A Nearly-Instant Leia Costume

Holly Frey | October 18, 2012

11-Quick-Leia

Halloween approaches! You’re rushed for time, but want to show your Star Wars love. I have a super-quick Leia project just for you! Leia’s A New Hope look is so iconic that it’s easy to make an instantly-recognizable homage to every Star Wars fan’s favorite princess. This isn’t going to be a screen accurate version, but it’s perfect for those times when you get a last-minute invitation to a costume party, or if you just want to add a little Rebel chic to your wardrobe. You will need some basic sewing skills, but this is all fairly simple stuff. Best of all, it will only take you an hour or two.

Supplies:

  • 2 men’s long-sleeve T-shirts, XL (for an average adult woman — size down for kids!)
  • White thread
  • Good scissors (nothing worse than cutting fabric with a dull blade)
  • Water-soluble marking pen or a pencil
  • Access to a sewing machine

Let’s get started!

1. Remove all stickers and tags from your shirts, and pre-wash them if you have time.

1-Quick-Leia

2 . Cut the cuffs of the sleeves off of one of the shirts. If the sleeves on your shirt get narrower close to the cuffs, cut above the area where the narrowing happens.

2-Quick-Leia

3. Fold your cut sleeve ends under twice so that the raw edges that you just cut are encased within the folds, and stitch them on your machine close to the folded edge to hem. Press the hemmed edges of the sleeves.

3-Quick-Leia

4. Cut your second shirt straight across from the bottom of one sleeve seam to the other at the armpits. You should now have a wide tube. This will be the hood of your garment.

4-Quick-Leia

5. Cut open your wide tube so you have one long piece of fabric with the original T-shirt hem along one long edge.

5-Quick-Leia

6. Hem the other long edge of this piece the same way you hemmed your sleeves, folding in the raw edge so you have a nice clean finish. Did you know that Leia’s hood is actually a loop of fabric, and isn’t closed at the back? It’s true! This hem you just created will be at the back of your hood.

7. Find the center back of the neckline of your first shirt, and mark it with your water-soluble marking pen or a pencil.

6-Quick-Leia

8. Using that mark as the fold point, fold  your shirt so that the shoulder seams meet, and measure the length from roughly 1 inch in front of the shoulder seam to the center back. For my shirt, this was about 6 to 6.5 inches

7-Quick-Leia

9. Grab your hood piece, and gather each short end to match the length you measured in step 8. To gather, you can use a running stitch with a needle and thread, or gather by machine. Whichever method is easiest and most natural to you is the right one! I push my gathers under the presser foot of my machine as I sew, using the pointed end of a seam ripper to guide them.

8-Quick-Leia

10.  Pin or baste (basting is just hand sewing things together with a quick running stitch) your hood in place along the inside of the neck seam, making sure that you place it so you’ll be able to machine stitch it along the neck band seam. The back edges of your loop should meet at the center point you marked earlier.  I prefer basting to pinning, because it allows me to easily try on the garment to test the hood shape before sewing it in permanently.

9-Quick-Leia

11.  Once you’re happy with your basted hood, machine stitch it from the outside. I follow the seam where the neck ribbing joins the body of my shirt as my first stitching line, then I do a second line of stitching just above that one. Two rows of stitching ensures a secure hood that won’t surprise you by coming loose at an inopportune moment.

10-Quick-Leia

12.  Once your hood is stitched in place, remove all basting stitches and clip any loose threads, and you’re done!

11-Quick-Leia

Your new shirt can be worn with a white skirt and a silver belt to give you the full Leia look, or you can pair it with jeans for a more casual vibe — great for escorting trick-or-treaters!

Holly Frey cohosts the PopStuff podcast at HowStuffWorks.com. She’s an avid costumer, and Star Wars has been an integral part of her life since opening day in 1977.

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