A Life of Cosplay – No Regrets

Wednesday, 9 September 2009, 18:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

I recently was introduced to an online podcast, “A Life Well Wasted” by Robert Ashley.  This growing “internet radio show” focuses on video games; however, they recently touched upon the subject of cosplay.  In “Episode Four: Artists, Fans, and Engineers” Ashley dedicates the first 16 minutes to the subject.  This carefully edited interview with Kelly, a cosplay enthusiast, paints a picture of the average cosplayer’s mentality.  Although I am going to discuss some of the issues raised in this podcast, I encourage you to listen to the podcast in its entirety.

I would like to take this time to reflect on the events that have led Kelly, myself, and you (my reader) to this point of commonality.  We enjoy sewing, designing, and wearing costumes.  For Kelly and myself, however, this isn’t a new trend.  This has been our path since we were children playing “dress-up”.  I’m sure most young girls play dress-up just as much as they all play “house,” but do some children enjoy dressing up significantly more than others?  Can this activity alter their life?

When I was growing up, I knew one friend who could supply me with beautiful dress-up clothing.  As it turns out, this girl was active in theater.  I’ve noticed similarities between cosplay and theater; they both expect performers to embody characters.  Cosplayers are respected for their ability to “bring anime characters to life,” but seldom do we expect them to emulate a character’s social traits.  Kelly explains that while she enjoys posing for pictures, she doesn’t care to reenact her character’s behaviors.  American cosplayers often believe that cosplay should be more physical rather than social.  By avoiding social interactions with cosplay characters, the spectator is able to recall the authentic voice and attitude of the character and transpose that upon the body of the cosplayer.  As long as the costume is accurate, Americans are able to enjoy the cosplayer’s effort and creation to its fullest extent.

The cosplayer, therefore, has an important role to fill: he/she must construct an accurate and awe-inspiring costume for the spectator to admire.  But how do we measure accuracy?  Must we match the body-type of a particular character?  Should we make alterations to the design in an effort to avoid indecent exposure?  When answering these questions, we must be aware that anime characters are not quite proportional to the human anatomy.  I have worn skirts that are too short for my own good and I have even stuffed my shoes with heighteners.  In the end, if you want to look professional, then you need to have an awareness of your body-type.

In many ways, cosplay is a form of art.  It is inevitable that we are going to encounter many different interpretations of the same characters.  However, there is a mathematical component to cosplay (i.e. tailoring measurements) that cannot be ignored.  It has taken me years of dedication and practice to learn how to balance these tensions.  I have put a lot of work into my costumes.  Nevertheless, I have no regrets.

SideWinder – The Portable Bobbin Winder

Wednesday, 2 September 2009, 18:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Bobbins are an essential part of your sewing project.  By feeding thread to your machine from below the sewing foot, the bobbin thread creates a stronger stitch than you would be able to sew by hand.  The one problem is that threading the bobbin must be your first preparatory step before you can begin sewing.  Wrights has attempted to make our lives easier by creating SideWinder, a bobbin winder that is independent from your sewing machine.

I get excited over the simplest of sewing innovations, so when I saw the SideWinder in the store I was really interested.  I have often started a sewing project by threading the top of my machine, only to realize that I hadn’t stopped to wind my bobbin.  It always feels like such a waste of time to unthread my machine, wind the bobbin, then rethread my machine.

Unfortunately, when I showed it to Amitie, she was more skeptical.  She pointed out that if our sewing machines already come with a free bobbin winder, why should we spend money on it?  The SideWinder is not a cheap purchase; it costs between $20-40, depending on where you shop.  Wrights promotes their product, stating:

“[The designers] saw that having to stop in the middle of a project to unthread an intricately threaded sewing machine in order to fill bobbins was a drag on the creative process. The SideWinder makes it much easier to fill bobbins if they run out, and lets the user get back to their work that much faster.”

The main benefit is that the product will save you time.  This is a silly goal, since it should only take the user about 20 seconds to thread their machine and even less time to unthread it.  I have also decided that to use this product as it was intended, you will need to buy at least 2 spools of your specific thread color.  If your thread is already on the machine, you will need your second spool to wind your bobbin without unthreading your machine.  You can avoid buying the second spool if you pre-thread your bobbins before you begin any project (using your own sewing machine for this will suffice).

Costume shops will often keep a supply of pre-threaded bobbins. (These shops tend to keep an extra supply of the generic thread colors such as white and black.)  The SideWinder could be useful if they want to prepare back-up bobbins while they sew.  Personally, I chose not to keep pre-threaded bobbins of a specific color.  Whenever I sew a cosplay costume, I want my thread to match perfectly, so I often buy a new thread for each project.  This could be seen as a waste of money; however, I consider thread to be a fairly cheap purchase, costing between $1.10 – 1.99 per spool.

I do congratulate Wrights for introducing new sewing notions into the market and I encourage them to keep up the ingenuity.  Unfortunately, I fear this product will not be a big success for them.  Now, if they created a thread that changed color to match the fabric it is touching, like a chameleon, I’d be impressed.

Instead of buying this machine, just make sure that you are prepared when you start a project and don’t waste valuable money on things that you can get for free.

Traveling with Wigs

Tuesday, 25 August 2009, 21:18 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Recently, I’ve been trying to answer the question, “How do I transport my wigs to and from the convention center?”  As you can see from the picture above, my most recent solution was to throw my wigs (and wig supplies) in a box and pack the car to make sure nothing would fall on top of it.  This solution is only viable if you are driving to the convention.  How do you pack if you are flying?

The easiest way to transport a straight wig is to place it in a large ziplock bag, which you can then pack into your suitcase.  For styled wigs, you are packing to maintain the wig’s shape and structure.  This summer, I began storing my wigs on mannequin heads (which can be mounted on wig stands), but I am running into the problems that mannequin heads take up a lot of space, have to be hand-carried, and don’t protect the wig.

When I asked my favorite wig-guru, Katie Bair, how she transports her wigs she responded:

For more ‘crushable’ designs, put them on a foam head, net them, loosely put a bag over them, then pack them in a box with foam peanuts.  The best option is to ship them ahead of you (many hotels will allow this, and it’s cheaper than paying for another piece of checked luggage…), but if you won’t have anyone to receive the package, then consider packing all of your costume this way, and using a large box as your checked baggage.

Although I would never have thought of foam peanuts on my own, I still wince when I think that my Re-L cosplay wig would have foam peanut friction even at the very tip of her cat-like points.  In order to avoid the foam peanuts, I moved a step in the direction of carry-on luggage.  Oddly, it now makes sense that you can buy wig suitcases online:

http://www.internationalwig.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=GW_WigBox

This side-loading suitcase almost does the trick, but consider the following questions:  “Will the mannequin head be securely fastened, or will it move around?” and “Will up-dos fit in such a small space?”.  The perfect wig case would open at the top, have a secure mannequin stand, and have a lot of head room for spikes.  Well, I did look around for such a case and you’ll be glad to know I found what I’d been looking for:

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=27522628

These hat boxes can be found online in varying colors and sizes (I prefer 12″x13″).  They are more of a vintage item; i presume they were a result of the top hat era.  With luck, as soon as we develop our cosplay products and install an online shopping cart onto our website I will do what I can to make large hat boxes available to you guys.