Thursday is Stuff
day. Sometimes I'll review a movie. Sometimes it'll be a book, or
maybe a cool tool. Sometimes I'll just tell you about something neat
I've heard of but haven't had a chance to play with yet. It's the stuff
I'm excited about right now!
The Movies I'm Anticipating for November:
There are tons of great blockbusters coming out this month. I'm gonna order these by release date because otherwise I'd face some really hard decisions!
This is going to be a controversial movie that I'll let you form your own opinion on. The costuming looks great, though, if a little bog standard for military SF movies. Costume Design is by Christine Bieselin Clark, who co-designed the new Tron movie and assisted in lots of great stuff like 300, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Watchmen. Comes out on the first.
Thor: The Dark World
I'm betting that the costumes in this movie are going to be more of the same as the first Thor, but at least Natalie Portman will get some nice new Asgard duds. Costume Design is by Wendy Partridge, who did Underworld, Hellboy, and Blade II. Comes out on the 8th.
The Book Thief
This is based on a great book about WWII Germany and a girl who steals books because she loves them. Costumes look to be nice representations of the 1940's. Costume Design is by Anna B. Sheppard, who did Captain America, Shanghai Knights, and Band of Brothers. Comes out on the 15th.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
This is the movie I CAN'T WAIT FOR!!! I love the Hunger Games books, and even though the movies aren't as commentative about consumer culture as I'd like they're still pretty great. I'm in love with the costumes already, from Katniss' wedding dress to her black mockingjay formal and the awesome wetsuits. Costume Design is by Trish Summerville, who did The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo. Comes out on the 21st.
I'm not so sure about this movie. I've been a fan of the original fairy tale since I was a child, so I have high expectations. There's also not costume design persay, but still some stuff that you'll be seeing at cons, perhaps even on me :P Comes out on the 27th.
I've got some great news: I've been asked to be a guest at a convention in Kansas City! SNOWFLAKE 15 has asked me to be their Cosplay guest! This is a one-day Sunday convention on February 2, 2014 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel at the Truman Sports Complex. Go to their website or Facebook for more info:
I don't have a lot to show you this week. I worked really hard and finished a Twilight Sparkle princess dress for Thing 1, and a Dinosaur costume for my as-yet-un-nicknamed nephew, but I don't have pictures of them in them yet. Hopefully I can post those Thursday or Friday. I did accomplish one more thing this week, though. I made bumper pillows for my dog, Maxwell's bed. It's getting colder, and we wanted to make his crate more den-like. He seems to be pleased with them!
This article isn't "How to Win", it's "How to have fun". Yes, winning
can be really fun, but it's also a very ephemerial, uncontrollable
thing. It requires you to judge yourself, your costume, and your
skit/presentation very objectively and figure out how to best present
them in the contest you're working with. I'll teach you how to do that
here. However, winning also requires a bit of the unknown. In order to
craft your entry to WIN you'd have to critique not only your own entry,
but everyone else's entry. This is risky, because you never know who
will enter against you, and how well-framed their entries will be. So
we're going to talk about you, and what you can do and control, to get
the most out of your costume contest experience. And hey, if having a
good time brings prizes along, who are we to complain?
to get the most out of a costume contest you need to do some research.
How much you do depends on you, how well you want to do, and what kind
of a reaction you want.
The first research should be into you and
your costumes. What kind of costumes do you like to wear? What kind
of contests do you like to enter? What is your reason for entering the
contest in the first place? Think about these objectively. If you are a
handsewing nut and want to show off your neat craftsmanship, you're
creating a totally different contest approach than someone who mostly
buys or thrift-stores costumes but loves to get the crowd roaring.
Think deeply about what you do, why you do it, and why you want to enter
the contest (remember, "I wanna win" isn't an option).
some research into your contest venue. At the minimum ask someone on
the forums, in email, or in person what the contest is like. There are
tons of different contest formats, and none of them are welcoming to all
kinds of costumes. You've got to figure out what kind of contest you
are entering, and figure out if it works well with your contest
approach. For example, Costume Con Masquerades concentrate a lot on
costume craft and skill. There's even an additional workmanship
component for those people who REALLY like to show off their costuming
skills. However, because of their concentration on craft, people who
thrift-store or commission costumes for really great skits aren't going
to be as welcome. Conversely, DragonCon's main masquerade is all about
the skits. If you aren't entertaining they don't care how well made
your costume was. These two contests are really extreme cases, most
contests will fall in the middle, but it will help you to figure out how
close to your purpose the contest's purpose is. Other than talking to
someone who saw the contest, another way to figure out clues as to the
contest's bent is to look at pictures of last year's winners. Even
better if you can find videos of the contest, either for sale or on You
tube. This will show you how the contest winners looked, and whether
their presentations were mostly skit or mostly show of a costume. Here
are some common contest formats, and their strengths and weaknesses:
- Skits: concentrates on funny or entertaining preformances.
Costumes are usually secondary, and audience reaction can play a large
- Workmanship: concentrates on costume craft. Having a
costume made by yourself is important. Acting and preformance can play
a part, but it is much smaller than Skits.
- Runway Walk:
usually close to workmanship. Concentrates less on acting and
preformance than workmanship, in general, although being in character
can still play a part. Audience reaction can play a larger part than
- Crowd Pleasers: usually characterized by
having no judges, and relying on audience applause to decide the
winners. These are really a chancy endeavor, because they rely on
having loud friends in the audience, and usually in having the least
amount of clothes on a pretty girl. Common in bars around Halloween
Right along with what kind of format the contest will have
is finding out about the judges. There are a vast number of people who
could be judging your contest, and as judges they have a major impact on
the results of the contest. So try to find out who is judging the
contest you're entering.
- Celebrities: are usually guests of
the con. They'll usually concentrate on impressive. Most often
celebrities are impressed by people that do what they do. If the guests
are actors, they'll like neat skits. If the guests are authors, not so
dazzled. However, most celebrities can be dazzled by having an
impressive-sounding introduction ((this costume was made by hand over 50
hours of work)) because most of them don't really know what that MEANS,
but it sounds good. Watch out, though, there are a few rare
celebrities who have been trained as costumers, hairdressers, or are
related/married to them, so they won't fall for that stuff.
Costumers: usually judge costumes on costume merit. May have a
tendency to put less stock in preformances if they themselves are not
preformers. Some feel costumes are more of an even split, so they'll
look at both. Some can tend to judge like fans/celebrities as well as
look at costume merit, but there will be more of an emphasis on the
clothes no matter what.
- Fans: judge a lot like celebrities.
They'll score based on how impressed they are, if they laughed, or if
the crowd gave a good time, but you have the advantage that they'll be
more likely than celebrities to get inside jokes and be impressed with
- Audience: usually judge by applause. That
means the louder your friends, the better reaction you get. Also, when
the audience is given the judging power they often feel they have the
right to judge the contestants negatively, and will often be rowdy and
boo people onstage. They also cheer for what they know and like, so if
you have an obscure costume, or a common costume from an obscure
show/genre, you may get a totally different reaction from what you
As an aside to finding out about the judges, see if you
can find out their names. Some contests don't like to give them out,
but some don't care. I'm not suggesting you attempt to bribe the
judges, because that will get you thrown out of most contests faster
than you know, but knowing the judges means you can tailor your costume
presentation to them and their skills/desires. For example, if you get
the name of a specific guest actor, google them. Find out what they've
acted in, what kind of costumes they've worn, and if they've ever worked
as a costumer/lighting tech/designer. See if that anime artist is
married to a professional wigmaker. If the person is a costumer or fan,
try to find their website. Look at the stuff they've done. See if
they do things in the same genre as you, or if they know a lot about a
specific topic. For example, I have a lot of corsetry information on my
website. If you know I'll be judging a contest and see that you might
want to prepare a little extra information on how you made the corset of
your costume, because I guarantee I'll be asking about it. Don't let
it discourage you, though, if you don't think your corset is very good.
Judges know that everyone had to start somewhere, and remember their
first projects, so usually they won't discount you for not being as good
Duplicating a judge's costume, however, is a tricky
thing. If a judge has also made the costume you are entering it is
slippery. On one hand they will be very enthusiastic, because they are
obviously fans of the costume as well. On the other hand, though, they
will have researched the costume themselves, and will know more if there
are details that are 'off' than they would with a costume from a genre
they don't know. But, they will also know what you did right, and
showing off how you duplicated small details will get you kudos from
someone who knows exactly how hard they are because they've done them.
So, I'm not telling you not to enter a costume a judge has done, just
think about it a little bit first. Also, be ready just in case you walk
into judging and see the judge wearing the same outfit as you.
Daunting, but don't worry, they are a judge so you're not competing
Next, as you're doing your judge and contest
research, be sure to read the contest rules. I've seen great costumes
get pushed from award status because they didn't comply with a strange
contest rule about "always enter from the left". It's important to
read, and know, the rules of every contest you plan to enter. Some
things to note:
- Costumes: What kinds of costumes are allowed? Also, what kind of costumes are prefered?
example, it's understood that a Star Wars costume contest is Star Wars
costumes only. Even if there's no rule against Star Trek costumes, fans
and judges will probably be confused by your costume entry and score
you lower, either because they're insulted by your entry or because they
just don't know enough about it compared to the costumes that fit the
genre. I see this very often at DragonCon, where there are about 20
different costume contests over the 4 days. Quite often you will see
the same person, in the same costume, entering a lot of them. As a
judge, I can tell you that entering your costume in lots of contests
doesn't increase your chances of winning. Your comic book character
doesn't belong in the Klingon contest, even if they don't specifically
ban it in the rules.
- Effects: Will there be sound allowed? How about lights? Can you use a microphone?
is important if you're planning a skit. For example, if no light
effects are mentioned you should ask before planning on having a
blackout. Light-up costumes won't be visible under full stage lights,
but would be better if the lights can be dimmed for part of the skit,
and will be barely noticeable on a stage with regular hotel lighting.
If you plan on having speaking in your skit, either use a microphone or
pre-record your speaking over your music. Speaking from stage NEVER
works, and will leave the people at the back of the room bored with your
skit because they can't hear it. Bored people can, at best, not clap
at your skit, giving a good skit a ho-hum reaction, and at worst they
can boo, make denegrating comments, and be a nuisance. So do yourself a
favor, pre-record all your audio. While you're recording your audio,
try to find out what the masque will be using to play it. It's a bad
day for you if you show up with a casette tape and all they can play is
CDs. Even if they are using CDs, find out if they should be MP3 format,
or audio formatted. Some MP3 disks won't play on audio players. In
general, if the cheapest $10 CD player will play your CD, anything will,
so it might be worth it to invest in a cheapo.
- Stage: What
size is the stage? Where are the entrances and exits? Will there be a
runway? What is the stage made out of? Where will the judges sit?
of these are important to plan out a skit. Your skit can't use a
runway if there won't be one. You can try to cram 30 people into a
10x4' stage, but it won't be pretty. Having the only entry and exit
through the audience makes it hard to plan for a suprise character
entrance. Finding out what the stage is made of helps to plan what you
can do on it. For example, a stage made of risers in a hotel isn't
going to be very good for 20 people doing Stomp because you might fall
through. A real stage, though, has its own problems. It can be very
deep and large, and seem to swallow a single person entry. Find out
where the judges will sit, if possible, so that you can make sure they
see your costume. Also, pay attention to what level the judges will be
on, and pay attention to the parts of your costume that are on that
level. If the judges are in the balcony the top of your head should be
styled and neat. If they're sitting on the same level as you pay
attention to your makeup and upper torso. If they're sitting at knee
level make sure your shoes match your costume. And if they're sitting
below foot level (common for judges sitting in the audience of a stage)
find out what your costume looks like from below and make sure you're
not flashing your undergarments (or lack thereof).
that your research is done, go back to your original work. Why do you
want to enter this contest? Is it because you want to make the audience
laugh, show off your painstaking workmanship, or do a tribute to your
favorite character? Now you have to tailor your presentation to your
purpose. First, sit down with a piece of paper and write down your
purpose in BIG LETTERS on the top. Then list off everything your
presenation has to complete that purpose. Here are some general
thoughts for each category:
Audience appreciation: Funny or clever punchlines, neat plots, coreography, and cultural references always get a good reaction.
workmanship: Write this like you would write a making-of-the-costume
website. Put down what patterns you used, what kinds of fabrics and
supplies, and how you went about things. Note if you had any help from
anyone, and what parts they helped with.
Character tribute: Put
down why you like the character, what's so great about them, and how you
plan to look, and act like them.
Now you can use your
purpose sheet to tailor your presentation so that the judges see what
you want them to see. Here are my general recommendations for how to do
that with each category:
Audience appreciation: Practice.
Practice a lot. Practice with an audience. If your purpose is to
please the general audience and not just the Naruto fans present, try to
practice with an audience that doesn't know what Naruto is. See if you
can find someone who's not a close friend and practice in front of
them. If possible, do it in a place with approximately the same
lighting, and tape out the stage size on the floor to make sure you're
positioned right, and sit them where the judges would sit. Then give
them a big sign, foam hand, or bell, something noticeable. Practice
your skit and tell them to ring the bell, wave the hand, or whatever,
when they're bored. That's your signal, you should do something new 2
seconds before they put up the sign. You'll be suprised how little time
you have before someone is bored or confused. Onstage, bored or
confused judges will stop paying attention to you and start picking on
your costume in their heads. Audience members will start talking to
their neighbors, which distracts more people and makes the clapping
polite, not happy. In general, something new should happen every 20
seconds, MINIMUM. More often is even better. Someone should enter,
someone should turn around to show the back of their costume, there
should be a punchline, an interaction, or an exciting new body movement
going on almost constantly. You'll probably find out you really
shouldn't lipsync that whole song, just the first verse, or even just
the chorus. Leaving the audience wanting more is fifty times better
than leaving them slightly bored. You can always do an encore in the
halls for adoring fans :D
Costume workmanship: The key to
this one is figuring out what is new and exciting about your costume.
This doesn't have to be new and exciting to everyone, just you. For
example, if you are most proud of your hoopskirt because it is the first
time you've made one/best one you've ever done/used a new acid-based
inflatible balloon polymer then be sure that's on your list. Pay
special attention to the things that YOU are the most excited about, not
what you think will impress the judges the most. Judges are much more
impressed by your enthusiasm than they are about what you think they
will like. While you're at it, list off all the flaws you know the
costume has. Come on, you know we all catalog these while making
costumes. Now, once they're listed, make yourself a pact to NOT mention
these in front of the judges. If they ask about it, fine, but don't
tell them about your flaws before they see them. I've had plenty of
instances where I didn't know the character being presented to me, yet
the costumer started off their presentation by listing everything that
was wrong with their costume and why it was that way. IF THEY DON'T ASK
don't tell them!!! The judges may not remember that sash was light
yellow and not light green, and if they do they will probably ask about
why you changed it, and you can tell them then. Also think about how
you can prove your claims to the judges. Some things, like a good fit
and new techniques, are self-evident, but proving that you look exactly
like the character is hard if the judge doesn't know the series or
source material. Think about what angles are the best and worst on your
costume, and try to find pictures of the character with those angles.
Reproduce these pictures in triplicate to bring to the judges.
tribute: Put down why you like the character, what's so great about
them, and how you plan to look, and act like them. Include how the
character walks, talks, stands, sits, express happiness, sadness, grief,
boredom, and other emotions. You are, in effect, an actor researching
your character. See about checking out books from the library on how
actors prepare a role. Do some searches on the net for questions
writers or roleplayers answer on their character. Then (the hard part
;) ) watch lots of the show/movie or read the books and fill them out.
Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of friends. Practice
is the key :D
Thursday is Stuff day. Sometimes I'll review a movie. Sometimes it'll
be a book, or maybe a cool tool. Sometimes I'll just tell you about
something neat I've heard of but haven't had a chance to play with yet.
It's the stuff I'm excited about right now!
This week I've been doing a lot of research into both 15th century clothing and 18th century. In doing this I look at a lot of pictures and illustrations, so you see a lot of the colors people are wearing, but if you're like me you never learn why, which is always important. I like knowing what people thought about what they wear and why they chose what they did. These books are great for that. I love how they tell you great information about what people thought of a color and why you don't see it very often, and why one pattern is more popular than another. I hope he keeps writing these, I really would like to see a book on red!
Lots of people freeze up when a contest wants costume documentation.
Face it, I wrote enough term papers in high school and college, or maybe
still have to write them, and I don't want to write another just for
fun. And I feel for you. Really. I too have avoided contests that
require documentation because it seems scary. But then I figured out
the 10 minute way to write documentation that will please any judge. So
sit down, grab a scrap of paper or a napkin, and we'll have good
documentation in no time.
Start with a finished (or nearly
finished) costume. I know, if you're like me the costume will NEVER be
finished and you'll be working up until the day of the contest. But
work with me here. The best documentation is of what you've done, not
what you're going to do. If necessary print this out and do it in the
car ride to the con. Just be sure to do the last step before you leave.
let's start then. The first question to ask yourself is "What rocks
about this costume?" Yup, that's it. What's the one thing that will
make you really sad if you forget to tell the judges? If you met
someone in the hall and they only had time to ask one question, what
would you want it to be? In short, in your opinion what's the greatest
thing about what you've done? Take a minute to think about it, then
write that thing on the top of your card. Take one sentence (30 words
or less) to describe why it's the best thing. Is it the first time
you've ever tried that technique? Is it different from every other
costume you've ever seen? Was it really hard for you to perfect?
Whatever it was, simplify it and write it down.
My Edna Mode costume is cool because I had to do lots of math to get the proportions right on the skirt width and length.
worry about it being too simple, because in all the contests I've seen
that want documentation you'll have time to talk to the judges about
what you've written. You can always give them more information when you
talk to them.
Now draw a line across your card/napkin/hotel notepaper. Yup, that's the end of part one. Not so hard, is it?
think about everything you eliminated in writing part one. You're
going to get slots for three things this time, so all the ones you liked
that were close, but not quite winners can be put here. However, now
you've got a 15 word limit for each of those things.
The dress is satin that is quilted and supported by hidden hoops. The sleeves are a base of cotton that is covered with vinyl 'scales'. The scale proportions were obtained by making mock-ups out of newspaper.
Now draw another line. Part two down! Only one to go! See, this is simpler than you thought!
the final part you get a little more space. Write down anything you
think they'll ask for that you might forget. Start with what pattern
you used, if you used one. Write down what fabric the costume is made
from. Write down where you bought your wig/sword/shoes, and whether you
modified them at all. You only get enough space to fill a 3x5 card, so
be stingy. Remember, you'll be there to explain anything written, so
if you only need two or three word clues, only write three or four word
The shoes were bought, but I had taps
installed to make them sound like the movie character. The leotard is a
full bodysuit so that I don't have to worry about wearing an
undershirt. I sewed the bottoms of the legs together so that there's no
break in the shoe vamp. The wig is bought. I do my hair in a special
braid wrap to make the sides stick out more square like the movie. The
glasses are costume glasses from a costume shop. The cigarette holder
is bought. The newspaper was grabbed just outside the con because I
liked it better for stage than the smaller cig holder.
one final thing. And you'll probably want to think about doing this
one before the con. Find a color printer. Then find ONE good shot of
your character FULL LENGTH. That means you can see his/her head and
their feet. The bigger the better. Print it out full-size on an 8x10
sheet of paper. If you've got cool details you've copied exactly then
think about printing out smaller pictures of those, but an 8X10 is a
minimum. You can't prove to a judge how well you copied a costume
without showing them the original. And trust me, after 4 hours of
judging people's costumes in a small room you can't even remember what
your shoe size is, let alone what that specific character in Naruto
looked like. So be kind and print it out for them.
If you're here you probably recently suffered from custom seamstress
sticker shock. Perhaps you are looking to commission a costume or dress
for a special event. Maybe you want a corset or outfit made to your
special size and body shape. Whatever the reason you wanted it to be
perfect. However, when you emailed around you were quoted prices that
seemed outrageous! Where do sewers get off in charging that much?
sticker shock is common among first-time commissioning clients. In
most cases, however, the price really is justified. This is to help you
understand how legitimate stitchers price their creations so that you
can understand why they cost so much as well as make you better able to
spot a rip off if you encounter one.
First you need to understand
that clothing in much of the developed world nowadays is grossly
underpriced. Most clothing is sewn in China, where workers are paid an
average of $1 a day for their work. Even the lucky few who work in the
most elite shops are paid around $5 a day, which is a high standard of
living (farm workers make less than .80 a day). Even clothes that are
made in the United States are done much cheaper than minimum wage.
Workers are not paid by the hour, they are instead 'contract workers'
who are paid per piece they complete, often .10-.40 per garment. Even
with three or four people working on a garment the labor costs are still
minimal. Is this legal? No, not in the United States. These low
wages, combined with grueling work hours, make up the infamous stitching
sweatshops. Yet they still exist, and even prosper, in the garment
industry, even in the United States. In fact, the US Department of Labor
estimates that over 50% of garment shops in the US are illegal
sweatshops. However there are not enough inspectors and regulators to
shut them down, and companies keep hiring for lower and lower prices,
encouraging the lawbreakers.
So when you commission a garment
what are you paying for? Usually the breakdown is materials and time.
You have to pay for all the fabric and tools the stitcher uses to create
your outfit, and you have to pay for the time they take to do it. But
that's a very generic answer, so we'll breakdown each part.
materials. Materials breaks down into two major categories: disposable
and permanent. First, the permanent materials. These are everything
the stitcher uses to create your garment that they keep after they're
done. Things like sewing machines, scissors, pins, needles, and irons
are not included in the garment you are given, but they are all
necessary for making that garment. Also included in this price is the
cost of the building where they are kept, electricity to run them, and
materials and repair to maintain them. It's just like when you go to
the dentist: your visit cost includes not only the salary paid to the
dentist, but the salary paid to his assistant, receptionist, and janitor
as well as the cost of the building, the chair you sat on, the magazine
you read, and the elevator music you listened to.
materials are the ones that are used up in your garment. Things like
fabric, thread, zippers, snaps, and buttons. These must all be
purchased by the stitcher, who then passes the costs on to you. Also,
these materials are not as cheap as WalMart's materials. They may be
the exact same items, but when a stitcher buys four yards of cotton in a
fabric store they are paying much more per yard than WalMart did when
they bought 80000 yards for their clothing. Same with the buttons,
zippers, snaps, and thread: bulk buys get discounts, and you are paying
because the stitcher only needs a few.
Another large category in
disposable materials is the outfit's pattern. Every garment that is
made must have a pattern. Commercial sewing patterns today start at
$15-20 each. They can be had for cheaper at sales, but even then they
rarely fit correctly and the stitcher must alter them to fit. If there
is no pattern the stitcher must come up with one, and then instead of
paying for the pattern you are paying the stitcher for their time.
talking about the stitcher's time there's more to it than just dollars
per hour. The price per hour comes from an assessment of the stitcher's
education, experience, and skill.
First is education. Yes,
you're paying for the education of your stitcher. The same as jobs that
require college educations pay more than those that just require high
school diplomas. You are paying for how your stitcher learned to sew,
the time, effort, and expense it cost them, how much they learned, and
how well they learned it. This also doesn't just mean formal education.
Stitchers that read books and magazines on their trade, who go to
trade shows and browse internet sites, and who keep up with the latest
techniques are more likely to know tricks that will make your garment
fit better, sew faster, or use less materials, and you're paying less
for them knowing it than you would have on wasted materials, which is
saving you money.
Second is experience. When you pay your
stitcher's experience you're paying them for completing your garment
correctly and on time. When a project is first started a lot of time is
spent in figuring out how to do something. When a stitcher is
experienced in making something it eliminates this time, saving you the
costly per-hour fee. You're also paying for their experience in
working with a sewing machine, serger, rotary cutter, and any other
special materials used in your garment, because the longer you do
something the faster you get, and you waste less material in doing it.
you are paying for skills. There are many skills associate with
sewing. You are paying not only for the stitcher to know how to put a
needle through fabric, but how to use the tools associated with sewing
and any other special skills the stitcher has. For instance pattern
drafting or draping is a special skill that takes time to learn. A
beginner will take a lot of time to make an improperly fitted garment
that requires alteration, while an experienced pattern maker will take
less time and be more likely to get it right the first time, saving you
money spent on that time. Specific skills such as millinery, corsetry,
and shoemaking are skills that you pay extra for because not every
stitcher knows how to do them correctly and in a short amount of time.
Stitchers factor all this in when quoting you a price (or they should if they want to stay in business). If you want something designed specially for you that will need to be added in as well. The best thing you can do to help yourself out is to educate yourself. Go to a fabric store or surf fabric stores on the internet and see how much fabric really costs. Ask your stitcher to provide you with a breakdown of their charges and look at them critically (and yes, there's a difference between critically and nit-picky, don't attempt to barter the sections down). Most importantly get quotes from another source and compare them. And remember, if you want quality you have to pay for it.
I spent the day doing some crazy research and starting documentation for my Costume Con 32 Historical Entry. I'm doing a 1460-70's English group, so men and women both. Right now, though, I'm concentrating on women. Here's a link-spam of my research today:
I've decided to re-post some of the tutorials over on my LiveJournal so they can get reworked. Here's the second.
How to Run a Small Costume Contest
AKA: What's the Bare Minimum I Need?
you want to run a small costume contest at your con. Maybe you don't
have the space for a full Masquerade. Maybe you just want a contest for
your track/fandom/interest group. But where to draw the line as to
what's needed and what isn't? Hopefully this article will help you
organize your thoughts some and help you organize the awesome contest
you've been dreaming of.
First every contest needs rules. Yes,
even yours. Rules allow everyone helping you out to determine what is
and isn't allowed without bugging you about it every 10 seconds. Here
are some rule categories you should consider covering:
much will you allow? How much is too much? Yes, even if it is an NC-17
contest, if you're charging to get in (to the con OR to your little
contest) you should check to see if you're covered by public
entertainment laws on nudity and conform to them or risk getting
yourself and your contestants arrested.
Which ones are
covered by the contest? How much crossover is allowed? You'd be
suprised at how a clueless Trekkie/Stormtrooper/Anime/Furry/Comic/Whathaveyou
character will want to enter your Star Trek/Star
Wars/Cosplay/Furry/Comic/Whathaveyou contest. Have a rule in place as
to what you'll allow, or someone will sneak through and make the
audience say WTF?
-Bought Costumes Have a hard and fast ruling
on bought costumes. Are they allowed? What if only part was bought?
What if it was bought from a thrift store then changed by the entrant?
Giving your staffers rulings ahead of time prevents drama.
-Costume Stuff Will
you allow any costume? How about the fairy that's throwing
glitter everywhere? Who's going to vacuum afterward? How about the guy
that's covered in peanut butter, glopping all over the floor (yeah,
it's a famous story, google it). How about people throwing things into
the audience? Set a limit or you'll be left cleaning up the mess.
you need to decide on prizes, both what you'll award and what you'll
give to winners. First decide what kind of things you want to award.
Is your contest for well made costumes, great skits, crowd favorites, or
a combination of the above? Even if you want to say it'll be even, it
never will, so decide now what's most important for the winners to have.
This helps you pick the right judges and advertise to the right crowd.
You also need to decide what you'll give the winners. JMO, ribbons
with nothing printed on them or blank certificates where prizes can be
filled in are better than dictating awards. Especially at a small
contest you can try to give a 'Best Child' award, but if no children
enter you're stuck with a ribbon you can't use. If you have access to a
computer and printer consider making up a template and printing out
awards as the judges decide. Also, decide if you'll be giving honorable
mentions, and how many prizes total you will give out. It's rather
obvious and disheartening when you give out 6 awards in a contest that
had 8 entries, and the 2 that didn't get an award are going to be more
heartbroken than if you only gave out one prize. I recommend not
allowing more than half the contestants to get awards. Consider how
much space and time you have and determine how many entries you can
handle from that. Too many entries can wreck a contest even more than
Next your contest needs judges. Your judges should
really be tailored to your award emphasis. Try to get experienced
costumers to judge a contest for well-made costumes, and great skit
people or guest actors for skit-centric contests. If you want audience
favorites, consider letting the audience decide. If at all possible
don't rely on applause, though. If your audience and number of
contestants are small enough you can give each audience member a token,
colored toothpick, or other small item and have them put them in
jars/tissueboxes/whathaveyou to vote for their favorites. It's also
better if the jars/boxes/whatever are closed and opaque, or you might
get hurt feelings from Joe's friends who tell him he only had two tokens
in his box. Also, you can give prizes to first, second, and third
using the counts, or you can use this to give an 'audience favorite'
award in addition to awards given by judges. Final note on judges - odd
numbers rarely have ties.
Next determine your resources. Will
you have a stage? How about a cd player or sound system? Do you have
an MC or announcer? Is that person NOT you? It really shouldn't be,
because you have too much to do, and leaving the big decisions during
the event to your staff is cruel. Consider how much space and time you
have and determine how many entries you can handle from that. Too many
entries can wreck a contest even more than too few. Consider how much
space you have. Contestants need somewhere to sit, minimum. Making
them stand the entire time in a back hallway makes for unhappy
contestants. They can sit in the audience, but then you have to rope
off your best seats, or you'll delay the contest by the contestants
coming from the back. How much time do you have? Skits take time.
Presentation time, setup time, and judging time. If you don't have a
lot of time consider not judging skits, just costume workmanship, and
consider having the judges work without the audience (during a social
hour or break in the schedule), then pull all the contestants on stage
at one time for the audience to look over as you announce winners.
Takes very little stage time, and contestants are happy they got to talk
to judges personally. Also, provide your judges with some paper to
write on. A judging form is nice if you expect more than 20 contest
entries, but not necessary. While you're thinking of forms, make up an
entry form, too.
Finally, figure out your staff requirements.
You should have one door guard to the contestant area pre-contest. One
person should be in the contestant room before and during the contest to
answer contestant questions and line them up in order. If you have an
announcer/MC they can go around ahead of the contest and collect
names/announcements. Provide them with a stack of index cards and a
bundle of pencils/pens. Have someone to keep track of the order people
go onstage and help line up groups during the contest and escort them to
stage. Have a judges' assistant if you have more than one to take
their award list and organize them for the MC. If you're doing an audience
vote have a staffer to guard the jars/boxes/whatever. Above all, try
for none of these people to be you so that you are free for the major
emergencies. If there are none just help out where you are needed in a
place where all your staff can find you.
I've decided to re-post some of the tutorials over on my LiveJournal so they can get reworked. Here's the first.
Tips for First-Time Judges
-Find out if there will be a judging form. If so, try to get a copy
ahead of time so you can read and understand it. If not, bring a pen
and pad of paper, and invent a notation system so that you can write
quickly and still remember what it means.
-Get a copy of the
Masquerade rules. Read them. Understand them. If you have any
questions, ask the MD for clarification. The rules are a great key into
the thinking of the MD and the kind of contest they are running.
out if there will be a judges' briefing. If not, email the MD. Find
out what kind of things they want rewarded (good costumes with an OOC
presentation over a great skit with bad costumes is a good example).
Also find out if there will be pre-judging, and if so, how much time you
have for each slot. Ask for a rough estimate on how much time there
will be for judges' deliberation after the contest before awards need to
be given. Find out what awards are expected to be given, and whether
or not there are miscellaneous awards or smaller prize items available
if you feel the need to reward more. Find out what the MD's
expectations for the masquerade are. A good question to ask - Why did
you pick me? That tells you what skills you have that the MD saw and
wanted to use. For example, if it's because - You make awesome fursuits
- that means the MD wanted you to judge construction. That doesn't
mean he doesn't want you to look at stage presentation, but it gives a
clue to where he wants you to emphasize.
-During judging, keep
track of time or appoint someone to do it for you. Take a note of the
impression of every costume - one you dismiss may be brought up by your
fellow judges, and it helps discussion to note why you dismissed it.
Also remember that dismissing costumes is part of your job. At least
half of the costumes in the contest will not get awards, and trying to
fit every one into a category only increases the time you will spend
deliberating and the frustration of the deliberation discussions. Don't
be afraid to ask your other judges for advice, but also don't be afraid
to offer up your own opinion, even if the other judges have years of
experience over you. You were chosen to judge because of your own
merits, and your opinion is just as useful as anyone else's. A good
judge is aware that they have prejudices and gaps in their
understanding. For example, I am totally in awe of Mechas, because I've
never done one and have no clue how to start. A Mecha maker, however
new, can look at a Mecha costume much more objectively than I can, and
know how well it was made because they understand the techniques. Also,
even if you share or overlap specialties, one set of eyes can only look
at one place on the stage at a time. Don't be afraid to speak up about
something you caught that no one else did.
-If there is a
pre-judging session, try to refrain from setting out all the awards
before the stage session. In fact, I encourage no deliberation time
whatsoever between pre-judging and the stage show. If there's a break,
find some friends who are NOT judges and go eat. If your mind is made
up for the stage show you'll pay less attention, and you may miss a
great entry that deserves to be bumped up just because you'd already
determined who would win.
-During the stage show, try to take
every entry seriously. They put the time and effort into making or
obtaining their costumes, practicing, and getting onstage in front of an
audience. Even if the skit is 10 minutes long and you are bored out of
your mind appear to be paying attention. If you must, write notes to
keep yourself engaged. Keep in mind that 'joke' entries are just as
eligible for awards as other entries, and they deserve equal
consideration if they have the same evidence of skill.
you get to the con, determine if you will give feedback or not.
Contestants will ask you what you think, so have an answer ready. For
example, when I'm asked for feedback I tell the asker that I don't
discuss entries at a con, then hand them my card and tell them to email
me in a week or so. I do this because I've found that with a week's
reflection any passions, on either end, have cooled and I am more able
to look at any entry objectively. Knowing this answer ahead of time
makes it easier when asked on the fly. Also, keep in mind that it is
acceptable to talk to an entrant about your impressions of their entry,
but only that. It is not acceptable to talk to an entrant about another
entry, even to compare that entry to the entrant's. It is also not
acceptable to repeat anything that was said in the judging room, or to
give opinions for other judges. If the entrant wants the opinion of
another judge, they can go ask them. Watch out for this, it can be really tempting to say "I thought you were great but the other judges voted no" but that's putting the other judges in a very bad position (and possibly setting them up for a very charged confrontation). Give only your own impression and
suggestions for improvement. Also, don't be afraid to ask for a picture
of the entrant's costumes to jog your memory. They should understand
that you saw a lot of people in a short amount of time, and faces were
low on the list to remember.
-WARNING- a lesson learned the hard
way. Find out at the judges' meeting what will be done with the judging
sheets. If a staffer collects them and throws them out, either make
sure it's a person you trust implicitly or else follow them to the trach
can. Or keep your own sheets and throw them out yourself. Don't throw
them in the deliberation room trash can. If possible, find a dumpster a
block over. Or keep them to throw away at home. You can't imagine
what kind of drama comes from entrants finding the judging sheets in the
trash after the contest and then posting scans of them on the con's
-Finally, be courteous. Don't make fun of
entrants, even in the judging room. Don't use slurs on contestants,
present or not, or on your fellow judges. Remember that you're
critiquing the entries, and that is your job, but not the anime/movie/tv
show/comic/etc. that the costume is from. The only time it is
acceptable to discuss the medium is when there is a question whether the
medium falls within allowable entries under the rules, and that
question should be immediately forwarded to the MD for a ruling, not the
judges (judges should never disqualify an entry, that is the MD's job ONLY). Try to judge an entry for its own merit, not your like/dislike
of the medium. Also, be courteous. Be on time. Try to keep the
judging on time. Be nice to your staffers and helpers. Last, if any of
the rules, MD's expectations, or con traditions don't jive with your
outlook or experience, it's ok to say no. If you feel you need to say
no, the earlier the better for the MD's sanity.
My SO has been taunting me with Halloween and the fact that I now have a little one (dog) of my own to dress up. As I research dog costumes I decided to leave you with some of my funner research: examples of geeky dog costumes.
Halloween is getting closer, and so are the two costumes I'm making for my niece and nephew:
My niece wants a purple Twilight Sparkle princess dress with pink and silver sparkles. Here's the bodice for it. It will have a big split skirt with an underskirt of the center satin and lots of 'sparkles' all over it.
My nephew's dinosaur costume hasn't gotten as far yet. It's cut out, but not sewn yet.
Since I'm doing a male cosplay soon I decided to invest in some real bust binders. My previous male cosplay, Napoleon, involved a binder I made myself out of 6" elastic, hook and eye tape, and plastic imitation whalebone. It ends up riding up and the bones dig into my underarm, so this time I went for some more comfortable options. I purchased these from http://www.lesloveboat.com.
They're all very comfortable, and have a great result. I'm looking to get a compression shirt to wear over the last one, just to reduce the issue of side-boob under the arm, but in all I'm pretty happy with all of them, and I'll be putting the others into my kimono kit so I can wear kimono more comfortably!
Bias binding is a nice, clean way to finish an edge. You can use
matching fabric or contrasting for a different look. There's three
major ways to do it, so in the next few days I'll be showing you all
three versions. This third version is a little bulkier than the other two, but it's often used in quilting to provide a firm fold.
Version 3: Folded
Start by cutting a strip of bias that is six times the width you want your final bias to be (yes, six, not four like the other two). So in order to get the same 1/2" binding I need to cut a 3" strip of satin. My favorite way of doing this is with a rotary cutter, but
employ your own favorite way of cutting continuous bias, there are a ton
of ways out there. If your bias is not long enough for your edge piece
strips together to get one long enough. Once you have a strip cut fold it in half wrong sides together and press.
Pin the raw edges of your folded bias strip flush with the raw edge of your fabric.
Sew the strip down. The width of your seam allowance will be the width
of your final bias binding, in this case 1/2" seam allowance equals 1/2"
bias binding. Open the seam, seam allowances to the bias tape side, and press open. Then fold the bias around to the back and press, then pin in place. The bias should just barely cover the seam.
From here you can finish the bias tape either by stitching in the ditch like you did for Version 1 or by slipstitching by hand like you did in Version 2. This method renders a sturdier, more durable edge that is bulkier than the other methods:
Thursday is Stuff day. Sometimes I'll review a movie. Sometimes it'll be a book, or maybe a cool tool. Sometimes I'll just tell you about something neat I've heard of but haven't had a chance to play with yet. It's the stuff I'm excited about right now!
Today's Stuff Day entry is a tool: a Bias Tape Maker! Plus a video showing you how to use it:
Bias binding is a nice, clean way to finish an edge. You can use
matching fabric or contrasting for a different look. There's three
major ways to do it, so in the next few days I'll be showing you all
three versions. The second requires some handwork but presents a fully-finished look with little excess bulk.
Version 2: Hand-Stitched
Start the same way you did for version 1: by cutting a bias strip of fabric 4x the width you want the final
binding to be. For instance, I like 1/2" binding on my corsets so I cut
2" strips. My favorite way of doing this is with a rotary cutter, but
employ your own favorite way of cutting continuous bias, there are a ton
of ways out there. If your bias is not long enough for your edge piece
strips together to get one long enough.
Place your bias tape on the edge you're going to finish with the right side down. Pin it in place with the edge flush to the raw edge of the fabric.
Sew the strip down. The width of your seam allowance will be the width of your final bias binding, in this case 1/2" seam allowance equals 1/2" bias binding.
Press open the seam you just made with all the seam allowance toward the bias tape side. Then fold the bias tape over and press again. Finally fold under the edge of the bias tape so that you have a clean fold on the inside and press. With this method it isn't important that the fold cover the seam.
Using a needle and thread slipstitch or blind hem the bias tape folded edge to the fabric. In the case of a corset with multiple layers try to hide the stitch length in the fold of the bias or between the two layers of fabric and be sure to only catch the inside layer with your stitch so that your stitches cannot be seen from the outside.
Secret plan going public time! For almost a
decade now I've had this idea of doing costuming videos. It started as
"someone should do this" and eventually morphed from "I should do this"
to "I HAVE to do this". So what is it? I want to produce
a series of topical videos about costuming. Kinda like Good Eats, each
episode would concentrate on science and techniques, not projects you
won't be motivated to finish. It'll have information for everyone, from
beginners to advanced users who want to learn the why of things they
do. I've been hard at work these past few months putting together a
business, budget, and business plan as well as lining up topics and
starting on scripts and storyboards.
Bias binding is a nice, clean way to finish an edge. You can use matching fabric or contrasting for a different look. There's three major ways to do it, so in the next few days I'll be showing you all three versions. The first is a quick, easy way to do bias tape that requires some precision with the machine but saves a lot of handwork.
Version 1: Stitch in the Ditch
Start by cutting a bias strip of fabric 4x the width you want the final binding to be. For instance, I like 1/2" binding on my corsets so I cut 2" strips. My favorite way of doing this is with a rotary cutter, but employ your own favorite way of cutting continuous bias, there are a ton of ways out there. If your bias is not long enough for your edge piece strips together to get one long enough.
Take your bias tape and pin one edge flush with the edge of the fabric you're binding. I know it looks ripply here, I'm not sure why that is, but make it flat and smooth on the face of the fabric.
Sew down the strip. The width of your seam allowance will be the width of your final bias binding (in this case 1/2").
Fold the bias tape over the edge of the fabric to the back. Then fold the seam allowance in to the fabric, leaving a smooth fold on the back of the fabric that is longer than the seam from the other side (this is key. Back must be minutely longer than front for this method to work). Press and pin in place.
Using your machine, sew the front of the fabric along the line where the bias tape folds. Don't stitch on the bias tape, stitch the fabric right where the bias tape ends (that's why this is called "stitch in the ditch"). If you did it right when you are finished the bias tape on the back will be barely caught by the second seam, and the seam in the front will sink into the shadow created by the bias tape and be virtually invisible.
What makes something "go" together? I've been thinking about this for a while now. Color matching and choice is a lot of what you do as a costumer. Sometimes it's finding that perfect shade that's depicted in art. Other times the art is black and white and you get to do color choices yourself. In those cases I have a set of markers and I do a lot of scribbling different combinations until I come up with what I like. My Lady of Lanterns dress recently was one of those; I had six drawings until I was happy with the color combinations.
Now I've come back to it again as I'm working on a quilt. Unlike my last venture, which was monotone, this time I'm working in blue and yellow.
It took us a long time to find a yellow that matched the teal-and-blue combination we had going. Even in picture you can't get good color reality, the middle fabric is actually a teal. A lot of yellow has been leached out of that picture.
Which I think leads to the true problem with color: you never know quite how it's going to react in a given circumstance. It's especially hard to predict how stashed lights with colored gels are going to make a fabric look. A rosy color wash that brings out a skin tone can turn a nice green muddy. A golden sunrise effect can render a red orange. With stage sometimes you can work with lighting designers and make corrections ahead of time, but that's not always possible. Especially with Masquerades you've got to do your best and hope it turns out ok because there's no time to change things after dress rehearsal. It's a note of how good the tech is at many masquerades because they often manage somehow to make everyone look amazing no matter what color and fabric they're wearing.
Decided on black boning channels. Most people pointed out that red would compete and downplay the spiders, and I wanted them to stick out in the final product, so I went with black.
External boning channels are a challenge for a lot of people. They're difficult to get straight and crisp and smooth. Here's my trick for making them work out:
I use fusible hem tape. First I cut a bias strip 2" wide (for 1/2" boning) with my rotary cutter. I like to cut it a bit wider than double the channel width so that it overlaps a little on the back. Then I center the boning channel on the bias strip's wrong side and put hem tape over top. Very carefully I fold over one side and press it down onto the fusible tape. You have to be careful to not let your iron touch the fusible at all or it will get all gunky and wreck the tape. After one side is fused I fold over the other side snugly and press them both down. Having the two sides overlap means that I can press with my whole iron without worrying about a strip of gunk down the middle adhering to my iron.
The overlap part is the back of the strip now. I pin the strips on to the corset and carefully sew them down. I tend to go down both sides from the top of the corset to the bottom. It's not important which way you go, but it is very important that you either go up both sides or down both sides. If you go up one side and down the other (how I usually put on boning tape) it will wrinkle the channel. Using a teflon foot (or putting a piece of tape on the bottom of your foot and cutting around it) helps a lot, too.
Here's my corset with all the channels, ready for boning and binding!