Thursday, November 21, 2013

Onwards with the sound of her wings

After big projects I usually make a statement to my friends and family that I’m going to have a vacation from costume making… Who am I kidding here! Every time I make that promise, I’m back at our workshop few days later! Before I tried to redirect or suppress my urge to make something, but now I think I’m at a point that I don’t even want to fight against it. For me, creativity is just something that keeps me going and makes me happy! So yes, me and my sewing machine have had quality time together during past weekends!

Ten years ago I dressed up for penkkarit, which is a traditional masquarade when you are on your last year at upper secondary school in Finland. I didn’t know about cosplay back then, but the basic idea was the same; I was portraying a certain character from certain comic issue with clothes, props and make-up.

As a teenager I read a lot of fantasy literature and somehow found Neil Gaiman and the comics he wrote. And I totally and utterly fell in love with the character of Death in a form of perky gothic girl. Back then I dressed up as casual Death with jeans and tank top, which is her best know outfit. I was so proud of the costume, even if no one except my friends recognized me. I actually didn’t sew the clothes, because I didn’t have much experience or skills back then. Instead I bought white jeans and dyed them black, because apparently back jeans were really hard to find… Borrowed boots and tophat from my friend, altered a tank top and bought an umbrella. Sadly, I have no photos from the get up. Probably it’s better that way, since there is a high change that time plays its tricks with me and the costume was an utter disaster!

Ten years have passed since my first portrayal of a fictional character. Because I’m still in love with Neil Gaiman, The Sandman and endearing Death, I thought what would be a better idea than to take a second round with her. And now that new volumes are published, I couldn’t have chosen a better time!

Make-up test with white cream make-up and a random black wig.

This time I wanted to make more complex outfit from Death’s wardrobe and chose the formal wear from Season of Mists. The outfit includes a tulle skirts, a blouse with corset and satin gloves.

It was nice to make a corset for a change! I patterned it so that it has some traits of corsets made in 1700’s with flat bust and shoulder straps. The references I gathered shows that Death’s corset has lacing on front. I wanted to make my version so that it would be laced from the back. I wanted my corset to be more of amanipulative one and with back lacing it would be easier to tighten. As a result of this reasoning I made the lacing on the back and a fake lacing on the front. All those eyelets and my fingers… Outch!

With the shirt I made something that I have sworn not to do ever again! I layered organza with another type of fabric. I do like the look, but organza is just so annoying to sew and more so with a material that acts totally different! It’s just nerve-racking! After few seams it fortunately started to be manageable and in the end I had a sheer blouse with organza and fine dotted tulle on top. I covered some old buttons with cotton and stretch satin to match the shirt and hand-sewed the decorative sequin ribbon on the front.

The skirt is still unfinished, because I underestimated how much tulle I actually need to achieve the look from the comic. I think I've used about 6 meters now and I'm still counting.

Next to clothes I’ve made the string of pearls she has on her hip and the necklace. I actually will redo the ankh, because… Well, I tried to use Worbla to make it, but apparently I do not know how to work the material to make it look reasonably good. I probably will try my luck with Fimo. I’m positive that it will be a better choice, since I have some knowledge about it.

The wig is the only component I haven't started yet. I have a reasonably good base wig for the purpose, but Death's updo requires some drastic changes on the forehead. I will finally be able to try making a lace front wig and that is something I'm really looking forward to!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Finishing touches

After the qualifiers to ECC it was clear to me that I would definitely compete with Amira at the finals. But I also knew that I needed to upgrade the costume. I myself had found few flaws on it and after discussing with the judges, I knew what I should place under the magnifying glass.

Photograph: Yoki/ Casualty Cosplay

First thing I wanted to fix was the jewelry. I had little experience with Fimo and other polymer clays prior to Amira, so I naturally chose the wrong paints. Now I know that you shouldn’t choose paints with solvents in them, because they will soften the clay and make it feel tacky and it will never really dry out. This creates the problem at least for me, since all the nice metallic finish paints have some sort of solvent in them. I tried to look for chrome acrylic paints and then just metal acrylics, but nothing fitted my image of the final color.

Thankfully I went to an art store and after discussing with the seller, I ended up trying out something she proposed; I first paint the jewelry with gesso, then acrylic paint with metal powder in it. The gesso and the acrylic paint created a protective cocoon for the clay. And finally I applied metal miniature paint by brushing it very gently to the surface. The seller had advised me to use as little pressure as possible so that the strong miniature paint would not break through the acrylic paint. And it worked!

Also to add some more “real” to the jewelry, I asked my Russian friends for small change coins, Kopecks to use on the amulet and the necklace. Earlier, I had made the coins from Fimo, but I really wanted them to jingle when I move. Using real coins made the jewelry heavier, but this only meant that I had to use stronger thread on them.

Next thing I started was the boots. The first ones were made of pleather and they didn’t have a base shoe inside, which is equivalent to poorly supported feet. I still had the old shoes on at Tracon and after a day walking around in them, I really wanted to make new ones.

I had my doubts with pleather earlier, but I was running out of time before the qualifiers so I had little choice left. I chose pleather since the color scheme was close to the references and it was rather easy to work on. For the new boots I chose wool as the main material. It felt a lot more authentic and would enable same type of appliqué technique as pleather.

I found the perfect shade of jacket wool for the dark, mud colored parts. With the light blue sections I had to cheat a bit and use polyester-viscose felt, which I dyed the same way people dye their wigs. I was hesitant that regular cloth dye would not work, even if the felt was a viscose mix. We happened to hace this perfect colored tube of marker fluid lying around, which was meant to use years back to dye Clef’s wig with. The cosplay never happened, but now at least the dye served its purpose.

For the base shoe I chose a regular women’s walking shoe. I cut out the tip of the shoe and made new one from felt to make it more flat and also to give the sole a small curve. Then I took a carpet knife and started to slice to the heel to more “boot like”. The heel of the shoe was really distinctively shaped for a walking shoe, as it spread out on the bottom and was over all really bulky looking. It was also too high compared to the reference. The easy solution was to attach the boot cover so that about two centimeters of the heel was left visible and three centimeters were hidden inside as a build-on hidden heel.

I made few alterations to the boots based on the old design. For example I patterned the tip of the shoe differently and made few tweaks on the design also. I have made boot covers earlier and the problem was always how to finish the edges. I finally seemed to solve it!

After the edges of the cover were turned and glued over to the bottom of the sole, I took a piece of real leather and cut it to fit. At this point I cleaned the sole from dirt and dust, spread glue evenly and pressed the piece of leather on place. This neatens the raw edges of the boot cover, hides the modern looking pattern on the sole and is also good materials choice to use since it’s not slippery and will also look good!

I also worked on the skirt a bit to make it bit more finalized. I dug up every piece of linen I had left from the skirt and made bias tape from it. I used the bias to hide the stitch marks inside the hem of the skirt. This was really small deed to make during few evenings in front og the TV, yet it impressed few lovely people on backstage; “You even made bias!” And I was smiling stupidly and squeaking, because I was so happy that someone noticed it! Thank you for that!

Next to working with already existing pieces of clothing, I made something completely new also! I had made the underwear for the qualifiers, but if you have read the manga you painfully know that something is missing… The socks! I was ahead of the schedule at one point, so I decided to try to make them. I kind of knew that I was crazy to even start them, but then again I was so madly in love with the gossamer silk jersey I had purchased and the red and white silk threads and… Yes, it was madness!

I actually had the socks on to-do list for the qualifiers. I’m actually glad that I didn’t make them back then, since I only found the perfect material after the competition. I also think that embroidery is now lot easier for me and that if something was required for that type of fine fabric. It took me about two to three evenings to make the embroidery and few hours to put the socks together and I truly think that they are really nice touch to the costume! I could walk around in them forever, because the material is just so freaking pleasant!

This particular costume is now more or less finished. I'm still hoping that I can get a location shoot organized sometime in the future, because I would really like some sheeps to go with the costume! But for now, after a year, I can direct my attention towards new costumes which naturally have piled up now. I will surely use the costume in concentions to come, because and due to the working hours and crafting it's really comfortable and easy to wear and it's my favorite costume I've ever made... And needless to say, I love the character!