Thursday, December 10, 2015

Vaporeon Gijinka - Bolero Jacket - Pokémon

It's finally here, the one you've been waiting for--Vaporeon. In terms of quantity of pieces alone this is perhaps one of the most complicated costumes I have ever constructed. Hence, this one will be broken up into 5 shorter posts.

First of all I would just like to my deepest gratitude for the huge amount of support I received working on this costume. This one was a long time in the works. Special thanks go to my friend Harriet who dedicated many hours of her time and hand-stitched on 95% of the beads, hooks and clasps. Seriously, this costume wouldn't be nearly as sparkly without her help. I gave her the official title of Bead-Dazzler. Another shout out to my friend Alex who accompanied me on my initial fabric shopping scavenger hunt and helped me pick out the perfect fabrics for this costume.

Secondly, a million thank you's to Elemental Photography for the wonderful photoshoot and the wonderful pictures. I wasn't feeling so confident in a costume with so much exposed skin, but Amanda made me look and feel like a million bucks! You rock!

Credit for this amazing design goes to Cowslip. I discovered the Pokemon Gijinkadex collection of designs about 2 years ago now, and I fell in love with them. There are so many beautiful ones to choose from--I knew immediately that I wanted to cosplay one eventually. Picking between them was a challenge. I think I narrowed it down to 4, and then I let you--the fans--give your opinions on which you wanted to see me do. The votes were pretty divided--the Moltres design was also pretty popular--but eventually the decision was reached that Vaporeon would be the best one to do. Perhaps I will revisit the Gijinkadex in the future and do another one, but for now I am satisfied with Vaporeon.

I started the costume in May of 2014, originally intended to compete in the Anime North Masquerade later that month. This was at the same time I was working on completing the last 2ft of embroidery on my Forest Guardian and also building Sakura (1st opening outfit) and Isabelle--both sizeable projects. You can definitely say that I over-extended myself, particularly because I hadn't planned to still be working on the Forest Guardian at the time--I had intended to complete that for CostumeCon32 in April. By the time I hit AN prep suffice to say I was already super burnt-out.

I knew from the start that Vaporeon would be a challenging build--there was tons of detailing on every single piece. And there were so many pieces. No seriously, this costume has 22 individual pieces. It is actually kind of amazing that this costume is the one with the most pieces, and the most layers, while simultaneously being the costume with the most exposed skin I've ever done.

Ultimately, I underestimated the complexity of the project, by the time Anime North rolled around it was still not even at a point where it was wearable. I decided it was not possible to finish on the timeline I had and decided to compete in Forest Guardian instead. So I made my new goal completing it for AN2015.

...Unfortunately due to my hectic job schedule, that didn't happen either. Hahaha I didn't even try I was so busy. I finally completed it for Otakuthon later that summer--it took another month to fully complete the costume. I am pretty happy with the end result. There are only a few small things I want to adjust with the sleeves, but the rest of it worked out fabulously.

(Credit for the above shot goes to Don Dolce Photography!)

Let's talk about the first part of the build--the bolero jacket. It is the first piece I started and one of the last things I finished.

I started by draping the pattern for the bolero. I first outlined the edges and the seam where the big collar would be inserted using twill tape, then I used scrap pieces of muslin to pin in place, following the curves of the body form and trace my pattern pieces. It created 4 pieces. I then tested this pattern by making a mockup.

The next step was to pattern the big collar pieces. I made the first upper collar mockup out of paper so that it would be rigid, which would give me a better idea of what the final wired collar would look like. I ended up altering it slightly, then I made the second under collar with the offset spines.

Below you can see the pattern for the upper collar with the under collar below it.

I cut my collar pieces out of their corresponding fabrics. The upper collar was made with two layers of white cotton, sewn right sides together along the spined edge and then carefully clipped and flipped right way out. I ironed it and top stitched 1/8" from the edge to finish it nicely.

The under collar was made in the same fashion-except that it was made with the bottom side in the blue silk to match the rest of the bolero.
Here you can see all the pieces that made up the bolero jacket. Since the blue silk was so thin, I decided to line the body of it with a leftover navy cotton I had in stock (leftover from my bicycle skirt).

The piecing together of the collar was exceedingly complicated. I will do my best to explain, but ultimately I will have to say that I barely understood what I was doing. hahaha

There are 3 collars: the blue silk inner collar, the white wired collar, and the white and blue floppy under collar.

First I flat basted the blue inner collar to it's navy cotton lining. (The raw edge would get finished with bias tape later.)

I sewed the bottom side of the top collar to the bottom collar along the unfinished edge. This was sewn to the silk outer part of the jacket body along the collar seam. (So: jacket body, bottom collar --both edges, top collar (bottom edge).)

I sewed the top side of the top collar to the inner collar and the navy lining of the jacket body. (So: top collar (top edge), inner collar (and its lining), jacket body lining.)

Pictured left you can see how this left the top collar wide open for me to add the channels for the wires. Which was the next step.

Once the wires were in place I glued some felt to cover the ends that would sit in the jacket body. The felt helped to both keep them in place and make them less likely to wear through the fabric. The wires have an angle in them and extend past the collar seam and into the back of the jacket so that they rest against my back and therefore actually provide structural support.

Then carefully aligned it and I sewed the collar closed--this meant all 3 collars, the jacket body and lining were attached. The order from bottom to top is: jacket body, bottom collar (both edges), top collar (now both edges), inner collar (and its lining), jacket body lining.

I ironed the seam, pressing the jacket lining down, which hid all of this construction on the inside--giving it a nice, clean finish. Then I sewed channels for the bottoms of the wires to sit between the jacket layers. Then I basted the lining to the body along the raw edges--including the armholes. 
I used a basting stitch along the sleeve tops and cuffs to create puffed sleeves, which I then attached to the armholes. A year later I would return and finish the sleeve hem with a simple rectangular cuff. 

Next I finished the edges with a silver bias tape I made myself. I also used bias tape to finish the armhole seam neatly. 

Here you can see the inside of the jacket.

After this I sewed on some frogs for the closure on the top collar.
This pointy edged navy bit was top stitched to one side of the front opening of the bolero. It has dome fasteners to attach it to the other side of the opening for easy removal.

Details such as gems and beads were added later, I will go into details on those in a later post.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sakura - Clow Wand - Cardcaptor Sakura

I'm back from hiatus guys, so let's look at the final part of my Sakura costume series--lets talk about the Clow Wand!

The wand was the only part of the costume that I did not have time to build for the original debut of the Sakura 1st Opening costume at AN 2013. Instead it was built for the Sailor Suit version for Otakon later that summer.

Once again shout-out to EleventhPhotograph for doing both the quick pics at Otakon and the awesome shoot this fall.

You may notice a slight difference between the photos from the school uniform shoot and the 1st opening outfit shoot I did over a year later--I redid the paint-job on the wand. Because the wand was originally painted in the hotel room the night before the con with acrylic paint and no reference picture. And I got the colours (based on the anime and not the manga illustrations) wrong! Yes, this does happen. (The eyes are pink like the handle and not red like the beak--whoops!) So, for subsequent events I had it repainted with spraypaints and finished it with a nice gloss coat to give it some extra shine. The gloss coat looks much better than the flat colours alone.

Also, at AN this past year I dropped the wand and broke it, chipping the beak. After fixing that I had to repaint it a third time.

I haven't built as many prop-heavy costumes in recent times (Splatoon doesn't count because I didn't build the props!). Props is where I started, and I would really like to get back into making more props. But I am always drawn in by more fabric construction heavy costumes I suppose?

Without further ado, lets get started talking about the build. I began by sketching out the wand at full scale based on the reference photos. Once I was satisfied I used my sketch as a template to make the 4 wing pieces out of styrene. Did I mention I am still working on leftover materials from the Asuna armour? Because I am.

I also used this to cut out the basic shape of the bird head in insulation foam. I cut out a place to stick the rod up the center.
I used a dowel for the rod. I suppose the wand could have been lighter if I had used a pvc pipe instead of a dowel, but I totally didn't think about that until way later and by that point it was too late to swap it out without restarting.

I cut 2 more copies of the insulation foam bird head shape and glued these to both sides. Then I started carving.

Then I cut two angled slits in the back to stick the first two wings. These were glued in place.

Then I used apoxie sculpt to add the raised details. I also used apoxie sculpt to make the detail on the bottom end of the rod. I had to do that in 2 stages though because the sculpting material tends to not want to stick to what I want it to. So I made a base layer in the approximate shape and then built up a smooth layer over top.

Once I was satisfied with the sculpt I sanded it down a bit. Then I glued the top wing on and built up the eye detail with more apoxie sculpt.

Then I sanded down the beak and painted over a few layers of gesso.

From this point onwards Clow Wand version 1.0 was finished in poor lighting in a hotel room using acrylic paints. The picture at the top of the article was the resulting paint job. Not terrible, but I was not satisfied.
I sanded off the majority of the original paint job so I could start with a more or less smooth surface. I decided to completely redo the paint job to better match the original Sakura costume.

I carefully used some leftover Shell Shock to paint a thin coat over the unprotected foam beak surface (this is what chipped off when I dropped it a year or so later).
Using copious amounts of painters' tape to mask other areas, I began the paint process first with the gold. Then I hand painted the pink areas with acrylic, before re-masking and moving on the the red areas.

I finished the whole piece with nearly an entire can of gloss coat applied in many thin layers. 

This prop was pretty easy to make, it just took a bit of time with dry times, cure times, and sculpting times. 

And that's it folks! After years of waiting, I finally finished documenting my Sakura costume! Haha

Stay tuned: Vaporeon is coming up next!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Update

Hey all! I'm back from vacation now. I had a blast in Japan visiting with Alex! ;D Super times in Fukuoka, Beppu, and finally seeing Mt. Fuji. Lots of great adventures, and I have mixed feelings about coming home. (I would just like to be on an adventure forever.) And I also I bought more fabric, but that's hardly a surprise. I'm pretty sure I qualify as a hoarder.

I can't believe it's December already? And yes, I always say that. I like to think that it's a good thing that I always think time is moving so quickly--I usually attribute it to that old saying, "time flies when you're having fun". But every once in a while I feel as though time is slipping away through my fingers and I'm not doing something worthwhile. Being in job limbo for a while has been a bit disheartening. I guess I just sometimes feel like I'm not a productive member of society. Or maybe it's just that job hunting is generally super depressing. Well, no need to burden you with all my negativity. But the "real job" hunt continues.

In the meantime, I will most likely be working on a collection of accessories that I will be selling. Still prototyping, but I will most likely have something real soon! (And yes, I realize that was super vague!)

In recent and super awesome news, Mike--a.k.a. EleventhPhotograph's cosplay photography book is out now! Super cool! :D And I don't think that just because there are a few pictures of me in it. So many talented cosplayers and tons of great shots! Proud of him! Was glad he was able to drop off my copy before he moved back to Japan.

I've got a few secret projects to start on in the elf workshop. Apparently Christmas is this month? And I've got fabrics for my next cosplays in hand. I can hardly wait to start working on those.

As for upcoming blog content: The last Sakura post will be up this Thursday (so, tomorrow), ending the unnecesarily long and drawn out Sakura post saga. Then there will be a few not-cosplay/small projects to finish off the month of December. The new year will kick off with Vaporeon--bringing us up to date with current costumes--followed by any secret Christmas projects. Afterwards? Who knows?

That's all for now!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November Update

Salutations! It's November already? I'm on a pretty short turn-around between trips. I got back from New York on Thursday and I leave for Tokyo today. As I mentioned, there will be a 3-4 week hiatus from blog posts while I am in Japan, as I will not be bringing my laptop with me. Regular posting will resume on Dec 2nd. 

I had a pretty decent Halloween this year. Blayke and I carved pumpkins, watched movies and hung out with some friends in the evening. As usual, the weather was not the best so my friends and I decided to skip Church Street festivities. I wore my Toothless onesie so I could be extra cozy. Blayke made his first costume. It's Mister Chief

My New York trip yielded excellent results in the fabric shopping department, though my wallet is hurting from the steep exchange rate. I have the fabrics I need for my next 2 costumes as well as my accent gold fabric for Sakura.

I won't say what these all are for (the fabrics on the right here are for a secret costume I've been working on), but you can probably make an educated guess what the green jersey fabrics below are for. ;D The pretty buttons are going to be used on my next tailored jacket, whenever I get around to making it.
I saw some great shows in NYC--Shear Madness, The King and I, and Kinky Boots. I definitely recommend Kinky Boots. (Though Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder is still by far my favourite Broadway show I've seen.)

To follow along on my Japan adventures, be sure to check out my Instagram and Twitter!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sakura - Wig, Hat & Accessories - Cardcaptor Sakura

Part 3 of Sakura (1st Opening outfit)--lets talk accessories! The details are really what make this costume. If you want to see how I made the wings, go here! If you want to see the rest of the outfit, go here!

I entered this costume in the Friday night Workmanship Competition at Anime North in 2014 and won an award for Best Accessories in my category. That was pretty cool. It was my first (and so far only) time entering in a competition without a stage presentation component.

Once again, thanks to EleventhPhotograph for the photoshoot. I really love this black and white shot.

First we'll talk about the wig. I started with EpicCosplay's Aura in cocoa brown. I think this colour works really well for Sakura, it's not too brown or too blonde. It's almost a bit reddish. I think the colour works well on both my sister and myself.

Since I was doing a costume of hers with a hat, I didn't bother to add her iconic pigtails that she normally wears, because they wouldn't be visible. This has influenced my costume choices for my subsequent Sakura costumes to only be ones where Sakura is wearing a hat. Because this means I don't have to go back and fix the wig. And also because her costumes with hats are ridiculously cute.

As you can see the wig was pretty long. I purposefully picked a longer wig because she has those two small sections of longer hair in front of her ears. It is much easier to cut a wig shorter than it is to add in longer wefts.

I started by trimming the bangs. Using clips I separated off the different sections of the hair. The longer pieces were separated from the sides and the bangs. I left the long wisps at the original length, and simply thinned them out a bit. The sides were thinned and layered and trimmed to length. Then I trimmed the back of the wig.

The last step was to style the front of the wig to give the top that volume. I pulled sections of the hair up and hair sprayed them at the base. Then I used a blow dryer to set it. I made some shorter bits stick up while the rest parted and fell to each side. This created the look of her cute bob at the front.

Next I started work on the hat. Since I had very limited pink fabric left, I made a mockup. The hat's construction was pretty simple. The pattern consisted of a circle and a rectangle. The rectangle was the length of the circle's circumference.

First I rolled over the channel where the elastic would go later and ironed that. I didn't stitch it down yet, but pre-ironing saved me a ton of headaches later.

The next step was to sew the rectangle to the top of the hat, right sides together. Then I sewed the two ends of the rectangle together and then top stitched the channel for the elastic. I left an opening in the channel so I could feed the elastic through. The elastic both gathered the hat and helped it to stay on. When I was satisfied with the fit, I sewed the elastic ends together and closed the channel opening.

Lastly the bow was attached to the hat. Credit for completing the finishing touches goes to my friend Alli who handcrafted all the bows and hand stitched them on.

Instead of constructing socks and gloves I bought them, and made ruffles to add to them to help them match the rest of the costume.

Like the hat band, the ruffles are simply rectangles with a channel on on side for an elastic, which cinches them to fit and gathers them into a ruffle. These were tacked on to the gloves and socks.

Little red bows were also added to the gloves.

The shoes were an extremely lucky find. I managed to find flats at Ardene's in the perfect shade of red. They matched my red fabric perfectly. I added the bows to the toe. This is not 100% accurate to the design, but I didn't feel like adding straps to the shoe--I was worried it would make them uncomfortable. The bows were hot glued on.

I paid attention to the details so that everything would match perfectly. I wanted to do Sakura justice, and I think I achieved that. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sakura - Wings - CardCaptor Sakura

Part 2 of my Sakura (1st Opening outfit) posts: lets talk about wings! If you want to see how I made the outfit, go here!

Once again thanks to EleventhPhotograph for the photoshoot. I really love the above shot! It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.

This was an exercise in perfecting the foam wing style I had used for the Kero and Suppi gijinka costumes. Since I already knew what I was doing, this time around involved a lot less trial and error.

I like making foam wings this way because they are sturdy, and they aren't likely to get too damaged in crowded convention spaces. They are also fairly light and not horribly uncomfortable. I like the cartoon-y style of them as well. 

I traced out 4 wing shapes on the foam--2 for each wing. I cut these out with a pair of scissors.

Pairing them up I cut off the corners so they would be more rounded along the edges. This will help them fit into the cases better.

Using the same pattern as the wings I cut out my four pieces of white fabric. I made these about 1/4" bigger all around (+ seam allowance) to account for the depth of the foam.

I sewed the wing cases right sides together, trimmed the excess seam allowance and then flipped them right way out. I left a large gap along the base that extended up along the top edge--this is so I could get the foam wing inside the casing. Because of the friction, the foam really doesn't like to go into the case easily, so it takes a lot of patience and just a touch of brute force.

Using a heavy gauge wire, I created a wire base for each. You can see each wing has a wire base that is made of one continuous piece. The two "antennas" support the wing, the u-shape at the bottom is where the wing is attached to the base. Note how I bent the cut ends of the wire into little loops--this is so it wouldn't stab through the foam or fabric.

After taking some measurements and figuring out the spacing I began to pattern the harness. This was a bit tricky, because it had to fit under the pink dress, but sit high enough on the back so that the wings would sit above the dress' neckline. It also had to be tight fitting so that the wings wouldn't be droopy (a problem I encountered with Kero).

I cut a base plate out of styrene plastic. It was simply a rectangle with rounded corners--again so it wouldn't stab through the fabric cover later. The wires were attached to the base plate with copious amounts of hot glue. The nice thing about styrene is that hot glue bonds really well to it.

On the fabric covering I carefully measured and marked where the holes needed to be for the wires. Before sewing anything together I used the buttonhole function on my sewing machine to create small openings with finished edges for the wires to stick through. Then I sewed the styrene base plate into the fabric covering.

Once the back plate was finished I added a waistband and shoulder straps. I fit it on her so the shoulder straps would be tight, and allow the back plate to sit at the proper height. The straps were made to be a fixed length. The closure was a set of bra hooks on the front of the waistband, so it is easy to remove the wings for important daily tasks--like sitting.

We tested the wings with the dress. You can see here they are really droopy. Once I was satisfied with the fit I used hot glue to attach the foam wings to the wires on the inside.

Once the wings were actually attached to the base I could adjust the height that the wings sat by bending the wire at the base. Because the wings have weight that is sticking out from the body, even though they are really light science & gravity mean that they will be heavier the further distance the weight is from the base. As such, when you put them on, gravity causes them to pull and tilt the base plate slightly, which makes them look droopy and sad. You can see in the picture on the right how the base plate is pulling away from the back ever so slightly, but it is more than enough to make the wings droop.

While this problem is partially solved by making a tight fitting harness (minimizing the amount the base plate will tilt), to counteract this you simply have to overcompensate and position the wings pointing extra up to counteract the downward pull of gravity. This is so that when they fall to the position they want to sit at, it will be the position you want. Note the difference between the pictures above and below--in the second picture I have glued them internally and positioned the wings to point extra up. Now they don't look so sad.
The reason why I love making wings like this is because they are adjustable. You can bend the wires to suit your needs--whether that means you want to make the wings more open or closed, up or down.

My friend Alli (who helped me on my Asuna costume the previous year) helped to finish them off by neatly hand stitching the casings closed.

And then they were done! >:D