DIY Costume: Kaylee Frye from Firefly

Posted by Sarah Shotts

This summer I was busy getting married and moving into a new house. So when it came to choosing a character to cosplay this year I had some important criteria. The costume had to be…

1. Easy
2. Inexpensive
3. Epic*

*(Obviously.) Otherwise, what’s the point? 😉

It didn’t take me long to decide on Kaylee Frye from Joss Whedon’s short lived, but greatly loved TV series, Firefly. Here's how you can make one, too!

The best part about creating a Kaylee costume is that it’s pretty much no-sew. I’m not much of a seamstress (…yet) so that was very important for keeping this project easy. It was so easy I’m going to walk you through how to do this yourself. Step by step.

The first thing you need to do is find olive drab coveralls in your size. Just search around Google for "jumpsuit" or "coveralls" and you’ll find a few different options. Or try costume shops, military surplus stores, thrift stores, and online auctions (if you’re lucky you can find some used—cheap!) Kaylee’s costume has a zipper, but I ended up getting one with buttons because it was such a good deal on Ebay. (There was an ink stain on the pocket, but that was perfect for me since I was going to distress them anyway!)


Once you have your coveralls you should run them through the washing machine and then cut off the sleeves at the shoulder seam. Right away this makes a big difference. Be sure to save the sleeves because we’ll be using them later on.


The next step is to add Kaylee’s patches. Try shopping online or your local craft store. You’ll need a heart, a teddy bear, and a blue flower. Kaylee’s flower appears to have been crocheted so if you can crochet you could make the flower that way. My sister has mad embroidery skills so I had her copy the flower in embroidery for me. Once you’ve gathered everything sew the patches on with a simple stitch (or go 100% no-sew and iron them on.)


Next you want to distress my costume so it looks like Kaylee has been working in the engine room. I suppose you could skip this step if you want, but it’s a lot of fun! Here’s where we’ll be using the scrap fabric from the sleeves we cut off earlier. Because every fabric is different you’ll want to do some tests before you start distressing the costume you just painstakingly sewed patches on.

Label areas of the scrap fabric and try out different staining methods. I recommend testing tea, coffee, diluted acrylic paint, diluted RIT dye, and cooking oil. (DISCLAIMER: Cooking oils look great and engine greasy, but they leave a bit of a scent behind. Proceed with caution…and Febreeze.) Be sure to label the different distressing methods clearly. As Adam Savage from Mythbusters taught us, "The only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down."

Testing will help you achieve the effect you want. Once you’ve determined which stains you like best get to work distressing. It will probably help to look at some reference photos from the show. There are some great resources here on Maggie’s Costuming Site.  Use a variety of drips, smears, and splatters (old toothbrushes are great for really fine splattering.) The main idea is to make the coveralls look more worn out. You can also rub them on concrete or use sandpaper to wear down the fibers of the fabric.


Now that the coveralls are distressed it’s time to add the Chinese characters. I don’t claim to be an expert in the Chinese language so you may want to read the detailed post here. I practiced drawing them first on paper, then on the scrap fabric, and finally used a large chisel tipped permanent marker to draw them on the costume. Here are the characters I used…

平出*幸 = On Kaylee’s Pocket

愛 = Below Teddy Bear

喜 = Below Heart

*For some reason this character appears upside down on Kaylee’s pocket. Follow your reference images. I didn’t aim for perfect accuracy, but went more along the style of how Kaylee would have drawn these on the costume herself.


Now, unless you want to go the flip flop route you’ll need to find some boots. Kaylee wears black work boots in the show, but I wanted something I’d wear again so I found these super comfortable gray ankle boots that did the trick.

You’ll also want a pink floral shirt of some kind. Kaylee wears several different ones through the series ranging from tanktops to long sleeve. I scoured my local thrift store for something pink, comfortable, and floral. I found this tanktop and distressed it using the same methods I used on the coveralls.

Put it all together and that’s it! Super fun, super easy, and definitely the most comfortable cosplay I’ve ever owned. 🙂

What are you waiting for? Get out there and make your own Kaylee costume. Be sure to post photos of your results. We can’t wait to see what you make!

Sarah Shotts is a blogger, vlogger, and “nerdlywed”. Recently married she blogs about living a nerdy life as a newlywed on her blog. She also vlogs about all things geeky on the Swot Sisters Youtube channel she created with her sister Mary. When she’s not making stuff on the internet she’s busy teaching theatre classes and doing wedding photography and video.