Cosplayer and costume maker Maggie Hofmann makes it work. When the pandemic shut down the entertainment industry and the need for theatrical costumes, Maggie branched out as a freelancer, building a creative business by finding new ways to reach people who needed an artist with her costuming skills. Her cosplay work is detailed and finely crafted, designed to hold up to the most demanding events.
Why costumes? Were you always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I think I’ve always been something of an artist; even as a small child painting, coloring or making something was always a part of my play-time. My mom made my Halloween costumes every year and sometimes clothing, so I learned to sew (poorly!) quite young. I started making costumes for myself in high school. But despite doing theatre costuming in high school, I didn’t actually realize that was a job that I could do until I got to college and took a beginning costume design course.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
As I went through my higher education journey, I realized that the “making” was what I really enjoyed, as opposed to the design process. So I definitely identify as a costume technician (or draper, as we say in theatre) rather than a costume designer. Though I do enjoy designing costumes for myself, I know that I don’t have the temperament or drive to pursue a career as a costume designer for theatre/tv/film!
As a costume designer, you must make garments that fit a unique individual shape as well as hold up to hard use on stage.
What are a few of the key differences between making costumes for the theater or cons versus making clothing for everyday wear?
Costume work is certainly quite different from “real” clothes! And even theatrical costumes are often built differently from cosplay. We often only wear cosplays a few times before they’re “retired”. Cosplays usually have less of a need for big actions and movement and they don’t need to survive long periods of hard wear unlike what is required for theatrical costumes. Costume work in general often is made with internal structures, interlinings and closures that aren’t seen in our everyday clothing which is so often knitwear and jeans!
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Even though cosplays don’t usually need to stand up to the test of time, I do tend to make costumes for myself that are on par with the quality and integrity that I use for stage costumes. So even if I don’t end up wearing something more than a handful of times, it will last much longer than that! I still have most of the costumes I’ve made myself over the years and they still mostly look brand new! I also enjoy highly-detailed work and love creating intricate textured costumes.
What are the most neglected body measurements, and why do they make a difference in the fit of a garment?
I’m going to say shoulders! The shoulder width of a garment will make or break a look. Something that is properly fit in the shoulder area automatically makes a piece look crisp and well-tailored as opposed to schlumpy and ill-fitting! The sleeves and armscyes are a close second!
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Smocking Secrets: 20 Stitch Patterns to Create Unforgettable Texture?
I’d love people to just try the patterns out for themselves! The nice thing about smocking is it doesn’t really take many specialized tools or materials so the stitches can be practiced fairly easily and inexpensively. Then hopefully, smocking can be kept in mind for the new project where it might come in useful!
The pandemic wreaked havoc on the entertainment sector. How did you navigate those difficult times?
It’s really thrown a wrench into my career as far as having a full-time job and a trajectory. I pivoted (as so many of us have) and have tried several different avenues (including non-entertainment work, freelancing, content creation and now publishing!). But it certainly hasn’t been easy! I’m still trying to find my way to where I need to be going forward.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I’m a planner when it comes to the beginning of the process. I do always make mockups and think through the construction process before I start. But often as the deadline starts to loom, I get to a point where I just have to do the thing and figure it out as I go!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated sewing studio in my home! I hadn’t planned on being a freelancer before the pandemic, but it did allow me to make that transition much easier! I have several sewing machines, a cutting table and lots of other equipment to help me do my work. It’s really been so helpful.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I got very into my rotary cutter in the last few years. In theatre, they’re sometimes denigrated in favor of shears but I have some hand arthritis developing that is greatly alleviated by rotary cutters!
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I have a hard surface for my cutting table but I like to be able to pin patterns directly through the fabric into a pin-friendly surface to keep the patterns stable while tracing. I use those large foam puzzle floor mats as a pinning surface. The foam is stable enough that I can pin into them and trace my patterns onto the fabric! And I can choose how many tiles to use depending on how big my pattern is!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I do always have a small sketch of what I’m making, or at least some good research images if I’m recreating something. I need to be able to work out style lines on paper before patterning the piece and making the costume. But I don’t really journal besides making lots of “to-do” lists. I love crossing things off the list!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I listen to a lot of podcasts, usually world news and human interest types of things. I also watch YouTube videos or binge shows that I don’t have to pay much attention to visually. (I watched all 17 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy while making my Maleficent cosplay!)
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Currently, my website is a hub for people to find my work and tutorials on other social media sites as well as a gallery of past work.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I do teach! I like to run panels at conventions and workshops for people looking to learn to sew or make their own costumes! People can reach me through my website or social media sites!
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
What an interesting question! I think there’s different kinds of creativity and while everyone has some kind of creativity, it may present itself differently. Mine tends to be derivative and collaborative. So I don’t often have “original” ideas (though is anything really original?) One of the best things about the costuming community is the general sharing of knowledge. So I tend to get really inspired by ideas and techniques that other people have used and shared and then can use those techniques in my own work, often spinning it to better fit what I am working on.
I also work extremely well in close-collaborative groups. I have several colleagues (designers and other technicians) that I’ve worked with in the past in theatre where our different strengths and processes have helped us achieve things that we would never have been able to accomplish ourselves. Those creative partnerships are one of the most rewarding parts of my work.
Interview posted June 2022