Things have been a little slow, posting wise, since Emerald City Comic Con.  You may not have noticed but it has.  Have no fear, there are still things that need to be touched on and tribulations to trial.

One thing that I skipped but should have done well before con was a wear test.  This is especially important for those of you wearing armor type cosplays.  The short and skinny of it is that you’re going to be wearing this outfit for an extended amount of time, in public, on a hot convention floor, where everybody will be bumping into you.  When you are done with your build go ahead and schedule some time to wear it for several hours.  You don’t have to do anything particularly strenuous like running a 5K or jacking up the heat to rival the center of the sun.  Wear it long enough to get a feel for how it is going to feel on the convention floor.  Can you see enough to avoid collisions or do you need a guide/guard?  Is it so hot that you’re at risk of passing out?  If so, can you remove parts to cool down?  Can you drink water to prevent dehydration?  Yeah it may sound kinda far fetched, but trust me, heat stroke can hit you surprisingly fast and can be deadly.  Nobody wants to see Batman pass out in the middle of posing for photographs.  And they certainly don’t want to see him die because he couldn’t get the cowl off and cool down.

Coupled with the heat is the movement.  Make sure that you can move effectively.  If you’re going to be one of those that stands out in one of the common photographing areas without hitting the con floor, this is not as relevant.  For those that do plan on looking around it can be the difference between keeping your armor and throwing it away.  If it is not durable to handle constant bumping and catching then you may want to rethink it.  This has nothing to do with how careful you are, cons tend to be incredibly packed and most goers don’t really care about your cosplay.  Their interest is getting from A to B and if that means bumping, brushing or busting your armor, so be it.  When I was at NYCC ’13 I spoke with Nicole Marie Jean while she was wearing her Namor armor.  She used Worbla to create the armor on the shoulders.  I would never have believed it, apparently it is sturdy enough that all of the people bumping and brushing against the armor was enough to wrench her shoulders enough to be incredibly painful.  Pretty impressive and terrifying at the same time.

Another part of the movement test is the range of motion.  While important for armor cosplays it is much more important for fabric/latex type cosplays.  Why do you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Most of you, being geeks/nerds, were probably picked on growing up.  So you know what a wedgie feels like.  Now imagine spending the entire day being hot and sweaty with an incredibly wedgie that you can’t really do anything about.  Or, a camel toe bordering on moose paw.  Men, this goes for you too, nobody wants another Tron Guy.  Just to make things more interesting, let’s throw in some wardrobe malfunctions.  If you don’t test those seams in a range of motion/wear test there is always the possibility that you may pop one during the day.  I was so concerned with this on the pants that I cut and sewed together that I covered the interior portion of all the seams with Dritz iron-on mending fabric.  The idea was to stabilize the denim enough that the seams themselves would not be strained too much.  And it worked like a charm!  I am happy to say it survived standing, walking, sitting, squatting, sweating and pretty much everything else you can do legally at a convention.  The draw back, which I learned after the convention, is that it may cause some binding of the fabric after washing.  The seams on the pants held but it looks like the pants shrank a little while the mending fabric remained the same size, causing some stretching and binding at the interfacing.  Which I guess is better than recreating a scene from So Fine;

This brings me around to another point, WASH YOUR COSTUME!  Con Funk is a very real thing.  Shower, use deodorant, wash your costume.  If you plan on wearing the same thing the entire weekend and don’t have access to a washer (or it’s not washer ready) Fabreze it.  This is a request on behalf of every fucking person attending the convention.

I know you’re waiting with bated breath…

Some of you are new and some of you don’t exist and I’m basically just talking to myself.  Even so, I know you’re waiting expectantly for the latest update.  Please be patient.  Emerald City Comic Con has come and gone and I am preparing for Awesome Con in a couple of weeks.

Alright, fine!  Here’s a quick note.

Ripping seams.  You’re gonna have to do some.  Get used to the idea.  And no, there’s no trick to make it easier, faster, or less messy.  Sometimes you’re just gonna fuck up and have to resew the seam.  I must have ripped the seams on my zippers 3 or 4 times before I got a working shirt.  I just ripped the seams on my jacket seam so that I can rework the inner sleeve.  Although this last one was pretty easy as they were hand sewn in the first place.  I had made the inner sleeve a little short on the high side and it made getting into the jacket a pain in the ass.  Which, apparently, is an indication that you’ve done something right.  When I tried on the jacket without the shirt the sleeve was functional and looked good for the length but when in costume it didn’t feel right to me.  So with 2 weeks to go I am reworking the sleeves to improve the length and ability to don.

Full Frontal
Full Frontal
right shoulder
right shoulder

Holy shit, it’s falling apart!

For all of its wonderful qualities, denim was a pain in the ass to work with.

Now some of those problems arise from the very wonderful qualities I mentioned.  Trying to cut through 2 pairs of pants at one time is frustration looking for a place to happen.  From the 4 layers of denim to the factory produced seams, cutting denim is a huge pain.  But that’s why everybody wears it in the first place.  It’s tough and lasts forever.  On top of that is the fact that it’s a pain to sew as well.  You need to change sewing machine settings and needles.  Thread size, foot tension and stitch length.  Everything changes in order to keep from overwhelming your Not Factory sewing machine.

One thing that caught me by surprise about working with denim; how quickly it unravels.  You can’t cut it and then wait a day or two before sewing.  It’s like I created some kind of temporal anomaly when I cut the pants.  They quickly started regressing to thread.  If I waited a day or two they could have been cotton plants.  Make sure you’re ready to start sewing before you put scissors to denim.  I was lucky in that I happened to be ready to start sewing when I made my cuts.

I was surprised at how quickly denim started to fray but not some of the other fabrics that I purchased.  Many of them are thinner and lighter and more susceptible to the rough handling you’re going to give them while sewing.  Making sure you’re ready will help minimize the damage through out the process.

Find a new lover

For those that want to make your own costumes instead of modifying what you purchase at Goodwill you could try looking at JoAnn’s Fabrics.  Be warned though, she’s a bit clingy.

Part of my start up costs included all the incidentals for running my sewing machine and creating other items I might need.  Extra needles, thread, patterns, etc.  None of which should come as a surprise.  If you get started in this hobby thinking you can get things done with just the manufacturer included items then you more help than this blog can give you.  Some of these “incidentals” hardly have an incidental cost.  The self healing cutting mat ran about $40 and I needed to buy a second to cover the entire card table I use for measuring my fabrics.  Of course you’re certainly welcome to run your blades over your table and mar the shit out of it but why not do things right?

As I have already mentioned, I wanted to cut costs but clearly wasn’t very good at it.  One thing I did do to keep costs down as much as possible was to sign up for JoAnn’s mailing list.  They mail you coupons about2 or 3 times every hour it seems.  Most of which, you’ll want to keep around.  You’ll frequently get 40% off of a regular priced item, that includes a single cut of fabric, and 25% your entire purchase.  The fun of this is that these coupons stack.  Remember, you get plenty of them.  Check the dates because they will send some out well before they are active.  Also check the bar codes to make sure you’re not trying to use the same one multiple times, and I have yet to see any of them repeat.  While the 40% or 50% off coupons will not work for sale items, the 25% off coupons do.  As I said, they stack also.  If you’ve got five 40% off coupons and a 25% off total purchase coupon, you can use them all.  An added bonus is that the coupons will automatically discount the highest priced item it can.  Just about anywhere else you go the exact opposite is true.  How cool is that?  I’ve walked in and purchased $110 worth of items and fabric and paid only $65.  Not too shabby.

Why is this important?  Now the following may not apply to everybody.  But sewing is addictive!  The more that I do the more that I want to do.  And all of it is practice.  Where I first started out doing something simple to become familiar with the machine I have now gotten to the point that I can make some pretty decent clothing pretty quickly.  I muddled through a quick and dirty swag bag and then progressed to some novelty vests.  The first two vests took about 4 days to complete.  The second two vests took 1 day.  On top of that, the second set I modified the designs so that they are reversible.  My first swag bag was basic to the point of laughable, the second two were badass creations of my own doing!  I took an idea and ran with it.  No patterns, just a concept and some quick references.  Needless to say this has fueled my desire to sew and that has fueled more fabric purchases than I would care to admit.

As I’ve said before, PRACTICE!  These are the tools of your new trade, or hobby at least.  Get some time behind the wheel and make sure you’re comfortable with it.  Yeah, I still have a lot to learn but I never expected to have everything down in the first couple of months.

More dying and less death.

My cosplay character wears gloves most of the time as a precaution and protection for those around her.  Since I don’t want to make or wear long silk gloves I had to think of something else.  Going with a more masculine take on the character I wanted gloves that had more of a tactical/military feel to them.  The chances of finding them in yellow, naturally, was slim to none.  Thinking along the same lines as the pants, I looked for gloves that were white and I could change the color scheme.

What I found were Fox sport glove knock-offs.  For those that don’t know, many products produced in China will come from factories that operate on 12-16 hour days.  At the end of the day the factory stops producing the name brand and the workers go home.  Then a new shift of workers come in and begin manufacturing basically the same product with only slightly different materials.  The gloves I purchased were described as a military tactical motorcycle gloves and priced at about $12.  The Fox symbol is clearly visible but never mentioned in the listing.  When received the gloves have the Fox symbol AND the Fox trade name on the Velcro clasp.  My biggest concern was the fact that I purchased the gloves from a Chinese seller.  If they took my money and didn’t provide the product my savings go from 75% to 0 in a heartbeat.

Once I received the gloves the next hurdle required a little research.  Since the gloves contain a number of different materials in the construction, getting the coloring right was going to be tricky.  There’s neoprene, leather, artificial leather, and plastic.  I knew the hardest would be the neoprene and the most difficult would be the leather.  Let me clarify.  Neoprene is designed to be resistant to chemicals and liquids.  This means getting it to accept some type of chemical solution to change its color would be insanely hard.  It’s just designed to prevent that.  Meanwhile leather requires chemicals to remove protective coatings, chemicals to change the color and then more chemicals to protect the new color.  All administered by hand.  While it may not be particularly hard work, it’s still work.

The first thing I did was use a deglazing solution to remove the protectant coating on the leather.  If I had it to do over I would not have bothered.  The fumes where incredibly overwhelming.  In the short time that I had the bottle open and was applying it to the leather I became light headed.  And I only deglazed the leather on the back of the gloves.  The leather/suede palms were untouched.  The fumes were so strong that I did a pretty half assed job of deglazing the second glove.  I was more concerned with getting the bottle closed and the air cleared before I wound up drooling on the floor.

This is where the wishful thinking comes in.  After the deglazing I threw the gloves into the pot with my pants and shirt to be dyed yellow.  I didn’t have a lot of hope for this because of the materials but I figured I had a second pair available so I could experiment on this on.  The only part of the gloves that accepted the color was the leather.  The palms and the back of the gloves came out an acceptable yellow.  The stitching, ironically, remained white.  The remainder of the gloves remained white.  I had hoped the nylon type webbing would have accepted the color as well.

With a large percentage of the gloves left to turn yellow I turned to the internet for ideas.  After several google searches I could only find one real suggestion for changing the color of neoprene.  Sharpies.  Yeah, sharpies.  Most of these sharpie suggestions also came from diving sites.  Since divers tend to wear neoprene diving suits I was reluctant but willing to defer to their greater knowledge of the material.  So after several drinks one night I grabbed my yellow sharpie and started coloring.

"Dying" process
“Dying” process

I was extremely happy with the results.  While not perfect I am more than satisfied with the finished product.  The yellow of the sharpie and the dye are different hues but I don’t think this is an issue.  The webbing, when worn, shows some uneven coloring.  There are areas of darker ink saturation and other areas that appear lighter because of lower ink saturation.  The rubber and the neoprene colored extremely well.  Those divers seem to know what they’re talking about.

As I mentioned before, if I had it to do over I would not bother with deglazing and dying the leather.  Given how well the sharpie worked I might think about leaving the leather white or coloring it with the sharpie as well.  I am concerned with streaking the leather in this manner.

I am beginning to think that Sharpies are a cosplayers best friend.  Using them on the gloves, while the most extensive, is certainly not the last time I used their color changing capabilities.  While sewing a patch onto a jacket I used a thread that only matched part of the patch.  As I was sewing by hand this was hardly a perfect job.  Once I finished I used a sharpie to color the thread to match the corresponding area.  Making the work less visible and the costume more aesthetically pleasing.  I can see them being used to touch up colors in other fabrics, leathers and latex where normal wear creates scuffing or chipping.  Given the price I think purchasing a set with a variety of colors would be useful to anybody starting out.

Dying will be the death of me.

At this point the most frustrating and expensive part of this costume has been dying the clothes.  The design that I have in mind only requires two colors for the shirt and the same for the pants.  Seems pretty straight forward, right?

BUT, because I am taking two shirts and two pairs of pants, cutting them up and sewing them together to make one pair it is not as easy as it could have been.  I actually want it to look like two pairs of pants sewn together.  The intention is for it to look like I made the costume from scratch after discovering my powers.  Sort of an origin type costume.  I want the color scheme and overall appearance to immediately signify the character I am portraying but be unique enough that it is my own creation.  Oh, and because it is a gender swap I also want it to be masculine.

As I mentioned previously, the process of bleaching pants to prepare them for dying requires some skill.  Rather than develop that skill I went another route.  I ordered white pants that I could dye.  Pretty clever if I do say so myself.  And it would have been if I had enough skill.  Unfortunately there is a significant amount of technique that comes into play when dying clothes.  Not to mention salt.  Lots and lots of salt.

There are a number of different brands of clothes dye available on the market as well as forms.  Rit, one of the more common brands, produces dyes in powder and liquid forms.  On top of all this there is a variety of ways to USE the dyes.  Instructions written inside the Rit box detail a Bucket, Stove top, and 2 Washing machine methods.  Most, if not all, can be used with the Rit liquid dyes.  During my learning process I used both the powdered and liquid Rit formulas and the Dylon powder.  I also used 4 different brands of pants.  Remember, this required two pairs of pants, one of each color.  Now I think you’re beginning to see how this can get expensive.

Let's begin.
Let’s begin.

My first attempts began with the Rit powdered dye.  The directions indicate using one dye packet per pound of clothing or 1 yard of fabric.  I wanted to ensure that the color of the pants exactly matched the color of the shirt so I decided to dye the pants and shirt together to get the hues correct.  Unfortunately this did not go as I had hoped.  First tip, make sure the dye is completely dissolved in the water.  All of the powder will eventually dissolve given enough time, and since the directions call of 30 minutes, there is plenty of time.  If, however, there is still some powder at the bottom of the water, it can discolor the fabric.

Fabric that is discolored.
Fabric that is discolored.

Just to add an extra twist to everything, this is not the only way your fabric can be discolored.  If the fabric folds or bunches up it can prevent the dye from evenly saturating the fabric.  This leads to light spots instead of dark.

Light spots
Light spots

While on the yellow pants this is all but unnoticeable, in the darker colors this becomes a glaring problem.  BUT WAIT, there’s more.  With the first attempts I used the powder.  My second attempt I used the liquid.  Couple that with the stove top method and I got a slightly different hue.  I cannot say if it was the liquid dye or the continuous application of heat that made the difference.  Even so, my technique was still shit and I still had mottling and light spots on the pants.

My attempt used new dyes and new brands of pants.  The Dylon dye did not give me a dark enough color for either the yellow or green.

Just the two on the left.
Just the two on the left.

While the color was even, it simply was not dark enough for my purposes.  Given my luck so far I didn’t think trying to redye the clothes was going to be worthwhile.

My 4th attempt is on the right in the picture above.  I returned to both the Rit powder and the bucket method.  Shit went absolutely perfectly.  I got a great color and an even distribution of color throughout.  Even so, the pants are worthless.  I chose some cheap pants to keep costs down and I ended up with cheap pants.  The washing process and time spent in the hot dye shrank the pants to the point where they no longer fit.  Go figure.

I ordered yet another set of pants to try again.  This time, great results.


There is some lightness in areas for the green pants but nothing to the point where I would discard them.

Now the part you’ve anxiously been waiting for; the actual techniques and tips that I used.

When googling the subject you’ll get some sound advice like washing the fabric without soap.  This gets out any residual chemicals or detergents that could hamper the uptake of the color.  Additionally, you want to use quality fabrics or brands.  See that whole thing about shrinking clothes above.

This process is all about getting dye INTO your clothes.  Unfortunately it will also get dye into everything else as well.  This is an incredibly messy chore and you will want to take precautions as you see fit.  Towels on the floors, plastic bags on the counters, borrowing that serial killers basement space.  Additionally, I suggest you wear something you don’t mind changing the color of in limited areas.  Because this is done in water, there will be some splashing and that means other shit is going to get wet.  Reconcile yourself with that before you wear your designer pants and shirt for this.

I started with the “stove top” method and switched to the bucket method part way through.  The instructions call of the addition of salt or vinegar depending upon what type of fabric you are dying.  Since I was just doing cotton I got to add salt.  A CUP of salt.  That’s a lot of fucking salt.  On the stove I added 2 gallons of water to a large pot and applied heat to dissolve the salt into solution.  The directions call for up to 3 gallons of water.  The extra gallon could be useful in speeding up the dissolving of the salt and dye.  It would also keep the clothes from bunching up, this means a more even color.  Of course that is also another gallon of dye water splashing all over the fucking place.

Once the dye and salt were completely dissolved I turned off the burner and moved the pot to the floor, which I had covered with towels.  This prevents coloring the floor or burning holes in it.  Either one I consider “bad”.  The directions tell you to get the clothes wet first to aid in the saturation.  When putting the clothes in the water I “rinsed” them.  Put them in and make sure the were submerged and then lifted them out and put them back in several times.  Make sure that you open up the clothes as well.  When you wet them down and then submerge them the fabric and stick together just like wet clothing sticks to skin.  This will prevent  even saturation of the material.  Open the clothes so the water can get inside and out.  After “rinsing” a couple of times submerge the clothes and try to push out as much of the air as possible.  This will help keep as much of the fabric as possible beneath the surface of the water.  Periodically, every 5-10 minutes, perform this rinsing again.  I did not follow the 30 minutes explicitly but after 3 or 4 rinses I removed the clothes.

Per the directions I washed and dried the clothes.  Naturally, you don’t want to mix the dyes in the washer so wash each color separately.  This is not too hard as you’ll probably be dying the second color while the first is in the washer.

Making sure the dye is fully dissolved and “rinsing” the clothes were key in making sure that the color fully saturated the pants and prevented additional swearing and expenses.  The method you choose, obviously, will determine how you apply these tips.  If you use a washing machine I doubt you’ll need to remove it from the stove top.




Shit people don’t tell you.

This is a big part of why I wanted to make this page.  There a lot of shit that you can google and learn on the internet.  Unfortunately, a lot of that shit is still incomplete.  I googled a lot about dying denim so that I could make sure I end up with the right hues for my costume.  Even so, there’s a lot of this process that is technique (which nobody tells you) and requires practice (which nobody tells you), not to mention having too little of the previous two items means buying more and more materials (which nobody tells you) in order to get enough of one to have the other.  Which can be pretty fucking expensive, and I think one of my google searches did mention this but I’m not sure.

Here’s some of the shit I learned in a very expensive manner.  Bleaching blue jeans is a common start to dying them a specific color.  Fair enough.  Some of the basics are common sense and some actually need to be mentioned.  Like diluting the bleach 1 part to 1 part water or 1 part bleach to 2 parts water.  Why?  Because bleach can burn holes in your clothes if it is too concentrated.  For a chemistry geek like me I didn’t need to know that but some do.  Wear gloves while you’re doing this.  Naturally we’re not talking about ski gloves.  Rubber gloves.  Most people think of rubber dish gloves.  While effective I would recommend large industrial rubber gloves.  They’ll last longer and stand up to heavier use.  You may be using them for dying, bleaching, painting, gluing, glazing, jerking off, any number of things.  Invest a couple of extra bucks and get some that are worth the investment.  The link I gave is for the Marigold site where you can buy them by the dozen, at not a bad price.  You can buy them by the pair at Grainger.  I would also recommend Grainger for any other PPE (personal protective equipment) you might need.  When working props you’ll use saws, dremels, brushes, sand paper and any number of other things so you’ll want things to protect yourself like disposable coats and safety glasses.  Having worked in chemistry labs I cannot stress safety enough.  I’ve seen people go to the hospital for the dumbest reasons and most of them because they didn’t take a second to protect themselves.  Losing an eye because you’re just going to trim something off with the dremel and won’t need the safety glasses is just stupid.  Buy a pair, wear them, live a long and happy life.  The same kind of thing is true from the gloves.  Some of the things mentioned above involve some very caustic chemicals and keeping them off of you will make the entire process much more enjoyable.  Sure the gloves, glasses and coat may be warm and uncomfortable for 15-30 minutes, but that nasty chemical burn that sends you to the emergency room in pain is going to show you what I mean.

Getting back to the bleach thing.  If you use it straight is will take the color out of your clothes quickly, and when you wash them to get the extra bleach out your clothes will literally fall apart.  Even diluted there is some technique involved in bleaching clothes.  I purchased two pairs of pants and some bleach to try just for the experience.  At $20 a pair, perhaps not my best thought out plan.  This is where that whole Love Goodwill thing comes in.  I purchased two large bottles of bleach but only used one.  In an odd spat of thriftiness I decided to reuse the bleach water from the first pair.  Somebody with more experience might know whether this is a good idea or not.  Nobody fucking told me this shit so I had to try it for myself.  The first pair of pants are on the left and the second are on the right.

Bleached pants
Bleached pants
Another picture of the exact same shit.
Another picture of the exact same shit.



The pair on the left still has some blue in them.  One of the things that was mentioned in my googling was to move the clothes around to prevent clothes from bunching up and preventing the bleach from bleaching evenly.  On the left the bleach was even but it looks almost like they were not bleached long enough.  I did leave them in longer than the 30 minutes most searches recommend.  Because I was going to dye them I wanted to make sure I had a good base to work with.  After pulling them out and putting in the second pair I noticed that the color seemed to be fading significantly faster in the second pair.  This could be an issue with the quality of the pants or even a greater concentration of bleach as water was removed from the bucket when the first pair of pants were removed.  I have no idea the actual reason.  Because of the speed the reaction was progressing I pulled the pants out quicker than I did with the first pair.  The discoloration is much more thorough in regards to the blue.  The difference, however, is that the pair on the right show some yellow discoloration.  This IS something they tell you on some of the searches.  Concentrated bleach can leave a yellowing type tint to the clothes.  As I haven’t dyed them yet I don’t know if this will effect the final color.  Because of the differences I have decided to dye the blue tinged pants with my green dye and the other pair with the much lighter yellow dye.  Once that is done I’ll post my thoughts on the effects of the bleaching and dying.

Is it possible that reusing the bleach water made a difference, absolutely.  I’m not going to go buy a couple more pairs of pants to check though.  Feel free to attempt this experiment yourself.  This is definitely and area where visiting Goodwill, buying some cheap clothes and trying it out first could save a lot of time and money.  Because of the length of this I will cover the dying technique in my next post.

Let’s start with something pretty straight forward.

One of the biggest decisions a beginning cosplayer makes is their first costume.  At first blush it makes sense.  You pick something that you love.  Something that would impress.  Something amazing!  BUT!  You also have to pick something you can actually make.  I had been thinking of doing a costume for some time and only recently decided to jump in with both feet.  Once I decided to make a costume I started thinking about what costume I was going to make.

Since this is my first I want to be one of those people that make a huge splash from the moment they appear.  You know those people like Stacy Rebecca who don one costume and suddenly they’re all over the internet?  THAT is who I wanted to be.  I wanted a big, amazing, impressive cosplay and so I looked for big, amazing, impressive subjects.  What I settled on was Songbird from Bioshock Infinite.

Tell me that wouldn’t be fucking badass!  You want to make an entrance, there it is!

And then I started looking for images to work from.  The more I found the more excited I got about the idea.  And then I started looking for  materials and techniques I would need to use.  That’s where it all fell down.  First of all, leather is fucking expensive.  I don’t know why, it’s just dead cow.  Given how much beef we eat and waste in this country, there should be a leather surplus.  They should be giving you your Big Mac in a leather bag.  To paraphrase the comedian Bill Kirchenbauer;

They’re not even that hard to kill.  They run around in a pen.  Moo, moo, oh moo.  BANG!  You’re a hat.

But it is.  It’s also a huge pain in the ass to work with.  That’s the real reason that leather products are so expensive.  Just looking at what was going to be required in terms of the amount of leather, special tools to cut, sew and mold the leather, I was already getting frustrated.  Not to mention rethinking the notion of even doing a cosplay.

Another thing to keep in mind when making the decision on what to create is your own skill level.  For example, I learned to sew in middle school so I’ve got at least a little experience in sewing.  Unfortunately middle school was about 30 fucking years ago so that little experience is probably more of a liability because I can delude myself into thinking I can do anything because I already know how to sew.  Yeah, right.  Realize that some of the things you will have to do to create this costume  is going to require learning new skills and just like any skill, when you start things are going to look like shit.  Practice and things will get better.  All of the established cosplayers have been honing their skills for years and it shows in the quality of the work they produce.  There is only one way to get 25 years of experience.  Keep working on it and you’ll get there as well, just don’t expect it to happen over night.  With that in mind pick early costumes that will cater to the skills you have and minimize the skills you need to improve.  Another example is the fact that I have settled on a costume that has minimal props.  Some of the cosplays you see are heavy on props like armor and weapons.  While I am incredibly imaginative, my dexterity is not even a distant second skill wise.  I know that props are going to take incredibly time, effort and patience for me.  So I am starting out accordingly.  My first costume is sewing intensive but prop light.  Giving me the opportunity to revive a skill I already have, improve it and create something that will keep me interested in cosplaying in the future.

As I mentioned previously, this is not the kind of thing you see on the Big Wigs pages because they’ve moved past all of this.  If you get the chance to talk to them, undoubtedly, this is the kind of advice they’ll give.  But on their pages the have the skill sets and experience to take any suggestion and make it reality.  We’ll get to that point but for now lets work on what we can do and worry about what we’ll eventually do later.

Be honest with yourself and your skill sets when making the decision on what to cosplay first.  If you’re one hell of a painter then perhaps a prop heavy costume will very little sewing is a good idea.  If you’re in amazing shape, something with less fabric might be in order, just try not to be the guy who picks a cosplay just so that he can show off his physique.  Sewing is a skill I actually have so I am working on a cosplay that requires more than a little sewing.  Play to your strengths and keep your enthusiasm alive.  This is supposed to be about having fun.

First post

We will start by making it clear that this blog is going to be oriented towards cosplayers and beginning cosplayers at that.  Why?  Because I’m a beginning cosplayer myself and hopefully some of these insights will help other beginners avoid some of the frustrations that I have enjoyed.  Why have I been frustrated about some things?  Because nobody created a blog to help me with shit that I didn’t know already.

Like most of you (beginning cosplayers) I’ve been following several well established cosplayers like Abbey Darkstar, Nicole Marie JeanCara Nicole, Ani-Mia, Jessica Nigri, Yaya Han and Rosanna Rocha.  All great people and worth following.  Additionally, they all make this shit look easy.  Why do I bring this up?  Because the last thing a new cosplayer needs is a false sense of simplicity.  As I am finding out, and hopefully will be imparting to you rapidly, this shit takes some work and can be frustrating as hell.  By posting my misadventures here, hopefully, we can minimize your misadventures and frustration.  This means more fun, more cosplays and more winning lottery tickets.

One thing to remember is that all of the cosplayers that I mentioned above, while great people, will not be of much help to you. Don’t get me wrong, they would love to help you out.  But the fact is there are just not enough hours in the day for them to respond to every email, instant message, or facebook poke they receive.  Remember, for every honest question about how to sew this, dye that or paint X, they receive 1000 messages about their boobs.  How big are they, can I see them, are they real, etc.  Plus, and this may come as a shock to some of you, they have lives of their own.  This is not the ONLY thing they do, hell, for some it’s not even their real job!  Because of this they don’t have the time to get back to your questions or give you pointers or google something for you.  They learned all of this the same way that I am, trial and error.  While you see some progress pics, you’re not likely to see posts about what to do and how to do it to minimize frustration.  They don’t have time for that.  I’ve read some of them mention putting together cosplays in a single day!  Most of them can open their closets and put together costumes that would not embarrass them at a convention.  Like something right out of The Professional.  Since they have a life and I don’t, I’m going to help you out with this shit.

One of the first things you will need to wrap your head around is that this is going to be fucking expensive.  One way of keeping those costs down is by doing as much of the shit as you can by yourself.  But that comes with its own set of shit to deal with.  For example, sewing costumes.  Just like anything else that involves skill or technique, it also requires practice.  Additionally there are start up costs.  These are never mentioned by those that are established because, they’re already established.  I thought we had established that.  Establish.  What does this mean to you?  Unless you’re going to sew all of your costumes by hand you’ll need a sewing machine.  I’d been toying with the idea of buying one for years so that I could mend and sew my own shit, cosplay is just a convenient excuse.  The Singer sewing machine that I bought was hardly the most expensive, in fact, it’s probably pretty close to the bottom of the list.  And it still cost $140.  Plus thread, bobbins, pins, replacement needles, fabric, and so on and fucking so on.  There are also other little things you need to take into consideration with these start up costs.  You’ll need a stable desk or table for the sewing machine.  The folding card table I put mine on to begin with bounced around so much that I couldn’t get a straight seem to save my life.  All I wanted was a straight line sewing two pieces of fabric together, no such luck.  So I had to go out and BUY a new desk.  Since I wanted to save some money I decided to dye the pants and shirts the right colors.  Dyes, start up cost.  Large fucking pot to dye the clothes in, start up costs.  Pants and shirts, start up costs.  Of course next time I won’t have to buy the pot, sewing machine or the desk but it still cost more than a couple of bucks to begin with.

First tip, learn to love Goodwill.  This is one of the few tips you could get from the Big Wigs.  I, having a good job, wanted quality materials for my first cosplay.  I am trying to get some of the more established cosplayers to do a shoot with me so I want a debut costume that will stand up next to them.  Because of this I purchased online.  Because, you know, cheaper.  Even so I have spent over $400 on pants and I STILL have not gotten far enough to start working on that part of the costume!  That’s right, still not far enough along to consider that ready.

Another reason to love Goodwill that ties directly into saving money and one of the items I mentioned earlier, practice.  Sewing requires skill, dying fabric requires the right technique, not stabbing yourself with a needle requires a bit of both.  Going back to why I have spent so much on pants, no practice.  Technique comes directly from practice.  The first set of pants I dyed were mottled and streaked because I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing (a dedicated post coming on that later).  Buy some cheap shit from Goodwill and practice on that before you try it on your limited resources.  The same goes for sewing.  Rather than start with sewing costume parts I sewed myself a simple convention bag.  Something to hold my photo sleeves, purchased items and whatever general shit I happen upon.  An incredibly simple design that gave me some confidence that I won’t run my hand through the machine like every shop teacher you’ve ever hand in high school.

Next tip, give yourself time to do all of this.  And I mean practice, buy what you need, design the costume and put it together.  As I mentioned, the people who have been doing it for years can slap shit together and look fantastic.  You can’t do that!  Figure out what you need, how you’re going to do it, whether it’s feasible, then think about buying and practicing.  Remember, time flows like water.  It’s incredibly difficult to hold on to and before you know it, it’s gone.  Not being rushed is going to be one of the best defenses against frustration.

I’m going to wrap this long ass post up by reminding you that you have a couple of choices.  Take your time and learn to do this right or you can pick up that playstation controller and do something meaningful with your life.  If I can help you out I will certainly try.  At the very least I hope to keep you pointing and laughing.