Cosplay: Becoming 1941 Wonder Woman

So last year, after I completed my first sort of handmade costume, which was Wonder Woman, a friend put the idea into my head that I should do a more vintage version of the character. So I started doing some research and decided on creating a costume based on Wonder Woman’s first comic book appearance in 1941:

1941 Wonder Woman

That shouldn’t be too difficult, right? But this time, instead of using bits and pieces of other things found on clearance racks and in costume shops, I decided to make the costume from scratch. I’ve got a sewing machine now, so why not?

The good news is that I already had the boots from my previous costume, along with tights, a pair of shorts to wear underneath everything and a red corset to give me some support (and give me a nice lean line when wearing the costume). So I started with the wig. I searched everywhere for a good representative 1941-style wig and eventually found this one on the Wiltshire Wigs website in black.

Then I bought a gold satin fabric I found dirt cheap on Etsy (yay for budget cosplay). It took me a few tries to decide how to do the tiara and after deciding that using hot glue on the fabric to wrap it around craft foam wasn’t going to work, I decided on a different plan of action. In the end, I used fusible interfacing and Liquid Stitch to make the tiara. The Liquid Stitch made it stiff, but that was okay. I used velcro and hot glue in the back to make it adjustable. I had some red glittery craft foam stickers left from my previous Wonder Woman project, so, voila, tiara.

1941 Wonder Woman tiara

Of course, then I had to find the right material for the bottoms, which I first thought was a skirt, but after some serious research, I realized that this was actually more like a culottes, or split skirt. I searched through pattern sites, and settled on Simplicity 1429. Of course, that left me hunting for fabric. You’d think finding blue fabric with white stars in a knit would be easy, right? Guess what? IT’S NOT! I found a spandex fabric that was $11/yard (EEP!), and was willing to buy it, until I saw that the company charged another $11 for shipping (which is the most ridiculous thing ever as it weighs next to nothing). Although the pattern on that fabric was perfect, I’m a budget cosplayer.

Instead, a hunt on Etsy found a good fabric that I was happy with, although the stars were smaller than I initially wanted. But the price was right, so I purchased it. Unfortunately, that fabric is no longer available (sorry about that), but I’d recommend Etsy for a good place to search for fabric that’s hard to find elsewhere. When I got it in, too, the fabric was great: very easy to sew with just the right amount of stretch. The pattern was also really easy to work with and I had the split skirt done quickly.

But I came across a problem with other material purchased from Etsy. I purchased a gray, red and white stretch fabric that was really cheap and really stretchy that I just couldn’t work with (it kept getting pulled into the sewing machine’s teeth). So there’s also a lesson: always get fabric samples first to make sure you can work with it.

I tossed the red fabric out because it was impossible, but somehow I managed to make a white waistband for the shorts (I bypassed the elastic because the white material was already super stretch). Lots of cursing was involved, but once the shorts were done, I was thrilled.

1941 Wonder Woman Split Skirt

I ended up losing weight and had to take in the waistband twice, though, but sewed it by hand because that material sucked so much. Lesson learned.

Unfortunately, I still had to do armbands with the gray. I somehow managed to get those sewn by machine, but again, I sewed about five before I had two I was happy with.

1941 Wonder Woman Bracer

I also ordered some adorable red sequin-like earrings from Etsy, that were perfect for the look.

1941 Wonder Woman earrings

I ordered samples of red satin knits from Fabric.com so I could figure out what I was going to do for the top. While waiting for those samples to come in, I started on the eagle chest piece. This was by far the hardest thing I’ve worked on. First, I figured out quickly that my initial idea of using the gold satin fabric wrapped around craft foam wouldn’t work. And although I really wanted to do something else, the only real solution was applique, something I’ve never done before.

But hey, I enjoy costuming because it challenges me, so I began. I finally found a way to make the piece that would work: I started with card stock and traced the design for the eagle’s body, arched feathers and individual feathers. I cut those out and used those as a pattern on fusible interfacing. I cut the fusible interfacing pieces out and attached those to the back of my gold satin fabric. Then I measured 5/8″ around each piece and marked that with a fabric pencil. I cut along that line and then sewed around it with a satin stitch. After that, I cut around the satin stitch to make each individual piece.

If that sounds like a lot, it was. And it took me a lot of tries to get exactly what I wanted. I threw away a lot of pieces and cried a lot over the final thing. I eventually got all the pieces to where I thought they were decent and hand-sewed them into just one piece.

1941 Wonder Woman eagle crest

By then, my new red fabric had been chosen and ordered, and fortunately, it was really nice and of a very good quality. So that meant I had to make the top. I had no idea how to make the top and although I downloaded a sweetheart neckline pattern from Etsy, it wasn’t exactly perfect, at least to my measurements. I’m pear-shaped, which means that with shirts, I need a little extra room once they go past my waist.

So I searched the web and found a good tutorial that shows how to make a custom-fit sweetheart neckline shirt. However, that tutorial didn’t add a seam allowance, so I was left to do that myself. I did get the shirt made, though, and it was too big.

So I had to figure out how to take the darn thing in. I ended up with a big dart on the side and a tuck in the back, but in the end, I had a good fitting sweetheart shirt. I carefully pinned the eagle to the shirt while it was on the dress form (because I do have a few curves) and then hand-sewed it while it was on the dress form.

However, the costume was finally complete, so I took a preliminary shot of the full thing, including my 1941 make-up:

1941 Wonder Woman costume

I’ll be debuting this costume at Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con, but you’ll see it onstage at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, in June, where we’ll be discussing superheroes of the 1940s at a panel. Hope to see y’all there!

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