One of our good friends decided she wanted to have a “clown party” for her birthday. We’re all about theme/costume parties here in New Orleans, so it wasn’t a surprise to have one, but I was honestly NOT thrilled about the clown thing. I’m not afraid of them, but they don’t hold any particular delight for me, and I had already mapped out my next several costume projects, so adding another one that I wasn’t excited about was a bummer. UNTIL Seann made a suggestion for how to make it work for us, with the result being costumes we could wear more often, something more in our wheelhouse: The Jokey & Harley Quinn. SOLD! But which versions…? There are SO many iterations of these two that I didn’t know where to start. I was not (am never) thrilled with the idea of a full-body tight-fitting suit, I just don’t have a great body shape to pull it off and it makes me uncomfortable. Which meant the “original” Harley in the jester bodysuit was a no-go, as were both the “Injustice” Harley and the “Arkham City” Harley (the only two I was really familiar with at all). After looking around at a few, I decided the one I liked best was the “Arkham Knight” Harley. Still very much HER, but the skirt makes for a more comfortable costume option for me, and I’m comfortable with the corseted top with sleeves as well. Seann decided on The (Mark Hamill-voiced) Joker from the animate series as his inspiration – see this companion post for information on his costume.
Part 1: The Character
Part 2: Sources of Info & Inspiration
I honestly just mostly used images I found of Harley (including fan-drawn items and images of the doll), screen shots of the game (taken from this walkthrough video Seann found for me). I also checked out a handful of existing cosplays for ideas on how to transform the animated character into real life. The best ones I saw were:
- The ones made by MaiseDesigns
- Jessica Nigiri (my understanding is that this one was also made by MaiseDesigns)
- ShermieCosplay on Deviant Art
- dreamhunter707 featured on MoviePilot.com
Part 3: Piecing it Together
- White puff-sleeve collared shirt
- Black corset w/Red & Black details
- Black ruffled skirt w/petticoat/underskirt
- Diamond-embellished tights
- Red & black combat boots
- Satin-y red & black laced arm bracers w/ruffles
- Black & Red leather strapping/harness pieces
- Red & Black tipped pigtails
- A Bat!
- Clown-ish makeup
We didn’t have too much time to put these together, since we started after Dragon*Con in September and the party was scheduled for October 17th. So I felt like we both needed to hit the jackpot at thrift stores to find most of our pieces in order to make these costumes work, instead of scouring eBay for weeks or months looking for the “right” stuff. But we got lucky! I found a bunch of my base pieces at my beloved Red White & Blue thrift store on Lapalco, and the next day we scored Seann’s suit, shirt, vest, and shoes at the Thrift City USA on Terry Parkway. More on Seann’s costume in this post.
What I found that day gave me a great base for this costume. I found a good black ruffled skirt (which needed altering, but I’ve recently acquired a sewing machine so I was excited to use it) for $5.40, a white puff-sleeve collared shirt with a built in corset-looking panel (that even ties with ribbon in the back) for $8.67, and a pair of black combat boots (with red zippers) also for $5.40 (all prices include tax).
The boots came without laces, so I found a pair of black & red printed ones on Amazon (so I only had to get one pair instead of two) for $4.98 including shipping. At the same time I went ahead and got some white face paint – Wolfe Essentials brand was recommended to me by DivineDelphiFX who is my go-to for all things makeup and paint. I got a container of that for $15.99 on Amazon with Prime shipping, enough to last both of us a handful of applications, easily.
I made the strapping/harness system myself, using some images I found of the back of
Harley’s costume, and brainstorming and drawing diagrams of how to create all the lines and make it relatively comfortable, wearable, and as accurate as possible on a budget.
I sewed the arm bracers and modded the shirt and skirt myself, starting with a faux-suede fabric I found in both red and black at Hancock Fabrics (the backside of the fabric was a perfect shiny red, the closest I could come to the “right” color red. I bought much more than I thought I needed, just in case, getting 1/2 yard each of black and red, for $7.83 (on sale 50% off). I also picked up a bunch of lace to add to the edging of the arm bracers, the bottom of the shirt/corset, and the underskirt, 4 yards for $8.66. Also at Hancock, I grabbed a bunch of crinoline to add to the underskirt to add more “poofiness” to it, since the black overskirt was a bit heavy. Again, I not have way more than I need (though I plan to use some to poof out my Rose Tyler Idiot’s Lantern dress as well), buying 5.5 yards for $5.10 (on sale for 84 cents/yard).
For a complete breakdown of how I modded the shirt/corset, skirt (including underskirt), and made the other pieces of this costume (including the arm bracers, pigtails, bat, shoes, and strapping), check out my companion DIY post (forthcoming). Some pieces I used/purchased for these elements include: red spray paint (Krylon, from Michael’s, for $3.95 on sale), silver eyelets (from Hancock, $9.74 including a setting kit), rivets to hold all the strapping together ($6.75 for a pack of 100 on Amazon), curtain rings and buttons (both spray painted silver with Krylon metallic I had at home) for the strapping details, from Wal-Mart, $8.69 and $4.80, respectively.
I also felt I needed more hair to fill out Harley’s pigtails. It also occurred to me that if I bought ponytail extensions, I could pre-color those individually and attach them when needed instead of coloring my own hair separately each time I wore this costume. So I snagged a pair of them on Amazon (of course) in blonde for $19.98 with Prime shipping. I also happened to see a cheap kids bat that would work for me (and glows in the dark!) for $10.99 and Prime shipping, so I grabbed that as well.
The tights were a wonderful find on Etsy. I found a beautiful pair of printed leggings with exactly the right design from ToyAndFashion for $23.95 including shipping.
Note: All costs include shipping. Total Cost for this Costume = $150.88 (approximate, including applicable shipping and tax)
Part 4: The Final Look
Part 5: Epilogue
I am actually really proud of this costume. I know there are “better” versions out there (namely, the ones I linked to above), but I made or modded SO MUCH of this costume by myself, and came up with solutions for complicated elements, like the strapping and the bodice details, all in the space of about 5 weeks, and it’s also REALLY COMFORTABLE. Which is awesome. And I think it’s flattering, and I had a lot of fun with it. So yeah, pretty proud.
That being said, I have some changes/upgrades in mind for next time, to help keep pieces in place instead of slipping around, and to generally improve it. It seems like a lot, but I don’t have plans to wear this for several months at least, so I have time to play with it.
- First, I need a way for the top/bodice and the skirt to attach to each other. The slippery satiny white fabric at the top of the skirt was sort of slippery, and the bodice rode up, particularly in the back, when I sat down and moved around. So I’m thinking of adding some snaps or hooks or buttons of some kind to secure the two main pieces together. I’m also considering making it a dress and sewing the whole shebang together, but I don’t know how easy that would be to get on/off.
- Some of the strapping pieces need to be better secured to the top/themselves, to keep them in place. I had planned to do this already, but ran short on time. I want to add snaps to keep the shoulder harness piece from sliding (it slides up in the back, down in front, when my arms move), attach the arm loops to the sleeves, and attach the lower waist piece to the bodice.
- I also need a way to keep the arm bracers from sliding down my arms, so I think I will add some elastic to the top edges or some of that plastic-y stuff they put on thigh-high tights to keep them from sliding down (though that might hurt my arm hair, so elastic seems a better choice).
- Adding another layer of crinoline inside the underskirt, and a second row of lace to one of the layers. More poof!
- I also have hairpieces cut from the ponytails that I could use for bangs, but never got around to trimming them and figuring out how to place them in a way that didn’t make my normal hair color look weird. So I’ll work on that.
- False eyelashes & more smoky-eye makeup. To pop my eyes more.