part on the bottom of your arm, while the curved side will be sewn to the vest itself (at the shoulder).