A Little Costume Positivity

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Cosplay has really exploded these past few years. Famous people do it, people have made professional careers out of it and there are some people who literally just make costumes or props, which is awesome! Sadly a lot of people, either with less skill or people who are simply new to making costumes, get deflated with their early attempts when compared to these professionals, or more experienced cosplayers. Got to admit that I’m guilty of this: my Facebook is full of cosplay groups with epic costumes, my Instagram shows awesome armour builds and weapons and even Pinterest has started throwing “make better costume” pages at me on a regular basis, which leaves me feeling a little crummy about my own costumes. This leads to the inevitable scrapping of ideas, pushing them back in the hope that I’ll magically learn that skill or asking people on a frequent basis how my costume looks (or, rather, how I look in it, which is the big worry). Sorry bout that friends!

This is why articles like this fill me with small, fuzzy feelings, because all the good cosplayers had to start somewhere: http://www.sharemycosplay.com/2016/10/19/share-my-cosplay-everyone-starts-somewhere/

It’s pretty much common sense that everyone starts somewhere, no matter what you’re doing, but when you see more good pictures than bad it’s kind of hard not to feel a little self-doubt.

On the plus side, pretty much anything I make from this point on will be better than the first costume I ever wore to a Comic Con, which is honestly an insult to the lady I went as….

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out how to wear wigs properly and get ready for London MCM in 10 DAYS!!! (50% hype, 50% terror I think).

Cosplay 02: The Always-Lovely Zatanna Zatara (a.k.a I needed a reason to wear my Top Hat)

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Wow, so I’m not exactly sure what happened on the Internet yesterday but somehow we managed to get 40 views! In one day! (Hey, it’s a big record for a site with basically very little on it!) It’s an extremely small start, but it’s definitely something!

On the slight high from that good news, I’m reasonably proud to show off my second costume: Zatanna Zatara! Despite my original worries, she’s actually been pretty easy to put together (the hardest parts were the ‘pants’ and finding a decent wig that wasn’t cheap or blue, but more on that in a little bit). Zatanna is a kick-ass stage magician and actual magician, who can cast spells by speaking words and sentences backwards. She was a great choice for me not only because I conveniently had a Top Hat hanging around in my wardrobe, but also because my dad was a pretty awesome Stage Magician and Entertainer too! (Little known fact there).

After a lot of research I decided to go with this version of her costume (a more classic look I’d say):

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The outfit composes of:

  • Black tailed-jacket (a Ringmaster jacket works perfectly here)
  • White long sleeved shirt
  • Waistcoat (I went with a black one for now as white was a real problem to find)
  • Bowtie (I chose black to compliment the waistcoat, plus I already owned one)
  • Black Top Hat
  • White gloes
  • Black ‘pants’/bottoms
  • Fishnets
  • Boots/heels/flats of your choice (depending on your comfort level I guess?) – For my version I’m wearing a pair of black heels I already own, with flats as a backup for when they inevitably kill my feet!
  • Black wig

Funny how much of that I already owned. The Black Ringmaster jacket I bought from eBay (ended up going to 2 sellers as the first never showed) and the gloves were bought from a costume shop. The hardest part to buy was probably the bottoms – in this version she basically wears a leotard underneath (that’s the closest way I could describe it) and there’s no way in HELL I’m walking around with my butt out that much. I eventually found some black waist-shaping shorts that went over the shirt nicely and didn’t look too bad for a first version.

My new wig also showed up today, which looks pretty good although I’ll need to sort the bangs out and get used to wearing it inside! All that’s left really are sorting out the props, and I already own a wand.

Ready for a picture? Everyone say Abra Kadabra now…. 😀

Ignore the red face and derpy pose! >_< The second is the new wig I got today, which looks a lot better and is nowhere near as tangled. See what I mean about the fringe though?

Anyway I like it, Zatanna is awesome and I get to wear my Top Hat in public! Hopefully there will be some better pictures come October time…

As usual leave me a comment if you want, or if you’d like to know where I got anything from 🙂

Mass Effect M-8 Avenger Assault Rifle Build

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I’ve had a LOT of free time lately and, after scouring Pinterest a bit too much, decided to do something productive and give making foam props a try! What can I say, making my own costumes is giving me a whole bunch of new skills (and injuries, but more on that soon). While I’m waiting for the finishing touches for Moxxi and Supergirl, I decided to make a prop for another costume on my wishlist – the M-8 Avenger Assault Rifle. First off let me say that I REALLY underestimated how much detail went into this gun (seriously if I hear the word “bevelling” after this, I might snap) – so let’s give a big round of applause to the modelling team over at Bioware!

So here’s my first-ever foam crafted weapon so far!!! (Drumroll please…)

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Ain’t she Shiny?!

I’ve actually done quite a bit more work on it since this point: I’ve finished adding the details to the handle itself (out of lovely coloured foam), I’ve managed to score most of the detail into the sides and round the shapes off a little bit more, and (most importantly) the gun actually has a TRIGGER and BARRELS!!! WAHOO!!!

I carved it out of a piece of housing insulation foam (scrap – don’t worry, I didn’t take apart my house for this or anything…) and then spent an excruciatingly long time shaping it with sanding paper. To get the correct thickness for the base shape I actually cut it out twice and glued it together – this is something I will definitely change with my next project, because getting the two layers completely level has been a real pain! The details were all etched in by a combination of sand-paper, craft knives and metal files, and I used extra foam pieces to add anything that extruded from the base model! The vents were added with foam and are glued into place – I thought this was easier than trying to carve the by hand, considering how precise they are!

Oh something I should add at this point actually: the entire thing was done by hand, no tools!! (Something I’m actually proud of, considering I REALLY disliked Design & Technology back in school…) True, it means that the edges aren’t precise like a tool might create, and it’s caused more problems than probably necessary, but I happen to enjoy using 10 fingers and have a distrust of tools.

Ok, let’s have some progress shots!!!

It’s not perfect, I agree with you there. And it’s obviously nowhere near finished yet! Currently it’s sitting on my freezer drying with it’s first coat of Mod Podge (also the first time I’ve ever used this, but so far it hasn’t impressed me…) My next task is to try and sand everything level, straight and into the right shapes ready for a few sealing coats and then (eventually) painting!!

It’s not perfect, which kind of irritates me, but I’m pretty impressed with how it’s turned out! (If you don’t believe me just check my social media profiles, which have been flooded with progress pics – sorry friends!) Here’s to progress!!! So what do you think? Anyone have any experience with making foam props…?

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Mad Moxxi: Belt And Holster

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Borderlands 2 Banner

Here’s a little factoid for you: I freaking LOVE Borderlands. I love everything about the series, from the gorgeous cel-shaded artstyle to the crazy characters. And the ladies in Borderlands are pretty badass, none more so than Mad Moxxi, the Hostess of The Underdome and owner of far too many bars. She’s sassy, she’s crazy and she doesn’t take trouble from anyone. I decided that I HAD to cosplay her at some point (I worked at a bar at the time, which seemed perfect!), so I scoured the internet and bought myself a competitively-priced purple Mad Moxxi outfit from Borderlands 2. It was gorgeous and, at the time, perfect. I never actually got the chance to wear it.

I’ve been working on fixing up my Mad Moxxi for 3 years now, but never really made much progress. After almost finishing my Supergirl costume (and seeing how well that turned out when I put my mind to it) I decided enough was enough, and that the sultry Moxxi had to come out and play eventually. I say fixxing up because the costume is actually pretty terrible, and had a lot of inaccuracies. I decided to start with two of the easier parts: Moxxi’s holster and belt.

Mad Moxxi’s Holster:

The costume I bought came with a pleather thing that I’m pretty sure was meant to be the holster. It wasn’t bad, but it was extremely unstable and I wanted to use it as a bad for while I was out and about in costume (anyone who knows Moxxi knows she doesn’t exactly have a lot of pockets…)

At first I wanted to make the material sturdier, so I sewed some card along each internal side, which helped to stop the material from folding together. I then wanted to work on reshaping it a bit, and decided to use some lightweight foam to redesign the outsides (I used kids crafting foam from a £1 shop for this). I superglued it to the outside of the material, and then glued the edges together around it. For the moment I have only covered the front, sides and back (the bottom is still purely material).

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I only encountered one problem doing this: material bunches, which resulted in a slightly wonky edge on one of the holster sides (you can see it in the middle picture if you look closely). Luckily it wasn’t anything too major, and was fixed by adding a tiny piece of foam to cover the gap. I also made sure to leave room for the belt loop (which was actually a little pointless, but more on that later!)

I’m still not that used to documenting my entire process yet, so unfortunately I didn’t get many pictures of me painting the design layer by layer, but basically:

  1. Starting with the front cover, I coated the black material in a medium grey acrylic paint. I think I’m developing a new fondness for acrylic paints, since it not only spread well but dried perfectly!
  2. I mixed up a light grey and added the lighter detailing a little bit at a time. I also mixed up some mid grey and dabbed it around the edges, to make it look less like I splotched a light paint on it and more like a gradual cel-shade fade.
  3. Once this was completely dry, I used a black Sharpie to add the cel-shading detail. This included the black outline, the heart and kisses and the holster name: Ruby. This was then highlighted with an extremely thin paintbrush and white acrylic paint, to complete the cel-shading detail.
  4. Rinse and repeat for the sides (the back is still black for the moment!)

Once that was all done, it looked a little something like this:

Holster complete

Proud as pop with how that turned out! In fact, let’s have some side-by-side pictures!

Before and after

Before and after: the left is what I paid a fair bit of money for, and the right is the finished altered holster!

Side by side 1

Side by side comparison with my reference image.

I know that the actual shape isn’t right for 100% accuracy, but I’m pretty happy with the finished square holster for the moment! I’m thinking of adding a little pocket inside to keep my phone in so I can use it to carry my daily essentials while walking around, so that’s going to be interesting!

With the holster done (for the moment) it’s time to move on to….

Moxxi’s Belt and Pain-In-The-Butt-Buckle:

The belt itself was pretty easy. I managed to find a wide white leather belt in a charity shop (only cost £2.50) and painted it Moxxi’s brown using acrylic paints. I painted both sides, even though the back was a horrid material, so that the belt would be brown from any angle! I also touched up the edges a few times, to make sure everything looked A-OK.

Once the brown dried I grabbed my trusty black Sharpie and marked out where I wanted the lighter patches to go, as well as starting to add the cel-shading detail (like the outside black lines). I let this sit for a bit before mixing up some pale yellow and adding the lighter patches – at the moment it didn’t matter about going over the edges of the black because I planned to do another layer anyway!

I then added in the highlights with white paint and my extremely thin brush, and finished it off by going over the black detailing two more times (to make sure it was nice and dark). Maybe twice was a bit overkill, but it looks AWESOME.

It was at this point that I realised the belt wouldn’t actually fit through my old belt loop! I fixed this by using some of the old pleather from the original belt (which was black and extremely boring). I measured how much room I’d need, added in a few cms for extra movement and sewed the material in place (and only stabbed myself with the needle a handful of times). It fit together perfectly!

The buckle is the one part I’m still not happy with. I wanted to make a quick version that I could use for the moment, so I glued 3 layers of foam together and shaped it to resemble my reference images. I then painted it dark grey and used the Sharpie to draw on the triangle patterns (the internal pattern was left until last). I detailed the ‘metal’ using shades of light grey and white acrylic, and painted the inner portion a light blue. Finally I traced the geometric design and added it using a fine-liner.

I’ve read that a few people made the buckle using clay and painted it, which seemed to work pretty well, so maybe I’ll give this a try at a later date? For now let’s take a look when everything is put together:

I enjoyed making this so much that I might make more cel-shade belts, just for the heck of it! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading how I made the belt and holster (and I really hope you like the finished work, I’m extremely proud in case you haven’t noticed!) If anyone has any tips on how to improve the buckle I would really appreciate them! For now it’s time to move on to tougher parts…

 

Cosplay 01: How I Made My Supergirl Costume

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With a strangely-increasing amount of free time on my hands, I decided to do something productive and start working on my EPIC list of costumes (currently sitting at just over 30…yikes!) After watching CBS’s Supergirl I decided that start with my favourite Lady Kryptonian, and so far she’s the first costume that I’ve pulled together from scratch! So here’s how I made my Supergirl costume:

Starting with the basics:

My sewing abilities aren’t exactly thrilling, so the thought of making myself a skirt and leotard/shirt kind of made my blood run cold. Instead I slightly cheated and bought a red skater skirt and a royal blue leotard (I really want to work on the top at some point, to make it a lot closer to the CBS Supergirl version rather than regular Supergirl, but it works for now!)

I also bought myself a yard of red stretchy material (to make the cape) and, after scouring the internet and shops for weeks, a black belt that I would later colour gold. I didn’t realise how scarce gold or yellow belts really were, until this anyway…

Creating the S Logo:

I made the S logo on the front of her top using Fabric Paints. I’ve seen versions that were sewn on, and some were shirt transfers, but I already owned these and it seemed pretty easy!

After creating a prototype logo out of paper, I taped the design onto the fabric using masking tape. Once it was all in place I gave it a final try (to double check the logo’s size) and started with the red. For this I used Dylon Fabric Paints and several different brushes (make sure you have a flat-edged brush for the edges). Each paint layer needed to be sealed before the next could go on, and it took about 5 layers to make the red really pop on the blue fabric. I know, crazy using red to go over blue, but I’m a determined person! Once this was done and sealed I used Dylon Dark Fabric Yellow paint for the outside part – because this is designed for use on darker fabrics it took less layers to achieve the colour I wanted, only 3 at the moment. Then I just had to seal that with heat and voila – one Supergirl logo!

Since then I’ve tried it on a few times and the paint has started to crack a little bit, but it’s nothing that can’t be touched up.

My final adjustment to the shirt was to add two hoops of elastic at my wrists so that it would loop around my thumb. The shirt was a little too long and moved a bit, so these help it stay in place a lot better.

Creating The Cape:

At first I considered buying a pre-made cape, but the existing Supergirl ones were mostly either ridiculously short or dubbed as ‘sexy’. Instead I found a pretty awesome Superman cape tutorial and adapted it to Supergirl’s slimmer design (well, mostly adapted anyway, but more on that later!) You can find the original tutorial here, so thank you mystery person on the Internet! The cape, as previously mentioned, was made from a stretchy red fabric and measured to the bottom of my knees (I’m 5’5″ for reference), so a yard was plenty of material.

Unfortunately I didn’t take too many pictures during the cape-creation process, but it basically went like this:

  1. I measured my teeny-tiny shoulders and cut out a shoulder/neck line.
  2. I created folds in the top of the cape that would shape it and create the wavy folded design.
  3. After LOTS of adjusting and stabbing myself with pins, I sewed this basic cape shape onto a strap of black elastic – this was my harness and where my buckle attached for easier release! (Again thanks mystery Internet guy for that part – it was a real choking-saver!)
  4. I used some leftover red material to cover the elastic that people would see, and also to cover the edges of the folds, making a neat cape collar.
  5. Everything in this project is hand-sewn, including all the hems on the cape – probably the most time consuming task, but it looks pretty good!
  6. The folds were then padded out with the inside lining of a small quilt – the tutorial said it would hold them in place for pictures and, basically, make them look more epic. It really did! (Despite the many injuries this part caused).

At the moment I still have to put some red material over the white padding, but other than that it’s finished! One thing I didn’t really think about is that SG’s cape is different to Superman’s – it’s much thinner in design and seems to come from two points (like it would connect in a V on your front) rather than over the shoulders, so this took a little more fiddling to get it looking better. We can’t all get everything right with a first project, right?

Supergirl’s Belt:

To date I’ve made 3 versions of this belt, and the third version was by far the best. I bought a slightly too-long black leather belt and snipped the buckle off. After measuring myself and making a brilliant paper-version (primarily for the V-angle at the front) I transferred that to the leather belt and cut both ends at an angle, so that they fit together as a V. These were then super-glued together, and back cut open so that it fit around my waist.

To make it gold I first removed the shine and top layer by using methylated spirits – you only need a TINY amount and just brush it over the top quite quickly. Once that was dry I painted it using gold spray-paint (simply because where I live has no craft shops and it was designed to be flexible). I used a generic brand and it covered the black smoothly with 1 coat, and I finished it with a coat of sealant once everything was dry.

Finally the belt needed a way to attach together: at the moment I have it holding together with a section of velcro running across the back. It’s quick, simple and works well even if I’m moving. I additionally added some extra velcro to the sides of the belt and the corresponding area on the skirt – this would hold the entire belt in place while I’m walking around and hopefully help it stay during pictures.

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The belts drying – the bottom belt was a little battered and the paint didn’t take too well, so I used this as a test for the angles.

Shiny Red Boots…:

The final massive part of her costume were the red boots, and they were probably the worst part of this project. I spent a long time scouring the Internet and shops for red boots, and eventually moved to other colours in the hopes of painting them. I found some perfect black boots online – they even had the over-the-knee part similar to Riding Boots, and only cost £10! Bargain! They were black, so I ended up trying to paint those too.

I eventually settled with Neopaque Red leather paint which not only looked awesome but promised to work on leather and synthetic leather without issue. I followed the same steps as my leather belt: prep it with spirits to remove the sheen and then paint it a layer at a time, allowing ample time to dry between each coat. The boots currently sit on 3 coats and don’t look too bad, apart from the glaring fact that they’re more of a pink than red…. It honestly bugs me more than it probably should, and I’m looking at using another red paint to go over the top and give them the Crimson finish they deserve. Once that’s all done though, I’ll finish it with a sealant and BOOM! Supergirl boots are a GO!

That’s pretty much it! I still have work to do on the boots, but once that’s done I only need the blonde wig and to add some blue tights and it’s all sorted. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, for my first made-from-scratch costume. Now to wear it out and see how it goes!!! 😀 Hopefully this will help people if you’re looking how to build your own Supergirl costume.

Thanks for reading! 😀

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