Tutorials – Asuka Plugsuit Part I

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This is not exactly a tutorial, so much as a documentation of my trials and successes with my Asuka plugsuit. This was a costume I dreamed of having for a couple years when I finally had the skill, and created it over about a month or longer in the summer of 2013 when I had nothing else to do! I hope this will be useful for other cosplayers whether you are making Asuka’s suit, another Eva pilot, or similar pilot suit/bodysuit/armor costumes. 🙂 My methods are definitely not the only methods, but I hope it gives you ideas. Please feel free to ask me any questions by e-mail at nyunyuaz@gmail.com or my social networking sites!

Part I is all the sewn parts. Hard parts are here in Part II!

First of, here are a bunch of references. There are a few differences depending on the artwork, namely the neckpiece, detailing on the knee, gloves, and look of the plugs. Figures are also a great source, but sometimes figures have way more detail or slightly different pieces. The TV animation is less detailed in general. I kind of combined everything and chose what worked best for me.

I also used the Cospatio suits as a reference. Obviously I did not make the entire top piece armor. It looks lovely, but I’m afraid I would be awkward like a Storm Trooper with limited mobility. I interpreted the artwork as having less hard “armor” parts from watching the anime. There are some other things I both like/dislike about the suits. I actually blew up and printed out the images of the backpack and used those as my pattern since it’s so hard to find a clear back shot of Asuka without her hair in the way.

Also study other cosplayers. See what you would like to imitate and would like to do differently. ACParadise and Cosplay.com are a great way to find other cosplayers.

After studying references and other cosplayers for forever, I gathered my materials. I decided on:

Red stretch vinyl from Spandex World [Link to Red Vinyl] [Link to all stretch vinyl]
A matte, wet look spandex bought locally [This appears to be similar, but more glossy]
Green sparkle nonstretch vinyl bought locally [Spandex House carries something similar.]

UDPATE: Since I get asked often – I used less than 3 yards of the red and less than 1 yard of the black. Three yards as a whole should be enough for a bodysuit if it your fabric is 60″ wide and you are small-medium size range. Ideally, I recommend doing your mockup and THEN buying fabric, but it doesn’t always work that way, does it?

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Whether you go matte or shiny is totally your preference. They don’t look glossy in the anime, but do in the artwork and official Cospa suits definitely have some vinyl. I just liked the look of the red vinyl so much. It really is hot and doesn’t breathe, though! I also like the shiny red/matte black contrast. I’ve also seen mesh and neoprene used, or wet look spandex is pretty awesome for the wholething. Whatever you choose, you must use a 4-WAY STRETCH fabric for this! Super important or it may not fit correctly, or you may have mobility issues. I found this out the hard way!

You will also need a mockup fabric with similar stretch to your actual fabric. I prefer a lighter color so I could draw on it. My first round of mockups with a the pink, and the red stretch satin is the second round of mockups. People asked me what they key to getting such a tight fit is – here it is! Do lots and lots of mockups until it fits without any wrinkles! Obviously it wrinkles when you move, but when you are standing up  straight with arms and legs at a mid-position, it should fit smoothly. Also, MAKE IT TIGHT! A baggy plugsuit is a sad plugsuit.

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I began with the Green Pepper Crystal Lake Ice Saking pattern. Another option I like is their Willamette Racing Suit pattern. Unlike a lot of patterns, these are super true to size and should fit if you measure yourself correctly. I previously modified the skating pattern for my Eternal Sailor Mercury fuku and had it around. I played with it some more until I had the top of the plugsuit. If you need to draw in seams like I did, simply draw them on, cut it out, and add half an inch for seam allowance where it will be sewn together! Also make sure to hike that leg opening way way up. The sleeves are perfect on this pattern also! However, it does not have legs, so-

I bought a pair of white leggings from Good Will, put them underneath the top of the plugsuit, and traced on where the seam goes. Then I cut up the leggings, added seam allowances, and had my leg pattern pieces! Sorry, but I didn’t take pictures of this- hope that makes sense.

When your mockup fits, have a buddy to draw on the arm/leg designs for you! It really is hard to do yourself!

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When you have made your last mockup and it fits flawlessly (only 1 leg and 1 arm are needed), you can cut your fabric. Even though the fabric is 4-way stretch, it has a bit more stretch horizontally- so I still like to follow the grainline rule of lining up the piece horizontally with the stretch – parallel to the selvage.

Tip: Vinyl can get ugly pin holes! Use pattern weights or only pin with the smallest pins within your seam allowances!

Because there is black peaking out under the arms, I had to add small underarm gussets out of the black fabric. So it’s a regular set in sleeve shape plus a gusset. You may also wish to go with raglan sleeves for arm mobility, but I like where the seams fell. They are right in the center of the backpack straps, so they get covered.

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When sewing the pieces together, I used: a ballpoint needle for spandex, a Microtex/sharp needle for the vinyl. Ballpoint needles sew stretch better, but the Sharps keep from making too big of holes in the vinyl. Yes, I had to switch between needles during the same project and it was kind of annoying! I also used polyester thread with wooly nylon on the bottom. This is the most durable combo, with the wooly nylon providing a bit more stretch. The seams are very secure even under stress! You don’t want to go popping a butt seam! Most importantly, use some sort of stretch stitch! I used a straight stretch stitch (chain stitch) that looks like this. All machines are different, so see what yours has. Finally, if you do topstitch over vinyl, you’ll either need A) a teflon foot B) tape on your foot or C) stabilizer as it sticks to the foot and doesn’t want to pass through the machine.

Down the front of the suit are two lines… at first I thought it was a zipper, then I decided that looked terrible and wrinkled a lot, so I tried decorative topstitching, then I ended up hand sewing on black elastic to create the two lines. Still not sure it is the best, but that’s what I did. I would try heat-transfer vinyl if I did it again.

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I tried similar things for the legs. A satin stitch did not stretch properly and got all warped. So I used one of the decorative stretch stitches on my machine for those. Not my favorite part, but it works. Again, would redo in heat-transfer vinyl!

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Sewing the back zipper was another fun part! I used a black invisible zipper. It looks super pretty, sure, but they are a bit delicate. I’m always afraid it will break under the stress of going up and down so tightly. I would recommend using a heavier duty zipper if you can. I hand sewed the zipper first just to make sure everything stretched evenly. You do need the fabric to stretch a bit before you sew it down, as the zipper does not stretch, and you need some flex in the back, otherwise you’ll have difficulty sitting. Then I machine sewed it using the usual invisible zipper method. I need a buddy to zip me up, too!

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For the green/black top detail, the green is some sparkly upholstery vinyl stuff. I sewed the black spandex around the edge like a bias tape (stitch in the ditch). The green detail on the top was actually not stretchy AT ALL. I had to tack it down by hand onto the red vinyl and adjust it after trying it on. Luckily that’s not an area that stretches much.

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The collar is a basic mandarin collar – tube. I made the blue part with some scrap dyed spandex leftovers and piping filler fed through it. I love the dimension it adds. It is not lined because it’s so hot and uncomfortable already. I clipped out as much bulk as I could on the inside to keep it cool. It looks ugly on the inside, but that’s OK!

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The 02 on the chest: I printed out the 02 in a similar font on sticker paper, cut it out with a craft knife, and placed it onto the suit. I checked while wearing it to make sure it was centered. Then I painted over it with black spray paint. Spray paint sticks surprisingly well to vinyl fabric. Again, if I did this again, I would use heat transfer vinyl. There is always the risk of overspray or spray getting under the tape, which happened just a bit.

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Sleeves! I did these 3 times over! The black piece is your basic set in sleeve. I cut the pattern for the red applique from the mockup where we drew on my arm. Then I used this method for stretch applique. I tried satin stitching, but the satin stitch doesn’t stretch properly, and so after a few wears the sleeve looked all warped. 🙁 I ended up redoing it with a straight chain stitch like she recommends in the tutorial. (These photos are of the satin stitch, not the straight stitch version.) That stabilizer makes the vinyl super easy to sew on! Just be cautious and use a press cloth if you use vinyl. I have yet to damage that stuff with heat, but just be safe. Lastly, I flipped it over and cut out the excess black fabric on the underside. It just helps it to be less bulky. As I mentioned, this costume is already hot. You want as few layers as possible.

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For the stripes on the legs, I really wanted them to be dimensional. This is tricky, because it’s an area that needs to stretch and shrink a lot with movement. I made tubes out of my black spandex and stuffed them with strips of 3mm craft foam. Then I had a buddy mark where the stripes need to go while I was wearing it. I sewed the front of the stripes down to the leg with a machine, flipped them over, and hand sewed the rest underneath. Then they get sewn into the seam between the top and the leg. This took a few times ripping out and adjusting before the fit is right. If they are too loose, it will look totally silly when you stand with your legs apart.

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Gloves! Again, gotta give credit to Crash Culture! Her Easy Glove Tutorial is the best ever! Pretty life changing. I sewed mine like hers – sandwiching fabric in the stabilizer, tracing the hand pattern on, but I sewed it with a stretch stitch and wooly nylon and did not need any glue to reinforce it. Try to make the whole hand with one continuous thread if you can. UPDATE: They held up over a year and wearing 5+ times. I think these are my favorite part of the whole thing. I made them separate from the suit so that I could snack, pick my nose…whatever lol xD The bangle part hides the seam anyways!

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Once I had the glove, I had to add on the bangle part. I cut the hexagon shape out of some 1″ upholstery foam. Then the vinyl pieces look like below.

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I sewed them up and stuffed the vinyl through the armhole! I also sewed in another strip of fabric into the hole where my hand fits through. For the buttons, I cut small holes and glued the bases in. For the little screen on the back of the hand, I cut up a clear orange plastic folder thing from Office Max and glued it on. (UPDATE: These did come off over time, so I redid them with a stencil and spray paint.)

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The backpack straps are similar to the leg stripes, but instead of just strips, I had to get more crafty with the shapes. First I drafted them out using craft foam scraps. Then I added a bit of seam allowance to the vinyl, while trimming down the foam pieces. It gets bulky fast! These are the finished shapes. I sewed them up right side to right side, and flipped them right side out. I had issues when trying to stuff with one continuous pieces of foam, so you need two pieces of foam, coming in on either side, to fill it in.

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The following things attach to my suit with snaps: backpack straps, boob armor, neckpiece, plugs, shoulder pauldrons. Yeah it’s a lot of snaps! I use the 5’8″ metal snaps you can get at any craft/sewing store. They are VERY strong!

Check out my plug tutorial if you are interested in those!

Shoes were the very last thing. I bought these from Payless. They are not only comfy, but they have a nice wedge. Eva pilots have long legs! I have seen a couple cosplayers use stiletto heels, and while I love how it lengthens the leg, the look wasn’t quite right in my mind (not to mention I can’t walk in stilettos to save my life). So a wedge is a nice compromise. You could go with a higher wedge, too!

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UPDATE: Initially, I tried gluing the feet of the suit down to shoes. There was color bleeding and the bond wasn’t perfect. I was very unhappy, I went back and redid them, completely sewn.

I appliqued the black designs on the feet, and made a dart down the front to better fit them to my ankle. Then I traced out another piece of fabric in the shape of the sole and sewed it on. The shoe just slips in through the ankle since it’s stretchy. I added on a piece of craft foam to the bottom for traction. You can also glue on actual rubber soling. I have done this on recent costumes and it works very well! Silicone caulking is the best adhesive for this.

One last thing I’ll squeeze in, is that I don’t like to wear regular underwear with this costume. The lines around the hips/legs would show through the fabric – eep! So, I wear a sleeveless dance bodytight underneath that can be easily washed. Some shapewear could also work as long as it comes all the way down to your ankles. I don’t wear a bra because the orange armor pieces cover that area and it’s not really needed.

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Here are some other progress pictures:

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That concludes Part I! Now on to Part II!