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Ben writes: I have looked at a few of your outfits and tried a couple on, I really do like them but find them abit tight around the crotch area, have you any suggestions on how I can solve this problem.
There are a number of possible fitting problems, but it's a little tricky to give precise advice without being able to see. Hopefully one of these will help:
  1. If the crotch is too high, you need to lengthen the body - reduce the scaling factor so the length of the pattern for the body is closer to your original measurements.
  2. If the crotch is tight front-to-back, but okay between the legs, you need to change the crotch curve - draw it deeper and/or consider moving the crotch point further from the centre front. (You may want to double-check your thigh circumference in this case.)
  3. If the suit is too tight around the hips, you may need to reduce the scaling so the pattern's width is closer to your original measurements.
I've updated the section on scaling measurements, so you may want to consider the new version, where it talks about how much your back's length changes when you try to touch your toes, and how to factor that with the fabric's stretch.
Christopher writes: Why does it seem so hard to find someone who can make these (i.e. difficult sewing/ takes too long/ etc.)?
It's hard because it's a specialist market: most private individuals will rent something 'good enough' from costume shops, and most organisations that need bodysuits - TV, film, even amateur theatre - will also need other sorts of costumes, so they'll have their own costumes department; bodysuits are, for a qualified costumier, fairly easy. (The Spiderman films largely used computer-graphics while Spiderman was in full costume, as I'm sure you'll know.)

The basic suit's easy enough, but sewing on patches or making a mixed-colour suit in such a way that it still lays properly on a body and looks/feels good is moderately tricky.

The only people I know of who specialise in bodysuits (as opposed to costume-makers who do them occasionally) are www.spandexwear.com, about whom I've only ever heard good things. They already have a couple of Spiderman suit patterns worked out that you can see under their 'Costume Package Menu' - the traditional blue and red one ($290), and the black and white one ($360). (You may need to register to see the larger pictures; look for the instructions for their 'library'.)

They're very flexible and will happily discuss options with you, although they apparently refuse to put the black webbing on the blue and red costume for copyright/trademark reasons. For comparison, their basic full-coverage bodysuit is $90 - the price difference is the increased complexity of colour blocking (making the base suit multi-colour) and sewing on the applique patches. You'll notice, if you consider plain fabric costs, that it's mainly their experience and skill that you're paying for.

Fundamentally, I'd imagine that getting enough orders to make a viable living from a bodysuit/costume business is the big trick. Spandexwear do it by being Internet-based, and by having done it for long enough to have built up a lot of experience in making their costumes - you build a lot of skill making similar things day in day out - and making them good - the seams even, the fit excellent.

Actually, you might also try http://www.spandexman.com, although they still haven't responded to my email about shoulder zips, so I haven't bought anything from them.


How much would a skintight, full-body-hooded, "somewhat stretchy" suit cost if one made their own?
That depends where you're starting from: If you have nothing and only want one suit, you're probably better off buying from Spandexwear because sewing machines and the one or two bad suits you'll make represent an up-front cost. If you're particularly interested in learning to make them yourself, and/or want several suits, then...

You'll need at least one sewing machine; look online and/or in the yellow pages for your local sewing shop. Also look online for sewing groups - many have forums, and you may find some that meet in your area. You don't sound particularly shy about this suit, but even if you were, most people are only too happy to help with novel projects, and it's always good to have someone to discuss things face to face.

The cheapest option is a conventional sewing machine that can do zig-zag - you use that for the major seams as well as inserting the zip/buttons/elastic and applying any patches. I've never made a suit using only a zig-zag machine so I don't know how well it works, but it seems plausible based on a few other things I've made. The adult 'racing suit' pattern by www.thegreenpepper.com suggests the zig-zag approach. I'd say you also need a 'walking foot' for the machine, and a zip foot for zips.

The more expensive option is a proper 3-4 thread overlock machine *and* a zig-zag machine - you use the overlocker for the internal seams, and the zig-zag for the rest. Overlocked seams are likely to be much more robust (they stretch better than zig-zag) and even.

You'll need steel pins (so you can find them with a magnet); sharp dressmaking scissors (so you don't shred the fabric), and a seam ripper.

Cost of fabric, thread, tissue paper, and closures is fairly small: For a basic one-colour suit, you'll need around two yards. Nylon spandex is around 10/m for me in the UK, rather cheaper in the US. Look for 'spandex fabric' on the net. You may find cheaper on eBay. Use wooly nylon or polyester thread, not cotton.


How long would it take for a total beginner to complete the project (hrs)?
Mm. Hard to say. Perhaps a reasonably intense weekend for the basic one-colour footed bodysuit without hood or gloves, assuming nothing much goes wrong. But things are likely to go wrong; I'd say you should expect to make at least two suits.

If you've never sewn before, have a little practice first: Make a sock or something, and see how it feels, how strong it is, how the seam looks when it's stretched, whether the fabric's sheen works the way you wanted it to.

It'll probably sound stupid, but even the apparently easy stages benefit from practice: laying the fabric flat on your table; pinning the pattern to the fabric, cutting the pattern out remembering the guide notches, keeping track of which side of the fabric is the inside/outside. Mistakes made in the early stages can queer the later stages, and it's much better to double-check than regret (although that said, if you can't undo something, carry on through - you'll still be learning). Even now, I occasionally find I've made a suit with the velvet stroking the wrong way, or too tight where the back seam opens up, or the legs work themselves downwards, pulling the body.

Seam-ripping: you will make mistakes, and you will want to learn how to unpick a seam without putting holes in the fabric. A 'seam ripper' tool is indispensible - ask your sewing shop for one. It looks like a vicious mutant crochet hook with a comedy clown nose.

Zips: they're not terribly hard, but there is a knack to them, particularly with spandex, because spandex stretches under the sewing foot and the zip ribbon doesn't. Use a light foot pressure and long tacking to avoid wrinkles. Try putting a zip into the sock I suggested you made for practice.

Gloves are specialist - they're fiddly, and I wouldn't expect most costumiers have made any from scratch. You *can* machine-sew bits of them, but I think they're easier to hand-sew. I tend to use a form of blanket-stitch, which stretches a bit and holds the edges together, but I've only made them in velour, never athletic spandex, and I couldn't say how that'd work.

You can either have separate gloves, with long cuffs that go under/over the bodysuit sleeves, or you can have the gloves attached to the sleeves. Attached gloves can be sewn on afterwards, around the wrist, or they can be made from the same piece as the sleeve. If you want this latter, you'll certainly want to practice making gloves until you're confident enough to cut a joint sleeve/glove part, but you can make the glove on the sleeve before you sew the sleeve to the bodysuit.

The hood is the work of minutes if you only want a pull-on job; longer if you want it integrated with the suit and with a zip down the back. I have a page here.

You can either make the hood one part of the suit, or you could make a hood as part of something like a small poncho that you tuck into the collar of the suit - that would certainly allow you to use a shorter zip, making the costume's back stretchier.


How long would it take for an experienced tailor/ seamstress to make one?
I don't know about a proper tailor; I can run up a basic suit in a long evening, two if I'm working out a new pattern and I'm feeling particularly dedicated. I don't expect a hood would add much to that.

Gloves - I'd say an evening each for me; I couldn't say for anyone else.


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