Although many people dream of closets filled with one-of-a-kind pieces, for junior Jackie Davis this dream is a reality — mostly because she makes them herself.
Many days, Davis walks across campus wearing jackets, skirts and other pieces of clothing that she designed and often made with her own sewing machine.
Davis said she started sewing in third or fourth grade when her art teacher had an activity where each student got to make his or her own mini quilt. Although this gave Davis her first taste for sewing, she didn’t really start sewing on her own until two or three years ago when she made her first piece.
“I made … basically a 17th century frock coat,” Davis said. “I did everything but put on the sleeves.”
Most of the piece required straight seams that were easy to make on a sewing machine, but the sleeves required a slightly more complex stitch, so she wanted to wait on them until she felt more confident in her abilities.
Davis’ interest in the cosplay community piqued her interest in clothing design. Most of her designs are still based around her favorite anime and movies.
“To me, it’s a way for me to bond with my favorite characters and show appreciation for them,” Davis said.
The real challenge, according to Davis, is translating the idea from the screen to the sewing machine.
“It comes from looking at the characters and figuring out how to make [their costumes] into something that I would want to wear,” Davis said.
Sometimes, she says, this is difficult — especially when the character’s style is different from her own. If the character is flashy, she says it can be hard to keep the clothes from being too gaudy but still true to the character. Davis often does this by focusing on the most essential parts of the character.
“[I’ll] usually find a main color or a main piece of the outfit that they wear and then somehow turn it into a skirt,” she said.
Davis then moves into doing research on the outfit and its context. She also gathers references to help her design the outfit.
“We [cosplayers] really put a lot of time and effort into this,” Davis said.
Then she goes to work raiding fabric stores and thrift shop for supplies. Other cosplayers often have to go to hardware stores to gather the materials for accessories, but she has never had to go that far.
Davis’ costumes often start with one favorite character and then turn into a set. Davis is currently working on clothes that are based on the film “The Rise of the Guardians,” starting with the characters Jack Frost, Sandman and E. Aster Bunnymund.
Sandman and Bunnymund were both reinterpreted into skirts. Davis decided to be ambitious and try a double-layered skirt — a solid layer underneath and a sheer tulle layer over it.
“It didn’t work out quite as planned,” Davis said.
The layers did not line up as she had anticipated, but she was still happy with the outcome.
Because she tries to adapt her outfits to daily life, Davis says that she wears her designs once or twice a week, depending on the season — most of her outfits are made for warmer weather.
Although standing out sometimes comes with negative attention, Davis said she has only seen the opposite.
“If people have been giving me funny looks, I haven’t noticed,” Davis said.
Instead, she said, people compliment her work or ask her questions about her projects.
In the future, Davis hopes to design costumes for theater or do cosplay commissions, but right now, she’s happy to improve her skills and be a part of the cosplayer society, which allows her to explore her interests all year round.
“It’s not just Halloween,” Davis said. “It’s a very fun community to be a part of.”