Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to make a Kaylee Frye Firefly Costume

Halloween is my favorite holiday, I love costume parties, and now that I'm the book programming coordinator for Geek Media Expo, I'm going to have more reasons to dress up. Even though I don't have any interest in anime, I was so excited about going to our sister convention, the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, and spending the day people watching and trying out new games in the analog game room. Ever since Keith introduced me to Firefly, I've adored Kaylee Frye. So dressing up as the cutest mechanic in the universe felt natural. And Keith dressed up as Kaylee's crush, super-serious Dr. Simon Tam! Aww.
It's a common convention costume, so I started by gathering pictures of Kaylee and researching how other Kaylee cosplayers made their costumes. Some people are perfectionists, spending hours tracking down the exact pattern of her shirt. Their attention to detail is impressive, but that would drive me crazy! I wanted to be recognized as Kaylee, but Kaylee is so relaxed and resourceful that a too-perfect approach felt wrong. As I worked, I asked What would Kaylee do? When I told Keith this, he groaned: "I'm Simon. That means I have to be a perfectionist." HA!
Pyramid Head looks so cute holding my parasol.
I had so much fun, we found a really great new game, and we must have been wearing good costumes, because so many people asked to take our picture. The costume was perfect because it was SO COMFY, I felt cute and smiley all day, it cost less than $50, and the parasol made it easy for friends to find me in a crowd. I definitely recommend dressing up as Kaylee, especially if you feel silly dressing up as a sexy so-and-so. If you want to dress up as Kaylee, here's how:

You'll need:
pink and purple flowered long-sleeve shirt
sleeveless green coveralls
teddy bear patch (on left thigh)
blue flower patch (on the waist, left of center)
red heart patch (on right pocket)
needle and thread
flip-flops OR work boots
black spray paint
black Sharpie marker
coarse sandpaper

 white spray paint
brown acrylic paint and paintbrush
paper parasol
blue Asian jacket
light brown wig

I started at Friedman's Army Navy Surplus in Hillsboro Village. The staff were extremely helpful, and I found the perfect pair of coveralls for $39.99--except they were beige. So I spent twenty minutes on my balcony stirring the coveralls around in a huge steaming bucket of green Rit dye ($2.49). I looked like a creepy witch, and I carefully avoided contact with all my cute neighbors who walked past. That sealed the deal--I was committed to this costume! Next I chopped off the sleeves. New-looking coveralls were all wrong, so I used sandpaper to rough up the texture.
The heart and flower patches were $1.25 apiece on eBay, but Kaylee's teddy bear patch was $6.00 plus shipping. I thought that was too expensive, so I used the fabric from the sleeves and made my own patch. After I sewed on the three patches, I used black and white spray paint to put "stains" and "burns" on my coveralls. The more roughed-up this costume looks, the better! Finally, I used a black Sharpie to write Chinese characters on the left pocket.

I studied the colors and patterns on Kaylee's shirts, and bought the closest match I could find at Goodwill on half off day for $1.99. I chose to wear my brown flip-flops instead of work boots. Chinese-style platform flip-flops would've been more accurate, but I didn't want to buy new shoes for the costume. I owned a purple paper parasol already, so I carried that, even though it would have been more accurate to paint red, yellow, and green swirls on a white parasol. But I didn't want to obsess too much, and besides, my purple parasol matched my shirt. I decided to go without the blue Chinese jacket because it's already unseasonably warm in Nashville.

My hair is darker than Kaylee's, but the cut is right, and I didn't want to buy a wig. So on the day of the convention, I parted my hair in the center and used a curling iron to add a bouncy shape to the ends of my hair. Kaylee's makeup is simple: I used lots of pink blush on the apples of my cheeks, shiny nude lip gloss, subtle beige and brown eyeshadow, and curled my lashes before applying mascara. And then--the best part--I smeared black eyeshadow on the sides of my cheeks to make "grease" marks, as if I'd wiped the back of my hand on my cheek. I absolutely loved the result! I felt cute, casual, and so comfortable.

For more resources, check out Maggie's Costume Site, which lists sources for each item, and this detailed costume guide.


    1. You're a total doll and nailed the costume. To be fair, I did not watch the series (just Serenity) and probably wouldn't have recognized you unless you said the line towards the end, "to hell with this, I'm gonna live." The convention looks like fun.

      1. Aww, thanks! It was so much work, but it paid off. If you haven't watched the series, I definitely recommend it. Christina Hendricks has a small but unforgettable part. :)

        Have a good weekend!

    2. Thanks for posting this, it has helped me so much. Maybe you'll see my finished product at GMX tonight! I am so excited :)

      1. Hey girl! I *thought* I saw you at the con, but I was shy and afraid to ask, in case I had the wrong Kaylee! Did you like your costume?

    3. Thanks for this helpful info. I live in Atlanta and Volunteer at the aquarium. I am working the big Dragon Con party and wanted a simple comfy costume to dress up in. I just need to get my coveralls and I am all set for the fun night at "work". Thanks for sharing all your info :)

      1. I'm so glad it worked out for you! This costume is perfect for being comfortable at a work-related costume event. Isn't it great to dress in character without being half undressed? Enjoy it!! :)

    4. Thank you for posting this. I attended the 2013 Salt Lake City Comic Con and used your blog as my guide for the costume. I liked your idea of a homemade bear patch so much I ended up making the other two patches, as well. The only thing I wish I'd done differently on the bear patch was to have cut a little room around the bear for the stitching. The acrylic paint was a little hard to get my needle through in places.

      I used black and brown shoe polish for my "stains", too. It worked well and didn't rub off (as I kind of thought it would.) I also did what you did with the hair and just made it work. In many episodes she puts her hair back and I saw other Kaylees at the show do that.

      Thanks again for posting this. It was very helpful and made it easier to make the costume than I thought it would be.

    5. Thank you for posting this... I am hoping to make a Kaylee costume for Halloween, and at least now I have an idea how and what to look for :)

      1. You're welcome! I hope you enjoy wearing it. Dressing up as Kaylee is so fun.

    6. Hey, I'm thinking about cosplay ing Kaylee for a friends costume party, and I was wondering where you got the coveralls?

      1. LOL, it's right there in the post! They came from a local Army Navy Surplus store. Good luck making your costume. it's so much fun to wear.


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