July 2, 2018

Area 88 Shin Kazama costume progress [part 1]

Hello geeks!

Around winter 2016 I started to work on my future Shin Kazama cosplay from Area 88. I don't have a set deadline for this costume so it might or might not be a long-time project, depending on how much trouble I have sourcing some of the military equipment for it etc.  

Note: I had this post saved as a draft for over a year and I had completely forgotten to publish it when I originally wrote it, oops. Thus most of the progress on this post (and all writing, except for small edits to make it clear that this was done on last year, not this year) were done during summer 2017!!

Earlier I had an incredibly lucky strike and managed to find a suitable fighter pilot helmet that I could use for Shin's iconic helmet. I haven't continued with the helmet yet but instead I managed to find some perfect military surplus leather gloves! These are actually replicas of gloves used during WW2 by American paratrooper soldiers and in the original light brown color to boot – and thus pretty awesome for Shin.

This image shows of Shin's gloves pretty well.
And here's the gloves that I bought:

It's real leather with that vintage smell.
I bought these from Varusteleka. I highly recommend their shop
if you need any military gear!
After Christmas (note: Christmas 2016!) I stayed some extra nights at my mom's and decided to make use of the time there and draft the patterns for Shin's flight suit. I checked through mom's old patterns and managed to find some sort of 80s overall pattern and, on first look, it seemed to be decent to use as a base but then I noticed that I'd get some issues with some details and so I decided to draft another one that I found in a sewing magazine. Even this pattern needed some modifications to work (mainly the collars) but at least it didn't have some weird shoulder tucks... or be ridiculously generous in size. I mean, I appreciate loose fit and all but when it's roomy enough to double as a sleeping bag for two, then I'm not sure if it's so flattering to wear, lol. xD It was easier to just use the pattern from the magazine as a base and then alter it, even though it was originally a jumpsuit pattern.
So yeah, I cut out the pattern pieces and saved the modification process for when I bring out the fabrics.

This cosplay progress was on halt until 11th April 2017, when I went back to mom's to celebrate Easter. While staying some extra days there I decided that now is a good time to continue on my cosplay!
I had already picked out some proper overall fabric called Enstex, or something really similar to it. Mom told me that she had bought this fabric roll personally from Finlayson back in the days when she had her own fabric store. Yes, this totally means I didn't have to pay for it! So yeah, this fabric is not the exact same color as Shin's flight suit, a bit more yellow-ish in tone. It's just that color that drives you crazy when you try to decide on if it's more yellow or more orange, lol. I thought it was close enough to work for Shin (I mean, this type of fabric doesn't come in many colors normally; the color I have at hand is already rare enough to find), just the right fabric type to give the legit "workwear look" and so I went with it. Besides, it's water and dirt resistant – hella convenient for conventions, especially outdoor cons like Närcon, where I currently plan to debut this cosplay.
By the way, I went to check for the same type of fabric in a local store, just to check the general color choices and yeah, it was mostly black, red, white, a really unflattering neon yellow (think safety vests) or that kind of prisoner suit orange, the really vibrant ones. Both of the latter ones would look like shit on me so yeah, suddenly mom's yellow-orange fabric seemed ten thousand times better, even if the color is not 100% accurate. :D

Okay so, I started to cut out the pieces that I needed from the fabric. I think I used about 3 meters of fabric, more or less. I also needed to modify almost all of the patterns to make them wider because it turned out that especially the sleeves and legs were narrower than I first had thought. Then again, this jumpsuit pattern was originally supposed to be made in a stretchy fabric and obviously Enstex isn't elastic and won't give in at all. So yeah, I needed to widen the patterns to make sure that I could fit into the costume and sit in it without any unwanted surprises. I also had to modify the neckline and add a collar to it (there was none on the original pattern). The collar pattern that I started with was just an ordinary dress shirt collar.

Fabric cutting.
I cut out all the pieces, save for the collar, which I'll modify and cut out later on. I also went to dig in mom's zipper boxes and found two fitting zippers for the suit – now I'll just need to wait and see which one is better, the 45 cm one or the 60 cm one. Couldn't find one in the exact same color (not a surprise) but at least I found a yellow one that would look okay with it.

All pieces (except collars) cut out. Both zipper options visible.
A few days later I zigzaged around all the edges and then I started sewing the pieces together. I started with the pockets and yes, I added pockets because why not? It's useful if I need to store small stuff during a con. This was my first time ever sewing pockets, lol.
During the sewing process I got a few shit strokes because at least a couple times the sewing machine suddenly just shut down in the middle of everything! It never did it before and of course I panicked because yeah, I feared that I might have ruined mom's expensive sewing machine. D: Luckily it was just the power cable not being properly plugged in...

There's not so much interesting to say about the sewing process itself – everything went rather smoothly, except that the fabric is kinda hard to sew. I had to rip off and replace the pockets with bigger ones though, because the first ones didn't align properly with the pants (since they had been widened and not the pockets), oops. I had some problems fitting the sleeves nicely so me and mom made a deal – I peeled the potatoes for the Easter dinner and she sewed on the sleeves for me. Win-win!

Early try-on. I still had to add the zipper and hem
the sleeve/leg openings. Collar is also missing.
Soon enough it actually started to look like something wearable and mom joked around and said that I looked like an escapee. Stepdad said that I looked like a smurf instead... I have no idea where he got that from, lol. I wanted to say that I'm supposed to be a fighter pilot but oh well, let them have their fun. xD
At first I was worried that I accidentally made the suit too small but turned out that it was really big once I could actually try it on. Unflatteringly big in the torso area, to be precise – I looked like a tent. Jälleen kerran yliarvioin omat läskini. Then again, it's safer to make it too big at first than vice versa since this fabric has no stretch mercy and I can always just sew in the excess, which I'll most likely end up doing.

I continued by hemming the leg openings. It was kinda annoying because the fabric would always wrinkle in the end and yeah, the end result wasn't the prettiest. Good thing I'll wear boots over so no one will ever see them, lol.
Hemming the sleeve openings was even worse; I had to redo it twice and still it came out fugly. I ragequitted. The problem is that the sleeve mouth is too narrow to be threaded into the machine, once I take out the bigger part of it. My explanations are glorious, I hope you can understand what I mean. :'D But yeah, because I couldn't thread it to the machine it made the whole sewing complicated and just... fffffffffffuuuuuu.

Welcome to bunch kingdom. Yes, that's the sleeve opening.
Omg I hated this part! The fabric was always in the way and I had to make sure that I didn't accidentally sew the sleeve shut on the other side and... blergh. I can't explain. It sucked major balls!

You shall not pass. 8C #wrinklelandia
I left the sleeves unfinished for a couple days and then, on my last day at mom's I suddenly realized how to do this shit. I just had to bring out the seam ripper, open the sleeve's seam a bit (starting from the sleeve mouth, of course) and then stitch/hem the mouth and finish it up by sewing the sleeve seam closed again.

I've partly opened up the sleeve seam (top, notice the hanging thread) and stitched the mouth
hem in place. Time to sew the sleeve seam back in place again.
I've come to notice that this particular color is a bitch to photograph. It gets overexposed easily, even in indoor lights on a sunny day (and it also looks vastly different in different light conditions). I will probably have to be careful where I photoshoot this cosplay, haha. One thing's for sure though – I'll be easy to spot at whatever con I wear Shin too – or, as stepdad said, you can see me even in a dark cave. Well, at least my con friend's won't have a hard time finding me!

Notice that I've attached a slip to the front opening, on one side.
As you can see on the photo above I had cut out some slips, or whatever you call them, to support the front zipper or whatnot. I also cut the collar opening deeper (incl. the slips) to make room for the big collar, which would be sewn on later. Or well, not actually deeper, just a bit more V-shaped.
Of course I sewed on a slip on both the right and left side of the front opening, the photo just shows the process when I had only sewn one on. :D I turn them to the inside of the suit and ironed them so that they'd stay inside. Next I'll have to attach the zipper itself, which is gonna be interesting because I've never had to sew on a zipper before...
Oh and yeah, I know that the suit looks humongous on the above photo but it's actually just spread out on a small sewing table and part of the suit (mainly the legs and other front half) are actually hanging off the table, but because of the awkward photo angle (taken from above) it's hard to notice where the table ends and so my suit looks like it's a size fatass.

This costume was on a small pause until approximately a month later, on mid May 2017 or something. Meanwhile I was working on another cosplay project I continued with Shin's collars while the other project was drying. To make Shin's huge collars I started with an ordinary collar pattern from a dress shirt that I modified to make it bigger.

Modified collar parts cut out.
I zigzaged the pieces and sewed them together to get full pieces, creating a seam in the middle of the back on both parts. I added interfacing fabric on the inside of both the upper and the lower part of the collar.
But when I started test pinning the collars in place I noticed that they were a bit too long and, also, that the front opening of the suit was not identical; I had to go in and change the curve so that the front openings would be as similar as possible. I also realized that I couldn't put the zipper starting from the very top of the suit as then it wouldn't look right, seeing how Shin's suit has that V-shape going on. So yeah, the original plan to use the 60 cm zipper got changed into the 45 cm zipper.

Fixed front opening more similar, to make collar
attachment easier.
Top part of the collar with interfacing. Ready to be sewn on.
I must say that this whole costume process just makes me incredibly happy. I know it's kinda cheesy but I can't help it and yes, I'm smiling like a mofo just by putting on the helmet! You know, that kind of almost childish excitement and joy – that's what I feel when I think that finally I'll get to be one of my childhood figures. It's an incredible feeling. ♥ Every cosplayer should do at least one childhood cosplay one day. Words can't describe how stoked I am for this project! This kind of nostalgy cosplays are of the best kind, really. Because you know the inspiration will not flicker.

I'll end this progress post here as it's getting pretty long by now. ^^" A second part will come later where I finish this suit and start making the harness!

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