Thursday, December 29, 2016

Professor McGonagall Cosplay

[I know I was supposed to write about the costumes for Antigone, but that's just too overwhelming to think about. I was so burnt out after sewing like mad for two months that I didn't touch my machine for another five months. It wasn't until the thought of Halloween popped up that I could stand to think about sewing another costume. Thankfully, it was a very inspiring costume.]

When I found out that the Silicon Valley Symphony was doing a series of Harry Potter movie soundtrack concerts, I knew I had to make a costume, especially since the first one was during Halloween weekend! Although I briefly toyed with the idea of a femme-Snape costume, I decided to stick with one of my teacher heroines, Professor Minerva McGonagall: strict, no-nonsense, fair, high expectations, but not above the unexpected biscuit-offering. As a teacher myself, I'd rather emulate her teaching style than Snape's.

I already had a RTW black turtleneck and a thrifted long skirt that I could use for her dress, but I knew that to really get her I needed the iconic green velvet robe and the huge pointy black hat. The hat was fairly straightforward to make, even if it was annoying trying to sew all the layers of thick fabric together. I used the hat pattern from the now-OOP Simplicity 9887, but with a much wider brim, and black cotton velveteen and heavyweight craft interfacing from Joann's. The bent tip and brim were wired with floral wire to help them hold their shape, and a pheasant-feather bundle from Michael's and a random stash button finished off the look.

The robe was a little more tricky, since it was hard to find good pictures of her. I ended up watching this YouTube clip several times to get a good idea of how the seams on the back yoke of the robe looked (best shot is at 0:32-33), then modified the robe in Simplicity 9887 significantly in order to get the yoke lines and the fullness at the back, as well as the collared look in front. The sleevehead had so much excess that I was able to just gather it before inserting to get the look. I didn't bother lining it because I just wasn't feeling motivated, but in hindsight I wish I had at least lined the sleeves since the inside definitely shows.

I'm really pleased at how the collar and yoke integrate with the sleeve, but all those layers of panne velvet meant I had to topstitch everything since I couldn't press all that thickness into submission. 

I love how full the back came out, but I wish I had interfaced the front collar.
Panne velvet is cheap, but doesn't have much by way of body. 

The finishing touches were her wand and brooch. The wand was made possible thanks to a fortuitous finial find at a bead store, otherwise I have no idea how I would have mimicked the carved wood look of hers. I used superglue to attach it to some beads and a wooden dowel, then painted it all with my usual acrylic craft paints.

My finished wand compared to McGonagall's official wand. 

The brooch was definitely a lot trickier; I didn't want a goofy-looking handmade Sculpey one (McGonagall demands sharp perfection, not Becky Home-Ecky) so I asked my very talented brother if he could design and 3D plastic one. Boy, did he deliver! So many people at the concert asked where I had gotten my movie-accurate brooch! I used silver paint pens and nail polish to color it appropriately and the gems are just plastic rhinestones, and there's a brooch pin tacky-glued to the back.

I realized after assembling all these pieces that the look would be totally ruined if I had my regular purse with me, so I decided to make a book-purse as well. I bought a fake book (the kind that opens up to reveal a secret compartment) at Ross and glued on a faux-leather cover. Metal decorative corners and a carefully-calligraphed and cut out "Complete Guide to Transfiguration" bookplate completed the look. When I wore this costume to the Barnes & Noble HP Ball, I actually got stopped by a lot of people wanting to know if I had purchased my book purse there and where was the display so they could buy one too...high praise for a last-minute addition!

I based the color scheme and front cover on the movie version of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration

When I put all of the costume pieces together, I definitely felt very McGonagall! This might be one of the most screen-accurate cosplays I've done -- enough so that people at the concert and the ball asked 1) whether I worked there, and 2) whether I got my costume at Universal, and then were subsequently amazed when I said that I made it. And of course, seeing all the smiles from little kids was the best. It was all kinds of gratifying and a fun reminder of why I loved making costumes and wearing them, even if I get strange looks en route to the event (when I met up with Elaine at an English pub before the concert, somebody called me Mrs. Harry Potter, and when I was walking through the parking lot to B&N a dude asked if I was a witch, and when I answered in the affirmative he said plaintively, "'s not Halloween!").

I know McGonagall is supposed to look stern and forbidding, but I was too excited!

Elaine in her grey cat hoodie was my Patronus. Because yes, McGonagall's Patronus is a grey tabby, and her Animagus form is also a grey tabby, so that means her Patronus is...herself. How's that for the ultimate cat lady? 
The concert was awesome, but the Barnes & Noble Harry Potter Ball was frankly quite lame. All they had was a cutout for taking pictures with, and lots of merchandise to buy. I hear other branches had funner activities like trivia contests and such. Oh well! I was able to browse all the books searching for Seraphina Picquery costume shots, though, so that was soemthing at least. 

Pattern: Simplicity 9887, but heavily modified. The brim of the hat was extended by three inches all around, and the robe is pretty much a different pattern now.
Fabric: 6 yards of forest green costume velvet for the robe, 1.5 yards each black cotton velveteen and heavyweight craft interfacing for the hat, 1/4 yard of burgundy faux-leather for the book
Notions: Feather bundle and stash button for the hat, decorative corners from the scrapbooking section for the book
Hours: Four or so for the hat, twelve-ish for the robe, three for the wand, two for the brooch, and two for the book. A lot of the time for the crafty items was spent running around to different stores getting the materials, and this is not counting all the time spent researching. So at least 25 hours total for this cosplay!
Cost: $18 for the velvet, $15 for the hat fabric, $6 for the feather bundle, $5 for the wand materials, $8 for the brooch materials (nail polish and silver pens and rhinestones), $8 for the book materials; total cost of the costume, $60. Not bad!
Final thoughts: Um, I love it? I think that's pretty obvious. SHB does not like it, though. He doesn't like it when I wear hats, and this one is pretty huge. It's a costume better suited to cold weather since it's so warm to wear all that fabric, but winter also brings rain and high winds, which is less good for long skirts and a big hat. All in all it's very comfortable but cumbersome to wear.

Since I made a McGonagall costume for myself, it was only logical that I make an HP-related Halloween costume for SHB as well. Next up: the youngest seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team!


  1. Totally amazing, and worth the work! Will you say yes if you are asked to costume another show in 2017, or try to say no?

  2. Wow! Everything turned out amazing, great job. I almost never think so much about all the accessories when I do costumes

  3. Wow, there were so much thought and energy and creativity put into this costume! It is just incredible!

  4. What a fabulous costume! I love how accurate your details turned out!

  5. Wowsers! This is brilliant! That cape, that brooch!! Sigh!!!!

  6. I love your coordinated SHB outfits, its so cute and awesome :)
    I'm very impressed with your hat, and your brother's 3D printing skills too!!

  7. You are an amazing designer! I had high hopes of doing the same for my workplaDinner for grandpa?ce party costume contest, however time and materials aren’t available. The book purse is an excellent finishing touch. You might consider selling on Etsy, Ebay, .... your talent is magical!!

  8. Hello!! The cloak is absoulutely perfect, would it be possible too send me the modified pattern you used for it!! It would be amazing too re-create it for my halloween costume!!

  9. You've done an amazing job on this costume!! Absolutely Brilliant!! I would spend a lot of money in a heartbeat to have this costume. Thank you for sharing your designing journey.


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