Someone asked me on my Facebook account what a mock up was. It occurred to me that while mockups are standard in the fashion industry, a lot of cosplayers simply don’t bother with them for a myriad of reasons.
First of all, what is a mockup?
Simply put, it is a crappy version of your final project. A mockup allows you to test the fit, pattern, and construction of a garment or piece without wasting expensive materials. They are typically made of a cheap material like old bedsheets, miscellaneous remnants, or a cotton muslin with a low thread count/sq. inch. Industry professionals also suggest using a cheap material that will mimic the final product, i.e. use cheap knit to make mock ups of more expensive knit pieces.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right? After all, for us cosplayers, it is instinct that guides us to pattern out all our armor pieces before we start cutting out our thermoplastics and foam. Why can’t we do the same for fabric?
Here are reasons that I’ve heard from various people (including my young foolish self) as to why they don’t make mockups:
- They take way too much time. It’s true. Making a mockup requires a lot of time and if you’re working in a time crunch, you simply don’t have that luxury.
- It’s extra money. Okay. Sure. Muslin runs about 2.99/yard. I’ll give you that.
- That’s a thing? Oh Lord, that’s the most common reason I’ve ever heard.
To respond to all of these reasons, all of which are completely valid reasons to not make a mockup, I present reasons why you should make a mock up.
- They take way too much time. Let me paint this scenario for you: my ego, the very id of my essence, lives and dies by the mantra “go big or go home.” So when my friend handed me this image:my first thought was, “Damn. That’s going to be a lot of satin.”And it was.I made a mock up of C.C. just so I would know exactly how much material I needed and how much time it would take. From my project notes, you know how the final product was made. My mock up took me about three weeks to perfect and it took me another three months to finish the entire dress with all of its embellishments.
Think of it this way: had I not made my mockup, I would have spent another $100 dollars buying extra material to make up for my blunders. I was in grad school when I made this dress; I didn’t have an extra $100 dollars. No amount of coupon hoarding would have saved me from that fate.
In short, take the time to make a mock-up. You will save more money that way in the long run. Also, the final construction process will go much smoother because your muscle memory will kick in and help you out!
- It’s extra money. Continuing on from the previous thought, the cost for a mock-up is quite minimal in comparison to the cost of materials. If you are smart, Jo-ann’s will often put muslins and broadcloth on sale for a decent price. During Firefly Frenzy, I bought 10 yards of muslin for $10. That’s a steal.Use your coupons and sales. If you already do that for materials, it won’t be that much to add on a couple yards of cheap cotton. Jo-ann always has a sale going on. Buy your mockup materials during one sale, and when you’re done, buy your final materials during the next. You also will not need to include extra material for mistakes if you make a mock-up and will save money in the end!
- That’s a thing? Yes. Yes it is. You should do the thing.
Other reasons to make a mockup:
- Test any weird dye baths! Got to do some gradient dyeing? You can dye your mockup first before you dye scraps of your final material to see if you need to adjust any of your dye baths or use a different technique. But ALWAYS test your final material before you dye your final garment! A lot of fabrics may not take to the dye the same way cotton muslin does.
- Commissions. I will not make a commission for anyone unless I have made a mockup first. I have two exceptions to that rule: One is my little brother, who is easily accessible and whose body proportions run true to industry, and the other is my best friend, Berry Bunny Cosplay, who I have made several pieces for over the years and whose proportions I am familiar with. But still. I make mockups for them too.
- Boredom. Too broke to buy nice materials but going out of your mind from having nothing to do? Make a mockup of one of your future projects from spare materials left over from past projects. When you do have the money to make the final costume, you’ve already made your pattern!