The Dorky Diva

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Welcome to The Dorky Diva! I'm Savanna, a Star Wars fanatic who tries to sprinkle fandom into every day life. Follow along for new cosplay updates, outfit inspiration, beauty reviews, convention coverage, and more!

The Clawdite Chronicles 4.17.21 - Making the Under Suit, Vest, and Skirt

I've been making so much progress on my Zam Wesell costume and I'm excited to share some updates here. For my birthday this year, I only wanted to take a couple days off work and focus on this costume project. In just a few short days, I completed the vest and skirt. I also completed the final pair of pants and shirt a few weeks ago, so I have lots of progress to share today. 

Final Under Suit

During my last update, I shared my prototype pants and felt confident that I was ready to start sewing the real pair. The day before I planned on sewing the real pair, I was searching through more reference photos and noticed another bubble seam that I originally hadn't caught in my first round of prototypes. The bubble seam is on the inner thigh and I couldn't figure out how to reconstruct my pants to include that seam. After several hours of thinking and sketching, I solved the mystery! I made a tiny little doll-sized pair of pants to test my new pattern and it worked like a charm. I got straight to work the next day making the real pants and it was almost a complete success. 

When I finished the pants at 8pm after sewing literally all day, I noticed that one of the inner thigh panels looked shinier than the rest of the pants. Again, I was stumped and couldn't figure out why this happened! I decided to sleep on it and come back the next morning to see if I could figure out the issue. It turned out that I accidentally cut the inner thigh panel in a perpendicular direction to the rest of the pants, so the grain of the fabric was off and it was reflecting the light differently than the other pieces. Instead of ripping that pair apart, I decided to start from scratch. The result of that decision was a perfect pair of pants!

Next up was the shirt. Thankfully Zam's under shirt is pretty simple because only the sleeves are visible on the final costume. It has a bubble seam down the outside of the sleeve, but thankfully no bubble seams anywhere else. I used a long sleeve shirt that already fit me as a base pattern and quickly sewed up the top. I added a couple darts on the back to help make it more fitted around my waist. The actual shirt that is worn in the movie is cropped just under the bust and has black fabric for the rest of the torso. I assume this choice was made to help the costume breathe a little more. I may eventually do this with mine, but for now it's all neoprene. 

Making the Vest

The next piece to make was the vest. In my previous update, I talked about choosing the leather for the vest. After settling on the right color, I needed to figure out how to make the pattern. Zam's vest is very fitted throughout the torso and has lacing up the sides that go from the underarm all the way down to the waist. The front has a zipper that is eventually covered by her armor. There are no visible seams on the back of the vest. I started off by taking a shirt that already fits me, traced around it, and cut the pieces out of some scrap cotton material. I wanted all of the edges of the vest to look very clean and finished, so I took extra care to make a facing for the front, sides, and collar. My first pattern was definitely on the right track, but not anywhere near perfect. 

Since my birthday was right around the corner, my parents got me a dress form as a gift. I knew that a dress form would really help me fit the vest (and any future sewing projects) to my body perfectly, so I was really happy to finally have one! As soon as I got it, I pinned my original vest pattern to the dress form and figured out where I needed to alter it. From there, I made a new pattern out of muslin and basted it all together on my sewing machine. Aside from not sewing the zipper in very well, it turned out great! I took apart the fabric vest and used those pieces to cut out my leather, which was totally nerve-wracking. 

My regular sewing machine worked very well on the lambskin leather by using a leather specific needle and heavy duty thread. Thankfully I didn't run into any issues sewing it all together. I used double-sided fabric tape to help stick the facing to the inside rather than topstitching it. The next step was to set all of the grommets along the sides. I ordered some grommets online that a friend recommended and when they arrived in the mail a week later, I immediately set them. Just like the vest made for the movie, I used nine total grommets along each seam (36 total since there are four seams) and spaced them evenly. I also set grommets in the shoulder caps that are turned up and attached to the top of the vest with leather lacing pulled through. 

Making the Skirt

The last thing I've worked on recently is the skirt. Zam wears a half-skirt (also called a kama) that is entirely made of leather rectangles that are laced together. Every rectangle is cut, punched, and dyed by hand. Her actual skirt in the movie has roughly 168 rectangles with 12 rows and 14 columns. Since my hips are a little bigger than Leeanna Walsman who plays Zam, I decided to make my skirt 12x16, which totals 192 pieces. Those two extra columns would help bring the skirt to my hip bones rather than be too short on the sides. Each row of rectangles gets progressively wider as they reach the bottom to flare out the skirt, but the height stays consistent throughout. I used a 6-7oz hide of leather for the skirt and a rotary cutter to evenly cut all of the pieces. The rotary cutter made the whole process very quick and streamlined, so I got all of my pieces cut within two hours. After that, I used a 1/4 inch oblong punch to create holes in each corner of every rectangle, which totals 768 holes. I thought this would take a few days to complete, but it only took me two hours. So within just four hours, I got all of my pieces ready to be dyed!

I started early the next day to dye all 192 of the rectangles for my skirt. Zam's skirt looks like a different color in almost every photograph I've found, but one thing is consistent- there is a wide range of tones throughout the skirt. There are brownish purples, darker purples, pinkish purples, etc. I really wanted to capture this somewhat random pattern, so I ended up mixing three separate batches of dye. After a few rounds of trial and error with scrap leather, I found the three tones I wanted to use. Here are the formulas I created with Fiebings leather dye:

Colors used: Oxblood (Red), Navy Blue, Cordovan (Brown), and Purple

Formulas (see below for photos of samples): 

Sample 5.4 Base Purple (used for roughly 80% of rectangles)
3 tsp of Cordovan
2 tsp of Oxblood
1 tsp of Navy Blue
1 tsp of Purple
1 cup of denatured alcohol

Sample 6.3 Maroon Purple (used for roughly 10% of rectangles)
2 tsp of Cordovan
2 tsp of Oxblood
3/4 tsp of Purple
1/3 cup of denatured alcohol

Sample 3.2 Dark Purple (used for roughly 10% of rectangles)
5 1/2 tsp of Cordovan
5 tsp of Oxblood
2 1/2 tsp of Navy Blue
2 tsp of Purple
1/2 cup of denatured alcohol

Rather than rubbing the dye into the leather, I chose to dip-dye all of my rectangles so they would have a more even color. I made a little hook with some wire to dip each piece and ensure that every little bit of the leather would be colored. Before I started dyeing, I laid out all of my pieces on a black garbage bag in the exact order that they would look when I laced them together. I hand-picked each one, decided which color dye to use, and placed it back where it came from until they were all done. This helped me choose which random pieces I wanted to have as a dark purple or maroon tone. Only about 20% of the pieces were dyed in the dark purple and maroon purple colors. The remaining 80% were all in the base purple color. 

After leaving the pieces out to dry for an hour, I took some neatsfoot oil and rubbed it into each piece with a soft cloth to help protect the leather and keep it from getting too dried out or stiff. When that was dry, I took some acrylic brown paints, diluted them with denatured alcohol, and rubbed them into a few pieces here and there to weather them a bit more. You can see in the photo below how the rectangles changed in color with the oil and weathering added. 

While I was dyeing my rectangles, I also dyed the leather lacing that I needed to lace up the skirt. I used white 3/16" Deerskin lacing. I used my Sample 3.2 color as the mixture for the lacing color. I originally bought 72 feet of lacing for the skirt, but realized about halfway through that I wouldn't have enough to complete the project. I ended up using about 100 feet of lacing for the entire skirt when it was all finished. After meticulously lacing all of the pieces together for a couple hours each day, I finished the skirt in four days. It has such a beautiful weight and flexibility to it! Whoever originally designed this element of the costume had a really great eye for detail and the mind of an engineer. It was a tedious piece to make, but I'm so thrilled with how it turned out. 

The leather belt on my dress form above is just a placeholder for the time being. I will be making a custom belt to hold up the skirt that will be hidden by the cummerbund on Zam's costume. The cummerbund and cowl/cape are my next pieces to work on. After that, it's time for armor! I'm really proud of how well this has all come together in just over a month. Stay tuned for my next update!


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