Pandora: My first costume – looking back


In early 2010 I was chatting online with my girlfriend and some of her mates, and chuckling as they discussed their cosplay plans for the London May Expo. This was to be my first anime fandom event since Amecon 03, and I had still yet to cosplay (wearing wings at the first Animecon doesn’t count). As the pair were going to be cosplaying from something I’d not heard of called Axis Powers Hetalia, I did some websearches to see what the characters looked like. None of them particularly stood out, but I liked the look of Belarus’s dress and jokingly suggested I could join in by cosplaying as her. I was immediately bombarded by earnest messages about how this was the greatest idea ever and that I must do this now! So I said I’d think about it, and set to watching some episodes to see if I actually liked the character.

As it turned out, I did, and weeks later I started planning.

Dress, petticoat, apron and gloves
It could probably do with a good ironing too!


For a first attempt (with some help) I don’t think I did a bad job. The construction is solid, the cheat for the collar worked, and I got a fair bit of praise for both the costume, and for my bravery! But there’s a few things I’d change with the benefit of hindsight:

The tutorial I found for the dress was pretty good (see it here), but I used a material that was far too heavy for it. The thickness of the fabric made it hard to hem properly, very tricky to make the tubes for elasticating the waist, and impossible to join the bodice to the skirt. I ended up wearing it as two seperate pieces. Something lighter would also have helped with a number of other issues. I  made the bodice way too large, and underestimated how unflattering it looked loose. I’m pretty hefty, but this made me look obese, and wasted the effort I made padding a bra.

The sleeves were also far more complicated than I realised. I picked apart a shirt to get a template, and called in help from my Mum, but even then they were a bit of a bodge. A lighter material would have helped with the puffed upper sleeve, but really I should have used a pattern, or gone with non-puffy. The cuffs came out OK though, but an opaque fabric would have been better. I had to double-up the material to stop the blue showing through.

The bit I’m still proud of is the collar. Rather than mess around making a collar and surround, I used a scoop neckline on the dress and wore a shirt underneath. The ruffles around the neckline are sewn to the dress not the collar. This saved an incredible amount of time and worked really well.

The apron is not bad either. I think a thicker fabric again would have helped, and maybe a fancier lace round the edges, but I wouldn’t remake it if I wore this again.  The belt it’s attached to has a few flaws though. It’s a bit too long, and the velcro for securing it at the back was badly placed. The back bow (which I made as a seperate piece) could also do with some interfacing – it was droopy.

While the petticoat was servicable, more tulle would have made the skirt poofier (and been more flattering to the waistline!) but the other accessories, like the bows and gloves were fine. The heels I wore looked great, but I should have sat down more. I didn’t realise how long and tiring Expo days are, and had to switch to an ugly, but comfier,  pair of trainers for the second day.

The one thing I’m really not happy with is the wig. In my defence this was my first foray into cosplay, and I didn’t want to spend too much money in case I didn’t enjoy it, but I wore a party wig! And I didn’t know how vital wig caps were either. They say you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, so it’s not all bad. But I have become a bit evangelical about good quality wigs ever since!

Also looks terrible because the waistband has slipped down

Overall it’s not too bad for a first costume, and over on Cosplay Island I still get the odd compliment, but if I was still into the Hetalia  fandom I’d probably remake the dress entirely, and just adjust the acessories. I’d get a better wig too!


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