Ivy Valentine, from Soul Calibur 5. : CabezaDeBaka // Photo : DTJAAAAM

Ivy gets a great response at conventions. She’s colorful, has a neat weapon, and shows a lot of skin. Even if you don’t play the game or recognize the character, she gets attention. My friends and I have a little game we play when we cosplay Soul Calibur. It’s called “Did that person ask for a picture because Ivy or because of boobies?” We figure the split is about 60/40. She’s the only cosplay I’ve ever worn where people will ask for hugs… which is creepy all on its own. Usually, I say yes because I figure it can’t do much harm and, unlike Ivy, I’m a bit of a pushover. This practice ended on one notable occasion when I was cosplaying Ivy at a smaller convention with my boyfriend of the time.

A shy young man came up, revealed that Ivy Valentine was his “first waifu” and asked for a hug. Instead of the awkward grasp-and-go routine, I was accustomed to, this gentleman thrust his face straight into my cleavage. It was so shocking and unpleasant that I froze like a deer in headlights. When I finally mustered the mental acuity for speech, I told him it was time to let go. In his defense, he released me immediately, thanked me, and vanished into the dealer’s hall. I look for my boyfriend and find him laughing his ass off, having done absolutely nothing to defend me. I went through the rest of day in a sort of mental fog. He is now my ex-boyfriend and I no longer grant hugs. Lessons learned.

I cosplay with a few friends who live all over the USA and conventions are our big get-togethers. We take turns choosing a group cosplay for the year. Rosie picked Soul Calibur. She’s a gamer, I’m not, so Rosie had to send me biographies for all the characters in the game. I was initially leery of the sheer amount of skin in Ivy‘s outfits, but I really like her story, attitude, and character. She’s a ton of fun! She makes me feel powerful and confidant. I think that’s ideal for any cosplay.

I made Ivy three years ago and she’s still the most technically difficult cosplay I’ve built. I learned how to dye synthetic fabric so I could get deep violet honeycomb fabric for her jacket. I learned how to work with stretchy fabrics, and worse… stretchy metallic fabrics that try to grab your sewing machine and hold on for dear life. I used Worbla for the first time in order to make her arm guards and claws. I got my ears pierced for Ivy! My first piercings ever.

My favorite piece to make was her pauldron. I molded the snake out of foam clay, then carved the details with a dremel after it had dried. Her sword took the longest time to figure out. I tried everything from upholstery foam to cardboard for the blades. I settled on styrofoam. It was easy to get a nice edge with a foam cutter, it was very light, and very sturdy after several coats of Mod Podge. Light blades were important because I wanted the sword to be poseable. I ran three lengths of gardening wire through plumbing tubing… and I still messed up. I neglected to factor in the weight of the wire itself! But the sword was otherwise lovely and wrapped around my body perfectly, even if I couldn’t hold it at full length as in my original vision.

My biggest concern was the amount of skin that Ivy has on display. I chose the SC5 outfit, which is one of her more modest costumes, but there was still a lot more leg and rear than I’m comfortable with. The answer to this problem – ballet tights! They feel thick and secure, more like leggings. They photograph close enough to my natural skin tone that it looks like I’m not wearing tights at all. It’s a good compromise. The most comfortable part is Ivy’s wig. I got it from Arda and barely have to style it at all. I love characters with short hair! My feet may die a torturous death in Ivy’s high heels, but I never have to worry about a headache.

When I was a sophomore in college, my cosplaying friends Rosie and Sara (IG @lillylolly_creations) asked me to go to Anime Boston with them. I loved anime, theater, and crafts. They had a hunch I’d enjoy cosplay too. I declined. They asked again when I was junior and I agreed to go – but said I wouldn’t cosplay. I’d just go as an observer. Less than a week before Anime Boston, I changed my mind. I had no idea what making a cosplay required. My friends did.

Nevertheless, they valiantly rallied to support my ill-timed wish. They were doing D. Gray-Man and I chose my character (Klaud Nine) purely on how easy I thought it was to make. Also the monkey was cool. We had to style the wig on the train, but we managed it! …Just in time to be completely ignored. Klaud Nine is an exceedingly minor character in the manga and never shows up in the anime at all. A lot of people didn’t even realize that my friends and I were from the same show! Despite this ignominious start, I loved the costumes, the people, the panels, and the whole atmosphere of a fan convention. My friends taught me to sew. It got better.

My mother. She’s a most excellent mother. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from her is that you don’t need to understand or agree with someone in order to help them. My mother is not anything close to a nerd. She doesn’t like movies, won’t dress up for Halloween, and hasn’t got an artistic bone in her body. She doesn’t understand cosplay and regularly disdains my hobby. Despite this, when I was close to tears trying to finish a cosplay, she sat down and asked how she could help. She stayed up until 3 am to help me finish. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.

I’ve spent the last five years as an Active Duty officer in the United States Coast Guard. It’s a great organization, even though people routinely deny that we’re part of the military (we are) or forget we exist. This year, I retire. I have no idea how civilians make a living. My whole family is military back three generations (mostly Navy and Marine Corps. I’m the first Coastie.). How does civilian life work? No chain of command? No uniform policies? It’s exciting and frightening. I’ll be starting a Masters in Nursing degree. I joined the Coast Guard because it saves lives. I’d like to continue that tradition, even if I am no longer wearing the uniform.

Be safe at conventions. Go with people that will defend you from wild cleavage divers! Cover your drinks, bring your own snacks, and have FUN.