Adventures In Cosplay: A Beginner’s Tale

By August 3, 2012

Though I have yet to find the courage to cosplay at an actual convention, I made forays into the world of character-costuming last Halloween. My character of choice? Vampire Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Suffice it to say, I am by no means an expert seamstress. I had dabbled in both hand-sewing and machine-sewing as a child, primarily to make clothing for my stuffed animals. I would wrap material around them, cut it as best as I could (and, admittedly, I have historically been quite scissor-challenged), pin it, sew it around them, and then usually add velcro to the back so that I could actually get it on and off.

So, as you might imagine, making my own character-based costume presented a bit of a challenge.

Ever enthusiastic, I purchased several yards of material and a couple of very ambitious looking patterns. I dug out my sister’s sewing machine and fiddled with it for a few days before attempting to try a basic pattern. It was an epic failure.

Several months later, I left for grad school, sans the sewing machine and material. I was back to square one.

With a little ingenuity, basic sewing skills, a credit card, and a very helpful roommate, I somehow managed to cobble my costume together.

1) Pleather pants. There was no way I was going to be able to make these myself, so I bought a pair.

2) The top. This was far trickier because no one sells anything like it. This is where I had to get creative. I ended up buying a sleeveless corset top online to form the base. For the sleeves themselves, I headed off to a thrift store to pick up several cheap costumes to cut apart and cobble together like something out of Frankenstein’s lab (If Frankenstein had been a demented seamstress instead of a mad scientist).

Once I had thoroughly butchered two costumes–one with black sleeves; the other with red flared sleeves–I did my best to pin them to each other and the corset top…while I was wearing it! This was where my wonderful roommate came in handy; I probably would have poked myself to death without her assistance.

3) The face. For this, I was off to the Halloween store to buy a latex application mask, makeup, and, of course, vampire blood and fangs.

Sinister Stare latex application

Ultimately, I tore out the black cloth covering the eyes, and painted over the mask with a combination of Halloween makeup and regular foundation to achieve a skin tone more similar to my own.

4) The eyes. I went online and bought colored contacts. This is where you want to be prepared to spend your money; bad contacts can damage your eyes. Find a reputable site, and don’t look for deals.

The costume wasn’t impeccable (I couldn’t figure out how to add the red material at the top of the corset), but it was recognizable. And that, as a newcomer to the costume-making world, was a victory in and of itself.