Madoka Kaname - Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Time to Make: 55 hours
Timeline of Construction: Decemeber 2016 - March 2017
Wig By: TechnoRanma
It's kind of hard to write about the moment when I decided that I wanted to make the school uniform from Madoka Magica because I thought it was way later than it turned out to be. I thought it was in late 2013 that the idea first came to mind, but I found screenshots of the uniforms from Madoka in my iPad photo gallery that were taken way back in September 2011. XD I think back then it was a design that I had looked at for a few minutes and liked, but I wasn't really committed to wanting to Cosplay it. Heck I hadn't even seen the series then. I just knew the series was gaining momentum and was becoming quite popular. I kept looking at the design every once and I while. I even bought Figmas of all the characters in their Magical Girl outfits before I had even seen the series. I didn't watch Madoka until 2013 and it wasn't until I finally decided that I really liked the Madoka school uniform Nendoroid and I bought the figure in May 2014 that I set my mind on actually Cosplaying the character.
Most of the characters in the series do wear the same school uniform and pretty much the reason that I settled on Cosplaying Madoka specifically is because I loved her pink hair. XD Pink is my favourite colour and I almost never make costumes that involve a lot of pink or pink wigs. Her character was pretty troubled in the series and I felt sympathetic towards the agony she went through and her ultimate transformation as a character. The imagery of opposition between Homura and Madoka was so beautiful and touching that it really stood out for me from the series.
School uniforms in general are considered pretty simplistic costumes. Usually they're simple shirts with sailor collars and short pleated skirts. I've Cosplayed a few school uniform characters over the years including Saki from Onechanbara, Kagome from Inuyasha and Hitomi from Escaflowne. You would think that it would be a breeze to make another one, but the uniforms from Madoka are definitely not your average school uniforms. They're fairly fitted, have open collars, have detailing around the collar, cuffs and hem and have puffed upper sleeves. Those details are what made me fall in love with the uniforms to begin with, but made me fear wanting to make one for myself. That's why I constantly shelved the idea every time I thought it up. When I finally ordered the Nendoroid I decided why not use it as a reference for the costume. It was another justification for buying it. Since then I've also bought the Madoka school uniform Figma as well as 2 prize figures so I had plenty of references staring me in the face every day. They taunted me to finish the costume!
Since working on Madoka was such a long time coming, I had a lot of time to slowly buy materials for the costume and get ready to work on it. I purchased the skirt fabric with help from Pan at a fabric store downtown in July 2014. I was nervous about finding skirt fabric because I wanted to match the pattern as closely as possible. I was pretty impressed that we were able to find black wool knit fabric with a similar white striped design to the fabric in the series. I really like working with wool knit material for pleated skirts because the fabric holds its shape really nicely and it doesn't wrinkle easily. I learned that from working on Saki (Onechanbara).
I was also really concerned about getting the right colour (a sort of beige I figured) for the blouse and for it to be opaque. I really wanted to avoid lining the blouse if possible. Thankfully I found nice material at a Fabricland in August 2014 (again with help from Pan). It was actually at that point that Pan thought maybe it would be fun for us to Cosplay from Madoka together and she also picked up blouse fabric. We went back downtown not long after to get skirt fabric for her to match my material. The original plan was to make our costumes together but at that point Pan had several other costume projects lined up and she was in school so I figured it would be a while before she could Cosplay with me. Pan liked Homuraís design so I was pretty excited about the prospect of us Cosplaying together again especially since I loved the dynamic between the two characters.
During the summer I ordered a blouse pattern to use as a base for the costume. It was a button up blouse with short puffy sleeves. My friend Amber suggested it to me. It seemed like it would be a perfect fit for the costume with some modifications so I was looking forward to working with it. I worked on making a mock of the blouse using the pattern in December of that year. I found that I was having difficulty with the fit of the pieces and I asked Pan for help with it over the Christmas holidays. We spent a few hours on it trying to put in darts and princess seams, but it was just way too big and awkward. Eventually we decided that weíre both so petite and the pattern was just so big on us that we abandoned working with it. I was hoping to work with Pan on a new pattern because sheís much better at patterning than me, but I had to put off working on Madoka for a while because Pan was busy with school. For AN 2015 instead of making Madoka, I decided to make Battle of the Gods Bulma. Madoka ended up being put on the back burner for quite a while. We werenít able to work on the Madoka school uniforms for AN 2016 as well so instead I made Sakuraís Shippuden uniform from Naruto. I had used an old New Look sized for juniors pattern (6338) for the blouse for Sakura and I was surprised at how well it worked without a ton of alterations. It wasnít long after I had finished working on Sakura that I realized that the pattern with some alterations could work really well for Madokaís blouse. It fit me nicely and was tailored well to suit the style of the uniform. Pan was still occupied by other costume projects so I decided to go it alone and see if I could get the pattern to work for Madoka.
Once I was determined to use the New Look pattern, I set out to trace each piece and modify the bottoms of each pattern piece to match the uniform design. The uniform arches up in the middle of the front of the blouse and meets like a v in the back. I also had to modify the collar to make a square neckline. I spent the Christmas holidays of 2016 working on a mock and I was quite happy to see the fit of it when I was done. Patterning is definitely not my forte and I was super nervous about making this costume going in so the mock of the blouse gave me a lot of confidence. Once I was satisfied with the mock in early January, I decided to start working on a mock of the white shirt she wears under her blouse. I debated for a while about how I wanted to make the shirt. For a little while I considered buying a pre-made dickey shirt. I determined fairly early on that I didnít want to make a full shirt because I was worried that a second shirt would be too bulky. Not to mention, only a small part of the shirt is visible so it seemed like a waste to make the whole thing and then have to worry about it sticking out around the cuffs and around the hem of the shirt. I couldnít find a pre-made dickey shirt that had a high enough collar anyway. Any dickey shirt that did have a high collar usually had lace or some other adornment. So by mid-January I decided to make the shirt myself. I originally tried to use a vest pattern to make it because the pattern had a zipper that zipped up into the collar. I realized pretty quickly that the pattern was meant for stretchy fabric and wouldnít work. Instead I decided to use my New Look pattern that I also used for the blouse. This time I used the version of the pattern that I had modified for Sakura since I had created a high collar for it. I just made the top 3/4 of the blouse. It was fairly simple although making the collar was pretty finicky. I made the dickey shirt twice because I accidentally made the collar a little too short in terms of the width so it didnít meet up that well in front. The second time I made the shirt out of a very heavy white fabric. I was going to end the zipper just below the collar, but I changed my mind because the collar wasnít standing up nicely or meeting that well in the middle. I decided to sew the zipper all the way to the tip of the collar which fixed that issue. I was kind of surprised by how well the collar line turned out especially since the white fabric I used was a bit bulky. I wasnít sure how I wanted to attach the white under shirt to the collar of the blouse, but I couldnít do much else to finish the white shirt until I made the blouse so I set it aside.
Next up I wanted to finish another daunting part of the costume so I decided to make the box pleated skirt. I have made a few pleated skirts before, but Iíve never made a box pleated skirt. I found a YouTube tutorial for how to measure out pleats for that type of skirt so I was surprised how easy it was to make. I first used some scrap fabric to test out the proportions and when I figured it would work, I made the skirt for real. Again Iím so happy that I decided to use a wool knit because the pleats sat really nicely and it came together so quickly. I finished the skirt in just half a week. It felt great to finish a part of the costume and to get it done in just a few days without much trouble!
I started working on the blouse in early February. I knew the blouse was going to be a bit tricky. I wasn't sure how the lace and bias tape would sit or how the puffy sleeves would work out so I was quite intimidated. Getting the basic shape together for the blouse was pretty easy. I did have to re-sew the zipper seam a couple of times to make sure I left enough space at the top for the teardrop opening. I know in the Anime she has a very circular opening on the shirt at the base of her neck. One of the artistic liberties that I had to take with the costume in order for it to sit nicely on me and due to the pattern, was having a zipper run up the back of the blouse. Madoka's doesn't, but because of that I was able to make the teardrop opening in a little bit more of a realistic manner. Granted it isn't quite as predominate or circular as I wanted, but at least I did include it in the design. I also created little strips of fabric to act as fake pockets on the front of the blouse. My mother kindly offered to sew them to the blouse for me because sheís really great at hiding her stitches. While she did that for me I started patterning the sleeves.
The sleeves were quite tricky because the blouse pattern that I was using was meant to be sleeveless or just have very simple cap sleeves so I had to mix together patterns to find something that would work. I tried to test out pattern options on the mock before I decided to use the puff sleeve from McCall's M7101 pattern and combine it with the lower sleeve of McCall's M6420 pattern. The McCall's M6420 pattern was the pattern that I used for my Princess Peach ball gown a few years ago. I made the puff sleeves fairly easily but actually closing the seams and setting the gathering to properly align with the armholes was tough. It's quite a challenge to combine sleeve patterns with armholes that aren't specifically shaped for that particular sleeve. I played with it for a bit, but I wasn't that happy with how the gathering was spread out. This is when my mom became my lifesaver. She encouraged me to keep working on it when I felt stuck and she helped me out by assisting me with spreading the gathering and she sewed a basting stitch on each sleeve to anchor them to the arm holes. Using her guidelines I was able to set the sleeves. She also helped me set the gathering for the lower part of each sleeve. I'm pretty happy with how the sleeves turned out in the end. They're not quite even in terms of how they sit in relation to the gathering, but given that I was mixing together patterns, I was kind of surprised the puff sleeve worked at all.
Next up I tackled the bottom of the blouse and added the red bias tape detail. I wasnít sure how adding red bias tape would work out. I didnít create my own bias tape. I just used simple red double fold bias tape that I bought downtown. I was nervous it would look bunchy and uneven, but it turned out really nicely. It did take quite a while to sew it around the whole bottom edge of the shirt and it took some trial and error to position it evenly. I pinned the tape down slowly and each time I reached a point I had to fold the tape into a sharp shape to preserve the edges and then baste it down. Then I slowly hand sewed the entire hem to try to hide my stitches. Once that was done, I pinned down the lace and again tried to preserve the edges. Getting the lace was a bit of an interesting story. I searched for weeks back in 2014 on eBay for lace that had the scalloped or triangle look that suited the lace on the uniforms, but I didnít see anything that I liked. I also had no luck when I looked with Pan for anything that would work in the fabric district. It was during a trip to Philadelphia for Pan during the winter holidays of 2014 that she found lace that might work for Madoka for us at a Jo-Annís. She took photos of it to show me when she got back. I liked it, but then we couldnít find it to order online. Pan had taken a picture of the bolt for the lace and I was able to ask my friend Jeremy (who was living in Ohio) to go to his local Jo-Annís where they thankfully were selling the same lace. He bought several yards for us and mailed it to Canada. It was a costly endeavor, but the end result was worth it and I really appreciated Jeremyís help! The lace had a nice shape to it and was quite delicate looking. I sort of wish it was a little bit bigger because the triangular points arenít very deep. I was originally aiming to just show the triangular edge of the lace, but I had show more of the edging because of how small it is. I only have a very tiny amount hidden for sewing allowance so the lace wouldn't be overwhelmed by the bias tape and fade into the background. I was actually still pinning and adjusting the bias tape and lace in the last few days before March Toronto ComiCon 2017. I felt some of the edges weren't quite as pointy or the lace wasn't properly laid down around the curves so the shirt was laying a little awkwardly. I had to cut off some of the lace and even after Toronto ComiCon I was cutting in and adding new lace around some of the edges to give it a cleaner appearance. In the end Iím happy with how the bias tape and lace turned out especially given how intimidated I was by it!
I tackled the cuffs after that. I had to pattern them myself. The first cuff turned out really nicely although I again used the really heavy white fabric that I had used for the under shirt and it was super hard to attach the red bias tape to. The thickness made it very difficult to get a needle through. Adding the lace was a pretty smooth process and the first cuff was pretty simple to hand sew in place. The only disappointing thing was that I wanted to properly attach the cuffs with seams, but because of how thick the cuffs were, I had to hand sew them down over top of each sleeve edge. It just meant that from some angles the cuffs looked a little wonky, but they turned out fairly nicely all things considered. The second cuff was a little bit more tricky to sew. It turned out to be a bit bigger than the first cuff so it was too large to attach to the sleeve without bunching. I had to take off some of the bias tape and cut off some of the white material to reduce its size. It was a tremendous pain in the butt to re-sew the red bias tape so when I was done and I found the cuff was still a couple of cms too big I decided to just leave the slight bunching so as to save my poor abused fingertips!
Another daunting element was tackling the collar. I wasnít sure how the black bias tape would sit. I bought very thick bias tape, which was quite finicky to lay down, but once it was in place it was pretty easy to sew down with my sewing machine. The last major element was figuring out how to attach the white dickey shirt. My blouse fabric was fairly opaque, but the white of the under shirt showed through fairly obviously if I left a lot of excess underneath the blouse. I had to carefully adjust the white shirt underneath my blouse while wearing it and I had my mom help me pin it in place. My mother quickly sewed down the edges of the under shirt for me so I could try it on and see how it sat. It seemed alright at first and didnít need much adjustment. I was working on this just a week before I planned to debut the costume at ComiCon. I held my breath and used pinking shears to cut off the excess material that hadnít been stitched down. I made sure the excess didn't extend beyond the black bias tape edging. A couple of nights before the con I noticed that part of the blouse just under the collar in front was a bit saggy so I had to undue some of the stitching of the under shirt and pull it forward to clear the bunching. Thankfully that worked and it fixed the issue but given the fact that I had to cut excess material when I finished sewing down the under shirt, Iím very happy that I didnít find the shirt to be too short in the end. I can just barely get my head through the collar opening even with both the under shirt and blouse zippers down so Iím glad that I didnít have to go back and make the collar bigger! XD
The final constructed elements to the costume were the bows. Making the back bow was pretty simple. I've made a ton of bows over the years so I guessed the size and made a pattern and played with it until I liked the shape. It took me a couple of nights. I made the front red bow just a few days before Toronto ComiCon. I had to wait until I had the white under shirt in place to finalize the sizing for the bow. I had never made a bow with a style quite like the red bow so I'm so happy with how nicely it turned out! The red bow was made using leftover material from my Sakura Haruno blouse. I adore the colour of it and it might be my favourite element of the costume. I know my costume is a bit confused in terms of reds. The bias tape, red bow and hair clips are all different shades of red, but thankfully they don't look jarring together. I left sewing snaps to attach the bows to the blouse until a couple of nights before the con and that turned out to be a frustrating decision. Getting the bows to sit evenly to properly position the snaps was tricky and took a lot of trial and error. It looked pretty good when I finally stopped working on it after about 3 hours, but after Toronto ComiCon I did go back and I changed the positioning for the red bow.
The other elements of the costume were purchased. I bought thigh high socks back in 2014 for this costume. They turned out to be a bit long on me due to my small stature, but I made them work. I re-wore an old pair of brown penny loafer shoes. I picked to wear the penny loafers that I had purchased for my Eleanor costume. I'm glad that they came in handy again! For fun costume props I have a super cute Kyuubey plush from the company Cube that I purchased back in 2011. I was pretty close to selling it at the Nominoichi a few years ago, but I decided to keep it instead when I put Madoka on my costume wish list. It's a cute version of Kyuubey that is flat and balanced to sit on your shoulder. I also purchased a light up version of Madoka's soul gem a couple of years ago for this costume because I figured it would make for some dynamic photos.
Of course I have yet to mention a key element of the costume... the wig! The wig was always a big concern for me because her hair is such a cute but daunting style. I did purchase a "pre-styled" wig for Madoka from an eBay store back in 2014. When I got the wig I was disappointed with it. It looked overly long and was basically a bob wig with a couple of pigtail clips. There wasn't much styling put into it. I was worried about making the wig work and about the red bows Madoka has in her hair. I wasn't sure what to do about that. I did buy some thick wired ribbon to try to make the bows, but I really didn't like the quality of the ribbon. I was pretty put off regarding the wig, but just a couple of weeks before AN 2016 my friend TechnoRanma decided to sell her Madoka wig that she had styled a few years ago. When TechnoRanma and her sister Glay Cosplayed as Madoka and Homura it was a tremendous inspiration to me. They both looked amazing and I always thought TechnoRanma's wig was gorgeous. Within a few minutes of her saying she was selling her wig, I decided to buy it from her. It was worth every penny! I sold my old Madoka wig at the Nominoichi and Pan helped me out by giving me some cash for my birthday to put towards the wig. TechnoRanma did an amazing job on this wig. She dulled out the colours, she used hair to frame the face perfectly and she really matched Madoka's bang style. Her pigtails were full and stayed in place beautifully and she even styled in Madoka's zigzag part! This wig was truly spot on and really brought my costume to a whole other level! Best of all the wig was super comfortable! I finished the costume off with some Super Crystal pink circle lenses and the look was complete.
This pretty much became a dream costume for me given how long I had considered Cosplaying as the character and all the work I had to do to finally get to the point of actually starting the costume for real. I'm super thrilled with what I accomplished especially since I was so intimidated by the whole thing going in. At times I kind of wanted to give up and just order a mass produced version that you can find on eBay. It definitely wouldn't have fit me right off the bat and some of the detailing might have been a bit off, but with some work it could have been nice enough. In the end I didn't take the easy way out and wearing a costume that I put so much effort into and seeing my work pay off felt very fulfilling. I definitely wouldn't want to trade the sense of accomplishment that I got from finishing and wearing Madoka for the satisfaction of ordering the costume online. Not that I'm really against buying costumes. Several of my costumes I purchased as commissions, but it is a different feeling to finally finish a tough costume and learn a lot along the way. I look forward to getting a lot of wear out of this costume! It took quite a few hours over 3 months and a decent amount of money to make so this will be a go-to costume for me for a while. I can also change up the wig and Cosplay any of the other girls. I'll probably Cosplay Homura myself eventually, but I am pretty excited for the day when I can Cosplay as Madoka with Pan as my Homura. <3
Events/Conventions this costume was worn to
Toronto ComiCon 2017 (Saturday) & Anime North 2017 (Saturday)
Pan & Kris Byers Photography