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    DIY: Making and Finding the Stuff

    Where can I find out how to make Rocky costumes and props?

    Youtube.
    Youtube has a ton of DIY videos. Some are crap; some are pretty good.

    Public (especially university) libraries.

    Check out the theater section. If your library doesn’t have a book, they can probably get it through interlibrary loan. If you find something good, you can probably find your own copy at http://www.bookfinder.com .

    University libraries (especially universities with theater departments) tend to have better, if older, selection. (Older is better for subjects like wigs or millinery.) That theater department or the local community theater would be a good next stop, especially if you have specific questions.

    Where can I find supplies to make Rocky costumes and props?

    Lingerie shops, such as Frederick’s of Hollywood (also see the links page)

    On-line only now, Frederick’s carries cheap garter belts and stockings, gold briefs, and a pretty good floor show corset. (Note: most men wear a 38 or a 40 corset.) Friendly to larger sizes (mostly). Sold platform heels and stripper-high heels when no one else did, but the website doesn’t do shoes.

    Victoria’s Secret still has physical stores so you can try stuff on. Vicky’s is more expensive and usually not trashy enough. Local lingerie stores / sex shops may be more flexible about special orders. Lover’s Lane is seriously overpriced but has periodic 50% off sales and carries a wide range of stockings. Most places carry Leg Avenue, which makes novelty stockings/socks and basically-sized lingerie in a bag. They’re a commodity; find someplace cheap on-line and buy in bulk. Leg Avenue’s black knee-high socks shot through with silver lurex make nice Frank gloves with a little alteration. (Clothing outlets like Urban Outfitters sell stockings or tights…but unlike the socks, these require adding elastic.)

    Thrift Stores and Garage Sales.

    Good source for purses, shoes, slips, pearls, tap shoes, tube tops, and boots. Sometimes you’ll luck into things like gold band uniforms, black nylon robes, or a dress you can modify. (It’s a lot less work than making one from scratch.) Sometimes it is easier to find a garment made of a fabric you want and chop it up than to find the fabric. eBay’s easier, but more expensive – this is how we did it before eBay.

    Vintage Shops.

    Find 70s items here. Can be surprisingly affordable, depending on the shop. Might be just the place to find a cheap tux jacket or a vintage 1970’s rainjacket or car coat.

    Payless Shoe Stores.

    Stocks women’s high heels into at least a size 11, and they’re cheap.
    Sometimes has Brad/Janet shoes and cheap Magenta boots. Stock changes quickly, so when you see something you want, don’t wait. If a store doesn’t have your size, they can call other stores to find a store that does. May stock useful stuff like cushioned insoles (don’t buy the Dr. Scholl’s cheapie ones) and anti-slip pads for the soles of your shoes.

    Department Stores.

    I’ve had surprisingly good luck at JC Penney’s – I think Janet would shop there. Over the years I have bought fishnet pantyhose, giant pearls, platform sandals, and gold boxers here, and they used to carry name necklaces. They also have garter belts and used to sell 4711 cologne.

    Many items (like the platform sandals) are in the catalog or online only. They also have a scrubs catalog from which you can order lab coats (or just go on-line). I got my Magenta granny boots at Sears ($40).

    Larger department stores can also be a resource for makeup. Some folks swear by MAC eyeshadows, for example. Lots of color and they don’t change shades often.

    Beauty Supply Stores.

    They have wigheads, makeup sponges, and always have purple eyeshadow and false eyelashes regardless of current fashion. Eyelash glue bought here is less likely to dry out right away than that bought at a drugstore. If you wear strip lashes, be sure that you buy the right kind of eyelash glue (usually in a tube): the glue sold for individual lashes doesn’t come with an applicator!

    I usually go to Sally’s Beauty Supply; Ulta has more makeup and the fancy brands, but they don’t carry wig-related items.

    Discount Stores and Drug Stores

    Target, Wal-Mart, to a lesser extent Walgreens/Osco, etc., especially around Halloween or after-Halloween clearance. This is a good time to buy cheap wigs, fake eyelashes, capes, pitchforks and axes (for your space gun and for Frank). Costume wigs don’t usually look that good, but with a little styling can be quite acceptable, and you can’t beat the price. Most of the Halloween makeup is poor quality and not recommended. Haunt the regular makeup section (Gene Chiovari recommends Cover Girl) and try that instead. NOTE: If you find the “perfect color,” buy extra; makeup colors go in and out of style and this will buy you time if it is discontinued.

    Discount stores are also good for basic underwear. (My favorite Magenta bra in the 1990s was from K-Mart.) Roller pins (big bobbypins) and basic hairstyling supplies can be bought here, as can (sometimes) oval barrettes that are about right for Janet. Walgreen’s has carried fake eyelashes and glue for years, whether they are in fashion or not and sometimes has pink gloves. Even dollar stores can be good sources for dishwashing gloves, cheap multicolored featherdusters from China (Dollar Tree), etc.
    Playtex used to sell pink dishwashing gloves in October for Breast Cancer awareness at outlets like these, though in recent years they’ve gotten much harder to find.

    Fabric Stores.

    Get on the mailing list and then make all your major purchases when everything is on sale (coupons for X% off your total order tend to be every couple of months – Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.). Get on the mailing list (sign up in the store) so you get coupons and know when sales are. Most of them now have coupons you can get on your phone. Sequined fabric, lamé and chiffon add up fast.

    Fabric stores also stock Velcro, ribbon, beads, boning, sequins by the yard or in strips, Aleene’s Stop Fraying (like Fray-Check, only better!) and other kinds of specialty glue (Jewel-It, E6000…), lingerie findings, bouquet forms, rhinestones, metal studs, lace, fake flowers, and fabric paint. Other useful purchases include eyelets and a special tool to set them into corsets. You can find some fabrics at Wal-Mart, but the selection is poor, they don’t know their stock, and you won’t accidentally find a lot of other useful stuff you didn’t know you needed. Visit around Christmas (or at the after-Christmas sales) if you need metallic ribbon, useful for floorshow garters or Columbia shorts.

    Craft Stores.

    There’s some overlap with fabric stores, but craft stores such as Michael’s stock less fabric and more of everything else. Check here for feathers of various types, rhinestones, fake celery, fake flowers, Testors enamel paints, paintbrushes, ribbon, whatever. Michael’s carries a wide range of Sharpie markers and you can buy them individually instead of buying multipacks. Keep your mind open; for example, those tiny paintbrushes could be just the thing to apply your eyeliner. Places like Ben Franklin also carry makeup in addition to crafts and notions; a long-time Magenta eyeshadow of mine is a no-name brand from Ben Franklin ($2). Again, check for coupons on their website/your smartphone.

    Hardware Shops.

    Sells chain for your Janet purse by the foot. They also stock jumprings, steel wool, etc. in addition to things you can repurpose.

    Home Repair Superstores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.). Hardware shops on steroids. Also carry things like dowels/molding that may be handy for hand props (the cylinders on my space belt are half-dowel molding cut to size and sanded).

    Hobby Shops.

    They’ll know exactly what kind of paint is best for whatever you have to paint, and be happy to tell you how to prep the surface, too.

    Costume/Theatrical/Magic/Novelty Shops.

    Quality is usually better at a year-round place than at seasonal pop-ups and the staff is better informed (and able to special order items). They’ll stock up around Halloween and may offer very slim pickings after the big post-Halloween sale.

    Look for boas, clown white, stage makeup, fishnets, glitter tophats, etc. May also stock spats, rhinestones, feathers, or sequined hats, tailcoats, gloves, or stretch sequin “gauntlets” (worn by majorettes in marching bands; they make easy floor show gloves). False eyelash selection is liable to be better than at a drugstore. Many carry cheap low-quality wigs, too. Avoid those Marge Simpson-style “Bride of Frankenstein” wigs, please. They will make you look like you scalped a poodle. Franks should avoid Afro wigs; they’re usually too big and look silly. Remember, wigs will always look shorter on you than on the wighead–try them on! See the wigs page.

    Halloween Pop-Up Stores.

    These pop up in abandoned storefronts around August, then disappear for another year after October 31. Hit them on November 1 for big discounts (usually 50% off) but don’t expect them to be around November 2. Look at the accessories (’50s housewife pearls for Frank; sheriff stars; capes; over-the-elbow silver lamé gloves you can chop down). Quality tends to be questionable but the selection is impressive. Independents tend to have more interesting stock than Spirit. If you’re hitting Spirit, check their Twitter feed for coupons.

    Goth Shops.

    Hot Topic has gotten into the lingerie business, and sell stockings too. You may be able to find Ben Nye makeup here, and a couple of people have recommended some of the makeup lines they carry. The “Rebel” line of eyeshadows looks interesting, though I haven’t tried them.

    Bridal, Formalwear Accessories Shops.

    Bridal and accessories stores may sell formal gloves in various colors. Avoid bridal shops if you can; the markup is huge. Accessories shops (like “Claire’s”) are common in malls. I’m usually astonished by what Claire’s stocks; definitely worth a look. They’re cheaper and tend to stock long gloves especially around prom time. Formalwear shops sometimes have sales to ditch old styles; try to get on the mailing list. Also an excellent source for vests, cummerbunds, and spats.

    Wig Shops.

    These are great if they are used to dealing with theatrical wigs. Otherwise, they may not understand what you want, even with patient explanations. Take color pictures or color copies with you or have photos on your phone (harder to leave with the stylist). If you find a stylist who really understands what you want, cherish him or her. If it’s difficult to style your hair like your character’s, a wig can make a huge difference in your appearance, and save a lot of wear and tear on your hair. Cheaper wigs start at $30-$40. It is surprisingly affordable to get wigs washed or restyled. (You can just wash a wig by gently swishing it with shampoo in the sink; see the wigs page. Not for the faint of heart.) You can do a lot to a wig by teasing or cutting it–remember this if you can’t find exactly what you want. I prefer synthetic to real hair. It doesn’t last as long, it’s hard to color unless you use spray-on color, but it is much cheaper and easier to care for. You can’t crimp it, but it will take hot rollers, and it will hold high artificial styles better. Store your wig on a wighead so it will hold its shape, covered with a cloth so it doesn’t get dusty. Remember–the hair won’t grow back, so always cut less than you think you should when styling!

    Shoe Repair Shops.

    Get your boots reheeled before the sole of the heel is completely worn away. It’s not that expensive and it’s an investment in your safety. Get a quote first; it may run $12-$15 and if you’re wearing Payless shoes, maybe you should just buy another pair. You can also buy cushioned insoles, nonslip shoe soles, granny boot shoelaces, and leather conditioner here. If you need to cut up a pair of shoes (space boots, Frank boots), ask if they will do it for you. I got my space boots modified and I *love* them. They saved me hours of work by stitching them up afterwards, and I didn’t have to risk life and limb with an Exacto knife. Well worth the $12.50 they charged me, and they did it in three days!

    Party Stores.

    Useful for banners, gold glitter hats, party hats, noisemakers and horns, and plastic party goblets. Some stock large quantities of costumes/makeup around Halloween (mostly the cheaper type, but more selection than at the local discount store).

    The Internet…don’t forget Google, eBay and Etsy.

    Amazon.com sells just about everything now – even the green surgery gowns. Search engines are your friend. Comparison shopping is easy, and it’s handy for people who don’t live in major cities with some of the other resources listed above readily available. It does work best if you already know your size. If you’re not sure it can be a crapshoot, and shipping adds up. Do check expected arrival dates – a lot of things come from China now, which can take 6-8 weeks.
    Many people do a lot of their costume shopping on eBay. It’s like a giant thrift store with search capabilities (that won’t let you try anything on and charges shipping). A lot of the thrift stores sell on eBay now too, and people do sell old Rocky costumes there.

    Sometimes people sell accessories and costume bits on Etsy. I’ve ordered non-Rocky accessories but haven’t found any dedicated Rocky shops I like. And of course, hit YouTube, using your judgment (some of those “How To Do Your Makeup Like…” video people obviously have no idea what the characters’ makeup looks like).

    How can I make my costumes as close to the ones in the film as possible?

    Search every photo you can find to get pictures of the costume you want to make from all angles.

    Good sources are photo calendars, the Internet (see the links page; also check Tumblr), trading cards, the poster magazines, the RHPS Book, and stills. You can also take notes during the film or use freeze-frame on your DVD/BluRay player. The archives for rhpscostumes at LiveJournal and alt.cult-movies.rocky-horror are getting a little dusty and are image-poor, but there is years of material there, though much of it’s pre-DVD.

    You can buy stills on eBay (hardly worth it; you can usually buy the same stills in a batch elsewhere for cheaper) or from a merchant who specializes in movie collectibles. Bruce Cutter and Larry Viezel often sell them at cons. Take the photos with you (in a plastic photo protector–or a color scan – or on your phone) when you buy fabrics, costume pieces, makeup or wigs or you will get home and realize things aren’t quite the color/shape/size/texture/cut you remembered.

    There are several movie memorabilia merchants, but I’ve only found a few with large collections of Rocky Horror photos. Shops I recommend include Jerry Ohlinger’s (New York – a bit picked-over but good for beginners), Cinema Collectors (Los Angeles), and Still Things (Las Vegas). I have bought from all three. For contact information, please check the links page.

    Look at their photos in person if possible. Most of the text descriptions in Jerry’s catalog are pretty vague (Still Things’ are a little better but they’re still dreadful), and the person who takes your order over the phone may never have seen the film. Jerry’s has more photos, but some are lower-quality from slides or posters, and some of the photos are shopworn from being in 3-ring binders too long. Cinema Collectors takes better care of their photos.

    Still Things has some of the same photos as the other two. Some are better than Jerry’s; some are not. Many are directly from the film. Still Things offers a better choice of sizes than the other two: you can buy black and whites as 8×10’s or 11x14s, and color photos are available in wallet size (handy for ordering photos you think you might have, but are not sure), 3×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14, or even 16×20.

    Beware of out-takes and mirror images, especially in stills or the RHPS Book. The color spacesuit picture and the picture of Riff on the throne in the RHPS Book, for example, are mirror images. Watch for costume details or people standing on the wrong side to tip you off. To use reversed images, scan, flip, and re-print.

    Scan or make color copies of any costume pictures you want to use for reference from cheaply-bound books like the RHPS Book. They’re easier to refer to and will save wear on your book. Smaller copy stores will ask fewer copyright questions though I’m not sure anyone cares anymore. You can store pictures on your phone if you don’t mind they’re small. Haven’t tried using a tablet.

    What are some handy tricks when I buy/make costume items?

    If you are making costumes, preshrink the fabric first. This is particularly important with cottons. If the fabric is going to bleed or shrink, you want it to do so before you make a costume out of it. Don’t do this with lamé or sequined fabrics, which you should wash as little as possible.

    Buy individual sequins only when you are scattering them (like on a floorshow corset or on Magenta’s bra). Otherwise, if possible, use strings of sequins from the trim department (cheap) or sequined material (expensive, and getting harder to find). Foil dot material is cheaper, but doesn’t look as nice, and over time the stickers come off. In addition, the stickers will gum up your needle and your scissors. If you can’t find sequin fabric (look on-line!) look for inch-wide strips in the trim department.

    Gold lamé can be bought pre-quilted

    in a pattern of repeating squares (but it’s hard to find).

    It’s a lot faster to unstitch a little of it to get the right pattern of lines for a spacesuit than to start from scratch.

    When you are sewing chiffon (Frank’s dinner outfit; Magenta’s negligees) or lamé, even if you French seam it, it will fray. Coat all edges with either nail polish (clear or black) or Aleene’s Stop Fraying (usually stocked in fabric stores by the glue). It sticks to everything until it dries, and you shouldn’t put it on items you will wash a lot, but it really works. The stuff in aerosol cans doesn’t work nearly as well. Stop Fraying is also nice for treating the ends of marabou boas or feathers you cut off a boa for trim. (Marabou is a kind of very fine fluffy feathers that looks sort of like fake fur. It’s sold as skinny boas.)

    Another alternative is FrayBlock. It’s a clear runny liquid. Unlike Aleene’s, you can’t see it when it dries (so it won’t leave marks on your clothes), but it doesn’t work as well. You have to be very careful when applying it so it doesn’t get everywhere. If the tube gets sealed shut, unblock with a pin; if that doesn’t work, throw it away. Don’t try rolling the tube to force it out; the tube develops pinprick holes and covers your hands with the stuff.

    By the way, you should French seam chiffons. Otherwise all the rough edges are visible, and it looks awful. Look this up in a sewing book or Google it. Here’s a rough explanation: instead of placing right side to right side (like you normally would), place wrong side to wrong side. (Chiffon doesn’t have an obvious “wrong side” – pick one.) Stitch a very narrow seam. Now, place the fabric so the seam is facing you and the two-layer sandwich of chiffon is away from you. Holding the seam, fold the top layer of the sandwich over the seam and your hand and the bottom layer of the sandwich under the seam and your hand, towards you, making a three-layer sandwich (bottom, seam, top). Pin the three layers together close to the edge and sew along the pins, completely encasing the first seam. If you’ve done it right, the encased seam is now inconspicuously located inside of the garment. (Confused yet? I told you to Google it – http://sewsweetness.com/2011/09/french-seams.html has a good explanatory picture and step-by-step instructions. Hard to explain, but it looks wonderful and it won’t ravel.)

    If that sounds like entirely too much work, you can do what burlesque dancers do and serge the edges. Less pretty, but it works.

    Velcro is great – in moderation.

    Be careful; it can catch on some items (feathers, stockings, polyester and some gloves, chiffon, etc.). It’s available in squares, strips, or by the yard, and in sew-on, self-adhesive, or iron-on versions. I prefer sew-on. Many fabrics will melt if ironed, and the self-adhesive velcro doesn’t stay on well (and gums up your needle and thread if you try to stitch it on). Velcro is cheapest bought by the yard. It doesn’t work well for things that have to flex (like floor show gloves).

    If you must use velcro in these areas, back it up with a snap or two. At neck or waist, consider a hook and eye – the eye extends the closure a little and will fail less explosively than a snap.

    Buy sew-through boning or boning with extra-wide casing.

    This allows you to use a sewing machine when boning a costume, instead of having to do it by hand. If you use plastic boning, buy it by the yard. It’s cheaper than buying pre-cut pieces. Some people prefer to use steel boning; you’ll probably have to order that online. As far as I can tell Sue didn’t, but your stuff probably has to last longer than hers. Steel boning is less flexible and probably less comfortable but it does hold its shape better; your body will eventually warp the plastic, and then you’ll have to replace the boning. Serious corsetiers use steel.

    Elastic and thread are available in clear.

    It’s nice for securing fishnet gloves, where regular elastic would show. Fishing line can be used as clear thread for things like the center of a boa, and can be bought in different weights.

    You have lots of options if you need to stiffen something or make it stand up.

    For immobile things that don’t have to flex (spacesuit wings, belt buckles, etc.) you can insert heavy cardboard. (Cardboard will NOT work in applications where fabric must be saturated with glue, then applied over the stiffener; it will get soggy and start to flex.) For more flexible pieces, you can use bridal wire, boning, latex foam padding, or a kind of heavy paper called “bridal stiffener” (I think it’s just interfacing). More traditional sewing people use buckram, a stiff cloth used for millinery (hats), pasties, bookbinding and uncomfortable clothes (and may be just the thing for your space glove cuffs). You can find it at serious fabric stores or on-line. My mother, who makes fabric boxes, recommends Peltex or Timtex. For a while, people were recommending plastic embroidery screen to stiffen spacesuit wings, but some people find that eventually the little squares become visible as the vinyl is pressed against the screen.

    Binding tape can be very handy. In addition to binding edges (Janet hats; spacesuit gloves–watch out – gold binding tape is expensive!), you can use it to make small items such as Magenta dress button loops. No hemming; no raw edges to mess with. (Thanks to Mina Smith for the hint.)

    Fabric-covered buttons are usually made, not bought. There is a very limited selection of fabric-covered buttons commercially available. Go to the notions department and buy a kit–you provide the fabric and a hammer, the kit provides the button findings (and sometimes a tool to help align the findings correctly over the fabric). The tool is a small cheap plastic ring that distributes the force when you whack the pieces together (like using a Badg-a-Minit, or playing Whack-a-Mole). The last time I used one I broke it, but it is easier to assemble the buttons with one than without. Buy extra button forms; you’ll screw up at least one.
    Yes, Magentas could try to dye white satin shank buttons…but the satin is synthetic and won’t dye very well.

    When ironing something fragile, use a pressing cloth. Vinyl and lamé will melt if you iron them, even on a low setting. And some fabrics may scorch if ironed. In cases like this, put a piece of old sheet or a lab apron or some other flat, sturdy, not-flimsy white cotton fabric over the fragile material and iron a small test patch. (Use the correct setting on your iron, of course.) I’ve never tried wetting the pressing cloth, but apparently that can be done, since anything fragile enough to require a pressing cloth probably needs to be ironed on a low enough setting you can’t use the “steam” setting on your iron.

    Don’t wet the pressing cloth if you’re working with lamé – lamé can rust. When ironing fabrics that don’t rust or waterspot (bridal satin!) I find spraying with water, then ironing, is more effective and easier than using the steam setting.

    What are some useful tricks for making the costumes?

    Find a friend or relative with a sewing machine.

    You can learn how to do basic stitches on one fairly quickly, and they make sewing a lot faster. Sergers, which stitch two pieces of fabric together and also stitch over the edges (“overlock”), are great for fabrics that fray (like lamé) and are very fast, but are expensive and take a while to learn to adjust. My husband loves his; they scare the crap out of me. Once something’s serged, you can’t undo and then redo it (it cuts off the edge of the fabric it overlocked).

    Use math. Use your reference photos: ratio the costume to your size (height/girth/etc.). People sometimes ask me how long some costume is, what size buttons to use, etc. The answer depends on what looks right on you. If Barry Bostwick’s boa is 10 feet long, but you’re 4’9″, you don’t want a 10 foot boa. I spend probably as much time ratioing costume pieces to my height/weight as I do actually tracing the pattern.

    For things like apron straps or belts, sew wrong side to wrong side to make a tube, then turn it inside out. This way all the little loose threads that stick out at the edges will be inside the strap, where you can’t see them. (Yes, you’ll have to iron it to get it flat.) If you don’t want to do this, for heaven’s sake learn to hem or at least glue under the edges. Those little straggly threads look awful.

    Old sheets and newspapers are nice for making patterns. Old sheets are especially nice because they don’t tear (much) when you try them on. Newspaper is cheap and can be made as large as needed by taping pieces together with Scotch tape. If you don’t know how to read a pattern, you can cut up newsprint and try different ideas to get the right shape for a costume. This will drive friends who sew from patterns crazy.

    If you need to be able to see through a pattern, buy tracing paper from an art supply store. If you can sew, hunt through old patterns (for help, see the links page). Patterns are especially helpful for things like dresses (try Butterick’s or McCall’s; they aim for the novice, and I’m sure Janet bought them :-). Patterns go on sale often; get on your local fabric store’s mailing list and watch for specials.

    Buy a white fabric or art pencil

    to draw lines on dark fabrics. Regular pencil works fine on light fabrics — it can usually be erased or wears off in time. Use pencil on the wrong side of the fabric (the side that won’t show) just in case. Soap slivers can be used to draw on dark fabrics, but I’ve had problems with it rubbing off before I’m done cutting.

    Contrast stitching is best done by machine. You can do a lot with hand-stitching, but if you are doing stitching to make something stand out (quilted squares on your spacesuit; stitching in the boning in Frank’s corset), the machine stitching stands out a lot better.

    Don’t count on being able to dye things. Remember, synthetic fabrics do not dye well. My experiences with RIT dye have been, to put it kindly, disappointing. It’s possible they have finally figured out how to make a true black; I’ll believe it when I see it.
    If only small areas of something must be dyed black, try laundry marker.

    What are some other helpful supplies?

    White glue is useful for sticking lamé on a solid backing. Completely saturate the fabric with the glue, then smooth it on, being sure to avoid wrinkles. My last spacesuit buckle was made of wooden molding (very long lengths of dowel split lengthwise) cut in lengths, the ends beveled with a file, and covered with lamé saturated with wood glue. Lamé can also be glued onto leather to make a space anklet, and it’s handy for spreading on the tips of feathers which you’re adding to a Magenta feather duster (use a toothpick or bamboo skewer to apply). Don’t use white glue on anything that might get wet.

    E6000 is an industrial adhesive sold at craft stores (and in the Crafts section of Wal-Mart). It’s clear, flexible, non-water soluble, and will glue just about anything to anything. The company even claims you can paint it. (Is it toxic? Probably. Does it work? Hell yes.) I’ve also had some luck with Shoe Goo, a product designed to plug holes in your shoes. I found it in the Adhesives section of K-Mart.

    Nail polish (especially clear and black) is very handy for painting small items. It can also be used to keep fabric from raveling. Clear nail polish can be used to stop runs in your stockings (use base coat, which isn’t shiny). Hairspray helps stop runs, too.

    Scotchgard
    It’s getting harder to find, and they had to reformulate in 2003 since a key ingredient was a precursor to a persistent organic pollutant. If you’ve got a costume that you can’t clean, apply this after making it. Test first in an inconspicuous area.

    Acetone , sometimes sold as nail polish remover, will remove small amounts of paint (use a Q-tip to apply). You could buy paint thinner…but acetone is marginally less toxic and more multipurpose. NOTE: it will dissolve many plastics.

    Model paint (available at hobby stores) is good for painting small items and doesn’t tend to rub off on things. It will chip off plastic; try to rough up the plastic to get it to stick. Spray paint looks good, but tends to flake off or adhere to things that touch it if the surface isn’t prepared properly. I bought mine at a hobby shop that catered to people who paint models; for painting plastic, they recommended 000 grade steel wool and recommended against sandpaper (“It leaves grooves.”). They recommended coating metal objects with primer before painting. (You might finish with a couple of clear topcoats to make sure it doesn’t come off.) Another tip: they suggested warming the item you’re painting first with a hairdryer and soaking the spraypaint is warm water (careful; the label will loosen!). This did seem to help – most spraypaint has a recommended minimum temperature. There are spraypaints specially formulated with plastic, but I didn’t have very good luck with it; it seems to take longer to dry than standard spraypaint. Spraypaint technology has come a long way; they even have patent shades with vinyl in them now, which a friend uses to touch up floorshow shoes. Haven’t tried it yet.

    I think hot glue guns are over-rated. The glue often comes unstuck once it cools.
    They work OK for gluing fabric to cardboard, but the glue line is visible. White glue is more even and shows less. Still, glue guns are fast, and if you cannot sew, they are an option. (Someone once showed me an entire Magenta dress that had been hot-glued together. The seams looked *very* nasty. I wouldn’t recommend it.)

    A set of long-nose pliers is very handy for readjusting boot-hooks and taking things apart.

    Cover the jaws with fabric or rubber bands first to avoid scratching whatever you’re working on.

    Thin cardboard is very handy for making patterns. If I’m doing a lot of costume work, I save old cereal boxes (or frozen pizza boxes if I need something bigger). My mother saves the stiff flexible plastic that used to be packed with frozen meat.

    Tacky craft glue is one of my essentials, together with white glue, E-6000, and Aleene’s Stop Fraying. I’m learning to work with FrayBlock, but prefer Stop Fraying (see “When you are sewing chiffon”).

    Bamboo skewers or toothpicks are great for applying a tiny drop of glue, paint, whatever.

    Transparent quilter’s ruler, straight edge, and yardstick. I presume you have these. I don’t make costumes without them.

    Sharpie markers, fabric markers I use Sharpie markers more than the fabric markers, but they’re handy too. A silver metallic Sharpie can be just the thing to mark a dark object you need to cut up that won’t take a white chalk pencil.

    Thimble, needle threaders If you sew, you probably already have these. The thimble is particularly handy for jamming a needle through thick material, such as the multiple layers of a space belt. Needle threaders are very cheaply made but they’re handy and very cheap. (I got fed up and bought a fancy Colonial one aimed at middle-aged nearsighted people. Ask Google.)

    Seam ripper This is a nice extra (they’re cheap) and I use mine regularly. It’s much easier to rip out a bunch of stitches than pick them out with a needle. You can also use the pointy end, very carefully, to push the corners of fabric all the way out when you’re turning a fabric tube inside out.

    Fabric scissors and a good pair of craft scissors Reserving one pair of scissors for fabric only keeps them sharp. I like Fiskar’s; buy them when you get one of those “25% off any item” coupons.

    Cheap hairspray is your friend.

    But don’t go overboard with it–eventually the buildup will weigh the wig down. My wig stylist said to avoid alcohol in hairspray, but the hairspray she recommends (“Super Stiff Spritz” – great stuff) has alcohol in it too.

    Always keep safety pins in your costume bag.

    Eventually someone will need them. Bobby pins are good emergency supplies, too.

    6. Do I have to make stuff myself?

    No–you can pay someone else.

    Some are listed on the links page. You can also try finding a local seamstress/tailor, which will eliminate shipping costs, let you see what you’re getting, and make fittings easier. (Theater and Ren Faire people are a real resource.) It’s worth trolling Etsy, though the quality of things I’ve seen there varies. You could try the cosplay community.

    Making things yourself is cheaper and unless you are working with someone who knows Rocky Horror, it’s often easier to get what you want. Learn to look at stuff and ask yourself how you can make a prop out of it. Props needn’t be perfect; I had a gong for years that was a spray-painted frying pan cover, and I saw a woman get applause once with a “spacesuit” that was a gold mini-dress with a black sunvisor on each shoulder.

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