Angela Clayton: Self-Taught Teen Sews Amazing Costumes

Angela Clayton, 19, was born in April 1997. She lives with her parents and miniature dachshund in the middle of the woods on Long Island, New York. Angela was homeschooled from second grade onward, got her GED at age 16, and took a few courses at Suffolk County Community College. Now she spends her days making dresses that look like they came straight out of the pages of history or fantasy.

When it comes to design, pattern-making, and sewing, Angela is almost completely self-taught with a little help from the internet and talent inherited from her grandparents who sew. As a young girl, she had always loved beautiful dresses and fairytale costumes. Angela began cosplaying in 2010, after attending New York Comic Con with her brother, and she made her first costume in April 2012. “I started sewing when I became interested in cosplay, since it combined my love of creating, makeup, photography and dressing up perfectly,” Angela says on her website. Her interest in cosplay stemmed from the desire to bring her favorite Disney, anime, video game, and Japanese illustrator Sakizo -inspired characters to life. Check out these awesome Elsa and Merida costumes!

After she designed, dressed, and styled herself at Frozen’s Queen Elsa (complete with photo shoot in a snowy forest) when she was just 16, she was cited by cosplay and Disney fans as “having raised the bar” when it comes to costuming. According to her blog, she spent about 250 hours working on the outfit, with 170 of those hours dedicated to embellishing the dress/cape/bodice by hand with 100,000+ rhinestones. You can read about her process more in-depth here. The whole ensemble including shoes and wig cost over $200, twice as much as her average costume.

Cosplay is no longer Angela’s major focus. Three years ago, the teen became interested in historical fashion after watching “The Borgias” on television. “I fell in love with the costumes and decided to re-create them,” she said. Since then, she has made more than 50 costumes. “I really love English fashion from the 1620s and 1630s, and ball gowns from the 1860s. And I always find myself going back to Renaissance styles since there is so much variety,” Angela told BuzzFeed.

Angela says, “I find myself very inspired by historical garments, which is why the majority of my work will be reproductions, or heavily inspired by the clothing from many centuries ago.” For example, she re-created the outfit (shown below) from the “Portrait of Doña Isabel de Requesens” by Raphael and Giulio Romano. She has a stack of vintage sewing and historic costume books that she refers to for information, and in researching how to make a garment she may visit 20+ websites. Angela says, “Everyone hates watching historical shows with me. I’ll say, ‘There’s a button [on that dress], but it should be an eyelet!’”

In addition to reproductions, some of Angela’s works are original designs made from her own sketches. “I love the freedom of working on original designs, and the complexity and detail work that comes with historical projects.” Angela said. Her costumes are as impressive looking as they are time-consuming to make. Angela says, “For me much of the joy in creating something is figuring out HOW to create it, which is why I prefer to learn through trial and error, as opposed to classes.” The teen has made more than 50 dresses, but saved only 30, discarding ones she doesn’t think were good enough.

Angela enjoys using different materials with lots of textures and intricate details. She especially likes ruffles, fitted jackets, pirates, and any combination of those three. On her website, Angela says, “I really enjoy making structured garments that play with seaming and pattern matching. But I spend most of my time working on detailed costumes which involve a lot of beading and work done by hand.” The talented teen also styles wigs, hats, headpieces, jewelry, and other accessories to go with the costumes.

Angela considers Sandy Powell, the Oscar-winning costume designer behind the 2015 live-action Cinderella movie, to be an influence, even though her own recreation of Cinderella’s ball gown was patterned after the one in the Disney animated film. Since her dream job is out of reach – “I would like to be a dressmaker to kings and queens in Renaissance times” – she hopes to someday work in the costume world, either for theater or film. She says, “I love bringing characters to life, and if I could do that professionally that would be a dream come true!”

Angela’s parents are supportive of her dream. “They consider sewing to be educational and beneficial for my future (the same way they view schooling),” said Angela, “so they pay for fabric and some trims.” Angela hasn’t found a college that offers any degree programs that support her unique skill set or appeal to her interests. “It’s a lot of money to spend for connections and a piece of paper,” she says. “I’m not seriously considering any at this time, instead I’m looking into internships.”

Angela told Cosmopolitan, “I am more interested in getting hands-on experience because a lot of the jobs in the costume world require four years of experience in a workshop. I would rather go straight into that if I can instead of spending four years at school.” So Angela is building a portfolio for future internship applications, her immediate goal of which is to expand her portfolio to show more variety.

On her blog, Angela says “I’m a quiet person who very much enjoys being cooped up in my bedroom with my sewing machine, laptop, and drawing implements… I spend hours sewing every day… When I’m not sewing I’m usually on my computer, editing, writing, or playing silly games. I also like to read, draw, and paint. Winter is my favorite season, I love snow, and sweaters, and snuggling up under blankets. I have the best dog ever who is very cuddly and likes sleeping almost as much as I do.”

Angela describes herself as an introverted individual who doesn’t care for social situations; therefore creating costumes is a great means of self-expression. Not only is she amazingly talented but she fits the part – resembling a human doll or anime character with porcelain skin, big round green eyes, and perfect pout. Angela personally models her creations, and her dad helps out by being her photographer during photo shoots.

Angela’s blog was originally started years ago to document her progress as she learned to draw, but it turned into a costume blog where she shares detailed information about the making of her costumes, with progress pictures and construction notes. Angela also posts video tutorials on YouTube, which have hundreds of thousands of views and earn her cash to pay for materials. We look forward to seeing more of her creations! 🙂


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