So in October last year I presented my first attempt at Cosplay armour using foam. It’s been a while since then, and the armour got left to one side for quite some time because I had other projects that I needed to work on.
Then other things got in the way and I simply didn’t have the time or money to complete it. Which is a shame, because I was really excited about this piece. I saw it as the next step in my mission to become “a proper Cosplayer”, because in my eyes, I am still just a dabbler. I have only ever truly finished one costume, and even then it was a rush-job that I wasn’t happy with.
In that time between then and now, I managed to acquire the bits I needed to finish the prop off, almost without even noticing! It wasn’t until I was cleaning up my workspace one day that I realised I was in a position to get it completed. So I did!
Firstly, at the end of the last post I was beginning to seal the foam with a PVA glue and water mix. This helps the paint to adhere to the foam without sinking into it and prevents “bleeding”. I used somewhere in the region of 5-6 coats of glue. This made the armour pretty strong, but still flexible. I then added the first coat of paint to both the gauntlet and the stinger. For this I used a matte black spray paint from the models section of the local Boyes and a gold Rub ‘n’ Buff.
Once the first coat of paint was on I made a small hole in the bottom point of the stinger and attached a gold jump ring. To this, I also attached a length of gold chain. This will be the connecting chain between the gauntlet and the stinger.
Closing the gauntlet was my next conundrum. Suzumebachi doesn’t have any closures or clasps in the anime/manga, because it forms directly around SoiFon’s wrist. It is tight fitting, with no visible seams. I decided to create a lacing for it, so that I could pull the gauntlet tight without bulges from magnets or visible clasps on the outside. To do this I glued a line of picture hanging hooks (the round ones with a screw bottom) to the inside of the gauntlet. Once dry, I ran a line of ribbon through them, simple!
I wasn’t happy with the paint-job. The gold wasn’t rich enough and the lines we so wobbly I could have cried! So I went back over everything. I went over the black with a regular black acrylic paint, while deepening the gold with a Citadel gold paint (sorry, I don’t remember the exact colour!). The gold didn’t want to stick to the Rub ‘n’ Buff at first, so I actually did buff it! That seemed to do the trick, removing the worst of the waxy residue and letting me paint over it properly. I then attached the loose end of the chain to the housing on the top with superglue. I also stuck it to myself, so that was…. interesting….
So there we go, my first attempt at foam prop-making! It’s not perfect, but I am pretty happy with it, considering I have NEVER worked with this stuff before.
Now all I need is to finish the rest of the Cosplay!
Corsets. A good corset can really make an outfit or costume. A bad one… Well a bad one just looks shit doesn’t it?!
I am not a corsetier. Never have been, and never will be. What I AM, is incredibly poor. I can’t afford to buy all those lovely steel boned waspies, halterneck underbusts and overbust Steampunk delights. So, as I had some fabric that I wasn’t using for anything else, I figured I would attempt to make a simple corset, just to see if, in a pinch, I COULD.
Now, first off, the pattern I used (Simplicity 2172) called it a “bustier”, which it’s not technically, however, it isn’t a true corset either. The pattern calls for a zip closure instead of the lacing of a corset or the hook-and-eye closure of a bustier, and does not feature the busk closure at the front. It is also ends slightly above the hips in length (higher than most traditional corsets, but lower than typical bustiers), and calls for the more flexible plastic boning, rather than the rigid boning. It also does not feature the boob support a bustier normally would and has more shape than typical bustier. This seemed to me to be a good hybrid-style to try, as I wasn’t convinced I could pull off the rigidity of the traditional corset, but I was looking for something with more shape than a bustier. And once I got the pattern out, it seemed simple enough – the instructions were reasonably clear with some awkward moments (mainly due to my inexperience) but overall, I felt confident I could pull it off.
Choosing fabric was next. I’ll be honest, I have a LOT of random scrap fabric lying around, so I figured I’d use some of the bigger smaller pieces I had. Honestly, the fabric I chose (a light blue satin-type material) I had been hoping to get more of to use for LeFay to make bloomers and a blouse, but I just couldn’t match the colour. I had just under a metre of it in length and it was around 50cm wide at its widest point- enough to trim things, but not to make anything large with, which was a shame, as it’s gorgeous! In the end, I decided to stick with making something for LeFay and used what I had to make the corset, as it seemed like a reasonable alternative and I could wrap the piece around me just fine. I also found a dark blue poly-cotton lining, which was handy, and bought a metre-or-so of medium-weight interfacing. BUT…
I didn’t have enough!
After cutting out all the paper pattern pieces, and laying them out on the material, there simply wasn’t enough material for all the panels. At the time, I hadn’t accounted for seam allowances and shaping, which had made my initial measurements for the fabric off by about 20cm or so. Bummer!
Stumped for what to do, I returned to my fabric box to seek inspiration. Sadly, the only thing available that would work was a plain white cotton, which didn’t sit quite right with me. It was too plain. Then I spotted a ruffled front on one of my Iron Fist dresses, which gave me the idea to create a ruffled panel in the same coloured organza as the LeFay bustle, thus cementing the LeFay outfit link. To do this, I cut the two front panels out of the white fabric and added the interfacing as per the instructions. At that point in time, I hadn’t cut out the other panels yet, as I wasn’t sure if my plan would work, so I concentrated on those panels only. I stitched them together along the centre seam, and then laid the organza over the top, ruffling the top, stretching out the bottom, and basting the whole thing in place. Once basted, I trimmed the edges to match the seams. My experiment seemed to have worked, so I went ahead and cut out the rest of the panels and interfacing.
It was then that I hit snag number 2.
Yeah, rookie mistake. I didn’t label the panels and interfacing. This wasn’t actually a big deal, as I was using stitch-on interfacing, not iron-on, so when I got a couple upside down, or on the wrong pieces, I just unpicked them and started again. This actually became a REAL issue when I cut out the lining pieces. And the worst part is, I hadn’t even learnt my lesson the first time when I cut the lining pieces out!
So that I could get the pattern I had made safely put away somewhere, I cut out all the pieces at the same time. Not a big deal. But, as mentioned above, I didn’t label them properly. In fact, I didn’t label the lining pieces AT ALL. I just laid them out one on top of the other in order and left them in that neat little pile.
Now, I managed to get away with it on the outer pieces and interfacing because I managed to get most of the initial cutting, basting and sewing of the outer done in a single day – nothing got moved or put away and thus mismanaged. Despite a couple of hiccups, the corset went together surprisingly easily and quickly. Then it came time to call it a day, and as I had already piled all the lining pieces neatly to one side, I didn’t bother thinking about labelling them. When it came to getting the project out again, I got distracted and wound up dropping the pieces on the floor, messing up the order. I tried to work it out, but in the end, I had to unpick and restitch the lining panels four times before I got it right!
Then I noticed something even worse when I tried to lining against the outer fabric.
They didn’t fit.
The lining was too small. Or… was the outer too big? I honestly couldn’t tell at the time, and I was mortified by the idea of having to unpick the whole thing. As it turned out, I had stitched the seams of the outer too small, 1cm instead of 1″ – as a Brit, you would think that I would be used to measuring in Imperial Units, however, for some reason, my mind completely fogged over and I just did it wrong. Going away and then coming back, I had obviously re-read the instructions and sewn the lining correctly, but it did mean that I had to restitch the outer. Instead of taking it apart and then putting it back together, I sewed the seams in the correct place, then unpicked the wrong ones afterwards. It only put me a few hours behind, so I wasn’t hugely bothered.
Despite my initial reservations about constructing the boning channels, I managed to complete them with no real issues, other than the boning getting caught on a loose thread once or twice. I used sewable boning, just in case I miscalculated later when sewing the lining in place, but a part of me wishes I can used pre-channelled boning instead, which comes in its own casing and would have saved me an hour of measuring, trimming and cutting my own channels. I suppose I could have just stitched the boning to the corset (it was the stitchable stuff, after all) but I figured that it would be more difficult to fix if I got it wrong. Once the bones were in place, the lining went on at the top and bottom, leaving the ends open for finishing and adding a zip.
Nothing can prepare you for how awkward putting a zipper in can be. I had never worked with a zip before, and trying to follow the instructions I got completely mixed up and lost. The damn thing wouldn’t stay in place inside the seam I was meant to create, the zip itself kept getting in the way of the needle and in the end, I had enough. I stitched up the seam and then added the zip underneath. I really didn’t care, as it was never going to be seen.
So I tried it on, relieved that it was finally over! The main construction was done!
It didn’t fit. Despite multiple fittings, checks and tests throughout the whole process, it STILL didn’t fit! Where had I gone wrong?! What did I do? There may also have been a few swear words.
At that point, I simply tossed the damn thing to one side and didn’t touch it again for months. 7 months, to be precise. I had had enough of the finikyness and measuring and unpicking. I worked on that thing for five months and I had reached my limit of crap – admittedly, it was mostly crap of my own making, but in this case, I was incensed.
I was willing to admit that my previous mistakes were all my own green silliness, but it not fitting? That made no sense to me, especially as I had checked it against me, zip and all pinned in place and done up, not one hour before.
So I left it alone. Then, about a week ago, I noticed it sitting in my box of unfinished projects. I hadn’t had any intention of going back to that particular piece, but for some reason, I HAD to finish it.
Maybe it was just the fact that it was the damn zip that had foiled me. Maybe it was the slight catch in the lining that was annoying me. Or maybe I just wanted something well and truly “finished”. Whatever the reason, I unpicked the zip, then inspected and unpicked the seam. I don’t really remember what I did to fix it, I think I was on auto-pilot, but something inside me just clicked, and before I knew it, I was sewing the corset zip into the seams nicely and tidily! I tried it on. And you know what?
It bloody fit!
As much as I would have likely to have celebrated with a little dance or something, the corset still wasn’t finished. I wasn’t happy with some of the edges as they looked a little untidy, so I pulled some lace scraps from my box and used it to edge the corset. I added a cameo, some Swarovski pearls and crystals to the organza section as seen in the second picture. And then, I stopped. Anything more, and it would be overwhelming.
I had finally done it. I had finished the bloody thing!
In a way, I guess what I learned from this project is that sometimes, you really need a break from something in order to get it to truly work. Ok, so, 7 months isn’t always a good idea, as Cons tend to have time restraints and all that, but in this case, stepping back did me some good. I think that perhaps I got too focussed on it, so desperate to prove that I COULD do it, that I forgot the reason WHY I was doing it. Which was only to SEE if I could – to experiment and discover my boundaries. I went in with little expectation of myself, and somehow, I became my own worst enemy, intent on proving a point that actually didn’t exist or need proving. Nobody was questioning my abilities or skills – no-one except myself! I needed the harsh reality check of it not fitting (for whatever reason, as I still haven’t figured out what I did wrong or what I did to correct it!) so that I could go away and remind myself that I wasn’t a corsetier, I was just someone playing around to experiment and maybe save some money!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Would I change anything? Oh yeah. I’d certainly take more time. Five months sounds like ages to work on something but, bearing in mind I work too, it wasn’t that much time at all, and I really shouldn’t have tried to force it all to happen so quickly. I got overwhelmed by work and making all at once. So taking my time, I will definitely do in future. I would also use an invisible zip – they’re more expensive, but aesthetically, it might look better. I’m also going to invest in a zipper foot for my sewing machine, as I am pretty sure that it will make sewing zips a whole lot easier!
I’ve had a few ideas of some Cosplays that I would like to attempt, which is a bit new for me as I never know what I want to do under normal circumstances!
However, this is a difficult time for me, as I am looking at starting a new job in February. It will pay significantly less than I am earning now, which could make it difficult for me to work on my projects (living comes first!) but it would leave me with a little more time to work on stuff and I will be able to guarantee my working hours, instead of taking them as they come. so despite the troubles, I hope to at least try and make something.
I decided to put them into a list on here so that I can track my progress and keep everyone updated all at the same time! The list is likely going to get longer, and hopefully, I’ll get at least one cross off before the end of 2016!
The ones in bold are ones that I have already started working on.
Recently, I decided I wanted to attempt a cosplay of a favourite anime character of mine. I wasn’t particularly worried about the costume aspect, as the outfit is quite simple. What was bothering me, was her equipment. She has a very specific item, unique to her, which I would LOVE to create, but, I have never made anything quite like it before. I’ve never made any sort of armour or weapon-based items, and I have certainly never worked with any sort of 3D modelling outside of putting together miniatures and models!
I therefore decided, after contemplating various thermoplastics such as Warbla, to work with craft foam. It’s cheap to buy, easy to cut, and I’ve been assured it’s perfect for beginners. On top of that, I know a great many people who work with it in various thicknesses, so I have plenty of help if I need it.
I was given some 2mm thick sheets of foam by Clckwrkwlf, and, armed with a series of pictures from my Pinterest, I spent the last day and a half bodging something together!
Here are the results so far (can you guess the cosplay yet?):
I blame my friend, Julia, for this one, as I have had one of her songs going through my head for something like three months now! Anyway, this song, coupled with my finding of an old wig I used for a photoshoot once, inspired me to create a Steampunk themed Medusa outfit. It was also coincidental that about a year ago, I took a stash of scrap fabric off of Julia’s hands, and it had several pieces of green and brown fabric in it. I decided there and then that brown and green would be my colour scheme for Medusa, taking inspiration from the common grass snake.
I already had a brown corset-top that I decided I would use, made of leatherette with brass-coloured buckles, d-rings and studs. But other than that, I decided to make everything!
My first stop was the skirt. I knew I wanted something asymmetrical, and also something that had some kind of decorative folding and buttoning. I wanted it to mimic shedding skin in that it could be undone to reveal more of what was underneath, most notably, my leg, but also potentially some long boots, spats or bloomers. I also considered a petticoat, but I figured that it would probably get too warm, so have completed the design with the intention of being worn without. I also decided that I was going to minimise my use of seams, as I wanted to give Medusa a tatty, rough look, as though she had attempted to make herself look presentable without any real understanding of Human clothing.
I discovered that I had a rectangular piece of mottled green fabric that perfectly created the skirt I was looking for, without having to cut a pattern! I simply wrapped the piece around myself, pinned where I wanted the zip to go, created a drawstring waistband, and tacked the drapes into place. It was much easier than I had expected it to be! I added some brass-coloured metal buttons down the front to complete the underskirt. I also made a yellow-green organza apron and train from the same pattern I used for LeFay, with rolled seams as organza tends to fray and come apart easier than cottons and polycottons, and despite my wanting a frayed and tattered look, that’s a bit too much!
I have also taken a couple of scraps of fabric in browns to create a sash and a drape on the skirt, but there aren’t finished yet as they need some hooks and d-rings on them. I also started a jabot, which again, isn’t finished yet. However, the real statement of the outfit is going to be the wig, which I hope to begin working in when my hair doughnut and florist’s wire arrive!
It doesn’t look quite right on the mannequin, but I am hoping that the addition of snake motifs and coiled snakes will complete the look, along with the mad wig!
So, a man I know very well has decided to document his own experiments with crafting and Cosplay. As a fellow newbie to the whole idea, I have been trying to give him as much support as I can. What he has decided to attempt is pretty complex, and I would like to think that he is getting some good support, feedback and constructive criticism from other like-minded people. Therefore, I decided to share his Tumblr with you, so you can take a look and see what he’s up to!
And don’t be fooled by the name – Ars means “art/art of”, “craft” or “skill” in Latin, nothing to do with bottoms. Just for the sake of completion, Mechanicum means “mechanical” or “of/concerned with machines/engineering”. I suppose one possible translation then, coming from someone who has absolutely no history with Latin, could be “mechanical art” or “skill concerning machines”. Make of that what you will, and any Latin speakers out there, feel free to correct me!
So, obviously, LeFay was not completed for MCM Birmingham, and since then I have had little time to work on it due to a house move. It’s quite difficult to sew things when the sewing machine is in a box at the bottom of a pile of boxes!
But, as things stand, the apron and bustle train are finished, as are the leg ruffles and headpiece. Once I acquire some boning, I will be able to continue with the bustier. I have taken most of it (the bustier) apart as I was not happy with the way it was fitting, and with good cause – I had somehow managed to sew the seams too small! Once those are fixed, and the boning purchased, I should be able to make good headway with it. I am also debating at the moment what kind of decoration to put on the front. It currently has a nice little ruffle at the bust, but I wanted something to go right in the centre to really make the ruffles pop. I wish I could show you some proper photos, but at the moment, I am in Leeds, two hours away from home!
I will, however, show you some older pictures that I took for a little bit of fun, just so you can see how shiny and pretty the material is!
Detail from the apron section. Note the lace-up back, instead of a traditional buckle or button. I wanted the apron to be used as a bustle as well as an apron, so the corset-style panel made more sense as the whole piece can be worn reversed now.
Detail of the crystals and pearls that feature throughout the design. I have used Swarovski brand embellishments, simply because I know and trust their quality.
Close up detail of the headpiece, once more featuring Swarovski crystals and pearls, plus gold coloured seed beads and green wire. The idea was to have it look like a tiara, all sparkly and regal, while at the same time, rough and… what’s the word I’m looking for? Alive? I suppose… Organic…?
And it’s all change again for the Birmingham MCM! Seriously, does this always happen? How many other Cosplayers find that their plans change at the last minute? Or am I just rubbish at this planning thing?
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that having to go on residential training for my new job and therefore only really spending weekends at home has made it incredibly difficult to work on anything at all. It makes me feel a bit irritated, that I haven’t really made anything, but at the same time, I am really enjoying the time I am at the Academy, so I can’t really complain. Having a nine-to-five job is a great feeling, even if it does take away from the time I would normally spend on making things.
So, it’s on to the back-up plan, which is Alice Kingsley from Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland. My friend made a blue Alice outfit some time ago and I was lucky enough to try it on while I was at hers the other week, and it fits! The outfit itself is really quite amazing; my friend has done an amazing job, right down to the frilly bloomers that you will never actually see, but are there anyway. I have also always loved Alice in Wonderland, and was considering making my own version of her red outfit at some point in the future. So, right now, I am planning a wig and shoes; those are the only things I have left to acquire.
My hair is short and red; not really suitable for Alice, and I am seeking a pair of white, Victorian style boots to finish off the set. I am also investing in some new make up for MCM, and will be practicing the “natural” look that Alice pulls off so well. The wig I have in mind is a darkish blonde curly one from Coscraft, which is not utterly perfect (the fringe is shorter than I would have liked) but it seems like the best, good quality option I have.
Everyone knows that in life, things can change at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but sometimes, they can change an entire gameplan.
For me, I have changed my MCM idea. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it off.
It all started when my partner mentioned that he thought it would be a great idea to cosplay as a male version of Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas to our friend, whom we are heading to MCM with. She loved the idea and agreed to help him with his coat that he had designed. But then he showed her a picture of a female Oogie Boogie, and that was that. She LOVED the idea of a female Oogie. And to make things even better (for her) she already has a lot of hessian fabric. With both of them having decided that they were going to do NbC, it fell to me to take on the mantle of Jack.
Now, I don’t mind doing Jack. Technically, I have decided NOT to crossplay, as I will not be going as Jack, but a female interpretation of him, so that isn’t the issue. The issue is that I now have to design and make an entire outfit in less than a month, while at the same time starting a new job. I am going to be in Leeds a lot between now and MCM, and I’m not likely to take my sewing machine with me when I go (I mean, come on, have you tried transporting a sewing machine on a train?!) so I am a little concerned about how I am going to have the time to complete the coat I am designing. On top of that, I need to find a very specific fabric to use, and my local shop doesn’t sell it. Nor can I find it for a reasonable price online without ordering from abroad. It’s looking like it will be a very tight make…
A part of me wishes that I had declined to participate in the NbC cosplay, but I loved the idea of going as a matching character set so much I couldn’t resist the temptation. I suppose, in a way, I just wanted to feel that I was actually a part of something, and not simply a tagger-on for the hell of it. While I am desperate to not be “left out”, I am still regretting my decision a tiny bit. At least I know that I can finish LeFay in the time I have, but this… I have no way of even guessing, partly because I have no idea where to get the fabric from and partly because I have never made anything like a ladies’ coat before. I mean, my current attempt at a bustier is going to be hit and miss, so how am I to deal with a fully lined coat?!
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t a challenge, and I’ll feel a greater sense of achievement when I do complete it, yes?
When I made the decision to attend MCM in Birmingham, I was suddenly faced with a conundrum that I had never encountered before.
“What am I going to go to the Con as?”
Now, when attending fancy dress, I am almost always looking for ways to spruce up an old idea. One Halloween, I wanted to go as a fairy, but I was told I couldn’t because it was “too cutesy”. So, I did what anyone who has ever been set on an idea has done, and did it anyway! I went as a Death Fairy – basically basing my entire outfit around bones, black cloth and a pair of massive black and purple wings. I even carried a switchscythe instead of a wand for good measure! I still have that costume somewhere… Maybe one day it will make an appearance…
But this, oh no, this was a Con! I couldn’t just grab any old tat from a fancy dress store and be done with it! I wanted to make a REAL effort – to truly get into the spirit of the convention and make myself something really awesome!
And that’s when the conundrum hit me.
Who am I going to Cosplay?!
Now, I’ve no doubt that this question has crossed the mind of many a first-time and seasoned Cosplayer, so I took to the internet for some advice on how to choose. I came back with two things:
You should always Cosplay someone or something you feel something for or relate to.
You should Cosplay from a game/show/film that you really like.
And that was where my troubles really started.
I am not much of a gamer. The reason being that I have never had to money to invest in consoles or up-to-date gaming towers, so I have never had the hardware on which to play games. The closest I have had was when I lived with my best friend and regularly hijacked his PS3 to play Borderlands, Soul Caliber and Bayonetta. But even then, I never really had the time to invest in really getting to know the characters I was playing. I was always working or studying or otherwise engaged. It is only recently that I have started to invest more time in games, but even now, I would not call myself a gamer.
I am also a bit rubbish when it comes to films. I like to watch films on DVD, not at the cinema, so I often know what’s going on WELL after anyone else. This is to do with money again, in that I have none – so I can’t go to the cinema. What I do do, is acquire obscure films that nobody has ever heard of from bargain buckets and watch those instead. Films like Convoy, which is my favourite, and Dragonfly. Random, and unheard of.
On top of this, when I DO find a “mainstream” film that I like, I find that I do not relate very well to the female characters. I relate better to men. Always have done, and doubt it will change any time soon. The thing is, I am tired of crossplaying. During my short time as a drama student (and also my first stint at modelling), I was always cast in male or genderless roles where the sex was always left ambiguous. And even when I WAS cast in a genderless role, I was encouraged to come across as more masculine. I was never cast as a female. I am so sick and tired of crossplay, that I swore that my first Cosplay would be a female character. But seeing as I relate better to the male characters in films, that became a problem. The same goes for TV shows. I relate better to the male characters. I often find female characters lacking in something, though I can’t always put my finger on it.
And so, where am I to get my inspiration? It took me weeks to think of anything to do. I eventually settled on LeFay for MCM because I was already crafting her outfit for something else! But that still left me with the problem of choosing my next Cosplay. How on earth could I follow the two guidelines that I had found if neither of them really fit my lifestyle?!
It was then that my friend said to me, “Maybe you should just Cosplay something that looks cool for now, until you find your feet”.
Why had it not occurred to me to do that before?! Sure, I probably wouldn’t be able to hold a long conversation with someone about the character, but perhaps they would be able to teach me something new! And so what if I don’t relate to their personality? Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is supposed to help you to understand them better, right? Cosplaying someone completely alien to me would be something exciting, as I really wouldn’t know what to expect! I automatically found two Cosplay ideas, one simple, and one more complex.
As luck would have it, I have actually managed to discover a few potential Cosplays hidden in my past since then. Things that should have been so obvious! But planning for characters that I didn’t know really helped me to discover characters that I DID. In the end, perhaps worrying so much about what to Cosplay is what caused me to have that mental block in the first place. I have no idea how these characters are going to pan out, but I have no doubt that I am going to have a lot of fun working on them, and that’s what’s important!