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 Hack Fairy’s “Strapless Foundation sew-along: Her links aren’t working at this time, but here is the first entry: http://patternhackfairy.com/sew-along-bustier-week-one/
- Josh Hart’s “The Architecturally Engineered Bodice” presentation: this is not available for free – I purchased my copy after watching a panel he gave at Ikkicon 2016. http://joshuahartdesign.com/
- Brooks Ann Camper’s wedding couture blog posts: https://brooksann.com/sewing-room-blog/
- Sewaholic’s “Sewing a Boned Bodice with Plastic Boning” post http://sewaholic.net/sewing-a-boned-bodice-with-plastic-boning/
Pattern and Fabric
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.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
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.
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.
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?
Figure 9: Puff sleeves assembled!
I also found some cute red ribbon and put that on top of the red stripe, just because…
Figure 10: Lacy puff sleeves… now with even more ribbon!
Finally, I had to attach the ruffles to the bodice before I could 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!
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.
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 being sewn 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 topstitching it down. It’s extremely nerve-wracking… but I got it done!
Figure 13: Omg… you can see through the entire bodice!
Once the “buttons” were glued onto the front placket, Madoka’s bodice was finished!!!
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!
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