Saturday, December 27, 2014

Making Dragonish Accessories

While the bulk of my Smaug look used pieces from previous cosplays, I did want to make some accessories that would bring it into dragonish territory, so that it wouldn't just be "ooh, fiery dress!" I originally wanted to delve into leather mask-making, but then I got pregnant and had a baby. I think that's just going to be my excuse for things, as in "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow (of sperm) to the uterus..." Anyway. So I settled for a simple horned headband and an eye mask, plus bracers with large "scales" to help bring the whole costume together.

Since I knew I was going to be short on time, I started with the headband first as the most high impact piece. I purchased a cheap plastic headband from the dollar store, raided the recycling bin for ads, and got to work.

I twisted up ads into cones, then taped them into submission. Even though painter's tape is pictured here, I wouldn't recommend it, as it wasn't sticky enough. I ended up going over it again with masking tape.  
Side fins were cut from foam, with floral wire taped to it to make spines. 
Horns and fins taped to the headband. 
I don't even want to know how much tape I used. In retrospect, I would have made the horns shorter, as they didn't quite look proportional. At least they're dramatic? 
Painted black and ModPodged. I bet I could use this for a Maleficent costume if I wanted to. (I want to.)

The eye mask was just a paper mache mask from Jo-ann's that I painted black. I toyed with the idea of building in some brow ridges or even adding a snout, but in the end I decided that it would be more versatile for future cosplaying if I kept it as a plain black mask.

After that, try everything on while the baby is napping in the carrier. 

The bracers were my favorite part of this costume, even though they kind of got lost against the black background of the dress and cape. I originally bought Simplicity 1347 for this project, but then -- I kid you not -- I was too lazy to unfold all the huge pattern sheets to find the one piece I needed for the bracers, so I just started making mock-ups from paper to get the right shape. Except that I ended up making something like twelve mock-ups, so I guess I should've just unfolded the dang pattern. And to think I used to always tell my students that being lazy always ends up causing you more work than doing things properly the first time...I should listen to myself I guess!

Foam shapes, all cut out and scored!
I sealed the pieces with my iron (with a muslin press cloth in between, of course!) then folded/bent the pieces while they were still hot so that they would hold their shape once cooled. 
I got super excited once I'd glued the "scales" to the bracers. They're starting to look real!
Eeeeeee it looks so cool!
Everything got a couple coats of matte ModPodge.
I pressed the grommet bases into the foam once I'd figured out their placement so that I'd know where to hammer them in.
All grommeted and looking cooler by the second!
I used black elastic beading cord to lace them up so that I could just pull them on and off without undoing them and retying them every time. I am so smart. 
Trying them on before the midnight showing. 
I ended up loosening the laces after taking this picture, as I am not a fan of weird underarm flesh bulges.

I am really pleased with how they turned out! Unfortunately, being made from craft foam, they're not too resilient and the ModPodge has started crackling after a night of banging around. They still look fine from far away, but up close they're a little battered-looking, and not in a "I've been through a battle" way, more like a "I'm wearing foam bracers" kind of way. I'm thinking I want to try making a more hard-wearing version from pleather and interfacing/batting, but we'll see if I ever get around to that. In the meantime, if you'd like to make your own bracers but don't feel like buying the Simplicity pattern, or making a dozen versions to figure out the pattern, I've made my pattern pieces available for download here. And just to fill up the space on the page, I've thrown in my headband's side fin thing as well.

I've made this into an Instructable with detailed instructions and a few more process pictures here. Sometimes I feel bad when I get emails saying I have new followers on Instructables, since I only post projects around December every year. And they're almost all props and such, so then I feel extra bad for people who might've started following because of the Superman dress cutout, and then I never did any more sewing ones...

Friday, December 19, 2014

One Last Time

First off, a heartfelt thank you to all of you who took the time to leave such encouraging and helpful words on my last blog post. It's good to hear from so many of you that things get better -- if so many of you are saying so, it must be true -- and I'm grateful to all of you who encouraged me both here and on IG to go ahead and dress up for BotFA. I don't think I would have made the effort to figure out logistics and deal with the aftermath (modified bedtime routine! engorgement and potential for a clogged duct! pumping! a lot less sleep!) otherwise. It was so nice to not be a mom for an evening and get all dressed up and be goofy with my sister, and even if the movie itself was goofily excessive, it felt right to put on a costume one last time to round out four years* of Tolkien/PJ movies.

I'd been wanting to do a Smaug costume since oh, about two hours after seeing DoS last year, but once I found out that I was pregnant and would have a three-month-old for BotFA, I knew I would have to scale my grand plans waaaay back. Forget making a whole leather Smaug headdress/mask, or a scaled corset, or huge wire wings, or clawed gloves...I wasn't even sure what shape I would be or if I'd be able to go, so whatever I did had to be fairly low-commitment, adjustable in size, and low on the time investment. So I settled on a horned headband and purchased eye mask, craft foam bracers, and reusing old costume components. I figured I could repurpose my MuLoki cape as a suggestion of wings, and since Smaug's signature line is "I am fire, I am death," I could wear my Girl on Fire dress, which is definitely adjustable, seeing as how the waist definition is all based on an elastic belt.

Heeeey Thorin, I've got your Arkenstone! Nyah nyah nyah!

My sister Emily, who is my cosplay buddy, decided that a fitting companion to Smaug would be his treasure hoard. Thanks to Bayfair Mall's ghetto fabulous stores, we had a plethora of cheap be-sequinned dresses and huge fake gold jewelry to choose from; she also hot-glued plastic coins to her leggings and shirt to complete the pile o' gold look. Her costume ended up being a huge hit and everyone wanted pictures with her!

Thorin is filled with lust for gold!
There was a much more serious Thranduil there than my last year's version
The whole group of dressed up people. I didn't know any of them before the movie, but found out about the group thanks to TORn's line party page. 

While it was fun seeing the movie with other dressed up people, I am sad that I didn't get to see it with Elaine. We've seen every Tolkien/PJ movie together (and some multiple times) since first squeeing over the FotR trailer as freshmen in college, and now that the last one is really over (as opposed to fake over, like with RotK), it definitely feels like the last goodbye. Even though I know I'll still cosplay and be goofy in the future, it's just such a huge contrast with my entry into this magical, beautiful world with FotR. Back then, we were still students with no responsibilities; now,we're both married, I'm a mother and a teacher and Elaine has her Ph.D and is helping people get their lives back together. It almost feels like saying goodbye to being a kid and stepping fully into adulthood.

Holding onto my carefree former life pile o' gold for dear life?

And in case any of you are wondering, I do intend on writing a how-I-made-it post for the bracers and headdress, so stay tuned!

*I didn't know about dressing up to see movies when I first saw FotR and TTT, so RotK was my first time dressing up for a midnight premiere.