This month's writeup is sponsored by Rose of Battle.

August 2021 Writeup: September Construction Hell

This month, I should have been able to offer you a completed walkthrough of Pai’s shirt, at the very least. I ran into some issues with the mockup… then I ran into some issues with the second mockup… then I ran into some issues with the third. Rather than present this as a mediocre fulfillment of your rewards, I’d like to walk you through why this was so hard, even for an experienced cosplayer.

Welcome to the newest type of writeup: Construction Hell! Features of these writeups will be walking through mistakes I made in great detail in case it could eventually help someone making a similar garment.

So, Pai.

Pai’s shirt is one of those secretly difficult patterns. On the surface, it looks like it could be a modification of this shirt from Target, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

First of all, what is going on with the yoke? What are those three lines? Typically on a top like this, gathers happen below the yoke, so that’s extremely unusual. Secondly, separating the yoke and the body of the shirt is unmistakably bias tape. Bias tape! Of all things! But it isn’t acting as a binding for an edge, but rather an application on top of two already-joined pieces. Yikes. Speaking of yikes, look at all those scalloped edges. Armscye scallops PLUS scalloped bottom edges? More than that, what are those little black lines supposed to be interpreted as? It’s obviously meant to reflect a “pie,” but that doesn’t actually translate to a real-life garment. I’m going with an elastic gather, but it’s a risk. And then, what’s that? A halter strap? Sure, why the hell not, at this point. It doesn’t make sense to be a supportive bra underneath the shirt, but it’s also not an item you see on a shirt that already has sleeves. Lastly, obviously, we’ve got the “pie” marks on the front and back, which could be satin-stitched applique or iron- or paint-on elements. But for their size and placement, the former is the only thing that makes sense for me.

With that as my understanding of the garment, I set about making my mockups.

Mockup number 1: The pattern I started with when I began my first mockup was the NewLook 6871, style C/D. It was a straightforward mockup, elongated at the bottom in case it was ready to attempt the scalloped edges. The only modification I made was to split apart the yoke piece at the center to allow room for what I thought should have been darts at its bottom. Naturally, when I sewed it together, the yoke line was both too low and bowing the wrong way.

Mockup number 2: For the second mockup, I adjusted the bust line as well as tightened the sides at the bust. When I tried it on, it was still tugging weirdly, and I think the tightness around the upper bust made me think, “hm, well, the back is looking baggy.” Mistake! Turn back!!

Mockup number 3: This result was the final straw for these extremely overworked and marked pieces of fabric. I adjusted the back seam, bringing it up about an inch, and tried to change the shape of the armscye to match. Finally, I cut out a whole new front yoke to see if doing the darts more like pleats would help. No matter how tight I made the yoke, it was flaring outward, almost as if it were a scarf tucked in. I couldn’t get it to match up at all.

Mockup number 4: Having wrecked the previous mockups to the point of no return and nearly run myself out of my muslin roll, I needed to go back to the original pattern to see where I’d gone wrong. I also needed to decide once and for all whether I would be attempting an actual sewn element on the yoke or whether I’d do a decorative small satin stitch. I so didn’t want to do a satin stitch because I didn’t like the aesthetic on Maid Velvet. I slept on it, again and again, and did some more research. Then I remembered something I’d left out of a pattern I’d used recently, a pattern for gloves for Boss...


The answer was pintucks all along. When I realized how simple it was, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and groan. And then text my wife in agony over how wrong I was. Of course pleats and darts wouldn’t work for the yoke. They changed the shape too much. Pintucks as seen on a glove barely changed the shape of the pattern and were visible enough to be noticeable as a sewn element rather than satin stitch.

Begrudgingly, and because I had written in three different colors of Sharpie for the existing pieces, I cut out new muslin for this version. It took two fits for me to get this mockup to work, and you can see the seam where I cut through the layers and readjusted the overbust arc to go upward instead of downward. I don’t think the middle finger is undeserved.

After all that, mockup version 4 is finally ready for the final cycles of testing. Scallops on the arms were added to satisfaction (with some… eyeballing, and measurement via a piece of yarn). You can probably see the channel I sewed for the elastic, which will be sewn through the fabric and its lining in the final. I’ll be using a 1/2" wide elastic piece, as the 5/8" was too wide for my liking. The last element to test before committing it to a pattern is the white “pie” mark size and position, for which I’m eager to test out my heat-erasing pens.

As a special bonus, I’m including the doodled front and back paper that I made as a blueprint for actually executing the shirt construction. Wish me luck!

In the case I don’t finish Pai’s shirt by the next update, rest assured, I have another Construction Hell in mind. A cosplayer’s work is rarely easy and I hope this has opened your eyes to what goes on “behind the seams.” As a caveat, this isn’t to say that one isn’t allowed to, say, buy and modify that shirt from Target. That’s still cosplay, period! But for me, the challenges behind the hell of construction are part of the fun.

Thanks again for your patronage and encouragement. See you on the flipside!

Photos by me.

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