Monday, September 17, 2012

Comikaze: Cosplay Construction 101 Review

On Saturday I attended Cosplay Construction 101 at Comikaze.  I'm not a traditional cosplayer (I didn't even know what that was until a couple years ago), but I thought some of what they had to say might translate well to burlesque.  The panel was Chris White, Avery Faeth, Vensy, and April Buyer.

Here are some highlights:
  • There are YouTube video tutorials for making specific character costumes.  In the cosplay culture, it's totally cool to use other people's technique and style to build a cosplay (which I would just call a complete costume, but when in Rome).  In burlesque, you just don't make a carbon copy of someone else's costume; it's considered ripping off an idea to us.  (Lots of burlesque costumers will share techniques, but they don't take kindly to someone making a duplicate costume and trying to take their gigs.)  In cosplay, they're paying tribute to characters someone else created and put into the world, so they don't seem to mind sharing the best way to make a Stormtrooper costume, for example.
  • In cosplay (or burlesque), don't skip steps.  When you skip steps, the shoddy work can and will impede later construction.  If you do it wrong the first time, redo the right way.
  • Don't save the difficult stuff for last because it winds up looking crappy or being really uncomfortable.  (Who hasn't done this?  Seriously.)
  • Work out the 3D version of your 2D character so you can figure out what can realistically be done with the costume.  Mr. Snapper does this with props, which is how our Mr. Toad car turned out so awesome.
  • Before investing in a new piece of equipment, make a list of the projects you want to do with that new equipment to justify the expense.  When Mr. Snapper and I invest in any kind of new equipment (like a rotary cutter and cutting pad, a cordless drill, or a second sewing machine), we think about how much we'll use the new stuff, how much time and energy we'll save.
  • If you're significantly altering the shape of a wig, buy wefts of hair to thread into the lace of the wig so you're not inconveniently bare in exposed places.  Extreme wig shapes can be achieved with a sturdy glue.
  • Build your shoes off of inexpensive & comfortable shoes from discount stores.  (I have my own opinions on this, but I'm also not walking around in my burlesque shoes at a convention for twelve hours a day.)
  • Consider how long you'll spend in your costume.  Make things lightweight, and consider the footprint of your cosplay; will you spend the entire day running into people because you can't see or taking up half an aisle with your outfit?
  • Be careful when purchasing something from overseas.  The wig/fabric/prop/costume may be totally different from the picture, leaving you scrambling at the last minute to get what you need and spending more on a local supplier.  (Remember my lovely green taffeta and how I now have a sheer dress because the Chinese supplier didn't represent it accurately in the listing?)
  • Start small with your cosplay.  Try making inexpensive outfits from craft foam and cardboard before trying to tackle a project that requires resin casts and pattern drafting.
They had a lot of useful information that we can and do use in burlesque, but they're missing out on some great suppliers that can save them money!  Here are some resources:
  • Arda Wigs.  This was one they mentioned in the panel.  I popped by the website and the wigs look great and are pretty inexpensive.  They also have a lot of zany colors.
  • Volpin Props.  This was another they mentioned in the panel.
  • Foam Mart.  They mentioned Foam Mart for rigid foam.  In college in Arkansas we were able to get some rigid foam sheeting from our local hardware store.  They do have flexible foam at JoAnn Fabrics (subscribe to their mailing list so you know when they have a 50% off foam sale), and at shops in the Fashion District of downtown Los Angeles.
  • Wonderflex/Fosshape.  They mentioned Wonderflex in the panel for building rigid, shaped pieces.  I've never worked with it myself.  I know of it from my corset supplier, as they carry Wonderflex and the less expensive Fosshape.  Avery gets her Wonderflex from Dazian in North Hollywood, and they also carry Fosshape
  • Michael Levine.  This is my recommendation.  The cosplay hopefuls were being directed to JoAnn Fabrics for supplies.  If you live in flyover country and don't have a Fashion District, that's probably the best idea.  If you do live in Los Angeles, Michael Levine is like a Wal-Mart for fabric.  They have so much stuff and you don't have to negotiate prices.  (There are lots of fabric shops around Michael Levine who will haggle.  I don't always enjoy the hassle of haggling.)
  • Bohemian Crystal.  The panel talked about personalizing costumes.  Bohemian is a great resource for rhinestones and beads for embellishing.
  • Fabulous Feathers.  The panelists buy their feathers from craft stores, spending significantly more than necessary. Fabulous Feathers is in Northridge.  Jason has been my feather supplier for a few years, and he has a wonderful selection.  If you're in downtown LA and you don't want to make the drive, you can check out Mother Plucker and still save on feather purchases.  In flyover country, there's a fairly new feather supplier called Fancy Feather in Dallas.  (I plan to buy their feather fan hardware to construct my next set of fans.)
If you find yourself in Los Angeles and you need someone to spend a couple hours in downtown Los Angeles with you to find some costume/cosplay resources, please shoot me an email. And if you have any questions about how to build or embellish something, email me.  I do love problem solving.:)

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