Tag Archives: geekery

Don’t Call Me a Cosplayer

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Once again, I got too busy working on other things to post on this blog, but now that I’ve had a week to recover from DragonCon, here’s my review of the three costumes I made for myself this year.

My post-apocalyptic Mulan costume was the first one I wore this year. It was part of a group costume, and my friends went as Snow White and Belle. The Snow White costume was definitely the most recognizable out of the three, and I think I only had one person get who I was supposed to be when I wasn’t with her. I also don’t know if people really got the post-apocalyptic theme. At one point, someone referred to us a “bad-ass” Disney princesses, so we went with it for the rest of the day except for maybe my Belle friend, who realized she looked more like Angry Black Panther Belle.

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One of these days I need to pick a costume where it’s acceptable for me to just smile and look happy. I tried getting into character at first, but my attempts at looking bad-ass usually look and feel ridiculous. What can I say? I’m not a cosplayer. I’m a costumer who happens to wear her own work sometimes.

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Bad-assery FAIL.

That night, I changed into my Once Upon a Time Mulan costume because it was way too hot to wear during the day. Having worn the costume two nights now, I’ve learned that drinking alcohol in a tight-fitting quilted vinyl costume is a horrible idea. The costume was sweltering to begin with because vinyl doesn’t breathe. The alcohol made my body temperature rise even more. I almost passed out a couple times  the first night, and I only had it on a couple of hours. Luckily, I had brought a cooling towels and wore it under my neck and back, so that helped somewhat.

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PSA: Alcohol and vinyl don’t mix

I never did get any great pictures of this one. I got photoed a lot in this, thgough, so maybe someone else got a good shot. I haven’t seen any on the internet yet, but if you run across a photo, by all means, let me know.

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What I really loved about this costume was the conversations it sparked. Other costume-makers would stop me and ask what I made it out of, how I made it, etc. I got props from hard-core cosplayers and professional costumers. One person even told me it was the most intricate costume they’d seen there, which is saying a lot. I even got invited to a OUAT photo shoot. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it. I hear there was another Mulan there, though, and I would have loved to have seen her take on the costume.

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My last costume this year was the skant from the original Star Trek series which I made from the official pattern from Roddenberry.com. I’d heard that the pattern was “wonky,” and they weren’t kidding. The arms were so tight that by the end of the day, the crooks of my elbows were sore from rubbing. There’s also no room in the underarm area, so I could only move like a T-rex all day. I’d also been warned about how short the dress is. Even after adding an inch and a half to the hem, it was still ridiculously short.

Still, even though this costume took half the time of the post-apocalyptic Mulan and a tenth of the time it took to make the OUAT costume, I got my picture taken more in this dress in the first hour I wore it than the other two costumes combined. Of course, it also helped that I was part of a trio in Star Trek dresses.

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I’m going to attribute the popularity of this costume to the intense nostalgia of Star Trek fans rather than the obscene length of our skirts.

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The Geekiest Tee Shirt Ever

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Costumes are a must for DragonCon, but so are the proper street clothes. I like to be nice and comfortable when I get to a place so I can scope things out before I get to business.  What better clothing is there for an event dedicated to all things geeky than a geeky tee shirt? My DC co-conspirator and I discussed this and decided we wanted to incorporate Doctor Who into a design that I could screenprint for us.

While looking for pictures of the TARDIS online, I ran across some photos of the traditional red British phone booth and found my inspiration. What other geeky genre features a phone booth? Harry Potter, of course! Here’s my design ready to get burned onto a screen:

I had to do some cutting and patching because the original design had Hermione scolding Harry for getting them into the wrong call box. My friend reminded me that Harry and his friends would be looking for a phone booth to enter the Ministry of Magic, so it would make more sense to have her refer to that instead (this same friend also reminded me that I had forgotten to draw a base on the Dalek AFTER I already  burned the screen).

Anyway, here’s the screen:

My screen

I debated making this a four-color shirt with the scarves in the Gryffindor colors, but I got too lazy to make more screens. I ended up using one screen and taping off to do each color.

The geekiest shirt ever!

OK, I suppose it might not be the geekiest shirt EVER, but I think it deserves an honorable mention.

Mary Marvel(ous)

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I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but even superheroes need a break every now and then. After finishing my Baroness costume, I was just costumed-out. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the whole process of making it, but after working on it every spare minute for a month and a half, I just needed some down time. So, I vegged out a bit, caught up on some shows (I’m still mourning the loss of Eureka), and read some books (I was a bit disappointed in the last volume of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series). After a few days, though, I remembered I had another costume to make for DragonCon, and time is running out! Luckily, in a moment of clarity, I chose a simple costume: Mary Marvel.

Of course, I say it was simple, but the costume required me to work with knits, and I hate working with knits. Knit patterns seem to always have vague instructions like, “stretch slightly while sewing,” so it ends up being trial and error until I get it just right. I was going to attempt drafting the pattern from scratch, but I decided to play it safe and found an easy pattern to work off of.  I used McCall’s M6612:

M6612

Seriously, who thought this was an attractive pose?

Line Art

I’ve had some cotton jersey print lying around my fabric stash for years, so I decided to make a version from that to check out the fit.

My bonus dress!

I’ve got to say it may be one of my new favorite dresses. It was just so comfy! I made a few adjustments to the pattern, giving it a boat neck and cap sleeves.

For the costume version, I raised the neckline from the pattern and shortened the skirt (I think it’s actually a rule that comic book heroines have to show ample amounts of skin). I used some gold spandex for the trim and to make a Shazam symbol applique.

For the cape, I cut a large semi-circle out of white satin and a smaller one for the collar. The edges were trimmed with the same gold spandex from the dress. I used some gold chord to add the cross(?)/star(?)-shaped embellishments along one side of the cape. I ran out of chord after I finished the one side, and I’m not sure whether I’ll do the other. I guess I’ll see if I’m up to it one of these days. I used some gold buttons and the left-over gold braid from my Baroness costume for the closure.

Phew! I’m more or less done with my costumes, and I still have over a month left until DragonCon. Maybe I am a superhero after all.

Decisions

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So, I’m looking for a new costume idea for DragonCon. I only have a few requirements. It needs to:

  • Be cool. Literally. I’d like something with short sleeves, preferably in a breathable fabric, so I’d love to stay away from leather or vinyl. I’d also like to stay away from wigs or headgear.
  •  Not make me look like a stripper. I know that most geekery is geared toward males, but do all the female characters have to dress in outfits that are more appropriate for swinging around a pole than swinging a sword? Forget their superpowers. If those women were real, I’d be more impressed by the fact that that they can throw a punch without a breast popping out of their suits.
  • Be creatively challenging. I actually love the process of making the costumes more than wearing them, so I need something that will fulfill my artistic needs.

So far, I’ve come up with these options:

Lady Shiva (on the left, of course)

Lady Shiva She’s Asian! The shirt is sleeveless, so I could wear it without the coat during the day. My concern is that she’s pretty obscure to begin with, and I don’t know how recognizable I’d be without the coat.

Mary Marvel

 Mary Marvel This costume would be SO comfortable, and I definitely wouldn’t look like a stripper. The downside is that it’s so simple and not very challenging to make.

Elektra

Elektra Of course, I’d have to do some major de-sluttifying to the outfit. It’d be fun to carry around some sais, though.

Huntress

Huntress Again, I’d have to make a few modifications for modesty. The mask might be uncomfortable as well.

So, which one should I go with? I just can’t decide.  I think I’ll do my first poll:

I’m also open to other suggestions.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

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After a month and a half of late nights sewing and crafting, my Steampunk Baroness costume is done. A friend came over yesterday to work on costumes, so I  decided to give the outfit its first viewing.

I need to work on my Baroness pose

Lessons learned:

  • Standing in a kitchen dressed in costume makes you feel utterly ridiculous. It’s one thing to be at DragonCon where most people are decked out in outfits as outlandish or even moreso than you are, but when you’re next to someone who’s dressed in jeans and a tee shirt in the same area you normally eat your cereal, the corset, holster, and guns look really out of place.
  • When there are twenty different pieces to a costume, there IS a right order to putting them on. I just gathered all the pieces and started dressing willy-nilly. BAD idea. I got all corsetted up (everyone else makes up words–why can’t I?), and then remembered the skirts go under the corset. Let me just say that uncorsetting is even more difficult than corsetting. Then, things were smooth sailing for a while until I got to the gloves. Note to self: gloves that come up over the wrists but under the sleeves and gauntlets should go on before the jacket and gauntlets, especially when the gauntlets have to be laced up.
  • I need a lady’s maid if I’m going to continue to dress in all this clothing. Any ideas on how to get one of those?

Last, but not least, the most important lesson I learned from yesterday’s little experiment:

  • Jackets are HOT! And not in a good way. Even in the comfort of my air-conditioned house, the jacket felt sweltering. So, I’m probably going to have to relegate use of the jacket to the evening hours at DragonCon. It’s also made me completely rethink my second costume.

I had been considering dressing up as the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time:

I’m getting heatstroke just looking at the coat, though, and I don’t want to spend another month and a half working on a costume I can only wear at night. So, I need a new idea. Any suggestions?

Accessories make the outfit

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One of the things I love about making costumes is that there are so many different creative elements involved. I love sewing, and as I’ve been doing that since I was old enough to hold a needle and thread, I’d say that’s my costuming forte. However, I love dabbling in other arts and crafts, so I was thrilled to try my hand at making armor.

When we went to DragonCon last year, I marveled at all the people dressed in very realistic-looking armor and wondered where they bought it because surely not everyone has their own forge or plastics factory. I couldn’t fathom that such things could be made at home with regular equipment, so I was thrilled to find out that you can make a lot of those amazing creations with things as common as craft foam or paper mache. I tried out the craft foam method in making my armor for the Baroness costume, and it was so much fun!

I found the best tutorial on making craft foam armor by Penwiper on entropyhouse.com. I made gauntlets, leg armor (is there a special name for that?), and a belt buckle. I made patterns for the pieces by drawing my shapes on paper and then tracing them on to craft foam.

 
Craft foam ready for cutting

Once the pieces were all cut out, I glued the COBRA shapes to the arm pieces. When the glue was dry, I shaped the pieces with a heat gun (which I bought eight years ago to do embossing on my wedding invitations and has been sitting on a shelf ever since. I love it when I pick up a new craft and just happen to have the tools I need on hand already!).

Shaped with the heat gun
I glued some muslin left over from my jacket mock up to the back of all the pieces for stability.  
 
It’s so great when I can find a use for those tiny fabric scraps
The most time-consuming process was coating the pieces with a watered-down glue mixture to give the pieces a smooth finish. I applied about eight coats, waiting for it to dry in between every coat. The process took a few days with all the drying, but I just did it in between working on other parts of my costume, so it wasn’t so bad. 
 
When the pieces were finally smooth enough, I was ready to paint. I knew I wanted to use Rub N Buff for an antique look, but I wanted to give it a base coat of gold spray paint. Unfortunately, it rained during the 20 minutes I left the pieces outside to dry after painting, and the rain was so light I didn’t even know it had happened until I went outside to collect the pieces. Luckily, it was outdoor spray paint which made it waterproof, so the pieces were mostly fine except for the parts that didn’t get enough coverage. I was a bit upset at first, but I’ve decided I kind of like the extra “weathered” (literally!) look.  
Left them outside for 20 minutes, and it rains!
Not really how I wanted to “weather” it.
I pained the pieces with Rub N Buff and sealed them with a layer of Future polish, though, and they were mostly fine afterwards.
 
 
Still some water spots, but it kind of adds to the patina
Finally, I weathered the pieces using some black acrylic paint mixed with a little green. It applied the paint in the crevices of the pieces and then wiped most of it off with a damp cloth.
Weathered vs. unweathered
I made gauntlets out of faux leather and used velcro to attach the arm guards to the gauntlets. For the leg pieces, I made straps out of the faux leather and attached brass buckles. I attached the straps to the armor with more velcro. The belt I’m using has a flat metal buckle, so I’ll attach the COBRA “belt buckle” I made with some double-sided tape.
 
 
Because every cartoon character needs a ridiculously large belt buckle
 

Steampunk Goggles Tutorial

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I’ve admited before that I’m not a steampunk expert, but it seems like if one accessory is a staple of a fashionable steampunk wardrobe, it’s a nice pair of goggles. With the goal of saving time, I looked and looked for some regular goggles that I could transform with some paint. I thought with summer here I could defintiely find some good swim goggles or something. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything with the right silhouette. The quintessential steampunk goggles have round lenses, and all the ones made these days are oval and streamlined (as a former competitve swimmer, let me tell you that steampunk goggles are not what you’d want in a pool). So, once again, I decided to take a stab at making something new.

I looked at tons of tutorials, and thought I would try these airship goggles. However, they required cutting metal, and I just don’t have the equipment for that. One day, though, I was putting away my son’s old baby bottles and inspiration struck. These were so easy to make, so I thought I’d share how I made them.

Materials needed:

2 baby bottles
faux leather (enough to make eye pieces and straps)
buckle
grommets
clear plastic cup
metallic paint
thread

Optional materials:
glue
toilet paper roll
gears, rivets, nuts, etc. for decoration

Tools:
scissors
needle
sewing machine
awl
glue gun(optional)

Step 1:
You’ll need the bottle and lid. If you have a selection of them, like I did, find the bottle with the most interesting lid, preferably with no logo on it. The first lids I used for this project had “Evenflo” marked on the front, which I didn’t really notice until I’d painted them.  
Oops!
It was fine, though, because the second set of lids I found were much prettier. Once you find the right lids, paint them. I spray painted mine with a satin finish gold paint and added some Rub N Buff for a more aged look.
Well, these are better anyway
Step 2:
Saw off top of bottle, retaining the threaded section to secure the lenses. I used a hacksaw and some help from my husband.
 
Step 3:
I made lenses for the goggles by tracing the top of the bottle on to a clear plastic drinking cup. I decided to use a colored cup for added interest. I was torn between pink and orange and ultimately settled for pink. After tracing the circles on to the cup, I cut them out using scissors. I then sandwiched each lens between the lid and the sawed-off top of the bottle and screwed the top on. 
 
Step 4:  
I used toilet paper roll to make a pattern for the eyepieces. I cut the roll to make a segment with the approximate depth I needed. I then cut one side of the segment with a curve. I kept holding it up to my eye and making adjustments until I got the correct contour for my eye socket. Once I got the right shape, I made a vertical cut so that I had a flat piece of cardboard that I could use as a pattern.
 
Step 5:
I added a quarter inch seam allowance when I cut out the eyepieces out of the faux leather except on the sides in which case I left a half inch seam allowance. The circumfrence of the toilet paper roll was slightly smaller than the lids, so I took that into account. Once I had the leather pieces, I hemmed along the top and bottom. I then wrapped the piece around the lid, marked, and sewed the ends together by hand.
 
Step 6:
I took a two-inch by one-inch strip of faux leather, folded it in thirds, and sewed. I then used the strip, cutting to fit, to make the nose strip. I sewed the strip to the eye pieces by hand.
 
 
 
 
 Step 7:
 I had a small buckle that I had cut off of an old wallet. It was silver, so I spray painted it gold. I cut two ten-inch by two-inch strips of leather, folded in thirds again, and sewed to make the straps. I attached the buckle to one strap and after measuring on my head to see how much I needed, attached it to one eyepiece. I attached the other strap to the other eyepiece. Finally, after measuring on my head again, I used and awl to punch holes in the strap without the buckle and attached grommets.  
 
Tah dah!

I haven’t decided if or how I should embellish them yet. I thought avout adding some (faux) rivets and maybe a gear on the sides. I feel like they’re a bit plain, but then again, the Baroness might use goggles that were pretty utilitarian. What do you think?