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Costume Creations
Maraís Jumpsuit

Mara wears a black, one piece form-fitting jumpsuit. It should be made from a medium-sheen stretch material. Four way stretch fabric is highly recommended to allow for comfort and ease of movement!  The jumpsuit is sleeveless, and the shoulder straps should be at least one and a half inches wide. The neckline is round and should not go below the collarbone.  In two reference images the jumpsuit has a high collar covering the neck. From 6 to 10 panels run down the legs from the front of each thigh to the inner leg seam, extending from the hips to knees.  Piping runs from each shoulder down the front of the jumpsuit, bordering the thigh panels down to the knees.  The zipper must be on the back, and should be hidden in the back seam.  In many (but not all) reference images, the jumpsuit has a diamond shaped piece on the front that connects the stomach to the thigh panels.





In some reference images two lines of piping run down the back of the jumpsuit as well as the front.















It is very difficult to find good fabric for a Mara jumpsuit. My first jumpsuit was made with the most perfect LOOKING fabric... but it didn't have enough stretch. So it looked great, but I was miserable. Since then I've requested or purchased black fabric samples from dozens of fabric stores all over the country, and I've made jumpsuits out of five different materials (and one out of leather) but nothing has worked as well as I want. Fabrics with the perfect sheen aren't stretchy enough. The really stretchy fabric is either too shiny, or it's a matt black that does not show any of the costume details. I finally gave up and made my current jumpsuit with a shiny 4-way stretch PVC material. It's a bit too glossy, but at least it isn't the wet-look fetish stuff! And it is soooooo comfortable! I still wear the original low-gloss low-stretch jumpsuit to events sometimes, but that thing gives me a backache within an hour of putting it on. Another popular type of fabric for Mara jumpsuits is black cire, which is thinner than PVC but is a lot cooler to wear during hot weather.














Use a leotard or catsuit pattern. They are designed to be used with stretch fabric, so they will save you a lot of headaches in the long run! I used Kwik-Sew pattern 2722 for my jumpsuit, although I also purchased Kwik-Sew 2633 and 3052... and with some adjustments they probably could have worked just as well.















Changes to the Kwik-Sew pattern include: Remove the cutout from the back, add a hidden zipper on the back, add the piping and thigh panels to the front. I also found that the seam on the inner thigh is too far forward, so I moved it back about two inches.


To add the piping and thigh patterns evenly on both sides of the fabric, I have found that it helps to draw the lines in chalk on the back of the fabric. Draw very lightly at first, on ONLY ONE SIDE of the fabric. Then, when you know exactly where you want the lines to go, draw them in with a heavier chalk line... and then fold the fabric in half down the center. Pat the fabric down the length of the lines with your hand, and then open the fabric back up again. The chalk will have transferred, and you will find a perfect mirror image on the other side. No more unbalanced lines!







If your jumpsuit material is very expensive, if you cannot get more of it if you mess up, or if you just want to see how the lines will look on a three-dimensional outfit before you begin sewing... it's always a good idea to make your jumpsuit with a cheap (but similar) fabric first. Make your mistakes on a "muslin mockup" instead of your good fabric! (Normally you would use real muslin for a mockup... but in this case, you will want to use a stretch material of similar thickness to your good fabric.) When the muslin fits perfectly and you've worked out all of the kinks in the design, you can then take it apart and use it for your final pattern. Make sure to keep seam allowances in mind when you cut the fabric!














Finding the Right Fabric
Finding the Right Pattern
Pattern Alterations
Sewing Tips and Tricks

Sew your jumpsuit on a serger with wooly nylon thread, or use a zigzag stitch on your standard sewing machine to best retain the stretch of the material and protect the seams from splitting. You can use a straight stitch, but there is a greater risk of popped seams... and those do tend to happen in the most embarrassing times and places!


For the thigh panels, you can create the lines by folding the material and sewing each fold in place, by using quilt batting, or by piecing together individual sections of fabric. The panels on the Decipher card Mara jumpsuit were made by folding the vinyl. I used a medium weight quilt batting and sewed the lines right through the fabric and batting. Using this technique, the center area of each panel is higher than the lines, and I like the way it turned out. It has the unfortunate side effect of adding bulk and making my thighs look chubbier, but the pattern stands out well in person and in photographs. I have three layers: the jumpsuit fabric, a layer of batting, and then another layer of black material that is meant to protect the batting and provide a good surface for the back of the stitches.


It helps (but isn't necessary) to use elastic cord for the piping to protect the stretch of the jumpsuit.  Make sure to use an elastic that isnít too stiff, or it will cause ripples in your jumpsuit.  If you cannot find a very soft and flexible elastic, then donít use it.  A soft cotton cord will be good enough.


Make sure the zipper goes all of the way  to your lower back. If the zipper is not long enough, the seams in the narrow waist area can be ripped or damaged when you try to stretch/pull the jumpsuit over your hips.


Stretch fabric is tricky to work with, so make sure that you always have the seams well secured before you begin sewing them! If you don't, the fabric can stretch out of shape as you sew, or the two pieces you're sewing won't line up correctly. I like to use two-sided basting tape to keep everything lined up and stretch free while I sew. Make sure you know which kind of tape you have... some can be sewn through, while others will really gunk up your needle. If you can find it, Collins Wash Away Wonder Tape is terrific. It's usually found in the quilting section... and you can sew right through it without any problems at all.


If you select a PVC/vinyl material, be careful if you use pins while assembling your jumpsuit. They will leave visible holes in the material that will not close back up again. Use pins only in the seam allowances.


Also, if you use vinyl material, any seams that you rip will be visible as a long line of holes in the fabric. So, it's better to make the jumpsuit too large at first and take it in than to make it too small and try to rip the seams out for an enlargement.


I found that it is MUCH easier if you put the piping and thigh panels on the jumpsuit BEFORE you sew the front and back of the jumpsuit together.





Here's a trick for easy application of the piping that doesn't involve fabric damaging pins or the frustration of fabric that won't stay where you want it to. First, draw lines on the back of your fabric to show where the piping needs to go. Then, apply one wide or two lengths of basting tape along that line. (I use the Collins Wash Away tape.) Press your piping cord into the center of the tape line:







Then, fold the fabric in half along the line. Press the fabric tightly against the cord, making sure that the tape holds it closed. Now you're ready to sew!






Unless you have a special Teflon foot for your sewing machine, you will find that the sewing foot will tend to catch on the vinyl surface and can scratch up the front of your jumpsuit. To avoid this, anytime you will be sewing on the front of the fabric, protect your fabric with a layer of tissue paper. I usually select tissue that is the same color as my fabric, so that any stray fibers won't be as visible when I tear the paper off later.... but this time I used lavender so that the tissue would show up better for the photograph. Using a zipper or piping foot, sew a line down the length of the piping, keeping the sewn line as close to the piping cord as you possibly can. Then, rip away the tissue, open up your fabric... and you should have a perfectly sewn length of piping in your jumpsuit! I highly recommend that you practice this and any other sewing on a piece of scrap fabric before you start on your jumpsuit. Get the hang of it first!

















Attaching a black pull-string to the zipper helps with dressing and undressing, and you can tuck it in at the neckline to keep it out of sight while you're in costume.


Wear a black dancer's leotard underneath your jumpsuit. It feels much more comfortable to have a layer of stretchy cotton and lycra against your skin.  It will also help to disguise the lines from your underwear, and will give your body an overall smoother look. You might have to make adjustments to the shape of the neck or arm holes if they show beneath your jumpsuit.... but that bit of extra effort is worth the final result!


Get a sew-in type of bra from the fabric store, and sew it into the dancer's leotard. That way you will have a bra, but no visible bumps or lines from bra straps in the back.













I am by no means a seamstress or a sewing expert.  I joke all the time that my sewing machine is my arch enemy, and there are times when I honestly believe that thatís the truth!   Learning how to sew has been a long and tedious process for me. I have little patience for it, but Iím glad that Iíve never given up.  Even with outfits as difficult as Maraís jumpsuit, I kept plugging along until Iíd accomplished what I set out to do.  I have made this jumpsuit several times now, gradually getting better at it with each attempt.  The information that follows includes some of the tricks Iíve learned along the way.  Some of the ideas might be good ones, while others would make a true seamstress laugh ... but hey, itís what worked for me.  My sewing machine didnít blow up, I havenít had a costume malfunction in the middle of an event, and my costume is still in one piece even after dozens of events, so I guess I didnít mess anything up too badly!  


Stretch fabric is a bear to work with, and the piping and quilting on Maraís jumpsuit are definitely a challenge.... But Iím proof that if you keep at it, eventually you can make something that youíll be proud to wear.  Just keep trying!

Advice for New Maras
Leather Jumpsuits

Every now and then, someone tells me that they are planning to make a Mara jumpsuit out of leather.  I tell them that itís not a good idea, but they always assure me that I shouldnít worry because they can make a great jumpsuit out of leather.  Well, Iíve been there, done that ... and I donít recommend it.  I found that a leather jumpsuit is terribly hot, and quite expensive. Since leather has very little stretch, I couldnít bend my knees, bend over, or sit down!  Even after I made the jumpsuit slightly oversized in the hopes that Iíd still be able to move freely, I couldnít.  Each time I did try to bend, I found that it permanently stretched the leather in places like the knees a little bit more, leaving baggy spots that got progressively worse over time.  I donít care for all of the wrinkles, either.  In the end I chalked this project up as great experience for sewing leather, but the jumpsuit will never be practical to wear so I cut it apart and used the pieces for some other projects.


             (In this picture, Iím holding the back closed because I hadnít added the zipper yet.)