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!

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