Cosplay How-To: Becoming Lady Jack Sparrow

by The Collected Mutineer

On January 1, 2004, I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I fell in love with pretty much every part of that film (for lots of reasons that deserve their own post) and knew that I wanted to dress as Captain Jack—for Halloween, for a photo shoot, or just because. I started collecting some small pieces, like Jack’s ring. But that was before cosplay entered my life, and before I knew how to properly put together a complex and accurate outfit such as Jack’s.

Fourteen years later, things are a little different. I still love POTC, but now I feel confident enough in my abilities to properly cosplay Jack. So that’s exactly what I did for SDCC 2018! Ahoy, women who want to cosplay as Jack, too: here’s a quick and dirty guide to piece together the perfect pirate costume that is both accurate as well as a little more feminine.

Imagery and References

Before beginning, you need to choose reference images. Jack’s outfits change from film to film, with small details being added in each chapter. You can choose a specific look, or you can mix and match just the way Jack would. I chose what he sports at the end of COTBP, sans coat and draped in jewels. In addition to a careful study of the film and photos, I also consulted Jack Sparrow Costuming and watched all of Alyson Tabbitha’s videos.

Shirt and Breeches

Jack’s shirt is loose and flowy—a “pirate shirt,” if you will. I used an old one from a previous cosplay and modified it slightly so that the cuffs were open and it looked old and dirty (thank you, tea dying). If you don’t already have a shirt like this, you can find relatively inexpensive ones at thrift stores or on Amazon.

The breeches were a little trickier. I didn’t want to make pants, and I didn’t want to wear tights or pajama bottoms, both of which had been suggested by various sources. Luckily, I found the perfect pair of “hippie” trousers that I dyed grey with Rit All Purpose Dye.

Both the shirt and trousers were then roughed up with sandpaper and rubbed with small amounts of Movie Dirt.

Waistcoat

You can easily modify a blue or navy vest from the thrift store for this, but I chose to make it from scratch using Simplicity pattern 4923 “Jack Sparrow/Pirate Costume” (sometimes also listed online as 0508). These are men’s sizes, so I had to change the pattern in a few places to make it fit on my shoulders, etc. Do what works for your body! The instructions are fairly simple to follow, but if you get stuck or aren’t used to sewing, I’d recommend watching a tutorial like this one. I also found antique-looking buttons at Joann that fit the pirate persona perfectly.

Corset

Alivila.Y Fashion Womens Vintage Brocade Lace Boned Renaissance Underbust Corset (via Amazon)

The corset is obviously an addition to the original Jack costume, but one that was well received. It’s the perfect way to go femme, while still staying true to the time period. I didn’t have time to make stays from scratch, so I did the next best thing.

If you also don’t want to make your own corset, just find one with a brocade pattern or lace overlay—something that looks like it was once grand and lovely. Mine is from Amazon. Then dirty it up with watered-down black paint until it’s the right color, and voila! You have something that’s aged and antique that will also give you the perfect shape for a pirate wench queen.

Scarf and Sash

Jack’s outfit wouldn’t be complete without his trademark red scarf and striped sash. Both of these are easily found online. All you have to do is dirty them up with either a dark paint wash or some tea dying.

Boots

You need some pirate boots to help your pirate swagger. If you’re going for inexpensive, I would raid your closet first to see what you’ve got. Black or brown is the only must. If you have more time and money, you can do the following: get your hands on some brown slouchy boots, and add a bell-like top to mimic Jack’s. You can make this cover from scraps of fabric or even craft foam.

Wig

This is perhaps the most recognizable part of Jack’s outfit. Unlike the wigs you can buy at Disneyland that are just dreadlock strands glued to a scarf, Jack’s coif is a mixture of dreadlocks and loose, somewhat tangled hair. You can buy some amazing hand-made wigs online from stores like Etsy, but making your own isn’t as intimidating as it sounds.

1.)  Find two wigs that are within your budget. One should be dreadlocked, and one should be a regular loose-hair wig. Both should be brown. I got mine on sale from Pose Wigs.

2.) Get your hands on the necessary beads and pieces to include. You can make your own, or get some like these on Amazon.

3.) Now comes the fun. Cut apart the dreadlocked wig and hot glue the pieces in between the wefts of the regular wig. The Alyson Tabbitha wig tutorial comes in really handy at this point. (She makes her own dreads, which you can totally do if you aren’t pressed for time.)

4.) Add in the accessories as needed—remember that the back of Jack’s scarf actually goes under a messy braid at the back of his head. Check your reference images to make sure you have the beads on the correct sides.

5.) Don’t be too precise. His hair is messy AF.

Accessories

Disguise Pirates of The Caribbean Compass (via Amazon)

Belts: You can make your own belt straps from brown vinyl or pleather. There are tutorials out there to help you create your own belt buckles, but I purchased mine here.

Rings: This was easy for me, since in COTBP he only wears the one green ring. If you’re doing a different version, you can get multiple rings as part of this accessory kit from Disney.

Hand wrap: This is easy enough to make from scraps of fabric you have lying around, but you can also get it as part of that accessory kit linked above.

Compass: Who is Jack without a compass? Get yours from Amazon, cause hell, that’s where you’ve gotten practically everything else at this point.

Sword: I feel like this is obvious.

Pistol: I chose not to include a pistol with my cosplay because they weren’t allowed at SDCC. I may add one at a later date. If you’d like to have one, you can get pirate toy pistols online or at Halloween stores.

Crown and Jewels: (If you aren’t wearing the outfit from the end of the film, this doesn’t really apply.) Any cheap crown should suffice, as long as it has some type of fleur de lis pattern. I got mine on Ebay, and added some additional red and green gems I got at Joann. The beads also came from Joann—they’re super inexpensive, but they photograph like a million bucks.

The Result (photos by cosplayer_gallery)

Add in Jack’s signature walk, a bit of attitude, and you’re good to go. Cosplaying Jack was a dream come true for me, and I had a wonderful time creating this cosplay. If you use this tutorial, share your photos with us, savvy?

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