Cosplaying while pregnant.

So I’m speaking to this subject from a sort of bizarre place; I haven’t TECHNICALLY been IN cosplay while pregnant yet. I’m finding it difficult enough to just get a costume FINISHED at this point! But as (probably more than) half of cosplay for me is in the creation, I imagine I’m speaking a little more to that!

Cosplay has become delightfully broad and rich in recent years, a fact I’m proud of for individuals and the community alike. When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, in addition to the usual delight and trepidation, I felt strongly that I wanted to continue to enjoy cosplay with our growing family (and my growing belly).

 

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At 19 weeks, I shared this photo to celebrate one year to Star Wars VII! The sign says “This is me (and Padawan Baby) one year from The Force Awakens.”

 

My efforts in cosplay have slowed significantly in recent years, but I’ve never planned on stopping, and the expected change in my body was inspiring! When my first trimester became particularly tumultuous and difficult health-wise, I decided to resign from my teaching position early (a plan we had in place for when baby is born, anyway), and that left us with a significantly lowered income far sooner than we’d expected or planned for.

So besides just the illness associated with my early pregnancy, I faced guilt that came along with no longer providing for my household – who am I to make costumes (even if I felt well enough to do so) when there isn’t really any extra money around (and we still have all these things to buy for baby? Nursery planning and painting and stuff and THINGS)? So I didn’t. And I didn’t feel well enough to do so until late 2014, well into the second trimester.

 

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Baby boy at 24 weeks!

 

Fortunately, many health issues and some financial issues began to resolve and I felt a lot better, finding the energy to do more not only for my family and baby, but for me, too! But another problem presented itself… I was GROWING. So I typed in the funniest combination of search terms I can think of: pregnant cosplay costumes!

A lot of fun and famous results popped up, and one of my passions was included: Star Wars! Padme Amidala of course spends much of the third prequel sporting a cute bump, and her tan dress quickly went on my list. It was practical, didn’t require a massive amount of materials (unlike many of her other dresses!), and showed off that cute belly! Other suggestions came from friends, and while I don’t know if I’ll have time to tackle all of them (with just 10 weeks left now!), it was absolutely a fun conversation. So that’s in progress, and getting a little closer to completion every day (taking it in small, slow bites here!). I’m also still working on a White Mage costume that I’ve (embarassingly) had the materials for for over a year. Because it’s a big, loose robe, I can certainly wear it comfortably while bumpy (and comfort is a big consideration these days)!



I really AM hoping to get Padme all finished up before go time (in May), perhaps attend Starfest (and present the documentary I’ve been working on since last year!), but now into the third trimester, health and just general fatigue are getting to me again. As a woman with pre-existing high blood pressure, pregnancy can be a high-risk scenario for me and baby. Fortunately we’ve been able to manage it with good medical care and drugs, but that doesn’t stop a mama from worrying. I’m very lucky to have a great doctor (who says DO THINGS and GO PLACES!), a supportive husband, and a growing small business that is able to provide at least a little extra income! This whole experience has been exciting and (obviously!) life-changing, in so many ways it’s almost impossible to count!

Next up? Dressing up this little boy (at least until he has the wherewithal to say, “Stop it, Mommy!” Hehehehe.)!

Crafting Product: Spray Adhesive

I’m a big fan of adhesive in costuming as it can make it easier to apply applique and work with fabrics and other materials. I have a deep and abiding love for fusible webbing (like Heat’n’Bond, for instance), but when completing work on my White Mage costume, I felt like I needed something a little different.

Because I was already looking at adding a good amount of fabric with the large triangles at the hem, I didn’t want to add more materials to weigh down the costume – not to mention having to cut MORE triangles after I already cut these ones! Fusible webbing – even lightweight – can add additional bulk to fabric and stiffen the same way interfacing will, and I wanted to avoid both of these effects. But I still needed something to hold the triangles secure while stitching them to the main robe! I didn’t feel pins would be as effective or efficient for me, soo…

 

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Ready to spray!

 

I turned to a temporary fabric adhesive! I purchased Odif USA 505 Temporary Fabric Spray Adhesive from Amazon.com and found it works brilliantly!

It worked great, holding each triangle securely while I used a blanket stitch to fix it permanently to the robe. The blanket stitch was intended both a little decoratively (it seems suitable for the slightly rustic style of the Tactics costumes, in conjunction with the black contrast stitching added later.

 

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What the spray looks like on fabric.

I covered my ironing board with a layer of craft paper and sprayed directly on the reverse side of the triangles I was applying – I didn’t want to stick to any overspray on the main robe. I then just picked up each triangle and affixed it in the position I wanted! If I made a mistake or didn’t get it where I wanted it, it was easy to re-position – I could usually move it without spraying more adhesive.

 

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Ready for sewing!

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With secure blanket stitch.

 

The adhesive itself sprays on a little bit dry (not much of an odor, a great benefit as I’m pregnant at the moment and SUPER sensitive to smells) and looks kind of like that window snow spray people use in winter for decorating doors and windows. It doesn’t take much! I focused on making sure the edges had a good coat, but never enough to dampen the fabric. They’re entirely accurate when they say it doesn’t gum up the needle, a big plus that I’ve found missing in some other temporary adhesives.

Specifically, I wanted to avoid bulk at the hem of this robe, namely that of adding more material using something like fusible webbing. I also wanted to avoid the excess time and bulk hemming each individual triangle would have added. This particular adhesive solved both of those problems and streamlined the process very well!

The 5.6 oz can was about $12 at Amazon.com and I have TONS left for future projects.

What are they thinking?

Judges, that is.  Costume contest judges of all kinds.  Those you drop your hard work and dedication in front of for scrutiny.  Those judges.

A friend prompted this post by asking about “unwritten” requirements in masquerades and cosplay contests.  What are the expectations for each level?  For presentations?  For anything?

First off, the written rules are the only ones you need to worry about.  Those are designed by the coordinators or chairs in order to make things fair and – most importantly – keep you safe.  They also remove any liability from the con if you choose to ignore those rules.

Second…  You’ll never know the unwritten requirements. You’ll never know what each individual judge really wants to see. You can’t know that stuff, all you can know is that you love what you did and you did good work.  You might be able to learn them by looking at past winners and participating in the contest – but only maybe.  Those unwritten expectations change from year to year, convention to convention, judge to judge.  They’re always different, and that’s part of the fun!

As an example, the question of wearing colored contacts came up.  Lots of people love to wear them to complete a look.  I do it on occasion too – and I’m in the market for some circle lenses soon!  But is it necessary?

As a judge, I like it because it’s a detail that’s been considered. It’s just like taking the time to choose the right colors or finish your seams. It means you put thought into it. But it’s only one piece in a thousand that indicate your skill and interest level – there are plenty of others to work with.  It’s an extra: like adding a delicately sugar-frosted cherry on top of an already intricately decorated cupcake, but the lack thereof isn’t going to deduct points.  When judging, I wouldn’t be looking for it – but if you did it (and pointed it out, as it’s not always obvious) with the intention of providing just that one more detail, I would love it.

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As a cosplayer, I love the look – especially if the character’s eyes are distinctive – and the way it can really complete a costume.  I don’t regularly wear contacts, though, so it’s a challenge I reserve for distinctive costumes.  OR sometimes it’s an added detail to a costume that’s otherwise rather simple: Princess Emeraude, for example.  I wore blue contacts with her costume – a non-competition piece – because first of all she’s MADE OF EYES, and second because with her simple white shift, it was a detail that I felt really defined the costume.  I love details; I’m a detail fiend.  That’s how I choose to create costumes.

If you don’t, no biggie!  You costume based on what you need and want.  If you can’t wear contacts, focus on another detail that’s important to you, and make sure the judges KNOW it was important and intentional.  There are thousands to choose from!  Finishings, makeup, wigs, accessories, shoes, even music and movement for your presentation –

– tiny tangent here, I just did a fully-fleshed out, dramatic presentation in 40 seconds.  Most of my presentations are under 1 minute.  One minute in stage-time is an ETERNITY.  The music/SFX are super important, and I use them for the utmost effect.  Anyway –

… anything that makes you memorable.  Give the judges a good reason to remember you and your costume, whatever that reason is.  Make a statement, and make it yours.  Enjoy!

Review: Heroes of Cosplay, Episode 6 THE FINALE

The as-yet-to-be-renewed Heroes of Cosplay completed its initial run tonight with some spectacular fun and serious drama (guys, it’s reality TV, there is drama.  Did you know you have nerves attached to your muscles?).

Embedded image permalinkI HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY SICK PEOPLE AT A CON.  Stop that.  Even so, it’s not hard to understand the motivation to work through an illness for something you’ve already put so much effort and time into.  Despite how you feel, you want to go through with it.  How many of us do that with our work or career?  It’s a tough choice.  Admittedly… my illnesses in the past have come the next morning… *mumblemumbledragonconmumble*

One of the most lovely moments was Jinyo’s proposal to Victoria.  So sweet, and the opportunity to have help from such a fantastic gentleman as Peter Mayhew (THE Chewbacca) simply can’t be passed up.  Peter is also currently in need of medical care which his friends, family, and fans are helping to support via the website Standing In The Stars.

Unfortunately, a far more negative scene awaited us during the masquerade as the crowd jeered the “out-of-towners.”  It is my understanding that there was some frustration with the show and management, but in my opinion, that is absolutely no reason to be heckling people, offering rudeness, or (even if you didn’t start it, as I have heard is the case) continuing an argument.  What the hell was that?  Aren’t we all adults?

Aside from that, “out-of-towners?”  REALLY?  It’s a major convention that brought hundreds of thousands of people to Kansas City.  Conventions are DESIGNED to be attended by non-residents.  If there were only residents of that city attending THERE WOULDN’T BE A CONVENTION.  And heaven forbid there were only locals in the masquerade – it’d be five minutes long with two entries and no judges.

When you are costuming, you are there to do YOUR best.  If your best doesn’t win you an award, keep going.  Learn.  Seek out new and better techniques, materials, keep creating and GROW.  But do not stand there and cry in your beer that you were “outclassed.”  Every single one of those people started out with no skills; they worked for them and built them.  It is an extremely ungracious and disingenuous way to approach anything.

You didn’t start it?  Good for you.  But you didn’t leave it, either.  You participated in a meanspirited, abrasive heckling.  You were hungry, tired, and hurting?  So was everyone else in that masquerade.  No excuses.  Bullying and meanness is never okay.  Period.

Aside from that, it seems like it was a great experience for all the folks involved.  There was a lot of growing, learning, and the requisite struggle that is one of the things that makes anything – but especially cosplay – worth doing.

Looking forward to another season!

Learn more at SyFy’s website.

Review: Heroes of Cosplay, Episode 2

Here we are again!  All the drama and angst of a cosplay competition!  And some difficult conversations.  This was hard for a lot of people to watch.  Including me.  But it was neither inaccurate nor misrepresentative of the community.

Early in the show there was a dinner conversation.  Two plus hours of footage edited down to 2 minutes, natch, because this is TV and we only have so long.

Here’s what I saw: a group of cosplayers criticizing the choices of other cosplayers.  At least one cosplayer at the table feeling incredibly awkward abuot the conversation.  Like you do.

Here’s what I think: I think that at some point in all of our cosplay, other hobby, even professional careers, we’ve been responsible for needlessly and unfairly judging someone else.  Myself included.  In the past, I’d been particularly nasty, not always intentionally, but sometimes it was just none of my damn business and I thought it was.

Here’s what I say: Ye who have never secretly in your heart and mind judged another, muttered under your breath how you would have done it better, narrowed your eyes at what (to you) was an unacceptable body form, please… throw the first stone at Yaya and company.  Go ahead.

Oh, none of us fit that bill?  I didn’t figure any of us would.

I’ve heard people SCREAM (figuratively, online) that this show is ruining cosplay.  Know what ruins cosplay?  Telling people they suck.  Spewing pure hate at people willing to put themselves out there.  Being a bully.  Being unwilling to allow people to change, apologize, and come back better.  Judging people who are doing it their way.

Cosplayers are not perfect.  As I’ve grown older, wiser, quieter, perhaps a little wistful, I’ve been able to recognize my prejudices and clean them out.  It honestly didn’t happen until really recently.  It was hard.  Letting go of what I had envisioned as deep-seated, worthy platitudes that all cosplayers should follow.  But I realized… it is none of my damn business what other cosplayers are choosing to do.

It’s like I tell my elementary school kids.  “OMG, Mrs. Warner it’s an emergency!”  “Oh?  Is someone bleeding?”  “…no.”  “Is someone on fire?”  “…..no.”  “Then it’s not really an emergency, is it?”  “No, I guess not.”

I feel like we need to have that kind of come-to-Jesus in cosplay right now.  How you cosplay is how you cosplay, and it’s legit.

Additionally, on the subject of someone else working on a costume… perhaps it’s because I teach, and teachers live by the adage of “beg, borrow, and steal.”  (Obviously we don’t really steal, I mean, that wouldn’t be cool.) Maybe it’s because I’ve been dabbling in more ICG-style costuming for a few years.  Maybe it’s because I’ve worked on HUGE group projects where we all had our specialty – sewing, crafting, prop making – and we shared the fruits of those labors.  Maybe it’s because design in itself is an art, and still deserves to be recognized… even if the design isn’t for you, but for your model.

I think we need to start expanding and clarifying the rules about who can be in what costume and who has to have made it.  Create a place for a cosplayer AND a designer who can work AND compete together.  Victoria and Jinyo both deserved a lot of congratulations for creating the Tron dress (EL wire is like…. AAAAHHHHHH).  Again, it’s about the whole sum of the parts – planning, crafting, presentation, and discussion.  Having someone help you – willingly, of course – should be totally okay in competitions.  Just make a space for that person so he or she can share the credit.  Teams make powerful, incredible costumes and simply cannot happen with one person alone.  Let’s honor that.

Final note… I love Chloe so much.  She’s my new favorite person.  I love her bright, open attitude.  I love that she had fun.  I love that she reminded me how fun it is to get up on stage.  Great job, girl!

Havin’ some feels and things, because reasons.

I’ve been feeling a little discouraged (okay, a lot discouraged) by some of the attitudes brought out by Heroes of Cosplay, etc. First, criticisms from folks who haven’t seen it. That doesn’t seem fair to me. We say in elementary school that it’s only fair to refuse something after you’ve had a "no, thank you" portion. IOW, you gotta TRY it at least.

And then, from the folks who have seen it who are so negative about it. Maybe I’m just trying to stick to the old "if you don’t have anything nice to say" adage, but I also didn’t see it as negative. I saw it as real. It’s one of the most realistic reality TV shows I’ve seen in a long time.

I was SO in every one of those positions and perspectives at some point in my cosplay ‘career.’ Now, they’re not all healthy, but they’re part of the reality. I don’t understand hiding what it can really be like. People are saying that it is or is going to give cosplay a bad name, but I don’t understand that. To me, it wouldn’t be right to say it’s all rainbows and unicorns (besides the MLP cosplayers, hurhur ^.~) all the time – that would be a lie, and a great disservice to those who aren’t familiar with cosplay.

It’s like anything else. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. There’s conflict. There are amazing moments of synergy and cooperation. There’s anxiety and triumph. There’s disappointment. The show displayed some great positivity; it also showed some of the most negative reactions.

Yes, it was majorly about competitions. That’s going to carry a lot of dramatic weight and make for exciting television. Some people love to compete. I love to compete because I love to be on stage – I have a background in music and it shows. That’s MY perspective, but I would never expect everyone else’s perspective to be the same. The feeling of winning is gratifying. And I have had those moments where I was upset because I felt someone won who didn’t deserve it (I like to think that’s in my past, but who knows what the future will bring?). I’m so impressed that some of the participants in the show had the balls to come out and admit that! It’s an ugly feeling (for me at least), but it’s also real.

And the time and cast is limited. They can’t cover the hundreds of thousands of cosplayers out there. They have six (six? Did I count right?) [Edit: Nine.  I read the synopsis, durhur]. They have to be on coasts because that’s where TV happens. Maybe if this is successful, there will be more and better coverage. There are a lot of things that are the way they are because that’s how TV is made (I’ll tell you what, I wish there were more home decorating & landscaping shows in the US interior, I could sure use some help!). They can’t speak for everyone. But they took a good sample. Hopefully there will be more.

[Edit: It was identified that the cast is mostly white females, which of course doesn’t make for an appropriate cross-section.  I was referring to the sample of perspectives, attitude, and areas of expertise.   Food for thought.]

And at the last, some semantics. Those cosplayers ARE heroes. Each one of them, for their own reasons. But EVERY cosplayer is a hero. It takes guts to put on a costume. It takes heart to put yourself out there. And any one of those people who were on the show would tell you that every cosplayer – every level, every perspective – is a hero.

Maybe it’s me. I’m an optimist. I see the good in things, most of the time. It’s a perspective that works for me. But I’m also a realist, and that can still jive with the optimistic perspective. I can go back 15 years and see from that perspective, and see these important folks having to make the same difficult choices as I did, I can watch them feel anxious and triumphant and appreciated and afraid, just like I did – and do. That made it very positive for me, to know that all those feelings I had and still have are out there in other people’s brains. To know that my perspective was always valid. That makes the show itself valid. They did a great job.

[Again compiled from FB posts, etc.]

Review: Heroes of Cosplay, Episode One

(As compiled from several Facebook posts and subsequently edited to make more sense and follow some kind of grammatical logic.  Hurhur.)

I love it. I love the vast variation of skills and experience and perceptions and behaviors. All the feelings, all the experiences, all the perceptions, it was all so VALID. It honestly reminded me of my earlier days in cosplay, when competing was a priority for me.

No, it wasn’t all pretty. Anyone who’s cosplayed for any amount of time KNOWS it’s not always pretty. No, I wouldn’t have made the choices that others would have made, but that’s why it’s so awesome – it’s another perspective! And each one of them is valid. The joy of success. The tragedy of disappointment. Priorities and perspective are totally different for each person.  That’s real.  Some of it was hard to watch because I KNOW THOSE FEELS.

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My first costume, Super Sailormoon from Sailormoon, made in 1998 (Photo from NDK 1999).  I had on two wigs. For realies.

I swear I’ve been every one of the competitors shown over the last 15 years that I have been cosplaying. I felt like I got gypped, I felt like a performer, I felt successful, I felt like I swept, I felt like I had a rockin’ good time and that was all I cared about. All of those things. All of them.

And I’ve been the bitch. And I’ve been the one hurt by the bitch (or bastard, as it were). I’ve been the grown-up princess with the little girl who loved me for who SHE thought I was. I’VE been the little girl meeting a princess I love. I’ve been incomplete, overdrawn, stressed, blissful, grateful, exhilarated. I think HoC portrayed that perfectly, honestly.

And on top of that, there were any numbers of really amazing tips and tricks – costuming at a professional level!  Automotive paint, head moulds, embroidery machines.  So much to learn and try.

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Rosa of Final Fantasy IV (DS) done in 2008 for Dragon*Con.

It was inspiring. I want to go up to my studio and work. I want the back yard to be done so I can convert the garage into a shop. I want to compete again. I want to be on stage. Yaya Han & company, you should be proud. I am.  I am proud to be a part of this beautiful, fun, dysfunctional, nutty and nerdy community.  I love it.  All of it.

Also love DJ Spider’s take, and I can’t agree more.  Read it here!

Watch the show Mondays on SyFy.

Refia, finally!

A quick (and hilarious) shot from Animeland Wasabi of my Refia costume.

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I love tea from Starbucks.  I need a slightly different wig, as this one was a bit light and definitely too short.  But otherwise it was a great, comfy, fun costume!  Love it!

Additionally, I plan on participating in the For Japan With Love Bloggers Day of Silence on Friday.  Bloggers will keep a day of silence for the people of Japan, as well as direct donations toward shelter boxes.  Don’t forget that you can also donate by text to Red Cross, or donate via your PayPal account, like I did this morning. =)

Weekend of Fun!

I was busy on Friday checking in people at the cosplay contest at Animeland Wasabi here in Denver, hence my lack of post!  I will resume regularly posting this week, but here’s a quick shot of where I was!

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Not the greatest shot, taken from my phone, but it was a wonderful time and a very successful contest!

Also want to mention, of course, to please pray for and send support to Japan in any way you can.  We wouldn’t have cosplay as we know it without the Japanese culture that influenced it, so please show your appreciation!  You can text 90999 to REDCROSS to make an instant $10 donation or visit the Red Cross’ website for more information.