Black Canary, Coffee Time, Starlet, Pinkie Pie, Pearl

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Working With Worbla: Olivia Bracelet Tutorial

For Katsucon this year, I cosplayed Olivia from Fire Emblem Awakening. My friend Emily got me into the game with the intention of getting me to cosplay, and...well...my love of belly dancing immediately drew me to Olivia. So I decided that not only would I cosplay her, I would doll up her design a bit to better resemble an Egyptian belly dancing costume. In particular, the bracelets and anklets took a bit of work, so I thought I would share my process.

craft foam sheets
spray adhesive
black, brown, gold paint
thick scrap fabric

X-acto knife
heat gun
eyebrow comb (or anything else with a small, sharp handle)
sand paper
paint brushes

Rather than just make plain old boring bracelets, I wanted to make my bracelets look like metal that had been embossed with arabic designs. I used two different designs-one for my bracelets and anklets, and one for my upper arm bracelets. Be careful when picking your design. Something too complicated will be difficult to cut and won't show up under the worbla.

First thing's first. You gotta cut your craft foam. It'll be the base for your embossed design and the padding between your worbla. Figure out how thick you want your bracelet to be. That's your width. Measure the circumference of your wrist. That's your length. Cut that foam.

On the computer, size your design to fit your foam-minus a border on the top and bottom. Print it. Then use the spray adhesive to stick it to the foam. This gives you a nice solid base that won't shift around while you cut. Then just cut the negative spaces in your design out with an x-acto knife.

The next step is to encase your cut foam in worbla. Cut two pieces of worbla. One piece is a base for the bottom, the other will encase the foam from the top. Use the heat gun to heat the worbla up and carefully cover it.

This is where things get a little complicated. Once the worbla is completely cool, you're ready to start embossing the design you cut. The problem is that its difficult to see or feel. I held my bracelets up to the light to see it as I went. The idea is that you'll be heating small parts of the bracelet as a time, using your eyebrow comb (or whatever you found that's sharp) to press the hot worbla into the negative spaces in the foam, revealing the design. This is what it looks like:

 The first time you do this, the design probaby won't be sharp enough. Just keep heating and pressing until you get the result you want. Be patient. Here's mine after doing the process twice. Also shadow hand. Oooooh. It haunts terrible photographyyyyyy,
Next up is to mold the bracelet to the shape of your wrist. The great thing about worbla is that you can form it right against your skin without burning yourself. So that's what I did. To get the raised edge, I just took strips of worbla, heated them, and attached them to the edges of the bracelet.
Yay! You have a bracelet! But now you need to paint it!

Worbla has a rough texture, so you won't get a smooth metal look without some priming. For these bracelets, I used gesso because I already had it lying around. If you have to go buy something, I'd stick with a spray primer instead. It gets into the nooks of the bracelet better.

If you are using gesso like me, just slather it on in layers. Use the thickest stuff you can get. It took me six layers of gesso to get the proper smoothness. Then SAND THE CRAP OUT OF IT. Use a rougher sand paper at first, then polish it up with a smoother one. No pictures of this process. Sorry. But once nyou're finished, you're ready to paint. Start with a layer of black paint.
We use black first for a reason. Light affects the way we see color, including paint. The black under layer gives a more thick and dark appearance to what will eventually be gold. It also helps us get the paint on in less layers than if it were still white-metallic paints tend to be kinda thin.

After the black is dry, we add the next layer of paint. Brown. This acts as the mid tone to our paint job. Just take a dry, round brash and dab it in. The black will still be visible in the cracks, but the brown will create light on all the flat surfaces.
Radtastic. Kinda looks like wood or leather. But we need metal, so now we add gold. I forgot to take a pic of this step with just the gold. Just gold can give a nice, brand new metal look, but I wanted something hammered and burnished looking, so I added more black. Just baaaaarely any black paint on the end of a dry, round brush is enough, and rub it into the crevices. You'll get this:
Yay! They're done! BUT WAIT! We have to problems left: how will these stay on? And will they be comfortable?

This is where your scrap fabric comes in. I found that my wrist cuffs fit very snuggly, but they scraped against the bone in my wrist and were uncomfortable. Similarly, my arm cuffs were comfortable, but worbla does..welll...warp....and over time they bent far back enough that they wouldn't hold up on their own anymore. I solved this problem by lining the insides of the bracelets with some scrap fabric I had lying around. The type doesn't matter. Just glue layers of it to the inside of the bracelets until they fit snug and comfortable.

And that's it. Now you have fancy worbla bracelets! Go cosplay!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Black Canary

Black Canary is my favorite super hero. Because she's amazing. Duh. So when I decided to cosplay her I knew I had to make her perfect. Her version from JLA is my particular favorite.
Black Canary-Justice League
Also fishnets:
Black Canary  Note: thick, wavy hair with bangs

There was one thing super important to me. I wanted to make a costume flexible enough to actually fight crime in. I've never liked the idea of slapping a corset on over a leotard and calling it a day. Have you ever tried fighting crime in a corset? It isn't easy. So instead I made it my goal to have a strapless leotard. Which may or may not have been even more difficult than the corset. I used a shiny, leathery looking spandex for the leotard. And while it fit pretty well, I ran into two problems. 1. It was VERY difficult to keep up. It took waaaaay too much hollywood tape to hold up, and even then I constantly felt like I was going to accidentally flash the convention. Problem 2: holding my boobs up. While I inserted the leotard cups with some bra inserts, without an underwire they wouldn't hold me up very well.

My solution? The invisibra. They're backless and strapless, holding on to your boobs using an adhesive on the inside of the cups. Supposedly they can lift and support you, but I had terrible luck with it. It stayed on, but I might as well have been wearing nothing for all it was worth. What a waste of $80. I might as well have bought the $10 Walmart brand.

Still, I think it came out alright. Here's a shot of the leotard without the jacket over it:

But the most important part is the jacket of course. I was forced to use a marine vinyl (aka not meant for jackets) because I couldn't find any garment weight vinyl in blue. Since it is nearly impossible to dye or stain vinyl, I worked with what I had. Go figure, I found some proper leather on sale for only $10 a yard a month after I finished this costume. Sometimes the cosplay gods are full of cruel irony.

Anyway, here are some tips for working with leather that I found really effective:

DO NOT CUT LEATHER WITH YOUR FABRIC SHEARS! There are special, more heavy weight shears made for cutting leather. I suggest getting a pair if you can afford them, because the thick leathr will really eat away at your fabric pair.

A lot of machines can't handle leather. Mine couldn't. I was lucky enough to have an industrial machine at my disposal, but since that's pretty rare, I would test your machine before investing in leather. Nothing worse than spending $20 a yard on something you can't use.

Vinyl can't be ironed. It'll melt. Instead, use a rubber mallet to pound your seams flat, and then glue them open using super glue or rubber cement. Once the glue dries, pound 'em again till they're pretty.

A shot of the jacket and the leotard from the front:


And a totally better picture from the side:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wig Styling Tutorial: Pearl

I cosplayed Pearl from Steven Universe at Otakon this last year. One of my favorite characters. I mean seriously- alien sword fighting ballerina from space? No contest. Buuuut her wig provided a challenge. I am by no means a wig expert-Pearl is the first character I've done who's hair didn't come pre-styled- but I've gotten a lot of messages on my other sites asking how I did it, so I figure here is the best place to post my process.
This is the wig I started with: the Matilda from Arda Wigs. It's double thickness, which makes it perfect for spiking up, and the wefts in front are sewn in backwards.  Unfortunately the Matilda does not come in Pearl's shade of blonde/peach/orange/awesome. So she's taped to a vacuum box in my drive way to get a new hair color.

.red and yellow FW ink
.rubbing alocohol (the tutorial I followed used two cups. I ended up using 4 quarts)
.a spray bottle
.a measuring cup
 .a hairdryer
 Here she is with her hair pinned up so I can dye the under layers first. Full disclosure: I may have screwed up. The tutorial I followed said 2 cups of alcohol and 10 drops of ink. I used 4 quarts total for the entire wig Roughly 20 drops of ink for each batch I mixed. That's because I didn't have a hairdryer, so the dye kept dripping out of the wig fibers before it could stick. If you use the hairdryer, you will save yourself a lot of alcohol (and burning fingers as it drips into your cuts).

Just mix the alcohol and ink to get the color you want, put it in a spray bottle, and SOAK the wig fibers, starting with the undermost layers and slowly working towards the outermost layers. I love this method, despite learning issues I had with it. It's much faster than the sharpie method, and it gives the wig a much more natural dispertion of color: some of my strands came out more blonde, others orange, creating more natural highlights.

Note: I found that the dye had the hardest time sticking at the roots where the wefts are sewn into the cap. It ended up being fine for my purposes, but if yours are visible, you can use a sharpie to color them.

When you're done dying, let it dry completely. Then wash the wig under cold water. Some of the color may run out. If the color isn't what you want it to be after washing, dye again.

So here's my wig dyed:
And here she is curled:
I curled the wig so I could get little cosmic curls as I styled the hair back. It isn't shown in Pearl's official artwork, but i liked the feminine effect it has. I just used a curling iron for this. People say to be careful about your iron benig on too hot to avoid melting the wig. I've never had this problem. I mostly just can't get it to curl well because wigs won't hold curls until they cool.Next I started teasing the wefts at the center of the wig to create a base to hold up the hairdo:
Fair warnnig, your wig will NOT recover from this. This is a permanent style choice. Your hair may come back from being back combed, but wigs are more finicky. Once I had a base, I started combing hair over it and spraying it in place with Got 2 B Glued Spray. I also trimmed as I went when it looked like the hairdo was going to be too long.
And that's it on the stand.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vintage Coffee: 1952 Design

I call it my coffee dress, or sometimes my white rabbit dress because I wore an Alice in Wonderland watch necklace and my scarf looks like bunny ears. Either way, this dress was my first original design, a little day dress based off of early 1950s styles. It's made of a simple, lightweight printed cotton and features a pleated skirt, a two part bodice with slightly gathered cups, and a row of antique brass buttons running down the front.

I love this dress. Not only was it simple to make, its flexible to wear. I can just as easily wear it on a lunch date as to an interview. Or in this case-waiting for my lover at the train station. I was lucky to have a wonderful photographer to do this photoshoot with me. Jae Yi is amazing. He not only is a great photographer, he encourages me to get my designs out there and accept commissions for them, and he understands that when I do photos, I'm not just taking pictures of a dress-I want to capture a character. So when I sent him pictures of it, he immediately suggested the train station on 5th St. here in Richmond. It's a beautiful, historical building downtown that still runs , and being inside immediately sucks you back into an earlier era. He's a true gem. I encourage everyone  to check out his website, and if you're in his area and need anything at all (family photoshoot, wedding, band gig, school portrait) don't hesitate to call him.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pinkie Pie

To kick off my first post, I'll start with my first design: Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. I'm not afraid to admit that I love this show, or that Pinkie stole my heart as the pink, sugary, 4th wall breaking representation of myself in hooves and a fluffy tail. I've loved MLP since my first Apple Jack doll all the way back from generation 1, and cosplaying Pinkie not only allowed me to show my love for one of my most nostalgic childhood moments, it gave me an opportunity that's rare in cosplay- complete and utter freedom.

Designing a human version of Pinkie Pie meant I didn't have to worry about my height, my facial structure, or my sewing abilities-I could make a costume that fit my body, my comfort zone, and challenged me as an artist without sacrificing the character in any way. Pinkie was the first huge sewing project I had undertaken, so got crafty with the construction to make sure I had something fluffy and shiny but still easy peasy to make.

Construction Notes:

Pinkie's costume comes in three pieces: a long line bra with jeweled cups, an underbust bodice with a shelf neckline, and a tutu. At the time I made this costume, I had no idea how to make a corset, but I needed the support of one to hold up the heavy rhinestones and shape my body properly. So instead I bought a long line bra (only $20 on Amazon), covered it in pink broadcloth and then proceeded to cram rhinestones onto it with a hot glue gun and a pair of tweezers. I colored each rhinestone individually using sharpies. Unfortunately, permanent marker isn't so permanent on plastic crystals. I ended up spraying the bra cups with some protective spray meant for graphite drawings. Slight problem: my spray had gone bad. I ended up with an opaque layer of white on my pretty shiny things.

When in doubt, call it frosting.

The underbodice is pretty self explanatory. Shelf neckline to highlight the bra cups, sectioned bodice lightly boned to to provide a more structured body, straps for support. The tutu is similarly easy: I used the good old fashioned tie method for two layers of tulle in four colors: dark pink, medium pink, light pink with sparkles, and polka dotted pink with flowers.

My favorite piece is the cupcake fascinator. A layer of light pink tulle and pink lace are gathered into circles as a base. The cupcake tin is made from tins I bought at the store: I was having issues with them holding their shape, so stuck twelve of them together and modpodged them into a single piece and painted them blue. The inside is stuffed with felt scraps, and then pink felt is stretched over them to make the frosting. Top it off with rhinestone sprinkles and a cherry made from a Christmas bell.

Accessories that I didn't make: blue and white striped stockings ($12), cutie mark necklace (free-it was a gift)  and pink suede ballet flats ($20). The wig is the Nikki in raspberry from Arda Wigs ($35), bringing the total cost of the costume to roughly $100. That may seem high at first for a simple My Little Pony cosplay, but I still use the shoes and stockings. And because the bra was covered, I was able to carefully remove the pink fabric and can wear it as a normal bra (and because I was careful, I can reattach the rhinestone cups if I ever want to again).

Photoshoot: For Pinkie, I chose to to a photoshoot on a playground. It's free, it's easily accessible, and there's a lot you can do. Plus the added bonus of small children falling you around everywhere in wonder. 


My name is La Polilla, and I'm a costume design student/avid cosplayer hoping to share my art, my knowledge, and my clumsy journey with those who want to tag along. Thank you for coming to my first (real) blog, and while we're at it, thank you for dealing what I like to call my "move in mess". Eventually, this page should be properly designed and customized, my costumes showcased on the front page, and all that other good stuff you expect from a costume blog.

In the mean time, while the format may be a little clumsy, enjoy my costumes, and if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask them.