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Unread 07-19-2013, 05:07 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Looking for suggestions for purposeful aging/dirtying a costume


I'm wondering if anyone has any tips on how to dirty up a costume - short of rolling around in the mud - to create a sense of wear and tear that would be more accurate than clean material fresh from the store.

My specific example is Arya Stark from Game of Thrones: my undershirt, when first sewn, will be clean like when she first wore it: http://i.imgur.com/tPMEFJl.jpg

Whereas I would like to cosplay her in her current state, meaning the undershirt should be stained like this. Her outer shirt was originally a steel blue, and that is the colour it is now, and I'm wondering, too, if there are tips some experienced cosplayers might have that won't outright ruin my actual outfit, just dye or stain it accordingly.

Thanks in advance!
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Unread 07-19-2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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Tea dye, coffee staining, and maybe a drop or two of green food coloring would get it that way. Though for a heavy color change, depending on the type of fabric, you might just want to do a base dye in RIT and then do stains and aging with tea after. You can do the tears with sandpaper.
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Unread 07-20-2013, 05:04 AM   #3
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I hate to disagree with you, but I would tend to stay away from coffee and tea as dyes - as organic substances they will cause decay in the costume over time.

Are you using cotton or linen or a blend of both to make the shirt ? Those are the ideal materials for it. If you haven't made it yet, get a loose-ish weave linen and get it in a "natural", non-bleached state if you can (it will save you having to work from optic white - and hers was a "natural" colour to start with, too).

I would get a few (even just two) shades of fibre reactive dye to play around with. You can dilute a brown and send it through that dye bath a few times - it will be hot water and agitated, which will help age it a bit, too. That will give you an all-over mostly even filth coat. You can also lower the water level so it's not fully submerged, make it a bit less diluted and let it sit in and agitate less and only move it around a bit.

After that, I would use more concentrated dye on a brush or sponge - and work it into the fabric in areas that would be more dirty. I'd guess that the parts covered by the doublet-y thing are going to be slightly less filthy, for example. By working in that and using some of the dye in powder form crushed into it and THEN wetting it you'll get the look of dirty without having to use a substance that will degrade and decay over time.

During this, you can also wrap it around something you don't mind dirtying - like an old pillow, and having it fold how it would when you wear it under the other thing. That way you get realistic delineation of "filth" based on where it would be folded.

It's also possible to use dyes and such in an airbrush, but if you don't already have one it might now be worth it to you for just this.

If you want to get really into it, you can use a bath of VERY diluted bleach at this point and then repeat - so you'd get the effect of filth that someone tried to wash off at some point but then got filthy again.

I would also recommend after perhaps a few of the diluted washes letting it hang outside for a week or so - and hopefully it gets rained on and such.
Disclaimer : This post written by a Grumpy Old Man

Actually in the pipes:
- Remaking Ser Loras doublet.
- Luke Skywalker, A New Hope
- Wind Waker starter costume in swim material
Eventually: Paul from Dune, Faramir, Harry Sullivan
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Unread 07-25-2013, 08:00 PM   #4
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Hello. I'm not trying to derail your thread; but, may I ask your opposition to throwing the piece around in the dirt? Is it a high end piece? If you're willing to stain the medium and you want it to look dirty, I can't think of a better stain than burying a piece for a few days in dirt and kicking it around a bit. For tattering, wrap it in dirty rocks / sticks etc and agitate. hand stitched patches also indicate pauper status generally.

Aside from that, as Kelley mentioned, a dye or maybe an ink might work. Dyes will generally spread. So, let's say you dye a 1 inch area; once washed, the dye will usually leech and spread out. If you soak half of a white shirt in red dye, it and it will generally all turn pink with a darker concentration around where you soaked it after it is washed. Trial and error from attempting blood spatter patterns on white fabrics.

Fabric inks are the opposite. You spray them and they stay where you put them provided you follow directions. They are generally used by airbrushers and garment printers and most require heat setting with a press, iron or a dryer.

Note - not all fabrics are suitable for dyeing. Cotton and linen are god choices; as Kelley also mentioned.

Unless you are dealing with a super delicate fabric or something that cost more than 16 a yard, I think rolling it around the dirt for as long as you feel is appropriate and hosing it off with a gentle 'bucket wash should suffice. From there you can take it down to a coin laundry or leave it hand washed for an authentic dirty look.

If you use a dye, try Procion from Jacquard. For inks, I would look at Createx. You should know that each product is different and may require other steps or ingredients. I don't dye without soda ash or urea. That stuff you can buy at the grocery store is not of high quality.

No matter what you are doing, be patient and run a test before committing to staining, dyeing or mudding up an entire piece and you should be fine. I hope this helps! Peace!!!

Need a Commission? PM or email me directly. I can design custom patterns from the ground up. I charge $15 hour for labor; $20 for leather or hard to sew pieces. Use promo code "COSPLAY" for $5 off any $50 order
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