By Koholint

Introduction

Madoka was easily the most complicated and time-consuming of all the Puella Magi Madoka Magica cosplays we created in 2017. She took 3 separate seamstresses on the order of 3 months to create, not counting time spent researching or sourcing fabric – this is actual work time! I made Madoka’s bodice, her multiple bows, her choker, and glove toppers. Today I’ll be talking about her bodice only, and will talk about her accessories in a separate post.

Madoka’s bodice is built like a traditional boned bodice. I have made several in the past, but wanted to make sure Madoka’s was extra quality, so I did a lot of research and mostly referenced Pattern Hack Fairy’s “Strapless Foundation” sew-along.

A list of the references I used:

Pattern and Fabric

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Figure 1: Madoka Kaname, official reference

I tried two different commercial bodice patterns before giving up and making one from my tried-and-true McCall’s 7352 princess seam dress pattern.

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Figure 2: Version 1.0 of the bodice pattern… I can’t remember how many we had total, but it was at least 3!

It took several fittings to get right, but once I did, I was able to get to cutting fabric… once we found it, that is. It took us a ridiculous amount of time to find the perfect fabrics! Madoka’s pink color is somehow not that easy to find…

The fabrics used on Madoka were mostly purchased at JoAnn and Golden D’or in the Dallas fashion district. The bodice fashion fabric was a pink mystery fabric (possibly a matte heavy crepe-back satin) with an accompanying yellow matte bridal satin; the boning support layer was quilting cotton; and the lining was pink china silk. The darker pink bows were made of matte bridal satin, and the red choker, princess seam stripes, and sleeve stripes were all red satin taffeta. The ruffles were made of synthetic peachskin (sourced from JoAnn and Online Fabric Store), which I finished with a rolled hem in Madoka’s light pink color.

We made a few minor design tweaks/decisions based on how we wanted Madoka’s bodice to look: first of all, we had to make the bodice look good on a real person, not a middle-school anime girl. To do this, we shortened the length of the bodice to end at the natural waist, and included a shallow “v” at the front. The “v” gives the illusion of a longer torso and narrower waist. And unlike most traditional bodices, Madoka’s bodice had to be designed to open at the front, not the back or sides. This is because the back of her bodice has a heart-shaped cutout, which prevents it from opening at the back, and it also has straps and sleeves, which prevents having a side zipper. Therefore, the front was the only place from which it could open.

Next, we included a red strip along the princess seams in the front. This is present in some references, but not all…

Figure 3: Don’t you love inconsistent reference images? The left has the red princess seam stripe, while the right does not…

We decided that including the stripes would add more visual interest to the bodice, and would also help tie in the red choker, sleeve stripes, and binding on her petal skirt.

Another design tweak we included was with the ruffles. The ruffles are how we tied all of our outfits together – since the Madoka Magica girls all have very different styles of outfits and lack a uniform “look”, we decided to at least make all their ruffles in the same way and use complementary-colored threads on the rolled hem.

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Figure 4: Examples of the rolled hems on white peachskin, with our Puella Magi’s colors!

I included other minor tweaks to Madoka’s design during the sewing phase, mostly because I’d find pretty lace in my stash or randomly thought of an idea to make the bodice even cuter.

Sewing

After finishing the pattern, deciding on design changes, and sourcing the fabric, it was time to cut things out and sew them. Cutting out Madoka’s bodice was not an easy feat – the bodice itself is made up of 7 pieces, all of which needed to be cut very accurately, and in total it has 3 layers. This adds up to 21 pieces that require a LOT of care with cutting and marking. I was sewing like crazy at the time, trying to work on Kyoko and Madoka simultaneously, so I enlisted help from my friend Suski Jane, whom I can trust to do things accurately. She helped me cut and mark every single piece of the bodice lining and boning support layer. I cut the fashion layer and interfaced it with Pellon Shape-Flex, a cotton interfacing which I’m fond of and can trust to be sturdy enough for the strain this bodice would be under when worn.

The fashion layer took some time to assemble due to the details involved. I sewed two different lace trims (one of which had beads) from my stash into the front princess seams, so I needed to be very careful and slow while sewing this. On top of this seam went the red princess seam stripe. Therefore, this seam needed to be done EXTREMELY accurately and carefully, since redoing any part of it would be a huge pain in the butt.

Figure 5: Close-ups of the lace trims and red bias tape stripe

The red stripe was made from bias tape, which I made from a red satin taffeta fabric that I had in my stash. I made extra pieces for her sleeve stripes, too.

Once every layer was sewn together, I had to mark the boning placement on the cotton boning support layer. I used a combination of rigilene sew-on boning and spiral steel boning (prepared by The Geeky Seamstress). The rigilene was used everywhere except for the princess seams, which were spiral steel. I used cotton strapping for the spiral steel casings, and tipped the rigilene with a little bit of a cream denim I had left over from another project. I like to cut my rigilene tipping with pinking shears to eliminate messy fraying.

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Figure 6: The boning support layer with all the boning in place.

Next, I sewed the boning support layer and the fashion layers together so that I could treat them as one and do test-fits on the model. At this point, I did what Pattern Hack Fairy does and sewed in bias-cut strips of stretched silk organza above the bust area to stabilize it. (I didn’t get photos of this step, sorry!)

I was puzzled for a while as to how to close the front of the bodice – bodices are generally opened at the back with a zipper or lacing, but Madoka’s bodice absolutely required it to open from the front, and a zipper wouldn’t be strong or discreet enough. I finally decided to use hook-and-eye tape, which worked perfectly.

I needed to make a white placket to hide the hook-and-eye tape, so I made one from white Casa Satin. I also discovered a very lovely lace trim with iridescent detailing in my stash, so I sewed that onto it to make it even cuter! Here it is with the rose “buttons”, another cutesy idea I thought of. The “buttons” are actually scrapbook stickers from Hobby Lobby.

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Figure 7: The placket with its cute rose “buttons”

Finally, I marked and prepared a waist stay. Waist stays help keep a bodice in place by using a piece of ribbon at the natural waist, cut with negative ease. This prevents the bodice from slipping up or down! I was very particular about the type of ribbon used to make the waist stay, and I managed to find just enough of a piece of petersham ribbon in my stash to create it. (Petersham ribbon resembles grosgrain ribbon, except for the fact that the edges are “scalloped”. It can be unfortunately difficult to source at brick-and-mortar stores). This got hand-tacked to the seam allowance of the boning support layer.

At this point, I needed to set the bodice aside and focus on the straps and sleeves. I never meant for the straps of the bodice to be functional, aka, I didn’t want them to be “weight-bearing” – the support for this bodice comes from the boning and the way it is constructed, so the sleeves and straps are purely decorative.

The puff sleeves are made from a slash-n-spread sleeve pattern based on the basic sleeve pattern that came with McCall’s 7352 princess seam dress pattern. The straps were “patterned” until I had a shape I liked. The puff sleeves also have two tiers of ruffles at the bottom, and here I got creative again and dove into my stash for more lace and lace fabric to go on top of the base fabrics. I finished the base layer with another rolled hem, then gathered them all together until they were ruffly enough for my taste.

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Figure 8: Lacy sleeve ruffles! There’s 4 layers of fabrics and lace that went into these.

The ruffles were attached to the red bias tape stripe I made earlier. Aren’t these just the cutest sleeves ever?

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Figure 9: Puff sleeves assembled!

I also found some cute red ribbon and put that on top of the red stripe, just because…

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Figure 10: Lacy puff sleeves… now with even more ribbon!

Finally, I had to attach the ruffles to the bodice before I could to attach the straps. After that, I tacked down the straps, and then attached the sleeves to the straps. The “armscye” of Madoka’s bodice is a little bit awkward, but I made it work!

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Figure 11: Oh my gosh it looks like a thing!!!

At this point I was dying at how cute the bodice looked! All that was left was the white placket, lining, and heart cutout on the back. The placket was the easiest of these to tackle, so I sewed that on next.

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Figure 12: EXCITED SCREAMING… IT’S A THING. Look at that placket!

I couldn’t do the heart cutout on the back until the lining was sewed in, and unfortunately an issue was discovered when the lining was was being sewed in – during all the fittings, the bodice stretched out to conform to the model’s body better, but the lining hadn’t been part of that. Therefore, it was now too small, and I had to do a very quick and panicked last-minute redo of the middle back lining piece to make it fit. Then the model hand-sewed the lining to the rest of the bodice so that I could focus on other costume pieces.

Once the lining was in, I was finally able to make the heart cutout. This basically involved making a “facing”, sewing it to the outside layer, cutting all the way through the bodice (yes, all three layers of it…), and turning the facing to the inside before top stitching it down. It’s extremely nerve-wracking… but I got it done!

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Figure 13: Omg… you can see through the entire bodice!

Once the “buttons” were glued onto the front placket, Madoka’s bodice was finished!!!

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Figure 14: She’s DONE (save for the “buttons”)! Wig and petal skirt by Victoria Bane, puff skirt by The Geeky Seamstress.

Final Thoughts

Madoka’s bodice was an extremely involved project, but it was probably my best piece during all of 2017. I’m extremely proud of how it turned out despite the multitude of challenges it threw at me. I’m writing about this a year later, so a lot of the pain and panic I had when sewing it is not as raw anymore, but I still look back on this and think, “HOLY COW! How did I finish that???”

I adore all the little details and design tweaks I included, and I’m super happy with how much the project helped me as a seamstress. I can’t wait for my next bodice project!

– Koholint

*** THIS ARTICLE IS ALLOWED WITH MY PERMISSION ON COSMICCOTERIE.COM ONLY ***

GeekySeamstress here again! Almost as soon as Cosmic Coterie officially decided to tackle Madoka Magica for our big build this year, Koholint and I started brainstorming Madoka. We split the labor so that Koho took the upper half of Madoka and I took the lower half. I’ve followed several Madoka cosplayers over the years, and I was absurdly excited about making that ridiculous donut skirt.

The Petticoat

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My first step in tackling my portion of Madoka was the petticoat. That giant donut skirt needed a support structure for the floof, so I turned to Jessie Pridemore‘s Madoka petticoat tutorial as a starting point. There are 10+ fabric layers total in the petticoat: 5 layers of chiffon circle skirts with serger-gathered satin ribbon ruffles, a layer of cotton crinoline, and 5 layers of gathered double-circle skirts made from tulle. There are also 120 yards of satin ribbon attached to the hem which also add to the overall fluffiness.

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As Dani and I started leveling the hems, I realized I wasn’t getting the volume I wanted out of the petticoat, and I was worried the donut skirt would ultimately weigh the petticoat down. Koholint pointed me in the direction of some tutu research she’d done. Tutus layer shorter layers on top of longer layers to create a fuller silhouette, which was perfect for our needs. Plus, it was kind of a cool nod to the ballet inspiration behind Madoka!

Bulk at the waist was a major concern, especially since Dani has a fairly short torso and we needed the bodice to be snug, so I attached all the skirt layers to a short yoke with an elastic waistband (and some pink satin ribbon I had on hand just because).

The Donut Skirt

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Fun fact: the original had so much bulk that I had to use pliers to pull my needle through.
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Round 1

The donut skirt was way more of a challenge than I initially anticipated. I went back and forth on a couple of approaches, but ultimately wound up using The Dangerous Ladies guide to Madoka’s skirt as a starting point. I originally set out constructing it as a super long gathered rectangle on both the top and lining layers. I quickly realized this would create far too much bulk under the bodice. To counter this issue, I opted to just gather the fashion layer (underlined with tulle) and create a circle skirt lining. Both layers were attached via a waistband which went under the bodice. The gathered portions sat just beneath the bottom of the bodice. The skirt closes with a lapped zipper.

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Getting there…

Figuring out an appropriate length for the fashion layer took some trial and error. Ultimately the fashion layer was about 3-4″ longer than the lining, which gave me room to stuff the skirt with extra tulle for that ridiculous puff.

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Still trying to get that shape!

The ruffles on the skirt are made from 5″ bias cut peachskin. Since the magical girls in Madoka Magica don’t really have a uniform design, we decided to make sure we all had peachskin ruffles with rolled hems in our accent colors to bring a little uniformity to the designs. Koholint took care of the rolled hems, and I gathered them on my serger. The ruffles are sandwiched between the lining and fashion layers.

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You can see me stuffing the crap out of that donut skirt in the top left! Bows and bodice by the crazy talented Koholint.

The Top Skirt

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The pink top skirt was mostly handled by Victoria Bane. I drafted out the pink skirt based on the circle skirt we used for the petticoat and lining of the donut skirt. We had to remove a petal to get it to lay right on the donut skirt, so in hindsight, I would have drafted it as a 3/4 circle skirt instead.

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Vickie airbrushed the white gradient onto the petals using Creatix paint and sewed up the skirt (side note: I’m still dying over how smooth that gradient is. Vickie rocks). The gems were scrapbooking stickers we found at Jo-Ann’s and glued on.

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Other Pieces

Since the skirts are so ridiculously short, I made a quick set of bloomers using Colette’s free Madeline pattern. I kind of wish I’d added a higher waistband for these since they ride pretty low, but they do the job.

Dani’s stockings were generously donated by We Love Colors. To create the ruffles at the top of the stockings, I stitched some reject peachskin ruffles from Dani’s skirt onto elastic bands. We tried using 2″ ruffles for the skirt initially, but they were waaaaayyyy too short to show up properly. We added a little extra flair to the stocking ruffles by adding some leftover trim from Koholint’s fabric stash.

Final Thoughts

Despite the crazy amount of work that went into these skirts, I’m quite pleased with the final result. There are a few things that I’d go back and fix if I were doing it again (side eyes spots with uneven gathers), but the silhouette is pretty damn nice. On to the next build!

Photos by Ash Snap Em Photography

Who’s your favorite character from Madoka?