How can I make the lower part of a jacket behave like a cape? The real thing might not be as dramatic as the image. An exoskeleton might be needed to make the costume behave exactly like the animated version. Heck, even the animated version is coded specifically to be stiff at standstill. However I am only asking for the fabric layout, though an exoskeleton design guide could be helpful.

How should I lay out the bottom part of a jacket to make it spread out at the bottom?

back view of anime character in long white robe front view of anime character in long white robe

This is what is available right now but I believe it can be improved somehow to make the cape effect more dramatic.

a mannequin wearing the outfit in question a man wearing a black robe that's flaring out at the bottom

  • Just to be clear, by "dramatic" you mean you want the jacket to be stiff and stick out in the back?
    – user812786
    Nov 17, 2017 at 14:54
  • Yes dramatic as if there is air blowing a little bit. like expanding a little bit at the bottoom, but not like a skirt. basically look somewhat like a cape. Nov 18, 2017 at 10:54
  • 1
    Note that in the picture of the guy in black, I strongly suspect there's a sword underneath there.
    – Martha
    Dec 21, 2017 at 0:04

2 Answers 2


I'm assuming from your question that you're looking to have the cape flared out around and behind you while you are standing still, as the cape will naturally take that shape when you're in motion. My best recommendations to accomplish that appearance would be to use plastic ("boning" for corsets) or wire (strong but flexible, ie. aluminum armature wire) that can be used to shape the cape. These would be run down the sides where the black trim is located, starting at waist height or higher, as well as across the bottom hem.

I will not offer these suggestions without the following warnings, however:

  • The cape will likely look unnatural both at rest and in motion. You may be able to skillfully shape it to look more natural at rest, but it will still look stiff when you're moving
  • You will likely become annoyed very quickly while wearing it. If you're planning to wear it to a convention, they are generally crowded, with a lot of narrow passages, and a stiff cape like this may interfere with your moving around. You'll also become annoyed trying to pack or store it because of the stiffness. And on top of those issues, you also won't be able to sit down while wearing it (and likely would become unwelcome in panel spaces due to the size anyway).
  • If you are wearing it at a convention, you will quickly become other attendee's least favorite person. You will likely have a reduced awareness of where the back of your cape is, and you will hit people's legs, belongings, and props, as well as potentially knocking over displays in vendor areas, and taking up a lot of space in crowded areas.
  • If you are wearing it at a convention, you may be in violation of costume policies for that convention. Many will have rules such as the "Six Inch Rule," where no part of your costume may protrude more than 6" from your body, and the shaped cape would easily fall outside that limit. You may be asked to remove the piece from your costume or leave certain areas if convention staff determines you to be in violation of rules or a hazard to other attendees.

In light of those problems, I would recommend you do not focus on making a stiff cape. Rather, you should evaluate fabrics that will move and drape in the proper manner, to get the right look in motion, and to make the entire costume much simpler to wear.

I will also take a brief moment to address the solutions offered by abbie, which won't work as well as expected. Fabric stiffeners are meant for very lightweight fabrics; unless you're making the cape out of chiffon or cheesecloth, you aren't going to get any noticeable stiffening. I have used various stiffeners on thicker fabrics; they do not harden as you would expect, and form "break points" that fold severely and look quite bad. Starch definitely won't work, as it's meant to keep wrinkles out but keep fabric still wearable. In these cases, you're going to end up with a rigid cape that hangs straight down and doesn't move at all when you move.

Interfacing may work, but only if you use the heaviest form (often sold as "craft interfacing") and line the entire back of the cape with it. I frequently use heavy interfacing in my own costumes, and it is still quite flexible and would not be able to support the weight of the costume at that size. At best, you will likely get a stiff cape hanging rigidly around your legs; at worst, it will partially flare before giving in to your own weight, leaving you looking like you are wearing a bustle, which I assume is not the look you are after. Lighter interfacing will not stiffen the fabric at all.

Crinoline may work, but at the size it would need to be, it will be highly visible, and no more effective than directly wiring or boning the cape itself. Tinfoil will obviously not work, as it's designed to be very pliant, and chicken wire is likely to damage the costume pieces and your body.

  • 1
    ... and after designing the bottom part with enough extra fabric for cool movement, you might want to spend some time in front of a mirror, practicing the right „swishing“ movements and an impressive entrance. A coat like the one in question is boring on a still figure, but can greatly emphasize the wearer‘s regal or domineering attitude. If, otoh, you slouch or entangle yourself in the coat, it would be super embarrassing ;-).
    – Stephie
    Nov 22, 2017 at 20:27
  • I always encourage practicing poses regardless of the costume, but especially with one with the dynamic looks this one has. There's nothing more boring than a cosplayer just standing there when you ask for a picture, instead of taking a good pose and selling it. @Stephie is dead on with that suggestion.
    – Allison C
    Nov 22, 2017 at 21:43

There are both chemical and physical methods to create the effects you are looking for.

If I understand your question, you want to achieve two effects: have the "tail" of the cape expand backward from the body of the costume, and have the bottom of the tail spread out so as to create a triangular shape.

I think both effects can be achieved by the same stiffening process.

Chemical Methods, e.g., glue or starch

The following chemical stiffening methods will require you to pre-shape the tail as you want it, then apply the glue or stiffening spray to set the shape.

Aileens.com has directions for using Aileen's Stiffen Quik.

…Stiffen-Quik Fabric Stiffening Spray comes in a convenient spray bottle for quick and easy application. The spray pump helps minimize messes and prevents overusing the adhesive so you get the most out of your bottle. Stiffen-Quik’s clear-drying formula preserves the shape and color of your project and can be layered for a heavier hold that washes out when you want to clean and reshape your fabrics. It’s perfect for seasonal fabric projects like cheesecloth ghosts and so much more!

BobVila.com has directions for making your own stiffener from glue and water.

If you need to stiffen fabric for a household project—crafting a window cornice or a new lampshade, perhaps — try using white glue and water to create an easy and inexpensive fabric stiffener. Mix equal amounts of white glue and water together in a bowl until the solution has the appearance and consistency of milk. Dip the fabric into the bowl, or paint the liquid onto the fabric. Use a form to shape the fabric as desired (or create your own form using chicken wire or heavy-duty aluminum foil). The glue will dry clear and stiff; you can apply more than one coat if the fabric needs additional stiffening.

Physical Methods, e.g., iron-on interfacing, crinoline material, tinfoil, or chicken wire

Perhaps the easiest physical technique would be to use iron-on interfacing available by the yard at any fabric store. You would iron it to the underside of the pre-shaped (laid out in the shape you want) cape tail.

This interfacting only comes in white or black, so you may need to use white and then spray paint to match the costume fabric.

You could also make a long stiff crinoline "petticoat" and attach it just under the waist section of the costume.

You can purchase crinoline material at most fabric stores. “A crinoline is a stiffened or structured petticoat designed to hold out a woman's skirt, popular at various times since the mid-19th century.” (Wikipedia)

You would use the crinoline as a long bustle, a structure worn under Victorian ladies’ dresses to create (ahem) a sort of large rump, but in your case, you would make the bustle the length of your costume tail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0FmqB62cJc

You may need to run a wire through the bottom edge of the crinoline, spread out the bottom of the crinoline along the wire, and tack it by the corners to the corners of the tail to create the triangle effect. (Similarly, if all you want is to spread out the bottom of the tail, you can run a wire through the hem of the cape.)

Use as many layers of crinoline material as you need to get the effect you want, and then loosely attach the top of the crinoline underneath the top of your cape either with a stapler or simple basting stitches. To see an example of basting stitches: http://www.the-tailoress.com/even-basting/

You may need to arrange the costume fabric to fold over the long edges of the crinoline/bustle, or you could spray paint the crinoline/bustle to match the costume fabric.

You could also create a permanent tinfoil or chicken wire underlining (form) for the tail, but these materials won't work if you plan to sit down.

Your best bet is probably to use one of the glue/spray chemical methods, or the iron-on interfacing.

You can layer the solution or spray till you get the stiffness you want, and if you sit down the worst that will happen might be a few wrinkles.

With the interfacing all you need is an iron.

Good luck, it’s a cool project.


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