Baby’s First Cosplays

I’ll admit it- I was bit by the cosplay bug when I was still very much in my weeaboo stage. I was a sophomore in college, and I was intrigued by the idea of dressing up like characters that I liked. So I headed to the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention for a…very strange weekend.

It’s been a long time, so I’ll just say that I’m no longer friends with any of the people I attended the con with, and since hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz, I totally understand why I had an absolutely miserable time there. It also didn’t help that I knew absolutely nothing about conventions or cosplay and I was woefully unprepared. But it makes for some hilariously terrible pictures!

I tried cosplaying as Anna Kyoyama from Shaman King for the first time. It wasn’t great. I bought an ugly black dress from Goodwill and wore it with a pair of Skechers slides that were way too big and a piece of red fabric that I don’t even think I hemmed. The bracelet and rosary were all right, and I was even able to use the rosary for the second time I tried the cosplay. But overall, not great. Especially since my idea of hair and makeup at the time was…not good.

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I also tried cosplaying as Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, in an attempt that can only be described as “what on earth was I thinking?” I wore a navy dress (also from Goodwill) that for some reason I thought looked exactly like Tohru’s school uniform (spoiler alert: it did not) with yellow ribbons, white knee socks, and brown mary janes. I also didn’t know anything about wigs, and while there are a lot of great cosplays that allow the cosplayer to use their own hair, this was not a good choice for me. But I was excited, and that was the most important part.

The most important part of this whole ill-fated attempt was that I finally tried sewing for the first time. One of my roommates in college had a sewing machine; she taught me the basics and set me loose. I bought McCall’s 4948, their token Alice in Wonderland pattern, and gave it a try. Overall it wasn’t the greatest construction, but it also wasn’t terrible. The fabric especially was beautiful; I honestly wish I could find it again so I could remake the whole piece. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I never added the collar, the seams weren’t finished, and the zipper was…not the best.  I also made a petticoat dress underneath using McCall’s 5095 (a sundress pattern) that didn’t offer a lot in the way of fluff but still looked pretty cute peeking out from under the skirt.

The pinafore was a little more misshapen, but again, I made a wearable garment for the first time, zipper included. As you can see I once again didn’t wear a wig and showed off my great MySpace styled hairstyle instead, but it could have been worse. And yeah, some kids made fun of me because I was more Disney/storybook Alice than American McGee’s Alice, but I was pretty happy with how the costume turned out.

I had such a negative experience with that con that I didn’t try again until Akaicon in 2015, but it turns out I do like cons when I go with the right people! And at the end of the day, all that really matters when it comes to cosplay is that you have a great time. So if you’ve thought about trying it, go for it!

Ariel’s Blue Dress from The Little Mermaid

So confession time: I didn’t see The Little Mermaid until I was fifteen years old. Sad, isn’t it? I grew up in a very strict religious household and Little Mermaid had three strikes- Disney, witches, and bikini tops. So I didn’t see it until a friend let me borrow her VHS tape sophomore year and I watched it like a million times in one week. I fell in love with the movie in general, but I really wanted her blue dress. It was so sweet and dreamy (and that bow was killer!)

 

My senior year of college, I decided I wanted to bring that dress to life. And for some reason I decided to make it without a pattern. Why, I’ll never know, but oh well.

 

The hardest part was matching the colors. Sometimes her blouse looks white, sometimes light blue- I decided to go with light blue. I found the most magical sky blue cotton sateen and bought a bunch of it. The skirt, though, was a harder find, since the blue is just a shade or two off from the blouse color. I ended up buying a royal blue organza to layer over the cotton sateen, making it just a little bit darker and also adding a little bit more of a princess feel. For the bodice, I bought a navy blue suede and used some navy blue cotton in my stash for a lining.

 

The blouse was easy. I used McCall’s 4948, their Alice in Wonderland pattern, but cut the neckline at a deeper scoop and eliminated the collar. I also took some width out of the sleeves and lengthened them, then added an elasticized cuff. The blouse pulls right on, so no closure. Super easy!

 

The bodice…not so easy. For some unknown reason, I decided to cut the navy suede into multiple rectangular panels and then take it in to fit. Somehow…it worked. It wasn’t necessarily the most perfect construction, but it worked, right down to the notch at the top of the bodice. I didn’t want to invest a lot of time and money into making the bodice perfect (obviously) so instead of using punched metal eyelets, I used eyes from hooks and eyes and threaded the eyes with narrow blue ribbon. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked!

 

The skirt was constructed as a very full dirndl skirt. I cut the panels as rectangles and sewed them up in three separate layers- white muslin trimmed in narrow eyelet, the sky blue cotton sateen, and the royal blue organza. Then I stitched the layers together at the top and pleated them onto a waistband made of the same blue suede as the bodice, so it blended nicely. I didn’t use a zipper, just a large hook and eye, since the bottom of the bodice covered the waistband.

 

The bow was the final touch. Ariel’s bow is very large and very poofy, so I used the cotton sateen and literally stuffed it like a little pillow ! I added tails and stitched the whole thing to a comb that slid right into my hair.

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I only wore the outfit once- weirdly enough, to a rehearsal. My university was performing the musical Guys and Dolls (I played General Cartwright) and they scheduled a rehearsal for the night of Halloween. They felt sorry for us, so they let us dress up in our Halloween costumes.  So I showed up in full Ariel regalia, complete with Flounder and Sebastian!

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Recently, a friend of mine needed a Halloween costume for Not So Scary, so I took in the sides of the bodice and took in the waistband and let her borrow it! It looks super cute on her.

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I’d like to go back and remake this costume- at least a new bodice and a new waistband. Maybe I’ll get around to it someday!

Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron

So few people remember Eilonwy. It’s sad, but true. The Black Cauldron came out in 1985 and it wasn’t well-received then, and it hasn’t become a cult classic. As a sixth grader I read all of the books and loved them, and was honestly kind of disappointed in the movie. But I still loved Eilonwy, so she popped to mind when I was planning for my first Not So Scary party of the year in 2015!

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I started with Simplicity’s saloon girl pattern, 2851 (now out of print) for the bodice. I’d used it once when making my short Snow White dress and thought it would be a good match. I used a sturdy black broadcloth and used red single fold bias tape for the detailing. The sleeves were from a cream cotton and I honestly can’t even tell you what pattern I used. What I can say…is that something went horribly wrong. I still can’t even describe it. One sleeve went on perfectly. The other sleeve turned out to be a demon from hell. No matter what I did, the sleeve was twisted and it made that side of the bodice twisted. I let the sleeve out, I took the sleeve in, I cut down the armscye, I cut down the shoulder…it would. not. work. It was literally an hour before I was supposed to leave, and the damn thing was unwearable. So what did I do? I ran across the street to Walmart, bought a boy’s black tee shirt and new bias tape, cut the shirt into the proper shape, stitched on bias tape, attached the sleeves from the old bodice, and bam! Wearable Eilonwy. It wasn’t fantastic, but it worked!

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The skirt, luckily, was much easier. I cut and sewed pale pink cotton into a dirndl skirt layer (with pockets) and then used a rose colored fabric cut into a circle panel over the top, leaving about a two inch gap between the edges of the panel where it was sewn over the pale pink layer. I used the rose fabric to make a casing for an elastic waistband. It works fine, but the fabric is heavy enough to make the skirt slide when it’s worn. I’m either going to remake the waistband to make it fasten with hooks and eyes, or, when I remake the bodice, add snaps so that the skirt can snap into the bodice. Honestly, I’ll probably do both just to make sure they stay in place!

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I didn’t want to wear a wig for this cosplay- I’ve only worn a wig once for Not So Scary and it was the WORST (thanks for being a swamp, Florida). I bought a set of super cheap extensions on eBay instead. Are they quite the right color? No, but they’re close enough, and I’m rather fond of my cheap eBay weave. I curled the rest of my hair and brushed my hair and the extensions together to blend them a little, and pinned a length of black trim from Joann’s around my head to look like Eilonwy’s black circlet.

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My favorite part was the bauble! I bought a clear plastic Christmas ornament from Amazon Prime (and bought another one when the first one was too small, and then forgot to cancel my subscription so after the free trial I still had Prime, oops) and painted it with sparkly yellow acrylic craft paint. On the inside I wrapped a length of battery-operated Christmas lights with yellow tulle and put the whole thing inside the ornament. It was a little bit of a hassle to pop the ornament open and closed every time I wanted to use the lights, but it was worth it!

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I brought back Eilonwy for Akaicon 2016 and ended up entering her in the cosplay competition. I didn’t win, but honestly I just wanted more experience with judging and walking in the contest before I entered it seriously. I had a lot of fun, and I’m planning my entry for Akaicon 2017 now!

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My Akaicon 2017 Lineup

I do this to myself every year. Every year I swear I’m going to get a jumpstart on my cosplays for Akaicon, and every year I wait until a month before the con and think “oh…I should probably get started.” Procrastination is my way of life, I suppose.

At least I made my selections early on, so even though I’m leaving for the con on August 2nd (yikes!) I’m not trying to pick out cosplays at the last second. It’s a nice balance of cosplays that need minor work and bigger projects, so I’m feeling mostly confident that I can get everything done. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Eleven from Stranger Things
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I put my Eleven cosplay together for last year’s con and loved it. It was so comfortable, but I was still immediately identifiable as Eleven. I also didn’t have to do much sewing for it either. While I’m not immediately planning to wear it at the con, I learned my first year how beneficial it is to have a back up cosplay for those days when a cosplay goes wrong or you just need to be comfortable.

General Leia from The Force Awakens
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I already wore a version of this before, but never at a con. I made it very quickly, so the tunic could use some work, and I’ll probably make a brand new vest. It’s a simple cosplay, but since the con is sci-fi themed this year I’m anticipating a lot of Kylo Rens and Han Solos to take pictures with. I’ll probably wear this one on Friday to get things started.

Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service
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I’ve had this cosplay in progress for absolutely ages. Right now the dress is mostly made; it just needs some finishing touches and it’ll be ready to go. I’ve already ordered the red bow, and I have the shoes, purse, and cat plush ready to go. This one will probably be Saturday night, after the cosplay competition when I’m tired and want to be comfortable.

Party Girl Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens
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This is another cosplay that I planned for last year but never made. I’ve already purchased everything (including the wig and props) and all of the pieces for the dress are cut but never got around to constructing it. It’ll take a weekend of sewing, but I think I can manage it pretty easily. Party dresses are right in my wheelhouse.

Risqué Alice in Wonderland
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This is one that I may or may not do, depending on time. Akai holds a risqué competition every year, and I’ve got a half made Alice cosplay that will never be finished because I cut the bodice wrong. I’ve been toying with the idea of turning it into a tearaway outfit and participating in risqué. I’m saving this project for last, in case I run out of time, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Historically Accurate(ish) Elsa from Frozen
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This is it. This is the big one. I’ve entered the cosplay contest two years in a row without putting a lot of effort- I entered cosplays that I enjoyed more for the sake of getting feedback and getting the chance to walk across the stage. More like practice runs than actually competing. This year I’m determined to put my best foot forward, and my dream project is creating an Elsa cosplay that pulls from the correct time period (Frozen should be set between 1820s-1840s) and also draws from Brittney Lee’s concept art, as seen here. I want to make the ice gown as a softer, more historically accurate version. It still won’t be perfect- I’ll probably use zippers and I’m definitely not about to sew it by hand- but I have a specific look I’d like to achieve, and that includes making the proper layers of chemise, bloomers, petticoats, and stays.

So that’s my plan for Akaicon 2017! I feel like I’ll have just enough time to get it all done…as long as I start sewing right this second.

Gertrude McFuzz (costume and show recap!)

When my sister was in high school, she played a Bird Girl in Seussical, so of course I went to see her. I had never heard or seen anything from the show before, but I figured it would be cute. I walked out that night convinced that Gertrude McFuzz was now a dream role.

I didn’t think I would ever have a chance to play her, but a friend of mine at work kept telling me about this theater he worked at, and how he wanted to propose Seussical for the upcoming season, and that I needed to audition. Everything finally fell into place, and I can safely say that it was the most nervous I’d ever been at an audition. At this point, I had never been an actual lead in a musical, outside of understudying for Carrie, and there were a lot of talented people who came in. I sang Teen Fiona’s verse from “I Know It’s Today” and was asked to stay to read from the script, and then sang some of the music for Gertrude, Mayzie, and Sour Kangaroo. It took several agonizing days- almost a week!- to hear back, but I was cast as Gertrude, and I literally burst into tears.

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Playing Gertrude was both one of the easiest and hardest roles I’ve ever played. On one hand, I knew the show backwards and forwards coming into the rehearsal process, and I understood exactly how I wanted to approach playing the character. On the other hand, I got really anxious about singing. Really anxious. I was a mess. Luckily, my friend Cara was the music director and she was literally the most amazing coach, and I made a lot of improvements.

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I also had one of the most fun casts I’ve ever worked with. It was a really hilarious group of people, and I’ve been lucky enough to do multiple shows with several of the cast members now.

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The opening weekend was fantastic. I was in great voice, I felt fantastic, and both my brand-new boyfriend and my family from Nashville were able to come see me. It was amazing!

And then I got the flu.

I thought it was just allergies- I have so many of them, after all. But I was feeling worse and worse, and I eventually dragged myself to urgent care. And sure enough- I had the flu. While I was playing my dream role.

My sweet boyfriend took good care of me and I spent a lot of time resting my voice and sleeping, but I was still not up to par. Luckily Gertrude is a character role rather than, say, Christine Daae, so I could use some raspiness and squeakiness, but I was miserable. I could usually get through act one, but I had the worst time battling through “All for You” in Act two. Luckily, I had three fantastic Bird Girls to back me up, and my Horton was literally the most patient and sweetest person I could have possibly worked with. In the end, I got most of my voice back, even though it didn’t sound as good as I would have wanted it to, and I still got to play my dream role.

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I also got to make my costume for Seussical! The costumer and director both agreed, as long as the dress was in a sort of 1950s style and lavender. With those parameters, I had plenty of freedom! I looked at a lot of 1950s children’s party dresses and simple Lolita outfits. Gertrude is the plainest of the birds; I didn’t need anything fancy or detailed, but I knew the kind of shape I wanted.

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I ended up using Simplicity 8324, their Alice cosplay pattern, but simplified it a lot. I eliminated the pinafore and a lot of extra ruffles and trims and cut everything from a very soft lavender linen that I originally bought for a Rapunzel cosplay (which still hasn’t happened, oops). The underskirt was made of white muslin, but I cut it differently from the pattern. To cut down on bulk at the waist seam, but for maximum fluff, I cut the base as a circle skirt, and then added a 10″ long ruffle to give the skirt more volume.

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During the first dress rehearsal I realized I wasn’t getting the right amount of poofiness, so I added my trusty Malco Modes petticoat underneath. I also realized I needed shorts, since my skirts were short but I was moving so much! Because they would be visible (especially when I rolled across the stage at the beginning of “All for You”) I used Simplicity 8154, a lavender bedsheet from Walmart, and lace from my stash to make a pair of bloomers.

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The director wanted most of the characters in converse sneakers, so I bought a lavender pair on Poshmark. Initially my hair was going to be down and curled, with a white bow, but I looked entirely too much like a contestant on Toddlers and Tiaras. After the first performance, I bought two small bun forms and put my hair up in two high buns, similar to the original Gertrude in the Broadway production. For makeup I used a lot of purples from my Wet n Wild Petal Pusher palette and my Urban Decay palette, and I combined several lip color to make the perfect pinky-purple lip. Comment below if you’d like to see a hair and makeup tutorial!

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The most important thing, though, was my tail. Or rather, tails. If you haven’t seen the show, Gertrude has a plain one feather tail, and she thinks that Horton the elephant will notice her if she had a prettier tail. The cool girl of the jungle sends her to get pills to make her tail grow, and Gertrude ends up with a tail so long and heavy she can’t fly. So you can see how this was a challenge.

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For the one feather tail, I made a big butt bow out of the same lavender linen that fastened to the back of my dress with one large snap in the center. Attached to the bow was one long, slightly scraggly peacock feather that stood straight up from my back. It was the right combination of sad and wimpy, but still noticeable from the audience.

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The first time Gertrude’s tail grows is onstage, in the middle of the song. When I constructed the white petticoat layer in the dress, I added a pocket with a zipper closure in the seam between the circle base and the ruffle. Inside the pocket I sewed three feather boas. At the right point in the song, one of the bird girls took off my bow and single feather while the other two unzipped the pocket and pulled out the other boas. It was a great moment that worked really well onstage!

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As soon as the number was over, I ran backstage to put on what we affectionately called “the mega tail.” I built a reinforced belt that wrapped around my back, and I attached four keychain loops along the belt. The tail itself was a panel of lavender felt that I backed with canvas to make it sturdier, and then I attached a whole slew of feather boas- some from the theater’s shop, some from the dollar store, and some from Joann’s. I also hot glued individual brightly-colored turkey feathers to pipe cleaners and added them to the ends of the tail.

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At the top of the panel I had four large loops from large hook and eye sets. So when it was time to switch, the bird girls (or whoever was handy backstage) would stuff the growing tails back into the skirt pocket, zipped it shut, and hung the panel onto the keychain loops. It worked so well! My first attempt I used large hooks, but the panel kept popping off when I moved. With the locking loops, the panel stayed in place and moved with me easily.

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The downside? It was heavier than it looked! All in all it was fairly lightweight, but I ended up wearing it for about an hour and a half straight. It rested right on my lower back, so it weighed me down a bit, especially during the end of act one when I was running around a lot. I also got super sweaty, not going to lie. It helped that the reinforced belt was strapped and overlapped over my lower back, which gave me a good base, and the four points of contact distributed the weight evenly. They ended up designating a chair to be my “tail chair” backstage. It was tucked away in a corner, out of the way, (since Gertrude doesn’t do much in the middle of act two) and I draped the tail over the arm.

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I also could only take bathroom breaks when someone took my tail off. Usually I waited until act two- in the beginning, Gertrude is onstage for a few minutes in the beginning, so after that I would run backstage, have someone take my tail off, run to the bathroom, and then have someone put my tail back on. It was a little chaotic!

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Productions usually vary, but I ended up keeping the tail on for the beginning of “All for You.” At the top of the scene I snuck through the audience with my tail trailing behind me and army rolled across the stage (tangling the tail around me). During the song, Gertrude dramatically recounts her process of getting her tail taken off. So as I sang the “pluck pluck pluck- ouch, it hurt a lot” bit, the bird girls popped off my mega tail while one of them snapped my one feather tail back onto the back of my dress, just in time for me to turn around to sing “and suddenly Gertrude could sail” and show the audience that my one feather was back. The Cat took my mega tail offstage, and that was that! In our total fifteen performances, we were able to do all my tail transitions without a hitch.

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I’m hoping to do a video showing the three different tails and how they work, and a makeup and hair tutorial for Gertrude, so comment below if you’d like to see those, or have any questions about Seussical!

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(I also made the puppets for the Cat to use in act two! They were a super quick project made from clearance tee shirts I bought from Target and some scraps and buttons from my stash. I didn’t use a pattern, but they worked pretty well!)

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