Masquerades: How to actually win a thing part two

It’s been a bit more than a hot minute, my apologies. I’ve returned to you with part two of my guide to Masquerades and how to actually win a thing! This portion focuses on the performance aspect of competitions.

Last time we talked about this as a step 1 but this applies to both craftsmanship & performance contests soooo here’s a recap:

Step 0: DA RULES!

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Photo cred

  • Pick your convention, then read up on their rules!
  • Things to consider:
    • What division you should compete in (Youth, Novice, Journeyman, Master)
    • Craftsmanship only, Exhibition only, or combination
    • What’s allowed (e.g. no Homestuck @ AB because it’s not anime, number of people, props, have to make everything yourself/not)
    • Time limits per division/number of people
    • Theme for the year (will occasionally get you some brownie points)

Step 1: The IDEA! 

  • Think about what you want to do
  • Talk to partners in crime
  • Challenge yourself! Look at what people in your division have done previously, and hold your skit to that standard or higher
  • Start planning! (Best to start vague in case you aren’t accepted, especially with cons that quality screen skits)

Bad Idea, Good Idea

  • Bad idea: using old memes, dance-offs, dance skits that are literally just carbon copies of K-pop videos with anime characters instead, anything that’s been done before
  • Good idea: making fun of old memes, tired skit ideas, or doing a dance skit that tells a story with original choreography (see DiamondDustProductions’ Best in Show skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GajeU_wpZ_E)
  • Bad idea: making a ton of in-fandom jokes that no one outside the fandom will get (unless the series is popular, but you run the risk of it going over the heads of judges not familiar with it)
  • Good idea: making a ton of cross-fandom jokes for your obscure show (see HSCAbby’s Berserk skit here: https://youtu.be/lag3ZHweRPA?t=35m44s)

Step 2: Dat App

  • PAY ATTENTION TO DEADLINES!!
  • Different cons have different rules for applying to the Masquerade
  • Find out if your division is first come, first served, or if the convention quality screens skits first
  • Have a general idea (or more) of what you want to do for your skit
  • The more info you supply, the more prepared you look, increasing your odds of getting a slot
  • Stay up until midnight, wait for the servers to crash…

Step 3: Working with the Coordinator

  • Most conventions want a script, pre-recorded lines/sound, any video you’re using, and potentially even practice videos if you’re doing a dance… the sooner you get this stuff to them, the better
  • If things get delayed, someone in your group can no longer participate, or you need to make changes to your idea, early communication makes things 9000 times easier
  • If stuff goes wrong AT the con (read: security lines at AB), make sure you have a reliable way to get in touch with the Masquerade staff so they can bail you out

Step 4: Skit Prep 

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Photo cred the 2nd

  • As soon as you’re accepted, it’s time to get to work on your script & A/V stuff and send it over to the Masquerade coordinator for review
  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE (repeat 10 more times for dance skits)
  • Practice in front of someone who’s not part of your group or, even better, who’s not into the show you’re cosplaying from; if they’re entertained/“get it” you have a good skit
  • Ask the Masq Coordinator how big the stage is and find a place that’s the same-ish size to practice; if you can’t, find out about your con’s dress rehearsal policy
  • Don’t be afraid to drop out: if your friends aren’t showing up to practice, your costumes aren’t done, or you’re just not thrilled with your idea, it might be best for your overall well-being to just drop out of the Masquerade for the year. It might feel really disappointing and painful especially if you’ve put a lot of time/effort into your skit, but saving yourself the embarrassment of doing a sub-par skit is priceless. I’ve only dropped out once and even though the skit was a good idea, we didn’t practice, and our costumes were low-key falling apart. I’m glad I didn’t compete because I would have been kicking myself for years to come over a bad skit.

Step 5: At-con rehearsal (might be optional, required, or non-existent) 

  • SHOW UP ON TIME!
  • Optional: be wearing the costume you’re going to compete in
  • Ask a friend who’s not in the skit to record you so you can make any last minute changes to blocking and to listen for audio problems
  • Last chance to communicate any issues with audio or lights with staff
  • BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU GOT DIS!

Step 6: THE MASQUERADE 

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Fab gif credit

  • Eat beforehand or suffer grumbly tumblies!
  • Show up on time to curtain call! Staff usually has nice peptalks.
  • RELAX. Deep breathing!
  • Make friends backstage. Compliment each other!
  • WERK IT!
  • Stay until all awards are handed out unless you have an emergency.

Step 7: The Aftermath

  • Don’t be a sore loser
  • Be gracious if you win
  • There’s a limited number of awards that can be handed out each con; there’s a pool of lots of potential winners
  • Your costume/skit were probably amazeballs and judging can be tough
  • It’s a learning experience, so DO IT ALL AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

    HUZZAH, you’ve reached the conclusion of “do as I say, not as I do” — this guide isn’t a fool-proof method for winning skits/costumes, but it will help you to put out costumes and performances you can be proud of, rather than wanting to wipe your brain clean of the memory of them. 😀

 

Tips on how to actually win a thing: Part 1

So continuing on in the vein of competitions/masquerades, here’s a guide to how to actually win a thing! This is mostly informed by my experiences of epic failure! This part will be focused on the craftsmanship portion of stuff, and I’ll be writing another guide soon about performing.

1. Compete in the right division. Different cons have different rules, but generally if you haven’t won anything or have only won a few minor awards (i.e. judge’s awards and not “best in…” or “1st place…”) you belong in the novice division. As you win awards, you’ll be forced to compete at higher tiers. If you have a lot of experience but have never entered a masquerade/contest it’s probably best for you to compete at the Journeyman/middle division; there’s less competition because there’s fewer people at the higher levels.

 

1a. If your convention has a theme, like Anime Boston often does, you will probably get brownie points for doing a cosplay from that theme. 2011’s theme was “music”, so I did Sheryl Nome & Ranka Lee that year; and communicate this to the judges in order to score those delicious brownie points! Otherwise they’ll think it was a coincidence.

2. Challenge yourself!! Go a little bit out of your comfort zone and make sure you communicate this to the judges – taking risks are often rewarded. Take competition as an opportunity to teach yourself a new technique (like embroidery or a new way of fabricating props); even if you don’t win you’ll have added valuable skills to your repertoire. Do your research on who’s done what in your division in past years to give yourself an idea of your competition; make something with equal or higher complexity to those around you. This isn’t to say that more complicated = better; because if it’s poorly executed it’s not going to make a difference. Simple costumes done well will beat complicated ones done poorly.

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Birb says “go big or go home” and did these two for my first ever costumes from scratch. Still have no idea what the hell I was thinking, but this risk won me a candy crown and a kawaii af trophy! 

3. Give yourself enough time to get stuff done WELL. It’s easy to procrastinate on competition pieces and finish them in your hotel room, but if you’re rushing, you’re probably not putting out your best work. You also won’t have time to make sure everything looks right and won’t fall apart as you’re walking around. Costume malfunctions are a lot easier to deal with at home than at the con. Make fake deadlines for yourself of when different components need to be complete (that way, when you inevitably procrastinate, you won’t be completely screwed) and try to stick to them. Stressing out before the con can often cause a dark cloud over your con experience itself, which isn’t fun.

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Ada/K-san from AB staff saves my ass LITERALLY every year I compete; this year I didn’t give myself enough time to finish my sleeves for Small Lady, they fell apart (kinda, and Ada was there to save the day!) and I wasn’t happy with the way they turned out. 

4. Make everything as neat as possible. This means top-stitching, ironing (bring your own iron if possible, because hotel irons cannot be trusted, but in a pinch, hanging stuff up in the bathroom while showering should get out a lot of wrinkles), lining stuff, cutting all your stray threads…etc. All of this stuff alone doesn’t seem like a big deal, but added up it makes a big difference (especially for judges who like to come up close to inspect your costumes!) This also includes your wig and makeup! Make sure your makeup is a) a thing (because it makes a big difference, especially on stage) b) blended out & c) not running, caking, flaking, etc. Bring a touch-up kit with you so you can fix your face before judging. Wigs should look smooth, have little to no flyaways/frizz (although, if you’ve been standing outside in a security line there might not be a ton you can do about that).

5. Show up on time! Punctuality is important, if you miss judging you might get booted from the Masquerade entirely or DQ’d from craftsmanship awards. You want to be at the place where judging is at least 15 minutes before your judging is scheduled; usually things run late, but sometimes they run early! So make sure you give yourself enough time to get into your cosplay, into the con, and down to the place where judging occurs (people will try to stop you for a bajillion photos if you’re in a group or have a really impressive costume). If I have a 10am judging time, my ass had best be up by 6:00 at the latest and out the hotel room door by 8:15 because getting elevators downstairs (10-15 minutes), security lines (who knows, potentially up to an hour or more), and endless photos (15 min for turning folks down; 30 if you’re being nice and letting them snap) add up quick. If something’s holding you up (i.e. medical emergency, stuck in a security line), do your best to get in touch with the Masquerade coordinator and they might be able to re-schedule your judging for a different time. Communication is the key!

6. Rehearse the main points you want to hit in judging. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get frazzled in the presence of your senpais and everything you wanted to say about your costume goes rushing out of your head.

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It’s yo girl @ judging 

You only have about 5-7 minutes so hit the stuff that you think is most impressive (i.e. you taught yourself this cool new technique or you spent 700 hours working on this costume). Print COLOR reference photos with as many angles as possible (i.e. front and back) to give to the judges (not everyone is familiar with that cool indie anime). You can also print out progress pictures to give the judges a better idea of how your costume was constructed, and if you know your costumes have too much stuff to get through in 5-7 minutes, you can do a little write-up essay of how everything came together (try to keep it short and sweet; judges’ time is limited and they won’t be able to read a novel before the contest!).

If you do all this biz, you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of at least taking home something shiny for craftsmanship! Stay tuned for how to do well in performances!

On Cosplay Competitions/Masquerades

Okie dokie kids it’s time to talk about my most/least favorite aspect of cosplay: competitions in convention masquerades/costume contests.

I’ve always been a competitive person (I am very, very, very much a Type A personality) so competing in my hobby seemed like a logical jump. I’ve been cosplaying since 2007 (just a wee 12 year old bab) and 2008 was the first year I “competed” (the first two years my groups were just “exhibition” skits, so not judged); I had to drop out of one competition in 2013 and took a gap year in 2014 before deciding to compete again in 2015. It’s 2016, I’m 22, I’ve been cosplaying for 10 years, I’ve been in six “legit” competitions, won two minor awards, and I still have no idea whether or not it’s a good idea for me to continue doing this.

I won a minor award for Sheryl Nome & Ranka Lee (my first from-scratch cosplays) in 2011 in the Novice Division, and a minor award for Princess Small Lady Serenity in the Journeyman division in 2016 – SLS Photo by Sumiko.foto Photography.

****DISCLAIMER**** COMPETITION AIN’T FOR ERRYBODY — YOU DO YOU & WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AS A COSPLAYER.

So, without further ado, tips for entering the Masquerade:

  1. Do it for the right reasons. Do NOT be like me and place your self worth as a person and a craftsman in someone else’s hands (be that judges, the audience, or the peanut gallery on social media). I’m trying to get better at this but it’s difficult for me. You should be doing this because you want to have fun, meet other people, and enjoy a little bit of friendly competition.
  2. Don’t do a skit if you/your group does not have the time to commit to practicing. I’ve made an ass of myself more times than I can care to remember (thankfully under a different pseudonym!!!) on Anime Boston’s Masquerade stage because my group wasn’t committed to practicing. If improv is your thing, check out other cosplay events like Chess or the Dating Game, or consider entering a walk-on if you still want to compete without the hassle of a skit (what I do now).
  3. Do pre-record your audio. It sounds better and makes your life easier because you only need to half-convincingly lip sync your lines. 🙂
  4. Do be on time! For everything! Meeting script deadlines for the coordinator, judging, rehearsal, check-in, etc… don’t be that guy that keeps everyone waiting, if you have an issue (like getting stuck in a security line), keeping open lines of communication is key!
  5. Don’t be a jackass backstage. Little 12 year olds (such as my past self) think that over-used memes are funny and they will use them in their skits. They’re doing their best. Eventually, they will grow up and realize in horror what terrible mistakes they’ve made in their youth, and will make better skits as adults. Making snide comments about others’ skits just makes you look like a nasty person; don’t pretend that you never once thought costume satin was a legit fabric choice…we’ve all been there.
  6. Don’t freaking cheat!! This goes without saying! The judges will know! The con will find out, your rep will be ruined irrevocably because the internet never forgets, and even if you do somehow manage to get away scot-free, your victory will be a LIE.
  7. Don’t be afraid to drop out– seriously. Me making an ass of myself three years in a row all could have been avoided if I wasn’t such a baby about quitting when I know I’m beat and when I know I’m not going to put out the best performance I possibly could. If a skit/con/deadline/life circumstances or what have you are making planning and prepping for the Masquerade more miserable than fun, you should seriously consider dropping out. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. I know cosplayers like to procrastinate and joke about “all aboard the suffering train” but it’s not worth spending the entire con miserable (because when you inevitably lose, Sunday is that much suckier) just to do the Masquerade.
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    Image credit  Meguca is suffering but Masquerades don’t have to be! 
  8. Remember: losing is not the end of everything. Losing doesn’t always mean your costume/performance sucked; it just means judges liked someone else’s better; and honestly a lot of these competitions are very tight (especially in the lower craftsmanship divisions)! Cons are limited in funds, which means not as many people that deserve awards can go home with them. Don’t take it to heart, and use it as motivation to do more complex costumes next time!

 

Adventures at GenCon2016!

Oh dear sweet baby bird Jesus. TheHeavyMetalGM, myself, and two of our other friends embarked on a 14 hour (16 with breaks) journey to Indianapolis from Boston starting at 3:00AM because our fearless GM had a meeting with Pelgrane Press at 6:00pm. I had a grand total of 1 hour of sleep before taking my first 3.5 hour shift, so full of caffeine and a need for speed (not really, I drive like a grandma), we set off on our grand adventure!

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DEAR GOD PLEASE DON’T LET US CRASH!

I survived crossing the most hated Hudson river bridge in upstate N.Y. (it’s always under construction so it only has one open lane and looks rickety af), got me some Tim Horton’s coffee and TIMBITS at a rest stop, and promptly went the fuck to sleep after passing the baton at Buffalo. Ohio is terrible, never go there. ONE LANE HIGHWAY. ONE. LANE. Also Kaisch so yeah.

At 5:50 we finally located our hotel and got ourselves checked in. Sean raced off to his meeting while Jess and I finished assembling our cosplays like true veterans in this field. Staff at the Hyatt were all 1) super nice and 2) wearing Star Trek uniforms for the duration of the weekend, which I thought was super cool! We meandered on over to will call to pick up some tickets and handicap wristbands for myself & Jess2, and the customer service folks were probably some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.

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WE SURVIVED! 

In line, there were a LOT of dudes leering at me (even in Muggle mode, with next to no makeup, in a knee-length dress, and smaller boobs than usual because I can’t wear a real bra in aforementioned dress because I made it too small like a dink) so I was pretty nervous to go to the con in a skintight bodysuit the next day. I’m used to creepy weeb dudes ogling me in cosplay, but not so much outside of it. Thankfully this was the only incidence of creepy dudes being creepy, which is more than I can say for most anime cons…

We moseyed our way down to Scotty’s Bewhouse, which had two specialty beers & a bunch of events for GenCon; which is super foreign to me. I’m used to the host city pretty much hating convention goers so it was really cool to see one embrace us for once. We all slept like babes and were mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the convention!

Thursday I was Padme Amidala from Attack of the Clones and Jess2 was Leia Organa from A New Hope:

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THE NUMBER OF DUDES THAT MISTOOK ME FOR LEIA ALL DAMN DAY THO. Fake geek boys are real, fam. I think at the end, there were only 5 people that recognized I was Padme, even when I had Jess2 with me! I also forgot my white tights for my under my pants, but aside from that I’m pretty satisfied with how these turned out. We met up with Mark of Campaign Coins (they’re amazing, please check them out!), and Sean and I went to a 13th Age Adventure Building workshop, which was super fun! I almost died (not really, but came close to passing out a couple times) of heat exhaustion because the convention center decided: “oh 60,000 people crammed in here with 100 degree temps outside? Nah, A/C’s optional” until Friday. I network with some other gaming researchers at a couple of really cool women in gaming panels, and met up with the lovely Anna from Go Make Me a Sandwich (she’s so cool! I’m still freaking out!). Sean & I went to a Star Wars mass battle over Coruscant which you can read about here.

Friday I cosplayed as my Inquisitor Lavellan from Dragon Age Inquisition; I made the coat on Tuesday so there are A LOT of fit issues that I need to fix eventually. It’s not entirely accurate because I have a love/hate relationship with bias tape and I’m not competing with this so IDGAF. Jess2 was kind enough to do my vallaslin and my good friend Emily made my beautiful flower crown! I whipped some buns in my round of Anime Trivia, got to chat with the creators of 13th Age, checked out the Nerd Circus event (really cool!) and played Cards Against Dragon Age that evening.

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Saturday Jess & I were our Eeveelutions and won a Hall Cosplay Contest Award (woot!).

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We went to the Cosplay Contest, which was REALLY FREAKING WEIRD. Only 1 judge (aside from the people running the contest) was a costumer/crafter, the other two were just special guests of GenCon. There were next to no skits (so it was pretty boring), the categories for entries made no sense (Mary Poppins = pop culture but Disney’s Belle = historical?????), and audience cheers determined who wins best in show out of the first place winners in each category (what the flipppppp). There were, however, cash prizes for winners of each category and first place took home free tickets to GenCon2017, so perhaps I’ll compete next year! However, I just want to take a moment to freak out over the amazing craftsmanship that TWELVE YEAR OLD Kazaradigital put into her Sabine Wren cosplay (she won the children’s category handily, I might add!). She made everything herself with only a little bit of help!!! WHAT EVEN. I can’t wait to see what she puts out next, her craftsmanship is impeccable!

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Photo credit to the Indy Star 

After the cosplay contest, I got to meet JediManda, and went to the D20 Nerdlesque Extravaganza later that evening. Definitely worth the $20!

Sunday arrived far too quickly; Jess and I cosplayed Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time.

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Our main objective was hunting the exhibitor’s hall for loot. I picked up a Shaymin (and very nearly grabbed the Mega Ampharos there too, but maybe another day…) Pokedoll and some tumblers from the Pokemon Center. We said our goodbyes to the lovely folks at Pelgrane Press, and returned to our room to change & checkout.

And with that, our first Gen Con experience had come to a close!

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It’s over, isn’t it?

So overall, great convention, will definitely be back next year (and next year, GenCon falls on my birthday, so maybe I can convince Sean to fly out there instead of driving…)!

Costume Walkthrough: Princess Small Lady Serenity

Costume walthroughs are exactly what they sound like: me walking you through the construction process for a costume I’ve made. Today’s is on my Small Lady/Chibiusa gown! Please feel free to ask questions about this or any other projects you might be working on; I love giving cosplay advice! 😉

Photo credit: Rachel Joy for the left & my mom for the right!

BASE DRESS: is white casa satin; it’s lined with some cheap-o fabric I had lying around from when I made my senior prom dress. Woohoo for recycling! I patterned it myself. The skirt is just a super long circle skirt; I didn’t add too much to the waist of it for pleats, but I did make it 5 or so inches longer than me in stocking feet since I planned to wear this in 4.5 inch heels (I lasted all of an hour before switching to flats, lol). The overskirt is white casa chiffon, which DOES NOT MATCH the satin (WHY?! You’re both white from the same collection: WHY DON’T YOU MATCH?!), and is made in the same way as the lower skirt. The skirts I had to make in two separate half-circles which I then sewed together. There’s another seam in the back where the invisible zipper goes. I sewed the two skirts to the bodice at the same time, and then added an invisible zipper. I don’t have a serger, so I do my “cheapo serging” by doing a straight stitch to sew whatever I’m trying to sew together (i.e. two pieces of skirt) then going over it with a zig-zag stitch, and then a second straight stitch. Then I trim it and fray check the ever living bejeesus out of it. I made the mistake of not fray checking the hems of the chiffon layer for a while and paid dearly for it; I had to re-hem it in a lot of places and it looks pretty messy. I actually fray checked it in the car on the way to Katsu.

DETAILS: PrettyDeer and I decided we wanted to do manga-version details for these dresses, but with anime colors because we noticed in hall shots a lot of details of other Princess Serenitys get washed out when they’re white/silver. Originally, I planned on doing the gold donuts out of embroidery, but that didn’t work, so I tried satin stitching gold fabric, but my machine’s smallest zigzag was too wide & the foot shredded the fabric. So eventually, I cut the donuts out of the fabric using a razor, fabric glued them to a piece of white casa satin, and then cut off the excess with a razor as well. I needed a way to avoid having the outside edges fray, so I found some gold sequin trim and fabric glued it to the edges of the donuts. I hand sewed this piece to the dress. Then, the arduous process of rhinestone-ing the donut holes began. ; A ; In total, this dress has ~2,000 silver rhinestones on it and 14 hours of labor on rhinestones alone. (Fun story: after Katsu, got this dry cleaned, and asked for them to just clean the skirts, not the bodice; get it back, about 1/4 of the rhinestones are missing, and all of my hand-stitching had to be redone.) I ordered some fake white pearls in bulk and hand strung them onto a stretchy jewelry string, and then hand sewed those to the dress using clear thread. I was scared of making the string too taught, so I just made it the length of my bust & waist without stretching it, and then made the string tighter after the pearls were sewn on the dress. (Thank goodness for dress forms!) After that, I left a gap under the top row of pearls for the 3 lines of trim PrettyDeer and I picked out (sewing them flush hid the first one). I had to hand sew the trim with the rhinestones on it because there was no way to do it with the machine, but I machine stitched the other two on there, as well as the “u” shaped trim. Unfortunately, my bust is bigger than donuts + 2 rows of pearls + 4 lines of trim, so the gaps I have on there were pretty large/made my inaccuracy spidey senses tingle, so I added some rose patterned lace trim (because Chibi-Moon is the daughter of Tuxedo Mask, I figured roses would be fitting), and hand-sewed a 2mm pearl to the center of each rose because I clearly like suffering.

JEWELRY: I wasn’t sure what color pearls I should wear with this, so I borrowed some pink and white ones from my mom but pink won over, haha. I bought a pink pearl bracelet from the wonderful Starlightslk the Friday of Katsu because a white one of mine had a broken clasp. I love love love this bracelet so much!! It’s so pretty and matches the pearl necklace I borrowed from my mom and the earrings I have perfectly! I made my pink forehead crescent (Chibi-Usa technically has a Pink Moon Crystal, so I figured her crescent should be pink too!) For AB, I had more casting issues, so the gem is actually made out of hotglue and painted with pink nail polish. The older version was resin painted with body paint, lol.

For the armor sleeves: this didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to (should have made the circles /much/ smaller but: I drew the circle on paper to use as a reference, sketched out the snail shell and cut that out (two going one way for the front, and then flipped the other side for the back part of the arm), and then used the side part of the circle as a guide for sketching out the flippy bits – three of those for the edge of the front and back panels of the circle. Then I sketched out the middle parts (four pieces total, mostly straight with the v cutout in two different lengths), cut everything out of the craft foam. I glued the front and back pieces so they were touching each other on top of the middle circle, then did the snail shell for each side so that the “tail” of it faces towards the middle, then glued the flippy bits for one side of the circle down, then the middle parts for the side closest to that circle, and repeated with the other side. The front/back flippy bits should cover some of the middle parts so it took a little bit of finagling to get it. Then I heated everything up on the stovetop and formed each circle over a styrofoam ball to get it to be sticky-outy, fixed any hot glue that came loose, and then painted everything with glitter mod podge. To get it to stay up, I sewed three pieces of clear jewelry elastic (which snapped between judging and my walk-on ofc) between the front & back circles.

For my bun flower, I found a bouquet of fake flowers from Joann’s with pink tips, and just cut some of the outer petals off so it wasn’t SUPER HUGE OMG FLOWER and just stuck it into my wig.

For the wig, I bought a Chibi in Bubblegum Pink from Arda, and covered the odangos with wefts from there as well! I more or less followed HezaChan’s tutorial on how to make the odangos, but I didn’t stub my wig. The odangos just slide into the wig with bobby pins, so I can remove them and use the wig for other projects.

This was super long, but I hope you find it helpful!

 

Cosplay 101: Undergarments!

Hello peeps! I hope you’re having a good week! Today we’re gonna talk about underwear for cosplay. You may be wondering: why the heck are we talking about this; can’t I just wear what I normally do? In some cases; yes, but wearing specialty undergarments can really make or break a costume.

First we’ll talk about spandex costumes and anything skin tight. Spandex is fun, but it’s also kind of a pain in the buns; it has a bad habit of flattening chests & bums and simultaneously making you look fatter than you actually are. So to combat this; people cosplaying lady characters should invest in a super push up bra to fight back against spandex’s compression, and if you’re concerned about your belly/waist, you can also invest in an open-bust style shapewear bodysuit (they usually come in styles that stop mid-thigh or thong styles). If your skin-tight costume has skin-tight pants (i.e. Catwoman catsuit or something similar) you’re going to want to invest in some seamless panties or a thong; panty lines WILL show and ruin the flow of your cosplay. Sads. Also, if your costume is white and skin tight; wear nude colored undies; white will make it obvious where your undergarments begin and end. Even though I’m cosplaying Chibi-Moon in the photo below, I’m still wearing a bombshell bra from VS to give myself an hourglass figure/cancel out the flattening.

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Dudes; this comic from The Devil’s Panties sums up the need for dance belts better than I ever could:

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If you’re cosplaying a magical girl or someone with a very full skirt (like Rose Quartz or Cardcaptor Sakura) you may want to buy (check out Lolita fashion boards for advice) or make a petticoat and/or hoop skirt (there are different kinds based on historical eras btw) to give your skirt that extra FLOOF! Adding these elements can take your cosplay from “meh” to “wow!” Similarly, adding boning to support bodices can also help make your costume look more crisp and professional. If you’re cosplaying a historical character, you can also make yourself a corset to go underneath your outfit or purchase one.

If modesty is your thing and you’re worried about creeps taking upskirt photos of you at cons or just windy days, buy a pair of cheer leading practice shorts/booty shorts to wear under costumes with short skirts.

Finally, dance tights! Dance tights are the best things ever when it comes to giving your legs some nice definition for cosplays where you can see them. They’re not as sheer as pantyhose and they’re usually not shiny, but they do give your legs a nice uniform look and will conceal any cuts/bruises (if you’re accident-prone like me…) and most tattoos. You can also sew thigh highs or thigh-high spandex boot covers to them which means no more pulling thigh highs up all day.

That’s all I have for today, and please remember, take all of this with a grain of salt – you do you and whatever you’re comfortable with in terms of shape-wear.

I hope you all find this guide helpful!

Cosplay on a Budget: Makeup Starter Kit

Hokay peeps! Now that you kinda know what the heckie you’re doing with this makeup biz it’s time to put together a high quality starter kit on the cheap. I know choosing makeup can be kind of overwhelming and trying to figure out what’s worth your money can getcha feelin’ like this:

meguca is suffering.jpg

but hopefully this guide will give you a good starting place! I’ll be including “splurge” items as well if you have some extra $$$ that you’re willing to burn on a high end product, but I’ll try to keep individual items on the cheap list under $20 USD.

Before we jump into the first category of brushes, I’ll preface this by saying you need:

blending sponges of some description (beauty blenders are nice but let’s be real here, they’re just a fancy sponge and you can get a pack of 20 for like $2 at Target)
a face/powder/blush brush
a foundation brush 
eye shading brush (look for something compact with densely packed bristles)
eye shadow blending brush (fluffier)
an eye liner/pencil brush
& a lip brush

to start. Having more eye shadow brushes is useful because you don’t have to wash them between uses at a con. If you’re into cream makeups then you’ll want a stippling brush or an additional foundation brush as well. Now onto the brands!

Cheap brushes:
Eco Tools (look for gift sets, also usually has BOGO 50% off deals)
Elf
Wet n’ Wild
Real Techniques (frequently on BOGO 50% off at Ulta)
Ulta’s house brand

Cheap face primers:
Elf Mineral Primer $6
Nyx Angel Veil Skin Perfecting Primer (dupe for Hourglass’ Mineral Veil!) $16
Nyx Pore Filler $14

Expensive face primers:
Too Faced Primed and Poreless Pure Primer $30
Becca Backlight Priming Filter $40
Too Faced Hangover Rx Replenishing Face Primer $32

Cheap eyeshadow primers:
Elf Eye Primer and Liner Sealer $3
Nyx Glitter Primer $6

Expensive eye shadow primers:
Urban Decay Eye Shadow Primer Potion $20
Too Faced Shadow Insurance Anti-Crease Eye Shadow Primer $20

Cheap foundations:
Elf Flawless Finish Foundation $6
Nyx Stay Matte But Not Flat (powder, but can be used wet or dry) $10

Expensive foundations:
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup $40
Too Faced Born This Way $39
Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Water Foundation $39

Cheap concealer:
Elf HD Lifting Concealer $3
Nyx Hi-Definition Photo Concealer Wands $5

Expensive concealer:
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer $28
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour Waterproof Concealer $25

Cheap blushes:
Elf Palettes are $6, singles are $3
Nyx HD Blush $7
Makeup Geek $10 for a pan; $15 for a compact
Wet n’ Wild $3
Makeup Revolution $5-15

Expensive blushes:
Too Faced Love Flush Blush $26
Urban Decay Afterglow 8 Hour Powder Blush $26
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush $28
NARS Blush $30

Cheap highlighters:
Elf Shimmering Facial Whip $1
Elf Baked Blush in Pinktastic $3
Nyx Illuminator $9
Wet n’ Wild Mega Glow Highlighting Powder $4
Makeup Revolution $5-15

Expensive highlighters:
Too Faced Candlelight Glow $30
Urban Decay 8 Hour Afterglow Powder Highlighter $30
Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kits $40
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed $38

Cheap contouring/bronzing products:
Nyx Wonder Stick $12
Elf Bronzers Blush/Bronzer Duos are $4, Palettes are $6
Wet n’ Wild Mega Glow Contouring Palette $5
Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer $15

Expensive contouring/bronzing products:
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer $30
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit $40

Cheap lipsticks:
Nyx (Round Case $4; Matte $6; Liquid Suede $7; Soft Matte Lip Cream $6)
Elf ($1-$8)
Colourpop ($5-$7)

Expensive lipsticks:
Too Faced La Creme $22
Urban Decay Vice $17
Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick $21

Cheap eyeliner:
ColourPop Creme Gel Liner $5
Elf Waterproof Eye Liner Pen $2

Expensive eyeliner:
Kat Von D Tattoo Liner $19 (SWEAR BY THIS)
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil $20

Cheap brow products:
Nyx’s Microbrow Pencil $10 is a perfect dupe for ABH’s Brow Wiz, save your $$

Cheap mascara: 
Nyx’s Doll Eye Mascara $10
Elf Volumizing and Defining Mascara $2

Expensive mascara: 
Tarte Lights Camera Splashes $21
Urban Decay Perversion Mascara $22
Too Faced Better than Sex $12 (travel size is cheaper per ounce than full size at $23!)

Cheap setting spray:
Elf Makeup Mist and Set $4
Nyx Setting Spray in Dewy Finish or Matte Finish $8

Expensive setting spray
Urban Decay All-Nighter Makeup Setting Spray $30

Last but not least, there’s eye shadow palettes, which is where I sink most of my money. What I recommend is getting a neutrals palette and supplementing it with other pops of color in single shades or building custom palettes for specific characters. With colorful palettes, I’ll buy them if I can use them for multiple characters or if there are really unique shades that aren’t permanent for the particular brand.

Cheap eye shadow palettes:
Make your own with Make Up Geek $6 for regular shades, $10 for foiled
Elf ($1-$20) – I recommend any of the Prism Shadow Sets, and their Naked dupes
Nyx ($6-$20) – I recommend the prismatic singles, the Go-To palettes, the Avant Pop! palettes, and the Ultimate palettes
Makeup Revolution ($7-$15) – Lots of Too Faced palette dupes as well as UD Naked; more selection in the UK/on their site.

Expensive eye shadow palettes:
Urban Decay Nakeds $54; Singles are $19 for regular, $21 for moondust, and 4-pan palettes are $10, the Spectrum Palette would be a PERFECT splurge for a colorful palette; it’s $39 at Sephora right now
Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palettes $49, and these would be tied with Tarte for a splurge on a neutrals palette. 9-pan palettes like PB&J or Natural Eyes are $36
Buxom Make your own 6-pan for $40 with free case @ Ulta; or get pre-made ones for the same price
Anastasia Beverly Hills Make your own 4-pan for $40 with free case @ Ulta; palettes are usually great too! (I am loving Modern Renaissance!)
Tarte now has single shadows and while I personally have yet to try them, they’re getting A’s on Temptalia’s site so I’d say they’re pretty good! Their eye shadow palettes usually have a blush and sometimes highlighter in them, and are mostly neutrals. Sales can get them down to around $25 but they retail as high as $45.

Please keep in mind these are just my personal recommendations so what works for me may not work for you if you have a different skin color/tone/type than me. I hope you all find this helpful and look forward to seeing you create some amazing looks on the cheap!

Makeup for Cosplay: Lips!

Hi peeps! Today we’re gonna talk about how to do your lip makeup for cosplay.

Doing this before your face is easier (to me) because if you mess up on the scale that I usually do, you don’t have to break out your concealer to fix your lipstick and then fix your foundation/contour/highlight. To start, you’ll want to (gently) exfoliate your lips; you can use a sugar scrub (mix honey or coconut oil and sugar, rub your lips together, and then lick it off) or a toothbrush in a pinch. Lipstick (particularly matte formulas) will cling to cracks and dry patches of skin, so you want to start with a smooth surface. Pat them dry and then apply a lip balm if you need one.

Next, you can apply a primer (some companies make them specifically for lips, but you can use your face primer on your lips too!) which will help to make your lipstick last longer. You’ll also want to apply concealer to your lips to cancel out their natural color.

If you’re going for a no-makeup look, stick to soft pinks and browns (i.e. your lips but better shades) for lipstick; or go with just a tinted gloss. For lipstick; you’ll line your lips with either a nude shade (like Nyx’s wonder pencil), something the same color or slightly darker than the lipstick you’ll use. You can use a lip liner pencil or a lip brush and lipstick for this step. Lining your lips prevents color from “feathering” or bleeding out beyond your lip lines.

If you want your lips to appear larger, you can contour them! Some companies make plumping glosses with menthol or cinnamon, but these will need to be reapplied every few hours to keep your lips plump. This method is a little less annoying: when lining your lips, use a shade darker than the color you’re using for lipstick, and trace slightly outside your natural lip line, and shade in the inner corners of your top and bottom lips. Apply your lipstick, then make a fishy face. Using the liner shade, draw vertical lines where your lips pucker, and blend it in. You can apply a lighter shade to the center of your top and bottom lips, and blend, which will give them a more 3-D effect. Next, take a tissue, and gently press it to your lips, and dust finishing powder through the tissue onto your lips. Put your thumb into your mouth, press your lips around it, and pull it out to get rid of any lipstick that would end up on your teeth. Apply gloss if you so desire, and set your face with setting spray and you are good to go!

Bonus points for how to fake whiter teeth: cool-toned/blue-based red, pink, and berry lipsticks, or glossy nudes will also make your teeth appear whiter! Matte, frosted, or yellow-based shades can sometimes make teeth look duller/gray or more yellow.

Same weekend, but my teeth look duller as Sailor V because I’m wearing a yellow-based coral than they do as Sylveon where I’m wearing a blue-based hot pink. Photo on the right is from Anna-Neko Cosplay & Photography!

My recommendations for lipsticks/liners/glosses:
ColourPop Cosmetics (liners & lipsticks, their liquid formula is actually very close to Kylie lip kits so save yourselves some $$$!)
Elf’s Moisturizing Lipsticks
Nyx’s Lip Liners, Soft Matte Lip Creams, Butter Glosses, & Round Case Lipsticks
Too Faced’s La Creme Lipstick line
Urban Decay’s Vice Lipstick line

I hope this was helpful!

Makeup for Cosplay: Eyes!

Hi peeps! It’s been a long while – I’ve been busy with graduation festivities at my school and wrapping up recruitment on some studies I’ve been coordinating.

So today we’re gonna talk about how to do eye makeup! I think doing eyes first makes the overall application process MUCH easier than starting out with foundation/other face products because then you don’t have to worry about fallout from eye shadow messing up your foundation and concealer. Alternatively, you can put a ton of setting powder under your eyes, do your eye makeup, and then sweep all the setting powder & eye shadow fallout away~!

For eyes, I’ll walk you through some terminology and some different types of looks. But first, a handy diagram from fahv.com:

eyemap

You’ll start out by putting in contacts if you’re wearing them. Makeup is hard to get off of fingers and you don’t want that in your eyes. Next you’ll take eye shadow primer and smear that all over your lid and up to just under your eyebrows (this part of your eye is called the brow-bone).

The way I usually do my eye makeup is by taking a light (usually white, light pink, or flesh toned) eye shadow all across the brow bone area using a windshield wiper motion. I’ll also usually put this close to my tear duct/where my eye socket meets my nose to brighten up that area and make my eyes look more awake. Next, I’ll take a slightly darker color and pat that onto the lid. If I wanted a super minimalist look, I might sweep the same color into the crease and call it a day.

After that, I’ll take a color that’s a little bit darker than the lid shade and use the same sort of windshield wiper motion to put it into the crease, which is the part of your eye that does the fold-y thing. I have deep-set, semi-hooded eyes so unless I’m raising my eyebrows, you usually can’t see my actual crease, so I extend this a bit beyond where my natural crease is. You can also use another color as a “transition color” if the contrast between your crease shade and highlight is really strong; sweep that between them to make it less intense. Next, I’ll take a shade that’s lighter than the lid shade, and pat that onto the center of the eye – this makes them seem more awake and draws attention to the eyes. Finally, I’ll take the darkest shade I’m using and put that into the outer “V” of my eye. BAM, SMOKEY EYE. If you really wanna make it smokey, you can also blend this outer v shade along your lower lash line. If you want a fun/colorful look, you can blend a bright color on the lower lash line. Blend as you go and at the end to avoid having your eyeballs look like a color-by-numbers.

Using all browns, taupes, whites, and light pinks can give you a natural look like what I have for my Tutu cosplay or you can use this with “crazy” colors like I did for my bisexual flag inspired pride look. Using darker browns, grays, purples, and blacks will give you a “vampier” or more sexy look. Smokey eyes don’t have to be all dark – you can use light shades to get the same effect. Play around with stuff and see what you like!

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Another type of look is called a halo eye; which involves 3-4 shades – one you’ll use for your browbone, another for the crease, and then you’ll use the same shade on both the inner and outer v, and the final shade goes in the center, like this look from paulina_alaiev on makeup geek’s website:

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A “cut crease” look like this one from allure.com is where the line between the lid and crease shade is very sharp and not blended (youtube this – cut creases are a pain in the buns for hooded eye folks and I’m not gonna put myself through the frustration):

glitter-cut-crease

There’s a bunch of other ways to do eyeshadow but these are the ones that seem popular now! Other eye shadow tips: if you want bright colors to really pop, use Nyx’s (or another brand) eye shadow sticks in white as a base; if you want duochrome or glittery shades to pop, use a black eyeshadow stick on over your primer. Wetting a brush with finishing spray and then using eyeshadow can also make them appear more intense. Once you finish doing your eyeliner, wipe away any excess with a makeup wipe and you’ll be good to get going on the rest of your face.

Next we’ll talk about eyeliner – there’s a bunch of different styles but the ones you’ll use most frequently are “basic” (i.e. just follow your upper lash line with the stick, try not to make it too thick) or a cat-eye (same deal but gets thicker towards the outside edge of your eye and ends with a flick). Markers/pens probably give you the most control and are the easiest to work with. “Tight lining” is when you apply eyeliner to the “water line” of your upper eye (you use cream eyeliner for this). This makes your eyeliner appear more uniform. Most people use brown or black for eyeliner, but sky’s the limit, you do you. Lining your bottom water line with white will make your eyes appear larger, more awake, kawaii/animu; black will make your eyes appear more narrow and sexier.

Mascara: just do it. It makes your lashes look really good! Primers exist for them as do waterproofing top coats for trips to Colossal Con! Using vertical strokes with the wand on bottom lashes makes it easier to get to them. If you have issues with length, dusting setting powder on your lashes between coats can help. You can also apply false lashes to give you some extra volume and length.

For brows, you can either use a pencil (like Nyx’s Microbrow or ABH’s Brow Wiz) or powder, or pomade/gel. If your character has natural colored hair that matches yours, just fill them in with the product of your choice. If your character has a crazy hair color like pink, you can do a couple of things if your brow hair doesn’t match: fill them in with a light brown powder color (this draws less attention to them), or you can follow this tutorial by my friend Lara.

After you’ve finished the rest of your face (stay tuned!), you’ll finish off with a setting spray to keep everything locked in place. I hope you find this helpful!

Cosplay 101: Dealing with Creepers

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No, not these… credit to the Minecraft Wikia’s vignette3

Conventions are supposed to be a fun time for everyone, but nothing kills your vibe faster than some creep proposing that the two of you go back to their hotel room for some “one-on-one time.” There are bound to be a few bad seeds at a convention simply because of statistics; stick a lot of people in one place, and a few of them are bound to be jerks. If you’re a woman at a con, your chances of being harassed are pretty high, especially if you’re in cosplay (& yes, men are harassed at cons too, but typically at lower rates).

Here’s my guide to dealing with these jerks:

1. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. I don’t care what you’re wearing, how you’re posing, or what series you’re from. There is absolutely no excuse for someone sexually harassing another human being, even if it’s “in character”; there are some lines you just do not cross. They’re the person in the wrong, not you. It also literally doesn’t matter what you’re wearing; someone groped my chest at a con when I was cosplaying Maid Hungary from Hetalia – she’s covered from neck to mid-calf, and I’ve gone surprisingly unscathed as Lion version Sheryl Nome. Creepers gonna creep.

2. Use the buddy system. If you’re with a friend, people are usually less apt to make a gross comment. If you do have to split up, make sure you set up times/places to check in with each other. This also gives you a convenient way to extricate yourself from a creepy person’s “conversation” with you. Call your friends if they’ve missed their check-in time with you; taking the call will be an easy out for them if they’re in trouble.

3. DO. NOT. Go anywhere private with someone you don’t know! Just don’t, even if they seem perfectly normal/not a creep. Take a friend with you if you’re working with a photographer you don’t know, have them stand behind the photographer to make sure there’s no panty shot stuff going on if that’s not what you’re going for. This sort of garbage can happen at cons. Your safety should be your #1 priority.

4. If someone’s creeping you out by talking to you, and you feel comfortable doing so; loudly tell them that their behavior isn’t appropriate. This draws attention to the two of you, which will hopefully make you less of an appealing target. Sometimes, people at cons are just realllllly socially inept and don’t realize their behavior isn’t appropriate, but this is usually a rare occurrence. If they back off and genuinely apologize, you just have a well-meaning dingbat and not a predator, hurray!

5. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them, try to get a good look at their badge (most cons have your real name printed in a small font, and some let you pre-pick your large font “badge name” online and have it printed on the badge — this makes it easier for con staff to look up their info), what they’re wearing, and their build/eye/hair color. Go to convention security, tell them what happened, and give them all of the relevant info. They’ll be on the lookout for Dudebro McJerkface and will probably boot him from the con, because chances are, you’re not the first person he’s harassed this weekend.

6. If you’re not the confrontational type and need to get away from a conversation, hopefully your friend is calling you because you missed your check-in time (make sure your ringer is on full blast). Take the call and use it as an excuse to get away “oh sorry my friend needs my help with a costume in our hotel room, catch you later” and get the heckie outta there. Alternatively, you can say that a panel you want to see is starting soon (but sometimes people are persistent and will insist on going with you) or that you need to go back to your room and change for a photo shoot (and some people are even so persistent as to want to come with you AND your boyfriend to your room…). Sometimes, people just can’t take a hint & you’re gonna have to be flat out with them and say they’re making you uncomfortable, and you’re leaving now.

7. Hopefully, things never escalate beyond a gross conversation or comment. If someone touches you without your permission, ALL BETS ARE OFF, no playing nicey-nice. Here’s what to do in that situation:

  • Step one: Yell something to the effect of “how dare you touch my _______ without my consent/did you seriously just _______ my ________?!/don’t touch me again!” This draws attention and witnesses, and hopefully someone will overcome bystander effect and intervene.
  • Step two (optional unless they’re holding on to you, ONLY DO THIS IN SELF-DEFENSE): Hit that jerk. You need to get away from this person quickly, so do only enough to get away – don’t try to incapacitate them. Getting the groin is usually the best way to get them to drop.
  • Step three: Find your nearest human and ask them for help if you don’t immediately see someone who’s part of con security. Explain what happened, then go to con security.
  • Step four (optional): Talk to the police if you want to press charges.

& that is your bird’s guide to dealing with creepers at cons! Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with this, but now you have a handy protocol of what to do if you do!