DragonCon 2014 Costume Interviews

What are you dressed as?
I am a dragon, with inspiration from Ysera from World of Warcraft. I’m not an exact replica, but I got the inspiration from Ysera.

How long did it take you to make this costume?
Heh. A very long time. Over 3 months. And the makeup takes almost 4 hours to get on, I do it all myself.

Where did you buy all these pieces, what is it made of?
Oh, what is it not made off… Starting with the head, there’s Worbla and craft foam, then the bodysuit is a dyed and hand-painted bodysuit, the armor is EVA foam and Worbla, the feet are fabric and foam, the wings are foam and fabric, and the prosthetics are silicone.

Was there any particular piece that was really difficult?
Getting the prosthetics to line up with the headpiece was difficult.

Do you have any experience building costumes before?
I do. I used to work in some kid theatre on the side, been an artist all my life. I started wanting to make costumes for myself, because I have great ideas for things that weren’t appropriate for theatre.

What is this?
R
esin gemstones, with LEDs in them. I’ll turn them on later.

Have you entered this contest before?
I have not, this is my first time at DragonCon.

This is your first time at DragonCon? Have you attended any other cons?
I have, in Texas. I live in Dallas. I’ve been to Dallas ComicCon, and there’s like a Fan Daze and Sci-Fi Expo there.

What would you recommend to people that are just kind’ve thinking about creating costumes, thinking “Hey, I want to do some cosplay.” What would be your advice to them?
Pick a character that you’re passionate about, even if you’re not going to be a literal representation of it. I really wanted to be a dragon, even though I’m not a literal foam suit on four feet dragon, but I got really excited about it, wanted to do it. Or pick something that is naturally occurring with you… you have red hair, do a character that has red hair. Start it out that way.


So starting with, what prompted the desire to be Angel?
Amber
: Well, it’s interesting. I actually made this two weeks before Pax East. I knew the guys from Borderlands were going to be there, they’re going to show off something new, I have to do something from Borderlands, and I was like, what could I do? And all my friends encouraged me to do Angel, so I was like, “You know what, I’ve got two weeks, I can make this happen.” So this is a two-week costume that got put together. And I’ve always really liked playing the bad guys who are just kind’ve somewhat bad, somewhat good? So kind’ve on the fence, and to me, Angel fits that profile.

Who else have you played that’s kind’ve on that fence?
Amber
: Oh, goodness, Enchantress from Thor is another one of my favorites. Cause she definitely goes back and forth. She loves Thor, but she hates everybody else. So I like those type of characters, they’re fun.

Cool. So then, where did you get these different pieces?
Amber
: Everything you see on me, I basically made. Even the baldcap, I made specifically for my head so it would fit my head. And all the latex pieces with the implants and stuff… all that fun stuff. Of course this is a wig, and I didn’t really shave my head, because I have to go to work on Monday.

When I was first coming over, I was like, “Man, she’s really dedicated, she like shaved half of her head?”
Amber
: Noooo, I need to go to work, and I need to have normal hair. So that was not allowed. But yeah, the wig I had to chop in half and style it, and all of this is spandex wrapped in craft foam, so it’s all light and easy, and stuck on with Velcro.

So, craft foam, spandex…
Amber
: And more spandex. And then fabric paint to get all the lovely line details that you’ve got to have for Borderlands.

And then where did you buy all those types of things?
Amber
: Some of it was from Spandex House. It’s all base materials and fabrics. The paint I actually did special order online, so it works for my skin.

What type of paint is it?
Amber
: This one is actually Mehron’s Paradise. It’s a body paint that’s specifically made for doing stuff like this.

Have you subscribed to any forums or anything to learn about this, or just talking to the community?
Amber
: A lot of it is talking to the community, not many people have cosplayed as Angel before, so I learned a lot of it through some of my friends in Texas, and then just kind’ve picking up things here and there. Lots of online tutorials. And I love messing around with body paint and face paint, so for me, I was like, “Yeah, I can make this happen.”

 

 

Let’s start off with your name?
My name is Miriana

Who are you?
Miriana:
I’m cosplaying as Wonder Woman.

Why did you choose Wonder Woman?
Miriana:
When I was growing up, I lived in a very conservative country, so we didn’t get it until very much later, but she was a symbol of female empowerment, someone who was very confident in herself and the way that she is. I’m not a confident person, but when I put this on, I feel amazing! So I definitely wanted to wear this.

Which country was that?
Miriana:
Serbia.

Can you tell us a bit about how you actually made the costume?
Miriana:
If I started from the bottom… the shoes are bought, the belt is, everything is leather. It’s all dyed and hand-riveted and hand-cut. The belt is hand-cut leather that I dyed myself. The chestplate is Bondo. My friend made this for me, and this is tin that I folded myself. The lasso is just rope.

Did you make the whole costume yourself?
Miriana:
I did. The riveting, there is a shop in my country that has a riveting tool, I brought it with me on the plane.

So did you fly from Serbia to here?
Miriana:
I did. I’m visiting family, but this was part of it. I timed it for this weekend. I got here Wednesday and I’ll be here for the rest of the week.

What recommendations would you have for people who are just trying to get into cosplay or just trying to choose something to cosplay?
Miriana:
I would say definitely pick a character that means something to you, because I feel if you don’t pick one that means something to you, no matter what you do, you’ll always feel that your efforts are subpar. When you really have an enjoyment and a passion for the character, no matter what you do, you’ll feel wonderful in it and it really shows on your face. So you’ll always be happy, no matter what you’re wearing.

Why did you choose DragonCon?
Miriana:
I’ve come a few times before with my cousins, they’re the ones who got me into comics when I was younger, so I started learning English so that I could read comics online or the ones that were imported, so it really helped a lot, and here I am now. It’s also really helped with my job, I’m in international communications. I learned English from comic books, I don’t know how much nerdier it can get. I didn’t take it in school, my cousins sometimes speak to me in English, but not a lot.

 

 

What are your names?
I’m Amanda.
I’m Katie.

And who are you dressed as?
Amanda:
I’m Elsa.
Katie: I’m ALSO Elsa.

What prompted you to choose that character to cosplay?
Amanda:
It’s my sister’s favorite movie, and I really like it too. I love seeing all the little kids so happy.
Katie: I’ve been coming to DragonCon for awhile, and I’ve always not really known exactly what costume to do. I’ve always kind’ve done original characters, just threw stuff together, like steampunky or medieval. I saw the movie, and was like, “I’m dying by hair blonde anyway, I really really like this movie, I like that dress, I really want to be covered in glitter… I’m gonna be Elsa.”

And how did you make your costume?
Amanda:
It was a really difficult thing to do, and I actually have family in Brazil that helped make the dress. We went there on vacation and brought the supplies and they made it while we were there.
Katie: I think you get the award for longest distance traveled to make a costume. I’ve never made my own costumes before, I’ve just pulled stuff together from thrift shops, and I really wanted to make my own, and got a sewing machine for Christmas. I decided, ok, Elsa will be it. It’s a fairly simple dress, fairly simple looking cape (it was not a simple cape), and I was finally like, “Ok, it’s time to do this. It’s time to sit down, learn it on the internet.” We looked up patterns, we bought patterns at the store, we went ahead and bought all the fabric, and just jumped right in… and did it. So this is all from scratch, and I’m super proud of it. It turned out really well. We went to the fabric store about 8 million times. If we were lost on something, we called my friend’s mother, who is very very skilled and knowledgable, and helped us a lot. I think I did most of it myself, she helped me with the top hem and that’s about it.

Were there any particular parts of either of your costume that were super-difficult to find or get together?
Amanda:
My shoes were extremely difficult. We bought high-heeled shoes from Goodwill, then covered it with foam and this crazy glue that the spray paint did not want to stick to. So then we had to cover it with fabric and then spray paint it again, and eventually it worked out. And the cape was extremely difficult and ended up not working. And we made this huge pattern for it, and we stuck it on, and then we spray painted it with this glitter spray paint, and it wasn’t glittery enough so we tried to put more glitter on it, and it wasn’t sticking to the spray paint, so by the time we ripped it off, it looked good, but we held it up in the air and all the glitter just fell off.
Katie: The one that was the most tedious was probably putting all the little sequins on the top. Because I had to buy the sequins, then I layered fabric over them to change the colors a little bit, so I didn’t only have like 3. And then we had to cut them out, and individually glue every single one on, and make it look random, but not be too heavy on one side, or too patterned. And then the shoes were difficult. I had spikes on the back too, and they just popped off, so we ended up just doing the fronts. And then I realized, once I got the dress together, day before the convention, the shoe paint did not match the dress, so we had to go over them with the glitter and make them match a little better. And the cape took the longest, I think, because it was individual stencils made from painter’s tape, and I only had like 4 stencils, so I had to do one, stamp the glue on, put the glitter on, wait for it to dry, peel it off, remove the stencil, put it on another spot, and then do it all over again.

So similar styles of making the cape. Do either of you have any advice or tips for people who are wanting to do cosplay, or trying to choose a character to go with?
Amanda:
You should probably plan everything out before you start making it… because if you don’t, it ends up as a mess.
Katie: And pick a character that you love, because if you don’t love the character, you’re going to get frustrated with the costume, and say “Well, I don’t really like them anyway, so I’m just going to give up…” You just have to jump in and commit to it, and even if things are starting to go wrong, you just keep going. And if you get frustrated, get frustrated on a pillow in the corner, and drop it for 10 minutes, come back to it later.

How long did it take you to eventually end up getting your costumes together?
Amanda:
It took me like a year. Since the movie came out… once it came out, I started, and I just finished recently.
Katie: Yeah, I started planning, while we were in the theater, “I’m making that dress, let’s go to the fabric store after this, let’s go look.” It was two or three months after the movie came out until we actually got to the fabric store, with colors in mind and ideas in mind, and started looking. And about 6 months ago is when we actually had everything finally, we had all the stuff, and we were still every once in awhile going to the fabric store, “Oh, we could do this instead.” We were still pulling things in, and I finally finished it, literally at 1am on Thursday.

 

 

 

If you could just give some general background, what inspired you to make it, what you used, that kind of stuff.
Tori:
I really like Borderlands… a lot. I played both games, and I played the second game many times. I really wanted to make… we always try to challenge ourselves with each costume we make, get new skills, and I was like “Well, I’ve never made an opposable art doll. I guess I’ll make Bloodwing.” I really like Bloodwing a lot. I like birds a lot. I spent a lot of time researching different bird skeletons. I think it’s a composite of a turkey vulture and a cormorant. The head is Sculpy(?), you just fire it and paint it. The little eyes are art rocks. I’m going to make a couple more and I think I’m going to cast the head, because it’s a little top heavy. The armature(?) is aluminum wire, a couple different gauges, whatever we had around the house, because I’m an artist, so we just have art supplies. The feathers are high quality faux fur and the wings are suede and actual lambskin, and are air brushed. It was the only thing that draped and looked like a wing, and they’re completely poseable, they’re all wired. It’s basically a wire skeleton, and then I sewed the suede to it, putting a skin on it. It’s basically the way you do taxidermy. The body itself is just aluminum and floral tape and aluminum foil just to bulk it out. The body’s not heavy, the head and wings are a little heavy. It took about a month to make him. Just because I had never made a doll like that before, so it just took some research. If I were to make another one it would be faster. The rest of Mordecai is just sewing fabric, a little bit of modding. This is a canteen, he’s sort of well known as an alcoholic. He drinks a lot in the game, and it’s kind’ve a joke. So you have to have the canteen. It’s actually an army canteen that I got off eBay, and I stripped all the paint off it and repainted it so it looked correct. There’s nothing in it right now, it would be too heavy. Last year I was Maya and I had all this shit on my belt, a class mod, a shield… even though they were foam, my pants were falling down all the time. I’m not doing that again. This is Eva Foam, craft foam. I have goggles, we had to mod the goggles, they were motorcycle goggles, didn’t have the green in them. My husband does some of the prop work, he had to bend the acrylic to fit it in, so it’s green acrylic. This was a pain in the butt to make, because I had to cell shade the whole thing, so it’s cell shaded with an airbrush and it just took forever, and then I had to wrap it. This costume took like two weeks to make, minus Bloodwing. We made some deadlines for ourselves, we brought 4 sets of 2 costumes for ourselves. The gloves are motorcycle gloves with Eva Foam on it. This is just a leather strap with Eva Foam. He’s got weird wrappings and stuff. The boots are actually hiking boots, and I didn’t have to mod them at all, just did some cell shading, added the red in. The pants have this knee thing which is sewn, they’re all painted with an airbrush, fabric paint and acrylics. They’re legging pants. I was going to make pants and it was just such a pain, because it was sewing. I do a lot of sewing, but I hate it. I like making armor and painting way more. American Eagle had these cargo capri pants, and I just painted them, and didn’t have to make pants, which is always a bonus in cosplay.

Did you go to any websites to learn how to do all this stuff?
Tori:
We’ve been doing costumes for awhile. This, I went to this artist (Magleno?) who does all these crazy art dolls and has some tutorials. I looked through her site and it was super useful. Now I know what I’m sort’ve supposed to do. She’s on Tumblr and DeviantArt, makes amazing dolls. Mordecai was really just looking at reference for Borderlands. Gearbox is very good about releasing models and concept art. Bloodwing was annoying to get reference for, there was no reference. And the sword was hard to get reference for, I could only find one picture and was like, “All right, I think it looks like this.” It’s actually a little short, his sword is a little longer than mine, but I’m shorter than he is, so it’s fine.

Do you have any tips for someone who is just starting out?
Tori:
Do it. Just do the cosplay. People are so afraid to do cosplay because they see people and are like “Oh my god, that’s amazing, I could never do that.” And it’s like, “Yeah, but I’ve been doing it for two years.” So you can do it. Just do your first costume. And maybe someone will be mean to you, but the rest of the community will be like, “You did an awesome job.” Our first cosplays at a convention were like Sonic and Tails hoodies. We just made something super simple, and they were such a hit. People were like, “Oh my god, this is awesome.” We were like, “Yeah, we just made them in a week, so… we’ll do something more complicated next year.”

 

Congratulations on winning best in show. That was fantastic. What prompted you to choose these two characters, and what are these characters?
Scott Milliken:
This is Maleficent and I am her guardian tree warrior. I’ve been accused of being someone else, I don’t need to say the name. It is wonderful, it just gave us an awesome opportunity to get into mechanics and design her wings and I had to follow suit and keep up with her. I so wanted to do a mechanical prop of some kind. I’ve been doing Halloween at my boss’ house for years, doing awesome makeup, and finally we decided to hit DragonCon.
Sherri Milliken: People have been telling us for years we needed to come and we finally made it. I’m still stunned that this happened our first year.
Scott: It’s our first time at DragonCon. We came down Friday, was our 16th anniversary, so that’s the reason we’ve never come to DragonCon, we’re always on vacation somewhere. I think this might be our vacation from here on out. We’re extremely happy.

Can you talk a little bit about how you actually built your costume?
Scott:
Hers is aluminum L-Channel for the boning. Inside it she has one point of articulation at her elbow right here. It’s basically scissor technology, lever, if you want to call it that. So I used a little bit larger channel on the outside. The middle bars are one size smaller, so they actually articulate inside each other. And the last one is a full size one as well. I got really lucky, a friend was doing a cleanup of an old property that they had, we got an old back brace. We did it with aluminum and pipe foam is what I’m made out of, and pipe foam is down her arm as well, your local big-box retailer. We just threw them in there. I ordered the feathers and we used a lock tight spray contact adhesive to hold it all together. Me and her, held together with contact adhesive. This is the one piece we actually bought, was the horns. I had plans to make them, we just ran out of time. I got really anal about trying to make a super-awesome design. I actually created 5 wing designs and came back to this one. So these had to be bought, the regular horns were sent by her dad from Wisconsin. They are real antlers. Grooved them down, made them fit in the L-Channels, strapped them down. I think you can actually see, if you turn around a little bit Sherri, we lost a feather, you can see where I strapped it down and glued it. Home mechanics, coming together.

Did you actually mold, to make it look like bark?
Scott:
No, it’s pipe foam that I tore into shreds. She tore about half of them. Tore them into shreds and glued them backside down. It just gave me great texture. I took a roller and rolled it, so I got all the highlights and the bark stayed down. Mine is incredibly simple, not heavy-duty like her wings, but I just got lucky that the stilts were so great. They’re actual drywall stilts that I bought, and I altered the calf cuff. I put a leather cuff with some padding instead of a hard metal cuff, which allows me to flex and move. I got all kinds of movement I never expected out of them. I actually had to run, I was watching from the opposite side of the stage. When they said we won, we obviously weren’t expecting it. She went up that side, I ran all the way around. The people in the back were afraid, they were like “Oh my god.” I was sprinting. On stilts.

And the clothing that you’re wearing? The gloves, anything else?
Scott:
I had a few things I would love not to be, you know obviously showing that they’re store-bought, but I have an Under Armour shirt on, that I glued everything to. The chest is made out of L200 foam, courtesy of Roy’s suggestions, he said, “Buy this foam.” And then, I got a pair of mossy oak overalls underneath with my stuff glued to it. This is my first foam face. I actually failed twice. Thursday night, Friday morning, start of DragonCon, it came out of my homemade Latex oven, and it works. I’d like to make it better, but it worked. I actually had a cast of my head, I cast it out of clay, sealed it with dragon skin as my detailed layer, and then baked it. So I did a lot of things that you’re not supposed to do with foam, but it came out, so I can’t complain.

How long did it take you to make both of these costumes?
Scott:
Her total design from beginning to end was about 2 months, but that’s with 4 versions that didn’t work. Mine wasn’t terrible, mine was probably about 2 weeks, in between making hers. This is not what I do for a living, I have a full-time job as a voltage electrician, so I was working, as all my workmates know, I was working at night after work for the last about 2 months. Every moment I had, I was kind’ve crafting and making.

For those who are thinking of cosplaying, thinking of joining this show, what tips would you have for them?
Scott:
I would say, don’t hold back. Go full bore, choose something, and you never know. We did not expect to win. We didn’t even register for the contest until today. We were so far behind getting to DragonCon, we didn’t rent a room, driving back and forth every day. If you want to come and have fun, and you’re an artist, this is the place to be. Everybody here is wild and zany, you won’t be out of place. Try something and come, you can’t lose.

 

What was the motivation behind the costume?
Victor:
So, I built a Mandalorian merc, which is like a version of Boba Fett. Boba Fett’s from the Mandalorians on Cartoon Network, and you can create a bunch of them. So I spent a lot of time making my costume last year, and she said, “Well, next costume you make, you gotta make me one.”
Julie: I wanted my choice.
Victor: I’m thinking, “Oh, ok, maybe like some foam, whatever, maybe Wonder Woman.” She’s like, “No, I don’t want any of those slutty bitches. I don’t want to do any of that. If I’m going to do it, I want to do Metroid.” “Oh my god, that’s like the Holy Grail of female cosplay… Alright, we’ll do it.” So we fricking put it together.
Julie: These are hamster balls, for my shoulders.

Yes, so going through all the different things, these are large hamster balls?
With Worbla.
Victor: Worbla is a thermoplastic. So you take foam, like this, and you can take Worbla with a heat gun and you can form any shape you want, and then it will seal in that shape. People with all this super detailed, intricate armor? It’s all Worbla. And then a bunch of $5 LED light packs on Amazon, about $100 of foam. You can google cosplay foam, it’s the first thing that comes up. Motorcycle helmet, that we put automotive Bondo on, so that it would seal here, so you wouldn’t be able to see into the helmet. We kept the face shield, but then I cut it. We used military helmet padding. And just more LEDs.
Julie: These are PVC pipes.
Victor: Yeah, PVC pipes. That was, we took an oil filter, spray painted it chrome, and then threaded the LEDs through it. And then, just more foam and green.

So there’s battery packs attached to each of these different units, right?
Victor:
Yeah, tucked in there, and hidden around, yeah. These are Iron Man boots, or rather, these are Star Wars boots. And this is a gold gymnastics leotard. I’m not good enough to make abs, like an ab plate, and make it look good, so I was like, “Let’s just do it.”
Julie: I tried to lose weight, you know, went on a diet, to give it those abs. I didn’t do very well.

Are you wearing a full black…?
Julie:
Yeah, that’s a morph suit.

Ok, so black morph suit…
Victor:
$20, Ebay. That’s the reason we like cosplay. It’s creative problem solving. You can’t go to a store and say, “Uh, Home Depot, help me build a storm trooper.”

Did you look on any forums?
Victor:
Replica prop forum. (therpf.com) It will show you, people on there make anything from Jedi to Starship Troopers to Iron Man, anything. Anything you can see in a film, there’s something on there to teach you how to make it. Also, the Mandalorian Mercs and various Star Wars websites, because it’s all the same technique, just different styles. And then, Pixel Ninja (pixelninja.se) is a girl in Sweden who inspired us, we modeled the suit after her suit. So we took inspiration from there.
Julie: I just assisted, and then (something something). For accuracy.
Victor: There’s the Pixel Ninja suit. We liked that style, but we wanted to grunge it up with, there’s her other suit. We just took inspiration from that, we made a WiP, a work in progress website to get feedback, tips and tricks, you know, “How do we keep hamster balls in place, on her shoulders, so they don’t wobble?

What was the tip for that?
Victor:
I made a harness, so under here, you can kind’ve see, there’s like elastic bands, that buckle in place. It loops like this, goes down and under, comes back up around.
Julie: We tried a couple ways first, it was cutting off the circulation.
Victor: What are ya’ll out here for?

Reporting and enjoying the fun. Where did you get those straps?
Victor:
1-inch strap from Joann’s, then they sell the buckles, and used a rivet gun to rivet them in place.

And did you make your own costume as well?
Victor:
Yeah, yeah. TrueSpec flight suit, TrueSpec boots. Most of the stuff was from, gbfans.com, has a bunch of how-to guides. Basically, start googling, how do I build a Ghostbusters backpack. Once you pull the trigger and get the flight suit, get the patch, elbow pads from Amazon, then you’re like, “Well shit, I gotta finish the whole thing.”

How long did that take you to make?
Victor:
This probably, I don’t know, 3 weeks? Hers was probably a month.
Julie: But not the helmet.
Victor: The helmet alone took a month in itself.
Julie: We had just had a baby, though.
Victor: I’d never done anything like that before. So I was having to learn as I go. If I had to do it again, I could probably knock it out in 2 weeks.