Monday, 30 June 2014

The Not-So-Sexy side of Cosplay

Ok, so maybe this is just a little rant of mine, but I always feel better after getting these things off my chest. So here goes...

I can't help but feel a little disappointed in the cosplay community lately. Anyone that is into following cosplay will know what I'm talking about. Numerous articles with and without the intent to 'shame' cosplayers that are modifying characters into something of their own tastes. 

'Ohhhh, you mean like a steampunk version of a well known Disney Princess?'


'Ok then, a gender bender costume of a well known video game icon?'

Nope again.

I'm talking about people that take an existing character, remove a bunch of clothing and make a sexier or 'sluttier' version of it.

Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We can like and dislike what we please, and that in no way should affect the person sitting next to us. But a lot of people are of the opinion that sexualising certain icons is ruining cosplay and it's image. But I don't think it's anywhere near as damaging as excluding a particular genre or style when our community prides itself on being so 'inclusive' and welcoming to everyone.

Now, forgive me for being blunt with my words, but I can't help but feel it's quite hypocritical of us to say we need to give the overweight person some slack and let them do what they want to do, however the hell they want to do it. But then for people to turn and say 'but hang on, THIS is unacceptable' when referring to a perfectly attractive person who has taken creative initiative so make an outfit more alluring or provocative.

I've noticed that the majority of complaints seem to be not directed at the cosplayers, but the audience. People are worried that outsiders of this hobby think of cosplaying as some sort of sex fetish, or something of the like. Well there's only one way to fix that. It's up to US to educate them. 

People also think that it's taking the spotlight away from the truly talented craftsmen in the industry. Well here's a thought, help promote that struggling artist who's work you so dearly admire. I can guarantee you, the people that follow someone who gets there boobs out all the time are there to see boobs. For those people wanting to see excellent craftsmanship, they will go to a place where they can see that.

But all that said, lets take a step back from the whole 'cosplay' thing and think about the people behind the costumes.

How would you feel if people started saying that the way you chose to cosplay was ruining it for everyone else? 

We all cosplay for our own reasons. Wether it be an expression of love and devotion to a particular fandom, or pushing and furthering our abilities in crafting. If people choose to cosplay as something because it gives them a confidence boost and makes them feel sexy and good about themselves? Well more power to them I think. It in no way affects the way we go about our lives, and is frankly none of our business.

Bringing people down because we disagree with their choices and preferences is a pretty low act. I'm really hoping that this small controversy will pass quickly, and that the cosplay community is back to being the welcoming, all inclusive place I first found it to be. 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Why I choose to Cosplay

I guess Im at a point now in my cosplay journey where people are starting to recognise my name and my costumes. Don't get me wrong, I think this is great. That feeling that your work is good enough for others to remember it is really motivating for me.

But along with the recognition, Im getting asked more and more questions about why I choose to do what I do. And I cant help but feel that a lot of these questions are fuelled by the 'fake gamer girl' reputations some cosplayers have managed to acquire.

Before I go any further I just want to say that NOBODY has the right to tell anyone how, why or who they should cosplay as. Now I'm not saying I think its ok for 14 year old girls to get around at conventions with just a piece of tape over their nipples, so don't get me wrong on that one. But calling someone a fake because they haven't played a game or watched the anime their character is from isn't fair either. People are drawn to different characters for different reasons. For some (and like me) its an obsession with the game/series/book and not getting enough of said character. For others it may be that they see the costume or design as a challenge to their skills. Or maybe they just simply love the look and style.

Whatever the reason, not knowing the character as well as you may do doesn't make them a fake. There are no rules in costuming that define who can cosplay as what, and if they aren't hurting you then what's the problem?

Aaaaaaaanyway, back to why I cosplay. Well, lets start with my first costume - Maya the Siren.

Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you how much of my time Borderlands has sucked out of my life! This game, and my obsession with Sirens is what got me into cosplay. Whilst I still have plans for a Commandant Steele costume, Maya was my first choice, as I knew a few cosplayers that could offer me some advice. And for my first costume, I was really happy with how it turned out. Wearing it for the first time was what rally got me hooked on the concept of "costume play". Creating the work of art and having it fit and be functional was one thing. But wearing it out in public at a convention and feeling like a total badass that Maya is?? Well, words cant describe the exhilaration.
This video does a pretty good job of portraying how it feels to suit up. Some people mistake pride for attention whoring. Seriously?? If you've got it, flaunt it. And if you're proud of a piece or work or costume you've just completed, you are more than entitled to show off your work.

"They picked that costume because its simple" Another line Ive heard too often. Well, I jumped on the 'simple' costume bandwagon. But not for the reason it was 'simple' or 'easy'.

Videl was my 'easy' costume, which actually wasn't so easy. People may choose something a bit simpler and a bit easier if they haven't got the skills some of us have. And having a simple costume design doesn't make these characters any less lovable! I've been a he DBZ fan since I started watching cartoons as a kid. Videl and Gohans pairing was one of the cutest moments in DBZ for me.
And then there is some Skyrim. I have many plans for MANY Skyrim costumes, and once again it is for the love of the game. I was quite reluctant to start playing this game, started it a year or so ago then just kept distracted by Borderlands 2 and other costuming projects. Ultimately, it was a friend who kept raving about it that got me back to it.
Well, I'm starting to ramble on a bit. But in short, I cosplay for the love of a character or game. I don't pick costumes merely for the wow factor they have. I think my best work comes from something I am passionate about, so that's what I steer towards. We all have different motivational drives, but for me its doing y chosen character justice in an accurate portrayal.
So yeah, that's why I do what I do. As a tribute to some of the biggest influences in my geeky obsession. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

April Recap

So I've been quite slack lately with keeping up with my blogging. But rest assured, I have quite a collection of tutorials and other various controversial topics I have been working on. Its just a matter of finding time to finish them.

So what have I been so busy with? Well, let me give you a little recap of how my April went.

First there was Gold Coast Supanova. Holy. Crap. Most fun I've had at a convention yet! Im going to put that down to the fact I was a lot more organised than I usually am, and had some wonderful friends to hang out with. I took my Nightingale costume (Skyrim) and Maya (Borderlands 2), both are relatively easy to wear costumes, though standing in the sun in a full suit of latex armor waiting in the mile long line wasn't to fun. I got to hang out with my good buddy that is Lithium Cosplay and her partner (who's quite handy with a camera) took some amazing shots over the weekend.

(photos by Andrew Grazier)

I was also lucky enough to meet the amazing team that is SmilesareBetter Cosplay and get a double feature in their youtube video recap of supanova cosplay. I highly recommend checking out their channel. GREAT work coming out of these guys, and they are super friendly to boot!

I also got a chance to work with Lorenzo So Photography who not only does some of my most drooled over photography work, but was also rally nice and introduced me to as many people as he ran into.

Overall, I found people to be extremely friendly at this convention. The atmosphere was great, and the quality of the costumes I witnessed took Cosplay to whole new levels. People are really getting their game on now, and its so great to see!

Aside from Supanova I've also had a few Etsy orders to fill. Nothing too tedious at this stage. A few Borderlands class mods and smallish props. I've also started taking on work for other people, in the costume department. My first full costume being a fem version of the Winter Soldier. I'll be posting a separate blog with all the gory details of how I'm going about that one.

My daughter also turned 4. So with birthday celebrations and family gatherings for Easter, it took up a large portion of my month. After receiving the Tinkerbelle movie for her birthday, my daughter has since requested a Tinkerbelle costume. So that is also on the cards now.

But for myself, I haven't really had time to work on much when it comes to my own costumes. I'm still searching for a small piece of suitable fabric for the upper sleeves of my Arwen dress. And I have also cut out he pattern and began marking out the fabric for my Arwen dress. Once I get that done, its just a matter of sewing it all together, and that will be another costume that 'bites the dust' as I already have everything else I require for the costume.

So, in short, I've been keeping busy! And I've also managed to grow my list of to-do costumes. So I guess I'm only going to get busier!

But fear not, because I will endeavour to keep you all updated as my work progresses!

Happy costuming!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Trialling new techniques

I really can't stress enough how important it is to do test runs and samples when trying new products or techniques. Doing a test run on a sample piece may be the difference between an enjoyable hassle free experience, or severe costume malfunctions during a convention or outing.

The same could be said for trying on and wearing your costume before an event. Perhaps you followed the pattern or instructions precisely. But this won't always guarantee the comfort or fitting of a costume. It could be something as simple as a hemline not sitting how you would like it. Or various seems that rub your skin. Now, I for one am one of those people that tries a costume on the second the last stitch has been made. Pretty sure that's something we can all relate to. But things like manoeuvring around easily, up and down stairs, or getting through doorways (for larger armoured outfits) just a few things you may want to practice before heading to a convention and feeling like a fool while trying to figure out how you will manoeuvre through the door gracefully! 

As cosplayers we tend to tolerate a lot when it comes to looking your absolute best at a convention, but sometimes the discomfort can be very much avoidable.

But lets get back to sample pieces. I've found this particularly important when painting. You mix the paint and get it just the exact shade you want it, but come back once it's dry and it's now a different shade. Or perhaps that colour doesn't show through enough on that piece of fabric you want to paint, or that piece of armour.

Shading and highlights are a tricky one to master when painting a costume. It's easy to feel like you have gone overboard when you're applying the paint or product. But once dried the difference gradients may be hardly noticeable.

Also, when using a new product for the first time it's best to have a go on a small test piece. Or perhaps it's a product you're very familiar with, but applying it in a different manner than what you may usually use it.

I've used liquid latex on many occasions, but recently I used it as a primer for a foam suit of armour. My foam armour had many small pieces attached together with hot glue, and I was worried for the integrity of the glue should the weather become warm and the glue become 'melty'. 

So with my usually product, I trialled this new method on a small piece of foam. In my case, I was lucky, and everything worked the way I had anticipated. I then used this same latex covered sample piece to trial my painting methods. This is where I learnt something. Certain colours didn't work the way I wanted, so I was able to find a colour scheme that looked the way I wanted it to through the trial and error process.

So there you have it guys. Just a few more things to keep in mind to help make the costuming experience a bit less stressful and hopefully a lot more enjoyable :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Courtesy to Cosplayers at Conventions

I've just had one of the most amazing weekends at a Supanova convention on the beautiful Gold Coast, Austartlia. The atmosphere was great, people were friendly, and the event was well organised. Aside from the usual mile long line to get in (which was to be expected IMO) everything moved along smoothly and seemingly hassle free. The event was entirely indoors, and I know I for one was grateful for the fully air conditioned convention centre.

There wasn't much I could fault about this event. There were plenty of food outlets, and if they didnt cater to your taste, it was only a short walk down the block to an abundance of caf├ęs and restaurants. There were. Plenty of drink and snack vending machines also, and staff worked well to make sure they were always well stocked. 

Now, from a cosplayers point of view, there was only one thing that left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. And make no mistake, I don't think the event organisers are to be held responsible for this at all. I think it's just something that needs to be made aware to the public. Perhaps some printed posters around lobby and resting areas would be enough? Or perhaps a hall or room somewhere where cosplayers could go that's a strictly 'no camera' zone?

Well, before I get caught in rambling, let me tell you briefly about my personal experience. 

A friend an I had been at the con for quite some hours, and had met up in a hallway for a break. It was a hot day, the crowds had been thick, and many people had stopped us both for a number of photos. My friend was suffering from a headache, and I just needed to sit down after being on my feet for so long. But due to the nature of my costume I needed to remove parts of it in order to sit comfortably, as well as remove all my props, hood, gloves and gauntlets to cool off.

We hadn't been sitting long when a lady approached and asked my friend if she could get a picture of her costume. My friend was reluctant, but obliged anyway. As she was getting her photo taken, another man approached me, asking to photograph my costume. I felt mean in saying no. I felt rude. And I could see his disappointment. I didnt even get up off the ground when he asked me. But at the time, I really didnt feel like going through the hassle of replacing all the pieces of my costume I had just taken off so he could snap a picture with his cell phone.

I am fully aware that as a cosplayer you will receive attention, both good and unwanted. But I think there comes a point when we have to remind others that we aren't always the superheroes we sometimes dress to be. Extravagent outfits can really take it out of a person when worn for long periods, and I just think that sometimes the public needs a little reminding of this.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Countdown to Con day

So, there's one week left until your next convention. You've organised your costumes, accommodation, tickets, all the important stuff. You've spent three months procrastination about working out and getting fit and looking your best for this con, but just haven't gotten to doing it. With one week left, there's nothing you can possibly do now that would change things right?


Now, I'm not saying we all need to go out and work our butts off and that we have to always look our absolute best for conventions. Not at all. But we all like to feel our best. And when we do feel good about ourselves and gain that extra bit of self confidence, it absolutely shines through when taking your costume out to display to the world.

So, here's a few tips and things that I try and adhere to the final week before a convention. 

1. Water is your friend! Staying hydrated is really important, not only for your health, but your appearance will have subtle differences too. Firstly, keeping well hydrated the week before the convention will help minimise the effects of dehydration on the actual event day. Lets face it, most of us have had experiences of not getting enough fluids whilst getting hassled for photos, or not being bothered with the half hour long lines because there is plenty more exciting things you could be doing.

So, out of all my tips, I feel like this one is probably the most important.

2. So you've got some wicked contact lenses for your costume, that's awesome! Want to avoid having horridly red and bloodshot eyes on the day? Well, try putting the lenses in for an hour or two each day leading up to con day. Most lens companies will recommend this and it will be stated in the instructions. But it's a small detail that can quite often be overlooked. Also, when you become accustomed to wearing them, your eyes won't be as watery. At least, this is the case for me anyway. It also helps to invest in a small vile of 'dry eye' drops. This stuff is a godsend when your eyes become itchy and dry after wearing lenses for a period of time.

3. Get organised! Keeping organised will help with the stress levels. Stop procrastinating on this one and just do it! Simple things like writing a list to help you remember what to pack, or even packing your 'regular' clothes the weekend before so you concentrate on last minute preparations for your costumes. It all helps. Stress can certainly reduce the 'fun' factor at convention time, and nobody wants that. Even when you feel like you have a million things to get done in next to no time, just writing a list and getting an idea of exactly what needs to be done can help you prioritise also.

4. Skincare. Yeah, you only have a week to go, but even now a good skin care regime can prevent last minute break outs, those dark circles from being tired and so on. Once again, staying hydrated will also help keep your skin looking it's best.

5. Last but not least, sleep! Yes, I know sometimes we will inevitably be up all hours of the night trying to finish that costume we promised. But a regular sleeping pattern will also help with all of the things I've mentioned above. Getting enough sleep is almost as important as staying hydrated (some may argue that one). Being well rested when con day rolls around will really make all the difference in the overall experience of it.

Anyway, I'm sure you guys knew all this already. But sometimes the simplest things are easy to overlook. So even if you didn't work out like you roomies yourself you would, yo will definitely notice the difference in how you feel by following these few steps.

Until next time friends!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Skyrim Nightingale

The minute I started playing this game, I fell in love with the outfits! Whilst there is many different designs on my to-do list, the Nightingale was the first

I chose this one for a few reasons. The Theives Guild missions were one of the first I tackled, so I felt most familiar with the 'nightingale' characters. And also, a friend just happened to have a foam template for the armor design. If you want to check out his many files, you can find them here. So, after he sent me the files, I started work on this almost instantly.

I only needed to make a few small adjustments to the scale of the template (always remember to check this. It's easy to get excited and hit that print button as soon as you download a pep file. Much disappointment will be had once you reach the end only to find the template was scaled to fit someone 6 foot tall when you're only 5'3) so, I printed out my template, taped it all together, and began the cutting out process. 

Now, there's no right or wrong way to do this part. Some people like to lay the paper template over the foam, cut both layers with a Stanley or carton knife. Some people prefer to cut out the paper template first, lay it onto the foam (as I did) and trace it. I prefer the latter as I feel like I get my pieces cut out more neatly than I do with a Stanley knife. Plus, for this design, I was only using thin sheets of craft foam, which was no chore for a decent pair of scissors.

The next part required my trusting old hot glue gun. It's also important to have you template file viewable on your PC so you can refer back to the 3D model to make sure you get all the pieces assembled correctly.

Now, some people may be more organised than I, or have a bigger better workspace where the space allows them to cut out the whole template. But I worked in sections. I also have two small children. So working in segments helped me keep it all organised. 

For example, I cut and glued all the pieces for the upper part of the chest amor before cutting out any further pieces.

Progress went quite quickly once I reached this stage (as far as assembly goes) I had the upper body completed withing a couple of days.

But I got to this stage and began getting bored with the cutting, glueing, cutting, glueing and cutting and more glueing.

So I decided to start adding details to the foam. I used hot glue to draw on the raised design. I think this was the fastest method out of the couple that I tried. It also dried the fastest, and I was able to move onto the next step of prepping for the paint job in a matter of minutes.

So I used liquad latex to prep the foam. I guess any plastic type product would work, but I fell like this armor needed to remain flexible, due to it's close fitting nature and my desire to wear it and not walk around like I've got a pole up my butt. The liquad latex worked well in filling any small gaps and discrepancies with the hot glue. I applied it with a spray bottle, and spread it with a foam brush and regular paint brushes.

Aso important to remember, this stuff will drip everywhere!! And keep an eye out for runs where the product is over applied. After the initial coating I let it dry for a good 24 hours. I made a few touch ups in spots, and let it dry again. 

I used regular acrylics to paint it. Some people like to coat latex with prosaide first, but seeing as I didn't have any left, and was on a bit of a deadline to get this costume finished (I wanted to wear it to a con, and I have to order my prosaide online) I went ahead and began painting it. Who knows, maybe it will come back and bite me in the bum for skipping this step. But I will let you know how the Costume fairs :)

I wanted to go with a slightly different colour scheme.

So I started out with a base of orangey-copper.

Followed by painting in the spaces with black

I didnt paint over the ridges in the armor at this stage. But rather, I went back and went over them later with a washed down black paint, and used the old apply, semi dry, wipe off technique I'm so fond of.

So, with the top half completed, I was left with this

Stay tuned for details on how I completed the bottom half!