Costume and Graphic Design

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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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Corset Design, Drafting, Construction Pt 5

Last time, I had pinned all the layers together, and stitched them into what will now be treated as one piece. So, each pattern piece has a layer of fashion fabric and a layer of coutil that have been carefully sandwiched together. Because my markings were made in white pencil on the coutil layer, I can still see my stitch lines and identification on each piece.

Here is the video I followed that explains how to pin everything accurately, and why you want to do so! (I am linking to specific videos for this segment, because this is where things get tricky… and a very clear explanation makes everything go smoother!)

Here is where I have a little blog-fail… I do not have photos of this part of the process. Oops! 
So, I cut out my lining and stitched those pieces together. I also stitched the outside pieces together. That left me with four sets of material: Outside left, outside right, lining left, and lining right. I followed these instructions on how to insert the busk: There is a knob side and a loop side. 
Next was inserting the waist tape and sewing the outsides and their corresponding linings together. I mixed up the order of the instructions, and attached my lining to the outside before I put the waist tape in. It did make it more bulky and awkward, but I managed! 
Now that the waist tape and lining are in place, I can flip this baby right way out!
With the busk closed, and the whole thing as flat as possible, you can see the general shape. The bottom should follow my lap fairly well (I will be test fitting while cutting my bones to size). The back is quite high, as you can see. I like the dramatic effect of it. Very few of my shirts and dresses have low backs, so if I want to wear this under my clothing, it shouldn’t show up there.
I tried laying it flat to see the shape, but it is just too curvy!

So I put it on a pillow to see how it was coming. There are no bones yet, so it does pucker and squish, but I am happy with it so far!

It is time to start sewing the boning channels! Yay! I am nervous about cutting the bones myself.
Just a little side note… I did design this corset to be 24″ closed. (That is not a huge reduction for me… my natural waist is 28″ last time I measured, and I have lost several pounds since then.) I measured the almost finished corset, and it is closer to 22″. Oops again! I probably won’t wear this one fully closed, so a modesty panel will be a good idea!

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Help Sidney Eileen Defeat the Dread Lyme

I have mentioned Lucy’s Corsetry many times in my corset making posts, and she has been a huge source of inspiration to me. Her mentor, a woman who not only nurtured her love of corsets, but also encouraged her to make her wonderful videos, is in need of help.

Sidney Eileen has suffered from Lyme disease for 6 years before finally being diagnosed, and in that time it has robbed her of her well being and ability to work. It has reached an advanced stage that requires many months of intravenous treatment.

A Call to Action has been put forward in the blogging/corseting/costume community to help. Any donation, no matter how small, will mean everything to Sidney. I can’t afford to offer much myself, but I am giving what I can, and hope that by sharing this at least one other person might do the same. Here is the campaign website where she shares her story, and there are links to other sites for information on Lyme.

If you are comfortable making a donation and passing this along, then I encourage you to do so. The fundraising efforts will run until April.

Sidney, I wish you the best of luck with your treatment, and a swift and full recovery. Brightest blessings to you.

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Corset Design, Drafting, Construction Pt 4

With shorter office hours over Christmas, I thought I would take the opportunity to catch up on my corset making… nope. I enjoyed the time with family, several of whom were visiting from out of town and are seen twice a year. I am thankful for the time I have with them… the corset took a back seat. And it waited oh so patiently for me!

I finally stopped talking myself out of cutting the expensive stuff. I don’t remember how much I paid for the pinstripe, but I didn’t buy heaps of it, so it couldn’t have been that cheap. And of course, the coutil, which costs more than any other fabric I have ever purchased… But yeah, I finally did it. I quit making mock ups and went in for the real deal.

99.9% of the instructions came from Lucy’s Corsetry videos. She has fantastic explanations of putting everything together, inserting the busk and waist tape, grommets, bones, everything. I have learned some wonderful lessons from her videos.

I had planned to do an instructional entry on how I put this together, but I don’t feel that I am comfortable enough or familiar enough with the process to properly explain anything that I did. But, here are some photos and brief descriptions of my personal journey building my first real corset.

Here are my pattern pieces. I have labelled them with their number (1 is the front panel, 6 is the back panel). These are the stitch line pieces.

I have two versions of each piece. The blue ones include my seam allowance. This allows me to trace everything out as close as possible to reduce waste. I traced these out first, and then placed the stitch line pieces inside and traced them.

My pieces are all nice and snug. I kept the waist line perpendicular to the stripes on each piece so that my pin stripes will be nicely vertical on the finished corset, and not at funny angles. My pieces also alternate direction to reduce twisting. I did the same with all my layers. Because the pattern on this fabric doesn’t have an “up and down”, I can do this with the fashion layer too. Obviously, if your fashion layer has an image with a definite “up and down”, you can’t do this with that layer! But doing so with the interior layers will still prevent twisting in the finished corset.

Here is my pinstripe. I tried really hard to make sure that my pieces were straight with the stripes. I did tidy this up, as I noticed that my front edge on this piece was a little off. My chalk made a huge mess all over my table… white dust everywhere. I used the chalk on the fashion layer so it will disappear like a ninja… without a trace (that one is for you, Char!). White pencil crayon was used on the coutil layer, because that is going to be hidden by the lining, and I don’t want to lose my lines after I have manhandled the fabric.

A bunch of the pieces pinned. I carefully pinned exactly on the line, matching the waist line and stitch lines on both layers.

I labelled every piece. How ever you label it, as long as it makes sense to you the next day, next week, or whenever you come back to it next, have at ‘er. For me, an arrow pointing to the top, and two numbers worked well.

The first number is where the piece fits in sequence. I have 6 pieces per side, with 1 being at the front, 6 being at the back. The second number indicates if the piece is on the left or right side. I didn’t want to fuss with “is right when I am wearing it or looking at it?” or any other ambiguity, I decided that one side would be “1” and the other side “2”. So, my pieces are all numbered 1-1, 2-1, 3-1, etc for one side, and 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, etc for the other side. My lining pieces will be marked the same way, but with and “L” added so I know that those are lining pieces. That is important for the front and back panels, as they will have the same pinstripe fabric as the outer layer and I don’t want to confuse the two. This method worked well for me. Find what ever works for you. But do label them. If you remember one thing, let it be that. Label your pieces so you know what side and what sequence and what direction. I have sewn pieces in upside down or in the wrong order before. It was awful.

So, everything is cut, pinned, and ready to sew. That will be next time! We don’t need 30 photos of black blobs in one post… lets split them into two! Tee hee!

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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.