Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Masquerade: to enter or not to enter

I wish to start a discussion with you my faithful readers and with any costumers interested by what I am about to ask. It has to do with Masquerades at conventions and the costumes people make to compete in them. You see, I have been reading many of the comments on The latest edition of Otakuthon, and one I have seen come back often concerning the masquerade was the level and quality of costumes people presented. Some said that it was disappointing.

It had never occurred to me to consider whether or not my costume is “good enough” for the masquerade. Such events are often my main reason for going to a convention, because costuming is my passion. I know I work very hard on my costumes; I put a lot of time, energy and, let’s face it, money to make them. Contrary to others (not all, but many), I finish my pieces as if they were store bought garments, with overlocked seams, lining and proper hems. Of course, if you are in the audience, you can’t really tell.

Gwenyver & Daughter as Rosalina & Toadette, photo by Tanja Dorosh

Because of comments I have read on the poor quality of costumes presented at Otakuthon’s Masquerade, I have begun questioning myself: was my Rosalina good enough? Was it too plain? Of course, most people have no idea I asked for my worked to be judged as Journeyman even if, being accompanied by my daughter, I walked on stage in the Junior category. In fact, since I didn’t win anything official (my Costume-Con 32 membership is awesome, but it is not an official masquerade prize – as proof, my entry is not mentioned on any of the winner’s lists), I have wondered if it was because the judges did not realize I was supposed to be judged (my form said both Junior and Journeyman – it can be confusing), or because as wonderful as my work was, there were better entries (I am not a sore looser – there were really amazing creations presented), or because my costume was fine for hall costuming but was not up to Masquerade standards. I wish I could receive a report card of sorts at the end that would answer all my questions and help me ameliorate myself and my creations. It is like going for an exam in school, not get the top grade, but never know how you did. This is me, I just need to know!

I know, I am incredibly self confident and nothing touches me (not!).

Which brings me to ask the question, what are Masquerade standards? What is considered “Good enough” and what is nice but too plain to compete? I am curious to hear your input on this.

Here are some other entries in this year’s Otakuthon Masquerade:

The Queen of hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Cosplayer unknown, photo by SailorSaturnStef

Princess Zelda, Malon, Vaati and Link from The Legend of Zelda, Cosplayers unknown, photo by Rinukon

Guilmon from Digimon, Cosplayer unknown, photo by SailorSaturnStef

SailorSaturnStef as Odile from Swan Lake, photo by shnoogums5060

Mytis as Rozalin from Disgaea 2, photo by SailorSaturnStef

MamaLexxy as Beatrice from Umineko no Naku Koro ni, photo by SailorSaturnStef

Cosplayer and Cosplay unknown

Cosplayer and Cosplay unknown

All official photos can be found here (the album is not complete on the date I post this, but I hope it will be soon).

Now it is your turn: what is your opinion on the matter? I really want to hear everyone’s opinion as I am sure there are differences. Speak up costumers!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rosalina Costume Detail

For Otakuthon, the costume I worked the hardest on was Rosalina. Although not as popular as Toadette (I never stood a chance next to so much cuteness), I worked very hard on it and I am proud of what I achieved.

Gwenyver and Daughter as Rosalina and Toadette, photo by Tommy

As you all know, this was a last minute decision, but one I am happy with. I never felt self conscious wearing my dress (I would actually go so far as to say I felt sexy, except for the excited toddler I was running after while pushing a fully loaded stroller and trying not to trip over your train), and I don’t hate every picture of me out there (but some yes – the quick-snaps-where-your-face-is-contorted-weirdly ones, mostly). So here is my Rosalina costume in details.

The Dress

Rosalina Dress

Obviously, this is almost all of the costume. This dress is actually in three layers: the dress itself, a foundation, and an underskirt.

Rosalina Dress Fabrics

For the dress, I used polyester crepe which I found on sale (of course). I knew it was going to be hot (and it was), but it had the perfect matte but shiny look I was going for without using satin. I used pattern Butterick 4301 as a basic bloc and made a new pattern with a separate empire waist bodice, shaped skirt with train and long bell sleeves.

Rosalina's Dress - Sleeves' Flounces

The flounces at sleeves and bottom hem I interpreted as being made of sheer organza. In the case of the sleeves’ flounces, they had to have a shaped border, so I used the same technique here that I had used for my Padmé Picnic gown (a long, long time ago, in an apartment far away): I drew my shape on some tearaway, in this case using a frozen juice can top, then I pinned the organza to the tearaway and satin stitched following the curvy lines. The flounce at the bottom hem is curved to nothing at center front and finished with an overlock machine, and then turned and sewn. All the flounces were ruffled using a ruffler foot before being attached to their respective parts.

Rosalina's Dress - Neckline

The shawl collar is also made of organza, but in this case I used two layers that I shaped to curve to nothing at center front, sewed and overlocked together at the bottom edge. I flipped the piece over so the overlocked edge would be inside and I pressed that seam flat. The open side was sewn to the dress, sandwiched between the self fabric and the foundation or lining.

The sleeves are lined with cotton poplin for a cleaner finish and a more comfortable wear.

Because Rosalina is the mother of all lumens (which are stars), I used the star shaped decorative stitch on my machine and silver thread to decorate the bottom hem, the sleeves’ hem and the collar, eve thought it would not bee seen. This stitch not only kept everything in place and lying flat, I also thought it was the perfect little touch that matched the character’s personality. This I did on Friday night (of the between 10:30 PM and 12:00 AM. What can I say, I’m a perfectionist!

The foundation is a corset like piece made of leftover white spandex from Toadette’s helmet, and tie wraps as boning. If you are ever looking for cheap boning for a costume you will not wear that often, tie wraps are the best – inexpensive, easy to find, easy to cut, and very comfortable. (For everyday wear, invest in proper boning.) Because the fabric I used for this layer was so stretchy, I made the foundation a little smaller than I would normally make a corset so that it fit tightly but comfortably. After all, this is what holds the strapless dress up and prevents a wardrobe malfunction. The foundation is what lines the bodice.

Rosalina's Dress - Bottom Hem

The underskirt was made of light white satin. I made it 1.5 times as big as the dress’ skirt and gathered it. It is sewn to the bodice along with the dress’ skirt. The bottom hem is overlocked, turned and sewn.

The Petticoat

Because the fabrics I used were so flimsy and I needed a little volume, I made myself a petticoat. It is actually a three tiered skirt made from the off white satin I had originally bought for the underskirt (until I came home and realized it wasn’t white enough for my needs).

Tiered Petticoat

It is actually quite easy to make. First, measure the length you want your skirt to be (in my case, about a metre). Divide by 3 and add your seam allowance. That is the length of your tiers. Next, cut strips of fabric which are the width of your fabric by the length you measured. Decide how many you will need in advance. In my case, I used one for the first tier, two for the second and four for the third. Sew your rectangles together to make three tubes of varying diameter. Gather the top of the second tube and sew it to the bottom of the first one. Then, gather the top of the third tube and sew it to the bottom of the second one. Hem the bottom. Make a casing atop and insert a drawstring or elastic (I choose elastic for this project because it saved me the trouble of making eyelets, but I might fix that later). There you go: a perfectly easy tiered skirt.

By the way, I don’t think I left one seam not overlocked in this project (I broke three needles just on the petticoat). I did not want any of my seams to come undone or the fabric start fraying after a needed wash. Again, perfectionist. I just wished I had been able to show the Workmanship judge all my hard work, but I was busy trying to catch a toddler so I could barely think of all I had to tell her. Oh well, too late now!

That’s it for the sewing. But wait! Rosalina is not complete without all of her accessories! For all the accessories, I followed Martyn's tutorials, so I won’t go into details on how to make them, but I will show you my results.

The crown

Rosalina's Crown

All accessories are made of fun foam and spray painted. Compared to other crowns I have made using this material, this is one of the best. I followed Martyn’s measurements (out of sheer laziness), but I find it a little too big compared to the character’s proportions. Also, the bottom finish could have been a little better: I used hot glue to stick a circle of card board at the bottom, but I don’t like how you can see the seam of glue. I probably should have made my circle smaller so it would be hidden inside. Maybe I can still fix that. The bottom of the cardboard is covered with white felt (so I don’t get paint flakes transferred to my hair). A head band bought in a craft store and spray painted silver is inserted through the cardboard so the crown holds on my head.

Rosalina's Crown - Close-up

The gems are my favourite. Because I did not want to spend 40$ on the perfect cabochons, I bought plastic gems at a craft store and painted them with glitter paint in either red or teal. From afar, they are the right colour, but they are also sparkly.

The earrings

Rosalina's earrings

The earrings were actually the first thing I made for this project, one sleepless Friday night. They are three layers of fun foam, each one smaller than the previous one. I ended up spray painting them so that all my yellow accessories would be the same. I wanted to glaze them with yellow glitter paint, but I ran out of time. Next time! To make these stars into actual jewellery, I pierced a hole at the top, inserted a large hoop and mounted that on a hook earring. Easy to put on and take off if your toddler decides to try to pull on them too much.

The Brooch

The brooch is made of four layers of fun foam. The first two are full stars, the third has a circle hollowed out (for the “gem”) and the fourth is simply an edge. I used plastic wood (as suggested in Martyn’s tutorial) to make the sides all nice and equal, but it was a little hard to work with because as soon as the foam stretches, the plastic wood cracks. This was spray painted silver.

Rosalina's Brooch

The big yellow gem was made using a spherical box containing a laser pointer, which I got in a vending machine. I was actually looking around for the perfect container in the perfect size, but I didn’t care what was inside (good thing too because that stupid laser pointer doesn’t work). I used the clear side, filled the top indentation with plastic wood and spray painted it yellow. I also wanted to glaze that with yellow glitter paint, but again, I ran out of time.

From Vending Machine Toy to Gem

Once everything was ready, I poured white glue inside the hollowed out circle in the brooch and inserted the gem, holding it tight so the glue would take. I then used hot glue to fix a brooch to the back. Of course, this is one of the first things that got broken during the convention: since my daughter was constantly in my arms, she accidently pulled on the brooch at some point and there are limits to the strength of hot glue. I tried duct tape (never leave home without it!) but it kept falling after half an hour. I borrowed hot glue from the masters in the green room but that didn’t hold. With an hour left before our stage call, I used fresh duct tape and lots of white glue (I has expected something to break – it is bound to happen with a toddler in tow). By the time we stepped on the stage, the brooch was holding, but the glue was not dry. The joys of being a Masquerade participant!

The Wand

Rosalina's Wand

The wand did not survive the week-end. Not only did I have a hard time making it, it was also destroyed by my daughter.

Originally, I tried using two layers of thick foam (from one of those floor tiles used for kids playrooms). My small craft knife did not do a good job of making the edges nice and smooths, but I figured plastic wood would. How wrong I was. Since it was looking worse every time I worked on it, I decided the night before to use two layers of thin foam for the week-end and to make it better later. On Friday night, I cut my two hollow stars and I spray painted them yellow. As soon as they were dried, I glued them together, sandwiching the small wood dowel I had previously cut and painted silver. I used clothes pins to keep everything in place as it dried overnight.

It looked okay and usable. I stuck in on the stroller so I didn’t have to carry it in my hands all day. In the afternoon, as I was freshening my make-up, my daughter tried to grab it, but she unfortunately pulled at it by holding the foam and she tore it. Out came the white glue to try to fix it before the masquerade. It took forever, but I managed to fix the tear, although it was obvious it had been repaired. On Sunday, while I went back to the convention alone and my daughter stayed at home with her dad, she played with the wand and tore the rest of the star off. So now if I want to wear that costume again, I have a lot of foam fixing to do.

The shoes

Rosalina's Shoes

I had the perfect shoes for this costume; I’ve had them for years! Pointed, silver, covered in rhinestones and with some teal and gold embroidery.

The perfect shoes I wish I could have worn

But they are heels, and I can’t wear heals anymore (stupid sprain). I had hoped until a week before that my ankle would be fixed in time for me to wear my lovely shoes (I know, wishful thinking), but I had to admit to myself a week before that it was not going to happen. So I got a pair of flat heel, round toe, silver glitter shoes at Wal-Mart. They’re great! But they’re not my perfect shoes. Oh well, at least I have a pair of fancy shoes for Yule now, in case my ankle still isn’t healed by then.

Gwenyver & Daughter as Rosalina & Toadette, photo by Tanja Dorosh

So there you have it, Rosalina as I made her, in less than 2 weeks I might add! For once, I left no sewing for later - whatever needs fixing is made of foam - and I made it fit me the first time around (no big adjustments needed and requiring my sweetheart’s help), I was comfortable and the sleeves were neither too tight nor too big. Yep! That dress is perfect, and I am happy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toadette Costume Detail

I am finally getting back on track with sleep, laundry and cleaning, all those things I had set aside while I was rushing to prepare for Otakuthon. So I think it is time for a Costume Detail post. Since she really was the most popular of us, I will present Toadette first.

My Daughter as Toadette, Otakuthon 2011

Toadette’s costume was actually quite easy since it was simple lines and very little details. I used no pattern to make the different pieces, just clothes my daughter wears and in the case of the hat, a bit of draping. The hardest of course was that hat, but I will talk about it later. First things first.

The Dress

Toadette's Dress

To make Toadette’s dress, I used a simple A-line summer dress that my mother made as a pattern. I set it down on the fabric, drew 1 cm larger than the dress all around as seam allowance, cut two, and then make the front neckline 1 cm deeper. From my two dress pieces, I drew the facings. Four pieces in total for that dress. The only difference between this one and the original is I added snaps at the shoulders to make it easier to put on. And there you have it: one reusable Toadette dress which can actually be worn over the rest of the summer, or over a long sleeves t-shirt in the fall.

Original Summer Dress next to Toadette's Dress

Fabric wise, I used Pink silk noile chosen to match the hat fabric. I think it fits with the character: I always imagine the Toads as being country folk, so silk noile with its rough finish just seems perfect. The trim at the bottom hem of the dress is white satin ribbon.

The Vest

Toadette's Vest

This time, I used a polar fleece hoodie made by my mom as a base for my pattern. I drew half the back on my fabric, adding seam allowance, cut that piece and used it to make front pieces. I then eyeballed the curved front and cut. Once I had assembled the three pieces, it seemed a bit big so I tried it on my daughter and made a few adjustments to get the perfect fit. Add trim and you are done!

Polar Fleece Hoodie next to Toadette's Vest

The fabric I used was some cotton leftover I had in my stash. The trim is yellow satin ribbon.

The Shorts

White Shorts worn by Toadette

Here I just used one of the two pairs of white shorts my daughter owns. The second pair was in the diaper bag in case of little accidents (for instance, she was sick in the car – just a case of motion sickness - on our way to the convention center, but she was not in her costume at the time - thank goodness!). Why make something if you can buy it for cheap, or if you already own it?

The Shoes

Toadette's Brown Shoes

In all artwork of Toadette that I have seen, she is shown wearing brown shoes. Since my daughter already has enough shoes for a toddler and changes shoe size every 3 month, I looked around for a really cheap pair, but couldn’t find one. I ended up asking around at work and borrowing these from a co-worker who has a boy 2 months older than my daughter. Since they don’t fit her son anymore, she told me after the convention that I could keep them, which is a good think because my kid loves them.

Toadette does not appear to wear socks, but I went for a white pair to match the shorts.

The Hat

This is the piece that really makes the costume. I received many compliments during the day and evening on how cute it (and she) was and how ingeniously I had made it. First, if you have not read about it already, know that I used her bicycle helmet as a base.

My daughter's Bicyle helmet

I bought pink and white spandex (bathing suit material) to make a slip cover for the helmet, as well as the braids.

First I covered the helmet with the pink fabric as well as I could and I drew a line with tailor’s chalk to mark where it should reach inside. When I put my fabric flat on the floor, I adjusted the line to get an egg shaped oval, which I then cut. Next, I eyeballed the white spots and cut those two at a time to gat matching pairs of spots that I could put on opposite sides of the helmet.

For the braids, I bought Styrofoam balls at the craft store to make the shape. I made sure the two end ones were a little bigger then the four others. I cut two rectangles of the pink spandex wide enough to be pulled tight around the largest ball (plus seam allowance) and more than long enough for all three balls. I eyeballed the white spots here too.

Then it was time for sewing. I began by zigzagging the white spots to the braids’ rectangles. Here I used tearaway, but it was a pain to take off because I was using a wide zigzag stitch and not a satin stitch. For the helmet cover, I did not use tearaway and it worked like a charm.

(Note: it depends on the sewing machine too. I know my old Singer Stylist 522 is hell with knit fabrics, but I was using my Singer Futura for this project, since the Stylist 522 is in need of repair – again – and that one works like a charm both on thick fabric and knits.)

Once the white spots were sewn on the braids, I closed the sides, and then I baste stitch around the bottom to pull them close. I sewed through the gathers with my machine to make sure it would not come undone. Then I inserted the biggest Styrofoam ball. I pulled the fabric tight around it, and using a hand sewing needle, I made a quick baste stitch through both layers of fabric, pulled it tight, then pulled the thread around the bundle of fabric a few times, made another couple of stitches to make sure it would hold and made a knot with the thread. I repeated this with every ball. Once I reached the top, I cut off the excess fabric. Then I repeated everything with the second braid.

Toadette's Hat pieces - Flat

The next step that came was making that Yoshi egg quilt into a bicycle helmet cover. By the way this was Wednesday night before the convention and that is when I realized I was out of elastic. It is a notion I always have, but when I needed it, it was nowhere to be found. So flash forward to Thursday night, after I have gone to buy elastic: at this point, sleep deprivation is starting to play its tricks on my usually marvellous intellect (hum-hum) and I spent two hours attempting to figure out how to best make use of my precious elastic. For educational purpose, I will tell you all about my first two failed attempts.

I first sewed the elastic around the edge of the slip cover with a straight stitch while I pulled on it to create gathers. Once I tried it on the helmet, it was obvious that it was too big. I calculated how much elastic I should take out to make it lye smoothly inside the helmet and I began unstitching it from the slip cover.

On my second attempt, I took the right length of elastic and again sewed with a straight stitch while pulling on it, but this time, I sewed it much closer to the white spots so I would have enough elastic to go around. This time, not only did it look like a Granny Toadette bonnet, it was too SMALL! Pull as I may, I couldn’t get it to hold on to the helmet properly. Nearly ready to cry from frustration and exhaustion, I stared at the bloody thing until it dawned on me that the solution was a casing around the edge. I un-sewed the elastic from the slip cover AGAIN!

Finally, I made a casing by folding the edge of my pink Yoshi egg and leaving a space opened to insert the elastic. I pulled the elastic through and sewed both edges. Then I tried it on the helmet and it was like a miracle had just happened. Sure, it was not as smoothed as I had hoped it would be, but it fit and looked great.

On Friday during lunch time I hand sewed the braids to the slip cover. The result is a perfectly adorable Toadette hat.

Toadette's Hat

The best part about that slip cover is it will fit another couple of sizes of helmets, so should I or she wish to, she could wear it again for years to come. The dress and vest are a joke to make in comparison!

Presenting Toadette:

Toadette the Artwork vs Toadette the "Toaddler"

She was so very cute! And popular too! I am so glad I made her that costume, even if I was completely exhausted by the time the convention started.

But I will do it all again anytime there is an excuse for me and my family to make and wear costumes!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rosalina & Toadette - the video

This is awesome! I have found a video of our masquerade entry on Youtube! Care to see us in action? Please watch the video (comments in French only) - fast forward to 1:08 min to start right at our intoduction:

By the way, the person you can hear scream when the MC announces our entry is my good friend Marie-Ange-the-Celt.

I am so happy I get to see this. We looked great, didn't we! Of course, my daughter was the star.