2015 in Review

Today marks the last day of 2015, a year’s end that I meet with mixed emotions. In some ways, it’s been a good year. In other ways, not so great. I had more lows than highs overall, so here’s to hoping that 2016 will a better sight than the last one. For now, here’s a review of the year – the good, the bad, and the well…not so stylish.

Alas, things have not gone as I had planned with The Lady Nerd. I started out strong in the beginning of the year. Big plans. Good consistency. Then things petered off as the year went on and I fell prey to the usual pitfalls of freelancing – the need for work to pay bills (that would dry up, flood in, and dry up again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.), health issues, personal dramas, and just plain fatigue. I’m still trying to figure out how professional fashion bloggers do it. From the finances needed to create new outfits to the time needed to plan and shoot outfit posts (especially the more creative, the more planning needed), it boggles my brain how they find the money and time to do it! I’m also not sure if anyone really reads this blog besides a couple of personal friends, so I haven’t had a ton of motivation to keep it up like other social media.

But on the positive side, I did manage to eek out 65 posts this year (so a little over one post per week). While that’s not anywhere near what I was hoping to do, it certainly is better than previous years! I actually got a self-hosted WordPress blog started and this happened…
The Lady Nerd trademarkKind of a big deal. 🙂

Next year I hope to do more posts, redo my blog layout, garner a wider reach of audience, and extend more into the fashion community.

Not much happened this year on the cosplay front due to recovering from the car accident. (I couldn’t return to any sort of work until July of this year due to my disabilities and even then, only in limited capacity.) But here’s what I did manage to accomplish…

– Started back into the game with a simple classic Lara Croft portrait shoot.
– Visited my old faire, the Tennessee Renaissance Festival as a faerie
– Started Rey cosplay
– Continued working on Spider-girl (almost done!)
– Started The Katniss Project
– Brought out Tomb Raider again for Dragoncon and Cosplay in the Kitchen

Fashion2015 As with cosplay, not a whole lot happened on the fashion front due to recovery. Though I actually managed to do a few actual geek outfit shoots! I’ve not done the majority of my geek fashion ideas because I don’t have all the pieces for them (and I’d rather get it all right than do it halfway just to get something out there).  But I did try and that’s the important part. I still got out there and tried to model. Just recently, I walked down a runway in a full couture gown and heels. I didn’t expect to be saying that so soon after getting off my cane. 🙂

But here’s what I did get accomplished this year…

– Helped fund the new Nashville Fashion Alliance and was dubbed a ‘founding member’
– Found the perfect spring maxi dress and hooped in it
– Did a business outfit inspired by Tony Stark
– Met and test shot with my new favourite photographer, Kyle Matthew Williams
– Finally finished my Katniss Catching Fire-inspired dress!
– Did a sci-fi shoot with NYC photographer, Richard Scalzo
– Did a casual outfit inspired by Grand Moff Tarkin
– Darth Vader leather outfit (photos coming soon!)

I also got my ears pierced, which while that may be a silly thing  for some. But it was huge for me! (One, because I was big wuss about it. But two, I get to wear earrings now!) So it opens up alot for me in terms of outfits and modeling items.

Art1This is the year I discovered the wonderful world of Copic markers for fashion/costume illustrations. I’ve been slowly practicing those skills in between storyboard jobs and physical therapy sessions. I hope to do many more next year! In 2016, I’ll be focusing on developing my style and using my costume illustrations to draw out my geek fashion ideas (since I don’t have the finances or resources to compete with regular fashion bloggers and cosplayers).

One unexpected occurrence this year was how popular my drawing of Rey from The Force Awakens turned out to be (even to the point of some thinking it was actual concept art!) I love doing costume turnarounds as way to figure out a costume when there aren’t references of the entire costume out yet (as it happens, I got the back view of Rey’s wrap dress wrong. Ah well).

As friends reminded me recently, most of this year was still spent recovering from the near fatal car accident I was in late 2014. I got off the walker and crutches by the end of 2014 when I was cleared for rehab to learn how to walk again. By January of this year, I was on to a cane.

I’m off of the cane now (though I keep it in my car for days when I feel weak). My left leg is still weak, though no longer atrophied. I need some more physical therapy to get my leg back up to full strength. Hoping that next year I’ll be strong enough to get my first mermaid tail! (Spandex, to start. I would need to get stronger at swimming before even thinking about silicone.) Swimming therapy is good for building hip and leg muscle…right? Right.

More tests and recovery are coming for other health issues not related to the accident. Here’s to hoping that I don’t get knocked out again like I did this year with multiple bouts of digestive distress, flu, cold, pneumonia, etc. I used to be a very healthy gal, but it all fell apart a few years ago. So here’s to better health in 2016!

Number of followers for 2015 (not as a bragging point – hardly! I have very few compared to most fashion bloggers and cosplayers. More as a way of documenting growth compared to next year.)

Facebook: 6,537
Instagram: 560
Pinterest: 72
Bloglovin: 35

Everyday Rey

While I mainly lean towards the couture side of things with gown versions of popular characters, sometimes certain costumes are just better suited to casual wear. Such I feel is the case with Rey and her rugged, but simplistic looking outfit. So I drew up an outfit that would be easy to translate into regular 21st century everyday clothes.

Everyday Rey The Lady Nerd
A simple bun would do nicely! (Unless one wants to go for the gusto and do Rey’s 3-bun style, which I still have yet to figure out…)

This style is a variation on the popular wrap shirt. I’ve seen this particular sleeveless variation often this summer (and kicking myself that I didn’t pick up a white one to dye). It would be ideal to find a top that has the look of two-in-one, but if you can only find the outer wrap top, just throw a tank top underneath it and voila! (And if you can’t find the top in the right sandy colour, try getting a white top and dyeing it to the right shade with RIT dye.)

Karen Kane Wrap TopKaren Kane Sleeveless Wrap Top

Calvin Klein Wrap TopCalvin Klein Bar Plaque Sleeveless Wrap Top


I didn’t think about it when drawing as I was going for a thicker banded bottom to the top, but it would entirely be appropriate to pair a brown leather belt with it at as well in reference to Rey’s costume.

I plan on just using the pants from my Rey costume, but thankfully her pants style is fairly easy to find (or find pants to alter). In the film they’re of a silk fabric, but any soft fabric should do for an everyday look. Alas, they’re out of season right now, but who knows you might get lucky in thrifting!

41zcWPAU7qL._UL1500_Top-EC 3/4 Pants

F21 culottesForever21 High-Waisted Pleated Culottes

Since I have them (and they are SUPER comfy!), I’ll be using the Po-Zu Piper boots that were used in the film. But they can be a little steep in price for some, so here are a couple of cheaper alternatives…
Target Muk Luk’s Demi Boot

Kohl’s Madden Girl Jackmen Boots

BB8 has to show up somewhere right? I think a necklace with be a nice touch in addition to either a leather cuff or any sort of brown material or bejeweled bracelet.

50096893Target BB8 Necklace

50094942BB8 stud earrings

s-l1600Multistrand Leather Bracelet

If you happen to put this outfit together, take a picture and send it to me! I’d love to see it. 🙂 Now all of this being said, I’m totally working on a couture gown version of Rey too….(predictable? Who, me?)

Kevin Wada – Comic Fashion Illustrator

Kevin wada xwomen(My apologies on the lack of blogging lately. I went from starting a new job to Dragoncon madness to progressively coming down with pneumonia all in the last month. Oi vey, I’m tired….)

Now I would be remiss in running a geek fashion blog without mentioning the likes of popular illustrator, Kevin Wada. His works have graced the covers of many a comic publisher and convention hall. From character portraits to comic-themed fashion illustrations (my personal favourite), Wada paints a mesmerizing dance of colours and patterns to spark the visual senses.

Kevin Wada X-Fashion
His major delve into the geek fashion side was with the X-Fashion series in 2013, where Wada and his friend and Max Wittert took the beloved females of the X-Men world and drew out their personalities in a fierce fashionista lineup.
Kevin Wada 90s RealnessWith a unique brush of watercolours, Wada blends the seemingly opposed worlds of fashion and comic. Paint is not, especially absent of the thick link of ink, is not an often soon technique used to render comic characters. But it is an increasingly popular choice for covers and personal illustrations.
Kevin Wada Magneto's FamilyBlack Widow Anka Original
Black Widow in an Anka Original gown

Catwoman in Chanel

Kevin Wada PsylockePsylocke in Alexander Mcqueen

Kevin Wada Lorna DaneLorna Dane (Polaris) in Beyonce’s On the Run tour outfit

Kevin Wada MagnetoShe HulkYou can see more of his work at the links below:


Shannan Costume – The Concept

As promised, here is the breakdown of the behind the scenes of my Shannan costume from the previous post.

In February of 2010, knowing my budding interest in costuming, my mother asked me to create a costume for one of the lead characters in her recently traditionally published novel, Allon, to accompany the books in publicity. For background on the character, Shannan is the female lead from Books 1-4. From birth, she is destined to bring back the return of the mysterious Guardians and help Prince Ellis take his rightful place as ruler of Allon. She is a strong, but caring girl, wise beyond her years (and needs to be to deal with a young, hot-headed Ellis!) and an expert hunter. Her grandfather, Sir Niles of Pollux, whisked her away upon her birth as she was marked for death by the Dark Way (why? Well, you’ll just have to read the book! :) ). As such Shannan lives in the secluded forest of Dorgirith away from prying eyes and invasive questions.

I was excited for the opportunity to try my hand at designing a fully-fleshed out costume and was quick to jump to my sketchbook. This particular costume is from the beginning of the book where her character is introduced. It a forester’s costume in basis, but with it being in the world of Allon, we tred to stay away from the cliched medieval look. The era of costume design for Allon is designed roughly around the renaissance period, but with a fantasy aspect as well as Allon is a fantasy world not unlike Middle Earth. Stealth and ease of movement in Shannan’s clothes would be essential. So I designed the costume to have nothing dangling off of it as not to deter movement as well as keep things in a utilitarian fashion. However, she and Sir Niles do operate out of a cave so her equipment (such as her bow) would be short range.

This was my first attempt at designing Shannan’s costume back in 2007. First I started out with sketches of various ideas I had. I liked the look of the gorget combined into the actual bodice rather than a separate piece. I also gave her wispy sleeves (as I did with other Guardian characters later on) to bring some femininity to her outfit and boots like her grandfather. The rest, I’ll admit, I generically designed.
After having designed the costumes for many of the other characters in the book, I began to realize that Shannan’s costume didn’t fit. For one, it was too medieval looking and personally, I didn’t think it looked different enough from every other female archer costume out there (sans moulded corsets and tight leather pants . No sexy Robin Hoodette here!). So rather than design something purely based on look (and my limited knowledge of archery/living like a woodswoman), I took a more method approach to get inside the costume.

I put my Weta cap on (quite literally. There’s a black Weta Workshop cap sitting in my closet. It’s my literal reality of a ‘thinking cap’. :) ) and tried to logistically think through each piece in Shannan’s costume. As such I ended up scrapping and changing just about everything!

Allon book character Shannan Costume Design

  • I changed the collar from a cowl to double funnel collar (to act as camoflauge in terms of the colour of the fabric as well as protection like a thick scarf)
  • I completely did away with the original bodice and went for a more moulded leather jerkin after a couple reference photos I came across on Google images. Shannan’s jerkin now resembles a shape similar to the one Wren, the Guardian of the forest (and Shannan’s protector in the beginning of the book), wears. The flaps at the front do not extend all the way around the back for ease of squatting (and hopefully easier movement through the back of the legs for running or jumping). However, the side flaps extend down to protect her hips and top of the breeches.
  • I kept the pleated sleeves for a few reasons.
    • 1. In a predominantly male (and secluded environment), Shannan has had to live off whatever she’s been given to wear. For the most part, it has been borrowed clothes or clothes to hide her lest she be discovered. But it’s not completely uncommon to have a woman in the woods, so she can get away very subtle hints of femininity.
    • 2. They are the same sleeves (though of lesser quality fabric) that are on Wren’s jerkin. I have no doubt that would dote on Shannan every so often to remind her that she is cared for and loved (as Shannan’s duty and future role in Allon is a heavy burden).
    • 3. If I can find the right pattern, they will move as leaves rustling in the wind so in movement, they add another level of diguise for Shannan.
  • The quiver, straps, and arrows are much the same. With being on a deadline, I had to get the costume design done first, props later. So again, I put down something relatively generic to be fully designed later.
  • I redesigned the belt from a simple leather belt to a more complex two-strapped belt similar to the ones the Guardians (but again, much more rudimentary).
  • I thought the typical laced bracers would be too generic, so I came up with a different pattern. It is designed with similar seam lines as Shannan’s jerkin (and no doubt made out of the same material – perhaps the same hide as the animal skinned to create the leather) And yes, I’ll admit they’re a variation on the bracers from The Chronicles of Riddick. *raises a guilty hand*
  • The pants and the boots are exactly the same as the original.

However, the design was still up for more revisions….

  • Mom wanted to keep the detachable cowl, so I changed the collar back to a full cowl (as in the original design) and did away with the funnel collar.
  • I changed the bracers to a more standard lace-up as I felt the buckle ones looked too bulky and “blocky” as one friend put it.
  • The boots didn’t pass inspection as I had given Shannan the same boots that the guardians do (but out of much more rustic materials). So I changed them to lace-up boots to match the bracers and front of the jerkin. For the toe of the boots, I referenced the design made for Faramir’s boots. However, I don’t think I’ll be able to find a cobbler on a budget anywhere…

Sadly, my design proved to be too complicated to actually make due to the leather jerkin. So I sketched out a new drawing  for something easier to sew, but still have a feeling of the original design.
Allon book series Shannon Final Costume SketchTomorrow will be a look at the construction of the Cowl.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey Cosplay – Construction Notes 1

Star Wars The Force Awakens Rey
To much glee, the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer debuted online a few weeks ago. After I recovered from turning into my 6-year-old-self drooling over X-wings, costume plans immediately started turning the wheels in my head. Rey’s costume has ‘me’ written all over it – from the resemblance to the actress (which, to me, makes it even funnier that I auditioned for her role (true story! I wrote a post about it here)), to the desert chic look of the outfit. Hellooooo weather-appropriate Dragoncon costume! Not to mention I can actually wear it with my injuries! A friend pointed out that I might be able to use her staff as a walking stick in between photo sessions, which will come in quite handy. Not to mention, this outfit looks like something I’d normally wear. In fact, I plan on ordering double the amount of fabric for this cosplay in order to make a second outfit designed for regular wear. What? So I’m predictable…

Since the trailer was released, I’ve been hard at work gathering every photo of Rey I could find and starting a thread on the Replica Prop Forum to document all of my findings (as well as bounce back and forth with other craftsmen and costumers). But I figure not everyone is on the RPF, so I’m going to document my cosplay progress here as well.

To start, since there are no references for the back of Rey’s costume (and until this morning, none of her side. But I drew this last night, so it looks like I was on target), I decided I’d do what I normally do and draw a costume turnaround.  (I love doing these. So challenging, yet therapeutic.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey Costume TurnaroundRey1 Rey2 Rey3
Next up…fabric!

At the Star Wars Celebration convention in April, Rey’s costume was actually on exhibit, complete with a handy placard that listed the materials used. As well as the costume being on a white mannequin, it was easier to see that the fabrics are all natural colours rather than dirty white. So I’m thinking I’ll be getting either natural-coloured fabrics or tea-dyeing white fabrics and then distressing the heck of it all. I cannot WAIT for that part! Distressing is uber fun (and a surprising venue of stress relief).


Wrap dress – viscose
Head wrap – cotton
Top hemp and cotton jersey
Trousers silk
Backpack leather
Wrist cuff and belt – leather
Pouch canvas
Arm wraps – cotton
Gloves leather
Boots wool and leather
Staff 3D print

I ordered a few swatches from Dharma Trading. Some were right on the money, while others were a bit off. So for the sake of this post, I’ll just focus on the swatches that work.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Hemp Cotton Jersey
This fabric is SPOT ON for Rey’s undershirt. The Hemp-Cotton Jersey is  very soft and comfy.

This appears to be the right fabric for the wrap dress, though I’m still not 100% sure. However, when dyed, the fabric will become mostly opaque, so that’s a good thing. I’ll check around a few others places for viscose swatches and see what other blends might be out there.

Now it’s a matter of finding the rest of the fabric and patterns. I’ll probably order a few more swatches of the ones I already have to do some dye tests. So…tally ho!

Strawberry Sherbert

A client approached me a couple weeks ago to do a couple of fashion illustrations for her new nursery in the style of Henry Dale House (a gifted Atlanta artist who no longer appears to be in business). While not doing an exact replica of any of his work, I tailored my usual realistic, comic-style of drawing to his more abstract, stylized way of rendered figurings. This one was my favourite of the bunch (the others, I felt, were not as well-rendered. But I’m also new to marker coloring. So practice makes perfect!).


If you would like to book me for any illustration, fashion/costume design, or storyboard work, feel free to check out my art gallery at http://www.brianalamb.com or email me at briana@theladynerd.com