Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Get Started in Cosplay

Cosplay: The art of portraying a character through the creative use of costumes.

Okay. You've seen a ton of awesome cosplays floating around the internet, at conventions, or you just love all those amazing costumes in movies, video games, etc., and you're dying to get in on the cosplaying action yourself. That's why I'm here: to show you all the ins and outs of getting started in cosplay by making your very first costume!

NOTE: If you're looking for a pre-made (or mostly premade) costume, Etsy and Cosplay Sky are two of the best places I've found online to buy high quality, screen-accurate costumes.

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >    Step One: Choose a Costume

Probably the easiest part of the entire process, the beginning of every cosplay begins with choosing a character, and then choose a costume worn by said character. You probably already have an idea swimming around in your head -- perfect! Choose that one.

One helpful tip regarding this decision: it's best not to choose something *too* challenging or intricate for your first endeavor. Try to let the costume match your skill set.  So, let's say you want to cosplay Iron Man... unless you're really ambitious, maybe pare the idea down a little and go for cosplaying Tony Stark instead -- that way, you can just make an arm of the Iron Man suit to complete the look!

Here's the thing: no matter how easy your costume is to make, as long as you look good, you will be pleased with the finished product and your audience will be impressed. It's better to do something too easy than too hard -- at least for your first costume. Then, as your costume-making skills and abilities grow, you can begin to stretch them farther and farther to make super duper complex costumes.

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >   Step Two: Begin Planning

Though you might want to just jump right in and have at it, making a game plan for your costume will make everything much simpler and faster in the long run.

This process should include:

- Gathering reference photos. Scour the internet for the best high-resolution photos of the costume that you can find. Posters, movie stills, even toy versions of the character provide invaluable reference to help you in your build. I've found the best way to store these photos is to pin them all to a good ol' Pinterest board, designated for that express purpose.

- Making a list of everything you'll need to buy. You might be surprised by just how many things you'll need to buy to create your costume (and how much those things can cost), so it's important to have a pretty good idea of what you'll be needing to purchase. This will also make the next part of the process much easier.

- Creating a budget + calculating the cost of the costume. Now, your budget doesn't have to be calculated down to the last cent -- somewhere within $10 of the actual price is a good place to start. And since you've already made your list of things you need to buy, just add up the average cost of all those items and you're all set to go!

- Drawing sketches of the costume. This one is optional, but I highly recommend it if you're planning on making any major alterations to the original costume. It also helps you get a better idea of all the different aspects of the costume, since you have to draw each one.

- Deciding where you want to wear the finished costume. You might already know this, but if not, start thinking. It's so depressing to have created an awesome costume, only to realize you have no where to wear it. I recommend movie premieres, fandom conventions, or just a photoshoot as the best opportunities to do so.

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     Step Three: Research + Purchase Materials

So, now that you've got a pretty good idea of where you're going with your cosplay, start researching online and in brick-and-mortar stores for the things you'll need to buy -- which you've already made a list of! ;)

If you're looking for a few pre-made items, such as boots or weapons (the things that look best when store bought and screen-accurate versions can be easily found), the best places to start your search are Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, and your local thrift stores -- you'd be surprised by how perfect some of the second-hand items are for cosplay, plus they can lower your budget considerably.

Here are a few online stores that I've found to be perfect for finding great sewing materials, which will most likely take a large part in making your costume:

- Fabric, craft foam, notions, etc:
   ~ Fabric.com
   ~ Jo-Ann
   ~ Hancock Fabrics

- Sewing Patterns:
   ~ Simplicity
   ~ McCall
   ~ Butterick

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >    >     >  Step Four: Accessorize

This is such a fun and integral part of creating costumes that sometimes can be overlooked. Here are the main accessories that you'll be needing to get to complete your costumed look:

- Weapons. Does your character carry a weapon, and the place you're planning on wearing the costume at would accept you carrying that weapon?  Definitely consider making or buying one to carry and pose with you while you cosplay -- it'll add a special touch to your costume. AmazonBUDK and Medieval Collectibles are great places to start your search for these if you want to buy them.

- Footwear. Never go with sneakers or flipflops just because they're easy -- they'll ruin everything of the costume that you worked so hard on! Thrift stores are a great place to find shoes that you'll only be wearing a few times, and you won't feel bad altering a pair that only cost you $5. A note about characters that go barefoot: You will probably want to create a pair of "invisible shoes" (tutorial by "...And Sewing is Half the Battle!").

- Wigs. Now, I have a more lenient opinion on wigs than other cosplayers, but that's just because wigs can so often make a costume look worse rather than better, unless you want to fork out the $30-$80 for a high quality, synthetic, lace-front wig. With that in mind, it might be better to completely forego buying a wig and just go with your natural hair, styled like the character's as best you can. But, if you do want to buy a wig, Arda Wigs has rave reviews, and eBay can have some pretty good finds.

- Prosthetics. I've found that Aradani Costumes is the absolute best place for high-quality, inexpensive prosthetics, which can add a convincing touch to your cosplay and make people look twice. "Wait, did that girl have pointy ears??" ;)

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     Step Five: Create Your Costume

Now that you've got all the necessary materials necessary to make your intended design, it's time to put your sewing and crafting skills to the test!

Here's a few extremely helpful links to get you started in your crafting.

12 Things You Need to Start Sewing (Fab Grandma)
Craft Foam Armor Tutorial (Penwiper Unlimited)
Foam Board Weapons Tutorial (Fire Lily Cosplay)

Let me tell you something crucial for this step: Google is your friend. Don't know how to do something? GOOGLE IT. Chances are pretty good that someone else has made the same costume before you and wrote about their process of doing so. Reading about their build can be extremely helpful for your own, and they may have even made some how-tos for the creation of some of the more difficult parts of the costume. Plus, if you have a question about the costume, they might be able to answer it! Many cosplayers are very open to helping others with their costumes. You can also check out the RPF, which is a great place to find answers from experienced hobbyists.

>     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     >     > Step Six: Have fun!

You've sewn, crafted and bought everything for your costume, and now it's finally time to put it all together and show it off!! Enjoy literally stepping into your character's shoes for a day. :D

And with that, you've completed your very first cosplay. Bravo, and congratulations!!!
If you followed my little guide to make your first costume, post a link to it in the comments below so I can see your wonderful handiwork. :)

P.S. Let me tell you: if you don't think your cosplay turned out perfectly, don't worry, because I promise that you will only get better from here on out. Also, never compare your cosplays to others -- only compare them to your previous work. That way, you will only see the improvement in costuming, and you'll only be inspired to keep getting better. ^_^

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Looking Towards The Future

The future is so close to the present, I can almost taste it. You see, as of a few weeks ago, I am finally signed up for classes for my first semester at Liberty University, and God has moved and is still moving so many mountains for those doors to swing wide open for me to walk through. Who would have thought, even a year ago, that now I'd be looking towards a degree in Cinematic Arts and a minor in Fashion Design?

"Many are the plans in the mind of a woman,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."
- Proverbs 19:21 -

It's kind of mind boggling, honestly, when I look back on all that's happened over the course of the past several years, and seeing so obviously the work of God through it all.  Seeing how God has guided me to follow His will for me, and providing a way so I can.  Seeing that, it doesn't matter how crazy the dream seems or feels, but that God can fulfill any dream, big or small, if we are willing to trust Him and push forwards with our whole being.

"Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,
as something done for the Lord and not for men."
- Colossians 3:23 -

But you know what's absolutely crazy?  In the midst of all of this, all of these incredible opportunities and possibilities looming before me, I am at peace.  If God decided to allow it all to be taken from me, if He decided to send me into a completely different direction, or even if He decided to bring me home to Himself instead, I know I'd be okay. My soul is safe in the arms of God -- I have been promised nothing more, and yet nothing less.

"Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul."
- It Is Well With My Soul -

I feel ready now, to head into the future one day at a time. Not because I'm adequate for the task, but because the God who guides me is beyond adequate. All I have to do is keep. following. Him. with my entire being, keeping my eyes focused on the prize ahead of me, and try to serve Him to the best of my ability in the mean time.

"For to me, to live is Christ
and to die is gain."
- Philippians 1:21 -

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Costumes Are Not My Life - From a Cosplayer

Once upon a time, in the middle of working crazy hard to finish my Captain America cosplay, I had a mental/emotional breakdown.  This was due to some combination of disappointment and stress, ending in the loathing of myself and my work-in-progress Captain America costume. After an encouraging one-on-one sesh with God and a good night's sleep, I was feeling much, much better. But not about my costume. The costume was still, in my eyes, dreadful. "Oh, why can't you just look perfect, already??? I've worked so hard on you... this is not how you're supposed to turn out."

As I was arranging the bodice on Sylvie (my dress form -- hush hush and don't ask questions) and made adjustments to some of the pins still holding the place of seams, it didn't look so bad anymore.  And then, it began to look even better when I reminded myself that I don't have unlimited money, time, or skills, [unlike almost every cosplayer in the media spotlight]. So, unless I get super obsessive about it, my Captain America costume is just not going to imitate the real thing as much as I'd like (plus, I was creating a female version, so it would never look exactly the same as the original -- hah!)

See, I don't even want to get super obsessive over costumes. Cosplay is not my life, and I never want to act like it is. Jesus is my life, cosplay is just a hobby through which I desire to give glory to Him and receive some simple joy in this crazy world we live in. Cosplay will never give me the fullness and satisfaction of spirit that Christ gives me, as I feel every time I start to put costumes before my relationship with Him. That situation is not pleasant, not the way it's supposed to be, and only leaves me feeling insufficient. But not so when God is in the proper place in my life, as "Number 1" -- He is the only one sufficient to fulfill all our needs: spiritual, emotional, physical.

So, cosplay is not my life... and neither are movies.

I had a realization today.  I've been worried lately that I like movies too much -- that they've been becoming an "idol" for me, that I've been replacing God with cinematics. It wasn't a nagging feeling in my spirit, but rather a nagging question in my intellect, which made me question the importance of my own question.  If becoming obsessed with cinematics was such an issue, then I thought I should be feeling insufficient and empty, like what happens when I put my costumes before God.  But I didn't feel that way, so I was left to ponder the question some more.

I imagined the Christian life as something like this: we're each given a picture to color, and we're given the freedom to color in the lines with whatever colors we want, adding designs, etc.  We only run into trouble when we start altering the base of the picture -- like, changing a horse into a giraffe, for a weird example. The colors we choose for our pictures are our personal interests.  Because, we're all created with different personalities, different looks, and different likes and dislikes.  Put simply, different does not equal bad -- sin equals bad, and sin is that which goes against the teachings given to us in the Bible.

My oldest sister is a piano teacher, my second oldest sister is a science nerd, I'm a film geek, and my younger sister is a fitness nut.  It would seem we don't have much in common, right?  But, see, that's a wrong assumption, because we totally do.  All four of us are the bestest of friends, and we can be that because we all love Jesus; we are similar in what really matters. We are all members of the family of God, He is our center, and every other part of our lives falls into place around that.

So, here's the finale, the thought I want you to come away with from all of this: Costumes are great, movies are great, whatever-your-personal-interests-are are great, just always remember to never forget who made you, who made the world you live in, and who gave his son to save your life. God. Jesus died for your life, so live it to the fullest, live it to the best of your ability...

but never, ever forget who gave it to you, and give back to Him by keeping Him at the center of your life.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bridesmaid Dress to Pleated Skirt Refashion + Tutorial

So, this skirt's ancestor has been in my fabric stash for a while now... in the form of a very boring bridesmaid dress that I had thrifted for a buck one day last winter.  It wasn't until a couple days ago that I fiiiinally got around to turning it into something useful -- a fun, pleated skirt!

Cute, right?  I love the simplicity + the bit of retro vibe. ;) It's such a fun addition to le closet, and is totally wearable in all seasons (which is always a plus!).

And now I will walk you through how I made my refashioned skirt, and show you how to do it yourself!  If you want to make a pleated skirt with plain ol' fabric, I recommend this tutorial by Merrick's Art.

So, here's the dress that I started out with,  Pretty -- but also pretty boring.  I loved the skirt and the color, but that was it.  So, like I said: for a dollar, I couldn't really go wrong. ;)  Grab your own boring dress, and prepare to create!

1. Chop off the desired length of the skirt, leaving the bottom hem to save you some sewing.

I cut off a bit too much, as usual. :P
2. Rip out the entire center back seam, then pin it back together. This is in preparation for the zipper.

3. Rip out the zipper from the top of dress, which we will then reuse in the skirt!

4. Start pleating.  This is going to take a bit of trial and error to get the right fit and look, as the width of the skirt and the size of your waist will affect the amount of fabric you can take in with the pleats. I made 5 pleats total, averaging about 4 inches in width and taking in four inches each, with the inset between the last two on the zipper seam. To keep everything symmetrical, I used the seams on the skirt as references for places to make the pleats.

5. Once you're happy with how the pleats look, baste to secure.

6. Time to cut out our waistband. From the leftover bodice fabric, cut three pieces, fold in half lengthwise, then cut to a uniform desired width. I made mine about 1.5 inches wide.

7. Sew the two shorter back pieces to the longer front piece, pin to the skirt, and sew.

8. Lastly, put in your stolen zipper. If you don't know how to do this, follow this easy tutorial.

9. Don't forget to iron your new skirt out, and then you're finished! Enjoy your fabulous new skirt. :D