Thursday, September 26, 2013


Just popping in to drop you all this link. Read it and replace "art" with "costumes" or "props" or "poses" or "being in character," because it applies to ALL of those. So you're new? Doesn't mean you should quit! No one who does this kind of stuff instantly gets it and does it spectacularly. No one. Everyone starts not knowing how to do anything and works up to doing amazing stuff. Don't believe me? Ask that epic cosplayer you meet about their first costume, or their first props. Ask them whether they've ever felt like they're not good enough. Ask them if they feel they've achieved perfection yet.

Just because you're not as good at something as someone else doesn't mean you should quit it. Seriously, honestly, you'll learn. You'll grow. You'll get better. Work at it. It doesn't come instantaneously.

This has been a public service announcement from Canny Puca Cosplay, a cosplayer who often feels inferior and like she's got nothing going for her but fights through it and keeps trying to improve and do better each time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A terribly brief post

Good day (night?) to you, dear readers! I'm afraid I have but a brief post for this week, as I have had a busy last few days and am a grade-A procrastinator.

Actually, for this week, I want you all to take a look at a couple of things I have come across while surfing tumblr. (It's terribly addictive, I must say.) First, I'd like you to read this story from a cosplayer. For those who won't click the link or who will keep reading this paragraph before clicking aside and reading the tale, it's about a cosplayer and her group of friends who ran into the nastier side of the reality tv show Heroes of Cosplay. I do not know the person who wrote it personally, and I know first hand that you should take anything you read on the internet with a grain of salt, but I still came away from reading that account disturbed and disgusted. Cons are a haven for the different, for those who don't fit in elsewhere. They are a place we can show off our hard work and dedication to a hobby that others often don't understand. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I don't want someone who destroys my con experience called a "hero" of my hobby. The behavior of those involved with the show and the competition was abominable in this tale. If you or anyone you know has ever competed in such an event, you know that it's hard work, and it takes hours and hours of blood, sweat, and tears to pull it all together. I have to give the judges props for awarding the prizes where they were deserved rather than where they were expected.

I'm just sickened by the kind of mindset that believes this kind of behavior is okay. It's not. It's so many levels of not okay. You should never look down on others, no matter what your reasoning may be. So you're richer than someone else? Don't look down on them. So their costume isn't as good as yours? You don't know their life, you don't know their story, you don't know what may have happened to cause it. So they bought their cosplay but you made yours? So what? Yes, the cosplayers on Heroes of Cosplay were steered into acting a certain way by the directors, the producers, the show's creators. But here's something I've learned from a lifetime of people having expectations of me: you always have a choice. There comes a point at which you have to choose between what is expected and what is right. You are the weaker individual if you do not choose what is right. Treating another person with such marked disrespect is not right. The behavior of these individuals was uncalled for and inappropriate, and make no mistake, they could have made better choices.

To end on a more positive note, this is what attitudes on cosplay should be. Cosplay is about having fun and enjoying yourself, not about meeting someone else's lofty ideal of what cosplay should be.

Again, I'm sorry this blog post is short and mostly consists of ranting. I promise next week's will be better. So good night, dear readers, and may pleasant dreams visit your slumber.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A different perspective

Rather than centering on cosplay, this week's blog post is going to focus on farm life. As I've mentioned before, I was born and raised on a farm, and I'm an only child to boot. Normally "only child" means spoiled rotten, but when raised on a farm, "only child" means "only free labor." In light of that and in light of recent events in my own life and on the farm, I present to you the following lessons gleaned from my time on the farm.

A child raised on a farm learns most lessons the hard way. There's often not time to teach the child gently why she should or shouldn't do something. If she doesn't listen, she encounters the consequences. She learns that sometimes, there really is just one right way to do something. And if she decides to be stubborn and not do what she's supposed to, often her parents sit back and watch her run headlong into whatever results, only swooping in to rescue her if it goes terribly wrong. Lessons learned the hard way stick well, though, and the child remembers them for years to come. (Why do I rarely wear shorts? Chiggers. Evil blighters. Lesson learned the very hard, itchy way.)

A child raised on a farm learns to be tough. If you're sick or weak and there's no way out of the situation, you don't wimp out and leave the people depending on you with the short end of the stick. You tough it out. This happened to me on Friday night, when I was miserably sick and in a fog. I was stuck in a closing section, and the manager couldn't find anyone to move up and close for me. It didn't matter how rotten I felt at that point. I had to stay, and I had to tough it out. Honestly, unless I'd been throwing up or unable to move, I would not have insisted upon going home. I couldn't. It's both a matter of pride and a matter of something beyond pride, something that ties to the core of a person's being. You cannot let your partners down, and in that job, the entire staff are your partners. Even if they let you down, you cannot fail them. It's hard to explain this mentality completely, as it's something that is so deeply ingrained I don't fully understand it myself. It's the reason that if I upset a friend or feel I've let him or her down, I will fight to redeem myself while believing myself to be a despicable creature. You have to be tough, and you have to support the team. 

Anyone who spends more than a year on a farm learns that each season comes with its own trials and tribulations. There is no ideal season, full of beauty and ease, just as there is no such season in life. Spring comes with rains that can wash out roads and clog ditches with leaves. Summer brings variable weather, from droughts to flood warnings, and is the season of shuffling livestock and trying to cut and harvest hay crops as well as various fruits, berries, and vegetables. Fall carries with it a second cutting of hay and harvest time for various fruits and vegetables, especially at its junction with summer. It's also the time in which the farmer prepares for winter, checking fences, clearing ditches again, repairing barns and buildings, making sure water sources are in proper condition, and so on. Winter brings the threat of snow and ice which can send tree branches crashing down onto fences, not to mention the potential of frozen pipes bursting and cutting off water supply to thirsty animals. In the winter, animals must be fed hay. This means every few days, come rain or shine or snow or sleet, someone's taking a tractor out and putting a round bale in the feeder or scattering hay across the field. Then depending on what season the farmer has chosen, some time in the year calves are being born, so you're on a pretty constant baby watch. Calves are counted and accounted for to ensure predators haven't killed one, a calf hasn't wandered away from its mother and can't figure out how to get back, or even that all the cows are taking to their calves and letting them nurse. If one of the calves isn't getting the milk it needs, it may need to be bottlefed, and that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. 

Just as each season comes with its own difficulties, each season is also breathtakingly beautiful. Sometimes it strikes me as I'm walking out to do my chores for the day just how gorgeous the world around me is. I've had my breath taken away on a winter morning by the icicles hanging on pine branches, glistening in the sunlight. In fall, I stare in wonder at the trees as the leaves change colors, and at the fallen leaves carpeting the ground. In the summer I have to smile at the abundance of beauty in the shades of green in the trees, grass, ivy, clover, everything. I'll walk through the woods by the stream and see life, verdant and bright, displayed all around. In the spring, the flowers bloom in waves and their sweet scent fills the air. The beauty of each season is displayed so clearly if you just take a walk, and the beauty of a sunset and a sunrise are eternal. Even rain is beautiful. (I actually adore rain. It's a thing. And when I need to relax, I listen to this.) All you really have to do to see the beauty of the seasons is walk outside, stop, close your eyes, take a moment, then open them and really look. Even in the middle of the hardest work, I can take a moment to admire the carefully crafted miracles on every side. 

A child raised on a farm loses many animals. You can't save every animal. A farm is a business, and in that business, you take losses. Those aren't just animals lost to disease, or accident, or old age, but animals slaughtered for food and sold because you just don't have enough pasture for them all. I lost my first cat when I was four or five and my first dog in elementary school. Since then I've lost many more cats, several more dogs, plenty of cattle and chickens, several peachicks, a goat, and rabbits. I've helped haul a half-decayed calf out of a cow because she couldn't have it on her own and it had died inside her. A child raised on a farm learns swiftly that animals die, and animals are lost, and sometimes you never get closure. It hurts, and it's a hard lesson, but you learn about loss, and you learn to deal with it. Due to all the loss, however.....

A child raised on a farm understands the fragility of life. She learns to value the lives she's able to touch when she's able to touch them, and she learns that life can be lost in the blink of an eye. She learns that just because something is here today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. She learns that a horse can colic and before the vet can arrive, the horse can pass. She learns that a single complication in the birth of a calf can lead to the death of the calf or the cow, maybe both. She learns that a baby bird can fall out of its nest and, just because of that one mishap, perish. She learns life is precious in its fragility. She learns to treasure the moments she has with the creatures and people she has, and that there is no room for regrets when moving forward, so she shouldn't give them an opportunity to take root. Life is beautiful, tragic, and miraculous. And it is so, so precious. Every life is precious in its own way.

You might ask what sparked all this. I write now with more hope and optimism than I had when I started this post. My gelding Stinger has battled cancer - skin cancer, but still a nasty beast - three times now. It was knocked back substantially the first time by me performing chemotherapy treatments on him, the second time removed by surgery and frozen, and the third time knocked back again with chemo. His cancer has returned again (which we've known for a while but it's a slow-growing cancer) along with added complications that left him barely able to walk. The vet was out this (Tuesday) morning to take a look at him (and band some calves, but that's not part of this little story), and told me I had three options: take him to Virginia Tech and tell them to find out what was wrong at all costs, treat him and take the whole thing day by day, or put him down. The first option meant they would find out what was wrong, yes, but there was no guarantee it would be treatable and  it very well might leave us with a several thousand dollar bill and a horse who died from complications within a few days. The second would be treating the symptoms without knowing the disease, which might only buy him time, and might not do much good at all. The third of course would be a last resort. I had been expecting to be told the cancer had spread too far, and that our only course of action would be to put him down. Knowing my animal and loving him as I do, I chose the second option to give him his best chance. He is, at the time of my writing this, feeling much better, moving better, and eating more avidly. His swelling has gone down, and he was feeling well enough this evening to throw a tantrum as I tried to give the brat his pain medication. I don't know what the future holds for he and I, but I know I will treasure even the fights with him, even his most stubborn, mad moments, until he is with me no longer. I will value what I have, knowing it could be gone far too soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So you want to cosplay from a live action?

Welcome back dearies, and welcome to my third blog post! Huzzah! As promised, this week I'll be talking about the difficulties presented in cosplaying from a live action. As anyone who's cosplayed knows, any cosplay has its trials and difficulties, alleviated or exacerbated by the individual's commitment to accuracy or lack thereof. To start off, let's look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of cosplaying from an animated series so we have a basis for comparison.

 All right, so first we have Tulio of Road to El Dorado. He's categorized under "advantages," because this was a pretty easy cosplay (excepting the hatred for pants I developed from it). We see he's wearing a blue shirt, brown vest, black belt, and gray-green pants. Because this is animated, we don't see any seams other than the obvious seam on the front of the pants. We don't see fancy buttons, buckles (there's a gold one on the belt but it's simple), or other accoutrements. Overall, it's simple. The cosplayer is given the choice of whether to make the pants fasten in the front, side, wherever, or even have an elastic waistband since it will be covered by the belt. They can use buttons, snaps, zippers, whatever. Flexible, easy. It also doesn't matter what kind of material the cosplayer uses - this is again at the cosplayer's discretion. Because nothing special is added to the appearance of the clothing, the cosplayer gets to just go with whatever looks right to him or her and suits his or her tastes. 

Oh look, it's my Tulio cosplay! And yep, I pretty much winged it. And look, I look like Tulio! Simple, easy. Now, on to a disadvantage of animated cosplays....

Here we have Lady BlackPearl of Legend of Mana, a cosplay I want to do......far in the future. See those floating orbs around her? And that crazy hair? And those mad boots? Animated films, games, and series don't have to conform to the rules of physics...or gravity, for that matter. The entire costume can violate everything to do with logic, but if you want to cosplay this character, you have to work within the physical laws of the universe in your construction. This can drive cosplayers crazy. My friend J-Jo Cosplay was recently driven a little nuts by the inconsistencies in animation for Inu no Taisho (Inuyasha's father) as she tried to construct his costume, complete with armor and fur. The armor wasn't logical, changed from clip to clip, and the entire costume provided no weight-bearing structure to hold it. She's still working on the cosplay, but it was intended to debut - full version - for Otakon 2013, but she wound up pulling out a genderbent version that looked downright incredible instead. (You can see it here.

But onwards to the topic of this blog post! Now that we've established some of the advantages and disadvantages of cosplaying from an animated series, film, or game, let's look at live-action. For my example here, I'm going to use Belle of Once Upon a Time, since I recently cosplayed her. 

Let's look at Belle's costume (just clothing for this bit), shall we? Let's see....bodice, blouse, skirt, white stockings, silver shoes. Right. Well, plus side, I can see where all the boning in that bodice is, I can count the number of eyelets, I can see how much the sleeves puff out, and so on, and none of it changes from scene to scene! Well, excepting the blouse's neckline, but the fabric was slippery and slid around on Emilie de Ravin during the shooting. So I just have to match the colors on the fabric and buy it all at the local fabric store, right?

Well, actually, not quite. I found out after making the whole cosplay that the skirt and bodice were two different fabrics, not cuts from the same bolt. The bodice's fabric was a light blue denim, and the skirt was linen. The blouse was chiffon with embroidered edging. The eyelets, contrary to appearances in the photos, were gold. All of these are solid, verifiable facts about the costume Emilie de Ravin wore in OUaT. Knowing these facts, a cosplayer striving for the utmost accuracy would then know what fabrics to purchase and precisely how to construct the cosplay. But what if these materials aren't available? I wanted a coarser, more denim-like fabric for the bodice, but I couldn't find one in the correct color. My bodice and skirt are made from the same type of fabric, which is a light-weight cotton. They look good, but I'll always know the difference. Chiffon is expensive as far as fabric goes, especially chiffon with embroidered edges, and I wasn't able to find it. Even if I had, I doubt I could have really shelled out that kind of money for it. My blouse is cotton, a very smooth, nice cotton, with lace sewn onto the neckline and sleeves. I'm very proud of it, but it's not entirely accurate.

Remember how I said, just two paragraphs ago, that I could see all the boning in the bodice and count the number of eyelets? Because I can see those details, I'm also tasked with replicating them as closely as I can. I can see seams and stitching, therefore I can duplicate them. Starting to see some difficulties arising? If I as the cosplayer want to be as accurate as humanly possible, I'm matching a lot more than fabric colors now. This, I think, is one of the biggest difficulties of cosplaying from a live-action. Because you're given so much more detail, you are also given the ability and even the responsibility of putting those details to work in your cosplay. Additionally, live-actions often work with patterns, which are beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. We love them in the shows, because they're just eye candy, and we revel in them. (Okay, maybe you don't, but I do. I love pretty fabrics and outfits in shows.) Belle has some of that pretty patterned fabric too! Not in the above pictures, no, but look below!

Ooooh, pretty pretty cloak! Pretty pattern! Problem? This is very, very hard to find, online or off. Trust me, I've scoured the interwebs and the fabric stores. I found an approximate match that's close enough that I can settle on it, but I'm still not entirely happy with it, because it's not THE fabric. However, the chances of me finding this exact fabric are slim to none, so I'm going to have to be happy with what I have. If you cosplay from a live-action with patterned fabric (most commonly seen in fantasies, or shows with a historic bent), you're going to run into this too. Be prepared to shell out more money than you'd probably like to as well, because this is home decor fabric. Home decor fabric has the proper weight and heft for a cape, perfect for covering and draping around a person's figure, but it's more expensive. And when working with patterns, remember, you can't just cut pieces willy-nilly out of the fabric! You need to take into account the pattern itself and make sure it all goes the same direction so it doesn't look ridiculous when it's all sewn together. This may mean needing additional yards of fabric - which is more money out of your pocket. Be prepared when going into this kind of costuming for a drain on the wallet.

If you're cosplaying from something modern, you have the added benefit and drawback that the clothing the character is wearing is probably real clothing, bought from the store! This is fantastic if you can find those exact pieces of clothing, or even close knock-offs, for reasonable prices! This is not so great if those clothes turn out to be designer, brand-name clothing articles and also bear an expensive price tag. Remember those pretty silver shoes Belle was wearing in the above photos? The Once Upon a Time Wardrobe Blog identified those shoes as well as several of her other outfits from the series piece-by-piece. Most of the pieces are designer and expensive, and the little shoes are no exception. Below is a picture from the blog linked above, showing the shoes and their designer originals.

See those pretty shoes? They're Fluevog Everests. At present, you can get the Everests for the clearance price of $99. When I started this cosplay, they were discounted to the oh-so-cheap $189, from the original full price of $265. What a steal! And I'd still have to paint or dye them myself, since they don't come in metallic silver! So I was struck with the dilemma of knowing the exact shoes, having the option to buy them (then dye them), and really not wanting to spend that much money on shoes. Well, I honestly couldn't afford to spend over a hundred and fifty dollars on shoes, so I chose to make my own. I wound up purchasing a pair of black heels that were fairly close to the base structure of these shoes and modifying them with pleather, all of which I painted silver. This was a long, time-consuming process, but one that ultimately yielded a little pair of shoes that held up to a night of dancing with friends, new and old, on the terrace at Otakon. I plan to do a tutorial on them later, but for now, have a picture of the finished product: 
So, dear readers and cosplayers young and old, if you're considering cosplaying from a live-action, please take into account just how much accuracy you hope to attain and your budget. Materials can be very expensive, and their care after the costume is completed can also be painstaking and difficult. Some fabrics can be thrown into a washer and dryer with no repercussions while others are dry-clean only, or hand-wash only, or even spot-clean. If you hope to cosplay from a live-action, my recommendation is to research the costumes used in the show or film as much as possible before construction. If you can't use some of the fabrics they used or don't have the funds to purchase props or other necessary items, find out how to make them. Don't take the decision lightly. This IS a tricky undertaking, and it can be a very expensive one, like any other cosplay. And remember the golden rule of measure twice, cut once. Lay out EVERYTHING and make sure you're satisfied with your base pattern before you ever put scissors to fabric. 

All that said, I wish you all the best of luck in your future cosplay endeavors, and I know I won't stop cosplaying from live-actions just because of these hitches - I'll just make sure I'm careful in planning them and watching my budget!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Of Goblin Kings and Closet Cosplays

So at present, I'm not actively working on any cosplays. I'm in the planning stages for Jae-ha from Akatsuki no Yona, but I haven't selected a fabric yet.

I have repairs to do to several cosplays as Otakon hit them pretty hard (how, I'm not sure, but it did), but I honestly haven't had a day where I went "Yep, time to do all the repairs!" quite yet. It's coming, I know it is. And when it comes, I'll have a zipper to take out and replace, several sloppily done stitches to re-sew, and a lot of snaps to sew on. Oh, snaps. How I simultaneously loathe and love thee, for thy usefulness is great, but thy attachment is tiresome. However, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about things I've learned from already accomplished cosplays! For this week's blog, I'm going to talk about my first cosplay: Jareth from Labyrinth.

When I decided to cosplay Jareth of Labyrinth, I had no clue how to even sew on a button. I kid you not, I knew NOTHING. As a born and raised farm girl and only child, most of my childhood "labor" was spent on the farm. Mom didn't teach me much about cooking because Dad already had me out putting up fence, or digging holes, or moving lumber. I have the biceps to show for all that work too. Only girl I know personally with visible biceps. Regardless of my lovely muscles and experience with manual labor, I had next to none on anything domestic, including sewing. I also didn't know the first thing about wigs, or much about makeup. I hadn't worn makeup regularly since high school, and even then it was kind of....something I did on occasion because I felt ugly, or like all the other girls in the class were prettier than me. (True story, there were only six girls in my graduating class including me. Sooooo statistically speaking they all could have been prettier than me. Hindsight? Some knew how to flatter their own features better than others, and that was about it.) I knew nothing at this point about stage makeup, or makeup for cosplay. Jareth started out as an idea of something to wear for Halloween. I'd never been to an anime convention and barely knew what one was, so Halloween was my only big occasion to dress up. Additionally, I hated most of the female costume options for Halloween. Girls were (and are) expected to dress "sexy" for Halloween and other such holidays, in skimpy, revealing outfits that highlight their desirability as a sexual partner. I have attracted more than enough of that kind of attention without wearing anything revealing and didn't particularly want to increase that sort of interest in me. As I saw it then, my options were slutty, or guy. I chose guy. At the time, I had just discovered my love for Labyrinth (my freshman year roommate can tell you, I was in LOVE with Jareth and the whole film), so who better to cosplay than the Goblin King himself?

And here he is, in all his fabulous, glittery glory - the Goblin King himself (portrayed by David Bowie, of course)! His outfit is fairly simple in this scene, and this is the outfit I chose.

When I made the decision to cosplay Jareth, I searched my closet for what I already had on hand. As it so happened, I had a black vest lying around which I figured would work, and I also had a pair of gray leggings. It was seeing these two items in my wardrobe (and being guaranteed to have a pair of black boots, because I ADORE boots of all descriptions and collect them like a little hoarder) that inspired me to do this cosplay, because otherwise I honestly would have been intimidated by it. I had a limited budget and no job at the time, so I needed to be cost-effective, and I definitely needed things already made since I knew nothing of how to make them myself. I laid out what I had on hand to wear for the cosplay and came up missing a wig, gloves, and the white shirt. The wig was not too hard, since I wasn't going for perfect. I visited and ordered a blonde mullet wig which looked to be about the right color. In person it was a little too bright of a blonde, but it sufficed. Next came the gloves, which I ordered off ebay. They're a beautiful pair of black leather gloves, and they're very comfy and snug-fitting. Finally, the shirt. I still remember scouring department store after department store, searching for a shirt that would work. I wanted something terribly frilly - obnoxiously so - and that was rather hard to find, considering most people have at least a modicum of taste. I found my final shirt choice less than a week before that Halloween, and I borrowed the makeup I wore from a friend. (Back then I had an itty-bitty makeup collection. I had maybe two little color palettes. That was IT.) One of my friends took a whole bunch of pictures with my horrid-quality camera of my thrown-together costume which would never in a million years win any awards, and y'know what? I had a BLAST.

 Nope, things weren't perfect. I still need to style that wig. Those tights? They only came down to mid-calf on me and I had to rely on the boots covering them up enough. My necklace was tiny and barely showed (Jareth's necklace is large and very visible). My makeup was the wrong shade of blue. My shirt wasn't quite right. The vest was too short. The boots didn't have enough of a heel on them. But I had so much fun that Halloween that when the opportunity arose for me to go to Anime USA the following fall, I jumped on it and took this cosplay with me! By then I had a new pair of leggings that fit better and actually came down to my ankles but I'd downgraded to a different pair of boots, and I had my own makeup closer to the proper color. I ran around for all three days of that first con as Jareth, found the only other Jareths at the con and ran amok with them searching for a Sarah, visited a magical place called a host club in costume, and just had an incredible time. All that with a pieced together cosplay which cost me very little and is still worn in pieces as parts of other outfits today.

What I really learned with regards to this cosplay was that not every cosplay has to be a masterpiece. Creating something beautiful, at which you can look back and feel pride, is completely commendable and admirable. But cosplay is first and foremost about fun. If you're not having fun, why are you doing it? I make my costumes primarily from scratch now because that's fun for me. Creating something and knowing that I made it, I put the pieces together and somehow something worth noticing and admiring emerged, gives me a sense of joy and pride. But you can have just as much fun piecing together a closet (or near-closet) cosplay as you can wearing one made by hand or buying one from another person! Remember, PLAY is part of COSPLAY. And it's part of it for a reason.

Next week I'll be talking a little bit about the unique difficulties presented by cosplaying from something live-action rather than animated. I've decreed Wednesdays to be my update days (though we see how well that worked this week, hm......) so stay tuned for the next post then! In the meantime I'll be working on that cosplay page and on the gallery of photos.......