Aela the Huntress Costume (Progress)

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Aela the HuntressStill obsessed with Skyrim here! I am so excited about doing this costume that I’m already making a post for it! :) I’m wearing this one to Momocon ’13 and probably Dragon*Con ’13 if I don’t already have too many costumes.

Ancient Nord ArmorThere are so many amazing outfits in this game, especially with armor. This particular armor set stands out to me because its visually interesting and has a variety of elements, such as steel plating, chainmail, fur, stones, etc. I’ve noticed this has been a fairly popular cosplay – not surprised since people seem to gravitate towards the sexy ones, and this is one of the most revealing outfits in the game. Nothing wrong with that! Its just that this costume speaks to me for more than just sexiness for some reason. I’d like to attempt a very accurate version of it with nice materials. I’ll make a list of the elements and why I like them.
Continue reading “Aela the Huntress Costume (Progress)”

Past Costumes

Just sticking some pics of old costumes in this blog post since I don’t want to do write-ups for them. THESE ARE QUITE HORRIFYING SO VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK!!! xD

Skyrim Tavern Wench




Daenerys from Game of Thrones


The Major from Ghost in the Shell

(Photo by Dave Nelson)

(Photo By Dave Nelson)

Major Ghost In The Shell

Satine from Moulin Rouge

It’s hot chocolate, I swear! :P

Sailor Saturn Cosplay – Progress

At the last minute (3 weeks before) I decided I need another costume for AWA. Saturday I’ll be mostly in my Lydia costume for judging/contest, and the Skyrim commoner dress in between for comfort. That dress will also be what I’ll wear if I go Sunday. So I realized Friday would be a good opportunity for something different. I’ve always wanted to do a Sailor Scout costume since high school, but never found the opportunity. But AWA would be perfect, so I decided to finally do it! I chose Sailor Saturn because in my opinion she has the most interesting/unique outfit. The wig will be easy to find since I can just wear a black medium/short one with bangs. The boots would probably be the most difficult, but I think if I find the right fabric and base shoes I can do it. It’d be great practice for when I do my handmade Skyrim boots in the future. I’m on the fence about the scythe though. I’m not really fond of large anime weapons, and I wouldn’t know where to store it afterwards. This is a work in progress costume, so I’ll be updating this post periodically.

Since I’ve never done a sailor scout before, this will be fun figuring out. Sailor Moon cosplay has been done a bazillion times, yet people still love it! I really want to make it look nice. I’m hoping mine qualifies as a “good” one. :-P It seems like a fairly simple costume overall compared to what I’ve done before, but still needs care to make it well. I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head of how I’ll be going about this, but I’ve researched tips online anyway. This tutorial looks super helpful. I’ll deviate quite a bit, but its a good base. I want to use a nice strong fabric for the leotard. I do ballet, and I like the thick, tight material some of my leotards have since it really slims the body. The bows, skirt, and neck flap thing (forgot the word! >_<) I've really debated about. I need a material that's stiff and will hold its shape, especially for the pleating. The shiny satin stuff doesn't do that and looks kinda cheap, yet I'm not sure how a matte cotton-y material would look, it almost feels "wrong." Saturn's coloring also seems to vary widely, but I think I'll shoot for very deep indigo and burgundy colors. So as I was looking through that tutorial I linked to, I noticed they put snaps on the crotch of the leotard, with the intention of pulling it over your head. I was thinking, why would you do it that way? Then I realized, this whole thing will actually be difficult to put on. Normally you pull a leotard on by putting your legs through the neck and pulling up, however the neckline will be small and probably won't fit around my hips. The pullover method they mention then seems smarter, however I'm not sure my stiffer non-stretchy version of the skirt will fit over my shoulders. I'll have to test whether it does before I attach it to the leotard. If it doesn't, I may need to do a zipper on the back. If so, hopefully I can master the invisible zipper stitch on my new machine. :-/ Update 9/13/12
I went to the store yesterday and got the materials for the base outfit (accessories I’ll save for later). I found some nice thick athletic spandex material that should achieve what I’m going for with the leotard (tight and slimming). For the skirt, bows, etc, I ended up getting a really nice quality Kona cotton. It has a high thread count, so its thick enough not to be see-through, holds a pleat very well, and almost has a slight shimmer to it in the light. The color selection wasn’t too great, but I got a decent dark purple and burgundy. They are a bit lighter than I wanted, but it should still be obvious which scout I am. I also got fusible interfacing and some white felt.

So far I’ve done the bows, and they’ve turned out really well! The stiff fabric combined with the interfacing has resulted in really nice sturdy bows.

Update 9/17/12
I worked on this costume quite a bit over the weekend. I’ve gotten most of the leotard/fuku done, woo! Since I didn’t have a leotard pattern, I had to make something up. I took my measurements and traced a pattern out on some scrap fabric, using the Cupcake fuku tutorial as a visual reference. I then cut out the real fabric, and after pinning and tailoring quite a bit, I finally ended up with a nice fitted fuku. In the anime I noticed the top part (where the boobs go) pokes out a bit and looks padded. It seems what most Cosplayers do is sew in a second layer for the top. I did that, but I also added a layer of felt in between to really make it stand out. As a plus, it provides modesty coverage! (the fabric is fairly see-through.) I did the unique petal parts of the sleeves as well. They didn’t quite turn out as well as I’d hoped, they are bunching a lot and don’t look uniform and pressed. I think its because I didn’t put interfacing in it and didn’t cut the corners enough. I’m debating redoing the sleeves, but the stitch I used was very small and will be a huge pain to take out. :-/
A major mistake I made was messing up the front under the bust where the V is supposed to be. I meant to do it, but I spaced out while cutting and cut it straight across. >.< Update 9/20
I got the skirt done, yay! I wanted it to look like the anime version, nice and stiff with very visible pleats, and I think it turned out pretty well. I used 2 yards of the purple Kona Cotton for it. I cut off about 14 inches from the height (fabric to use for later) and used the rest for the skirt. I put a layer of the fusible interfacing in between and folded it back at the original fold. In order to not have to hem it, I used the fold as the bottom of the skirt. I pleated the top and pinned the two ends together, made sure the radius of the skirt fit me right, then ironed the pleats. At this point, even with the interfacing keeping it stiff, the bottom of the pleats were fanning out really wide. It was quite silly looking actually. :-P So I fixed that by sewing a line down each pleat on the inside of the skirt to hold them in place. I put it on and put the white tube thingy (that lining at the top of the skirt where it meets the fuku) I had made earlier over it in the right spot and positioned it with pins. Then I cut off the extra fabric poking out the top and sewed the skirt to the liner. Of course I forgot about the bow and had to take out the seam at the back and add it. (My seam ripper is my best friend!)

I also constructed the star broach and necklace. I cut out the shapes from white craft foam and glued them together. Then I coated them with a thick layer of glue and sprinkled on a fine white glitter. Lastly, sealing it with a clear sealer from a can. To attach, before I glued the pieces together I sewed the first layer into the fabric of the bow and necklace.

Update 9/25
UGH I’m so tired of buying costume stuff! I’ve been to craft stores so many times in the past couple of weeks, they probably think I’m the creepy girl now that buys totally random weird stuff. Like yesterday I was getting the stuff for the Silence Glaive (scythe), and at Michaels I bought 2 styrofoam cones and black paint. I wonder what they thought of that. I’ll post a list of everything I bought and how much I spent on it later when I’m completely done. Anyway…

So for progress, I’ve done a lot over the weekend. I mostly worked on the boots, and they were a pain! My fingers are so torn up from pinning. >.< For the base I used really old dance shoes I've had since high school and never wear anymore. For the first attempt, I took scrap cloth and started pinning it to my leg with the shoe on. I thought it looked okay so I used that as a pattern. I cut out the purple cloth and super thick interfacing with the intention of making the boot sturdy. Well, that didn't turn out so well. The interfacing didn't wrap to my foot like the pattern did, so I had to add a lot of ugly darts. After spending a whole day on it, I ended up with a pretty ugly boot. The next day I gathered my scraps and decided if I was careful, I could start over. I found this tutorial, and it helped a lot! I eyeballed their pattern and adapted it to my own foot. For structure, I used leftover thin fusible interfacing for the main foot, and the thick stuff starting at the ankle up. This turned out much better since the foot part was easier to shape. I ended up with some nice looking boots! As of now, I need to line the tops and center (instead of hemming, I think it’ll look nicer) and add grommets.

I also worked on the tiara and scythe a bit. For the tiara I cut the shape from craft foam, added the edging, glued on a fabric backing, and shaped it with heat from the stove. For the scythe, I cut 2 copies of the blade out of white craft foam and glued a fabric backing to one of them. I thought this would make it stiff enough, but it was still a bit floppy. So I cut wire from a hanger and bent it to go along the center of the blade and hot glued the other half on top. The wire made a ridge in the foam, which is good because the blade has that shape anyway, and I’ll be painting 2 shades along that line. I then took a cheap plastic scythe I bought at Party City and cut off the plastic blade. Then I stuck the wire on my blade into the silver plastic end. There was a hole left from cutting off the blade, so I stuffed it with polyfil and lined the opening with hot glue. To make the base of the blade, I cut out petal shapes from leftover craft foam and hot glued them on. (Hot glue is awesome when working with foam btw!) This is as far as I got. I’ve already started sealing the tiara and scythe foam parts with a water and glue mixture to prepare them for painting.

Update 10/2/12
Done! I actually finished it around 5AM before AWA on Friday, but I didn’t have time to update until now. So I painted the scythe and tiara and they turned out okay. I had bought white gloves from Party City because I wanted to save time, but they were really terrible quality and had holes in the seams. I would have just fixed them, but the fabric was this ugly shiny stuff (hard to tell behind the plastic wrapping) so I just returned it. Having to hand make gloves was why I was up so late. :-P I also made the mistake of opening my wig on Wednesday night instead of earlier. The wig was a hot mess, it looked like someone let their dog play with it. Needless to say, I took that back, too. Luckily I got a better wig. Unfortunately it was too long and I had to trim it, but it turned out okay.

Anyway, here are the final pics! Click to view the full size.

Sailor Saturn Costume
Cute pose!
Sailor Saturn Costume Front
Front of the costume
Sailor Saturn Costume Back
Back of the costume
Sailor Saturn Costume Closeup
Me being silly in front of my mirror :-P

At the Con: I will update these as I find good ones floating around online!

View this costume at!

Skyrim Commoner Dress – Progress

Skyrim Commoner Dress

This is the costume I’m currently working on (as of September 2012). This is a simple but pretty dress that some commoners wear in Skyrim. For some reason whenever I see a character wearing this dress, it catches my eye. Maybe its the pretty blue. Anyway, I wasn’t inspired to actually make this dress until I did the Dragon*con ’12 parade and met Starlightslk, who was wearing another version of a commoner dress. To the non-Skyrim obsessed nerd, it was just a simple peasant dress. I AM a Skyrim obsessed nerd, however, so not only did I appreciate the reference, but I was very impressed with her execution. It was so well done and accurate, I couldn’t help but keep asking questions about it. Here is a nice picture I found of it from the parade on Flickr.

Seeing this made me really want to do my favorite commoner dress. It just so happens that Anime Weekend Atlanta is coming up in a few weeks, so I plan on wearing it there. I know there’s a good chance no one will know what its from or even care, due to the anime-ness of the convention, but oh well. Maybe I can charm some people to take pics. :) I also plan on wearing my Lydia costume in the contest since I didn’t win anything at Dragon*Con, so we’ll see how that goes! (I’m new to the contest scene, so I’m not sure how okay it is to enter a costume into more than one contest, not sure if it makes me look like a jerk or if its a pretty standard thing…) Anyway, the commoner dress will be an easy comfortable costume for me to wear when I’m not dressed as Lydia. (I’m not 100% done with this one yet, so I’ll update this post later when I finish. I’ll update the publish date so it goes up front.)

So I took screenshots and studied it carefully to figure out how I’ll do the pattern. One of the aspects of sewing I want to improve is pattern making, so this will be good experience. It looks like the outfit consists of a simple white wrapped smock, an open front skirt, and a tunic with a matching simple sash/belt. The shoes will just be my canvas Toms, which look surprisingly like actual shoes from the game.

I went to the fabric store and got the materials. I was looking for the cheapest white cotton fabric for the smock and ended up picking out this neat off-white cotton/muslin with little speckles in it. I felt it looked more like it was from the game, especially considering its supposed to be all dirty and stained. This would allow me to not have to mess with it too much. For the main fabric, I scoured the store and the best I could find was this light blue polyester blend. It had the right texture and was a steal at less than $2 a yard. I could have gone all around town looking for the perfect fabric, but this is supposed to be a quickie just for fun/practice dress that’s not competing in anything. I didn’t want to spend too much time and money on this. I did end up buying some fabric dye though. The dye was super cheap, and this could be a learning opportunity. So I cut a small swatch and tested out the dye. I watered it down a bit and didn’t let it soak too long since the dye was too vivid. Also I was hoping the polyester in the fabric would help prevent the dye from being too strong. Luckily it turned out pretty well. Its a bit too pretty of a blue compared to the game, but good enough for me. If this was for a contest or something more important, I’d add some dark grey dye and possibly a bit of green to get the right color.

Unfortunately when I went to dye the rest of the fabric, I messed up. I had three yards, so I cut it into three one-yard pieces to make it easier. The first one I put too much dye in and it was way too blue. I tried to bleach it lighter and it turned purple! Sigh. For the other two swatches I was so afraid of adding too much dye that it ended up lighter than I wanted. At this point I gave up with the dying. Like I said, quick dress, no one will know, might be weathered/dirtied up anyway, etc, so no point in worrying about it.

To make the tunic I needed a base since I’m not great at pattern making. So I got a cheap $3 small fitted t-shirt and drew the lines I needed on it. Then I cut it out and placed it on the fabric, leaving extra room on the edges for seams. Then I sewed everything together and added lining, resulting in a pretty good looking top. I also got crazy and added embroidery to it, though you can’t really see it due to the lightness of the fabric. Only major mistake I made is that I didn’t allow room for my hips (doh!), so you’ll see in the pics at the bottom of the post that it looks squished around my hips.

Update 9/17/12
At this point, I’m almost finished with this outfit. I made the skirt by taking a long piece of the blue fabric and hemming it, then sewing a waistband with the leather string threaded through so I can tie the skirt on. In the source it looks like there are 2 layers. Due to my dying blunder, I didn’t have enough fabric for this. So I just sewed the hem really wide to at least have the lines on there. I also sewed the belt and put some grommets in for lacing. As this point all I have left to do it the decorative stitching and the grommets for the tunic!

I also considered whether or not I wanted to weather it and decided not to. Again, this is a quickie dress; accuracy not needed. I figure if I end up doing one of the Jarl outfits from Skyrim [link when I make it] for the D*con 13 contest, I might return to this dress to practice weathering techniques.

Update 10/2/12
So AWA is over, and I can post that this costume is done! I finished it a week or so before AWA but got too busy to blog about it.

Pictures! Click to view full size.

Skyrim Commoner Dress
Front of the dress
Skyrim Commoner Dress Back
Back of the dress
Skyrim Commoner Dress Detail
Closeup of the embroidery on the tunic. Probably would have been better to use white thread to see it better.
Skyrim Commoner Dress with Khajit
Me with my adopted Khajit baby :)

Lydia From Skyrim – Progress

Lydia Skyrim
© Dave Nelson Photography

This costume is my baby! I’ve mentioned it several times in other posts. I originally did this one for Dragon*Con 2012 and entered it in the Friday Night Costume Contest. It didn’t win, but I got great tips. Read the details about the contest here. However, I later went to AWA 2012 and won Best in Show Journeyman! My first ever costume award!!! Read about it here.

Anyway, I made a PDF that I printed out for the judges. Instead of posting tons of images in this post, here is the link.
Lydia Skyrim Costume

I will write a more detailed explanation here though, split up by parts of the costume. If you need a visual, its probably in the PDF.
Continue reading “Lydia From Skyrim – Progress”

Dragon*Con Friday Night Costume Contest Experience

I recently went to Dragon*Con 2012 and participated in the Friday Night Costume Contest (hereby referred to as FNCC). I did Lydia from Skyrim in her default steel armor. I started on it in May and worked extremely hard to make it as accurate and realistic as possible. I only decided to do the contest a few weeks before the con because I was so impressed with the way it was turning out. I even entered as a Journeyman instead of Novice. I’m technically a Novice since this was only the second costume contest I’ve been in, and I’ve only made a few “convention worthy” costumes. Also I’d never made armor before, or any costumes of this extreme magnitude. I’ve technically been making costumes for a long time now, however, and I felt that qualified me as Journeyman worthy, yanno trying to be honest and all. Unfortunately that decision practically nixed my chances of winning, since almost everyone was in Journeyman (20-30 people I think?) and there were maybe 10 in Novice. Oh well! Its ok, I had a great time anyway!

I’d like to state though why I did this contest and will keep doing contests in the future. While winning would have been be nice, it wasn’t my goal. In fact I’m pretty hard on myself and never expect to win. I did it mainly for these reasons:
A) Get to be up close to amazing costumes and hear how they did it and get tips for my own.
B) Get a ton of people to see my hard work by walking on the stage.
C) Have professional pictures taken of me, as well as from the people watching.

I worked so dang hard, I wanted people to see it and appreciate my work! I’d only been in one contest before, but in that one and this one I expected not to win, therefore I didn’t get too disappointed when I didn’t. Tried not to get my hopes up, etc etc. It really would be nice though, because if I were to win something it would be like “verification” that I’ve done well. That leads me to the heart of this post. Due to my experience in the FNCC, things have changed in my head a bit, and my goal for next year is to create something that I can truly be proud of and feel is comparable with the other amazing masterpieces there. Instead of feeling like, “Aw I suck”, I should feel like “Yeah, I have a chance!”

I will explain why. I went to the Meet the Winners panel the next day on a whim and got to hear the judges talk about why they picked who they did. Their costumes were pretty much immaculate, really difficult (relative to their category), and time-consuming. The judges then spoke about things they looked for to pick the winners since everyone was so close. Apparently the top costumes were less than a point apart, wow! I’ve now learned that there are many factors that can determine a winner, and its not all just “I am the best, I am winner! Hoo hah!” I also know to never doubt the people that win, and that I should just be happy for them. Its nothing personal, and there are so many other opportunities to compete. I mean, its obvious you shouldn’t be a sore loser, but its nice to actually be able to truly understand, let it go, and not have those feelings.

Anyway enough with the moosh, here are the things the judges said that stuck with me:

1) You must have perfect execution. (Or if you’re a novice, execute better than everyone else in the group, obviously). People tend to make mistakes in execution that are very common. I have noticed myself that many people don’t even iron their hems and seams, which is such a simple thing to do to up the quality of the costume (but I gotta admit, at Dragon*Con the costumes are so high quality, I don’t see this problem as much). The judges said if they see one ripple in your seam, it throws them off. If you don’t do finishing touches like hem something without good reason (aka for costume accuracy it wasn’t hemmed in the source) then it looks like you don’t care enough.
2) EVERY aspect of your costume should be at the same level of execution (basically, perfect). Don’t spend all of your time on a gorgeous costume, only to add a 2 minute sloppy bag or duct tape weapon.These judges count everything you have with you as part of the costume. They even mentioned that if you do a historical costume, they will look at the quality of your undergarments. Also don’t wear crappy shoes just because they are hidden. One guy said he always looks at shoes no matter what. If you don’t do these things, it makes it look like you don’t care enough.
3) If you do a character, you must be that character HEAD to TOE. That means even if you have a flawless costume, you have to have the right hair and makeup (within reason), the right shoes, the right time-period specific jewelry, etc. Otherwise it breaks character and throws the judges off and makes it look like you don’t care enough.
4) Use quality materials in everything you do. Don’t use crappy cloth without good reason, it can make an impressive costume look cheap. Try to do research on materials before starting. For non-cloth things, same rule. Awesome Skyrim winner (Volpin) used real rust and steel powder (I think it was steel?) on his armor and weapon. Can’t beat that dedication to the craft!
5) No matter how difficult, your costume must hold up. It needs to look hardy and not like pieces are falling off. Even if its bulky and crazy, you need to look somewhat comfortable and confident in it, like if you take a few steps it won’t fall to pieces. Remember its got to last at least the journey from your hotel room or car, over to the judging room, and while you’re waiting to be judged. Also it looking the same by the time you go on stage later is preferable. If the judges feel like it won’t last, there go some points.
6) Make sure you tell them in judging about your ridiculous and creative efforts! If you don’t tell them you hand stitched the entire outfit because your sewing machine broke, they probably won’t know. They may assume you used pre-made bias tape when you actually spent hours making it! Etc.

So basically, the golden rule is don’t make any mistakes that give the impression you don’t care enough! :-P

The judges loved my costume and complimented me a lot. I could tell they were impressed, which was a great feeling! One judge was amazed with my wire mesh inserts and kept repeating how awesome it was. However in the end I’m convinced what really got me was my sloppy last minute pouch and terrible spray painted sword. The sword especially, I thought “Its just a prop for posing, they won’t care.” I was wrong. I also had my burdens bag for comedic effect, which was just a modern laundry bag with crap thrown in. Should have just left it in my chair. I also didn’t tell them my machine broke and I hand stitched everything! >_< I was really bad about putting myself down and pointing out mistakes, something you should NEVER do! Also my foam armor didn't hold up well. This was something I knew was a drawback from choosing it. Still though, despite my careful paint work, the wrinkles and crinkles that appeared everywhere made it look cheapo. So basically, these comments from the judges were what lit the fire under me. My goal for Dragon*Con 2013 is to make the most exquisitely crafted costume I can possibly do, and follow every rule I've written in this post. I want to be amazing this time! Not to win and get a plaque or whatever, but to impress these judges enough that they may consider me a winner, which in my mind "validates" my hard work. I know there is a chance I won't win, and I admit it will be disappointing due to my crazy hard work, but I also know no matter how hard I try, life isn't fair. I may execute my costume perfectly, but someone else may also execute perfectly and pick a costume that has a bit more "pizazz" and difficulty to it that breaks the tie. This is why I'm researching early for that perfect costume. Man this will be a crazy year! @_@


To make a long story short, I love making costumes! Go to my About page to learn more about why. As you will read later, this blog is an outlet for my costume craziness so I don’t explode by keeping it all in. I don’t have many people in real life to talk about this stuff with, so the internet gets to listen instead, yay!