Allegra’s Cos-Friends - VisibleSpectre and Ongaku88: Kevin and Tracy
I’ll always remember—not verbatim, but paraphrased—the tweet I received on the Friday of New York Comic-Con 2011. It was basically: “Hey, are you still here? I’d love to see your Isabela in person!” from a twitter user named visiblespectre. I’d never spoken to him before, but, always eager to make new friends, I told him to come find me downstairs where I was spending time with some Assassin’s Creed cosplayer friends.
What ensued was the first of many lengthy conversations with my soon-to-be friends Kevin and Tracy, and their friend who I had actually met at PAX East earlier that year, Smitty. I was really impressed by how intelligent and mature they seemed—I’m so used to meeting very excitable people at cons that it was very refreshing to talk to people who legitimately wanted to talk. In fact, the ultimate goal of taking a picture of my Isabela only came in hindsight when we realized after a very long talk that we had never done just that.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but Kevin and Tracy would, very quickly over the course of the next year, become some of my closest friends—in fact, I would argue, among my dearest friends that I’ve made throughout my lifetime. We have our rituals and habits, most often spent eaten copious amounts of food in the East Village at our favorite dessert places and drinking far too much bubble tea. No really, far too much bubble tea.
Kevin and Tracy had done a bit of cosplay before then; if I remember correctly, Kevin had cosplayed from Black Butler at the very least, and I don’t remember if Tracy had done anything prior to then. But when they shared their plans to do Warden Bethany and Genderbent Merrill with me—I think this conversation took place really early on, possibly still at NYCC—I jumped on the idea encouragingly because seriously? Manrill? Fuck yes. And, as always, I offered to help, and we did spend many an afternoon chatting over bubble tea about where to buy fabric or body paint or how to handle x or y section of this costume.
Not that they needed too much help, frankly. I’m always thrilled to see how they tackle the problems they face. There’s something so delightful about seeing someone work on a specific kind of costume piece for the first time—a jacket, a bodice—hearing them talk it through and finally seeing the finished piece. As Kevin and Tracy can attest (and just about anyone else I’m friends with), I always run up to them when I see their completed cosplays at conventions and immediately start complimenting how they handled the trickier sections. I once actually got on my knees in front of Tracy (*wink*) to stare at the way she handled Anora’s incredibly non-intuitive bodice. And then the cycle starts again, and they share their new plans over bubble tea and I start bouncing up and down at the opportunity to watch their work unfold.
But what I always appreciate about spending time with Kevin and Tracy is and will always be the conversations. I don’t think there’s ever been a dull moment, awkward pause, or tense instance between us. This is a friendship, I am incredibly proud to say, that was born on mutual respect for each other’s insights and intelligence. And I’ve never felt like a third wheel spending time with them either, even though that seems unlikely when you’re the third person spending time with a couple who has been together for over a decade. But they are just that respectful, just that considerate. They are, to me, just about the epitome of Good Peoples.
As I think about leaving New York for Seattle and all the people I’m leaving behind, I think two of the people outside of my longtime friends and family that I most regret leaving behind are Kevin and Tracy. Their friendship is stabilizing, their support is endless. I’ve never regretted a single moment that we’ve spent gorging ourselves on amazing food and talking about musical theatre and video games, about problems and hurdles, about life and the universe and everything. I know I’m fortunate as a convention-goer that I have the ability to see my friends every few months at this or that convention, but it’s going to be really painful to not get that text every once in a while that they’re going to be in the city that weekend so am I down for some bubble tea?
The answer is and will always be yes, I am down for some bubble tea with Kevin and Tracy, no matter where we are in the country and in life. I’m impossibly grateful to have friends who I know, even after only a year of friendship, will stand by me. And I will stand by them.
Allegra’s Cos-Friends - Hemisphere: Beth
(main tumblr - cosplay tumblr - art tumblr)
There’s a lot you should know about Beth, other than the fact that her name is Bethany and that she’s a Bethany cosplayer but also a Templar cosplayer and that this should hurt your head a bit.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Beth end of last year/beginning of this year, partially through occasional tweet conversations, but mostly through G+ Productivity Chats with our friend Jessie. I was working on Trish at the time, and later the Corsair, so I tended to spend a lot of time with Beth, at first in a group, then in a smaller group, and then privately, working on costumes because damn it I needed someone to talk to while painting vinyl and sewing cord onto coats.
Beth, as it turns out, is a fantastic person. I could talk to you about the reasons why she’s so incredible, and how easily she became one of my best friends. I could explain why we call each other Space Wife, which really just can be summarized with this quote: “It’s okay, the Mass Effect Kink Meme can just ship us instead!” I could tell you about caramelized bananas and $75 toast (not literally), exhaustedly sharing bottles of Gaviscon, our insistence on finding LimeCoco drinks (I swear she’s the only one who truly indulges me), and all the little minutae of what makes her so much fun to be around and so important to me.
But I’m on a mission! And my mission is to tell you exactly how wonderful of an artist and cosplayer she is, and how much I respect her for it.
Beth is, like me, an incredibly detailed-oriented person, so we both get each other’s incessant need to make things perfect while still being able to go: “Hey. It looks great. Stop that.” The hard work and determination that she puts into her work absolutely shows. Whether it’s putting the effort into making real chain mail for her Bethany (which I’ll never get over), the painstaking amount of time she put into mocking up her armor and experimenting with different materials and techniques, her ridiculous hand-dremeling techniques (dat sword on the chestplate, guys), her leatherwork on the Space Wife pouches—and how ridiculously well she made the Omega logo on Aria’s jacket. I don’t know how much time she spent sanding bondo or screwing things together (you should see her bag of Chicago screws), or consulting me on fabric choices for the skirts, or meticulously sewing said skirts together, properly, despite how much she threatened me with glue as a “legitimate way of assembling fabric pieces” (I cried, and told her I’d sew armor). Her dedication to research, experimentation, construction, craftsmanship, the little touches and details that makes it all look more real…. As I said, it shows in both her progress shots and the final product.
And she is an artist, guys. It all hides on her art tumblr and I’m always needling her to share more of it, or at least send me her sketches instead of trashing them pls, but she is truly talented. I admittedly always feel self-conscious talking about art in general because my ability to critique and comment on things that aren’t by Leonardo da Vinci tend to fall in the less than intellectual scale of me either not really liking it or going “hurr hurr pretty.” (This is kind of a lie since I’ve done a fair amount of analysis and art history amidst my French, Italian, and scenic design studies, but holds true in most cases of me looking at art outside of a classroom setting) Her work does tend to make me melt into a happy puddle of “hurr hurr pretty,” though, for reasons I wish I were articulate enough to explain. It’s just … the way her attention to detail shows itself here as well, her style in and of itself, the consideration she puts into the choices she makes with color, shading, and … other things that I’m honestly too flustered to explain. I don’t know. She gets it right. I Can’t Words Right Now.
So I hope you guys love Bethany’s work, because I sure as hell do. I’m just going to keep flailing in this corner, quietly, because I’m honestly very shy about when I go full-on fangirl mode—I prefer to analyze craftsmanship and offer concrete feedback rather than blindly gush about how good things are, but here I am feeling like I’m just fangirling. Says something about how good she is, I think.
Allegra’s Cos-Friends - Peabody Tailoring: Aziza and Cae
(Facebook - Aziza’s Tumblr - Cae’s Tumblr)
I first “met” Aziza and Cae about a year ago. I had just posted pictures of my Izzy cosplay from PAX East 2011 to the Dragon Age LJ (hey guys, remember LJ?), when I received a comment from Cae that was, incredibly paraphrased: “Hey! We’re working on an Isabela costume! We should talk about things!” Saying: “Okay!” and adding them as friends was probably one of my better, albeit seemingly inconsequential decisions, not only as a newly minted cosplayer, but also as someone who had barely graduated from college and who didn’t have as quite many friends left in NYC as she had hoped.
You see, as it turns out that they were also based out of NYC, which naturally led to dinners and gaming nights and cosplay sessions and friendship. “Friendship.” Peabody Tailoring, as they are known, is named after the “best” Dragon Age II PC ever, Mr. Peabody Hawke. No, seriously. The best. Ever. He’s so beautiful. “Beautiful.”
Cae, the seamstress of the duo, is phenomenal—have you seen her corset work? Damn. I continue to be impressed by the talent she exhibits every time she makes a costume (and she always makes two in one, so double the growth per project). She considers Isabela to be her first full costume, so given how beautifully it turned out, there’s really nowhere to go but up! Cae is also the one who sat down with me when I started the Smuggler and gave me tips on how to get started, because prior to the Smuggler I honestly had no idea of how to make clothing. She is definitely on the (short) list of people who I will unquestioningly turn to if I’m dealing with tricky sewing BS.
Aziza is the propmaker, but has done her fair share of fabric work as well—her Balthier was a solo project, and she’ll do some sewing and detailing to help ease some of the slack for Cae (that Mirania skirt I think was entirely her?). So while Aziza is definitely more of a jack of all trades than she’ll let on, she is frankly gifted when it comes to props. Seriously let’s talk about those props. I was impressed enough by Sebastian’s bow when I first saw it (seriously, Dat Bow), but a year later, she made a damn glass sword and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. A GLASS SWORD. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT FOR A SECOND.
Besides just being proud to call these two my friends (“friends”), I highly recommend that you ask them for tips—or, if commissions are open right now and you want a corset, Cae is really awesome at this shit.
While I always knew that Aziza and Cae were awesome, it was really around September or so that I came to really appreciate how awesome they are. Without going into too much detail, I had a really horrible time last autumn, which, coincidentally, is when I did the bulk of the work on the Smuggler. Naturally, Aziza and Cae did what they do best: they invited me over for cheesecake brownies, Heavy Rain (JAY-SON), and some good old fashioned cosplay work, because we couldn’t forget NYCC looming in the distance. I still had a few more bumps to go over before I got out of that nasty slump, but that kind of silliness, derpery, and “normalcy” is exactly what I needed.
We all have friends that we turn to at different times. When I need to be very, very silly—be it because I need to forget something or just because it’s Tuesday—I know that I can turn to Aziza and Cae. “turn” “to” “Aziza” “and” “Cae”……..
Awesome Cosplay Friends Project
True story, Tumblr: I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. It’s been about cosplay, self-esteem, the way people treat each other, how cosplayers are viewed by society (geek and at large), and in general the future and all sorts of good things. And it’s been getting me down.
I was texting a friend yesterday with a bit of griping, and I realized: I think the most important thing to do when you’re feeling like shit about yourself is to turn that negativity into something positive. If I’m having cosplay related issues and worrying about how I and my peers are seen as cosplayers, by cosplayers, and by geekdom, then it was high time I go back to my original goal of making posts dedicated to all of my amazing cosplayer friends.
Because when you’re feeling like shit, the best thing you can do is remind other people that you love them.
There are going to be a bunch of those in coming weeks/months future, and I do mean A BUNCH. I already have one set to go shortly and will hopefully have another one by the beginning of next week once I finalize the photo selection. There are people who know I’m making sets of them, and people who don’t; people who will get featured now, and people who I’ll have to feature when costumes I know they’re finishing up will be done. The goal is to show off how amazing these people are—and also to give you guys new amazing cosplayers to follow, if you aren’t following them already!
Allegra’s Cos-Friends - Aicosu: Sheila and Sylar
(facebook - tumblr - site)
Do I need to tell you about Aicosu? Probably not; there probably isn’t much that I can tell you that you don’t already know! I’m sure you already know how talented they are (fact), and I’m sure you also know how much they love each other (also fact). Really, all I can share is a story.
(Aside: it was surprisingly difficult to pick pictures for them since there are so many options! I had a hard time finalizing the set ;__;)
The first time I met Sheila and Sylar was in front of the BioWare Base at SDCC 2011, probably about 4 hours before the actual competition. I was introduced to them through our Varric, Melissa, who had previously met them at PCC. Neither of the three of them had SDCC badges—they had only come to do the contest (and invited me to join about a month before the con), since the BW Base was outside of the actual con center. Apparently Sylar saw me walking towards them and said to Sheila and Mel: “God, I wish that were our Isabela,” to which Melissa responded: “That is our Isabela!” I think that’s still my favorite story XDD
With the three of them (and Mel’s boyfriend Terry, who was our bag carrier and photographer), I had what was most certainly at the time (and probably still is) one of the greatest weekends of my life. Between the contest, meeting all sorts of amazing people at said contest (many of whom will be featured here over time!), going to IHOP at like 1 AM, derping around Balboa Park in costume, getting to really chat with Dave (Gaider) for what was probably about an hour, but in Sheila time was maybe 6 or 7 hours at this point…. But beyond that, we had maybe … what, 36 hours together? In that time, I really got to know and love them as people, so that by 1 AM when my friend picked me up to head back to where we were staying (I had a 5 AM flight the next day), I felt like I was leaving old friends behind. I don’t think I had ever hugged someone I had known for such a short of amount of time quite as hard as I did when I hugged them goodbye.
Now if you had told me that I’d have to wait over a year to see them both again, I would have thrown a fit. I’ve at least had Sheila with me in person (sewing last-minute details onto the Smuggler at 5 AM while singing showtunes, fa la la la REMEMBER, at NYCC; taking adorable pictures, even if it was sometimes with the wrong pirate at PAX East), and gotten to virtually hang out with Sylar as well (playing a lot of AC:B multiplayer, spoiler alert Sylar is a poison spammer the little CHEATER; the odd, impromptu phone call, including one the other night while I was waiting for my takeout to show up)…. But it’s not the same. Somehow, hanging out with both of them, bantering, giggling, and lots and lots of derping—that’s a gift, honestly.
I think that concept—how much my cosplayer friends mean to me, both artistically and personally—should be the theme to all of these little featurettes. Or, at least, that’s the hope. I wouldn’t be telling you about them otherwise :)
A while ago I said I wanted to do a cosplay spotlight on all my amazing cosplayer friends, only I got distracted by ME3 and then by finishing up the Corsair. Well I can’t sew while eating nachos, but I can type!
The first person I want to show off is the woman to whom I owe so much and will never be done repaying: the marvelous Melissa, aka virusq.
The first time I saw Mel’s Varric, it was back when fandom was still on LJ (ahaha) right after Phoenix Comic-Con. Female figure be damned (and damn, that was the best, albeit painful, binding I have ever seen, oh my god), she embraced that cosplay in such a beautiful way, so that you could see Varric in the way she set her jaw, the way she held Bianca (and oh, Bianca), the way she spoke and laughed (it was all about her mischief)….
She loves Varric (in more ways than one, wiiiiiiink), and you can tell when she cosplays Varric. In fact, I think she helped me be a better Isabela, because I finally had a partner-in-crime, someone I could nudge in the side and snark with and share knowing glances, in situations from “oh man someone said something that can be construed as dirty” to “oh my god those two are so adorable how do we even deal with it.” Because Mel has what I think is most important to cosplay: the love for the character you’re cosplaying—not that you need to act to be a cosplayer, but it meshes so well with my own style of cosplay that it was easy and an absolute pleasure to fall in stride with her.
And … dat Bianca. I want to steal her forever, no matter how heavy she is. And she’s remarkably heavy. Damn, Mel, I’m still in awe of the fact that you’ve carried her around so much!!
Sadly, Mel hasn’t documented a lot of her other cosplay (I’ve included one picture of her Celes in the set above), but if she’s tackled it with the same love with which she’s tackled Varric, then I’m bound to love it as well.
Mel, whoever you choose to cosplay next, be it Sigrun, EDI, Shepard, or that damned Trickster that I know you started gdi, I am eagerly waiting to see how it’ll turn out. But more importantly, I’m so excited to see you again at SDCC!!!!
With love from Isabela, to the only Varric she’ll ever love <3
Allegra’s Cos-Friends: An Introduction
As I was commuting home from work today, I found myself thinking about today’s Knickerweasel’s Podcast—more specifically, their discussion of fandom, internet anonymity, and fan-shaming. Part of the conversation centered on fandom as a theoretical safe space where individuals feel empowered by the relative anonymity of an online handle to speak their minds. While it sometimes dissolves into ship wars, bashing, hating, and all other sorts of unpleasant things that stir up on the internet, it’s still a positive thing to feel that level of empowerment as fans and as fan-artists (artist in the broad sense of the word, not merely limited to fanart) to share our thoughts and our works, regardless of the level of anonymity that we use for those purposes. The one thing they only mentioned in passing by mentioning my own work, but that I feel occupies an enormous grey space as far as fanonymity (a word I totally just portmanteau’d) goes is cosplay.
As cosplayers, we’re ultimately judged not only by our artistic abilities (our craftsmanship as builders, or the costume’s artistic merit alone if we bought a costume), but how we wear it. We may hide behind a username just as everyone else does, but our body is the canvas for our love and appreciation of a character/series. Regardless of whether we’re wearing a full mask or no pants, we are, literally and/or figuratively, incredibly exposed. It’s an intimidating medium to get into sometimes, which is why you see so many people balk at the idea of cosplay not necessarily due to cost or lack of artistry, but because the cosplayer feels (not is, but feels) unattractive in some way and doesn’t want to open themselves to scrutiny. It’s hard. I still struggle with it sometimes.
And that’s why I’m going to be dedicating posts to all of the cosplayers that I admire.
You’ll notice that every cosplayer I’m going to mention is someone that I consider a friend. That’s partially because I go out of my way to talk to cosplayers at conventions and get to know them personally, but mainly because who we are is inevitably a part of our costumes. To be a good cosplayer, I think you also need to be a good person—not good in a moral sense since morality is such a subjective concept, but good in the sense of being passionate, driven, confident, dedicated, kind, and fun in their own unique way. My cosplayer friends—my Cos-Friends—are all exactly that. And whether you’ve seen a picture of them on your dashboard or not, I want to honor how amazing and talented and wonderful they are, and how grateful I am for having met them, worked with them, or even just chatted with them online. I must be unnaturally lucky for knowing them.
I’m not going to start this now because I want to give each post the time and love it deserves, and if I don’t turn on my 360 and kill some Reapers RIGHT FUCKING NOW I’m going to explode. But over the next I-don’t-even-know-how-long-because-I’ll-continue-to-meet-amazing-people, you’re going to see posts dedicated to my wonderful cosplayer friends. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.