Space Suit Tabards (Research)

Todd D. emailed me this amazing rehearsal shot of the space suits sans wings! 

Sue Blane Interview 1979

This is from the 1979 "Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Magazine"
You can also view the PDF online in my Google drive.

Costuming the Old School Way

This was a recent topic in a Facebook group and it got me reminiscing. I can't speak for everyone, but I can offer some insight into what it was like for me.  I started performing in 1987 so there were still some "old school" people hanging around with us. 

Besides watching the movie and looking for details at the show every weekend, my primary source was actually other performers. Costume knowledge was sort of cumulative - so you'd work with what had already been figured out by your predecessors and then try to find new details to improve your own costume. 

The Rocky Horror Poster Magazines and Bill Henkin book had been out since 1979 (and advertised through the fan club) featuring some great reference photos from the film and Mick Rock's collection. There were also trading cards, calendars, production stills, etc - things you'd find at comic book shops. 

All of this was available in 1978-9

Some members in our local (Houston) cast had a 13th generation VHS tape of the film with Japanese subtitles. It was awful - you couldn't see a single detail when you tried to pause it. Not very useful for costume research, but it helped a lot with choreography. 

Articles would also in other mainstream magazines - especially around every 'anniversary'. I would dig through library catalogs to find "Rocky Horror" in back issues of People and Time Magazine. Sometimes they'd even have a physical copy of the magazine on hand and some pages may or may not have gone missing from a library in rural Arkansas...

In 1989 MTV aired "The Rocky Horror Video Show" which was a 30-minute condensed version of the film - it had Dammit Janet, Time Warp, Sweet T, Hot Patootie, I'm Going Home, and (new to me!!) Super Heroes. And of course by then we all had VHS recorders! 

My costume was constantly being upgraded as I corrected mistakes and found better materials. Nobody in our cast had everything - we shared a lot. I had a gold tailcoat that a lot of other Columbias borrowed. . 

Space Suit Experiment

I've been dying to experiment with both this fabric (gold spandex) and my longarm (quilting) machine. I'm using some Warm & Natural batting I had on hand and a black Kona cotton backing. I stitched 1¼" squares with a 1½" unquilted border.

I updated my spacesuit pattern and it's available for free to download from my Google drive (below). If you print it on large format at Kinko's or Office Depot make sure it prints 100% to scale. If you need to resize it larger you can simply scale the whole pattern up, or you may need to modify the quilting to keep the squares the same size.

Space Suit Front 
Space Suit Back

Here's the materials I used for one tabard (of course coupon discounts and tax rates will vary):

My tabard pattern (~$7 for large format printing)
1 yd Metallic Foil Gold Spandex ($7.99/yd + tax & shipping = $17.16)
1 pkg Warm & Natural batting 45" x 60" ($19.99 + tax = $21.63)
3 pkg Wright's 7/8" Single fold bias tape ($3.99/ea + tax = $12.96)
6 1-1/8 Fabric covered button kit ($6.99/pkg + tax = $7.56)
2 yd Black Kona Cotton backing ($9.99/yd + tax = $21.63)
Large snaps (for neck opening and tabs)

= $87.94

You can see why it's not really feasible for me to make/sell these when it costs over $80 just to make the tabard without the belt and wings. There's not much room left for cost of labor.

I'm hoping to make separate blog posts for the belt and wings...

Magenta's Boots

Magenta wears her stiletto boots up until the Takeover scene. The scalloped button edge is very Victorian-esque, though the stiletto heel definitely is not. They appear to be brushed satin, and there are 7 working buttons (notice her left boot is unbuttoned in Touch-a). Some years back Betsey Johnson released a very similar homage; though it's suede, has 6 faux buttons, and a zipper for easy wearing. They still turn up on sites like eBay and Poshmark regularly - search for "Betsey Johnson Wing It" boots.

From Mick Rock's book
My Betsey Johnson "Wing It" boots

Space Suit Wings by Ruth

Years ago Ruth sent me a draft of her space suit wings. I finally got around to getting them uploaded and digitized on my computer. I recommend making a test pair out of paper or something so you can adjust the size accordingly. 

As for materials and maintaining the stiff wing shape, I leave that up to you to explore. Some people have used 1/2" sheets of upholstery foam with wire on the edges to shape. I've tried stiff interfacings and milliner's buckram with mixed results (once they get dented or bent they don't recover). I've even made 'disposable' wings with black garbage bags and cardboard and 1/8" craft foam, and just replaced them after several uses. 

A 5/8" seam allowance has already been added to both sides of the pattern. All you need to do is place the top end on the fold of your materials. Basically, your wings will look like a boomerang when laying flat. 

Click to download full size (22" x 35")

Frank's Robe/Kimono (Research)

This style of robe (kimono) was fairly common in the '70s and you can still find a lot of similar designs even if they aren't identical. Frank's robe was probably silk (most were), and it has a red lining (which is also common). The dragon is red and gold, and there are some embroidered clouds on the front chest. 

I realize not every cast performs this scene, but I think it's hilarious when they do. Our cast used to have a mask with spackle to look like cold cream, and a wig with rollers tied up. Always got a nice reaction from the audience - although it helps if the other Floorshow performers are already on stage.

Frank's Floorshow Gauntlet (Research)

I was messaging with my friend Scott V. today about Frank's floorshow gauntlet and realized I never made a post about it. Definitely seems like the sequins were applied (in a continuous, meandering pattern) to the fabric before it was closed up. He also loses most of the feathers in the pool (but y'all know that). Not certain, but it looks like the split may be on the side of the wrist - or it could just be twisted. Never found a better view of that to confirm.

Click for full size image

Guest Post: A Seasonal Guide to Rocky Horror Costume and Prop Shopping by RM

When you’ve been involved in Rocky for decades, you notice it’s easier to find certain items during certain times of year and impossible to find them during other times. Seasons have a big influence on what colors of clothes, shoes, and accessories are sold in stores. For example, don’t go Janet costume shopping in the dead of winter! The same usually goes for yardage fabric and trims, although some colors and types are sold year-round. Here’s a simple calendar-based costume and prop shopping guide. It’s mainly based on the US/North American calendar—if you live somewhere else, your results may vary. Check out the post-holiday or post-season clearance sales to save money and stock up. If you’re looking for something out of season, your best bets are usually thrift stores or online shopping sites like eBay, etsy, or poshmark. Now you can get almost anything online, but remember: we’re cosplaying a movie from the 1970s! Styles go in and out of fashion, and some things will only look right if they’re custom-made or vintage. Also, be aware that metallic ribbons (for your Columbia shorts) that are meant for gift wrapping may not be very durable or washable—use at your own risk.

New Year’s Day (January 1):

  • Transylvanians (party hats, noisemakers, plastic champagne glasses)
  • Frank (party hats, plastic champagne glasses)
Lunar (Chinese) New Year (January or February)

  • Columbia (red and gold items like metallic ribbons)
Valentine’s Day (February 14)
  • All floorshow characters (lingerie like corsets, bustiers, sexy black underpants, garter belts; hosiery like fishnet pantyhose, fishnet thigh-highs, sheer thigh-highs)
  • Rocky (gold underpants)

Columbia's Ring

No idea what the blue is - some kind of enamel? But this is one of the easiest parts of the film to see it.

Visiting Embassy Park in Hamilton, New Zealand

 At the end of February 2020, before the world shut down, I traveled to New Zealand (and Australia) and got to visit the Riff Raff statue (erected in 2004) in Embassy Park. It's in the historic part of downtown Hamilton, and features a winding path down to the river. The public restrooms look like Frank's lab wall, and there are numerous film quotes throughout the parks (on walls, park benches, etc.)

As of October 2021 the statue is "temporarily on the move" until early 2024 while the city plans to redesign the Waikato Regional Theatre and Riff Raff's park.

Guest Post: Frank's Patches by Brandon Sutrina


I find Frank's jacket to be one of the most iconic jackets in film. Others and myself have obsessed on every little detail. There's lots of confusion about what are the accurate patches for Frank's jacket. Let's do our best to clear it up. 
If you are looking for patches, some of these pull up on eBay every now and then. Some have current productions available. You can also find fan made replicas at the following people. Tyler Garrett, Dave Spelling & others, and myself - Brandon Sutrina.
If you want to discuss the jacket, see reference/verification photos, etc feel free to DM me HERE

Patch: Tiger Head
Dimensions: 4" X 4"
Notes: The Tiger Head patch was made by Lewis Leathers with the first run made in the 60's. There is a later production of the patch in which the orange has more of a red tint. Lewis Leather's also started reproducing the patch in 2021. This is a motorcycle patch for Triumph Tiger motorcycles.
Photo: Dave Spelling

Guest Post: Quick & Dirty Rocky Wraps by RM

I came up with this solution for Rocky wraps that look good, are fairly easy and quick to put on and take off, and don’t immediately start unraveling as soon as they’re on. Believe it or not, I used 3-4 yards of white polyester interlock fabric left over from my Princess Leia costume. It’s a lightweight, drapey, slightly stretchy knit that stretches in both directions (not super-stretchy Lycra or the stiff double-knit polyester they used to make leisure suits from in the 1970s). I had no trouble sewing it on a normal sewing machine with a standard needle. The raw edge can run a bit, but it doesn’t fray like a woven fabric. I bought this in Asia, but I think the US equivalent would be “Jetset” from Jo-ann Fabrics or “polyester interlock” from the now-closed Hancock Fabrics.

For the leg wraps, you’ll also need about 2 yards of snap tape and about 2 yards of thin white cord.

Floorshow Boas

 Ruth's Anal Retentive Rocky Horror Costume site has some amazing, detailed photos (taken by Sarah K. of Chicago) of Columbia's floorshow boa (from Larry V.'s amazing collection).

Boa detail (photo by Sarah Kucera)

Costume Research: Primary Sources

The best source is the original source. This is called a primary source. In this case: the film. Subsequent DVD (2000) and Blu-Ray (2010) versions have revealed details that were previously difficult to discern on 35mm or VHS.

Photographs can be the next best thing and can reveal details not clearly visible on screen (re: the subtle paisley pattern on Frank's dinner corset). If the photographs were taken on the set while filming they may still be considered a Primary source, however promotional photo shoots and anything taken during pre-production (before final decisions were made) may need to be examined more carefully; for instance the photos of Little Nell in the church. Obviously taken on set, but notice the hat band is not black, she is not wearing socks, and it doesn't look like the shoes have any glitz. It's also possible other (less obvious) modifications could have occurred at this stage (for instance; does the bustier look longer on the sides?) You just can't be certain. Of course, depending on what you are researching, it may not matter.

In some cases extant pieces have survived and been collected by fans. When deciding whether an extant piece can be considered a Primary source you need to consider:
  1. What is the provenance of the piece?  How was it acquired? Whose hands did it pass through? Is there documentation?  I have always been of the opinion that the onus is on the owner to provide proof, not on me to believe their word.
  2. Were there duplicates of the same piece made? How many? Are they identical?
  3. Has it been altered?  Repaired?  Used in subsequent productions that may have modified it?

Columbia Top Hat Pin

I've wanted to have these made for so long and I'm excited to finally have them for sale in my Etsy store. (sold out)

I've always been a pin junkie and these remind me of the classic cloisonne pins we wore in high school. The top hat is 1" wide with a metal pinch-back. The glitter is inside the enamel so it's not going to rub off.  I had 100 made, and I'll only be reordering more if they sell well enough.  It's a bit of a large cost upfront.

Janet's Purse (Research)

A sort of boxy envelope purse with a silver chain strap.  The lining is black and there is an oval shaped emblem on the front of the purse.  The white patent leather is top-stitched, and the flap - which comes all the way to the bottom of the purse - most likely closes with a magnetic clasp under that emblem.

The best times to see the purse on screen are during Dammit Janet and the beginning of the Time Warp.

If you're feeling crafty there are some purse patterns that will probably be more accurate than what you will likely find on eBay. You will need a special teflon foot to sew patent leather on your sewing machine.

Museum Lichtspiele in Munich

In March of 2019 I got to visit the Museum Lichtspiele in Munich - one of their houses has been decorated to look like the Throne room in Rocky Horror. There's a few other details sprinkled throughout the theater worth catching, too. 

Guest Post: Columbia Shorts by Russ

Super excited to feature a guest post by fellow costumer Russ.  Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge - they have an amazing amount of detail! This method will definitely bring your shorts to the next level whether you are making them from scratch or simply trying to modify something off the rack.

It is my belief that in looking closely at the Mick Rock photos, the method used for edging Columbia’s ribbons reveals itself: overlocking/serging. This conclusion was drawn by several factors: First, the edging cannot be a 100% solid in color, since in practically all reference photos, even the far edges of the ribbon shimmer at times. This lends the idea that the edges are stitched in some way; with windows between the stitches allowing the base of the lamé to shine through. A rolled hem doesn’t create the right shape or thickness. Folded edges using a ribbon folder or overlaying a satin-edged organza ribbon creates too solid of a line for my preference and again this method does not let the lamé shine through on the edges. Upon further examination, the Mick Rock photos indicate an edging that in my view can only be achieved through overlocking. Note how the edging looks sort of rough and slightly uneven (Fig.1).
The material used appears to be a woven/satin lamé/sometimes called ͞lurex͟. The same type of lamé was used on several costumes for the Transylvanians as well (in particular, some of their lapels), which lends to the idea that there was plenty of this material to use during the construction of the costumes for the film. To test this theory, I cut a 5/8͟ wide strip of satin lamé, backed with a black fusible interfacing for durability, and fed it twice through my overlocker (knife setting should be off). It was a perfect match to the Mick Rock pics: creating a two-toned look with little flecks of the lamé peeking through the edging. Here is an image of some sample gold ribbon compared to a photo in the Mick Rock book. The golds are an exact match. My ribbon looks out of proportion, since it is closer to the camera but it is 5/8͟ wide, which I believe to be an accurate width (Fig.2). Furthermore, with the interfacing fused and stitched in, no amount of tugging in any direction was budging the ribbon’s shape or integrity; which means these are going to
last for many years.

Quick 'n Dirty Janet Dress

Sometimes you don't have time, skills, or funds to attempt a Screen Accurate costume. So you break it down to it's simplest elements. What's crucial and what isn't?

Well for Janet's pink dress, I'd say the color is crucial. It's what stands out the most. Something that has a high neckline and zips up the back is also important, but I'd say less crucial. Sleeves are not important because she wears a sweater.

So here's a dress I found on eBay ($12.88). I picked it because of the color and because it was fitted on top and loose below the waist.  The fabric is completely wrong, but that's not crucial. It's also too long, but it's easy to shorten.  You don't even need to sew the hem, look for fusible hem tape.  Glue it if you have to!

With some pink gingham fabric you can cut out a "Peter Pan" style collar and cover an existing belt. Hers is 1/2" gingham, but it's not a critical detail. Wal-Mart usually has 1/4" gingham in pink.

You could stop at that point, but a couple more details will finish it nicely. The easiest is the flower-shaped buttons that go down the center of her dress from her neck to waist (Wal-Mart also sells these).  Just glue those suckers on. You can also add some white rick-rack down side fronts, and a big round slide-buckle to the belt.  The easiest thing is to just have the belt close with velcro in the back - easier for the quick change after the proposal, and for clumsy Riff Raffs.

The sweater completes the look and you have a half-decent Janet costume in a pinch!