Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cosplay Overview: Howl, from Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli's "Howl's Moving Castle" made a significant impact on me when it was released in 2005.  I was enchanted by the ever-present charm of Hayao Miyazaki's brilliance; Howl's was beautiful, strange and human.
Though the handsome wizard Howl Pendragon Jenkins appeared to be the hero of the story, he was in actuality the one who needed rescuing.  The young woman Sophie Hatter, after being transformed into an old woman by a jealous witch, teaches Howl about his humanity and learns about her own beauty during their adventures.

The Costume

Howl wears a white peasant shirt, a quilted overcoat that he wears on his shoulders, black pants and black boots.  He also wears green earrings, a blue pendant necklace and a silver ring embellished with a red (and later, blue) gem.  This costume is based on his first appearance in the film. 

Howl and Sophie in the film. (Studio Ghibli)

Costume Construction:

The coat was made by quilting together the diamond pattern from cotton.  I traced out the designs on an over sized coat pattern and cut it into pieces, sewing them back together to give the front of the coat dimension.
I lined the coat in a red textured satin; I happened to have it lying around and though it isn't "screen accurate", it adds a nice touch.  A later of batting sits in between the coat and its lining to give it that "puffy" look.

Quilting detail on the coat with Howl's jewelry.

The peasant shirt was made from white cotton.  A ruffle trim was sewn across the front of the shirt.  The shirt itself is quite fitted, and tucks into Howl's pants.
I cheated on Howl's pants, and sewed buttons to a pair I already owned. 

Howl's necklace was made from a chain ordered on Etsy and beads purchased from my local craft store. The earrings were made the same way.
Closeup of Howl's necklace and earrings.

Howl's ring was made from Instamorph thermoplastic and beads for the cross details.  A red bead was epoxied into the ring.

A plush Calcifer was made from faux fur, feathers and googly eyes.
Calcifer plush. Photo by Vicious Victor's Photography.

Howl was initially completed back in 2009, but I fixed him up and remade a few pieces for 2014.  He'll be appearing at a few conventions in 2015 as well.

The completed costume. Photo by Vicious Victor's Photography.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cosplay Overview: Sephiroth, from Final Fantasy Dissidia

Sephiroth was my first cosplay ever (back in the mesozoic era), and I decided to make a new version of him in 2014.
The Dissidia design for Sephiroth is beautiful; he retains his imposing silhouette, but his entire costume has been embellished with some beautiful details.

This is a long one; exhaustive steps on how I made his costume are after the jump.

The Costume:

Sephiroth wears his trademark long black coat, with silver pauldrons on his shoulders.  He wears black pants with tall (thigh high!) boots, a SOLDIER emblem belt around his waist and black leather suspenders across his chest.
His Dissidia costume includes a gradient dyed cape that sits under his coat, bracelets embellished with long bead strands and an additional decorative belt that sits around his waist.
My goal was to make this costume for Connecticon 2014.

Costume Construction:

Sephiroth's coat was relatively straightforward to sew.  I used a black pleather material and the women's coat pattern from Simplicity Pattern 2581.

Lots of black pleather; use tape to avoid poking holes with pins.

The upper font of the coat was modified to be more open, the collar was changed and heightened and the lower front of the coat was cut into an angle to give it the correct shape.  The most difficult part of the coat was top stitching the pleather; my sewing machine's foot would stick to the material no matter what I did or what foot I used.  Thin strips of of wax paper placed over the seams prevented the sticking.  Keep in mind it can take a while to remove the bits of wax paper that get stuck in the steams, so be patient!

His belt and suspenders were made by sewing more pleather; the SOLDIER emblem was carefully top stitched onto the pleather to give it the correct texture.

The cape he wears under his coat was hand dyed; first, yellow, then the purple.  A trim of black feathers was sewn to the bottom.  The cape attaches to my SOLDIER belt underneath the coat.
The cape, after being dyed.

Sephiroth's armor was primarily created from Worbla (a thermoplastic available from  I created a mold from paper mache formed over a balloon, and shaped the worbla with a heat gun.
Worbla being shaped.  A wig head happens to have multiple uses.

Gesso and Mod Podge were used to smooth out the pauldrons and prepare them for painting.  They were sanded after being coated.
The pauldrons with a layer or two of gesso.

The designs on the pauldrons were made from leather cord I soaked in glue and applied to the armor once it was shaped. Once painted, I used scrapbooking stickers to mimic the look of the Materia embedded in his armor. Additional details were added with craft foam.

The pauldrons with their first coat of paint.

His belt's front piece was cut out of sintra, a type of expanded PVC sheeting.  The details were painted on with dimensional paint.  Beads and chain were added as needed.  The wing charm was created out of Instamorph.
The decorative belt, in progress.

I purchased metal bracelets that resembled his, and strung up beads onto chain and wire.
The easiest step!

As Sephiroth wears very tall boots, I sewed two boot covers to sit over the boots I was going to wear with the costume.  The seam between the cover and the actual boot is hidden underneath the lower buckle strap.  The covers close with velcro in the back, and also velcro to the boots for stability.

Sephiroth's wig was styled by using Got 2B glued hairspray and brushing his bangs upward.  Three wig clips were sewn into the wig to stabilize the wig and prevent it from sliding backwards off of my head.  The wig was very long; I would stop every hour or so and brush it to prevent nasty tangles.

For his eyes, I wore EOS Dolly Eye green contact lenses.  (Please consult your eye doctor before wearing any type of contact lens, whether you need a prescription or not.)  The lenses were very comfortable and were a vibrant, eerie green.

To create the illusion of Sephiroth's chest,  I used sports tape to carefully bind to the sides. Some light contouring and eye shadow added to his ethereal, androgynous look.

The final result looked like this:

Photo by Vicious Victor's Photography.
It was an exciting experience to revisit my first costume and build it again, this time from the ground up. It helped me realize how much I had learned over a decade of cosplaying and how to apply those skills. Sephiroth is a great character who is met by enthusiastic fans at any convention, and donning his black coat and massive sword can certainly be an adrenaline rush.
Despite the July heat of Connecticon 2014, I had a wonderful time stepping into the persona of the legendary One Winged Angel.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cosplay Tutorial: The Avengers "Cosmic Cube/Tesseract"

"The Avengers" blew everybody's minds in May 2012.  Before the movie released, I went a bit crazy making Loki's costume from the film...but that's a post for a different day.
Not wanting to sit in 25 pounds of pleather and armor in the theater, I decided to wear a SHIELD Agent outfit and make prop to go along with it.  I thought the Comic Cube would be the perfect thing, and I came up with a quick, easy and cheap way to make your own very cool looking cube.
The full details of how to make the prop are outlined in the video below, but I'll detail them here as well.

The Avengers "Cosmic Cube" Prop


  • Baseball or softball display case (clear acrylic)
  • Self contained battery powered LED lights (check the floral section of Michael's)
  • Glass frosting spray
  • Wax paper, about 2 feet
  • Sand paper, the finer the better

  1. Sand the display case lightly on the inside and outside to help the frosting spray to stick to the surface
  2. Spray the case with a thin layer of the frosting spray on all sides, inside and out.  Allow to dry.
  3. Spray the top of the LED dome with the frosting spray. Allow to dry.
  4. Turn on the light and place inside approximately two feet of crumpled up wax paper.
  5. Place carefully inside the cube, close and enjoy! 

I've seen other prop makers put really interesting spins on their own Cosmic Cubes by adjusting this general construction idea.  Have fun! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Full Circle

In the winter of 2003, I was a teenager attending public high school.  There was very little thought of the world beyond Toonami afternoons and getting by in class.
A close friend mentioned that a local college was hosting a convention.  Excitedly, we decided to attend and make our own cosplay.
Bear in mind, this was 2003.  The world "cosplay" had rarely (if ever) been uttered on television, and eBay was not yet overflowing with cosplay choices obtainable by the click of a mouse.
Through the use of my mom's raincoat and spray painted football pads, I manage to put together a passable costume of Sephiroth, from Final Fantasy VII.

My original Sephiroth cosplay
The convention itself was very small, hardly a flicker of what it is today, but the sense of camaraderie I experienced there was overwhelming.  We sung karaoke, watched anime and played D&D; all things we did at our usual gatherings, but the difference here was strength in numbers.  There were hundreds of "us" in one place, celebrating.
We could debate the console wars or argue if Goku would beat Sephiroth in a fight, but we would do it with tremendous love and respect of each others' passions.
Each year since 2003, I  have attended that convention, Genericon.  It has grown and changed and metamorphosed into something much bigger, but its spirit, and those memories, remain with me.  I have met some of my closest friends there, and I make new ones each time attend.
Smash cut to the spring of 2014.  Life is very different.  I have a big girl job, a house and a mortgage.  My family grew larger through marriage and smaller through death.
When I was unpacking my costume items from my recent move, I was stunned to find my late mother's old raincoat in one of the boxes.  It was marred by streaks of spray paint left over from the long missing armor.  It was still far too big on me.
I decided to revisit the costume that started my addiction hobby and remake Sephiroth.  This time I ordered a roll of pleather, molded thermoplastic and wore striking green contacts.  No spray painted football armor this time.
By the summer of 2014, he was completed and worn to Connecticon in Hartford, Connecticut.
 My 2014 Sephiroth cosplay. Photo by Vicious Victor's Photography.

 Cosplay has taught me many things, brought me many places and given me the opportunity to meet incredibly creative people.  For me, it has always come from a place of love.  Do I love this character?  What can I learn from creating their costume and having their persona for a weekend?
No matter how many more costumes I make or cons I attend, something always stands out in my mind.
It is amazing how much you can learn about yourself by being someone else. 

Starting out.

Welcome, one and all, to my new blog.
The focus of this new page will be primarily cosplay, whether it be tutorials, photos of completed work, or simply thoughts related to the hobby. 
More to come soon.