Costume and Graphic Design

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Steampunk-Loli-Loki: Wedding Gown Turned Loli

As I mentioned in my tophat post, the idea of Loli-Loki was partly inspired by our hot summer weather, and the need to have a version of my, now recognized, Lady Loki. Lolita styles, while usually consisting of many layers of lace and other things, can be made from lighter weight fabrics. This was my original intention.

That is not what happened.

May, 2014. I am at a local thrift shop scouting out some sources for fabrics. The formalwear section usually has crinolines that can be scavenged from some of the prom dresses. There she was. A tiered lace wedding gown. That much lace would cost a fortune! And would be a pain in the butt to sew. And there it was, already layered onto the skirt. Cut that in half, and I have two lace skirts, layer them on top, and I have a poofy knee length loli-skirt! Price tag…. $30! It would cost at least two or three times that for the lace alone. She came home with me.

Wedding Dress fits

Looking at the dress in the light of my sewing room, I thought… this looks to be about my size. Let’s give ‘er a go. Like a glove. I think it fit better than my own wedding dress. It was perfect. The lace sleeves, the high standing collar, and the lace bodice. Not something I would have worn normally, but oh so perfect for my Loli-Loki! My thoughts of cutting the skirt from the bodice floated away, and I decided to just crop it down at the knee.

Dress trimmed

The train was a decent length. Once the bottom half of the dress was cut away, I gathered it into a waistband and dropped it over the dress. The fullness of the layers of lace were perfect! I found an old bumroll from a costume I made a decade ago, and stuffed that underneath. The back bustle started coming together!

loli loki bustle

There is still work to be done to finish the dress, but this put me lightyears ahead! Thought this project I have had Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” playing on repeat in my mind. Yup. Thrift shopping. Even us seasoned costumers do it.

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Steampunk-Loli-Loki: Tophat

Headgear seems to be my theme lately! It is probably because headpieces are easily interchangeable, and can drastically alter the look of a costume. So, here we are today to talk about my mini tophat for the Steampunk/Lolita/Loki for the end of July photoshoot.

Summer gets hot here. We have seen 30+ degrees Celsius for days at a time this year. That, and the humidity brought on by the threat of thunderstorms most nights make for very muggy, very hot days. Point being, I don’t want to be under layers of heavy fabric, foam, leather, more foam, more fabric, and on top of all that, a stuffy, tight, sweaty helmet.

I have become known in our Steampunk group as Lady Loki. Even out of garb, I am still often referred to by that moniker. Even my Steampunk Sailor Mars has drifted from memory this last year. And I don’t really have many decent pics yet of my Loki work, so I want to change things up a bit! Mars can stay in my closet a little while longer!

How can I make Loki more comfortable in hot summer weather? Loli it up! Lolita style, even though it consists of layers of lace, tulle, and other frilly fluffy things, can be made from lighter weight fabrics.

With the Loli-Loki idea firmly entrenched in my mind, I began looking for headgear. I wanted something that could be de-Loki’d for other purposes. A lovely brown hat caught my eye at the thrift store. The smooth feminine lines, the classic style, it was a beautiful find! $7? Take my money! Once I started working on this found treasure, I came to realize that it was not a Loki hat. It was too feminine… too beautiful and pretty. Loki should have a fierceness about her. She can be incredibly feminine, but she must have a harder edge to her. Cover her in lace, but cinch that corset tight. The hat, while gorgeous, will go back to the closet for another outfit.

Mini tophat? Why not?

I blocked out a tophat pattern in paper first. I wanted the front to be pointed, so I drew a teardrop shape that would be the top of the hat, an oval for the brim, and a long piece that would serve as the sides.

Using the paper template, I taped them together and made adjustments as necessary to the shapes and sizes. I originally made it quite large, and had to scale it back a little. Once I had the shape figured out, I could use these pieces to cut the interfacing.

Hat pattern

I dug through the interfacing section of the fabric store until I found the heaviest they had. It is quite thick, about 1/8 inch. This would be thick enough to stand up, but light enough that I wouldn’t feel like I had a brick on my head.

hat half way

I glued the side wrapped around the top flat with hot glue. No brim yet. Using the same pattern pieces, I cut the fashion fabric. There were leftover pieces from the cape and jacket. The jacket material went on the outside, and the lighter green cape material served for a lining. Sewing each of these into a sleeve, I inserted the rigid hat form into the outer fabric cover, and glued the lining to the inside.

hat lined

For the brim, I cut the large circle out of the fabric, but not the hole in the middle. I stitched most of the way around, forming a bag, which I turned right side out while a small section remained open. Once the brim was fitted into place, I handstitched the last couple of inches. Turning my needle to the center hole, I basted around it so the fabric was snug all the way around. This would hold it in place while I cut the fabric from the center hole. I now I have fabric covered donut. (sorry for the lack of photo of this step. I was getting excited about my hat, and didn’t grab the camera! I plan on making more of these, and will try to remember next time.)

Inserting the top of the hat into the donut of a brim, I glued it into place. This leaves the raw edges of the fabric hanging free inside the hat. Using some bias tape, I covered these up and tacked the tap up inside. If this were a larger hat that fit around the head, you would use some soft tape of some variety to hide the raw edges, and it would become the hatband on the inside. This might be seen as a comfort factor for most people, but what it actual does is hide the raw edges where the top and bottom of the hat come together. Something I did not know until I made a tophat for my husband’s Mad-Hatter a few years ago.

Using a bit of twill tape, I fixed the ends to either side of the hole, forming a strap. This strap can be attached to hair clips which will hold the hat to my head. Yay!

hat on head

So, the hat is now complete in the most base sense. But it needs decoration!

hat decorated

I decided that the brim was too flat. It should follow the angles formed with the front peak of the hat itself. If I had thought of this earlier, I could have stitched a wire inside the seam of the fashion fabric, keeping it hidden but allowing me to shape the brim to my desire. Instead of picking it apart, I think I will use a heavier brass wire that matched the brass/gold trims on the rest of the costume. My hope is to give it a purposeful look, instead of the appearance of an afterthought.

Using some of the same green fabric from the lining, I wrapped it around the base to hide the join, and added a decorative buckle and some feathers. I am trying to figure out a way to incorporate the World Serpent into there somewhere. We will see how that goes. For now, I have a hat that I would be proud to wear for the photoshoot later this month.

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Loki: The Helmet Continues

So last time, I had a wire frame/foam/fabric structure. The next step was to layer and layer and layer paper mache, and smooth out the lines as much as possible. This had mixed success.

Using paper towel (it is thick enough to fill gaps, and super absorbent, holding the glue really well) and Modpodge (a type of craft glue/varnish thing). I would paint a layer of Modpodge, lay down a small piece of paper towel, and then paint a heavy layer of over top, letting it really soak in. After each layer, I had to let it dry for about 10 minutes before applying the next layer. I would work on it in spurts over a series of evenings, driving my husband mad. I had a shower curtain, the helmet, hot glue gun, paper towel, and Modpodge on the dining room table for about two months. (I’m sorry, honey! But I really needed to get this done!)

There is a ridge detail on the top of his helmet. By twisting small pieces of towel and gluing them into place I was able to recreate this. I then continued my flat layers overtop to smooth it in.

Mache 1

The horns were posing a bit of a problem. The helmet was now so front heavy, it fell forward into my eyes. I needed the fit to be loose enough that I could pull it on, but that extra room also gave it space to slide forward. My first attempt at this was to counterweight the back with sand. There is a large hollow at the back. Using craft sand (so I know there is no broken glass or other unsavoury things that can be found in the sand at a playground…) I mixed small amounts with some Modpodge to make a sandy glue. This, I “painted” into the hollow space, one layer at a time. Between layers, I would let the sand dry over night and then apply a layer of paper towel/glue to secure the sand in place. A few rounds of this, and the helmet was feeling a little more balanced, but it would still flop forward if I tilted my head down.

sand weight 1

So, my problem was not yet solved. I tried attaching a strap so I could tighten it once the thing was in place on my head, but I couldn’t get my fingers in to tighten the buckle. And it still flopped around. Back to the drawing board…

While I was thinking up ways to keep the helmet from wiggling around, I continued on the exterior. An attempt at sanding the outside to a nice smooth finish ended in disappointment. Unfortunately, Modpodge remains fairly soft. It just gummed up my sandpaper. Instead, I just painted layer upon layer of Modpodge in the hopes that the thick fluid would fill in some of the pockmarked texture left by the paper towel. This has been working to some degree.

painted 1

I spray painted it black so I could get a better sense of the texture. I tried sanding it again, but with the same gummy result. Oh well. On with the painting of Modpodge…

wearing 1

The journey continues. It is looking more and more impressive each time I work on it. Slowly, it is taking shape, and feeling better. I am trying to think of ways that I can excuse or hide the lumpy surface texture. There are a few details yet to engrave into the helmet, and those may help distract the eye from the uneven surface. We will see!

Onward! My goal is to have this presentable for a Steampunk themed photoshoot at the end of the July. While I don’t intend to wear it for the shoot (I have a Steampunk/Lolita/Loki outfit, and the helmet just doesn’t really work…) I would like to have it as a prop. This means it doesn’t need to fit perfectly, as long as the exterior looks decent. There are other costume pieces that I will need to have wearable, so those have been taking precedence over the helmet, and those I will cover here as time permits. The plan is to ultimately have this piece and the full movie-inspired outfit ready for action by mid-September, when we have our Comic Expo. I am squeeing in anticipation!



Loki Helmet – Redo

After that horrible first attempt at Christmas, I started over again in February. This time, I decided to build my own wire frame from scratch. I picked up a spool of cheap steel wire from the hardware store. I made sure it was stiff enough that it would hold it’s shape while I work.

I started with a hoop that fit comfortably around my head, like the band of a hat. I then glued an arc over the top of my head, joining the very front and the very back of the hoop. This would hold that hoop at the correct height on my head.

Once I had this basic interior size figured out, I could start building the exterior. Special note: After each session of work, I would test fit the helmet to make sure it still fit and was easy to put on and remove. This way, if anything was out of place, I could fix it before moving onto the next step.

wire frame 1

I cut six wires for the horns, three for each. These I curved into the shape I wanted, and glued together. I kept the bottom ends long, to secure them to the base.

To keep their shape, I started at the tip of each horn, working down toward the base, gluing pieces of foam in between the wires, like spacers.

wire frame 2

With the horns secure and somewhat solid in their shape, I glued them in place on the helmet. Using fabric to bridge some of the gaps, I glued everything together. The fabric provided strength where paper would not, but was more flexible than foam sheets.

With the basic shape now constructed out of wire, foam, and fabric, I could begin layering the paper mache.

wire frame 3

The fronts of the horns were too angular, and I wanted to smooth them out. To do this, I cut strips of foam and glued them to the front face of each horn. This effectively rounded out the front without adding too much weight.

wire frame 4

The next step is to keep layering paper mache over the wire/fabric/foam structure until the outer surface is smooth. More on that next time!

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For the Love of a Good Villain

I have always had a soft spot for villains.

When I was a kid, I always liked Jafar, Ursula, and Scar more than I liked the hero in those stories. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was my favourite Batman villain (though, I love Heath Ledger’s take on the character!). I fell in love with Prince Nuada in Hellboy 2, and actually wanted the red hero to side with him, taking out the humans once and for all.

Most recently, I have taken a liking to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

Preparing for the first annual Steampunk Ball last fall, I decided last minute that I didn’t want to wear my usual outfit. Instead, I spent the few hours I had making a new headpiece and cobbling together a black and green dress from the skirts and tops I had in my closet. I managed, barely, to get a Steampunk Loki ready to wear. It was essentially a black and green gown and corset, and a gold headband with horns made from craft foam. For four hours of hot glue gunning and painting, it looked pretty decent. People recognized the character, and those who didn’t wouldn’t have even if I wore a movie replica costume.

Steampunk Femme Loki

Since then, I have been working on a movie inspired version. It has been slow going, with false starts, failed attempts, but it is coming along. The helmet is taking shape, and the basics of the outfit are wearable. I can put on the pieces I have and people know who I am, so that is a good sign! I hope to share the progress soon!

LokidUp to some good mischief with my Mom!

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Princess Serenity – Hair

The idea of finally making a Princess Serenity costume started with a chance sighting of a Sailor Moon wig at Value Village. I snatched it up, because I had only ever seen these available online, and was still reluctant to order one of the many I had seen on ebay and other sites.

The Value Village wig. It is ok, but I think I over paid for it… Meh. It started something, and I think that if I hadn’t been researching for the costume in the first place, I never would have come across The Five Wits.
Their site is full of great looking wigs, and the fact that the odango and tails are detachable made me happy. It allows me to place them where I think they should be (which is higher on the head, and toward the back…) and they are made with hyperlon, which is heat resistant and washable. And the prices are quite reasonable. It was a a relief to find a North American based company with good quality wigs that don’t force you to choose between rent and the wig. They are still “out of country” for me, but their shipping rates to Canada are good, so I’m ok with that!
I tossed the idea back and forth in my head, and finally decided that if I was going to do this costume, I was going to do it right. I ordered the wig.
It came very quickly! It was sent regular mail, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take. And because it wasn’t registered or being delivered by a courier, there was no way to track it. It could be held up in customs for weeks, if they decided to be sticky about it. It arrived in 1.5 weeks! I was so happy when I walked up to my house after work, and saw this large yellow envelope on my front step!
I was too excited to document the opening of the package… So, here is the wig all opened up.
The fit is great! I have a fairly small head, and I find that wigs are often too big and slide around too much, even if I try and use my bun underneath as a kind of anchor. I found this wig to be very comfortable, and because it has adjustable straps in the back, I can snug it up to my head!

Just the base wig, no odango.
And the pretty odango! 
Those strings can be trimmed and tucked in, they leave them on 
so you can make adjustments to your liking before trimming them off.
Yes, it is heavy… those tails weigh more than you think they would! But, it isn’t anything outrageous. If you have ever had long hair and then cut it all off in one shot (I did that about 10 years ago) the removal of this wig felt like that. The light bouncy feeling of having a lot of hair lopped off. So, when they say on their FAQ what they recommend for “floor length hair” wigs, they have a very good point. The longer the hair, the heavier it is, and the harder to wear. And the more tangled. And hair to the knee will give a good enough “floor length” effect. I am so glad that these tails don’t touch the floor!

These puppies are quite long!
I did find that with the dry climate we have here, the tails built up static very quickly, as you can see in the last photo. I contacted the Five Wits, and they suggested rubbing dryer sheets on them to keep the static down. They also said that some wig/hair places will sell anti static stuff, but it can be quite pricey. I will be giving these a test run and will try the dryer sheets. I plan to have this costume ready to wear by August, when I am attending When Words Collide, a literary convention in Calgary.
Stay tuned, and I will share the design and construction of the dress as I work on it this summer!

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Wraith Queen Visits Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2013

We bought our tickets. We prepped our costumes. Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo was just a few days away.

I have decided to revive my Wraith Queen. I wore that outfit once, and the biggest reason I haven’t worn her again is the make up. With almost no prep, and using what I had on hand, my make up was horrible. This time, I have decided to plan ahead (ok, I picked up the make up two weeks ago, and am finally doing test trials on it three days before we leave…).

I hated the eyebrows last time. Wraith don’t really have much hair on their faces. A handful of males sport moustaches or beards, but the females have hair only on their heads. My attempts to cover my eyebrows with make up last year didn’t work. At all.

At the store, they suggested I use wax to cover the hair, and apply make up over the wax. I picked some up, since I was there. A woman I met recently suggested spirit gum, if I don’t have really bushy eyebrows. I decided to test both.

This is my first attempt at hiding my eyebrows with spirit gum under the make up:

It didn’t really hide the hair at all. 
I tried the wax on the other eyebrow:
Where I had decent wax coverage, the make up went smoothly over top. There is a spot where the hair is thicker, and that didn’t cover as well. The over all success on this one was better.
Cleaning the wax out of my eyebrow hair was hard. Standing in the shower soaping my face and scraping wax out of my hair was tedious, and I still had to go over it with adhesive remover to get rid of the spirit gum underneath. 
The spirit gum only side was actually harder to clean, surprisingly! The next morning, I am still finding little bits of adhesive and make up tucked away in the hair. 
It turns out I am allergic to spirit gum, and had very itchy skin. So, the wax would be the best option, as I can use as little spirit gum as possible to minimize any reaction. 
My slits were much more successful! I built one on the back of my hand so I could see what I was doing. These will be going on my face on Saturday.
To the left, that is the wax sculpt. I rolled out a little snake and stuck it to my skin, pressing the sides out and smoothing it out so it was a bump. I then pressed a sculpting tool into the middle to create the hole. 
After shaping it, I applied a layer of the white make up I had used on my face. 
To the right is the finished product. I used eye shadow to create the shadows. I was a little heavy handed with the green shading around the outside, and attempted to soften it with some white eye shadow I had. Unfortunately, the white had sparkles in it. I won’t be doing THAT again. Note to Self: use the sparkle-free white to lighten…  The edges of the wax could be smoothed out a little more, but all in all, it turned out quite well. I hope it goes well when I try to do this on my cheeks!
After putting so much into the outfit, it was a real shame to have the make up ruin the whole thing. Not this time! Mwah ha ha!! 
So, I went to the con, I had a great time, saw lots, bought little. Took no photos. Not even of my own outfit. So once again, I am missing the crucial final photos of the outfit I worked so hard on! Next time, my friends. And there will be a next time. 
I received some fantastic advice from a make up artist at the con, and have decided to try making those cheek slits out of latex. I have been documenting that, and will share the results of that, good or bad, at a later date. It is slow going, and with several time sensitive projects on the go right now, my blog is suffering from lack of attention!
Until next time, happy costuming!

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Belly Dance – X-Men’s Storm

I am taking belly dancing, and it is a lot of fun! Our recital is coming up, and the theme has been established: Super Heroes.

At the beginning of the class, we were asked to purchase veils, as we would need them for the choreography. I found a white silk one that looks great! About half way through the course we were told about the super hero theme. For the rest of the rehearsal, all I could think of was how much my white veil looked like Storm’s cape.

Thus, my concept of Storm as a belly dance outfit was conceived! I found some white velvet-like fabric in my collection, and made a belt that I could attach my coin belt to. Keeping things versatile here!

But to make this a Storm outfit, it would need some X-Men accessories! I made a design out of fimo that I could attach to pin backs and attach temporarily to my outfit.

I made what is called a “cane”. The image goes all the way through the cane, and you slice off pieces that you can either attach to another piece of fimo, or use them as is.

I rolled out my gold Fimo into a long flat strip, and cut that strip into four equal pieces. These will become the gold X in the middle of the cane.
I stood the X up on my work surface. 
Next, I rolled out some black Fimo and cut that into strips, layering them around the gold of the X. Then I rolled out a snake of red, pinched it into a triangle snake, and cut that into four pieces. I wedged the red triangles in.
I then put a little bit more black around to completely enclose the red parts. I left the ends of the gold X open. 
Then, I rolled out gold Fimo and wrapped it around the whole thing. My cane is finished! You can see that the image goes all the way through. 

I have to roll it down a little to compress all the fimo into a solid shape. There were gaps of air in it between the layers of colour, and that needed to be squished out. Once I had it rolled down to the size I needed, I cut slices off, like you would with a cinnamon bun. You want to roll it as you cut so you don’t end up with a flat side.

They are ready to bake. I followed the instructions on the package, as different polymer clay brands have different instructions. Some bake at lower temperatures, or need to go in longer. If you bake them too long, you run the risk of burning them, which can release toxic fumes into the house. I don’t feel like breathing toxic fumes. 
So that is how to make a cane out of fimo! This works with any polymer clay, and as you get good at it, you can make almost anything! My Mom made fimo beads for years, and has made some amazing images, including a tiger’s face. 
Once they are baked, I used hot glue to attach pin backs. Once our recital is over, I should have pictures of the finished outfit to share!

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Princess Serenity – Commence Collecting

Its official. I am starting work on my Princess Serenity costume. I have started buying the bits and pieces for it.

I decided that the wigs at The Five Wits were worth checking out. I just ordered my “Serene Crystal Tokyo Queen” wig and hope to see it in the next couple of weeks. They say that their wigs are made of Hiperlon. From the homework that I have done, this appears to be the material that most of the higher quality cosplay wigs are made from, and it is heat resistant and washable. Nice! Once I get it, and have a chance to wear it around, I will give my non-expert opinion on it.

The craft and dollar stores abound with the little pieces that will make the details of the costume. I found a bag of “crystals” at the dollar store that will make a perfect “Legendary Silver Crystal” to wear on a dainty silver chain around my neck. Still looking for a nice bale to attach the pendant to the chain, but so far, it looks much like the one from the manga! Yay!

Crystal pendant and Chain

Even before I decided to buy the wig, and I had that crappy yellow one, I still wanted to go for the manga style princess. The circles around the bust would be silver. Well, lucky me, I went to the craft store and found (on sale and still able to use my coupon for further discounts!! Bonus!!) these silver circle pieces. I bought a whole bunch of them.

Silver Circles for around bust

For the waist band, I plan to use a variety of beads, pearls, crystals, etc. Each row around her waist seems have a different material. I am still keeping an eye out for good deals on pearls and crystals. The fabric store has chain and lace with crystals already on it, so they will be evenly spaced and I just have to stitch a string of these things onto the dress instead of individually sewing them on. Another bonus! I will keep an eye out for sales on these babies, because they are expensive! I don’t have them yet, so no pics.

I did pick up craft foam. I plan on using this in layers to sculpt the shoulder pieces. I should be able to shape this reasonably well, and make a shell to go over the fabric sleeve.

Craft Foam for shoulder pieces

I also have lace left over from a previous project (this lace trim has appeared on two different outfits already), and if it isn’t too creamy I might use it somewhere in the bodice.

Ivory Lace

I am trying to really bump up my cosplay to more than just a simple reproduction. I don’t just want to be recognisable from across the room. As you walk closer, I want more details to jump out. I want you to be able to stand next to me, and see another layer to the character. There needs to be more depth. More life. This should be a living, breathing entity, with a story told with every choice of beading, fabric, colour, texture… This year, I am anticipating a huge increase in Sailor Moon related costumes, to celebrate the new Sailor Moon. I want this to be one to remember.