Chick-on-a-Stick: The Tutorial

I'm pretty excited. Can ya tell?
I’m pretty excited. Can ya tell?

I’ve been wanting a dressmaker’s mannequin for a while now. I kept putting it off, instead having my boyfriend model things for me so I could make alterations, but he finally got tired of being stuck with pins and when it came time to do very body specific garments, like dresses, I had to resort to trying to tailor things while wearing them. (It’s even more difficult than it sounds).  So I started shopping and soon realized that a mannequin was out of this broke girl’s budget. The best deal I could find on one was on Amazon for about $89 (because what can’t you find on Amazon) but most models seemed to run between $230-$300. Ouch! I told myself I’d save up for one, but that money always went to materials and fabric and with my birthday and Christmas after convention season there was no way I would be able to afford one in time. I had exhausted all my ideas.

That was until I heard of a brilliant solution. I was attending an advanced props and costume making panel at MomoCon this past year just trying to keep up with all the different kinds of resins and mold making materials when they mentioned a way to make your own sewing mannequin. And it’s cheap!

Brenna's a little excited too.
Brenna’s a little excited too.

A Chick on a Stick, or Duct Tape Dummy, is a great way to have a model to make alterations without busting your budget and it’s so easy.

You will need:

  • An old shirt
  • a roll or two of heavy duty duct tape
  • a friend
  • (Optional) PVC Pipe for a stand

Making a stand was something I really needed and I had to be particular so I could hem the length of my dress correctly. Originally I had planned to make the stand out of wood, but luckily I had the good sense to call my boyfriend’s dad in to help me on the project. He immediately suggested using PVC Pipe instead and I have to say it made the process so much easier. We used ¼ inch pipe so that it would be rigid enough to support the torso and costume pieces yet still very lightweight. Here’s the best part though. All you need to do to connect the pipes is buy the proper connector pieces and slide them together like tinker toys. That’s it!

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You may notice that I had to prop up part of it. Be sure to take care and level it when gluing your base. Also the connectors stick out a little more than the pipe pieces. You can some furniture foot pads to even it out. Once again I’m on a deadline soI’ll have to make due for now.

Now of course there is more to properly putting the stand together, but really not much more. First we decided on the configuration we wanted for the base and cut four equal pieces of pipe and slid them into the connectors for the legs, we then cut two small pieces to connect the legs to the main base that will hold the vertical pipe. After all that and sliding in the vertical pole we measured the height so that it came up to my shoulders. we capped it with another connector and attached two horizontal pieces to serve as shoulders for the torso to rest on. An optional step is while you are assembling it to prime the pipes and use PVC cement to glue the pieces together. This makes the whole thing more stable and the pipes won’t slip around under the weight while your working, but if you’re concerned about space you can skip this step and assemble the stand when you need it and it makes the storing it much easier. Even if you decide to cement your stand together it takes about 10 seconds to dry and the entire project of cutting and assembling the stand took about 30 minutes and everything cost just under $20. Good deal if you ask me.IMG_0419  

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The purple stuff is the primer we used to cement the pipe together. It dries instantly so it won’t get on the costume and we’re planning on spray painting it black to make it look a little nicer, but right now it works and that’s all that matters to me.

So, now that we’ve assemble the stand for our dummy we get to do the fun part. Slip on an old T-shirt that you don’t want anymore (cause you’re not getting it back) and have a friend start encasing you in duct tape. Pretty simple but it does take a while. You want to be sure that the entire shirt and torso is shaped correctly, (and is snug) and you want several layers so that it stays stiff and keeps it shape. Also be sure to use the good stiff tape that comes in the huge rolls (you’ll use it). I started off trying the cheaper stuff and it just didn’t work as well.

I was in my duct tape suit for about 3 hours (however I did have to send someone out for more duct tape halfway through because we ran out) but you could easily finish this up in an hour and half. It’s also a good idea to keep a water bottle handy. While it’s not uncomfortable to be wrapped in tape, it doesn’t breath so you will sweat.

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Once you feel you have enough layers, IMG_0422have your friend cut it up the back so you can slide it on and off like a backwards vest. Then you can slip the torso on to your  stand and duct tape it back together. If you take it off and feel that it’s not stiff enough or has lost its shape, just put it back on and apply a few more layers.  

So for under $30 and a total of an afternoon’s worth of work, I am finally able to start altering my dress to size, but right now that’s an adventure for another day.


35 days to go!

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Armoring Up: Why We Cosplay

“Anyone can and should cosplay for any reason whatsoever”

                                                              – Bill Duran, Punished Props

A few posts ago, while introducing the video of the MomoCon Craftsmanship Costume Contest, I mentioned to listen out for this quote. I loved what was said about why we cosplay and it got me thinking. I am still very new to cosplaying. I’ve been working on various costumes for a little over a year and have only been to two Cons. So I’m newb and I’m still exploring my newb reasons for being a newb cosplayer.

But first a brief story.

I’m sure as most of you know, getting hotel rooms for Con can be cut throat and expensive, so in order to simplify things my boyfriend and I stay outside the city with family and ride public transit into the city. Yes in full costume, props and usually a wooden staff almost as tall as I am, I ride the train for thirty minutes with civilians. And no one ever gives me a second glance…or at least that’s what it feels like.

So while waiting for the train one of these times, the following happened:

Me:(notice people staring at me dressed as one of the X-Men)

Boyfriend: You’re getting some looks…

Me: Well, looking is free. (I hold my head a little higher and walk off)

So it may not seem like much, but a little more background on me, I’m quiet and shy and when in public I try to go unnoticed. So why did wearing different clothes and some crazy hair change me into a different person? A day or two ago I was self-conscious that my work wasn’t good enough to wear to Con and suddenly I have all this confidence to not even care about people who, if they even knew what cosplay was, would ridicule it. Even when I’m at Con in street clothes I’m nervous about being approached or asking others about their cosplays, whereas when I’m in costume I enjoy and welcome it. Why?

The truthful answer is I don’t know. It’s defiantly a great change, I wish I had that much confidence in myself all the time, but why do I have to pretend to be a different person to do it. It got me thinking. And that’s when I heard this quote. It was used to introduce both costume contests at MomCon. But Parson also mentioned at one point that cosplaying is like “armoring up”.

Ok that makes perfect sense, I’m braver and more confidant because being someone else is my armor. And we chose these other people for a reason. They’re brave heroes that face danger and adversaries (much more dangerous than snickering onlookers in public), or clever villains that intimidate anyone who hears their name. Whether they are self sacrificing or self-serving we relate to these characters. We find something inspiring in them and something to aspire to. So when we’re getting stared at on the subway or being bullied our heroic outer shell deflects it. Our heroes have triumphed over much worse and knowing that gives us the strength to standup for ourselves.

That’s how I understood this reasoning just taking it at face value, but after reflecting on it and myself, I’ve discovered so much more. Yes cosplaying is a hobby for me (a very extensive one) and there are times where having this hobby keeps me sane and gives me something to look forward to. It challenges me creatively and is a gateway for me to learn so many new things and have new experiences. Not only can I show off my art, I get to wear it, be an interactive part of it. Essentially I am part of a culture; a culture of like-minded people, where I am accepted for who I am and I can share my passions with others. It shapes who we are and helps us discover our identity.

I eventually came to this conclusion by thinking of my experiences while riding the train. Since DragonCon is held every Labor Day weekend there are countless events in the city. During that weekend there is usually no less than two major college league football games and a NASCAR race and we all get to share the train. They all wear a varying degree of support of their team. Anything from team colors or a T-shirt or hat to face paint and logos anywhere one would fit. All that team spirit is usually worn with a curious or skeptical look in our direction. I hated being around them until a fellow Con-goer pointed out to me that they’re all just like us. And it’s taken me until now to realize how true that is. We’re all just showing our varying degrees of pride for our cultures and who we are.

So whether you are cosplaying or not just remember, there is no wrong way to do what makes you happy. Anyone can and should do what they love for any reason. I have discovered my reasons for doing something I love and it’s a journey I highly recommend to everyone.

Zelda Armor Part 1: Getting Started

Princess_Zelda_(Twilight_Princess)Ok guys it’s that time of year again. After the inevitable procrastination period, followed by a mild panic attack after realizing just how much time was left until DragonCon, I am back to cosplay preparations. And I’m starting off with the fun stuff.

 I have seen some very impressive Princess Zelda costumes, but the one thing I was adamant about doing, that would make me stand out was my handmade metal armor. I have heard some great advice and seen some wonderful things done with foam, plastic and armor made from a myriad of creative materials, but when I think about it, I really had no choice but to use metal for mine.

Two Reasons:

  1. I’m stubborn. I get an idea in my head and I have to do it. You can’t convince me otherwise because nothing less will do.
  2. As OCD as it sounds, all my other accessories are metal. The metal and crystal tiara I’m using was a gift meant specifically for this costume; in the past year I’ve learned how to make chainmail jewelry, a technique I’m implementing for the belt and to attach the two shoulder pieces. Foam and plastic armor can look fantastic when painted to look like metal…just not when you put it next to actual metal pieces.

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    Zelda tiara

So now that that’s out of the way, on to the main event.

Prior to putting everything together I did a lot of research and searching for supplies and I finally found a website (www.whimsie.com) that sells jewelry grade sheet metal. I was able to order samples and do a few tests to see which color and gauge would suite my needs. For this project I will be using 30 gauge (10 Mill) jewelers bronze as the base and matching 16 gauge wire for the detail.

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After that I started with a paper mock up. A friend of mine found a pattern to use and printed them off the internet. Most armor for cosplay has patterns available for download already. Some are free, some are not, and several are available as 3D models and can be downloaded into imaging software such as Pepakura. I’m not that fancy just yet so I just used a regular printer and paper.IMG_0349

I made several copies (cause it’s always good to have a backup), cut out the pieces and tapped them together using a picture for reference. After confirming that the size was appropriate, I did lots of measurements and calculations to make sure I order the right amount while still staying on budget.IMG_0352   IMG_0351

So with the metal ordered, all that is left to do right now is wait until the materials come in and then we can move on to the next stage of playing with fire to put the costume together.

Only 56 days until Con!

MomoCon Craftsmanship Costume Contest

Check out and get inspired by some fantastic handmade costumes from this years MomoCon’s Craftsmanship Costume Contest hosted by  Dante Brasco (Rufio from Hook, Prince Zuko Avatar: the Last Airbender) and Kathy Lewis of God Save the Queen Fashions. I also love Parson, the Costume Events Director’s pre contest speech. He expresses some great ideas about why we cosplay (but I’ll have some more to say about that later)

So sit back and enjoy some amazing costumes.

And if you enjoyed it, make sure to check out some of the other panels they have posted or check out their website http://www.momocon.com for more info and upcoming events.

Greetings From Me

Hello and Welcome!

Since this is my first post it really only seems polite to introduce myself.  My name is Katy and I have been cosplaying just short of a year now. I know…that makes me a newb, but I think I’ve been doing alright so far and it means I have lots of room for improvement, which I would like to share with you lovely people.

This past weekend was MomoCon in Atlanta (my second Con and time cosplaying ever!) and after 3 days of contests, pictures and panels I have never been more excited to get working on my projects…and trust me, there are a lot of them.

So here I will be sharing all my triumphs and misadventures of trying to make my visions reality, and maybe a few other things that cross my mind. I’ll be trying out and sharing the techniques I learned about at MomoCon, the making of my main project, Princess Zelda, repairing and revamping my Yuna cosplay and maybe even letting you guys in on my newest crazy idea…life-size, moving angel wings!

So what do you say guys? Want to go on an adventure?

a girl's adventures in cosplaying