Monday, 15 February 2016

Deadpool Was Awesome - But I'm Dreading the Cosplayers. Here's Why.

With Deadpool at Event Cinemas George St earlier this month.

I'm not going to review Deadpool. It was a much better movie than I had been expecting and gave the character some of the depth he so often lacks. I enjoyed it.

But as I left the cinema I realised that the biggest problem with this movie's release is likely to be the resurgence in Deadpool cosplayers at conventions. Let me put a disclaimer here, because I know someone out there will accuse me of saying the opposite without actually reading this:

Everyone should always be able to cosplay as whomever and whatever they want.

And that includes Deadpool. The reason I'm so concerned about a resurgence of Deadpool cosplayers is that my experiences with many of them in the past have been less than positive. Most cosplayers understand that being in costume does not give you free rein to act like an asshole - even if the character they're cosplaying is an asshole themselves. People cosplaying as the Wicked Witch don't go around trying to take people's shoes or throwing fireballs at scarecrows. Why is it that so many Deadpool cosplayers seem to think that rubbing their junk on people is not only acceptable but amusing? It's not. You're not in a movie. The world does not revolve around you. The audience is not giggling at you pretending to teabag someone. You're just being a dick.

This is where the danger of seeing "cosplay" as including acting like a character comes in. It's all well and good to genuinely pretend to be a Disney princess the whole time you're in the costume. A Batman cosplayer who runs around "saving" people and chucking foam batarangs around may be a bit of a laugh. Until one of the batarangs clips someone in the eye. But while one character's personality may be totally acceptable in polite society, many more are not. Which brings me to my next big, bold, underlinged and italicised point:

Being in costume does not give you a free pass to be an asshole. Ever.

Part of the awesome power of cosplay is being able to spend a few hours as someone else. A character you love or admire. One you connect with. But it's important to remember that you are still responsible for your actions, good and bad, when you're in costume.

Deadpool seems to be one of those characters some people cosplay as just because they want the opportunity to act like a dick. People like that have given so many wonderful, considerate cosplayers a bad name. Not all Deadpool cosplayers are assholes, but the ones that are have been so predominant in the Sydney convention scene that I can't help feeling a little bit of resentment whenever a red and black suit passes by. I'm certain that in time I will get over that. But I'm not sure that the general public, being assualted by a hoarde of assholes dressed as Deadpool and calling themselves cosplayers, will care to.

Don't give us all a bad name. If your behaviour wouldn't be acceptable in normal clothing, it's not acceptable in cosplay either.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Good News! - The Making of Glinda the Good

Last year I set out to create the biggest, most ridiculous cosplay I'd ever attempted. I had been lucky enough to see Wicked three times. Each viewing I saw the bubble dress and thought I have to make that.

So finally I did. I started where I always do with my cosplays - by researching. And researching. And then researching some more. Musical theatre costumes are always tricky because there are differences between each production. I decided that rather than stick to one production, I'd do what they really do in theatre costuming and take elements that work best for me and my body.

Once I'd pulled together pages and pages of reference photos, videos and quotes, I began ordering supplies. Starting with sequins. Literally thousands of sequins.
Then I took out a roll of calico fabric and began to draft my skirt. I knew it would be made of dozens of petals in varying sizes, each with three layers of fabric. I had to work out exactly how many petals I needed and how much fabric I'd have to buy. To do this, I cut out a huge number of petal shapes and pinned them to one of my old hoop skirts.
 Once I'd worked out exactly how much fabric I needed, I set out constructing my first petals. A layer of satin covered by a layer of organza with a smattering of sequins hand-sewn over the top.
What took two sentences to explain in fact took many, many nights of sitting in front of the computer marathoning TV shows and sewing till my fingers cramped. Once these first layers of petals were done, a second layer of organza was applied and followed up with yet another layer of hand sewn sequins.
 This process took roughly three months to complete, allowing for breaks taken in between to work on other cosplays, go overseas and generally live a life outside of sequins. To go underneath the petals (and to give them something to hang from) I created a basic satin skirt in a similar colour to the final look of the petals. This was finished with french seams and hemmed. The back fastened with a zipper, which created a problem with petal placement as several needed to cover the place where the zipper opened. This was solved by joining those petals together and applying an industrial strength press stud to one side of the skirt so that the petals could be opened and closed like a flap over the zip.
I then moved onto the bodice. I hate making bodices. Getting a fit that is perfect is something that I find incredibly hard to achieve for my shape. This was my original attempt:
Not enough panels, which resulted in the incorrect shape. The fabric pulled in all the wrong ways. It just... ugh. Was not working. So, in defeat, I called upon the wonderful Lady Laurabell.
Laura is amazing. Not only a huge fan of Wicked herself, she had also spent the last years of her life devoted to learning the ins and outs of costuming in real, genuine tertiary education. The kind you study at an actual school. Her creations are outstanding. She took pity on me (self-taught, basic lazy cosplayer as I am) and spent a whole day helping me drape a pattern for a new bodice and directing exactly how it should be completed. This is the stage it was at when she left for the night:

Much better. I completed it by adding boning to each seam (it could probably have used more), lining it and finishing the back with a chunky open ended zipper. Glinda has a quick change of about 30 seconds from the opening number to her appearance in the second - no time for buttons or clasps here! Then, of course, I sewed on a couple of hundred more sequins before adding the puff sleeves (with their sequins).
Next I worked on the crown. I used a metal tiara as a base and added butchered starburst brooches. Each individual crystal was then hand-placed with tweezers and E6000 glue. It was a pain in the ass.

The wig was originally a mid-back length lacefront from Wig Is Fashion. It needed re-curling so as to create those super tight ringlets so I didn't want to buy anything that would end up being too short. The ringlets were added using a regular curling iron, holding the curl on the iron for 30 seconds each and then pinning them all up, still in their curled up shape, to cool overnight. This took a very. long. time. The front curls were then pinned in place to create the cascading effect. and a buttload of hairspray was added.

I ended up cutting off a fair bit of the length and re-curling a number of the less defined pieces between this photo and the final product.
From here, I created the pointed collar for the dress. This was done using wire and interfacing sandwiched between satin and organza to match the dress. Add sequins and nude bra straps which attached to loops in the front of the bodice for quick and easy removal during quick changes.
The wand was relatively simple. A length of aluminium tubing, clear acetate cut into long sided triangles sandwiched over a wire base with blue and white gems glued over the top. I also studied baton twirling for a while so that I could perfect the wand twirl used during the witch fight in Wicked.

Somewhere along the road of creating this costume I decided it wasn't impressive enough yet. Plenty of people had done the bubble dress in the past - I need something that would make mine unique. A "wow" factor, if you will. Plenty of people have done the bubble dress, I thought, but no one has created the bubble.

Yes, I agree, I am insane. I spent hours planning different ways to make the huge, oversized metal contraption that flies in from the ceiling of theatres spewing bubbles out the sides work for a smaller scale cosplay. It had to have a similar effect, but be something that I could carry with me around a crowded convention hall. Obviously, it would have to be much smaller. I played with the idea of building it on wheels, but that would have required someone to wheel me onto and off stage, as well as presenting logistical issues of getting it to and from the convention.

Finally, I decided upon making the bubble on a contraption similar to fairy wings, with fencing wire slid down the back of a corset to hold it in place on my back. The bubble itself would need to be lightweight - it's made from two different sized hoops of plastic piping with silver bangles placed in the join to replicate the metal circles and hold the hoops together. It would also need to actually churn out bubbles, otherwise what would be the point? I trawled the internet for ages looking for ideas, but all the bubble machines had open troughs which would spill liquid out if it was tipped the wrong way. Not suitable at all for a back-mounted contraption. I ended up getting the assistance of What A Big Camera to install four tiny bubble machines designed to be attached to the underside of drones. The wiring had to be fed through the inside of the hollow hoops. All four connected to a simple on/off switch which sat at the base of the hoops. This rested against my butt when worn and was designed so that I would be able to subtly reach behind myself one-handed to flip the switch. The bubble machines were filled with solution through tiny holes in each individual machine. This posed a problem in itself - the liquid only lasted for about a minute of bubbles. This meant that I had to time my switch throwing for the moment I was about to hit the stage. The fact that the contraption was mounted on my back meant that I couldn't actually see if the bubbles were working. I just had to keep walking and hope against hope that bubbles were flying out behind me.

       Photo by What A Big Camera

And they were. It worked! I have to say, when I finally put all this together, I cried. I was so happy to have made what had seemed to be an impossible dream a reality. The cheers when I flipped the switch and made my way up on stage were deafening and the grin that spread across my face was impossible to wipe away. All in all, this costume consumed 9 months of my life. It was all worth it. I didn't need to win anything - I'd already won, just by proving to myself that I could create something like this.

Something about the costume I'd worked on impressed the judges too, though, enough that I was awarded the medal for best Fantasy costume in the Sydney competition. It was amazing, particularly as the level of entries was so outstanding. I hate judging and I don't envy the three people who had to choose who to award at this competition in particular. I think everyone was a winner.

       Photo by What A Big Camera

       Photo by What A Big Camera

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Why I Keep My Cosplay Plans Secret

Contrary to popular belief, it's not actually because I'm a giant asshole.

I don't like to spread around my cosplay plans for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, and most honestly, it's because I'm scared I won't actually be able to accomplish any of them. Failure haunts me just like anyone else. I'd rather keep my failures small and personal than have to admit to the entire internet that I just suck at something! I (like most cosplayers, I think) have a box full of half-finished cosplays that I gave up on and hid out of sight half way through.

Secondly, I like to surprise people! When I see someone looking AWESOME in a costume that I've never seen before, that WOW moment is something really special. I worry that posting heaps of in-progress shots would ruin the big reveal. That's why I'll sometimes post behind the scenes to instagram but they're always mock-ups in the wrong colour, undergarments or tiny hints. Guessing, to me, is part of the fun!

Lastly, it's because I don't want to disappoint people when I don't follow through. I'd hate to tell the internet that I'm cosplaying as a favourite character and then let them down when I don't actually get around to doing it - and then get bombarded by "when are you cosplaying as ________ ?" comments on everything I post!

So, in solidarity, here are a few photos of graveyard cosplays - ones that almost were.