Earth Day: The 3 Rs in Costuming

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle–It’s 2016, so I know that you’ve heard the 3 Rs, but do you employ them year round?


My studio has storage space specifically for my collection of discarded items and old clothes–we’ll call them resources–and I plan out their uses almost as thoughtfully as shopping for fabric and other supplies. This frequently frees up room in my budget and cuts down on the amount of crap that I have to haul to the donation bin or to the garbage bin.

A section of the junk bin…I am not a hoarder.

Here are some ways that I resource ‘all the things’ for costuming.

Cut strapping and fasteners from old bags (backpacks, purses, promotional totes, etc.) to make armor straps, belts, and hidden closures. This can also save you a good amount of money on parachute clips and D-rings. Use the mesh side pockets from gym bags to create texture in your fabric, add vented panels to bodysuits, and create see through inner pockets in your garments.

Straps and buckles and mesh, oh my!

If you’ve made armor and don’t want it to ruin the clothing underneath or rub angry scratches into your skin, cut and glue fabric from old t-shirts to the inside (or just the contact points). For bracers and greaves, cut wide strips of the shirt, wrap your wrists, forearms, or ankles, then tuck in the ends before you suit up. This will also reduce the drippy sweat nastiness seeping into your shoes and making your hands unfit for contact.

As a mom of diaper-clad younglings, I use Amazon’s subscription service to keep us well supplied. The diaper boxes are a perfect size for storing single costumes (especially those with armor pieces), and they have handle holes. I write up a list of what’s in the box and attach a costume picture to the outside of the box. Then, I seal it with packing tape and stack it in the closet until next time. I do suggest adding a cedar ball to each box to keep out critters, and I do not suggest this storage method for areas that are prone to flooding.

Speaking of boxes, all of the general Amazon buying results in all of the oddly shaped and oversized cardboard boxes. For the ones that can’t be used for normal storage, I cut them into long strips and save them to hold fabric. After a large shopping trip, I refold and wrap the new fabric around the cardboard strips, just like at the store. In order to avoid snags or tears on less sturdy fabrics and knits, I wrap packing paper around the long cardboard edges first.

The cardboard under the shelves!

And oh that brown packing paper–it’s great for flat-drafting patterns. Painstaking as it may be, unravel the messy mass and roll or fold it for storage. The five minutes of un-wrinkling is worth the effort for sturdy pattern paper. You can also iron the paper on low heat to remove the wrinkles.

You’re jealous of my paper stash.

While I sew, all of my fabric scraps go into a large box. At the end of the costuming season (generally the lull after Halloween), I send out a message on social media that the box is up for grabs. Previous boxes have gone to local educators and other crafters–I do not ship. The scraps are great for art projects, quilts, stuffing (ex: costume horns, puppets, bum rolls), and the occasional pair of scrap wings. Check with local art centers, youth education programs and teachers, and sewing circles in your area so that the scraps go to a good home.

It looks much prettier once it’s in the bag….

Here are few more ideas, just from looking through my closet:

  • Two liter plastic bottles make excellent jet packs.
  • Old computer components are just begging to be taken apart for jewelry, embellishments, and accessories. Sew those hard drive magnets into your cape for an invisible closure.
  • Dead, unused watches are Steampunk gold (or brass, as the case may be), in the same way that broken or gaudy costume jewelry from Auntie Mildred will make for a fabulous Renaissance neckline.
  • Busty? Put your old, frayed bra on a standard dress form, fill it out with fabric scraps, and cover with a long t-shirt to make a shape closer to your own figure. You can also do the same to fill out your duct tape dress form if she starts getting squishy.
  • Take shoelaces and drawstrings out of old shoes and sweats to make costume lacing.
  • Denim from old jeans and jackets is good for corset interlining and boning casing.
  • Hoarder alert: Save your plastic shopping bags–they can be used as trash bags, packing material, and for organizing costume pieces inside of larger storage containers.
  • Addicted to fancy subscription boxes? Yeah, me too. I use mine for the tiny bits and pieces. My sewing kit is also sturdy and stackable.
Subscription boxes are amazing for embellishment organization.

I hope this gets you thinking about creative ways to shrink your garbage pile and your costuming receipts!

Author: SciFiCheerGirl

Hobby costumer, wife, and mom with a dancey-dance problem and a hankerin' for moar books

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