Cosplay Sewing for Hot Weather

Fatale pattern from Ichigo Black for Cosplay by McCall's

The right costume makes you look cool even when it’s blazing out. Fatale pattern from Ichigo Black.

As we slog through some of the hottest days of the year, it’s hard to think about getting all dressed up. Sunny days may be great for the beach, but they’re definitely not ideal for wearing complicated multi-layered outfits. Sure, if your costume involves a swimsuit you’re all set, but that seriously limits your options. So what to do if your favorite convention lands smack in the middle of the summer heat? Do you have to sacrifice cosplay splendor in the name of comfort? Here are our best tips for keeping cool in costume.

Linen, rayon, and cotton are some of the most comfortable fabrics to wear in hot weather

Linen, rayon, and cotton are some of the most comfortable fabrics to wear in hot weather.

Natural fabrics and open weaves are your friend…

Synthetic fabrics may be inexpensive and wrinkle-free, but beware of polyester in summer heat. Sticky, sweaty, smelly! Breathable plant-based fibers like cotton, linen, and rayon will be much more comfortable to wear, and more pleasant for the people who sit next to you at panels. Look for light, open weaves like gauze for even more comfort – they’ll be cool and comfortable even if you need a couple layers for opacity. Natural fibers of course are prone to wrinkling, especially when heat and moisture are involved, but you can turn this to your advantage by choosing rugged, weathered characters for whom a little extra rumple just adds to the effect.

Moisture-wicking microfiber spandex, wet-look spandex, and metallic mesh

Moisture-wicking microfiber spandex, wet-look spandex, and metallic mesh

…Unless your outfit is skintight.

Much as we love cotton and linen, they’re not going to cut it if you need a bodysuit or other skintight outfit. Tight-fitting clothing is generally going to be sweatier than loose and floaty, especially when spandex is a factor. So for this type of costume, you want to pick up some tricks from athletic clothing. Look for moisture-wicking fabrics that pull the sweat away from your skin so it can evaporate and cool you off, or use stretch mesh for parts of your outfit (if appropriate for your costume.) Online shopping will be key if you don’t have a good local source for athletic fabrics, so plan ahead.

coated fabrics like vinyl, pvc, and metallics are awful to wear in heat

Great cosplay fabrics, but not in hot weather.

Where possible, avoid coated fabrics like faux leather and metallics, as the coating is usually some kind of plastic film that will multiply your overheating problems. (Been there. Will not be wearing head-to-toe black pleather in June again.) If you really need that shiny look, wet-look spandex or dotted metallic foil will be slightly more comfortable, and metallic mesh can be layered over other fabrics to add luster and interesting texture without sacrificing breathability.

The visible facing of this jacket is made of velvet, but the rest of the body is lined in breathable muslin, and the sleeves are lined with slippery rayon so it fits easily over other garments

The visible facing of this jacket is made of velvet, but the rest of the body is lined in lightweight muslin, and the sleeves are lined with slippery rayon so it doesn’t snag on other layers.

Lighten up the layers.

If you’ve got a many-layered costume, your hot-weather goal will be to keep each layer as light and bulk-free as possible. Leave pieces unlined if possible, or choose lightweight, breathable cotton linings like muslin or voile. If you have pieces like a jacket and vest that won’t ever be worn separately, consider combining them into a single garment so you can cut away the extra layers in the areas where they’re not visible.

Victor pattern from Cosplay by McCall's

If your plan looks like this you’d better hope that convention center has really good air conditioning.

That said, sometimes layering can be a good thing: for difficult-to-clean costumes, a machine-washable under-layer is a must. A cotton or linen shirt or chemise will help to prevent stains and smells on your delicate outer garments.

Various types of mesh fabrics

Mesh, net, and lace can be used strategically for ventilation.

Ventilate.

Have you ever noticed little eyelets in the armpit of a windbreaker or raincoat? Those are there to make the jacket breathable even though the fabric isn’t. Consider doing the same for your cosplay, especially if it’s made in a dense or synthetic fabric – you can use metal eyelets if they suit the aesthetic of the costume, or hand sew them if you’re going for a historical look. Mesh inserts and open fabrics like lace are also good ways to up the breathability of your costume.

Butterick costume accessories pattern B5936

Butterick costume accessories pattern B5936

Think about the accessories.

Staying hydrated is essential for long convention days, especially in hot weather. You may not want to lug the extra weight, but carrying your own water bottle can be the difference between a fun day and collapsing into an exquisitely costumed heap. Incorporate a bag or deep pockets into your costume, or even make a dedicated water bottle carrier that matches the rest of your outfit. If it saves you a bit of waiting in line for the water fountain, it’ll be worth it.

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