This is the first in a series of posts detailing the construction of my genderswapped Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn cosplay.
You can find the beginning of the series here.
You can find part 1 of the tutorial right here.
Stay tuned for the rest over the next several weeks!
First off: yes, I am doing another post on this same cosplay project when I just did one Saturday. The reason why: I’m trying to make up for missing the week-before-last, and get this whole tutorial out by May 4th. I’ve already put together the whole outfit, and was able to find some spray-in hair color at Walmart yesterday, so all I have to add now is the makeup (I ordered it from Amazon last night and it should be here tomorrow.)
Now, on to how I made the dress for my genderswapped Grand Admiral Thrawn cosplay!!
One thing that sets Grand Admiral Thrawn apart from all his companions in the Imperial Navy is his distinct, sparkling-white uniform. The only other Imp with a similar ensemble and on-screen appearance, so far, is Orson Krennic of Rogue One. But even that Advanced Weapons Research director, with his short temper and magnificent swirling cape has quite a few differences costume-wise, besides lacking the cold-blue skin tone and chilling red eyes of Thrawn. The most noticeable of these would be the cape, but also the fact that he wears black pants with his white tunic, and is also seen occasionally wearing his cap. (But hang on for a bit, and I’ll have more about this later.)
Thrawn, on the other hand, has white for both the tunic and the pants, and seems to have shunned the cap entirely.
Now since I wanted to make a more female-based version of Thrawn’s outfit, I decided to exchange the hip-length tunic and flared pants for an A-line style dress and leggings. Yes, I know that both male and female Imperial officers wear basically the same uniform. We’ve never seen an Imperial in a dress, at least not in my knowledge of the series.
But that’s where the whole “inspired-by” part of this comes in.
It’s just so much fun to change a few things up and come out with a girl version of a male character’s outfit, even if it’s not technically very screen-accurate in some places.
Back when I first came up with the idea to try out a feminine Imperial officer “inspired-by” outfit, I hunted out a pattern for what I saw in my head, and made this sketch.
As I wrote in this article, the pattern I decided to use was Simplicity #1609, view C.
Now, even though this was an “inspired-by” cosplay and wasn’t going to be screen-accurate in a couple of major ways, I still really wanted to sell the look. So I decided to try out altering the pattern a bit in order to add on that front panel that you see on the Imps’ uniforms. As you can see in the sketch above, this front panel would come all the cover the entire left shoulder, span across the entire chest, then reach 2/3 of the way across the right shoulder (the same way the double-breasted tunics worn in the actual movies do.)
I managed to find the perfect white cotton fabric for this outfit in the remnant bin at my local Walmart. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a straight-up 100% cotton, but it was exactly what I was looking for. There were 3 pieces of fabric, each 2 yards long, and at less than $4 a piece, it was a deal I couldn’t pass up. The pattern only calls for about 3 yards of fabric to make the largest size, and I was making one somewhere in the middle, but I wanted plenty to allow for the extra front piece, and just in case I made a mistake.
Before anything else, I ran all the fabric through a cycle in the washing machine, as well as a low-heat cycle in the dyer. I try to always do this before I start on a sewing project, especially something wearable. Because there’s nothing worse than spending a lot of hard work and time on creating the perfect outfit, making sure you get all the seams right and the hems perfectly straight….just to have it shrink up beyond recognition on the first washing.
After washing and drying the fabric, I also ironed over it to take out the wrinkles and ensure it would all lay flat for cutting out the pieces and sewing them together. This project marked the first time I had ever sewn darts. When I first realized the pattern included those little beauties, I got pretty worried, as I had always thought of them as extremely tough to get right. But when it came down to it, I discovered that they really weren’t that bad at all. In fact, they were much simpler than I would have ever thought. So all that to say this: if you intend to replicate what I’ve done here, and want to use the same pattern that I did, don’t freak out over those darts. Just go slowly, and make sure you iron those creases before you sew them. Seriously, this will make a galaxy of difference to how hard they’ll be to get right. It also really helps to have a chalk pencil around to mark out where you’ll be creasing and sewing.
And just a quick note: if you have a different pattern that you would rather use to make the dress, or even a dress that’s already in your closet that you’d like to use for this, go for it! You could always adjust and modify some things to add that top layer to the front, or if you don’t really care to have it there, you could leave it off completely just as well and most people wouldn’t even notice. Nothing at all says that you have to do it exactly the way I did. The beauty of this craft, cosplaying, is that there are so many ways you can do these things and still have them looking fantastic. 😀
Since all the instructions and details for the dress itself are included in the packet with the pattern, and you may chose to use a different pattern than me or a pre-made dress, I’m not going to go into all the details here. I will detail how to add the front layer to make the dress “double breasted” based on the pattern that I chose (Simplicity #1609, view C), as it would be basically the same technique for any similar pattern.
As you can see from the picture in the top left corner, this is the front of the dress that I used. It’s two separate pieces, which are mirror images of each other, sewn together down down the front. In the top middle picture, #1 is what the pattern piece for the front of the dress looks like. Now since I was adding another whole flap to the front, instead of cutting two of those top front pieces, I cut three. Next, I traced the pattern out on another piece of paper (top right), and drew a line down the length of the entire piece where the flap would stop on the right side of my body. The two bottom pictures show where I drew my line, and then the completed adapted front piece.
Take a look at this picture of Ahrinda Pryce here:
Picture from the official Star Wars website
You can see that the top front piece comes to about half-way across her right shoulder.
Refer again back to my picture collage up top. I drew my line a little farther over, just to be safe, and to allow for a hem to be added along the edge of that piece. When you draw your line, make sure to add on an extra 1/2 inch to 1 inch along the edge to allow for this hem (my hem was almost 1/2 in. wide, but you could certainly go narrower than that if you have a better skill with hemming than I do. 🙂 )
Also, make sure that you don’t start at the shoulder and draw your line at a right angle straight down all the way to the bottom hem that way. Going back up to my picture again, notice that you have to follow the curve of the armhole a bit (especially if you’re doing a sleeveless dress like mine. that is,) and then flare it out at a steady rate as you go down so that it follows the A-line shape of the dress. And for the adapted half-piece for the right side of the dress, just leave off those darts coming in from the side entirely.
How to assemble everything with these adaptions:
Follow the instructions just like you would if you were making the dress “the normal way,” sewing the 2 regular front half-pieces so that you have a full, “normal” front panel. Also sew the adapted half-piece to that last regular front half-piece, so that you have that 3/4 across, adapted front panel.
Sew the back according to the instructions.
When you get to the point where it’s time to sew the shoulder seams, attaching the front and back pieces together, stack the two front panels that you have (adapted one on the bottom, or with its right-side together against the right-side of the back panel) and pretend that both of them together are the front panel. Now sew the shoulder seams according to the instructions.
Continue on sewing the dress according to the instructions until you’re finished.
When you turn the dress right-side-out, the adapted front panel will be on the outside, the “regular” front panel underneath.
Just like this!
Yes, I know, this is turning into one monstrosity of an article, but I still have a bit more to go!! Now that I’ve shown how to add that top layer to the front of your dress, it’s time to show how I put all the pieces together!
To attach the rank badge and epaulets to dress itself, you’ll need velcro and some metal hook-and-eye style fasteners. The velcro you will use for the rank badge, and the hook-and-eye fasteners for the epaulets. Since the epaulets sit on the top of the shoulders of the dress, and you don’t want people to be able to see hooks that attach them to it, you’ll need to get a pack with straight eyes, not the rounded ones (the pack I grabbed at Joann Fabric’s had several of both kinds.)
As you can see in the note I wrote myself in picture #2, you’ll put the hook part on the epaulets, and sew the “loop” (eye) part straight to the shoulders of the dress. I would advise slipping the dress on and holding the epaulets on your shoulders to decide where exactly you want them to sit, then mark where you’ll sew the eyes based on this. While you’re doing this, you could try to shape them a bit as well, so they’re a little more rounded and lay against the curve of the top of your shoulders better (just make sure not to crease the plastic when you’re doing this.) I did this throughout the process and it worked out really well.
Using hot glue, I attached one hook to each short end on each of the epaulets as shown in picture #3 above. It can take a couple of tries to get them to stay on solidly, as you don’t want them to pop lose under the pressure of being attached to the dress. Then I sewed the eyes to the shoulders of the dress based on the marks I made earlier. Now the epaulets are firmly attached to the shoulders of the dress, and can be attached and detached with ease!
Attaching the rank badge was also extremely simple. I used hot glue to attach a strip of velcro to the back of the rank badge, then sewed the corresponding strip directly to the dress itself. I positioned the badge to the center-right of my chest based on pictures of I had of Thrawn and other Imperial officers. Now the rank badge can also be put on and taken off in a matter of seconds! (Note: I went back and added another strip of vecro to both the badge and the dress underneath the first one for added stability and to hold it closer to the dress; it was hanging off a bit, and didn’t look quite right. After adding the extra piece though, it looked perfect!)
The belt I showed you how to make in the last post is already finished and read to wear, so you don’t have to do a thing more to that part.
Now all that’s left is to hunt out some white leggings and tall black boots.
These are the times when I thank God for a place called….Goodwill! That’s right, that and other thrift stores can be one of the best resources out there to cosplayers like myself. After grabbing a pair of opaque white leggings/tights from Walmart, I headed over to a large Goodwill near me to look for some boots.
Lo and behold, right there in the shoes section were the perfect knee-high black boots! I was extremely happy with my find, and they fit very well (along with having no heel, which is always a bonus for a tall, not-so-well-coordinated girl like me. 😉 ) They even have silver studs running down the entire length of the boot, which lends itself wonderfully to the inspired-by look I’ve been working towards with this outfit.
And now, because you have been so patient and read through all this boring stuff….here’s a sneakpeak at the costume so far!
Isn’t it awesome?! I’m so excited with how it has turned out so far!!
I’ll post the last part of this series on May the 4th, and that’s when you can see the complete outfit, makeup and all! I can’t wait!!!
Until then, let me know what you think in the comments below! I always love to hear from my readers!! 😀
This article was written by Shay S., Creator, Chief Editor, and Podcast Host for The Elven Padawan, and first appeared on ElvenPadawan.com