Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The "Monster Maroon" pattern notes, and how to do it cheaper

A few months ago, I decided that I needed a Wrath of Khan style Starfleet uniform for the Plano Sci-Fi expo. I'll put a post up about it in a little while, but to make a long story short, I butchered a Big Three pattern to make my uniform.
Once I posted pics on TrekSpace (yes, TrekSpace, and it's awesome), I was suddenly receiving many quote requests and comments on my lovely new uniform! One of the requests came from my friend, Ian, who wanted a uniform of his own.
I'll showcase his uniform in another post, but this particular post is actually going to be a bit of a pattern review and recommendation. I wanted to get Ian's uniform as perfect as I could, so I shelled out the dough for the official patterns from Roddenberry.com, thinking it would cut down on the futzing that would be necessary if working with a butchered commercial pattern.
For a complete uniform, you need the Officer's Duty Uniform Jacket, Duty Uniform Tunic, and Duty Uniform Trousers. I'll start from the inside and work my way out, and afterward give recommendations on alternatives to the Roddenberry patterns.

The Undershirt/Tunic - A very, very simple and straight forward pattern. There are six darts - two in the front, two in the back, and two bust darts. It all came together very quickly. My one nit to pick with the pattern is with the sleeves. The cuffs on the original uniforms were obviously quilted like the collar, but the pattern calls for and elastic gathered cuff, which doesn't give the same look at all. Not a huge modification to make, but still, a bit disappointing.

The Trousers - Again, a VERY simple and straight forward pattern. Elastic waist and pant cuffs. Another weird quirk - instead of them having you sew a ribbon or bit of bias tape down the sides of the trousers for the red stripe, they wanted you two sew a strip of red fabric to two slightly wider strips of the trouser fabric, turn under the raw edges of the black fabric, and then top stitch the entire thing to the sides of the trouser legs. I have no earthly idea why they decided to go that way. It's allot of extra work for a bit of detailing for that I haven't found any evidence of on the original uniforms. There are even notes from people that own original screen-used uniforms that have made meticulous notes, and nowhere is such a detail mentioned. So, I vote for stitching down some bias tape and saving some work.

Duty Uniform Jacket - This is really the one for me that I really wanted to get my hands on. I had used a Butterick jacket pattern for my own uniform, but it had required allot of modification, and I couldn't find a satisfactory men's jacket pattern to use as a jumping off point.
The first thing about this pattern is that there are allot of pieces and little instruction. If you don't have a good deal of sewing experience under your belt, you're definitely going to have trouble with this pattern. The instructions were lacking, and there were very few illustrations, which would have been helpful in certain areas. There were a few black-and-white photos of finished uniforms showing detailing like the snaps to close the flap and the detailing, but actual construction illustrations were almost nonexistent.
The pattern pieces themselves were abundant in number, but missing some key features. One of the first construction instructions is 'sew fitting dart (optional)'. Problem is, they don't have the fitting dart marked on the pattern piece, so you don't know where to put it. They also tell you to sew in a couple of 'dow pleats', which I, up 'til now, had never heard of. Honestly, I still don't know what it is. I saw no evidence of pleating on the original uniforms, so I ignored it. It didn't affect the final fit of the uniform to do so, so it's no big deal. There are also no notches on the pattern pieces to help with alignment.
The good things - The colour chart. On the third page of the instruction booklet, it includes a chart that include the uniform colour, the colours of the interior flap, and the departmental colours. Also, the pattern is based off the original uniforms, so that's a plus. They spend allot of time describing how to put together the smaller bits, like the shoulder strap and sleeve band, though they don't spend much time on the jacket itself.

So, there you have it. If you're an experienced sewer, I say give them a shot, but use some common sense with them. If you're a Star Trek fan, they're fun to have in the pattern collection. But, there are WAY easier ways of getting to the same end point. If you do a little bit of searching, there are patterns from the Big Three that can be modified to achieve the same result. For the undershirt, a darted shirt pattern could easily be modified. The trousers could be made from a pajama pants pattern. (The official trouser pattern were almost exactly the same as some pajama patterns I had used for other projects.)
The jacket is a bit trickier. You could probably use a double breasted coat pattern as a jumping off point. For my own jacket, I used McCall M6170, which was practically begging to become a Monster Maroon. It took allot of modification, but it worked beautifully in the end.
The big advantage to altering the commercial patterns is, of course, the money you'll save. The Roddenberry patterns run at a mind-numbing average of $25 each! If you hit Joann's during one of their $1 pattern sales, you'll get every pattern you need for less than the cost of shipping.
I'll have my uniform showcased in a future post. I hope this review has helped future Starfleet officers with their uniform needs!

1 comment:

  1. I simply went patternless, and cut up then traced the pieces of a t-shirt that fit me well for the sleeves/back, then improvised the front. If I weren't broke, I would have just bought the pattern. for the undershirt, I just doubled up a cream turtleneck
    (p.s. I am in high-school, so it's normal for me to be broke)