Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey Cosplay – Construction Notes 2

Rey_0001As a new leaf has turned over this year, I think it’s high time for an update on my Rey costume. Alas, I am nowhere as far along as I would like (perfectionism has it’s drawbacks sometimes). But as this is also a how-to-guide for anyone who stumbles across it, I feel duty-bound to update. So here goes!

To start, one of the lovely members on the RPF fixed my artwork to match Rey’s costume (as I originally drew the artwork before we knew what the back of her costume looked like). So here’s the updated version for those of you who have been using my turnaround for reference. 🙂

Since I’m a linear thinker, I’ll be starting from the top in updating both my progress and observations for Rey. (If any of you reading this have any questions for your Rey cosplay feel free to leave a comment and I’ll help out where I can!)

I’m still trying to figure out how to do her hairstyle, to be perfectly honest. I am an absolute dunce when it comes to hair (I can barely braid!). There’s a wonderful tutorial on Youtube that I’ve been trying…

Though, I realized that longer hair doesn’t work as well with this hairstyle. It may just be me and my clumsiness, but my hair kept getting horribly tangled in trying to put up the buns. So since I needed to chop off my unhealthy hair anyways….12522966_1042449212474347_8986082793727217186_nMajor thing to note on Rey’s hair that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere. Upon viewing The Force Awakens for a second time, I realized that the top of Rey’s hair is actually braided (or pulled back into a mini tail). I’m not sure if it extends farther than the top piece. But it’s certainly something to note.tumblr_nyqz5sK86T1srtfabo1_500

I bought the Hemp Jersey cotton fabric from Dharma Trading. Still need to wash it before sewing. The length comes down to brush her hips. One interesting thing to note is that the sleeves of the undershirt are two different styles.Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey (Daisy Ridley) Ph: David James ©Lucasfilm 2015

Alas, I do not know enough about sewing to know what the different techniques are called to achieve the effect (I’ve heard the term “lettuce hem” thrown around a few times).

Wrap dress
I’m still debating the right fabric for this as the bottom of the wrap shows a thatching sort of weave. But the top is much thicker and gathered, where that thatching is not as apparent. I’m going by the listing from Star Wars Celebration that the wrap dress is viscose. The only one I’ve been able to find that seems close is the viscose silk blend from Dharma Trading.
Arm wraps
I’m currently in the experimenting phase of trying to find the right material for the arm wraps. The general consensus is that the arm wraps of medical gauze. The trick is finding the right one. I’ve got differing styles from Ace, Band-Aid, Walmart generic, etc. ranging from self-adhering to fabric. Next is to tea dye them, distress them up a bit, and see which one looks best. Though one major thing to note, in the film costume they used a sleeve underneath to attach the wraps too. (You can see it in the first scene Rey shows up in where she drinks from her cantina. There’s a gap in the wraps where you can see the undersleeve. It appears to be a similar colour as the wraps.) You can actually see it poking out of the top of the left arm wrap in the picture I posted above in the wrap dress section.

I bought a wonderful looking cuff from the folks at Leather Clad Legends. A beautiful, reasonably priced piece.

Rey Leather Cuff
I haven’t started on this piece yet. So I’ll save that  for another update.

I made the mistake of buying the raw silk from Dharma Trading thinking it was the right fabric. But then I got my hands on a hi-res picture of Rey’s pants and realized they’re not nubby. They’re smooth and have a sort of crepe feel to them. Alas, I haven’t been able to find a suitable alternative yet. And since I have 3 yards of raw silk, I’m going to use it. However, the team I’m working with to make this costume found that the back side of the raw silk was smoother and less nubby. So we’re going to try making the pants out of the wrong-side raw silk and see how it looks.

Rey pants
I got the screen accurate boots from Po-Zu (courtesy of a kind boyfriend taking pity on me for having to use the money I had saved up for the boots on medical bills). They are marvelous! No exaggeration, they are the comfiest shoes I have ever worn in my life. The inside is plush almost like memory foam so it gives the feeling of a slipper more than a boot. But the rugged outside made out of all natural materials (seriously! The soles feel like rubber but are actually made out of beeswax and cork. I wish more companies that), keep it a boot.

The Force Awakens Rey boots1
I haven’t started on this piece yet. So I’ll save that  for another update.

I haven’t started on this piece yet. So I’ll save that  for another update.

Tomb Raider – The Photoshoot

As mentioned in the previous post, in May 2013, I teamed up with Dim Horizon Studios to do a photoshoot of my Tomb Raider costume. But being the oddball sort I am, I couldn’t just do a standard shoot. Oh no, I had to make it like a mini film project, complete with location scouting and script.

The story is basically a one-day diary entry (which I came up with from one of the early videos of the new game where Lara is writing in a journal). It takes place a few days after the initial shipwreck as I wanted to keep it early on in the game. I didn’t want to go too far into the game to avoid spoilers (well, that, and less props to deal with it. Had to make it easy on myself somehow!). In the spirit of the game, the story is basic survival (with a little dash of humour thrown in as my little rebellion against the game being so dark. That’s my only personal gripe with the new Tomb Raider is the shift to more survivalist horror than Indiana Jones/Bond-style adventure. But that’s just my own personal preference.). Without further adieu, here is the photoshoot!

It happened so fast…My ship, the Endurance, is gone, torn in half like a broken toy.

20130413-IMG_7032-Edit-Edit1As I climbed up the river bank, I laughed because I survived, and laughed until I cried. I wanted adventure, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

20130413-IMG_7157-Edit-EditThey don’t ever tell you how cold the nights are, how
sticky blood is, or that no matter how many times you throw your clothes in a river, the dirt never really comes out.

20130413-IMG_7432-Edit-EditWhen I first crawled up the bank and into the woods, I left a trail of blood behind me.

20130413-IMG_7390-Edit-EditMy wounds had long since gone numb, but that hadn’t stopped the blood from dripping out. I put a stop to it in the only way I could: bandages, as tight as I could make them, and then some.

20130413-IMG_7641-Edit-EditI remember screaming with pain, but the hoarse shouts sounded like someone else’s voice.

20130413-IMG_8035-Edit-EditIf I didn’t find fresh water soon, I knew I wouldn’t live to scream again.

20130413-IMG_8089-Edit-Edit-4When you’re truly alone, all you can think about is the next step. Your mind screams for home, for a safe place, but in a place like this, the next step is all you have.

20130413-IMG_7374-Edit-EditPutting one foot in front of the other, I began to explore my surroundings, determined to find any source of water this god-forsaken island could offer.

20130413-IMG_7912-Edit-Edit1At first I thought I was imagining the roaring sound in my ears….

20130413-IMG_7616-Edit-Edit…but when I came across a waterfall, it was as if my prayers had been answered.

20130413-IMG_8152-Edit-Edit1What a beautiful sight that water was to behold.

20130413-IMG_8179-Edit-EditI drank all I could manage and more, trying in vain to fill a vast emptiness inside me. It was the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted; I think I’ll carry the memory of that taste for the rest of my life. I had no bottle though, so I couldn’t take any with me. Note to self: Look for a thermos tomorrow at the wreckage site.

20130413-IMG_8285-Edit-EditAs I rested, basking in the cool refreshment, I became lost in the dark thoughts plaguing my mind since the wreck. A noise in the forest brought me back to reality.

20130413-IMG_8367-Edit-EditFor a moment, all I could hear was my heartbeat, when sudden movement nearby had me up on my feet, bow in hand.

20130413-IMG_8460-Edit-EditThat’s when I heard it, a terrible, echoing howl….I didn’t stay to find out what manner of creature that unnatural sound belonged to.

20130413-IMG_8552-Edit-Edit20130413-IMG_7849-Edit-Edit-4I ran as fast as I could back to the safety of camp. It took me a long time to catch my breath afterwards, but I left the howling far behind.

20130413-IMG_8537-Edit-EditNow I use the last bits of sun to write in my journal, one of the few things that miraculously survived the wreck. Alone, hurt, but unbroken, I will survive on this island no matter what. I dare not venture back into the jungle in the dark; one wrong step could break a leg, or a neck. I have no food or water left, and I’m so very, very hungry…

20130413-IMG_8703-Edit-Edit…but I know I have to be strong. I can do this. This island will not defeat me.

Photograph: Dim Horizon Studio
Makeup: Matt Silva
Costume and props by: Me, Meredith Placko, Austin Sirkin (holster), Adam Greene, Carter Eastis, Kristen Anne
Hair: Gregory Dobrasz
Script: Me, Austin Sirkin, Philip Maddox

Tomb Raider 2013

TombRaider_hero_SurvivorIn April of 2013, there was a reboot of one of my favourite video games of all time – Tomb Raider. I grew up with the games, first playing the games at a friend’s house, then becoming obsessed with the movie versions (In middle school I ran around in black tees and shorts with my hair in a French braid. I was meticulous about getting those two bangs in place). I had a great love of adventure stories and games, so here was this seemingly perfect combination of a female Indiana Jones and James Bond, yet still a character in her own right. I couldn’t help but like her and for lack of a better phrase, BE her.

I grew up with a very devil-may-care attitude that I cultivated from Tomb Raider, watching too many adventure/sci-fi movies, and being in paramilitary programs (CAP, JROTC). So I had a habit of running off to do things like four-wheeling, gun ranges, multiple forms of martial arts, fencing, almost getting my pilot’s license at 15, search and rescue exercises, survival training, and obstacle courses.

Fast forward to adulthood, whereupon I discovered both cosplay. I was so excited that as soon as concept artwork was released, I went to town to begin my costume. Truth be told, I wasn’t confident that I could pull off classic Lara Croft with her sexy, grown-up woman face (I feel like I tend to look more like a kid). So when I saw her new look, I just about jumped out of my skin. Now here was a version I could pull off! There was no question. I had to do it.

I poured my all my years of yearning to do a Tomb Raider costume into it. I researched for 2 years on the screen-accurate materials, colours, and props. Friends taught me how to distress, make the props, and basic archery form to take it to the best level of realism.

Tomb Raider The Lady NerdTwo years later, I had the costume finished despite eBay mishaps and it being one of the first major costumes I had done. I was so proud of the work that had done that I was chomping at the bit to photograph it. But I didn’t want to do just the same ol’ cosplay portraiture. I wanted to do something different. Being a storyboard artist, my brain naturally went to creating a story. I decided to run with this idea of narrative and wrote up a script. Then it was time to figure out who would be crazy enough to shoot it…

Enter Dim Horizon Studios.

Dim Horizon BioshockI had stumbled across Dim Horizon Studios while searching Dragoncon photos the year before. I saw their iconic Bioshock photograph was blown away. So I immediately found their Facebook page and started following them. When I put up the casting call for a photographer, they shot me a message to throw his name in the ring. I was giddy to oblige as I had been wanting to work with them quite badly. In addition to photographic talent, Matthew and Nicole Nicholson are some of the loveliest folks you’ll ever meet. Add in Matt Silva of Black Tie FX for special effects makeup (of Face-off and insanely good hair fame) and Adam Greene of Pixelbash Props for various assisting duties (he made the necklace I’m wearing out of real jade!). Hard-working, easy going, loveable geeks, the lot of them. They listened to my harebrained scheme, put up with my desire to trek all the way down to the pools of Cloudland Canyon, Georgia to shoot (bless you, Nicole), and even fed me afterwards.

Hungry Lara Croft(Lara was a bit hungry after surviving that island….)

20130413-IMG_7546-Edit Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post of the photoshoot (complete with script!)
20130413-IMG_7550-Edit 20130413-IMG_8641-Edit(Seriously, can I have his hair?)

Katniss’ Hunting Outfit – Part I

Katniss_hunting12I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has molded to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag.

First costume on the list for The Katniss Project is Katniss’ Hunting Outfit! From the description given in the book this outfit consists of…

– Long dark braid tucked up into a cap
– Shirt
– Trousers
– Supple leather hunting boots
– Forage bag
– Hand-crafted bow, sheath of arrows all in waterproof covers

(Extra bonus prop: “…a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim’s gift to me on reaping day.“)No other descriptions are given than that, so this is where the fun comes in. I get to create it! So let’s start from the top, shall we?

While The Hunger Games is set in the future, it is a dystopian one that regresses the fashions of the districts. They aren’t wearing the latest in textile technology, but harken back to simpler times. I imagine the style of each district would be tied to its particular overall vocational trade. District 12 is the mining district. Then, looking at Panem basically being the USA, District 12 is roughly Appalachia. So in that regard, I completely agree with the first movie’s decision to go with a Depression-era Southern mining town look.

Throughout the books Katniss is described as having a regular braid down her back, not a side braid as made iconic by the film. While I do so love the look of the side braid, I find the back braid to be more practical. (For Shannan’s costume from the book series, Allon, I designed her with a side braid (yes, I did that before the Hunger Games films came out, so the look was a coincidence). I instantly regretted that decision when I took an archery lesson and found the side braid got in the way. So for that reason, and because Suzanne Collins wrote it as such, I will be sticking with the back braid.

Now comes the trickier part….the cap. What sort of hat would Katniss wear? Although District 12 is a mining district, Katniss herself is not a miner, so no hard hats. I’m learning towards the softer worker type hats as pictured below. Though I’m not sure if the bill would get in the way of her archery at all (I’ve only done archery once. I’m more of a swordswoman) So I’ll going to have to do more research.
Types of mens hatsShirt
There is no description for this item other than the noun for what it is. What kind of shirt? What season is it? Is it long-sleeve, short sleeved? Fitted? Loose? The first few lines of the first chapter mention Katniss feeling the cold of the bed or looking for her little sister’s body warmth. Considering that Catching Fire is set during the winter time, it’s likely the first book is set in autumn. My mind wanders to henleys, waffle knit tops, more thermal type base layers. Not anything light to let the wind go through and keep her shielded with some warmth outdoors. Definitely strongly sewn together, though perhaps a bit of wearing out at the most rubbed against seams (like shoulders). I wonder what a good shirt for hunting would be. Hmm….

In terms of fit, the shirt would most likely be an average to loose fit as the districts aren’t known for their tailoring. Being fitted is usually a sign of something being either too small or richly made (oh yes, even the tight tank top you get from Forever 21 would be extravagant for District 12 as mass-produced clothing was doubtfully made. More likely clothing was made on a much smaller scale or individual basis with trade between the districts).

No mention of Katniss’ father’s hunting jacket is mentioned in the first chapter, so I’m going to assume she’s not wearing it. Though I find it odd as it seems to be cool in this part of the book so I would assume she would have that extra layer of protection. Mm….now I’m debating whether to include it or not. Decisions, decisions.

I’m going to have to do some research into this one as to what sort of pants hunters would’ve worn in time before mass-produced polyester activewear. I originally thought corduroys might be a good choice due to their rugged look, but a friend nixed that idea as the activity of going through the brush or chasing down game would wear out the fabric quickly. Not being familiar with wearing corduroy myself, I’m not sure how accurate that is. But I think once I settle on the type of material the pants will be made out of, it’ll be quite easy to find at a local Goodwill or eBay. Though I do see a lot of denim or similar material in various Appalachian photographs. So I may go along that route (but not blue jeans, something more in the brown family).
Appalachian Hunters(from

A belt will most likely be in order as I’ve seen many workers of ages past using belts to hold their pants up. Katniss is supposed to be small so clothes would hang on her a bit, thus a belt would be appropriate. Now, to pockets or not to pockets. That is the question…

Although for sheer lack of proper funds and laziness, I’ll most likely reuse my Tomb Raider boots for the final costume (unless I just happen across a cheap pair of supple brown leather boots). The only difference between my Tomb Raider boots (a lovely pair of Timberland Dusseldorfs – picture right) and Katniss’ boots (picture left) is that they are a hard leather instead of supple. But other than that, they would be perfectly suited to running around chasing game (I know this for a fact as I spent 15 hours doing a photoshoot in those boots while scurrying down ravines, over rocks, and up mountains).

Bow, Quiver, and Arrows
For the bow, I’d love to do a handcrafted wooden bow. I could buy one, but I’d sure love to make one myself. One of my roommates has a wooden lathe and likes archery, so it may be a fun project to do at home sometime.

For the quiver, I’m not sure what kind of quiver she would’ve had access to (i.e. what her dad made). So I’ll do more research into that.

For the arrows, I might reuse the ones I made for my Tomb Raider costume (wooden shafts with turkey feathers) as I think those would be adequate. Katniss’ arrows would also likely be handmade as her bow.
Tomb Raider
*** Gloves? (For archery and for picking up freshly killed game)
*** Knife? (For killing/cleaning game and general hunting. Though that may be in her bag and not on her belt)

If you happen to have any suggestions, knowledge, or opinions that might help, feel free to leave a comment! 🙂

The Katniss Project

mockingjay pinI’ve recently come to the decision that I’m going to be backing off doing traditional cosplay (i.e. exact character reproductions) for a few reasons. One, there are a bazillion other cosplayers out there, including tall, thin brunettes, who have many more resources to pop out multiple costumes a year. In addition to drama, I don’t like the unspoken competition that’s arisen due to online comparisons and follower favourites. When you’re doing exact costume reproductions, it’s very easy to fall prey to that unfortunate trap. I’d rather steer clear of it as best as I reasonably can.

Two, I want to add a unique voice to the community. There are any costumers out there, including ones who do amazing original designs. But none of them have my voice. Only I do. And with that I want to challenge myself to new heights and bring along my followers in the process (even better yet if I can help inspire or practically others along the way). Oh I’ll still do regular cosplays when the mood strikes (like I’m going to pass up doing Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. HAH!), but from now on I’m going to focus more on geek fashion, geek couture, and original takes on existing characters. Which brings me to my first concentrated foray into said direction.

Welcome to The Katniss Project.

It’s not secret that I have a special fondness for The Hunger Games series from having worked on 3 out of the 4 films (more on that in upcoming posts). While re-reading the books on set one day, the thought struck me….why not try designing Katniss’ costumes for myself? Read through and act as if I was creating all of her mentioned outfits for a film. The more I rolled the idea around in my head, the more it grew on me. Soon, I couldn’t contain my excitement and had to tell others about it. My fellow District 12 extras snickered that, “well…you ARE Reverse Katniss. You have that nickname for a reason. Go for it!”

The Hunger GamesI’m extremely excited about this project. Some costumes will be easy, some will be hard, and well…some might need some crowd-funding to actually come to fruition (the infamous fire dress, anyone?). But it will be a fun challenge to design each costume from scratch, paying close attention to the exact words Suzanne Collins wrote in the books. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned with working with authour, Shawn Lamb on art for her Allon book series, is to pay attention to how the authour describes the costumes in his or her book. It’s a respect issue.)

The next challenge will be one of my favourite parts of the design process – the research. The thinking through of why would the character be wearing this particular outfit and how? What sort of fabrics would he or she have access to? What colours? What sizes? How long would the material last based on their state of wealth or poverty? How does their personality factor into their clothes? With Katniss, there’s a huge range in her outfits due to going from the poorest of the Districts to the highest riches of the Capitol. That will be quite fun to experiment with.

Since this is a project, there will be ongoing progress posts. So it won’t just be my normal finished photoshoot with behind the scenes notes in the same post. I want to bring the community in on this one (kind of like a design team). Someone out there may have better knowledge of Appalachian fabrics of the Depression era while another may have a tip or tick to sew a stubborn part of one of the costumes. I came from a professional costuming background (as pre-car accident, I was professional film costumer), so the cosplay community’s penchant for working solo on an entire project is a bit foreign to me. Obviously, some people are just that insanely talented. But most of us aren’t (and that’s okay!). Teamwork makes us richer. The combined experiences makes the project better. So I’ll be opening up the floor with this project both in blog posts, but especially on my Facebook page. (So follow there for a lot more updates and interactive statuses!)

The List 
For now, I will only be doing Book One (which is going to be challenging enough!)
1) District 12 Hunting Outfit
2) Blue Reaping Dress
3) Tribute Apartment Casual Outfit (dark green shirt and pants)
4) Capitol Grooming Robe
5) Tribute Parade Suit
6) Arena Training Uniform
7) Practice Gown
8) Girl on Fire Interview Gown
9) Nightgown
10) Pre-Arena shift
11) Arena Uniform
12) Hospital
13) Award Ceremony dress
14) Post-arena Interview Dress
15) Post-interview Outfit

The Lady Nerd’s Dragoncon 2015 Costume Lineup

Salutations everyone!

So here is my lineup for Dragoncon this year. (I’m keeping it simpler this year, nothing to extragavant, new, or crazy as I don’t know how much I’ll be able to handle given my post-accident stamina). But if you happen to spot me, do come say hi!

The Lady Nerd Dragoncon 2015
1) Yokai from Big Hero 6
This is definitely 100% different from anything I’d normally do, but it’s for a special reason. Back in 2013, I met a wonderful family of cosplayers (a dad, mom, a girl, and boy) with whom I just hit it off. They even visited me in the hospital last year when they came up from Dragoncon (as a complete surprise to me!). I promised I would cosplay with them this year. On my meager budget, I’m borrowing from their closet. Since they’re doing a Big Hero 6 group and the gals are taken, I thought I’d hide under a mask. Like ya do.

2) Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey
I have a soft spot for the period soap opera, along with some other of my fancy dress friends. So I’ll be donning Lady Mary again for a Downton Abbey panel and photoshoot on Friday evening. Now if only my boyfriend (who looks strikingly like Matthew Crawley) was into cosplay…

3) Tomb Raider
Aww yeah, she’s back! It didn’t seem right to return to Dragoncon after almost dying last year without doing my best known costume (not to mention the symbolism behind it). And yes, I will be looking THAT dirty and bloody on the con floor.

4) May “Mayday” Parker  from Spider-girl
I’m still not 100% on doing this costume this year. The suit itself is done, but I don’t have the webshooters or short dark burgundy wig. But alot of folks are expecting to see this costume. So I’m still on the fence if I’m going to wear this to Con this year or wait.

5) Katniss Everdeen-inspired dress from Catching Fire
It’s finally finished! The dress itself was done a couple years ago, but I didn’t have the wig (as even though my hair is long, it’s pitifully lackluster and holds no curl). Since heels are required with the outfit, I have to use my cane, which as it turns out, also has flames one it. Fitting, no?

Female Tony Stark

Natasha StarkEnter Femme Tony Stark.
Also known as Natasha Stark in an alternative universe known as Earth 3490. (In comic lore, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four went searching alternate realities for a universe in which the Civil War did not happen, thus avoiding the atrocities that came after. (If you don’t know what the Marvel Civil War is, don’t worry, you’ll find out next year when Captain America 3: Civil War premieres in theaters! 🙂 In the meantime, if you can’t wait that long, check out your local comic store for the comic bearing the simple title, “Civil War.”)

Natasha StarkBut how would a female version of Iron Man look?Probably with the same air of arrogant sex appeal that Tony Stark does. As my makeup artist put it, “Stark looks like he bought a $5,000 Armani suit, went home and slept in it. Then got up the next morning and walked into a photoshoot. All that money, a bit of bedhead, marinated in scotch.”

Natasha StarkAlas, I don’t have Stark’s bank account (or Marvel’s movie financing division either) so I had to settle for a little less on the expensive scale. I’m relatively new to the brand H&M (as a store only recently opened near where I live), but I’m already a fan. They have good-looking clothes for half of department store prices (and less than my usual go-to place, Express). Although, I wouldn’t mind if they started carrying size 0 for teeny gals like me, H&M’s size 2 tend to do the trick.

Natasha StarkI’m always on the lookout for a well-cut blazer on my meager budget. H&M didn’t fail to deliver. I went to simply browse the store’s summer collection only to walk out with not one, but two sharp blazers. (I had to break a few hearts when friends asked where I got the khaki and black leather blazer, only to reply that I had bought the last one.)

“Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.”

Natasha StarkAlthough they’re not pictured here, the khaki and leather blazer perfectly matches my Express slacks (seriously, it almost looks like they’re cut from the same fabric). It would appear the black blazer also has the same advantage. This pleases me greatly.

Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?

Natasha Stark“…What are you?”
“Genius, billionare, playgal, philanthropist.”

Natasha Stark

Natasha Stark I’m female.
FE = Iron.
Male = man.
Therefore, I am IRON MAN.
Photography: RBC Image
Hair: Abraham Saucedo
Makeup: Courtney Walters
Khaki Blazer with Leather Sleeves: H&M
Black Blazer: H&M
Arc Reactor: Custom made by Pixelbash Props
White tank top: Forever 21
Black tank top: H&M
Watch: Target
Belt: Target
Pants: Express

Awani the Deer Faerie

Deer faerieLast in my lineup of characters I’ve played over the years the Tennessee Renaissance Festival is Awani, the deer faerie. The theme for that year (2012) concerned the colonization of Virginia by England. But we had a real treat this year as one of our cast members was playing, to my knowledge, our first ever Native American character (and she actually is Native American). She and I were partners-in-crime in 2011 when we both played foreign European noblewomen, so I thought it only fitting we should be again. So while she played a Croatan ambassadress to England, I played Awani, the North American white-tailed deer faerie who follows her over; a sort of spirit guide, if you will. (Which was a fun bit to play as  I got to dig into my own Cherokee roots (well, that little 1/16th of my ethnic makeup. Eh, numbers). Now, onto the really fun part – the costume!

Here was my initial design of the character…
Deer faerie costume designSince the general costume theme of the troupe of faeries at TNRF was animals and plants found on a nature trail, I tried to think of what thing in nature I could pull off and what would play to my strong suits. I settled on the deer due to my love of earthy elements, specifically the colour brown. I have dark dark brown eyes that come out black in most pictures. That coupled with having been described as having “big doe eyes” I figured, why not a doe? Thus Awani, the deer faerie was born.

Unfortunately the patrons that come through the TNRF gates aren’t always that bright. Some are truly lovely, but most of the time, you have to kinda smack them upside the head with your design. So I kept all that in mind while I sketched out this faerie. Now I’ll admit, I took liberties with the design as does only have small antlers and no spots. But the easiest way to communicate “deer” to someone is the antlers.

Ideally I want to have a decent-sized rack of antlers (depending on how much weight I can balance successfully on top of my head). That way anyone, even if they’re um….slightly or not-so-slightly inebriated (which they will be at faire, unfortunately) they can still tell I’m a deer. I was inspired by Kato of Steampunk Couture deer outfit. It had a structured, yet unkempt appearance that I really like. There is structure present, but at the same time, it has the feel of running through the woods with hair getting caught in the wind. Very organic.
Steampunk Couture deer antlersThe trick was making a lightweight, but realistic looking rack of antlers that I could attach to my head without causing neck strain, be too top heavy, and/or attached securely enough that if I decided to get animated – as I do – they wouldnt go tumbling. Alas, this plan didn’t quite work out as, at the time, I wasn’t well-versed in materials. So I ended up going with an actual pair of antlers, that my wig stylist epoxy glued to the wig she made.
The wig was made by the illustrious Aria Durso (who, sadly, is no longer in business). It’s actually a blend of 4 different wigs (as evidence by the different colours). However, the very dark hair is actually mine. I would pull out pieces to tease and then blend into the wig around the antlers. Though goodness me, did I learn about wig pain….I had to make sure to take Aleve every day and secure it with about 50 bobbypins!
Awani the deer faerieEars
I used the faun ears from my friends over at Aradani Studios.

Faun ears Makeup
The makeup was fairly simple in terms of colouring as I wanted to keep it natural looking. But we added in heavy black eyeliner (as deers have), false eyelashes (so my own lashes didn’t get lost in all the black), white spots, and a black nose. After looking at many deer makeup looks online, I opted for just painting the bottom of my nose black as I felt that wasn’t as cartoony looking as painting the entire nose black.

The dress was custom made out of layers of cotton and flannel. The outer part was dyed with RIT dye to give it a skin-like colour with the middle part left undyed to give the effect of a fuzzy underbelly. In keeping with the rest of the faire’s cast, we opted for a corset underneath, thus grommets were put in for a tighter structure. Matching bracers were made and tied with silk ribbon.
Oh the tights….all members of cast were required to wear tights. I wanted to do a two-toned pair to mimic deer legs. (as they’re lighter on the inside. It also works wonder for the illusion of having smaller legs!) So I bought a pair of cotton tights to dye. Oh that did not go well….the dye didn’t take (and certainly not in the fashion we were hoping). But I couldn’t come up with a solution by the time faire started, so I went with what I had (and had to put up with the “dirty legs” comments all season).

I opted for a pair of brown woven flats with cushioning for both prancing about and for the airyness of them. The only addition was sewing in a pair of strings to bind my feet in so the shoes wouldn’t go flying off.

These were made by the faerie director of TNRF and myself out of wire wrapped in brown floral tape with silk fabric attached that we hand painting to match the dress (spots included), along with two wire extensions off the top too mimic antlers.

Kirk_Hughes Kirk_Hughes3Derek_deweese15Sometimes the faeries can be completely oblivious of the Troll (King Ik) behind them…

David_Merritt6 526637_10100662546583515_1472616705_nFaeries….you can’t take them anywhere.

Terry_Burns Wild_Canary ME_David_Merritt2Photographs: David Merritt, Steampunk Couture, Derek Deweese, Kirk Hughes,  Wild Canary

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2011 – Countess Elaine de Francias

French renaissance festival countessAs many artist do, I have my various outlets of creativity (because let’s face it, despite the fact that I get to do something I love, production art is still work!). Costuming and modeling are my primary avenues, with the Tennessee Renaissance Festival having been one of the greatest releases of all.

Tennessee Renaissance Festival by Daniel_MeigsEvery year, Tennessee holds its own Elizabethan faire full of stage acts,  jousting tournaments, live music, human chess, and character performers.  For three years back when I lived in Tennessee, I would audition for cast. I did it once before in 2007, landing the role of a peasant pickpocket. In 2011, I moved up the chain a wee bit to a french countess, sister to the Prince of France. (In 2012, I flitted around as a deer fairy. More on her in the next post!)

French Countess by_Daniel_MeigsOne of the great things about our faire is the immense creativity that goes on behind the scenes; from character development to costume building. All of our costumes are hand-built and custom designed. It would get all my creative juices going to spend months planning, preparing, and designing. It’s heaven for a preproduction gal like me.

Alas, my original design (which was basically a Renaissance version of Belle’s green gown from Beauty and the Beast) did not get approved as another lady in cast had a similar colour scheme (and whose garments were already made). So I yielded to the costume director whose daughter, in turn, let me rent her costume (it helps having a body twin around!). At first I wasn’t sure about the gown I was  given as the colours of baby blue and light gold. They were certainly not colours I would’ve chosen for myself. But after seeing the final result I realised I have a thing or two to learn about colour
So although I did not design this costume, I did design/pick out the accessories, hair, and makeup. Here is the final result of me in 2011 as Countess Elaine de Francias, half-sister to the Duke of Anjou (one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favoured suitors):

ME3It was a challenging character to play as I’ll confess, I’m not the best with verbal improv (physical improv is another story). But I was chosen for the role as I was one of the only people on cast who could do a believable French accent. Well….believable to American ears. I imagine I would embarass myself in front of an actual Frenchman. But the accent worked in my favour as my limits with verbal improv would arise and I could simply explain it away with a “I don’t speak English well”. It went over well and added more believability to the character.

Kirk_Hughes3 IMG_4896(My fellow cast members, who were all playing Englishmen and women were more than happy to get in on the English-French rivalry.)

ME_ScottCraigAll in all it was a very interesting experience, even though the next year, I went back to a more physically-active character. But I enjoyed my time as the Faire’s “Renaissance Disney Princess” that year. (So many little girls would come up to me thinking I was a princess. It made my day to see the big smiles on their faces.)

Tennessee Renaissance Festival noble womanCostume –  Esther Cancasi
Parasol –  Vintage via Ebay
Hair jewels – Claire’s
Earrings – Vintage via Ebay
Basket – Goodwill

Stay tuned for 2012’s TNRF costume – Awani the Deer Faerie!

Photographs: David Merritt, Daniel Miegs, My City Social, Derek Deweese, Kirk Hughes, Scott Craig, Chris Jarvis

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2007 – Kit Tanner the Pickpocket

tennessee renaissance festival peasantSometimes it’s good to remember where one has come from, especially in any sort of creative journey. I first heard about cosplay in 2005, but wasn’t able to get around to for years. But I was heavily interested in costuming and had my first opportunity to try it as a cast member at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival in 2007. It was my first time doing any sort of improv acting, costume designing, or live theater.

I was cast as a peasant, so lowest ranking member on the English Elizabethan hierarchy. But I was okay with that, as the lower-end peasants had to be alot more physically fit to keep up with all the groveling. (In fact, we would actually make a game out of it to see who could get lower in front of the Queen and nobility. I may have dug myself into the dirt once…) As it went with the peasants of cast, we had an occupation and then what we really did. By occupation, I was the town skinner and tanner. But in truth, I was the town pick-pocket. This ended up working out beautifully as I had designed my costume to have furs and pelts (just tails really) hanging off of my belt, but it upset quite a few kids, so I ditched the belt and went full force into my role as pickpocket.

5-5-2007-13And it was glorious.

Peasant escorting noblewomanI would plot with one of the noblewomen backstage that I  was going to steal their jewels when they were in the lanes. Then we’d part ways and as the noblewoman would have an audience that she’d be entertaining, I’d sneak my way behind her (but always where the audience could see). She’d carry on as if nothing was amiss, meanwhile the audience would be shouting for her to turn around or that something was about to happen.

Now it would be up to the noblewoman how she reacted. Sometimes she’d whip around and I’d have to drop to the ground to bow with pearls in hand. Sometimes I’d get away with the jewels. Sometimes, she’d run after me to get her jewels back. And one time, she actually just threw her massive hoopskirt over my head (I was on the ground)! To which she just told the audience, “What thief?” *makes a move like she’s kicking me*

Apparently that character was such a hit, I had people remembering me when I worked at a local Starbucks three years later!

Mug Peasant with bowl on headPeasants were rather fond of sticking things on their heads and walking around (I love that mug. Still have it!)

woman swordsI even got to try my hand at SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) combat with rapier, whip, and props. Being part of the ‘human chess match’ was, by far, my favourite activity of the entire festival. For months beforehand each of the fighters would train in combat and stage choreography. (So all those movie swashbuckling moves? I may know a few of those. 😉 ). I have the main moves so firmly subplanted into my subconscious that I can still teach it to someone else 8 years later. Shows a little of how much I loved it! Alas, in the end, I didn’t get to fight with the pretty swords. I was part of the peasant prop fight with a weapon that was none other than squirrel-chucks. Between that, the sack-of-cats gag we did, and general humour of the skit, I’m STILL hearing from people that remember that fight.

prop_fight10prop_fight9prop_fight11 prop_fight5 prop_fight3 prop_fight2Yep. We’re a bunch of crazy folks. It’s true. (but fun!)

Costume –  Made by various members of cast and myself
Boots – Target

Stay tuned for 2011’s TNRF costume – French Countess Elaine de Francias!

Photographs: Chip Talbert, Dad, Chip Talbert, fellow cast members, Kirk Hughes