Hannah Alexander Megara Cosplay Tutorial (Part 1 - Patterning and Dyeing)
In this tutorial, I will walk through how I made my Hannah Alexander design art nouveau Megara cosplay from Disney's Hercules. This is by no means the only way to make this garment, it is just how I created mine.
First I sketched out the design, trying to remain as accurate to Hannah’s original work as possible. While figuring out how to pattern the garment, I researched ancient Greek fashion and saw most of their garments were made with just long squares of fabric which were draped and tied in various ways. Using this new knowledge as a starting point, I decided that my patterns would all be rectangles. One rectangle for the skirt, one for the sash/bodice, and one for the sleeve.
I was extremely hesitant about patterning the sash so, I did a test with some scrap fabric. I knew I wanted a very full drape around the waist but, it also meant that I had to gather a lot of fabric in the smaller parts of the design like the shoulder and bust.
I tested 1” knife pleats starting at the shoulder and opening up around the waist. And I really like the silhouette, but it still read bulky to me. However, with this test I now knew how big my pattern had to be for the sash and I could order some fabric!
I ended up with a skirt pattern of two layers of 120” x 50”, two rectangles of 45” x 48” for the shoulder sash, a sleeve of 28” x 34”, a waistband of 35” x 4.5”, and a small rectangle of 6.5” x 3.5” to connect the two shoulder pieces at the top. These patterns are according to my measurements (5’5” height, 29” waist, 34” bust, and 38” hip). But they allowed for a LOT of excess fabric to be gathered, per the design.
I ordered 10 yards of white crepe de chine from Fabric.com for this cosplay. I saw a lot of people were using silk chiffon from Dharma Trading Co. but, I couldn’t rationalize the price of it versus the cheaper crepe de chine.
The next step was ombré dip dying the fabric before sewing.
I used Rit Dye to dye my fabric. (Please don’t do what I did and read carefully what your fabric is made of so you don’t buy 10 bottles of normal All Purpose Rit Dye to have to go back to JoAnn Fabrics and return all of them to get Rit Dye More for synthetic fabric.)
Using Rit Dye’s Color Formula page on their website, I found the colors I wanted to form the gradient in Hannah’s design. The lightest color would be Shrinking Violet, next Pink Quartz, to Deep Fuchsia, ending in Cranberry Grape. I wrote down the recipes for all the colors and began the dyeing (and dying) process.
I had to use the stove method for dying since my fabric was synthetic and it requires the water to be consistently hot whilst dyeing. I got a cheap stainless steel 12 quart pot and some rubber gloves. I prepped my kitchen by laying down old towels on the counter so it wouldn’t get stained. I also prepped a large platic container with a bath of Rit’s Color Stay Dye Fixative right next to my sink
I labeled all of my squares of fabric with their measurements, which colors I was going to dye them, and what side was the top vs the bottom. This made sure I got a vertical ombré on all of my fabric pieces instead of potentially messing up and dying a horizontal ombré.
Once the water was boiled, I added the amount of dye I needed to make Shrinking Violet. Only the top of the sleeve and the top of the shoulder sash would get this color so, I rolled up and clothes pinned the excess.
This roll became where I would hold the fabric whilst dip dyeing the desired section.
There are a lot of tutorials about dip dyeing and I watched a majority of them as I had never dip dyed anything in my life. What I amassed was you were supposed to get the section of fabric you want dyed wet first (so the dye can seep into the fabric easier and not create harsh lines) then dip the fabric into the dye, constantly moving it in a up/down motion. The bottom of the fabric will be the darkest since it is in the dye bath longest, and the up/down motion creates the color gradient. Then you rinse the fabric off with water until the water runs clear. I then put the dyed section of fabric into the Dye Fixative bath. And please wear rubber gloves and painting clothes when dyeing so you don’t turn your fingers purple or ruin your favorite outfit.
I created a sort of assembly line for my dyeing. I would be dip dyeing one section while another was in the Dye Fixative bath. When it came time to rotate, the newly dyed fabric would be rinsed and moved to the Dye Fixative bath while the Dye Fixative fabric would be rinsed and put outside on my makeshift clothes line to dry. Complete all sections of one color and go through this process before moving on to the next color. This rotation and the timing of it all worked the best for me, as I was working alone.
As the dyeing process continued, I strayed from the Rit color recipes a lot. I originally was going to create fresh dye baths for every color (dumping out the old dye and re-boiling new water) but, seeing how long the first pot took to boil, I changed to an additive process where the water wasn’t dumped until the very end and I just added more dye as the colors progressed. This only worked since I had started with the lightest color but, it resulted in different colors than I had originally wanted and listed. I was basically improv dyeing.
*Important* I forgot to mention that I was doing test swatches for each color so I knew approximately what color I was getting but, towards the end, I wasn’t measuring any of my dye, just splashing in reds, pinks, and purples when I deemed it appropriate.
Doing the middle sections was by far the hardest. I rolled up the two sides of the fabric I wasn’t dying and had to fold the to-be-dyed section into a U shape to dip dye in the bath. This way, when I did the up and down motion, the center of the section would be the darkest and the ends of the section would be the lightest and gradient in to the other colors.
The skirt was also problematic as I had to fold the fabrics multiple times to make the 120” width fit into my dye pot. This 1) was a lot of fabric that got very heavy once wet and 2) created uneven dyeing as the center of the folded fabric didn’t get as much contact with the dye as the outside edges. I tried to constantly adjust the folds and move the fabric around to give equal dye exposure but, it was the best I could do with such a large piece of fabric.
One major mistake that I will advise against is placing all of the fabric into the Dye Fixative bath after each layer
You should only put the section that was just dyed into the bath and drape the rest outside of the bucket OR put all the fabric inside the bath once all the dyeing is complete.
My skirt pieces accidentally fell completely in the Dye Fixative bath after the second color because of the weight of the fabric. When I added the third color, the section that fell into the Dye Fixative bath before ended up splotchy and lighter than any other part of the skirt. So, the ombré of the skirt weirdly goes from pink to dark pink to very light purple to dark magenta. (It is very visible in the photo on the right.)
The whole dyeing process took me 6 hours from start to finish. I let the fabric air dry outside but you could also put them in your dryer. I personally just didn’t want to risk accidentally turning my apartment dryer pink.
Keep in mind, once dry, the color will not be as vibrant or as dark as when it is wet. (Above photos show color on wet fabric on the left and dry on right)
Once all my pieces were dry, it was time to begin sewing.
Keep reading to Part 2 of the tutorial to see how I sewed everything, added fabric painted swirls to the skirt hem, and hand stitched appliqué to the sash.