Cosplay what you love

I’ve had a lot of discussions with fellow cosplayers about cosplay fame, how to get noticed at cons or online, and whether it’s even worth trying. In the last year especially I have begun to care less and less about whether I get noticed. I distinctly recall going to GenCon last year, having a great time, and then coming home to a Facebook feed filled with professional cosplay photos and wondering, “Why do we think is so important?” It was a very eye-opening moment, and it made me pause and consider how often cosplayers, at least online, present themselves as, essentially, models.

That said, I love getting my picture taken as much as the next cosplayer–it’s a sign that someone is enthusiastic about your character/costume and wants to remember that they saw you, and it’s especially nice to have quality pictures that showcase your work. I want to share Oogli Sabers and Stuff‘s Jedi Temple guard costume because I think it’s very relevant to this discussion (also because I like saying the word Oogli):

Photo by Joits Photography:

Photo by Joits Photography:

These guards appear in just 3 episodes out of the entire 6-season Clone Wars show. I watched that whole show, but I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have recognized the character if I’d passed him at a con. When it comes to cosfame, a lot of people worry that if they cosplay characters that they like but who aren’t well known/from a popular show, they won’t get any attention. Of course there’s nothing wrong with cosplaying a recognizable and popular character, and hey, sometimes those are the best! But other times that minor character who only shows up in two episodes is the one you really want to do instead, and even if you aren’t cosplaying to get noticed, it can definitely be a downer when you’ve put so much work into a costume and then no one even looks at you. With that in mind, a few thoughts about getting (accidentally?) noticed, most inspired by this costume:

–Cosplay what you love. Whether you love the character or the costume design, you’re going to do a better job constructing the outfit if you care about what you’re representing, and you’re (probably) going to be less concerned about spending a bunch of money on a costume if you actually want to make it. Chances are you’ll also be more enthusiastic and confident wearing the outfit, which in itself can draw attention. No one wants to approach a sad, surly looking cosplayer.

–Cosplay it *well*. This costume may be obscure, but it is SO WELL DONE that the craftsmanship alone invites passersby to stop and look. Now, I’m NOT pushing the “do it right or not at all” mentality here; if you want to cosplay, do it, no matter your skill level. I do think it’s worth pointing out, though, that a clean, well made costume goes a looong way towards catching the eye, even if your fellow con-goers don’t know who you are. I always have time to look at a beautifully constructed costume!

–Step away from the real world. (What’s that? You’re dressed in a costume, wearing a wig, and surrounded by fellow geeks at a convention? No, further. Step further.) Again, this cosplay may be obscure, but it’s also a really cool costume design, and that definitely helps. Obviously picking a costume just for its flair can be problematic (picking it just because you want to get looked at, or choosing something so outlandish it’s going to make you broke/insane/both), but note that if you want attention and all your character is wearing is pants and an interesting coat, you may get mistaken for a congoer who just happens to be wearing a wig and shops at places cooler than JC Penny. *cough* True story, before I was familiar with Death Note I mistook an L cosplayer for someone who hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before and hadn’t bothered to brush her hair. *whistle* If you’re trying to decide on your next cosplay and you’ve got a list of ideas, all other things being equal, go for the most visually interesting. It might force you to learn new skills and try new patterns in the process!

–Get in a group. (This lesson is of course not inspired by the picture.) Story time: I went on a Rebel Legion troop last Saturday with Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Boba Fett, among others. You walk into a carnival full of kids with those three characters and NO ONE is going to notice the three random Jedi walking around (okay, Jocasta’s not random, but she’s obscure, and kids go for well known face characters). The three of us plus Mara Jade decided we wanted some photos of ourselves at the carnival, so we all got together and started posing for our photographer. Immediately six people walking by stopped and whipped out their phones, and little kids started coming forward to pose with us. Lesson: the more of a spectacle you can make, the better.

Of course this requires having a group to cosplay with or being willing to invite yourself into others’ groups, and that’s HARD. I’m terrible at it, in large part because I go to so few cons that it’s difficult to even find someone I could group with who wouldn’t get frustrated at my constant lack of availability. That said, if you can get in a group, it can’t hurt. Plus it’s more fun.

–Carry a double-bladed lightsaber.

…okay, that one may not actually apply. But seriously, check out OS&S’s custom-designed lightsabers; they’re amazing!

–Cosplay what you love. Just in case you missed it the first time. 🙂

And as a final offering on this Mothers’ Day, a photo of my mom (second from left) dressed as Samwise Gamgee for a showing of Return of the King. You know you’re winning when your mom is willing to dress up for things! Happy Mothers’ Day, all!




Nerd level up

Today I got my first “grown-up” lightsaber, i.e. not one with a retractable blade:

IMG_1933 (640x427) IMG_1934 (640x427) IMG_1935 (640x427)

Isn’t it shiiinnnyyyy??? It made it all the way here from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, by way of San Francisco. I have no idea why it went that route, but hey, it’s here in time for my troop tomorrow at the University of Michigan’s Star Wars baseball game, so yay!

Saber is an Ascend stunt saber from Genesis Custom Sabers. I opted for no sound ($$$$), so I’ll be making all sorts of silly noises while carrying it!

Possible actual review to come, but for now I’m just basking in the blue glow. 😀

A wild defense date appears!

Yeaaaah, so I’ve got no excuse for this particular prolonged absence from blogging except that the story I mentioned in the last post now has about 120,000 words. And STILL no plot. It has the beginnings of a plot. It has a problem the characters have to deal with. But still no overarching plot. But never fear, I will get there eventually! And in the meantime I’m writing the heck out of my pair’s backstory. And drawing pictures of them. Etc.


It’s in mid-August, and I’m going to be working like a crazy person until then to get my dissertation into proper shape. Unfortunately, this means no cons until after I turn it in to my committee in July, so ACEN’s out (again! GRAR!), but I’m still hoping to make it to GenCon. A recent defend-ee in my program told me the best thing I could do during that month-long period between turning it in and actually defending is take a vacation, so I say, TO THE FOOD TRUCKS!

In cosplay news, I’m pretty much where I was in January (see above dissertation crazyness), but with a bit more progress on Pikachu and a new Jedi outfit in the works that won’t require 2+ hours of hair and makeup every time I want to wear it! I wore Jocasta to ShutoCon in March and didn’t even bother making myself look old–too much effort! 😛

Here’s a shot of Pikachu; aside from adding poofs to the shoes, the bottom half is done!

IMG_1901 (533x800)

Shoes could use another layer of paint, too, but I may just leave them. Yesterday I tested paint on a feather for the headdress thing. It worked…all right? Not spectacular, but will work if I can’t come up with anything else. Unfortunately my base feathers are pheasant, so I can’t just dye a white feather yellow.

Built a lightsaber:

Saber (640x347)

$20 of random hardware store parts and for-plastic spray paint later, and that’s what I had! It doesn’t have built-in LED or anything and can’t be attached to a blade, but it works as an on-the-belt prop and makes me look like a proper Jedi. 😀 And Errant Knight Photography, who took my photo at Shuto, was awesome enough to photoshop me a blade and a snazzy background!


Now I just need to learn to pose properly. 😛 One-handed saber w/two-handed pose, not so much. 😛

And on that note, I have the afternoon off, so I’m going to make tabards and an obi for Jedi 2.0. Cheers!

I’m a card-carrying Jedi!

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! I am super excited to announce that yesterday I was accepted to The Rebel Legion!!

Check out that white hair!

Check out that white hair!

The RL is an international Star Wars costuming fan club, but in addition to just geeking out about SW, they also give back to the community through a variety of volunteer activities — marching in parades, visiting hospitals, raising money for charities, and the like. You may be familiar with their counterpart, the 501st Legion. The 501st does ‘bad guy’ costumes (Vader, Stormtroopers, Sith…), while the Rebel Legion does good guys (Jedi, rebels, Clone Troopers before Order 66…). And to be thorough, I should also give a shout-out to the Mandalorian Mercs, who do Mandalorian costumes (think Boba Fett).

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here, but for the last few years I’ve felt kind of conflicted about the fact that my major hobby, cosplay, is mostly about me. I’d say 95% of the sewing I do is for myself, and conventions are largely about celebrating the things you enjoy along with your friends and fellow fans. And while hobbies are, by nature, things we do to make ourselves happy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, I’ve been feeling guilty about spending all of my time and talent on myself. However, I’m not very experienced, and therefore not very comfortable, sewing clothing for other people (unless they’re actually present for repeated fittings and adjustments), so I was looking for something outreach-y I could do in my cosplays.

From what I can find online, anime cosplay isn’t very organized in this regard. There are various ‘cosplay against cancer’ (or other diseases) efforts, but most of them seem to be limited to a few individuals, or even to one individual doing a particular cosplay to raise money/awareness. There’s also Cosplay for a Cause, but let’s just say that I don’t think my chest-to-waist ratio is quite right for their needs. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking their efforts, but no one would pay to see my picture in a cosplay calendar.)

I’d heard about the 501st, but I’ve always been a serious sucker for the Jedi (and a little too short for a Stormtrooper), so when I learned about the Rebel Legion I knew I had to join up. I’d wanted to do a Jedi costume anyway, so this was perfect. Now that I’ve been accepted, I’ll joining the Great Lakes Base in Star Wars nerdery and charity in the Michigan/Ohio area. Can’t wait!!

Your bias is showing

I was telling someone at the American Sewing Expo that, because I’m self-taught, I still make pretty newbie mistakes despite having sewed for 13 years.

*pause to feel old*

One of these mistakes is not accounting for bias when sewing circle skirts, which I seem to do a lot these days. (Did I share a picture of my Spudgy poodle skirt?) What can I say? They’re swishy and swirly and other things that start with s and end with y.

Anyhow, bias. If fabric consists of warp and weft threads, one set running horizontal and one running vertical, like on a loom, then the bias is the diagonal line running at about a 45 degree angle across the fabric:

Image from

The bias is slightly stretchy because the weight of the fabric isn’t pulling directly along a warp or weft thread. Bias tape (you know, this stuff?) is made by cutting strips of fabric along the bias, rather than straight along the edge of the fabric. This gives it just enough stretch that it can do things like form curves. (Check out whip-stitch’s intro to the bias and bias tape, whence the previous image.) This is why it’s also important to make sure your pattern pieces follow the selvage properly — if you cut them out at the wrong angle, you may end up with unintended stretch.

The point of this is that circle skirts are kind of a bias nightmare, because if you’re cutting out big half-circles, you’re going to end up with parts of your skirt falling along the bias:

Image from I just love that there’s a website called International Pleating.

Let a circle skirt hang long enough, and, at least with some types of fabric, the parts along the bias will stretch enough that your skirt is uneven:

You can see in the image how the skirt falls unevenly. It can actually make a nice aesthetic, as in the case of that dress, but other times it just looks sloppy or unprofessional. And if your skirt is floor-length and weighs enough, you will end up tripping over parts of it when you thought it was measured and hemmed properly.

You know, like if you make a Jedi librarian skirt out of 6 yards of really heavy linen and then give it 9 months to stretch out while you work on the rest of the outfit?


Bring on the seam ripper!!!

Updates and the American Sewing Expo

I realized upon scrolling through recent posts that I haven’t done a costume update in quite a while, mostly because there hasn’t been a whole lot about which to update. For example, I hosted a prospective grad student back in March, at which point I’d been working on Jocasta for 3 months. Last week this student asked me about the costume, and of course, it’s still not done!! BUT! I am happy to report that I’m about 85-90% of the way through the ansata, after which I just have to re-interface, line, and bind the tabards. Then the costume will be done!

Then I just have to make a pouch.

And some librarian tools.

And a lightsabre.

And a holocron.

And then figure out what I’m going to do about my hair. (Does “clown grease paint” sound a little iffy to anyone else?)

…erm, yes. I do have some Pikachu progress, but unfortunately only one picture to show for it:

IMG_1567 (533x800)^Pants and top, with an old bridesmaid’s dress bodice standing in for the actual bodice for now. I’m planning to disassemble it and use it for pattern pieces because it’s just about the right size and shape. Who says you’ll never use your bridesmaid dresses again?

I’ve lost count of the number of fabrics I’ve dyed for this cosplay. Actually, no, I haven’t. It’s 3. Which is a lot fewer than it feels like! In addition to dyeing the yellow fabric pictured above to make it a bit more golden/orange, I also dyed dupioni silk AND DID NOT DESTROY IT! Seriously, I’m considering this a huge accomplishment. And then I darkened some basic cotton for the chrysanthemum kanzashi I’ll be making for the hairpiece. I’m also pseudo-stenciling flowers onto another fabric for the skirt-thing and gauntlets.

Short version: None of the fabrics needed for this costume exists in pure form in the natural world. I’m having the same problem finding stuff for Raava. Do they not make white upholstery fabric?

*mental montage of kids, dogs, liquid spills, new-blue-jean dye stains. . .*

Oh. I see your point.

On a different note, I visited the American Sewing Expo today! It was a little underwhelming, actually, probably because 1) the last dealer hall I was in was GenCon’s (56000+ attendees, remember?), and 2) I didn’t attend any seminars but mostly roamed the dealer hall and heckled Karmada, who was giving panels and serving as one of their “costume experts.” Because ASE had a focus on costumes this year, I went in my lolita, and then spent the day explaining that I wasn’t actually in a costume per se, or dressed as a specific character, but was actually wearing a Japanese street fashion. I got a lot of really nice comments on it — people especially liked the kanzashi — my favorite of which was from a woman at the McCall booth who said she’d recently been to Harajuku in Japan and had seen girls dressed in the exact same style. Yay, I’m doing it right!

I also met Andrea Schewe, who designs patterns for Simplicty. She was really nice and very enthusiastic about costuming (yay!), and also kind of looked like Meryl Streep (bonus points!). She’s also responsible for the kimono pattern (Sim 4080) I used for my lolita top. As I told her, and several other people, I’m still enamored of the awesome sleeve-lining technique in that pattern, which I never could have come up with on my own. Amusingly, when I told this to the people at the Simplicity booth, they were surprised, and pleased, that I’d managed to figure it out — apparently they get “help!” calls all the time about that part of the pattern. 😛 I don’t usually say this, but… trust the pattern, everyone! It will all come out well in the end!

In theory.

Not a lot else to report. As one of the guests, Karmada got to set up a series of cosplays in their display area; every outfit but the black one with the burgundy bodice is hers:

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

At far left are her and her cosplay partner’s World Cosplay Summit costumes from this past year, Watanuki and Kohane from XXXholic (yes, someone did name a manga series XXXholic. No idea. . .) Anyway, shiny kimono-y goodness!

And now, I’m going to put on Mulan and stitch some more ansata. Which reminds me: who’s excited for the premiere of Star Wars Rebels?? Meeeeeeeeeee!