I choose my cosplays based on characters that I think would be fun to embody and also based on new skills I’d like to learn. I’ve wanted to make an EVA foam armor set for a while but didn’t have a specific character in mind, so I decided to riff on the classic Belle dress to make her a battle princess.
I prefer to cosplay as strong female characters and I liked the idea of Belle suiting up and fighting for herself. Once I’d decided on the general concept, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at pictures of female armor that would work well for evoking the shape of the yellow dress and then I went down a rabbit hole of pinning pictures of Baroque-style furniture as inspiration for all the little details. I didn’t have a clear picture of what Battle Armor Belle would look like when I started, so I got to just play around with the shapes and details until it felt like the costume embodied the strength and beauty that I wanted to portray.
The skirt is a basic high-low circle skirt made of a stretch velour and has pockets under the hip armor. It’s very important to me to incorporate pockets or some kind of storage method into my costume design because I’ve learned from past cosplays that if I wait until the end to figure out how I’m going to carry my stuff that I won’t be able to hide it as well. I used a pattern from Kamui Cosplay for the chest piece and then patterned most of the rest of the pieces by hand. The armor is made of various thicknesses of EVA foam and the thinner details were cut out using my Cricut maker. I pulled a bunch of vector images of baroque style designs and modified them in Design Space so I could use the fine point blade to etch the details and then use the deep cut blade to cut the shapes out of thin sheets of craft foam. After the pieces were cut out, I used a heat gun to expand the etching lines and emphasize the details. That part involved a lot of trial and error but I’m really pleased with how the details all turned out, so it was definitely worth the frustration that went into learning how to make it work.
Once all the armor was assembled, I coated it in plastidip and gold spray paint. I needed to seal the armor to make it more durable, but I was worried that the plastidip and paint would fill in all the little details, so I did quite a few test pieces before actually spraying the armor pieces. It came together even better than I’d expected, including the fabric backing on the tassets, which was a last minute choice to use some extra brocade fabric I had in my fabric stash when I couldn’t figure out how to get the hip armor to attach and drape correctly. The armor pieces are all attached to each other using velcro, so it’s not too hard to put on and take off. My boyfriend 3D printed the handle for my sword and I molded the roses out of instamorph. The sword blade is EVA foam with two pieces of balsa wood sandwiched in the middle.
When I’m not at cons, I’m pretty introverted and kind of shy, but the magic of cosplay is that it’s an automatic icebreaker, so I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and talk with people who I otherwise would never have approached. My local cosplay community is full of incredibly kind, supportive, positive people from all ages and background and I am regularly impressed, though not at all surprised, by how willing everyone is to provide suggestions or share their sources or just offer positive feedback to someone who might be having a tough time. For me, cosplay has provided me with a creative outlet (a deadline on my creative projects!) but it has also introduced me to some of the warmest, most kind and creative people I have ever met.