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When Costumes Go Bad [Jul. 21st, 2009|06:28 pm]
This weekend, as I went to get photographs of my Soridormi costume, I picked the staff up out of the car just to find that the lighting wire had fallen off the staff. This was then compounded by dropping a shoulder, just to have one of the spikes fall off (it landed on the tip of the spike when it fell, so not really a surprise that it broke) and having the chain that holds up the top fall off.

Eeek! Photo shoot is over, race home and cry, right?

No. Costume failure is part of wearing costumes. It’s an unpleasant part, but one that we should all be prepared for with repair kits and a calm head. Here are some easy ways to repair costumes on the fly.

We’ll divide them into two sections: “Long term” and “short term”.

Long term refers to when you have a few days to fix a costume. Assume you’re at a convention. You unpack the costume after a long flight just to find out that something is wrong with it. Eeek! But at least you have a day or two to fix it before you have to wear it. So then you can fix it “properly”, the way you would at home. Well, provided that you have the necessary tools…

Obviously at a hotel, a thousand miles from home, you’re not going to have everything that you would in your sewing room. (Unless you over pack badly!) But these are some of the things that I would recommend bringing to make repairs.

1) A needle, thread, and scissors. This way you can sew things back on that fall off (like buttons), as well as mend seams, tears, and little rips. You won’t be able to completely redo a costume, but at least a button falling off won’t be the end of the world. The scissors are also useful for removing frays.

2) 1 minute, quick dry epoxy. This is absolutely vital if you’re working with something hard that just might fall apart (like the shoulders, or most body armor or costume weapons). While you’ll need to give this 24 hours to set, it’s at least fast to apply. So if your shoulders fall apart, you can put on the glue, hold it for five minutes, then leave it in your room to dry while you have fun. The outfit will be wearable by the next day. I absolutely love Loctite’s version, which does the mixing for you. (And thus saves the mess. Not such a big deal at home, but incredibly handy when on the road.)

3) Elmer’s glue. If you have a wig and the spikes fall apart, or start getting mushy, you can glue them back into place. This takes a bit of work, but is preferable to having a droopy wig.

4) Stain remover. While you have to be careful with this, it can be a lifesaver. Same for dryer sheets, which can make things smell better AND remove deodorant stains.

OK, so maybe you caught the problem quickly and could just merrily epoxy it up and let it dry. But maybe you were REALLY unlucky and caught the problem 10 minutes prior to the masquerade, just before you were about to go on stage. Double eek. What do you do now?

Don’t panic! Ensure that you have with you:

1) Dryer sheets, to get rid of deodorant stains (not that you’ll see them on stage, anyway, but why risk it?)
2) Safety pins. Perfect for fixing a problem like a strap falling off at the last minute when you don’t have time to sew.
3) Hot glue. It won’t hold for long or tremendously well, but it’ll do in a pinch until you can find a better material for attachment!
4) Needle nosed pliers, to fix protruding wires, boning, or just to repair jewelry.
5) A travel steamer, to remove wrinkles. (I finally broke down and purchased one. Great investment as everything always wrinkles, and irons often aren’t very good for costumes with lots of non-cloth parts.)
6) Spirit gum, for keeping the clothing glued to you and/or re-attaching prosthetics. Double-sided tape always works if you don’t have prosthetics.
7) Bobby pins. The perfect way to keep hair under a wig and/or in the style you’d originally intended.
8) Extra wig caps, nylons, fishnets, etc. if you wear them as part of a costume. It’s almost a guarantee that one will tear or otherwise disintigrate.

This is a partial list. Examine your costume before departing, and try to figure out what is most likely to fail and be prepared. This may take a bit of time and extra money, but it’s much better that than spending 100 hours on a costume just to not even be able to wear it. And while some cons do provide emergency costume kits, a lot won’t, or will but won’t have what you need. So it’s best to be prepared with extra spangles, beads, buttons, and glue.