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!
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
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
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
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!
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.)