Friday, January 29, 2010

Scissors and Stuff!

My costume creation adventure begins this weekend with wig shopping and pattern making on Sunday. Before that, tomorrow, I'm off with my friends to the Museum of Science to see the Harry Potter exhibit. I'm very excited about it! I saw the Lord of the Rings exhibit many years ago when it came around, and was completely taken by it. I wanted to take photos of all the beautiful props and costumes, but they don't let you. Boo :<

Sunday, I'm off to my favourite, Dorothy's, to look for a wig. And in the surrounding time, I will be creating patterns for my giant scissors. I've got one of my cameras up and running again, so there will be all sorts of lovely documentation about it. Horray!

Oh, and one more thing. Months and months ago, my blog was mentioned on another, over at Star Costumes. I meant to mention it earlier, but completely forgot! Anyway, the article is here. Thanks for the mention, Star Costumes!

I hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Monday, January 25, 2010

How To: Plan Your Costume

There are a lot of people out there on the 'nets that are new to cosplay, as I once was, and come seeking advice on said 'nets, as I once did. I hope to help those people with this post. It's also for anyone who finds that they often can't seem to get themselves together, end up forgetting bits of their costumes, or aren't satisfied with their costume results on a consistent basis. I hope it helps!

The preparation stage of costume creation is probably the most important. If you plan well, overcoming the inevitable hiccups will be much easier, and on the whole your experience will be less stressful and more successful. It's all about researching, organizing, and lists, lists, lists! I'll be using my upcoming Souseiseki costume as an example, since I'm going through this process AS WE SPEAK.

• Gather References

Hit the internet or screen-capture device of your choice. Find as many images of your character as you can from as many angles as you can. Save them all into a folder on your desktop, or into a special Cosplay folder in your documents. Make a bookmarks folder in your internet browser and stash links to how-to's, material resource sites, and anything else you come across.

Be critical when looking for reference material! There is a lot of fan art out there, most of which have slight or major changes in your character's costume. Know what you're going for and make sure the materials you're gathering coincide with it; or, at least, know what bits are different so you can ignore them.

Print your references. 

Print them in colour. I'm not talking full-quality, glossy photos or anything here; they won't be that great of a resolution to begin with if they came from the internet, generally speaking. Put 1-6 pictures per page and print them out at at least medium quality. If you don't have an adequate printer, take them to a Kinko's or similar and print them.

Look at the colours when they're printed out! Printers can interpret colours differently. Compare them to the images on the computer and write notes on your print-outs if you need to remember how they differ: "actual costume about a shade lighter" or "a little less yellow, a little more red" are simple notes that will work for you when you're shopping.

Put the print-outs in a folder to keep them neat and clean. You will use them a lot and you might as well not waste the ink printing them several times.

Make an itemized list of the costume parts.

Look at a full body shot of your character, or a few images that together show the whole costume. Go literally from head to toe and write a list of each component. For example, with my Souseiseki costume, I wrote a list that read: hat, wig, cape, shirt, vest, pants, stockings, shoes, scissors (prop).

Then, go back to each item and really break it down. For example, my first item is the hat. Am I going to make the hat from scratch? Buy it? What is it made out of? I decided I'll probably end up making the hat, so I listed "cardboard, black fabric, blue fabric". Do this for every item. Think about all the little things.

For my shirt, for example, I'll obviously need white fabric, ruffles (or more white fabric to make ruffles) and buttons for the sleeves. But I'll also need something to close the shirt, either buttons or a zipper, as well as interfacing to keep the cuffs in shape. These are all things that are easy to forget in the moment when you're shopping, so really take the time now to think about your costume in as much detail as you can fathom. The fewer trips you have to take, the less stressed you will be.

Fill in the blanks.

There will sometimes (okay, often) be bits and pieces of the costume that you aren't able to find reference material for, try though you might. It becomes your job to fill in the blanks and decide what to put in the unknown areas. Common missing links are the back of a costume and the bottom of the costume (shoes, etc). Look at the rest of the costume and try to think about what makes sense here. If you're scared to make something up, go with the simplest solution: mimicking existing elements. Don't know what the back looks like? It's possible it looks the same as the front, within reason. Or, it could be simply plain. Try to keep within the character theme. Please, DON'T use this as an excuse to wear your big shiny platform boots just because the shoes are an unknown. Think about the character and the costume. What goes with it? What would he/she wear? Do your best!

Turn your list into two usable things: your task checklist and your shopping list.

First, your task checklist is a big master list you can carry with you or post on the wall of every tiny thing that must be done. Don't gloss over anything! That can lead to BAD STUFF such as: forgetting to do something, thinking you don't have as much left to do as you actually have, skipping a step and having to redo something, etc. Make headings for each costume component and start listing them. For example, for Souseiseki's cape, I have the following:
  • Purchase materials
  • Sew ruffles
  • Sew collar
  • Sew cape
  • Attach collar to cape
  • Attach ribbon
These are all little steps that add up to creating the overall cape. Each one gets a checkbox next to it and doesn't get checked off until that part is TOTALLY complete.

Breaking this part into little pieces also helps you feel like you're making progress (which you are!) because you can usually check off a few of these little things each day.

The second part of this step is the shopping list, which is pretty self-explanitory. Take all the little things you wrote down and make them into a practical shopping list to take along. Divide the items up by store (craft store, fabric store, hardware store, online, etc), and remember to include quantities!

We'll talk more about the shopping part next time, but for now, I hope these steps can help you to clear your head and feel super-organized going into your project. I've found taking the time to do these things at the beginning helps me feel less stressed and allows me to have FUN making my costume... don't forget, that's what cosplay's all about!

Oh, and One More Thing...

So, remember when I said I wasn't going to make a costume for Anime Boston? Yeah, I lied. The day after I wrote that last post, I spoke to my (new! :D) friend from work, and found she was interested in cosplaying. I mentioned that I always wanted to do Souseiseki and Suiseiseki from Rozen Maiden with someone, and she was completely on board! I couldn't pass that up. So here I am, making another costume. Wee! I'm going to be Souseiseki and she'll be Suiseiseki. I think it will suit her quite well.

Luckily, she has sewing skills of her own, so I don't have to make two costumes. Also, as far as difficult sewing goes, this costume doesn't have a lot of it. It's pretty basic. The most difficult sewing-related things will be the usual closures (boo) and probably the ruffles.

We're going to do their props as well, because it really adds something to their character, I think. They should be fun. I've always wanted to wield giant scissors!

Sewing will commence in about two weeks. I hope to have gathered everything I need before then so I don't have to keep running out in the week before the con.

Next up, I'll be writing a post on costume planning. I hope someone finds it useful!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Costumes for the New Year!

Happy New Year! I don't know about you, but I've had a crazy couple of months. I'm ready to start fresh and break open the packaging for a fresh new 2010. That last decade is old news, man.

I've graduated from school and even managed to get myself a job (for now), so things are going pretty well. The only unfortunate thing is that I'm still in the tiny living space I was last year, which makes costume creation extra-challenging. I'm hoping to be in a larger space by halfway through the year, but... who knows. I'm sure I'll be moving at least once this year.

So what's on the cosplay docket for Triene this year? Well, let's see!

The big news in the convention community of the Boston area and, honestly, the east coast as a whole, is that PAX is coming to Boston! We're all very excited about it. I haven't decided if I actually want to cosplay for it... I might just ride it out and use it as a networking and learning opportunity, as games are my career of choice, and I think I could learn a lot at the con without having to think about costuming. Plus, it could leave me more free to report on any cosplay there for your enjoyment! :D

Anime Boston is immediately after PAX. I think it's finally time to pull out the Pokemon Gaijinka costume that I created oh-so-long ago! I can actually afford the wig commission, and there is very little other work to do on it, so I think it will be perfect for a con that's so close to already being here.

Further down the line are the "up-in-the-air" cons... i.e., the cons I plan on going to unless something (new job, moving, sudden loss of funds) prevents me from going. These are Blizzcon (woo!) and Connecticon. Will I be able to create my Stormrage gear by Blizzcon? In this little room, probably not. But I'll see how it goes. For Connecticon I usually pull a costume out of the costume closet that hasn't seen much love lately, or that is convenient for me to wear. My friends and I will likely enter the Rockband tournament again this year... will we come out on top again? We shall see.

The idea of Otakon this year was batted around, but like the aforementioned two cons, I don't think I'll be able to commit to it as early as I'll need to to make it happen. Next year, then.

Finally, if you didn't know, the second-to-last Harry Potter movie comes out (it had better!) in the fall of this year. I have wanted to make a Bellatrix Lestrange costume, and I may seize this movie as my opportunity. Or, it may have to wait until the last movie comes out next summer.

At any rate, we shall see how this unpredictable year unfolds for me. What are your cosplay goals for the year? What cons are you going to?