My Kaylee Cosplays

My Kaylee Cosplays

So, in the fall of 2014, I wanted to make a costume of something from sci-fi, so I decided on Kaylee Frye, from the short-lived series Firefly (pictured at right). She's a great character, and her basic costume is very easy: she's a mechanic, so she wears coveralls most of the time. Add a Chinese parasol as a prop, and everybody knows who you are (if they know the series at all).

Although I didn't want to spend TOO much time (or money) getting the costume together, I did want to include a few of those special details to make it more Kaylee-esque. So I did some research. I have the Firefly: A Celebration book, which includes some of the original costume concept art, along with commentary about the costumes from the designer and actors. (Pic at left: example of Kaylee costume art from the book.) There's also a LOT of info on the Internet, much of which goes into GREAT detail about every aspect of the costumes.


First Costume

Coveralls

So, it looked to me like, in the actual series, Kaylee wore 3 different coveralls: A brown long-sleeve, a gray long-sleeve, and an olive sleeveless. The long-sleeve ones were mainly when she was actually working on the engine; the sleeveless one she wore quite a bit at other times, notably for the scene at the Eavestown docks on Persephone in the pilot episode, which is the iconic outfit that most people choose to copy for Kaylee. (Top pic in this article is Kaylee in the Eavestown docks scene; pic at right shows the sleeveless coveralls better.)

So, I went looking online (on Amazon) for suitable coveralls. I decided immediately that, living in Florida as I do, long-sleeve would not be desirable. But they don't seem to make sleeveless ones (which kinda makes sense, considering what coveralls are used for), although they do make short-sleeve. I observed that one of the concept drawings (at left) showed short sleeves, so I decided to go with that. (The other option would have been to cut off the sleeves, but I personally prefer short sleeve to sleeveless things anyway.) I chose a reasonably-priced short-sleeve pair in green.

Although several of the Internet costume sites suggested various ways to distress the coveralls to make them look well-worn (as Kaylee's were on the series), I decided I really didn't want to go to that much effort. I just washed them so they weren't so brand-new crispy.

Accessories

I also looked for a Chinese parasol online. You can find decent ones, plain or with Oriental floral designs, quite inexpensively. Kaylee's iconic one (shown in photo at top of page) has a spiral design on it, but to match that would cost substantially more. I went with the cheap floral design. I figured that was totally in the appropriate spirit, because the costume commentary in the book said that Kaylee liked pretty feminine/floral things.

In the scene at the docks, Kaylee is also wearing a pretty turquoise Chinese-looking jacket. (You can see it in the pic near the top of this page.) I decided I was not going to bother with this piece (again, being in Florida, don't have a lot of use for jackets).

At the docks, Kaylee wears flip-flops. Most other times she wears work shoes. Since I wear orthotics, I prefer to wear real shoes. I considered using some hiking shoes I already had, but ended up purchasing some instead--they not only seemed totally perfect for the purpose (they look like working boots, but with a somewhat futuristic vibe), they were also very inexpensive!

Shirts

In the series, Kaylee wears a variety of different shirts under her coveralls, in different colors and styles, from long-sleeve to tank. But they're all cute, feminine prints, in accordance with the costume concept mentioned earlier. I already had a couple such shirts; I didn't feel a need to try to get a copy of any specific shirt Kaylee had.

Patches

One of the special details about the coveralls is they have some embroidered-type patches, both in the series and also in the concept art. Internet details about the main (sleeveless) coverall indicate there's a large teddy bear goes on the left knee, a red heart on the right hip pocket, and (depending on which episode you're copying from), a small blue flower on the waistband. The concept art, however, shows a cat face at the knee (as in pic at right), and not much more (although 1 pic shows a "USDA Choice" badge on the breast pocket).

I'm not much for teddy bears, but I do like cats, so I decided I'd follow the concept art more closely. My previous choices already meant I wasn't attempting an exact copy of the iconic series outfit anyway.

So, as I was thinking about patches to put on (along with the Chinese writing that I talk about next), I began to feel the need to have a backstory... to understand why and how the patches (and writing) happened. I figure Kaylee must have put them on herself (because a) who sells work coveralls with teddy bears on them, and b) even if they did, wouldn't the cost be prohibitive for Kaylee?) She probably used the patches mainly to cover holes (like the flower patch, which is assumed to hide the bullet hole she got in the pilot). But even though they were utilitarian, she probably liked having them "pretty" -- probably used whatever patches caught her fancy when she needed one. She probably used her iconic coveralls originally for working, but after they got too patched and worn, she decided to cut off the sleeves and use them mainly for casual wear.

So, I figure I'm making coveralls that Kaylee might well have had. But they're being filtered through what catches MY fancy.

So, I went poking around on Amazon and eBay for patches that I would like that I thought were compatible with the spirit of Kaylee. I didn't find a cat face like the one in the concept art, but I did find a decent-size cat that I liked that I planned to use for the knee. I wanted at least one smaller patch for a pocket. I considered a heart, as well as a flower, but also considered other things like a star, a firefly, a ladybug, jacks, a strawberry. I finally settled on a blue butterfly.

Chinese Writing

Another detail seen in both the concept art and the actual series is that the coveralls have some Chinese writing on them. However, my research did not turn up anything I found helpful about exactly what those Chinese characters were.

My background story (from above) told me Kaylee drew them on herself (I found one Internet costumer who had conjectured the same thing), so I figured they were probably words or phrases that she liked, probably like Peace, Love, and Happiness.

So, I found some online English-to-Chinese translators and started to look up words. When I looked up "Peace" I found that one of the choices had a synonym of "Serenity"... oh, clearly I had to use that one!

Thus far, I've settled on:

(I say "thus far" because I might decide to add more later, if I get ambitious. The concept art seemed to have quite a lot of the Chinese writing.)

The Result

So, I managed to get done what I wanted to get done for my costume just in time for Dec 13, 2014 which is Occupy the Internet (with Firefly) day, in honor of the 12th anniversary of the last episode of Firefly. I wanted to post this article to help add a little more Firefly to the Web.

I now have a costume that is based on the original concept art for Kaylee, that I feel is consistent with and recognizable as Kaylee. It is a Kaylee costume; it just isn't one that she wore in the first season. So, it's probably a second-season costume. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(following added 6/28/15)

Addenda - Photos

I finally had an occasion to wear the outfit for the first time this weekend. So here I am, at Supercon in Miami Beach:

Sherry R in Kaylee cosplay

Incidentally, I purposely posed with the yellow cart in the back because it reminded me of the "mule" in Firefly....

I also want to add a bit about the necklace. In the series, Kaylee usually doesn't wear jewelry, but she does have a couple of necklaces. They are short necklaces with some kind of simple pendant. The one I'm wearing in the pic is called a "Hei Matau" necklace, which I got from Wanderer Imports. I chose it because Hei Matau is the Maori symbol for safe passage over water, which I interpret in Firefly world as safe passage thru the black. It looks like something Kaylee would wear, and as usual, I wasn't trying to match anything exactly.

(following added 9/11/15)

I also wore it to our local Can't Stop the Serenity event in July, where I had the chance to pose with a replica "proper" parasol:

Sherry R in Kaylee cosplay, with parasol

(following added 12/18/16)

I wore it again to Paradise City Comic Con (Dec. 2016), and got a selfie with (squeee!) Summer Glau! Costume-wise, I now have a real umbrella designed to look like the "proper" parasol. I'm also wearing a different necklace, which happens to have the "You can't take the sky from me..." lyrics, so I figure it's apt.

Sherry R in Kaylee cosplay, with Summer Glau

(following updated 9/18/22)

Variations

I was quite satisfied with my first costume, and felt no particular need to do more with Kaylee. But sometimes circumstances conspire to inspire:


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