Conquering Cosplay: The Princess Bride Edition

Conquering Cosplay is a monthly article written by Cosplay enthusiast Keriann McNamara-McCauliffe.  She shares her tips and tricks for Cosplay of various characters in the land of the nerd.

Con season is quickly approaching and if you guys are anything like me, your heads are already spinning with ideas for costumes you want to try out this year. February is Valentine’s Month so in honor of that I wanted to choose one of my favorite couples of all time and share some ideas with you on how to recreate their awesomeness at whatever cons you may be attending this year. Keep in mind you don’t have to have a boyfriend or girlfriend to complete any couple Cosplay, as long as you have a good buddy you can definitely try this out!

The Princess Bride: Westley and Princess Buttercup

They are one of the most romantic and beautiful couples of all time. When I think true love story, I think The Princess Bride. I was raised on the movie, and on more than 100 occasions I would run around in whatever dress I could find pretending to be Princess Buttercup. My Barbie dolls even had to battle R.O.U.S.’s quite frequently. For all these reasons, and the fact that Cary Elwes will be at DCC this year (gasp/swoon/faint/melt), I think there is no better Cosplay to break down for Valentine’s Month than Princess Buttercup and her dear Westley.

Princess Buttercup:

Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride

I love this Cosplay because not only is it design flexible, but it is pretty easily done. Buttercup has two trademark looks, the orange dress she wears when she is taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts and her wedding dress from the end of the movie.

I think the far more iconographic image of her is the orange dress so I will focus on that one here. First off, you’ll want to Google (or Alta Vista, I don’t discriminate) the hell out of the dress. Study it and decide how you want it to fit you and how much work you want to put into it. For the really easy going Cosplayer, this could be as simple as a thrift store bathrobe with craft store gold ribbon tied around the waist. It’s not the most detailed, but it absolutely works for those short of time or still a little weary to dive in and make their own costume from scratch.

Making your own dress gives you the ability to fit it to yourself and to lovingly add detail where you want it and it is still pretty easy. First off, you’ll want to make a run to your local craft store and pick up the following items:

  • Elastic (and width should do, but at least an inch or more is best)
  • Many needles and orange thread, if you sew. This is a costume that can easily be accomplished with a hot glue gun. If that is your preferred method be sure to get an abundance of glue sticks and still some needles to help pin your fabric in place before adhering it.
  • Orange fabric – there isn’t a determined amount. I recommend getting a little more than you think you’ll need to allow for mistakes. *Note: If fabric is hard to come by consider buying sheets in the color you need. I made a Bride of Frankenstein costume out of curtains I found at a thrift store and they worked perfectly.
  • Thick metallic and/or sparkly gold ribbon, thicker than two inches in width.
  • Orange ribbon to match your material

The next step will be figuring out your fabric measurements. Luckily this dress is pretty easily made with one giant piece of material for the main part, one smaller one for a bodice, two skirt extenders and two smaller pieces for sleeves.

Start with the largest piece of material and imagine how long you will need it to drape to the floor but not trip you. The dress is a V-neck and the way I’ve accomplished the main piece, or frame, in the past is honestly by using a large enough piece of material, folding it two so either side is the length of my body and then cutting a hole to put my head through. This is one of the reasons I like using sheets or curtains; you get a lot of material for cheap, and it’s easy to work with. Cut your head hole so it is a V in the front but round it on the other side so it fits up against the back of your neck well. Think of the Millennium Falcon and cut that shape. If there is an excess of material on your sides, go ahead and trim it down. You want to leave enough that your body is covered completely and its fits kind of like a moo-moo. It’s a flattering look, I know.

Princess Buttercup Dress Frame


You’ll want to take the dress frame off and either sew or glue the open edges together on either side, but only down to the waist. Again, it’s okay if the dress is loose, the bodice will make it form fitting. Once you have that taken care of, set that piece aside for now and start on your bodice.

Princess Buttercup Dress Frame 2

You’ll want it to start underneath your chest and stop approximately at your pelvis. The bodice will be relatively simple, just measure a piece of fabric out and wrap it around your torso. Fit it to yourself how you’ll want it to fit your frame. It should be form fitting but only what you’re comfortable with. The bodice should wrap around you and meet in the center of your back where it will lace up. Cut off any excess material and then fold the piece in half so the ends that will lace up are together. You’ll want to punch holes along the edge (but not too close!) to run the ribbon through to lace up the bodice in the back. You can use a variety of objects to create the holes, scissors, knives, sharp screw drivers, cork screws… anything that will piece the fabric and allow you to make a big enough circular hole to run the ribbon through. If you are using a hot glue gun, and are afraid of the material fraying, you can put a ring of glue around each hole to keep the threading in place.

Princess Buttercup Bodice

Place the bodice aside; it will be the last piece of your costume you put on. Next, cut two pieces of material that run from your waist (or just above where the bodice starts) down to your feet. You’ll want to attach these to the dress frame where the skirt is still open. These pieces will allow more bunching and a more flowing look once the bodice is applied. You can make them as wide or thin as you want, depending on how flow-y you want the skirt to be.

Princess Buttercup Skirt Sides

Finally, you’ll need to add sleeves, and these may be the hardest part. Use pieces of fabric by wrapping them around your arm to get an idea of how you want them to fit. Buttercup’s sleeves are very loose so take care not to make them too tight, but make sure they fit well around your armpits where they will adhere to the dress frame. Make sure the sleeves are long enough to go past your wrists; they should stop approximately at the tip of your middle finger. Seal off each piece of material to create a tube of fabric, and attaché the more fitted end to the dress frame at the armpit.

Princess Buttercup Sleeves

At this point you can either choose to stop and leave your sleeves loose, or you can put in one final detail and use your elastic to fit them to your wrists. Either way you will look amazing! If you want to fit the sleeves you’ll need to cut a piece of elastic in a size that fits your wrist comfortably and doesn’t cut off circulation, then attach the ends together either by sewing them or gluing them. The hardest part now is that you will have to bunch the fabric of the end of your sleeves up so it wraps around the elastic. Do not sew your material to or adhere glue to the elastic, it will no longer be flexible if you do. You need to seal of the fabric above the elastic. Think of a scrunchie (that really ages me, by the way) and how it was fabric bunched around that piece of elastic that made it a hair tie – that is the idea you are going for here.

The final touch here once your dress is all put on is the trademark gold belt. Use your gold ribbon and just tie it around your waist. You will probably need a little help day of to lace up your bodice with the ribbon in the back.

Princess Butter Cup finished product Princess Buttercup Finished Product Back

A few final notes on the costume:

I am a believer that hair style is a very key element to pulling off a costume or missing the mark. On that note, keep in mind that Buttercup has beautiful long blond hair and no bangs. If you are a wig enthusiast be sure to pick up a wig that matches her look. I always like to use my own hair for costumes if I can. I’m part of the school that knows that hair will always grow back, and it can always be dyed. On that note, if you have those long luxurious locks but they’re not the right shade don’t be afraid to dye your hair.

If you are using a fabric that is prone to fray be sure to seal your edges with a hem. Someone once told me that singing material is a great way to seal edges and skip the work of hemming. That ONLY works if you are working with polyester – which is plastic based – and even then it’s risky. DO NOT attempt this method with cotton; that shit goes up in flames. I tried it once and nearly lit my entire room on fire. My sister still will not let me live it down.

Westley, or The Dread Pirate Roberts:

Westley in The Princess Bride

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: sometimes men have it so much easier in the realm of Cosplay. So many elements of their costumes are more easily found at party supply and thrift stores. Westley, is no exception to that.

Things you will need to complete this costume:

  • Black tight fitting pants. Leather is best, but not always easy to find or make yourself.
  • A loose fitting black shirt, with a collar, that can be tucked into your pants.
  • Black boots, not cowboy or hiking, that come up at least to mid-calf length.
  • A black mask that only covers your eyes
  • A black sash to tie around your waist
  • A black sash to tie around your head
  • Black leather gloves
  • A sword, preferably with a decorative handle

One really great thing about the Westley costume is that you can really customize it to your liking. You don’t have to have the head sash, as he does not wear it all the time. If you want to go full Dread Pirate Roberts you’ll want all of the above items, but as the movie progresses, Westley loses many of those items which means if something is hard to find, you can easily go without it. You can easily lose the black leather gloves, the head sash and even the mask if you want. I personally love the post R.O.U.S. battle Westley with the torn shirt and bloody shoulder because it gives me a chance to apply a wound makeup, which I love, and it’s a nice touch of originality.

Most guys own at least one pair of black pants, but you’ll probably want to buy a pair for this costume. You can check thrift stores, but your best bet will probably be some sort of workout pant, something very tight fitting. Westley’s pants have to be tight. Please do not attempt this look with black jeans or Dickies because it won’t look right.

The shirt should be easily found at a thrift store. You’ll want one that is at least one to two sizes too big for you. The top few buttons will need to be left unbuttoned, but of you really want to go the extra mile, I recommend cutting off the top few buttons and poking holes where they were. That way you can run a black string, cord, or even shoe lace through the holes to complete that pirate shirt look.

You can use varying pieces of material for the pirate sash belt and headpiece. You can either buy some at your local craft store or you can find something to cut up at a thrift store. The thrift store option will most likely be cheaper than buying new fabric out right. I often find things at thrift stores for the sole purpose of cutting them up for spare fabric and pieces.

The mask and sword will be easily found at almost any party supply store. Most of them keep costume basics in stock year round, and luckily small black masks and swords are apparently universal necessities for all seasons. If you want your sword to be more unique than a generic store bought one you can always customize the handle. Westley’s sword has a very intricate silver winding around its handle which can be very easily recreated with tin foil. If you want something a step above that, I recommend getting a sturdy but pliable wire and rubber tubing from either a craft or home improvement store. Simply run the wire through the tubing and mold it into the shape you want. Once that’s complete, you can use a metallic acrylic paint or even spray paint to make it silver and then you can attach it to the sword you have either using extra wire or hot glue.

The Princess Bride Prince Westley

And there you have it. For minimal cost and stress you can pay tribute to two of pop culture’s most romantic icons. Keep following Hush Comics to get new Cosplay ideas, breakdowns, and musings each month from me. Next month I’ll be looking at some strong female characters in honor of Women’s History Month and something a little more goofy to pay tribute to the triumphant return of Community.

Do you have any questions, comments or suggestions for costumes you’d like a breakdown of? Leave a comment for me below, or find us on Twitter @hushcomics and me @msmacabre1314.

Images from The Princess Bride belong to 20th Century Fox. All sketches are drawn by Keriann McNamara-McCauliffe and belong to her.

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Keriann "Anna" McNamara-McCauliffe

Fire bad. Tree pretty.

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