FMA Military Pattern Design - Tutorial

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#1 AVAAntares on 11 years ago

I have received several PMs from aspiring FMA cosplayers asking about patterns for the butt-capes, military jackets, etc. Since there seems to be some demand for it, I've decided to post a little walk-through!

This tutorial covers pattern design for the FMA military uniforms, as worn by Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Maes Hughes, et al. It includes design instruction for pants, butt-cape and military jacket. It does NOT include step-by-step assembly instructions ("ease from notch A to circle D and gather the whosit with a whatsit stitch"), because you really, really don't want me to talk about sewing. Why not?

Our FMA costume set -- Ed, Roy, Riza, Hughes, Sciezka -- were the first things my sister or I had ever made from scratch, save for the follow-the-lines home economics projects we were forced to do in school many, many years ago. We have since gone on to make many other costumes and win many awards -- for whatever that's worth -- but the fact still remains that I have had NO formal sewing instruction, so my costume assembly might not make sense from a practical sewing standpoint; I'm still trying to learn the correct sewing terminology, rather than "stitch the thing to that other thing."

I do, however, have something of a grasp on 3-D design and pattern invention. Go figure. :D

Okay. Disclaimer over. Now, on to the costumes.


This is critical -- for a military uniform to look like a military uniform, you will want to choose an appropriate and functional fabric. I used trigger poplin, which worked nicely, though the blue color can wash out a bit under flash. You'll want a fabric that breathes, that holds its shape well, and that looks like something a uniform would be made from (i.e., probably not satin or pleather, unless you're doing a distinct variant).

Also keep in mind that you're trying to match the look of the anime. Match your colors and fabric textures. Some cosplayers choose to use a darker navy blue fabric for their uniforms, which is absolutely fine if that's the look you want, but if you're entering in craftsmanship you might want to think about those accuracy points. ^_^ This also applies to the uniform trim, which is *grey,* not silver, in the source material. It is never represented as being shiny.

So, all that to say, choose your materials wisely. :)


The military pants have a high waistband, are fitted at the top, and blouse dramatically in the legs. To me, they resemble nothing so much as M.C. Hammer pants... ^_^

The easiest method is to start with an existing pants pattern and alter it. Choose a cut that will fit your figure nicely through the hips and butt. The pants should be fitted; you don't want any extra fabric making wrinkles under your butt-cape. Look at suit pants, jeans, etc.

What you're looking for: The pants should have a high, fitted waist, NO PLEATS, and jeans-style pockets in front. (I do not have a pattern number to share, because I modeled my pants on a pair of khakis: I tried on pants until I found the right fit, then cut them apart and traced them to make a pattern. I don't necessarily recommend this method, as it's messy and confusing for a total neophyte.) ^_^ If anyone finds The Perfect Pants Pattern, please share with the group!

Pattern modification (see [b]FIG. A[/b], below):

The military pants pants are bloused and floofy all the way down the legs. Because that is a singularly unflattering cut in real life, I chose to modify it slightly for my costume. I flared the legs gradually, starting from mid-thigh, so that they blouse out over my boots but do not make my hips and thighs look like any bigger than they are. This also has the effect of making me look taller (which was important at the time, as our Ed cosplayer was actually three inches taller than me -- and that's just not right!).

To flare your pants, hold a measuring tape in a wide loop around your calf to decide how poofy you want your pants to be. Using that measurement as a guide, add the appropriate number of inches to each side of the pattern at the widest part of the leg (mid-calf). Then trace a line from that new point back to the point where you want the flare to start (mid-thigh). To get the smooth, rounded look of the FMA pants, curve the line slightly so it bells out away from the leg. At the ankle, curve the line back in toward the leg.

I tapered the bottom 6-8" of the legs in so that they are very narrow at the ankle. That way I can tuck them comfortably into my boots without getting blisters from excess fabric. It also helps keep the wide part of the pants bloused out properly over the boots.

The waistband of your pants pattern will probably need to be doubled in width, at least; the military waistbands should be at least 2.5"-3" wide, depending on your own body type. **Make sure the waistband hits your body at your natural waist, instead of low on your hips.** The butt-cape belt must lie flat over the waistband, and if the pants sit too low, the butt-cape will not hang properly on your body.


The butt-cape is my favorite part of the costume -- I drafted it as a long A-line, which is flattering to everyone's figure. It also hides a multitude of sins (namely, the too-tight pants I'm wearing...).

There are two secrets to making a good butt-cape. First is the shape: An A-line angles out all the way down, making your figure taller, slimmer and more dynamic. The pattern for the butt-cape will look like a trapezoid cut in half (see [b]FIG. B[/b]). The center back line of the butt-cape will be straight up-and down, along the fabric grain. The outside (front) line will run at an angle, so the bottom edge is much longer than the top edge.

When you sew the center back seam, you will end up with the full trapezoid shape. When wrapped around your body, the fabric will flare out at the bottom and give you the nice inverted funnel shape (see [b]PLATE 1[/b]).

Secret #2 of a good butt-cape: INTERFACING. Nobody wants a saggy, limp butt-cape! ^_^ Sandwich a layer of interfacing between your layers of blue fabric so that it holds its shape and does not fall straight down around your legs. Use at least a medium weight interfacing (about the stiffness of copy paper or heavier), so it stays crisp and smooth.

Butt-cape Waistbelt (I just invented a term!):

The waistbelt attaches to the top edge of the butt-cape and holds it in place. The waistbelt should be sized long enough to wrap once around your waist with the end of the belt reaching the start of the fabric panel on the opposite side of your body (see [b]FIG. C[/b]). The two silver buttons on the front of the belt hold the butt-cape on. Depending on the type of fabric you use for the belt, you can either make button-holes for these buttons and attach them properly to the belt that goes underneath, or you can fake the belt-fastening with hook-and-eye fasteners or snaps and just sew the silver buttons on the outside of the belt. (I did the latter, as I was using nylon web for the belt, and web does not handle buttonholes well...)

Leather belt:

Riza's leather belt, on which hang her holster and ammo pouch, attaches over the silver buttons with overall fasteners. This is a separate piece that snaps on and off; it is not attached to the butt-cape.

Continued in next post...

02/11 UPDATE: Panda Majik has kindly created a downloadable uniform pattern, posted [URL=""]here[/URL]. It's much more comprehensive than my rough pencil sketches below, and can be scaled and printed!

#2 AVAAntares on 11 years ago

[b]Military Jackets[/b]

The jackets are by far the most difficult and complicated costume piece. Making Riza's sniper rifle took me two weeks; making the FMA jackets correctly took me five months. Much of that time was wasted trying to modify commercial patterns, such as the Civil War pattern and various jacket patterns.

A word on commercial patterns: [i]Do not use them for this piece.[/i] The FMA jackets are four-panel jackets with a very square cut, a single straight seam running down the back, and no tailoring to speak of. The patterns you find in stores are not built like this. Some have more than four panels, and almost all are designed with darts or princess seams to make them flattering to your body. The FMA jackets are not tailored; if you look at a picture of Roy Mustang, you'll see that his coat is shaped more like a box than a suit coat.

[b]PLATE 2[/b] is a photo of my actual cobbled-together paper patterns, but as that is messy and hard to see, I have drawn out the rough shape of each piece, so refer to [b]FIG. D[/b] for details. The proportions of these pieces will change depending on the size of the individual, so the best method is to draw them out, make a rough mock-up, and then measure on your body to determine exactly how wide each piece should be and where the sleeves, etc. should go.

The "center line" shown on the patterns is just a guide to help you in sizing and assembling the jacket; when the whole thing is sewn together, that point should be lined up on all of the pieces.

As stated in the first post, I don't trust my sewing terminology enough to give step-by-step sewing instructions; the assembly is not much different than any other kind of shirt or jacket, so if you read through a set of standard jacket pattern instructions you should be able to figure it out. ^_^ There are a few tricky places, though, so here are some pointers:

- As with most patterns, you're going to be cutting two of each piece, except for C and F -- you'll need four of each of those.
- Use interfacing in between the layers of fabric, especially for the fold-back panel on the front, to keep the jacket looking smooth and flat.
- Piece F (the sleeve cuff) should be cut on the fold of the fabric, as marked. After you have interfaced the cuff and sewn the short ends of the two pieces together, bias-tape around the upper edges (flat edge, two short angled edges). Then make the cuff into a circle and hand-sew the lower half half of the short ends together. (This will produce the half-notch on the outside of the cuff.) Line this seam up with the sleeve seam when you sew the cuffs to the sleeves.
- Be sure to pin the epaulets into the sleeve hole before you attach the sleeves; they need to be sewn in with the sleeve (see [b]PLATE 3[/b]).

[b]PLATE 4[/b] (minus the wrinkles -- the girly mannequin is too small for it) ^_^ is a basic jacket produced using this pattern. Depending on the decoration you choose for the epaulets and fruit salad, it can become any member of the military -- Roy Mustang, Maes Hughes, Riza Hawkeye, Jean Havoc, Sciezka...

If you have additional questions, feel free to PM me, and I'll answer to the best of my ability. If you have a technique that works better than what I've posted, then please share! :)

#3 blackcat523 on 11 years ago

very nicely done. Now I don't feel so bad. I thought the waist band on mine was huge, but it falls within what you put down for the pants (mine is 2-3/4" big).

And since I'm not the greatest at sewing myself (trying to get hooks to line up and such proved to be too much for me). My own butt cape has Velcro for the butt cape waist belt. This way I can adjust it should I need to depending on comfort.

The buttons I have on mine are there for show but they also serve a purpose for something to attach my gun belt too. I used covered buttons (sold at walmart) that way I could match the fabric of the accent lines nicely and they wouldn't stand out so badly in photographs And my belt is home made, but not leather. I couldn't find any that would suit my needs and was within my budget. After shelling out for all the fabric and other things.

[URL=""]my butt cape[/URL]

Riza's not the only character that carries a gun.

I also had to put a snap at the top of the neck, one in the middle under the flap and two on th side to keep the jacket closed. I'm not sure how others do it but that's what worked for me.

Also for the epaulets, I found it easier to decorate them with the strips before attaching them fully to the jacket. Otherwise there's alot more fabric to move around and to work with once they are attached. I cheated and sewed the edge of the epaulet to the seam and folded it over and attached it just under the collar. I also put stitches on either side of where I wanted the cording to go to keep it from sliding around my arm all day. I know cheating, but it worked for me. I also used gold flat round buttons and military stars for the epaulets. I thought it gave a more authentic feel to the uniform. I also used denim for my outfit. Yes not trigger or such, but it fit the color and also breaths really well for those hot cons.

You may also want to put in something about the collar. The FMA collars stand up, they don't lie flat. I've found using a thicker interfacing works for me.

And with mine I did cheat. I know the jackets were to have a seam up the back, but I can never get them to line up entirely right. The back of my jacket is all one piece. IT was more to make it easy for me then anything else. Also on my jacket the flap on mine is a separate piece that I attached. It took me a bit to get the sizing right.

It was my first outfit after all. And since there were no real how to's *until now* I had to play it by ear. I think it turned out well enough and I Have had some people say they liked how my outfit looks in matter of detail. It's also survived 3 cons and counting

#4 AVAAntares on 11 years ago

Good point about the epaulets; it's much easier to add the detail before attaching them to the coat.

Yes, by all means, interface the collar. The collar should stand up, nearly vertical (as seen in Plate 3, above, which is our Roy Mustang jacket). But don't interface it *too* heavily; our Hughes had trouble turning his head because we made his collar so tall and stiff! :D

#5 Lothlin on 11 years ago

&lt;.< This>&lt;), but it still gives me a great base to work off of. I've been worried about getting the military look down.

Thanks for posting &lt;3

#6 Shinteetah on 11 years ago

I'd like to add just one note to AVAAntares' explanation above -- [URL=""]Plate 4[/URL] shows a modified collar (for a less-vertically-gifted cosplayer) and is not accurate to the source. [URL=""]Plate 3[/URL] is more what the finished product should be. This matters for competition and for cosplay detail nazis /cough/.

Also (two notes!) I can't emphasize enough the importance of doing a mock-up for this particular costume. It took us five tries to get a pattern that worked well. (Look how much time you've saved already by checking the forums!) It really should not fit like any current popular fashion, and you should make sure you have a working pattern before trying to mash it into shape on yourself.

[QUOTE=blackcat523;2089918]Also for the epaulets, I found it easier to decorate them with the strips before attaching them fully to the jacket.[/quote]

Absolutely! As you can see in [URL=""]Plate 3[/URL], that stitching would have been nigh-impossible to do afterward. Plan ahead! :D (Not that I didn't, several times, attach a sleeve and forget to insert the stupid epaulet...! Plan ahead, indeed.)

[QUOTE=blackcat523;2089918]It's also survived 3 cons and counting[/QUOTE]

/nod nod nod/ I love our FMA group and it's been worn to about a dozen different events thus far -- machine-washed each time, of course. Good materials should make these very durable costumes and you can wear them forever!

#7 AVAAntares on 11 years ago

[QUOTE=Shinteetah;2090247]...shows a modified collar (for a less-vertically-gifted cosplayer)[/quote]

Spoken like a TRUE Ed cosplayer. :D

[quote]/nod nod nod/ I love our FMA group and it's been worn to about a dozen different events thus far -- machine-washed each time, of course. Good materials should make these very durable costumes and you can wear them forever![/QUOTE]

Yes! I should point out that the butt-cape and Roy Mustang jacket I photographed for my examples have been in steady use for the last two years. They're certainly broken in, but it says something that they still look that good after two years of being worn, washed, danced in, stuffed in boxes, driven to cons in five states, and generally abused.

(I did experience my first Riza costume failure at the last con, though, when I actually lost a button on my butt-cape -- oh, no! -- and had to pin it back on. Maybe if I hadn't hung the camera on my belt...) ^_^

#8 blackcat523 on 11 years ago

(I did experience my first Riza costume failure at the last con, though, when I actually lost a button on my butt-cape -- oh, no! -- and had to pin it back on. Maybe if I hadn't hung the camera on my belt...) ^_^[/QUOTE]

Which is why I have spares of all the buttons on my outfits and an emergency sewing kit kept with me at all times at the con's. You never know when you can save someone with just a needle and thread and be their hero (makes the military look good after all). I've had to only replace 2 buttons on mine. 1 fell off the butt cape at the bottom Fanime 2008 (I've fixed it so it won't happen again.) and the other fell off the waist belt of the but cape, otakon 2008. I believe I've fixed that problem too (dam shoddy thread, and the fact that I hang my belt off that button too. If it pops off my belt falls off, so it's a sure sign something happened). But without emergencies like that you never know what tricks you can come up with. I found having a few safety pins hidden on me helps in those little emergencies. I may be a newb at sewing, but I always try to plan for the what ifs.

I think my next thing to do on my outfit is to figure out how to put an eye hook on the neck line to close the collar a bit more on mine for photo shoots. If I close the collar it stands up right, if not it wants to lay down.

#9 Lady Ashe on 11 years ago

Awesome tutorial, thank you so much for posting this! I'm so happy to finally know how to make this. Your the best AVAAntares!

#10 Kaits on 11 years ago

This is really great. Very well done. I've been wanting to make some FMA millitary uniforms for my brothers and didn't know where to start. Thanks so much! :D

#11 LadyHawke78 on 11 years ago

I think a lot of FMA cosplayers will be thanking you for this, AVAAntares.

Me? Hell-- you're just making me want to make a sniper-rifle now...

#12 silent_dreaming on 11 years ago

Thank you so much for this tutorial! Before, I was planning on modifying (butchering) a Victorian waistcoat pattern, but this will be [i]so much easier[/i]. Again, thank you, thank you!

#13 nadesico81 on 11 years ago

Sound good except one thing You mentioned that the pants are bloused and thats a good thing. Thats all well and good but I have found that useing Cuff Stufers instead of blouseing straps work much better. They make the end of the pants look much better above the boots.

#14 LadyHawke78 on 11 years ago

[QUOTE=nadesico81;2093285]Sound good except one thing You mentioned that the pants are bloused and thats a good thing. Thats all well and good but I have found that useing Cuff Stufers instead of blouseing straps work much better. They make the end of the pants look much better above the boots.[/QUOTE]

Can you get those via most military surplus site as well? I've seen blousing straps almost everywhere, but never these "cuff stuffers" you speak of...

#15 stardust462 on 11 years ago

[QUOTE]The pants should have a high, fitted waist, NO PLEATS, and jeans-style pockets in front.[/QUOTE]
Haha, that "no pleats" comment makes me think of "What Not To Wear." They look so bad on most people, especially women.

This is really, really helpful. Thanks so much for putting this up. In about a month or so I'm going to start my Maria Ross or Sheska costume (haven't decided which one to do yet) and I'll be sure to use this. Especially the part about fabric choice.

About how much fabric and trim do you recommend to get to make one costume? I read over the tutorial a couple of times but I didn't see any mention of it (sorry if it was).