Even before video game BioShock Infinite was released, I wanted to cosplay Elizabeth, but the minute I saw a photo of her dress, the first thing I thought was: TARDIS. I mean, it’s the perfect color and everything. So the idea of doing a TARDIS dressed based on Elizabeth’s dress has been dancing around inside my head for quite awhile.
Then I played the game, and Elizabeth turns out to be a character that can rip holes in the fabric of space and time. How can you not think TARDIS after that?
But it still took me several years and lots of confidence in my cosplay skills, especially as a beginner, to tackle the project. But, finally, after purchasing my first sewing machine, I did it. And surprisingly enough, I think it looks great.
I started with the corset, mostly because that’s the part I didn’t have to sew. Unfortunately, though, because I’m pear-shaped, finding an off-the-rack corset that fits well is something that just doesn’t happen. I’m small on top and bigger on bottom and no one seems to make corsets for that. So in the end, I went with a small corset, which was too small on the bottom, but at least it holds my girls up. Someday, I’ll learn to make corsets, I think. I certainly can’t afford a custom one. I’m a budget cosplayer after all.
I chose this corset in white from Frederick’s of Hollywood. However, I only paid about $18 for it, because I found it on eBay. Then I ordered an embroidered police box badge from Etsy here. I started with a hot glue gun and blue ribbon and laid out the stripes as they are on the actual TARDIS. I glued the police public call box sign to a wider black ribbon and used velcro to attach it to the corset, so that I can put it on after I hook the corset. I think it came out great:
Once the corset was complete, though, it was time for sewing. This is the first costume I’ve ever sewn, so obviously, I was nervous. The first thing I decided upon was fabric. I wanted something simple, cotton (washable) and photogenic. However, with the skirt being so long, and my butt being so wide, I needed to buy fabric from a wider bolt. And regular old cotton only comes in 45″ wide (I needed at least 10″ more than that in width). Fortunately, some googling led me to Fabric.com, so I ordered samples of materials, including this gorgeous blue cotton sateen. A sample of it convinced me that this was my fabric.
I did know ahead of time that cotton sateen wrinkles like crazy, but after seeing how beautifully the material draped and photographed, I decided that was okay. So I ordered the blue and some in white for the sleeves of the jacket.
Then I started sewing. The dress pattern was a basic simple one (although it had a zipper and I suck at zippers): McCall’s Kwik Sew 3381. And, besides the zipper (which is screwy, but the corset hides most of it), it was extremely easy. Most importantly, the cotton sateen drapes beautifully with this style and is nice and lightweight because cons get hot.
I tried a petticoat underneath the skirt to match Elizabeth’s BioShock Infinite costume, but it made me look wide as a barn!!! So instead, I kept things simple and ordered this eyelet trim and sewed it to the bottom of the skirt.
I also found the “Pull to Open” badge on Etsy and hand-sewed that to the skirt.
Of course, having the skirt, I needed Victorian boots. Fortunately, Amazon is my go-to for costume shoes and I found a pair of boots nearly identical to Elizabeth’s that are actually comfortable. Although the toe has an extreme point, the shoe is made so that the point extends beyond where the foot falls inside the boot. I threw a pair of insoles into those boots and they felt pretty darn good.
Okay, so the skirt’s done, the corset’s done, so what’s next? I decided to focus on accessories. Etsy, once more, proved to be a great resource, and I found Elizabeth’s choker necklace easily enough. However, I had to decide how I wanted the brooch that sits on that choker to look. I wanted something more Doctor Who than Elizabeth, so I contacted that same seller, who made me a custom brooch that matches Elizabeth’s, except it has the seal of Rassilon on it. How cool is that?
Then I needed a wig. Of course, that’s an easy one, too: eBay. I found exactly what I needed here. For $10. And it looks really good on, too. Having spent a fortune on fabric, only paying $10 for a wig was a much needed relief to my cosplay budget.
Of course, that meant that all the details were in order and I finally needed to start the jacket, which I knew would be the hardest part of the costume, especially with me being such a noob. First, I started with the closest pattern I could find: Simplicity 1819. The problem was that I needed a mash-up of the two jackets in that pattern and I had no idea how to do that.
I’m still not sure how I figured it out. But yes, the jacket was hard. I spent a lot of time pulling out stitches and was in tears after accidentally ripping a hole with a seam ripper in one of the panels (which I had to re-do). The sleeves in the pattern were all wrong, so I basically just made them to fit my arms, and somehow they came out okay, although sewing the sleeves in was one of the trickiest things I’ve learned. I’m actually surprised this thing looks okay. The collar in the pattern is also all wrong, and I shortened it and stood it up (so it looked more like Elizabeth’s), but it’s still not exact.
But for my purposes and this being my first hand-sewn costume? It’s perfect enough. In fact, when I finished the jacket, I was surprised. Of course, I still had to add the white French cuffs, and fortunately a Google search led me to this, which had a great tutorial on how to do it. It took me a few tries, but the cuffs looked great. Then I had to figure out how to sew them onto the sleeves (it turned out to be easy) and how to give them the shape of Elizabeth’s. I was so happy with how the final cuffs came out that I even added some little buttons on them, mostly to hold them together and look more like Elizabeth’s.
So that was it, the costume was complete. All I had to do was throw on some make-up (see first photo above) and try it on. And the funny thing is that I thought it looked great!