Con Survival for Cosplayers: Packing for Con

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pack3Continuing my series of Con Survival for Cosplayers, today I will be covering that dreaded subject: Packing. (Part one is about your Cosplay Repair Kit)

Most cosplayers can relate to rushing to finish your costume before leaving for the con, only to realize that you still have to actually pack everything. Leading up to DragonCon this year, starting about a week out, I saw post after post on Facebook from people who cheerfully posted photos of their neat little R2D2 suitcases with the annoying caption “I’m all packed for DragonCon! Are you?”. Meanwhile, I was buried underneath 15 pounds of velvet, still handstitching linings, hems, and trims and couldn’t even begin to think about the daunting task of packing.

For non-cosplayers, packing for a convention is basically like packing for a normal trip, except with geeky t-shirts and alcohol. For cosplayers, however, we have to consider packing not only 10 times the amount of stuff that a normal, sane con-goer would pack, but we are also packing some of our most precious, valued, and fragile possessions.

I have been very fortunate because up till now, I have been able to drive to all of my favorite conventions. When I bought a new car this year, I upgraded from my tiny Honda Civic to a roomy SUV. Because cosplay. With that said, with a little planning (and Tetris-packing), I still managed to transport insane amounts of stuff with my tiny Honda.

Step 1: Make A Checklist

I’m a big fan of checklists. Start working on your checklist weeks out from the con. That way, you can pull it up whenever you think of something you need to add, and you aren’t being rushed to remember it all at once. This could be via a note on your phone, a paper notebook, or even a word document on your computer. I don’t simply write “Tauriel cosplay”. I make bullet points, itemizing every single item that I use for that costume, right down to any special makeup, prosthetics (and adhesives), hair accessories, and specific underwear that I need for that costume. Everything. It may seem tedious to include the most obvious things, but write it down anyway. All of it. Because the day before the con in the middle of a mad rush, you are going to forget. This is an example of a checklist I made from a past con.

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On that vein, as you are making your list and as you find the time, take those items out of storage whenever you think about them. Start compiling those things in a bin. Spanx that go under that superhero costume? Wig caps that are buried in your makeup drawer? That very specific pair of lucky socks that you HAVE to wear with those boots? Yep, those things. Dig them out and set them aside. You will thank yourself when you are rushing to pack the night before con, because often those things are not obvious and you might not remember them till you’re at the hotel

Step 2: Choose Your Luggage

If you are travelling via car and are bringing more than one or two costumes, I recommend investing in a double-sized black plastic storage bin. These are like the plastic storage bins most cosplayers know and love (I also  recommend), but twice the size and with wheels and a pulley. These retail for anywhere between $25 and $50, depending on where you get them. I got mine from Wal-Mart for $25. This actually fit into the backseat of my two door Honda (with three normal sized tubs in the trunk).

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Bellpeople at hotels always seem super appreciative of our streamlined luggage, since it can be tedious and time-consuming (which means loss of income/tips! ALWAYS tip your bellperson well) to safely load up lots of small items onto a cart. If you are rooming with other people, these can also help keep your stuff more consolidated and protect your costume from being sat on, people throwing their own stuff on top of it, having things spilled/body paint sprayed on it, etc by your roomies. 😉

Another luggage item that I absolutely cannot live without with I am driving to a con is my train case. (You can, of course, travel in style like Joan Holloway from Mad Men and use this as your carry-on when flying. Just remember than many makeup items are considered liquids/gels and you need to make sure everything is organized to be TSA compliant.)

My train case is vintage and similar ones can be found at antique stores and on etsy/ebay, but you can also get a professional makeup case, or get in touch with your inner 90’s kid with a Caboodles case. Just make sure you get one with a tray or some kind of layered organizing feature. I keep all of my hair and makeup supplies for ALL of my costumes as well as my toiletries in here. Mine used to have a mirror, but it broke so I keep a small makeup mirror in here too. Again, it keeps things neatly consolidated and protected both while you travel and in your hotel room, especially if you have roommates. It’s also easy to move around so you can do your makeup by the window or at a table in the room while the bathroom is freed up for other people to use.

Step 3: Protect Your Costumes While Traveling

That brings me to safely packing your costumes for transport. The most disheartening thing that can happen is to arrive at your hotel and open up your luggage only to find that your worbla has become misshapen/broken, a prop has gotten scuffed, or your dress has gotten a killer wrinkle down the front. Here are some tips to keep your costumes protected en route.

pack7For armor/fragile things: I collect those big plastic “bubbles” that come in shipping
boxes. These seem to be non-reactive with paint (as are anti-static dry-cleaner bags rolled up and stuffed into things), so they keep my armor pieces from sticking to or scratching each other. They also provide a little buffer in case of minor impact. If you are travelling by air, you can also wrap clothing items (leggings, t-shirts, etc) and layer them around your fragile things to protect them. There is no guarantee with air travel that nothing will break (always bring your repair kit!), but careful layering can reduce the chances of breakage.Some items do unfortunately just need to be carried by hand.

pack2Sewn Costumes and leather items: For sewn costume and leather items, stuffing them with either tissue paper or dry-cleaner bags helps protect the shape. My Tauriel boots, for example, have a lot of fragile detail work on them, so I stuff them with plastic bags to help keep their shape and retain the integrity of the detail work. Same can be said for certain types of bodices, etc that you don’t want to be crushed. Again, for air travel, you can use clothing items in place of tissue or bags.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but this is what has worked well for me thus far. Hopefully some of these tips help you when thinking ahead to packing for your next convention! Do you have any tips that you’d love to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Costuming Plans for 2017

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Happy first day of fall! For me, that means it’s time to buckle down and start making some firm decisions about new project plans. In keeping with post-DragonCon tradition, I usually jump right into deciding on and planning my costumes for the next year. I plan my entire year’s worth of costumes around DragonCon, with smaller cons throughout the year as marking points for achieving my goals. At least one of these will take the entire time between now and then to plan and undertake. So without further ado, here are the costumes I plan to spend the next 11 months working on.

Marie Antoinette (1938 version)

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Image via Pinterest

The fashion historians can sneer all they like. This is 1930s perfection. I am planning to recreate this with as much screen accuracy as is humanly possible in 11 months and without 1930s fabrics (and sadly, probably not the champagne metallic silk that I am desperate for). The  is the one that will probably finish me. I might actually die. But I will die a glitterly, bedazzled death. And then become stardust.

Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful

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Image via Pinterest

I needed to work in at least one creepy lady costume for 2017. I would wear any  of Vanessa’s outfits at any time really. To the grocery store, even. Any of it. I want it all. This is not her most iconic outfit, but it is by far my favorite. I’ve already gotten the fabric/lace for the blouse, so hopefully I can start work on this soon. Barring any issues,  I am planning to have this ready by February.

The Green Fairy, Moulin Rouge

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Image via The Times

This was actually supposed to be a surprise costume for DragonCon 2016, but sadly the Moulin Rouge group I was supposed to be in didn’t quite come to fruition. Between that and all the work I had left to do on Lucille Sharpe, I decided to put the Green Fairy on the backburner. I do, however, have the fabric for this, in all it’s bright green glittering splendor, so it will happen! No idea where I will wear it! (uhm, Moulin Rouge for DragonCon 2017?? Who’s in?)

Saavik, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

Again, Saavik was supposed to happen this year, but to be honest I never found the right fabric for the uniform. I know I’m being picky, but I feel that this uniform needs a very specific weight, texture, and color of fabric. I really, really want to do her justice and the I want to be faithful to the look and feel of the 1980s film. I bought all of her rank appropriate pins earlier this year, so at least I have a few things checked off of the materials list for this one.

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Image via Pinterest

Well, there you have it. Hopefully you guys will stick with me over the next year as I embark on these new projects.

Con Survival for Cosplayers: Your Cosplay Repair Kit

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To kickstart my new blog, I decided to do a series in which I cover Con Survival for Cosplayers. I will be posting a new segment in this series each week throughout the fall, covering everything from cosplay repair to healthy eating during your costumed excursions to conventions.

This week, we will be covering your cosplay repair kit. This is an absolutely vital thing for all cosplayers to carry with them to cons, whether you bring a large kit or just a couple of tools. However, in the rush of packing and finishing costumes, it’s often easy to forget some of the most vital necessities to keep on hand in case of a costume malfunction.

I always start packing my repair kit a week or two before the convention. I try to throw things in there as they pop into my mind. Even if I need to fish them back out before I leave for the con (like a glue gun), it helps to begin organizing all of my repair tools in the same place.

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I use a craft tool box like this one to keep my supplies tidy and easily accessible when I’m travelling and in my hotel room. I actually inherited this one from my grandmother, but you can find similar ones at craft stores and or home improvement stores. I like this one because it is small enough to fit into most suitcase or bags that I bring to conventions, and keeps my supplies easily accessible.

Your checklist is going to vary somewhat based on your specific costumes, but I have found that the following items are useful for most of the costumes I have brought to conventions. (Note: most of my costumes are handsewn, so always bring sewing supplies, but I recommend bringing some of these even if your costume has store-bought clothing parts because things tear, buttons fall off, etc.)

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  • Safety pins (organized into a mini-ziplock bag)
  • Small sewing scissors
  • Straight pins (for last minute hemming, etc)
  • Sewing Needles
  • THIMBLE (Because you WILL poke your fingers more when you are stressed and hurried)
  • Thread to match your costumes
  • Extra hooks/eyes/buttons
  • Glue gun
  • Extra glue sticks (just trust me when I say to always bring more than you think you will need)
  • Duct tape
  • Cello tape
  • Oil paint pens (for prop/armor/hardware touch ups, I use Testor’s)
  • Spare worbla (note: the hairdryer in your hotel room can help re-adhere small worbla bits in a pinch, no need to bring a heat gun)
  • E6000
  • Extra velcro

This list seems long, but usually I can fit all of these items into my toolbox (except duct tape) I know that packing this for airline travel may prove a little trickier and you may not have the luxury of bringing everything (also a consideration if you don’t have the luxury of staying in a hotel attached to the convention center and your particular con doesn’t have a cosplay repair area), but a lot of these items are very small and can also easily tucked into a purse or backpack for quick access on the go. Try to think about what items are the most important in case of a costume malfunction, and bring those. For me, that’s always been a needle, thread, small scissors, safety pins, and glue gun. Also helpful are items like extra ribbon/cording (particularly for those who wear corseted costumes) and extra elastic.

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At the end of the day, always hope that you won’t need any of these things while you are at the con. But after spending months making your costume, it’d be awful to not be able to wear it, or only wear it a very short time, because something went wrong that you weren’t prepared to fix.

What are your go-to cosplay repair items to bring to cons?

 

How I found cosplay (or how cosplay found me)

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Since this blog is about going to be about costuming and cosplay, I thought for my first post I could get into the reasons why I started making costumes.

My costuming journey actually began long before I ever attended my first convention or knew what the word “cosplay” meant. Growing up, I always took my Halloween costumes seriously. Really seriously. But it wasn’t till I was 16 years old that my friend and I decided to make costumes for the renaissance faire. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had limited sewing skills and pretty much figured things out as I went along. That first costume was nothing to write home about, but it was a beginning. I went back to the drawing board and starting working on my next costume. I checked out all of the books in the library 16th-elizabethan-doubletpertaining to costume and historical costume. I made a proper set of 16th century stays, a chemise, bum roll, farthingale, and even a set of ruffs. I taught myself how to grade up a pattern out of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, and made an Elizabethan doublet. Of course the sewing work was pretty messy, but I was hooked.

At university, I dabbled in making costumes for our student-led theatrical society, and went on to work on some student short films after graduating, but writing my Art History dissertation in theatrical costume and then later my Master’s thesis on historical fashion led to burnout, and I lost interest in costuming for a time while my passion for vintage clothing and sewing vintage reproduction  took precedence.

It wasn’t until DragonCon 2013 that I realized how much I missed costuming. It was my first DragonCon, and seeing so many elaborate, amazing costumes inspired me. I decided that I would going to make costumes for the following year. I knew that my first cosplay would be from Peter Jackson’s Tolkien universe, but I wasn’t sure which one to do yet. When The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug came out that December, I knew immediately what I was going to make.

Tauriel perhaps is not the most popular character for some, but I loved seeing a female elf portrayed in a way that was feminine yet edgier. Her character design was daunting, but I worked hard for several months leading up to DragonCon, methodically trying to get every detail right. This costume was with me at a very difficult time in my life when I was going through both my own health crisis and as well as my grandmother’s terminal illness. My grandmother was a professional drapist and seamstress, so my sewing projects were a way for me to connect with her. I shared photos of my progress on Tauriel with her, and it was something that we could chat about to take her mind off of her illness.

That year (2014), I also handmade my Lady 5th Doctor costume, my husband’s Thranduil costume, and the 4th Doctor’s scarf. My first DragonCon cosplaying was such an incredible experience. I only wished that I had discovered cosplay sooner. I was addicted.

My Lady 5th Doctor and 1st version of Tauriel

Looking back at the last few years, I have made so many wonderful friends and met so many interesting people through my little cosplay world. When I first started cosplay, I thought that I would never compete. But by chance, I did end up competing, just to try it out and see what it was like. I had so much fun in that first contest (ConNooga, I believe) and met some of the nicest people. When you do a costume contest, you are put in a room (for what can sometimes be hours) with all of the people at the convention who love doing the same thing you do. Star Wars, Trekkies, Whovians, Disney, etc. No matter your fandom, you all come together over the same love for crafting a costume. The camaraderie, for me at least, usually outweighs any competitive weirdness. In fact, the majority of my costuming friends I have met through competitions.

Also, I love that cosplay can make someone’s day. When you are at a convention and someone connects to the character you are cosplaying and genuinely is excited that you are representing a favorite part of their fandom – that is amazing. Kids reactions, especially, are so much fun. My Professor McGonagall costume is not my most elaborate costume, but I absolutely love how excited kids get when they see it. Even though I am over 50 years younger than Maggie Smith and my variant is not screen accurate, they still know the character and are excited to see Professor McGonagall. That is just about the best feeling.

I look forward to continuing my journey in this crazy little cosplay world and growing my skills as well as sharing them. Feel free to chime in below with your own reasons for beginning cosplay!