The question of accuracy is one that comes up a lot in costumes, particularly where you are working from source material that is not your own. Its worth stopping at this point and considering exactly how accurate you want your costume to be and any limitations that may make it impossible for you to go for the gold star, A+ picture perfection in accuracy.
What is accuracy? Well, to start with, its often a component of judging if you ever decide to enter a competition. Does your costume match the original design for the character? But there are different levels of accuracy to shoot for and different techniques and requirements you’ll need depending on how high you want to get.
The very basic level of accuracy is “recognisable.” If someone knows the character, will they recognise you? This can be accomplished very simply. All you need is the major highlights of a costume and you’ll get recognised.
A step up from recognisable is to start making certain that you have all the bits and pieces that the character should have. So you go that extra mile and add on props, or add in that hat, or make that extra belt. At this level you start taking things into account like matching colours exactly, getting the proportions on a costume to look right, or adjusting the bought costume you have so that it is more accurate.
This could be something as simple as ripping off the gold lame fakes to add in genuine pins to Captain America’s military uniform. It could be something like using a corset to give yourself that hourglass figure. It could be that to get this level of accuracy is where you choose to give the costume maker custom measurements instead of buying off the rack.
Inspiration on the left. Research top right. Details reproduced bottom right.
Or it could be a lot more complex such as making certain that your Agent Carter suit has the 3 different colours of blue they used in the show. Or dying a wig so that its that exact right colour as well as styling it. Or it could be
If you want more the recognisable, your costume will take more time and more money to create. Bespoke items that fit you perfectly take more time to create than buying something off the rack. Plus, you probably will need to get what you buy early enough that you can then alter what needs to be altered so that it is definitely right.
There is yet another level of accuracy, however, and that is to take it beyond the norm. At the highest stage of accuracy you are looking to replicate the look using the right materials for the character or time period or setting, creating an outfit that the character themselves would actually wear. Commissioning a bespoke costume of this calibre may be difficult to do without significant upfront deposits. Even then, it may be difficult to find one person who can produce an entire costume of this quality for you.
This level of accuracy gets pricey quickly. Fur, even faux fur, is not cheap, but if you’re looking to create a Barbarian, you’re going to need plenty of it. Leather is pricey, but genuinely looks better than pleather in most cases. It also requires special tools and know how to work with a lot of the time.
To get this kind of accuracy, you start looking at “professional” costume techniques. Your costume would be something that a costume department in any theatre or movie set would consider using. Your costume would be wearable as everyday clothing. All of this takes time. You cannot whip out a costume like this the night before a convention unless it is a very simple costume.
To achieve either of the higher levels of accuracy, you will need to make certain that your research is solid. If you don’t have front, back, side, and detail shots of everything, you will have a hard time recreating it to the nth degree.
But ultimately, there is a point where accuracy is no longer helpful. Sometime the perfect fabric doesn’t exist. Sometimes you can make your own, but sometimes you may have to settle for something close, but not quite perfect. But at the very least, you should try to have a goal in mind in terms of accuracy.
Accuracy is something that comes on a sliding scale. Before you begin to think about what you need for your costume, you need to think about how accurate you want your costume to be, what skills you have to offer, and what limitations you have and what kind of an outcome you want.
If this is your first costume, then maybe just something that is recognisable is enough. You will still have fun and enjoy yourself and people will know who you are. If you don’t have a grand to fork over, then that screen accurate Stormtrooper might not be the right costume for you. But if you’re willing to sacrifice on accuracy, you might be able to find something in your price range to have fun with. And while accuracy is a good thing to strive for, we do still remember the reason we’re getting dressed up- for fun.