Last year, I went to FanExpo Toronto, and found a vendor that sells hand-crafted corsets that are inspired by superheroes. Well, I am a huge Marvel fan, and I adore Iron Man, so I ordered one of the Iron Man- inspired Corsets, which came complete with an arc-reactor.
Once I had the corset, I kept thinking "Okay, I love this so much, how do I build something from it?" You know of course, that corsets are used so very often in cosplays, and I had actually done a group cosplay of the fem Avengers and we all wore corsets (I was Thor- it was a "thorset" because I think I'm funny lol)- but it was a very loose interpretation design. For the Iron Man, I wanted to do something way more flashy and constructed- much more Tony Stark.
After looking through historical designs, and because I have an innate love for cosplay mashups and jokes- I hit upon the gowns of the French court of Marie Antoinette, and I thought "Well, we had Captain America: Civil War.....so now we'll have Iron Man: French Revolution!!" But I wanted it to be very Tony Stark in the sense that it didn't follow the rules of the traditional French Gown, I wanted it very edgy and modern, with a steampunk feel, but also very polished gold and hot rod red. The overall balance of red to gold was inspired by the Mark 3 armor from the first Iron Man film. (The arc reactor in the corset is actually inspired by the original arc reactor Tony had made in the caves)
I have a friend, Iron Angel Cosplay, who built a Captain America version to pair with mine and cosplayers enable each other you know. It was very cool to be together in the rigs.
The process of building the entire cosplay was the best part. Any cosplayer I'm sure has told you that its a run of literal blood, sweat and tears. The creative build work, actually building, is why I do cosplay - I love it. I will take this point in time to say that I actually never build any of my cosplays 100% from scratch. I just don't have the time to do it. So I like to call myself a "modder" or a mod cosplayer. I buy base pieces and modify them into what I need. I love to look at something and then brainstorm about what it could be turned into. Fabric painting is one of my strengths, and I always tell people to play to their strengths. People may say that its not real cosplaying and that's fine, I just do it my own way like anyone should.
So looking at the design I had sketched out (its somewhere on my cosplay page on Facebook I realized something very important: There are a ton of skirts and fabric in this design. And I cannot sew a single stitch. I don't know how to use a sewing machine!!
Well, then it became a game of "let's hunt through Amazon and eBay to see what we can find to mod into what I need". To break the whole cosplay down: The skirt is made of a store bought hoop crinoline, which I gutted the front of and lined with gold duct tape to make the "cage". The inside is lined with blue El-wire, to give that arc reactor glow. The outer skirts are made from three hi-low hem cut skirts that I found on Amazon. They were a bright red, and had to be hand-dyed to match the corset. I figure if I can't make it, I fake it ! The gold swags were basic gold fabric, hot-glue hemmed and tack-stitched in. The skirts were hand-sewn together, and velcro-ed and hook-and-eye'ed into place over the crinoline. The edges are lined in more gold duct tape to draw it all together. The top of the dress is shrug that was bought online, and then hand-dyed to coordinate with the corset. I hand-sewed on the bell-sleeves and gathers. The gloves were bought satin opera gloves that I cut the fingers off of and painted, then attached faux repulsor panels that I gutted from kids' toys. The jewelry was bought to coordinate. The boots were basic black, store bought- and I painted them to match the gown. I bought the leggings and booty shorts, too.
The wig is actually my favorite part. My brother is a retired drag queen, and I learned a lot of wig tips from him. This wig is actually two wigs stacked, bumped, rat-nested and sewn together, with several wefts sewn in and curled. The flowers and mask and feathers are all hot glued and wired on. The mask itself is actually an old Halloween candy bucket of the iron man helmet that my kid had. I gutted it and painted it to match, then wired LED lights inside it. The battery pack is inside the wig (I learned that from Iron Angel). Altogether it weighs about five pounds.
As for this type of build, this is actually the MOST complicated cosplay I have ever built. I usually build easy to move in and pee in cosplays. But most of my ideas start with "What if?" and then "Can I do this?" and then its "Well, let's find out!" Surprisingly, it was pretty smooth sailing with the construction, with only a few minor hiccups. One was learning how to dye synthetic fabrics, and mixing the dyes to get the right color (took several attempts).
I will also take this moment to say that I don't usually put that much cleavage into a cosplay, but this cosplay also took a big nod from Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I (one of my all time favorites), and the ladies were all busting out of their corsets lol. Plus, if Tony Stark were somehow ever in a dress like this well...Tony spelled backwards is "Y not" so there we go ! I now have a huge (no pun intended) new respect for girls who have to deal with that naturally all the time. Boob sweat sucks. I had to use lots of padding and contouring to achieve that effect, because I'm not naturally endowed that way. And another hiccup, getting the skirt to sit where I needed it to on my body, which was solved with sewing in a reinforced tie. (My mother just shook her head at me and laughed, because she's a seasoned seamstress. I KNOW!! I don't understand it either).
I had my debut with this cosplay at Cannon-Con earlier this month. Its our local community college's con, and they asked me to host their cosplay contest. I was actually asked to judge, but I declined, because I actually don't compete in cosplay contests, so I didn't think it was fair to- but hosting, I love to do that!) And she was a big hit! the con-goers really loved it, I got nothing but super positive feedback from it -most often how beautiful they thought it was- I humbly admit that its a really beautiful looking cosplay, and I love how it all came together. I took it to Tora-Con in Rochester, NY this past weekend, and again, a super positive response. The best part is when people try to figure out the joke- they always say "Oh are you Iron Maiden or the Iron Lady?" and then I just say the line about "Well, you had Captain America: Civil War, and now you have Iron Man: <<snaps open fan>> French Revolution" And they all go " aaaAAAAAAAHhhhhhh!!! That's awesome!" and start laughing because they get the joke and its funny. So its been great to build a fun mashup that feels really successful because its beautiful and it makes people smile. :)