09 March 2015

Sybill Trelawney: Making the Impossible Possible

I've been intrigued with making a Harry Potter character cosplay for quite some time, but it's been on the back burner for just as long because I've clearly had more than enough stuff to occupy my time between personal projects, designs, working on shows, and, you know, trying to get a job.  I'm very happy to have arrived at this point, however, although I surprised myself somewhat.

Since forever I've wanted to do a cosplay of Luna Lovegood, but that's just too...simple, I guess?  Then I wanted to do Bellatrix.  Then I finally settled on Sybill Trelawney.  She's always intrigued me: there's a lot about her that we don't know, and may never know, but I guess that's kind of what drives my curiosity about her.  She plays a huge role in Harry's fate and the development of the series overall, and yet she receives little credit for that and is rarely treated sympathetically.

So I guess that's where this thing started.  I decided to make Trelawney's outfit from the eighth movie, because why not?  That overcoat thing is awesome and honestly something I wouldn't mind wearing as an everyday garment.  Hell, I'd wear the whole thing as an everyday outfit.  Minus the glasses, of course.  I didn't spend hours learning how to stick my fingers in my eyes just to not wear my contact lenses.

To start out, I went to Santa Fe Fabrics to get what I needed.  I settled on boiled wools for the overcoat, a beautiful raw silk with a loose weave for the dress, and various fabrics for the skirt.

L to R: Skirt middle panel, lower panel, and silk dress fabric

The fabric on the lower right was dyed dark green and used for the upper part of the skirt.  There's some leftover, which will be made into a Victorian dress with the other fabrics in the photo.

Now, I bought the boiled wool unpatterned knowing that I would probably have to figure out some way to dye the star patterns onto it.  Unfortunately that was still a lot easier than going on a search for fabric that already had that pattern, because I doubtless would have spent hours perusing the undersides of the Internet for something that should exist but for some reason does not.  As usual.  In my research, though, I came across a wondrous product called discharge paste which is painted onto your fabric using a screen print technique or simply with a brush.  Then you hit it with a hot iron and boom the dye in that area of the fabric is just gone.  It's some pretty amazing shit.

I accidentally spilled discharge paste on the left side green area, so I had to iron the designs I had already painted with the paste and then wash the garment and begin the process anew in that area.

I also found that you really need to apply the discharge paste thickly and leave the iron on it for a long time, or you'd end up with underdeveloped areas in the center of the design.

The discharge paste smells like rotting eggs and sulfur and maybe some other nasty stuff mixed in, but I spent hours on my hands and knees painting every single one of the stupid designs by hand.  There are hundreds of them and the spacing must be measured out.  I'll admit that I used slightly different spacing on the brown areas than I did on the green areas.  Don't tell anyone I did that?  I liked the lower pattern density better.

After all that, here is what I had:

I was very happy with how well the discharge paste worked; it really could have been an absolute disaster.  Also, bonus: you can see the skirt lying on the floor behind the mannequin.  At that point it didn't have a waistband yet.

My mother spun some nice wool yarn for me to blanket stitch the edges of the overcoat with.  That went pretty fast and easy once I found a needle that passed easily through two or three layers of boiled wool while threaded with wool yarn.

As I write this post, the overcoat is actually finished.  The shoulder pieces are attached as well, I just didn't document them.  I had to engage in a little fudgery on the should piece draping and the center front clasp, but I think it turned out fantastic.  I anticipate that the next time you'll see it will be at Genericon next week.  I'll be sure to get photos!

Since this post is getting a little long, I'll probably save the wig for my next post.  I will, however, go ahead and write about the dress.

Basically, the dress is a semi-fitted and slightly more than knee-length.  It is made out of some of the most beautiful raw silk I've ever found.  It was on sale, too, so bonus.  I still have some leftover in case I want to make a sash or scarf or something like that.  Sybill's dress has a leaf pattern woven into it, but like the starry overcoat fabric, I couldn't really find that anywhere for less than my whole bank account.  I decided to compromise and embroidery the sleeves, which is the only part of the dress you really see much of.

It's a very subtle embroidery, but to me it's very much in-line with the original costume design.

Sybill's dress has a tassel fringe that I wasn't looking forward to finding, but I was lucky to find an almost identical trim available on Etsy.  So I snatched it up like a baby on fire...only to find that it was hopelessly tangled up and matted.  Well, I guess I got what I paid for, and it wasn't unfixable.  A little hot water and combing later, it looked fine.

There you have it!  I'm waiting on the arrival of my glasses, and I'm hoping to find some trinkets and a suitable scarf before Genericon.

Next post: creating Sybill's curls


  1. I love your fabric choices for this costume, it really adds character to the outfit!
    Also thanks for sharing your discharge paste discovery, I'm going to have to try that eventually.

    1. Thank you! This has been a bit of an experiment with what I could get the various fabrics to do, but it came out quite well after all :D

      If you get the chance, definitely try discharge paste! It works pretty much exactly like screen printing ink, or, for that matter, regular fabric paint. There is a pretty good Instructable about it that I relied on to figure out how to use it, if you are interested:
      Best of luck!

  2. Thank you for the link! I really have an urge to find a cosplay I can use it with now XD

    1. Yeah, definitely! Oh, I just realized you have a cosplay blog too *adds you to my blog subscription feed thingy*

  3. This looks great! Just wondering what you used for shoes. They look spot on!

  4. Oops. I was looking at the reference photo. Ha!