Becoming A Superhero: How To Make a Bodysuit From Start To Finish
Superhero cosplays sometimes require large bodysuits, and this tutorial is here to guide you through making one yourself!
Bodysuits come in a wide variety of options, from cheap spandex suits to fully detailed fabric and leather suits. As we see in most superhero movies and TV shows, the stars are usually wearing intricately designed costumes that fit them perfectly. But what can you do to make a costume like this to fit you this perfectly as well? In this tutorial we'll show you how to create a full body suit, starting from how to pattern your suit to the final product.
- What you need:
- Cling wrap
- Painters Tape
- Different colored markers
- Scissors (Safety scissors are preferred)
- Fabric of choice
- Contact cement
- Optionally a second person for easier process
Step 1: Patterning
Starting with the cling wrap: wrap the parts of the costume you want to pattern with it, until you have full coverage. If you are looking to do a full suit, a second person to wrap you will definitely come in handy, especially with patterning those hard to reach areas.
A second person will also help with things like checking on you, bringing you water, and monitoring your condition, as this is not to be taken lightly. Especially in the warm weather, this will trap additional heat in your body, and can lead to overheating, fatigue etc.
Take proper precautions if you are aware of any conditions you have that could lead to this.
If you do not have a second person, you can also do the same thing on a duct tape dummy of yourself. If you want to learn how to make a duct tape dummy, check out our tutorial here!
Once you have been sufficiently wrapped, it’s time to cover the cling wrap with painters Tape. The reason I prefer painters Tape over Duct tape is simple – You can use any sort of pens on it compared to duct tape. Also it is a light color, so you can use different colors for different notes, marks, etc.
When covering the cling film, make sure that you use a crisscross pattern – The reason for this being is that the tape will try to “delaminate” if you just overlap it parallel, and it can lead to distortion in your pattern, and even complete destruction.
If you are going for a full bodysuit, that is the same on both left and right side, you only need to do this process on half of your body. Because the suit is the same both ways, you can just flip the pattern later, once you’re done with it.
Now that the wrapping process is done, it’s time to make the actual pattern. Have a screen or printout next to you so you can see what you have to work on. Start transferring lines from the reference to your body, and modify it till you’re happy. I usually start at the bottom of my legs and work my way up, this way you get some trial and error on the least visible part of your costume.
When I start out the patterning, I usually use a light marker, such as yellow or orange. The reason for this is that I can easily draw over it with a darker color, and thereby having more room for correction. If you already used a darker color for your lines, no worries, that can also be fixed. Simply use a strip of tape over the line that you don’t like, and just draw onto the new tape afterwards.
I usually separate my bodysuits into two pieces for ease of transportation and also better mobility. I would also suggest not doing a full jacket unless you have a stretchy material, otherwise you will lose a lot of arm movement. If your fabric is stiff, I suggest making a 3 piece suit, where you make a vest out of comfortable material and just have the arms for the final suit attached to that, then make a jacket without arms, that you can wear over the top of that and finally pants. This way you keep all your arm movement and it still looks good. This is also the way most superhero suits on movies and shows are made, to provide maximum mobility.
But how do you separate the pieces?
Simple: More cling film and tape – Wrap the part of your costume where you want the separation, and then tape it. I usually go with around 10 cm overlap, so I can sew in Velcro or buttons to connect the pieces. For example, in this video I separate into jacket and pants, so at the waist line, I add some cling wrap, tape over my finished pattern and add 10 cm on the bottom of the jacket. Then I flip up the new tap (as it’s not connected to the previous pattern due to the cling film) and cut apart the pieces. Now you have your “finished” pattern!
The only thing left is to cut it off your body or dummy, and this is why I suggest safety scissors.
This way you protect yourself as you will cut very close to the body, and even though the saying is blood, sweat, and tears, you will have invested enough of the second two already in this process, so save yourself the blood!
After I have the pattern separated from my body, I usually add it to a bodyform afterwards to do some final touchups and add some room for movement. As the bodysuit was taped directly to your body, it will be ever so slightly too tight if you use it as is, as the tape compresses you and removes a bit of the flexibility.
To add this back, I add around 2 cm at all the seams that the suit was cut off (For example the back of the leg, the jacket zipper, or along the arm).
So simply tape the pattern back together after cutting it off, and add 2 cm while taping it shut. This will help you later for comfort.
Step 2: Sewing
Now that you have a whole suit patterned out, the question is how do you translate it to actual fabric?
There is an optional step here that you can do if you are not confident in your pattern yet, which is making a dummy suit. I usually get the cheapest fabric I can find (it’s usually Ikea bed sheets) and use that pattern to sew the suit out of this material. This is extra work, but will guarantee a good fit, and also you get an additional pattern if you need it.
So the pattern is still in one piece, and you’re giddy to cut it up, but now its actually time to slow down. You can name your pieces and number them, but the more complex the suit is, the harder this will get, and you will get confused in the process.
Therefore I suggest only doing a piece at a time. Start again at the bottom of the leg, and cut out the first pattern piece. Then cut the second piece, and transfer those two pieces to your fabric. Sew those pieces together, and don’t forget to do the same thing for your mirrored side (unless you only need one leg).
Now that you have your first two pieces together, go back to your pattern, and cut off another piece. Then sew that piece to your already completed piece, and continue this process until you have a full suit!
Some small tips for sewing:
- Even though this video has sewing pins, I suggest using sewing clips for delicate fabrics and any sort of leather or fake leather. The reason for this is that the needles will leave holes in those fabric, that can be visible and we don’t want anyone to see those.
- If your suit has a lot of intricate curves and details, make sure to cut some small incisions in your seam allowance, so that the fabric can curve naturally. Make sure to not cut all the way to the sewing line though, as you will have the cuts show through if you have some not 100% precise seams.
- If you need some raised details on your costume, you can use foam to back your fabric and sandwich it in between two pieces. If you put a piece of foam between two pieces of fabric and sew around the foam, this will give you a slightly raised detail on the outside of your fabric, with still keeping it flexible due to the nature of foam.
- Invest in good zippers – since this will be a tight fit, your zipper will hold the majority of the tension, as it’s the only point of closure.
- If you also want to make shoes, the technique is the same. I usually buy cheap comfortable base shoes, and then make a cover that I glue onto the base shoe with contact cement, and then hand stitch the edges onto the shoe. This will give you double security.
- If you use contact cement on fabric, make sure your fabric doesn’t take any damage on the outside. Contact cement is solvent based, and some fabrics may react to it, changing color, warping etc. Also it may seep through some more delicate fabrics, so test on a small piece first, before you commit.
- Use stretchy fabrics for your armpit regions. Even if you make a separate arms jacket, make sure the mobility is given. The same thing goes for your crotch and
- You can sew foam. So if you need armor directly attached to your armor, you can build it out of foam and sew it on. Just make sure your sewing machine can handle sewing foam!
Now go out there and sew all the bodysuits! Good luck!