I tried to make a homemade Wonder Woman costume for Halloween 2016.

It was an epic failure. Here’s what I learned in the process.

Background: My Love for Costumes

There are a lot of people who are really great at making costumes.

Sadly, I’m not one of them. Mad respect to the cosplay crowd, though.

This costume is so well done! Jealous. (Source.)

There are some seriously talented people making cool things to wear. I’m jealous of their skills, and totally want to hire them.

My love for making costumes come naturally, I’m proud to say.

My parents handmade my own costumes for Halloween when I was a kid. One year I was a butterfly with my mom’s help, and another year I was a trash can (made so that I crouch down and hide for fun). Plus, I spent a lot of time dancing and acting as a kid.

My parents helped us with handmade costumes at Halloween. This is a photo of the butterfly costumes my mom made out of felt.

Among groups of friends in college, my girls and I were known for our fierce dedication to Halloween and the chance to dress up. Two of the favorite costumes I made were Rainbow Brite for an 80’s themed year, and the Cheshire Cat for an Alice in Wonderland themed group outing one year.




They were so much fun to make! Btw, we had to make most of our costumes then since they weren’t for sale anywhere. Now you can find both of those online, although I’ve only seen them in the “sexy” versions. (Don’t get me started.)

So, yeah, there have been a lot of costumes in my life.

It also feels like an obvious link to making films. Using your imagination to create a character, and then see it come to life is such an incredible feeling. When an actor puts on the carefully designed costumes, the set built, and cameras start rolling, it feels like the magic really gets going. I never get tired of it.

In fact, I daydream about working with the best costume designers.

Inspiration

While making my own Wonder Woman costume, I scoured the internet for images and references.

Since the movie had not been released yet, it was actually a little tough to find a lot of stills. I did, however, found some close-up images of the actual costume on display. Perhaps at the San Diego Comic-Con where they released the official trailer in 2016? (Source.)

But, finally, I just watched the official trailer about a thousand times taking screenshots of whatever costume pieces they showed.

In the first official trailer, there are close-ups of the costume, as Wonder Woman climbs a ladder to go into No Man’s Land (starting around the 1:22 mark). There’s a slow reveal of her shield, lasso, headband, boots, etc. Then, you see the entire costume as she fights.

Wonder Woman stepping into No Man’s Land (Source)

Side Note: The No Man’s Land scene is one that had me in tears of joy during the movie! It’s really beautiful. So, thank you, Patty Jenkins, for fighting to keep that critical scene in the movie. It’s one of my favorites. (Source.)

Wonder Woman (Source)

Later in the trailer, you see WW fighting in several different scenes. I’ve watched the trailer entirely too many times and it still gives me goose bumps. These scenes helped me figure out the rest of the costume. (Again, when I was making my costume in fall 2016 the movie hadn’t been released, so there weren’t enough stills or trailers available for my costume making mission / obsession.)

Wonder Woman color grading (Source)

One thing that threw me was the color grading of the film. It’s great on screen, but it made the real life homemade costume creation process a little confusing for me. Did I want the breastplate to be red? Or a color graded version of red that’s closer to brown? (More on this later.)

Cosplay Tutorials

While looking for images of the actual costume, I found a lot of instructions on how to make your own. I came across some helpful tutorials last fall (embedded below). Since then, I’m sure some new ones have come out because the movie was recently released.

If you want to try making your own WW gear, these may be helpful.

While watching these, I was totally impressed with the skills of these makers.

But I lacked a lot of the tools some of these tutorials used. So, helpful hint, if you don’t want to make your own costume you can totally buy pieces like the breastplate online. Budget and time constraints are obv still a factor, though.

My WW Costume Fail

Well, here it is: my Wonder Woman costume fail!

It could’ve been great …

But it Just. Didn’t. Work.

What remains of the WW costume fail (c. fall 2016).

I opted out of the shield, thinking it would be too big to carry around all night.

Instead of making a sword, I picked one up at a party store. I figured it was close enough. (Now I keep thinking that a blue dress with a sword stuff down the back might be easier for Halloween 2017, haha.)

I went to the thrift store to see what fabrics I could find for key pieces like the breastplate and skirt.

I came home with two different leather-like coats. One was an man’s XL brown faux leather and the other was a woman’s shiny silver faux leather coat. I felt less guilty about cutting up faux leather coats. In hindsight, though, it might have been a lot easier to work with a different fabric. (You live, you learn.)

When I got home, I made a template using a retired bra and undershirt. They made it easier to glue together the pieces as I cut them. It was still challenging, though.

Instead, I highly recommend making a cast of yourself with the help of a friend using plastic wrap and tape so you’re not hot gluing yourself like an idiot. Use this link to better understand what I mean. It would’ve saved me a lot of grief, time, and frustration. Duh.

Make your own sewing mannequin instead of hot gluing things to yourself like I did. (Source)

After an embarrasing amount of time spent hot gluing pieces together, I started feeling like this might actually work. Yeah!

That’s when I decided to paint my brown faux leather breastplate with a tint of red so it’d be more obvious that I was Wonder Woman. (Remember the color grading on screen I mentioned earlier? Yeah, this is where it threw me for a loop.) It’s been a few years since I took color theory.

This part didn’t go so well. The breastplate instead looks pink. Not what I wanted.

It was going well enough. Then I decided to paint the breastplate red, and it turned pinkish purple. Not what I wanted. (The breastplate is folded here, which makes it look a lot smaller than the skirt. When worn together, they work relatively well.)

I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the breastplate the right shade of red in time for the party.

It had a domino effect. I started quitting because I was also lacking the boots. It felt like they’d take an eternity to make – but I was also getting too tired to care.

The few pieces that actually worked well were the headband, wrist cuffs, lasso, and the cross-body belt that holds the lasso and sword in place.

The lasso actually worked pretty well. It’s white braided rope with gold fabric paint highlights. I attached it to the cross-body / waist holder strap.

Here are the materials and tools I used:

  • Faux leather coats from thrift stores (2)
  • White poster board
  • Fabric paint
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Approx. 1,500 glue sticks*
  • Black permanent marker
  • Old bra and undershirt
  • White braided rope

*Slight exaggeration. There was definitely hot glue all over the kitchen for weeks afterwards, though.




If you’re going to try this it at home, here are a few tips:

  1. Start with a template for obvious reasons.
  2. Make a sewing mannequin so it’ll fit like a glove.
  3. Choose fabric / materials that’ll move with you.
  4. Break down the project into various stages, so you’re not exhausted.
  5. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d change a few things. But, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? You live, you learn. You make mistakes, you hopefully avoid repeating them…

And, if you’re lucky, you get to have some fun along the way.

Lessons Learned

My costume was a failure.

But, like all creative endeavors, you’ll learn something if you’re open to it.

First of all, I’m no Gal Gadot. We may be the same height (5’10”) but she has a totally different figure. The costume I made was as accurate as I could get to the movie version (hah!), but also custom to my shape using what I had: time, materials, tools, etc.

When it was almost finished, the costume left me feeling way too exposed. It’s kind of pointless to make a costume that doesn’t leave you standing tall and confident, no?

My costume was a failure but I had fun making it.

I was also worried the whole thing would fall apart at any minute, since it was held together with hot glue and wishes. If I were to do it all over again, I would find a better way to adhere the faux leather pieces. Or use a different material. (Most of the tutorials called for foam but I had a hard time finding the right kind, and lacked the means to glue those pieces together. Whomp, whomp.)

Since I didn’t use a template, I was flying blind. Major mistake. I’ve always used sewing templates but – for whatever reason – I flew threw this one haphazardly, in a fit of fury. So, I won’t do that next time.

Wonder Woman as a child in her mom’s arms. (Source)

Respect

Last fall, I only wanted to make a Halloween costume.

But, what I learned gained is an even more intense appreciation for costume design.

Robin Wright as Antiope (Source)

By the time the movie was released in June 2017, I sat in awe of the costumes when I finally saw them on screen. I had been studying them for a long time and it was so lovely to appreciate them during the movie. I selfishly wanted to linger on the island of Themyscira so I could enjoy being among these amazing women a little longer.

It’s so rare to have scenes like that on the big screen. It was really, truly a dream come true. These women and the costume design are so fierce and impressive.

The women of Themyscira (Source)

It also revealed how heated discussions can get about the look of a female superhero.

There was some controversy surrounding Wonder Woman – despite the lack of promotion this movie received before it was released. People said the costume is not patriotic enough, too skimpy, too sexy, etc. They thought casting was all wrong: Gal Gadot wasn’t busty or muscular enough. I mean, people complained about all sorts of things before the movie came out.

I find it fascinating, especially the freedom with which we discuss a woman’s looks. Do we discuss male actor’s bodies, superhero costumes, and casting with the same fervor? If so, please share links in the comments. I’d genuinely appreciate the chance to read more.

For an interesting take on the Wonder Woman costume feedback, check out this article from Movie Pilot by Eleanor Tremeer.

Feedback

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

Use the comments to tell me what’s on your mind!

Source note: The images included in this post are taken from several different sites, each of which attributes the images to Warner Bros. I’ve provided links to the sources whenever possible.

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