Saturday, August 25, 2012

Star Wars Celebration VI: Thursday Favs

Thursday was a great, leisurely day to stroll through the enormous vendor room at SWC and check out the art and exhibits that are sure to be crowded later. Not too many costumes around, but here are my favorites of the ones we did see:


Two Chewies:

I like that she gives you reference for just how tall he is.

There were several sexy Ewoks running around, too, although this girl's version was my favorite:

Isn't she adorable? And I'm not just saying that because of the orange. :D Check out the baby Ewok backpack!

Now prepare to squee over some epic baby Leia cuteness:


This guy's standard pose is to thrust his pelvis at you repeatedly while squeaking a hamburger squeak toy. It's...disturbing. And hilarious. But mostly disturbing.

Which reminds me: I need to make a list of all the different Storm Trooper mash-ups I've seen. So far this weekend we've seen this guy, several Muppet troopers, an Elvis one, Jack Sparrow (yes, really), and Minnie Mouse. I have no doubt I'll be seeing tons more tomorrow, too.

These guys were super fun and original:

They're police troopers! And they brought magnetic hand-cuffs for photos - talk about a brilliant photo prop. These kids were hilarious; here's the shot when their parents told them to "look scared."

There's a charity auction at the con (benefiting Make-A-Wish) consisting of all modified Clone Trooper or Fett Helmets. The participating artists either painted or remade each helmet entirely, and there are too many jaw-droppingly amazing ones to list. I'll have more photos in my Flickr account, but here's a small sampling:

Like I said: AMAZING. 

If I had to sum up SWC with one photo, this would be a strong contender:

Yeah. It's about like that. Ha!

Awesome Leia:

Awesome Droid:
Every time I see the droids I have to photograph this purple one. Because I love it.

Awesome kid's costume:

There are tons of beautiful backdrops and staging areas for photos scattered around the vendor floor, but this is probably the most impressive:
It's a life-size Rancor! I saw several people picking up the bones and chains scattered around to use as props, like they were fighting him off - or you can just stand inside his hand and look terrified. Really, really cool.

Don't they look great? I wish I could have found these ladies today to get my picture taken with them. (Although happily I did find a few more steampunk characters. My next goal is to find Steampunk Boba on Sunday & get a photo with him. [Hear that, John? I'm lookin' for you!])

Ok, now prepare to be thoroughly creeped out:


That's not a costume, by the way - or if it is no one was wearing it at the time. It's on display at Rancho Obiwan's exhibit, which has tons of amazing things to gawk at, like R2D2 in an afro and a velvet painting of Admiral Ackbar. :D (You can see those in my Flickr account.)

Speaking of things to gawk at, here's one of the lobbies outside the main exhibit hall:

The other side has a giant inflatable Death Star hanging from the ceiling.

Some fabulous armor here:

This little padawan has the most infectious grin:
Plus she had a bedazzled light saber. C'mon. That is AWESOME. 
(And today she asked for *my* photo. Too fun!)

And finally, these kids had the most adorable homemade costumes:

This is kind of epic, you guys. Seriously.

Oh, and I cannot believe how many of you readers have found us so far for pins. We've already run out! I have to get up early tomorrow to make more! Last Celebration I think we had maybe half a dozen fans find us, so color me gobsmacked. I guess you guys just needed a Vader-riding-a-My-Little-Pony as incentive? Ha! Anyway, all that to say; it is SO much fun meeting you guys, so please, if you haven't yet, track us down to say hi!

And stay tuned for photos of Lady Vadore on the con floor, and so much more! But no more rhyming. I mean it.

(In the meantime, you can see the rest of my photos over on Flickr.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Presenting Lady Vadore!

Today's the big day, guys: I'm wearing my completed Vadore costume to Star Wars Celebration!! So please cross your fingers that I don't pass out; between the corset, mask, and my nerves, breathing is slightly more of a challenge than usual. This is also my first real cosplay at a con, so I'm both super excited and super nervous to see how the fans like it.

So without further ado, meet Lady Vadore:

And to reward you all for waiting so patiently for her big reveal, I'm now going to inundate you with pictures. John and I spent a few hours Sunday night in our front room working on the best poses, so I have lots to choose from! We didn't have the best light, but considering they're night shots I think they came out ok:

The helmet is most impressive from the side:

The copper swirls started as a joke, since I thought it would be hilarious to somehow add metal Leia buns to the side of the helmet. I experimented with rounded brass mesh and having my actual hair inside them before settling on a more subtle approach.

The chest emblems and chains came from a Epbot reader last year; she sent me a small box of old jewelry and scraps. See? I *do* use the stuff you guys send me!

When John and I were figuring out poses, we named these two "Jaunty" and "Hero." I think Hero makes me look a bit shorter - an impressive feat, since I'm only five foot to begin with.

Here's a modified Hero and an Extra Jaunty:
It amuses me to name the variations, since there's so little difference. I'm hoping one of you will see me today and yell out which one you want. :D

The jacket is a heavily modified thrift store find. It originally came from Charlotte Russe, so it's extremely lightweight (aka cheap). I changed the collar, added a bustle, sewed the two sides under at an angle, and then added the buttons, trim, belt loops, and epaulettes, which are attached with Velcro so I can remove them for storage and cleaning.

My boots were my luckiest thrift store find; I'm pretty sure they were never worn, and they were only $15! They're a size too big, but when the perfect Vader boots pop up for $15, you don't complain about petty things like sizing. I jazzed them up with an extra leather strap below the ankle, trim, and gear-accented appliques. The wings on top came from ebay, and the gear sigils on the bottom are handmade from this Etsy shop.

My gloves don't show in most pics, so here's a detail shot:
These are my favorite vintage gloves - I wore them both book tours - so I attached the gears with a small stitch (covered by a gem) so I can easily remove them later.

The cane was a late addition which serves two purposes: it helps me maneuver and keep my balance, and it gives me something to pose with. (Plus I've always wanted to make one. Heh.) We've since gone back and brightened up the interior lights, since they sadly didn't show up at all in these photos. (It looks amazing in low light, though.)

I'll be adding a cane tutorial next week, so stay tuned for that.  [Update: Cane tutorial here!]

My lower belt is made from the original cowl of the plastic Vader helmet. I noticed the curve fit my waist nicely, so I attached it to a canvas belt, weathered it, added those gorgeous gears from Sharyn, and finished it off with a leather hanger for my lightsaber made from an old belt:

The skirt is another thrift store find, a heavy canvas originally from Anne Taylor. The waist was way too high, so I cut off the entire waistband, serged the edge, and lowered the front pockets.

My lightsaber is made from an old flashlight. If you missed it, you can see that tutorial here.

Now here's my favorite part of the whole costume:

This belt buckle is not what it seems.

It's actually a vintage makeup compact that we made into a buckle - and it's removable:

The buckle/compact is attached with extremely powerful magnets. (There's a smaller, functional buckle below it holding up the belt.)

I was determined to make it removable, so I could do this:

Inside the compact are my custom calling cards. This way if anyone at the con wants more information on my costume, I can pop off my buckle and offer them a card.

The compact has two compartments: the top only holds a few cards, but I can fit 10 or so in the lower half, which opens with a spring-loaded clasp.

More details:

I made my feather epaulettes using the same faux leather as my helmet cowl, but I aged it with copper and gold glazes. I'm tempted to do the same to the helmet. Thoughts?

Mask and goggles. These are separate pieces, so getting everything lined up on my face takes a little finagling.

The goggles are vintage welder's goggles, and the only adjustments I made was to trim them in copper, make a new leather nose piece, and replace the dark lenses with a few layers of iridescent cellophane. (I ironed it to get that neat bubbly texture.) I can actually see through them pretty well, but you can't see my eyes at all.

Gratuitous cleavage shot:
I've never had cleavage in my life, by the way, and it's pretty darned disconcerting to see myself with some here. I can't take credit for any of it, of course; that's all corset and straps and mega-push-up appliances. I think the only thing we didn't use was duct tape. Ha!

The corset is my first real corset, and it's surprisingly heavy, with tons of steel boning inside. I snagged it on clearance from Corset Story for a measly $30 + shipping; it was the very last one, and just happened to be my size. I can't tell you how much I love that pop of emerald green among all the black, gold, and copper. (And John apparently loves squeezing the life out of me while lacing it up; I've already told him he's not making it this tight for the actual con!)

Ok, one final full-body shot, just so I don't leave you with a giant picture of my boobs:

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to tally up our expenses on the whole outfit, minus the cane & lighsaber. This is what I came up with:

Corset: 43
Plastic Vader mask & helmet: 30
vintage welder's goggles: 50
boots: 15
jacket & skirt: $9
appliques: 15
trims, buttons, feathers, gemstones, etc: 50
copper piping: 10
faux leather: 15
vintage compact: 3
LEDs: 20

Total: $260

I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but I estimated high on the trim, so I don't think I'm too far off with that estimate. Not bad, considering it's a project we've been working on since May.

And now finally finally, here I am dancing with my cane, since after a few hours things got a little punchy at our makeshift photo shoot:

"Hello, my baby, hello, my honey, hello, my rag time gaaaal!"

I'm hoping to get some fun shots at SWC today, since there are lots of beautiful back drops and photo areas scattered around the convention floor.

I'm also planning on wearing this at Dragon*Con, though only for one or two nights, and only for a few hours at a time. If you'd like to see me in it in person - and you're not at SWC today - then look for me at the Time Traveler's Ball!

I hope you guys enjoyed, and that Lady Vadore was worth the wait. Next stay tuned for plenty of SWC photos!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mailbag: Dragon*Con Survival Tips!

Callie writes, 

Hi Jen,
I was just reading your post "What Should I See At Walt Disney World," and thinking "Man, I wish Jen would write something like this for DragonCon." A few friends and I are going for the first time this year, and even though I've been going through everything I can find about it online, it's all a bit overwhelming. I've really enjoyed reading your DC recap posts, and I would love to hear any suggestions you have for first-timers."

I've been asked for convention tips before, so this is another great FAQ whose time has come. I started going to Star Trek cons back in middle school, when my folks would drop me and my friend Chris off at the local Hilton to mingle with "our people." We'd gawk in the vendor room, queue up for John De Lancie's autograph, take a class in the physics of warp drive - you know, the usual.

Those were tiny cons, though, with attendees numbering in the hundreds instead of the thousands. Larger cons require a LOT more strategy and preparation, and I think Dragon*Con is second only to San Diego Comic Con for crowds here in the U.S. It takes up an entire city block, with attendance pushing toward 50,000. It's madness. Beautiful, geeky madness.

 The parade

The Marriot lobby, where all the best cosplayers come out to play (via)

 So, all that in mind, here are a few tips:

- Prioritize & Plan Ahead

D*C panels are spread out over 5 different hotels, and running from hotel to hotel in the 90+ degree heat alongside a billion other nerds will wear you out FAST. Map out where your can't-miss panels are ahead of time (D*C has a fantastic free app for this, or you can download the pocket program), and decide what's worth hiking through the elements for.

The good news is most Star Trek stuff happens in one hotel, most Star Wars stuff another, etc., so if you're only interested in, say, Steampunk, then you won't have to travel around nearly as much. These areas of interest are called "tracks," and everything is listed by track in the D*C guides.

Once you have a tentative schedule figured out, watch the Dragon*Con FB page (or app) for updates and cancellations. At the con itself, scheduling changes will be announced online, on the app, and on the D*C programming that airs in all the host hotels.

Also, for you D*C newbies: there are three handy overhead bridges you should know about: One connects the Hilton to the Marriot, another connects the Marriot to the Hyatt, and the final connects the Marriot to the food court in the Peachtree Mall. (The food court is where most of us eat lunch everyday, so that's an important spot to know.) Not only are the bridges air-conditioned, they also let you avoid the giant hill between the Marriot and Hilton, which gets to be a real pain when you're climbing it several times a day.The bridges aren't easy to find - we didn't discover one of them 'til our second year - so if you get lost, just ask someone next to you in the crowd. Odds are, they'll know!

- Think of it as a mini camping trip, and pack accordingly

A backpack is ideal, or you can make do with a large messenger bag. In it, pack the following:

- water bottles
- plenty of snacks that travel well (I like sliced apples and meal bars)
- electronics or reading material for long lines
- deodorant (both a necessity and a courtesy)
- Purell or hand wipes (the Con Crud is real, and odds are you WILL catch it - but don't go down without a fight!)
- grooming necessities (hair brush, chapstick, etc.)
- emergency supplies - from costume repair glue to Tylenol to prescription meds
- extra batteries for cameras and/or cellphones - don't expect to find any outlets to recharge!

-  Think Comfort

Sure, you're dying to wear your new thigh-high platform boots or that rubber Leelo crotch harness, but after a few hours you may be willing to trade a small appendage for some bunny slippers and sweat pants. Be sensible. Bring a change of clothes or footwear, if necessary - even just flip-flops - and remember that no con is fun when you're tired, hungry, and/or in pain. Also keep in mind that frequently your only seating will be on the floor, ladies, so beware certain wardrobe malfunctions. And for my fellow cosplayers: can you get out of your costume by yourself when nature calls? Find out ahead of time. Make a plan, and if necessary, bring a bathroom buddy.

My go-to con attire: comfy boots, hat, & a cross-body bag. (John carries the backpack.) I also wear shorts under my skirt to make sitting on the floor more comfortable.

- Don't Plan on Seeing Too Much!

This is one of the most common pitfalls, and if you're not careful you could spend the entire con frantic and frustrated. Panels have long lines. Everything is crowded. You have to stop to eat and rest sometimes. Not to mention you want to see the vendor rooms, take pictures, have a drink with your friends, and grab that autograph from Felicia Day. So here's my hardcore con-going advice: don't plan to attend more than 3 or 4 panels a day. Yes, seriously. If you plan more, you'll be disappointed - but plan less, and if the odds are in your favor (see what I did there?) maybe you'll squeeze in a bonus panel or two and come out ahead.

Now, that's coming from someone who LOVES taking cosplay pictures, strolling through the vendor room, and gawking in artists' alley. I also enjoy sleep - a lot. If you don't like any of those things, then no doubt you can see more than I can. Still, keep your expectations low, plan your "must-see"s with a few optional "it'd be cool if I got to"s, and go from there.

Another shot of the Marriott lobby, via 
My strategy: stand at that top railing, watch the crowd on the floors below for costumes I want to photograph, and then chase each one down in turn. It's a true photo safari, and the most fun any costume photographer can have. 

- You Gotta Eat...And Sleep!

PRO TIP: Strapped for cash but need something to nosh? Then head to the ConSuite in the Hyatt, rooms 223 & 226. They'll have sodas, snacks, and various food stuffs available - all free - every day of the con. This is one of those hidden gems most con-goers don't know about, so please, use it!

And I know I already mentioned packing snacks, but I can't over-emphasize the importance of having something to eat on you at all times. Our first year at D*C we didn't get a lunch break all four days - we just wolfed down bars and trail mix in line. Your only real down time will be in lines or while waiting for a panel to start, so those are the most efficient times to eat. If you don't eat, you'll get tired, cranky, and start to wonder who thought this stupid convention thing was a good idea in the first place. Trust me, I've been there.

This goes for sleep, too. Hopefully you're not as crabby as me on too-little sleep, but you'll still need to be at 100% to not only get through your day, but to enjoy it as well. (And really, isn't that the whole point??) This year we were lucky enough to snag a host hotel, so I'm planning to sacrifice some panel time for an afternoon nap, because I'm old like that, and also because I want to stay up later for costume shots. That's my priority, so plan out your priorities, let the rest go, and focus on going with the geeky flow to have the best con experience possible.

In fact, that's going to be my final tip:
- Go with the Geeky Flow

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it's not, then you're doing something wrong, and you need to figure out how to make it right! Talk to the people in line with you; it'll make the time zip by, I promise. Stop to listen to a band, or sit down and have a drink. Do what you want to do, not what you feel like you should do to "get your money's worth," or even what your friends want to do just so you're not alone. In fact, go somewhere by yourself sometime - you'll make more friends that way! Dragon*Con is more about the experience of banding together with other real-live humans who share your passions than it is about getting to that next panel, so live a little. Make some memories. And above all, have fun!

So tell me, con vets, what'd I miss? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!