The first time I saw the Gaylord I was stunned at the venue. I knew I wanted to bring something huge and ridiculous at some point, and I found the perfect design in Miss Noir from Sakizo about four years ago. The design is from the Favorite Things Collection, and my competition partner showed me the drawing in hopes of competing together for Katuscon 2017. The artwork is cut off at the upper thighs, so I used inspiration from other drawings, such as Frau, to get the full look. We decided to hold off on competing for personal reasons, so the project took a backseat until I decided that I wanted to debut her this year. I had collected most of the materials that I wanted to use already, including this really luxurious velvet from a fabric store that I was local to, and supplemented it with some new finds. Being able to debut her this year on Day 0 was a dream come true.
Oh boy. If there is one thing I can talk a lot about, it’s construction, but I will try and keep it short. It was about four months of intense sewing, beading and resin casting, and I’m technically not done because I have a lot of details I want to add on. The whole costume consists of a corset, a shirt, a bodice, four skirts and a neck ruff, along with the wig and the hair piece. I used an assortment of fabrics such as velvet, silk charmeuse and silk dupioni, flat lined to cotton broadcloth or silk organza, and a lot of lace that I found online as well as fake pearls. A good portion of the gold lace was painted by hand to match the shade of gold that I used for the bias bound edges. I also painted the decorative panels that go down the sides of the skirt.
I made a fully boned and busked underbust corset to relieve the weight on my hips from the hoop skirt. The corset is worn underneath a shirt that has the quilted and rhinestoned puff sleeves and shoulder ruff attached. Over the interior layers is the full bodice that has all of the lace and gems sewn to it. I flat-lined a lot of the design onto the pattern to keep the seams simple and to make it easier on myself for construction. To top it off, I have a neck ruff with a giant bow that is just tied together with a ribbon at the back of my neck.
The bottom layers required a lot more engineering because I wanted a huge silhouette for the impact; the full diameter of the hoop itself is about the same as my height. The hoop was constructed out of hooping boning and a large cotton panel that I added boning channels into. The next two layers are the petticoat to give it some fluff and to hide the internal hardware, and a polyester charmeuse skirt that has the “apron” sewn on to it. Those two layers combined together was more than thirty yards of fabric alone, between the 20 yard bolt of tulle and the 10 yard cut of charmeuse I used for the skirt. The very top layer is velvet flat-lined to cotton that I had flat patterned to the shape of the hoop and petticoat. All of the decorative elements, such as the painted panels, lace and ruffles, were stitched in place. The raw edges were all serged to prevent fraying.
I styled the wig using an Arda wig that I teased and added more wefts to. The head piece was a kokoshnik-inspired headband that I attached the gems, pearls and mask to. The gem decorations were a combination of acrylic cabochons that I found online and 3D prints my friend did for me that I made into molds and casted out of clear resin and PearlEx pigments. These were glued to felt and embellished with hand beading and a fabric ruffle. These were all sewn in place. I still want to add a lot of gems on to this beast of a skirt, and add all of the mask decorations that should be on there, so that is what I’ll be doing until I bring her out again for Nan Desu Kan in Denver this fall.
I think all in all, the whole costume weighs about 15-20 pounds, if the airport scale is any indication. She packs down into a single (large) duffel bag, even with the hoop boning still in place. Getting dressed is an adventure in patience and it takes the assistant of another person, usually my best friend/cosplay partner. I almost debated getting dressed out in the hallway, but I managed to fit in the hotel room.
I don’t think I can imagine how I would have turned out if I wasn’t a cosplayer. This has been my primary hobby since I was a pre-teen, and I’ve been around long enough to see how the hobby has shifted from a niche activity that people thought was strange and weird to something more mainstream and accepted, and even as a profession. It’s been really interesting to see it evolve over time and watching different trends come and go not only in the anime and gaming industries but with crafting techniques and materials. In a personal sense, cosplaying has had a huge impact on my life. Not only have I connected with a lot of truly amazing and phenomenally talented individuals, but I have learned a lot about myself as a person and a craftsperson. I learned a lot of my personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as my physical and mental limitations, from cosplaying rather than my day jobs. The community I found has been super supportive of each other and it’s so great to see how people bond and connect with each other through mutual love of characters and designs.
Photo : Otis Casey Photography