Hannah Alexander’s Mulan (I): Planning, materials and dye tests

have about six costumes I need to make in the next six months, four of which I need to have done (or would like to) by the end of the year for time and sanity sake, so there’s going to be quite  a few progress series going on concurrently.

This is one of my “for fun” costumes that I’m really hoping that will be a quick one. There’s a lot of weird construction issues that I need to address because I’m planning on doing a lot of active poses/where does the armor anchor? That being said, Mulan is one of my favorite Disney heroines and I love dye gradients, and Hannah’s aesthetic is right up my alley.


I’m planning on making a base garment that has a plunge neckline and a bra built in (maybe scavenging one of my old bras) to anchor the flowy bits, beading and most importantly: the armor.

(and so I don’t flash people when I’m doing jumping or dancing poses. I still plan on wearing some pasties just in case but you never know.)

The waist wrap is going to be a modified corsetlet with the beading and conchos (those round things!) attached directly so it’s all one piece. I’m playing around with the idea of making the gauntlets with a sleeve placket so it lays nicely without extra weird bits of velcro showing.

The biggest problem with the mermaid skirt is that I like to do active, dancey poses to take advantage of the fabric. The photographer I’ll be working with is also another cosplayer and we have some pretty epic plans for the Katsucon photoshoot. I’m nixing the mermaid silhouette in favor of a full circle skirt so I can twirl and throw my skirt like nobody’s business.

I think that about covers the pre-planning.

Construction Part I: Dyeing, dyeing and the waist cincher

The last time I made a HA design, I spent a few hours over my dye pot. This time was no different, except it was split over two days for the primary dyeing instead of just one. All fabrics and dyes mentioned here have been purchased by me. For all the colors, I used all Prochemical and Dye Wash Fast Acid colors.

For the waist cincher, it was a mix of mouse grey (1 gram total) and sky blue (about 2-ish grams) to get the level of saturation that I wanted on half a yard of Dharma’s silk dupioni. Mouse grey is a warm, medium shade gray that desaturated how bright the sky blue is. It took a lot more citric acid crystals than I would have liked, but it worked in the end.

The yellow and green parts took a bit more planning for the gradient and getting the colors to match. I did an initial dye bath of buttercream and sun yellow on the habotai (8mm for the bodice and 5mm for the sleeves). The 5mm didn’t quite taken on enough yellow, so the top of the sleeve is going to be more pale teal than pale green, meh. Then I used the same colors in a larger quantity for the chiffon for the skirt.

Once the bodice and sleeve fabrics dried (thank you Utah for having a super dry climate), I mixed a bath of Leaf Green and Shamrock to do the gradient dye. I’ve actually never did it with acid dyes before (Azula was with a mix of RIT dyes), but I had these out already so… why not?

There was also the issue of the fact that I am 5’1″ and the stove comes up to my waist. I wasn’t keen on standing on a chair or our step stool for the dip dye, so…

a mix of shamrock and leaf green

Before you ask: there is a hot plate underneath that pot.

It worked out far better than I thought it would, and the dyes were actually pretty forgiving, considering everything. I did the sleeves first with a stronger dye bath and then repeated it with a less concentrated dye bath for the bodice fabric. I went back and re-did the sleeves with the same dyes and a touch of blue to make the color at the bottom a bit more intense. I will have to go back and get the bottom of the skirts once I have it patterned.

I have a tried and true pattern that I like to use for my underbust corset and overbust, but this time I decided to pattern my own because it’s been a while since I’ve flexed my pattern making skills. The first draft turned out pretty well, but not quite small enough in the waist. It was a pretty easy fix and I made it a little smaller on top too, so it didn’t flare as oddly.

The waist cincher was constructed with a floating fashion fabric layer (dupioni flatlined onto muslin to give it some strength), a single layer of coutil with the boning channels, twill waist tape and a floating lining. I’m still at the point where I need to cut and bone the damn thing, bind it and sew the lining together. I’ll show what the inside looks like in the next update.

I spent some time researching beads and the like for this costume and I stumbled upon another OUAT Mulan cosplayer who had found the round metal things that they used for the costume (she also went NOPE and got cheaper alternatives, whereas I sculpted and casted him). I ended up getting some of the conchos for this costume since I’m not spending a whole lot on the fabric and it’ll look REALLY cool with the mix of textures.

See? Look at how awesome that looks. They’re two different sizes for visual interest (… and the smaller ones are slightly cheaper). The red fabric I used for the sash is Silk Baron’s Shambala in Carmine, and the gold accent fabric is their dupioni in autumn harvest. I love how this gold shimmers and it’s so beautiful. It has enough of a red tint that it’s nice and warm, and holds it own against how rich and varied the shambala silk is. The belt (?) was assembled in layers to give it a degree of sturdiness, and then I threw everything onto the dress form as a check. So this was how it looked after the dye day and assembling the belt (see what I mean about it being too high?)


I did seam rip off the belt and whip stitched in place after sewing the jump rings on under and between every concho using a quick satin stitch. It’s my favorite trick for when I need to add bead embellishments to a costume. Once that was done, I used my grommet press to set the grommets and it is still the best tool purchase ever.

One of my favorite parts of costuming is embellishments! I had a lot of fun looking for the jade green beads, since I knew I was going to use the crystal pearls that I use for basically everything (except for shoe decorations) for the gold. I settled on these 8mm faceted adventurine beads from Fire Mountain Gems for the color variation. I was initially worried about how light they are in comparison to the reference photo, but they’re pretty enough that I’m okay with it. In between each bead is a 2mm swarovski bicone in a pale gold to give it some illusion of space. This worked out a bit better on the gemstone beads than the crystal pearls because of the size.

They’re strung on nylon thread with a bead cap to make it easier to attach and be removed from the corsetlet. I’m a little rusty for beading, so it took a while to get these all strung up (and also checking to see what I liked for the distribution). I also debated if I was going to be art accurate for the attachment (gold to conchos, green to spacer) or if I was going to do large conchos for the gold and small for the green to keep the beading down to a minimum. Guess what I ended up doing.

It’s kind of crazy to see how small finishing details can make a difference in a costume. The last image is kind of where everything is right now. Once I finish the corsetlet, I need to start worrying about the under-dress construction and fitting. I kind of hope the idea I have works without to many fiddly adjustments? But you never know with pattern making.

Any questions? Want a step clarified? I’m kind of thinking of doing a dip dye/gradient tutorial and tip post at some point in the future (maybe when I’m working on Suki), or a general post covering dye in general.

Thanks for reading!

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