Monthly Archives: March 2010

Cosplay and Identity Thinking

Background: I have a class on Friedrich Nietzsche and sometimes my mind… it doesn’t wander off, it just likes to test understanding of key concepts by applying them to very different topics.

Okay, I admit it: it wanders off.

A few cosplayers or potential cosplayers I have spoken to in the past have talked to me about their hesitation to cosplay certain characters because that character is popular to cosplay. This wasn’t a factor of cosplay that I personally considered until I made the decision to cosplay Grell Sutcliffe—I figured that if I had been introduced to the series Kuroshitsuji by cosplay, then that certainly said something. And I did go through some of the questions that I’m sure those potential cosplayers asked themselves: how did I feel about cosplaying a character that, even at a small convention, there would be at least another cosplayer wearing the same costume? Maybe it’s the cosplayer’s version of that fear of going to a party and someone else is wearing your outfit. I got over it in about two seconds, but I’ve noticed that for some people, that’s an issue they take into consideration when planning.

Here’s where my mind wandered off during my lecture. So far as I’ve come to understand in my yet-to-be complete progression through his major works, Nietzsche basically (and I know that I’m getting myself in huge trouble just by trying to concisely summarize Nietzsche’s ideas) believes that identity statements, even in their simplest form like “Harry Potter is Harry Potter” are untrue. This is based on his belief that at any moment, someone is a different person from who they were in a previous moment because even the slightest change—from what’s going on in his or her train of thought to a shed skin cell—makes them different. He denies the definition of identity thinking that is, for this purpose, akin to potential cosplayers rejecting a character for fear of not wanting to do the same thing as anybody else.

If the character is the person, then the interpretation of that character by an individual cosplayer is like time’s influence on that person: always changing. And never the same.

Applied to cosplay, every single person’s interpretation of a character, no matter how popular, will be incredibly different. Even at the basics of costume construction, there are fabric choices, pattern choices, everything that goes into the physical representation of the character. But even if all of that were somehow identical to another cosplayer, there’s more, from how you represent your character to how that character resonated with you in the first place. Because of the nature of you being an individual cosplaying a character, you will be unique. Trust me: I can’t remember ever mixing up two people cosplaying the same character after I’ve had even the most basic conversation or glance at their costume.

 Not something to rule my character choices in the future, but something I had fun musing over for a little.

Much love,

greyrondo

Side note: Today I decided it would be an awesome idea to do all of my hand-sewing less than a foot away from my very hot iron. Of course, I burned myself. Please be smarter than me.

Advertisements

Shoes on a Shoestring Budget

I think I need to preface this with a simple statement:  I am a college student, and thus, I am cheap.

Yuuko is a tall character, and I’m not.  At almost 5′ 5”, I am short.  So when it comes to character as tall as Yuuko, I need some heels in order to not look like some chibi version of her.  Actually, I don’t need heels, I need five inch platforms to get anywhere near Yuuko’s height.

But like I said before, I’m cheap.

So the first place I start looking for shoes is discount stores like Payless or Rackroom Shoes.  They have the shoes that didn’t sell in name brand stores and are discounted way off the original prices, and they also hold sales at least once a month.  Discount stores also carry the harder to find colors, like lime green and neon yellow, if it’s in season.  Becuase, come on guys, some of those colors are HARD to find, even online.

Also, towards the end of the season, Dillards sells off it’s high quality (Gucci, Choo, etc) shoes at sixty percent off.  Good quality shoes for twenty dollars, usually. And I mean good quality that go to your thighs made with very expensive leather for twenty dollars.  (I’m a sale lover, can you tell?)

When you are looking for the shoes at local stories, make sure to walk in with a plan and a rather well formed idea of what your shoe needs to look like, and don’t get sidetracked by the five million other pairs on sale.  I know they are pretty, and tempting, but remember what you are there for.

However, I wouldn’t recommend anything that looks like leather from Payless because it’s pleather and scuffs very easily, personal experience speaking here. Discount stores, while cheap, sometimes sacrifice quality for price.  Make sure the shoes fit and you can walk around in them without getting blisters or rubbing your foot raw.  American Eagles shoes are always of good quality, so I’ll vouch for those.

In short, if you want shoes to modify or just searching for shoes that aren’t going to break the bank,  I’d suggest look at the discount stores and locally before going with an online option.


Small Appliques

Time: 20 hours

Ability: 1/5

Safety: 4.5/5

I just finished making about five bajillion triangles for Yuuko.  Since I’ve decided I’ve has enough practice, I’ll explain through steps!

1) I found the fabric.

There were four main colors for the triangles I needed to find.  A red, one white, and the last purple or green, depending on the location of the piece on the costume.  I searched for a fitting shade that matched the other pieces as well as had some sort of design in the fabric to keep it from looking too plain.  Hobby Lobby, Joann’s, Walmart – I went everywhere until I found what I wanted.

2) I decided the size and shape.

I decide to go with square instead of triangles since, in all cases, making a larger applique and cutting it in half would be easier.  Especially since the art in question didn’t show perfect triangles.  There is also a piece of the costume that is a collection of diamonds.  Two birds, one stone situation.

I played with sizes with paper, figuring out how large I wanted the final products until I decided that I wanted them to be cut out 4 (purple/green), 5 (white), and 6 (red) inches.

3) I decided not to sew.

I don’t have a sewing machine (or access to one) at college.   I, instead, decided to use Stitch Witch, a hemming heat activated glue easily found at Walmart in the sewing section.  I used the regular rolls, which resemble dyer sheets when opened, but they worked perfectly.

4) I got busy.

I sat down a few weeks and put myself into the zone, measuring and cutting out all the squares.  I turned on marathons of America’s Next Top Model and ironed, ironed and ironed some more.  I ironed the edges of the squares over, ironed them to each other layer by layer until I had a finished square and then I cut them in half.

150+ triangles later, I’m done with the appliques and finished the part with the diamonds.  (below is a prototype.  There are three versions of each triangle until I got it just right.

In the end I used: 1 yard of green and 1 of purple fabric, 2 1/2 yards of white, and 3 of red.  I also used over 15 rolls of Stitch Witch and killed a marker and a ruler.  🙂  And a yard of fusible interfacing was used on the triangles when it went on sale.


Cosplayer’s Dilemma

For this year’s A-kon cosplay contest, I plan on cosplaying the Capricious Reaper enemy character from Dissidia: Final Fantasy. For a quick image, think of what a Kuja ice sculpture might look like, with some weird colors going on. It allows for a lot of interesting construction choices, which I really like. I’m progressing on everything and I’ve made a lot of decisions already, except for one: what theatrical contacts to use.

The Capricious Reaper is one of those creepy monster enemies that doesn’t have pupils, and instead just has a pale gold (although it’s actually very distinctively not pale at all if you look up close) color over the entire eye.  I don’t want to have the budget for sclera contacts, and they don’t come in that color anyways.

Option 1: Go for the next best thing, and purchase 100% Blind White contacts, which would give a more-or-less single color appearance. This wouldn’t be too bad, since I thought the Capricious Reaper’s eyes were white for the longest time and people who don’t stare for long and awkward periods of time at the subtleties of Kuja’s costumes convention goers would still see the proper makeup impression. It would also take all of two seconds to give my eyes a narrow pale gold eyeshadow all the way around.

Unfortunately, that would be $100 less I could spend on the rest of the costume, and I would be blind. I would need someone to lead me around everywhere. Everywhere. That someone would also have to be responsible for things that are my job, like making sure the train of my costume isn’t on the other side of the elevator doors or the underside of someone’s foot (and A-kon is VERY crowded; people stepped on me last year when I was practically cosplaying a stop sign). Not only is that an imposition on someone else’s time at the convention, considering that cosplay contest green rooms usually take up a good two hours, but I would also sacrifice performance and showmanship because I won’t be able to move onstage without having someone hold my hand. And how in character is that?

Option 2: Use my Grell contacts. They happen to be the perfect shade of gold, will allow me to see, and will save me $100. They freak people out when we make eye contact. Unfortunately, the reason I like them so much is because they let me see stuff, which goes against the design choice to eliminate the pupils.

It’s easy to see two different options (even though one doesn’t involve seeing very much at all), but are there others?

Much love,

greyrondo


Practice, practice!

Yesterday in my makeup technique class, I attempted Peking opera and Kabuki makeup applications; we had the option of switching Geisha makeup out for Peking opera, but I didn’t even try it (the girl next to me spent more than two hours on her Geisha makeup). While I had something resembling success, I say ‘attempted’ because when it comes to those types of makeup applications, everything has to be absolutely symmetrical, smooth, and in a single word, perfect…or it looks horribly, horribly wrong.

 So while I was cursing my shaking hands for about three hours, I thought about practice. Like with most things, the real key to those specific makeup applications was years and years of practice.

 While you, the cosplayer, don’t exactly have years and years to practice your character’s makeup (unless you cosplay the same character repeatedly), it’s a good idea to give yourself a few trial runs so that the morning of the convention isn’t the first time you’re doing your application.

 Makeup almost always goes on more quickly after the first application, and these trial runs let you figure out if something isn’t working. For example, false eyelashes are a costume piece for Grell Sutcliffe; you watch him put them on in the manga and anime, so it’s not something that can be faked with mascara. If I had put on my pair of false eyelashes for the first time on Friday afternoon at the convention, I would have discovered that they made me look incredibly sleepy and nothing else. Even after reshaping and curling, I had to tweak my entire eye makeup scheme around those blasted eyelashes.

 Makeup horror stories are a fun thing to share, but they aren’t really that welcome at the moment they actually happen!

 Much love,

greyrondo


Convention Report: Animeland Wasabi 2010

I love small conventions. I’m not joking. Sometimes, weird stuff happens, and sometimes there’s a little too much downtime, but otherwise, I actually have more fun at small conventions than I do at large ones, because people are more willing to put a hold on their tenth run through the dealer’s room and chat.

Animeland Wasabi got a new hotel this year, one that was much harder to find: at one point, mamaesme received a text saying something along the lines of: ‘I couldn’t call myself a true Grell cosplayer if I didn’t manage to get lost at least twice before finding the hotel.’ Overall, I think the hotel looked nicer, but there was a lack of outside photography space and to ensure that I got a parking spot every day of the convention, I left my home at 8:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday (don’t worry, I’m a morning person).

One thing I particularly like about Animeland Wasabi is the staff. I’ve been to more than 20 conventions now and as far as I can tell, they get the same amount of stuff, if not more, done than the average convention, and all without the freaking out and causing an unnecessary fuss (I’m looking at you, A-kon elevator volunteers…) that seems to be a pre-req for getting hired at most other conventions. The only thing I don’t like about Animeland Wasabi is that their badges are very delicate and pretty much ask to be either lost and/or mangled beyond recognition.

Apart from escaping into the viewing room during the afternoons and the occasional panel, I spent most of my time in the artist’s alley, where I had become friends with an amazing group of artists who were incredibly nice despite having just met me on Friday (they let me park my chainsaw under their table !) and I hope we can hang out again at NDK. The table was next to Doug Smith’s, and every time I spoke with him he was an unbelievably cordial and friendly person. I also had the chance to work with Eurobeat King for a few photoshoots, and spoke several times with him as well. He is, put plainly, pretty awesome.

This was Grell’s first convention, and it was a pretty good one. I had some people kind of push the envelope as soon as they figured out I would hold a conversation with them in character, but that thankfully stopped before I decided to break character and tell them to back off and find another outlet to fuel their Grell bashing (there was really only one person who went to that extreme). Everyone else was very nice, and I really am interested in knowing who proposed to me from the audience during the contest (sorry, I don’t have peripheral vision in this wig!) Grell did win Best in Show, and I’m glad that I got a chance to look at all of the other gorgeous cosplayers who entered in the contest.

Also, I got to see mostly everyone from the DCCS who I had met at last year’s Animeland Wasabi, and who had played such a huge role in giving me enough confidence to truly step into the Colorado cosplay scene in the first place. I will definitely be attending Wasabi next year, someone please just tell Mapquest to start making sense.

Much love,

greyrondo

P.S.: During the convention, I seemed to be the Contact-Lens-Bad-Luck Fairy. I ended up coaching three or four different cosplayers on how to put in their theatrical contacts on Saturday, and a Dante cosplayer who I had spoken to about props ran into the cosplay contest green room late because, if I heard him correctly, he had trouble putting in his contacts. I am so sorry, everybody!


First Costume Lessons

Every cosplayer has their first costume.   Mine is from three years ago, and I’ve only done one other costume since (that has not been public).   Until recently, I’ve been out of the cosplay game because I wasn’t excited after my first costume.  Maybe it’s because next to greyrondo I felt like such a newbie, maybe it’s because it didn’t excite me, but whatever my reason, I’m back.  I’m upon my horse and rearing for action.

And yes, I have a costume in progress.  And yes, it is awesomer than Sakura.  Thank God.

First costumes are an experience that can not be repeated or sometimes even put into words, but I’ll try.  This costume is riddled with mistakes that I have since learned lessons from, so let me explain this to you through them.

Lesson One: Know your character

I may have conned greyrondo into cosplaying Fai D. Florite to my Sakura-hime from Tsubasa.  To this day, I blame the shiny coins.  They drew me in. (Exhibit B: Yuuko)  But there is a reason to this ramble: I had little to no grasp on the character. I didn’t know how to act as her, dress as her or even move as her.

Knowing your character is a vital part of a cosplay.  You need to know your character in order to pose, and sweet lord, I had no poses.

Lesson Two:  Don’t use Walmart fabric

The thing about fabric from Walmart is that it is notoriously thin.  Use it for small pieces, appliques, but not for large scale costumes.  Especially an entire clown pant and skirt ensemble. It wrinkles easily, doesn’t support well.  It’s just poorly made.

And guess what?  I used Walmart fabric.

Lesson Three: Details, Details, Details

The coins that I loved so weren’t actual coins.  They were wood  spray painted gold, and I drilled holes in the wood and sewed them on.  They were too large, too bulky, too kinda annoying, but I needed those details.  I did them because they were a detail of the costume, but they weren’t well done. The black and gold on the costume was suppose to be fabric. I used ribbon because I could, and I really shouldn’t have.

I didn’t change the costume to suit my body.  I didn’t use too much fabric.  I glued instead of sewed.  I committed a million fabric sins, but I didn’t know it.  Now I do.

Lesson Four: Start early!

I made this costume in probably two weeks.  I didn’t research, I didn’t have good shoes, didn’t have anything besides a single reference picture and some crazy thoughts.  Take your time, give yourself months to work on it, take breaks and work at a steady pace.  It helps with the slumps and fanatic paces that you go through at times.

Also, order your wig early.  I didn’t do it early enough, and greyrondo and I had to dye one from Party City.  We got high off the sharpies the night before. (but that’s another story for another day)

Conclusion:

First costumes, as a general rule, aren’t the best.  But you always learn from bad thing, and these are just four of my own mistakes.  You learn more making the costumes, like what stitches to use, about types of colors that are flattering on your body.  You learn and grow, and it’s an amazing experience.

(Enjoy the picture.  It’s been three years since that.  And yes, you can laugh. Greyrondo and I did when I unearth this on the unforgiving internet.)

love, mamaesme

greyrondo as Fai and mamaesme as Sakura (AtsuiCon 2007)