Sew Easy Costumes (Part 3): Upcycled Costumes

Thanks for joining us on the Sew Daily blog! Through out the month of September and a bit of October, Kristie “Karmada” Good will be sharing her  tips and techniques for making costumes for use in cosplay or Halloween. Plus, she’ll share her tips for navigating a cosplay event and so much more. So, now here’s Kristie!

Closet Cosplay

Costumes don’t have to be made entirely from scratch. In fact, many costumes can be made from stuff you can find in thrift stores or already have around the house. Here are 10 tips for altering garments for a fun repurposed costume.

1. Shorten or Remove Sleeves

Don’t worry about finding the exact shirt you need—just alter one! You can easily change a shirt from long to short sleeves by cutting and hemming. You can also create items such as sweater vests by removing the sleeves completely.

2. Shorten Pants, Skirts, and More

Same as shirts, you can always shorten pants or skirts by cutting and hemming.

Illustration by Kristie Good
3. Splice Sleeves to Prevent Overheating

For layered costumes, it’s possible to create a lightweight under layer by taking the “heavier” sleeves (a sweater, say) and sewing them onto a lighter top, such as a T-shirt. You can also use elastic bands to create free-floating sleeves that don’t attach to a shirt at all, but will stay on your arms and still give the illusion of an undershirt!

4. Add Ribbons, Fringe, Ruffles

Give an outfit a quick makeover by sewing on ribbons, fringe, ruffles, and bows to your heart’s content! This is great for creating steampunk-style outfits or changing up the look of a blouse.

5. Add Patches or Designs with Iron-on Adhesive

Need an odd design or colored patches for a costume? Use iron-on adhesive (I like heavy-duty Heat-n-Bond) to create no-sew patches that you can easily attach to any costume!

6. Use Old Shoes as a Base for Boot Covers

Thrift stores and old shoes from the back of your own closet are great for costume shoes. You can paint them, or more importantly, use them as a base for boot covers to turn them into other shoes! (Check out Epic Cosplay Costumes for a full boot cover tutorial!)

7. Reuse Parts of Previous Costumes

Don’t be afraid to reuse costume parts on newer costumes—why reinvent the wheel when you’ve already got a part ready to go? Also, if you’re not going to use that costume anymore, alter it as needed!

8. Paint Designs onto Fabric

Not really a sewing alteration, but painting on designs can help take the place of odd design stitching. You can get inexpensive acrylic craft paints and mix with Textile Medium for a design that will bend and stick to the fabric of your costume!

9. Dyeing Garments

Along with painting costume pieces, sometimes you just need it to be another color. There are fantastic easy-to-use dyes for all types of garments (I recommend Rit DyeMore for synthetic fabrics), just follow the instructions on the bottle to get the color of your choosing!

10. Aging Fabric

Much like dying fabrics, you can give an aged look to fabric (think steampunk, zombie, or apocalypse-styled costumes) with various techniques: using watered down acrylic paint to create faux stains, dunking pieces in a vat of coffee or tea to “brown up” clothing to give an antique look, or using sandpaper to create “worn down” areas on costumes. The possibilities are endless—just make sure you can still wash your costumes after for easy care!

— Kristie Good

For complete costumes directions and tips on attending a convention, check out Epic Cosplay Costumes.




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