Final Costume Con post

One of the things that I feel important to emphasize is that Costume Con is host to a wide variety of costumers. There are the more casual costumers, who do this as a hobby, and there are the hard-core costumers who have managed to turn a hobby into a career. It seemed to me that the most devoted and dedicated costumers at Costume Con were working within the genre of Historical costuming. This is not to say that they left out whimsy. I consider Steampunk costuming to, technically, be an off-shoot of Historical costuming.

Most of my costuming is done in the vein of fantasy/sci-fi/fandom costuming. As you might recall, my “to make” list mainly includes stuff from films and television shows. This is not to say, however, that I do not love and appreciate the hell out of the historical costumes I saw wandering around at Costume Con.

They were absolutely fantastic! Maggie and I were both inspired to start working on our own era-specific costumes for next year.

After walking around all day in our respective heels Maggie and I decided to take it a bit easy with the last day’s costumes. Good thing, too. Both of us were dealing with some sore legs by the end of Saturday. We decided on Jedi robes for the final day of the con – basically the costume equivalent of walking around in your jammie-jams all day.

Yes, I said jammie-jams.

Unfortunately for me, that meant donning the boots again, but it really wasn’t that bad. Since the heel is wide and the toe of the boot is square, allowing plenty of room for my toes to wiggle, they are actually rather comfortable.

It rained on our way up to the convention that morning. Things looked dreary and we were both still kind of tired from being out until all hours of the morning, but we had music to listen to along the way and we still got there in pretty good time, despite the weather. Since the Jedi robes are pretty much up to anything we could throw at them, we decided to change outside. The major rain had stopped and there was just a light sprinkling going on. There were muddy tracks on the ground where we parked the car, where the rain had washed soil and mulch from the nearby shrubbery but, again, the Jedi clothes are pretty solid. My skirt picked up a little water and dirt, but it just went a good ways towards making my costume look like real, lived-in clothing. Of course, if I had left the robes and skirt alone after wearing them to Polaris last year, they would have looked a whole lot more lived in! They got positively caked with pale gray mud from the parking lot at that con.

I ended up wearing two of the obi-style belts (No, they’re not called obi belts because of Obi Wan Kenobi. I use that term because they look like the obi belts traditionally worn with kimonos which are, let’s face it, where the costume designer for Star Wars got the idea). Anyway, the belts, when used together (one tied on to fasten in the front and the other tied over top of it to fasten in the back) acted as a kind of back brace. This was helpful, as I no longer had the support from the corset I wore the day before.

As soon as the belts were straightened and lightsabers were attached we headed in to the main lobby. My first goal was to grab some breakfast from the con suite. This was actually the first con where we popped into the con suite at all, and we ended up making pretty good use of it. We got waylaid on our way to the room, however, by a fellow con attendee who was terribly excited to see Jedi wandering about. I saw her run from one side of the lobby to the other, hopping around chairs and tables, shouting “Wait! Can I take your picture?!”

Truth be told, Maggie and I kind of figure we’ll be asked to stop for pictures when wearing our Jedi gear. The pattern we used is incredibly film accurate and, since the costumes are so comfortable (and probably one of the favorite things I’ve made) we like to walk around in them. They billow quite nicely when you walk down the hall. 😀

Interestingly enough, shortly after I bought the Jedi pattern I stopped seeing them in the Simplicity catalog at JoAnn’s. The fairly accurate Princess Leia costumes were also missing. I couldn’t figure out why, for the life of me, these patterns would be pulled. After all, Star Wars is a pretty popular category for costumers in general. I mean, honestly…who doesn’t want to be a Jedi? Incedentally, we didn’t really see a whole lot of Jedi until that Sunday. I think there were five total, including us. One of my favorites was this girl here, who was making the costume worn by the Jedi Librarian at the Jedi Archives. She is doing all of the embroidery by hand! This is actually one of the costumes I want to make.
Well, we found out Sunday night why the patterns were pulled. Apparently, they were so close to the actual costume patterns from the films that Lucasfilm objected and they had to be pulled. How did we learn this? One of the guests and panelists for the weekend was a designer from Simplicity, and she gave us the low-down. Maggie and I found it hilarious. We’re constantly asked how we made such accurate costumes and, come to find out, it’s because the designers managed to draft an almost exact copy for us to work off of!

One of the things that was pretty cool to see all weekend was the random sewing that went on in the main lobby of the hotel. Maggie snapped a picture of this woman working on a tabbed corset. Is it sad I can figure out what she’s making when it’s sprawled out on her lap?

We went to more panels on Saturday than we had all weekend. The first was titled “Accessories.” It mainly consisted of two panelists showcasing some of the accessories they have made for costumes. Kind of a show-and-tell panel. It was actually a lot cooler than I just made it sound. The guy who went first had some absolutely fantastic Dr. Who props and insights. One of the coolest things he had was a wonderful scarf that a friend had given him that had clocks all over it. When he held it up it took a moment to recognize that the design was made out of clocks, simply because of the way they were laid out. He explained that his friend had purchased the scarf when they were out traveling. Apparently they saw it and thought “That looks like a Time Lord scarf if ever I saw one.” He also had a little mini die-cast model of a blue police box that was actually older than the show. He could carry around his Tardis in his pocket!

The lady explained how to make superhero boots out of regular shoes and some spandex. Her section of the panel wasn’t actually as interesting as his was, but that was okay because he took up more time. 🙂

One of the events that we were really looking forward too on Sunday was the Future Fashion Show. As I believe I mentioned before – I can’t remember at the moment and I honestly don’t want to take the time to look…bad blogger! – Maggie and I had both submitted designs for it. I was surprised that more people didn’t reserve designs to make for the fashion show and was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had reserved my favorite design. I had titled it “Mech” (not creative, I know, but I actually hate thinking up titles for things most of the time) but the person who sewed the actual costume gave it the title “I always have change.” I honestly didn’t get it at first. It wasn’t until later that I realized the title referred to the use of Canadian two-dollar coins for the buttons of the coat.I was fantastically excited when the costumer walked out on stage. Not only had she created the costume exactly as I had designed it (the costumers were actually allowed and encouraged to re-design pieces of the designs if they so chose), but she had made it in the colors I had described. Well, technically I hadn’t described them – the people who put together the folio had done that, but I had sent in a version of the line drawing with color added, and the colors matched it almost exactly.

I found the woman after the show and asked to take pictures of her in the outfit. Maggie had taken two while she was on stage but took a couple more with the woman standing against the backdrop in the green room. I was surprised to see that she had actually gone to the trouble of getting three twoonies (the Canadian two dollar coins) and glued them to button shanks for the coat. She told me she planned to use the coat as her winter coat and had already had two or three people ask if she would make them one as well. Excitement!

I found out later that the woman who made up my design was Karen Dick. Who is she, you ask? Well, she’s one of the people who was instrumental in the creation of Costume Con. She and her husband run most of them and she was in charge of putting the Folio together. I was positively giddy when I found this out.

The woman who won Best in Show for the Future Fashion Show had actually designed her own costume. There was a tremendous amount of work that went into the piece: hand-beading, embroidery, etc. It was really sparkly!

After the regular part of the Future Fashion Show was over the woman from Simplicity came out for a special presentation. She had brought along a couple of new costumes that had just been designed for Simplicity. One or two were already out in the catalog but there were a number that hadn’t even been photographed yet. One of the dresses she showcased came out of customer feedback. It seems Simplicity has received a lot of requests over the years to draft a pattern based on the dress from the movie Legend. They have finally put out out – obviously taking care to make it different enough from the actual film version to avoid the same licensing problems they had with the Jedi costumes.

Since we had been on site for most of our meals the previous two days Maggie and I decided to hop in the car and see what Timonium had to offer in the way of food away from the hotel. We settled on Chipotle.

I kind of wish we had a friend inside videotaping people’s reactions when we went inside to order. The reactions of the folks working behind the counter were a lot of fun to watch. I saw a lot of double takes and one person even got summoned from the store room in the back to come and see the Jedi standing in line. The staff asked us questions about where we were coming from. It was actually kind of odd to be in a Chipotle and not have Spanish spoken behind the counter. Most of the folks working were Caucasian — something that just went to highlight that we were in Maryland, and not multi-cultural Northern Virginia. I felt kind of uncomfortable, to tell the truth. It was like we were in a different country. By now I’ve kind of come to expect a mix of English, Spanish and Korean to be spoken in the establishments I frequent.

Anyway, we got our food and went to sit down at one of the tables. We ended up sitting next to a table of four teenage boys who tried to act nonchalant. They didn’t really succeed…I saw them talking excitedly when we came in and then sneaking peeks at the lightsabers Maggie and I were wearing.

The lightsabers actually got quite a bit of attention throughout the day. Some folks could tell what they were made out of but still thought they were fabulous props. Other costumers couldn’t figure out what we had used and were taken aback to learn that the sabers were all constructed from drainpipes and random pieces from the plumbing aisle of Home Depot. It impressed them even more that the basic ones only cost about $22.

Later in the evening we went to two panels back to back: Trash to Treasure, and Tool Time. We thought that Trash to Treasure was going to be the more interesting and applicable of the two to what our costuming aesthetic tends to be. It wasn’t really what we had expected, although there were a couple of things we learned from the panel. Mainly they seemed to focus on where to get cheap supplies. While that is also helpful (I will be contacting Pendleton for wool selvedge, for instance), they didn’t really focus on how to recycle trash into costumes. I kind of wound up wishing they had gotten our paperwork to be panelists when I sent it in, as we had all kinds of things we could have brought in that show how to re-use things that other folks just throw away. (FYI: The picture to the left doesn’t have anything to do with the panel…he was in the masquerade that night, dressed as a “Killer Bee.”)

The panel that ended up being the most interesting and applicable to our costuming was Tool Time. Basically it was how to utilize the hardware store for your costumes. It actually had a lot more of the “trash to treasure” type of discussion than the previous panel did. For instance, they recommended going to vacuum cleaner repair stores and picking up a box of all the broken bits…the handles of a particular model of hoover vac looks remarkably like a phaser from Star Trek.

Maggie and I also ended up contributing more to the discussion in this panel. One of the guys on the panel had spotted my lightsaber on the way into the room (I was heading out to get a drink before it started) and had commented “I see something that fits in to this panel.” They ended up asking to see our lightsabers. Both of them got passed around. It was nice to have both of them there – although they are made out of the same basic materials, they look different from each other. Maggie has painted blaster marks and scuffs on hers, while mine is fairly unmarred but has a different look to the handle (thanks to some awesome felt that I had left over from another costume). One of the guys pointed out how, with just one or two things done differently we had two unique lightsabers. We ended up contributing some info about other props and costumes we had made, as did some other attendees. Two women came in part-way through the panel who had pretty cool steampunk costumes. I had seen them earlier but got the chance to get a better look at some of their props and accessories when we were in the room for the panel. I think the one wearing the pants and argyle socks had my favorite steampunk costume for the weekend.

We grabbed dinner in Northern Lights for the third straight day. This time we ended up eating at the bar, as the rest of the restaurant was pretty full up. We didn’t mind. We slung our belts with our lightsabers over the back of our barstools (really tall chairs) and bellied up to the bar. Maggie actually ended up trying one of the drinks that the bartenders had made up especially for the convention. She couldn’t get the one she originally ordered, though, as it had been so popular that they ran out of the alcohol that they made it with. She ended up getting an albino vampire, I think. I can’t really remember.

Sunday night was the Historical Masquerade. There were actually more costumes entered into this category, but it took much less time than the SF/F category had. I think that’s because the presentations for the SF/F costumes just took longer.

I ran to the bathroom right before the masquerade started and so got to see a couple of the entrants wandering around inside the green room and out in the hallways before the show. I even ended up being a good Jedi/Samaritan for one of the folks in the show – she needed to change into her chemise and then dart back to the green room to get into the rest of her costume, but she was worried about folks spotting her in what is basically a slip in the middle of the hallway. I loaned her the use of my Jedi cloak for the trip from the bathroom to the green room. It’s wonderfully voluminous, so it can fit just about anybody, and it’s defintely not see-through.

One of the dresses I saw on my run to and from the bathroom was this massive red dress that looked like something Marie Antoinette would wear. The presentation was entitled Madame Guillotine. Her hair was wonderful! It was ridiculously tall and there was a miniature guillotine lodged in it. I loved it – both because there was a guillotine and because the inclusion of random accessories in Marge Simpson-height hairdos is an actual, historical thing. They used to put all kinds of shit up in their hair during that time. It added to the drama of the whole ensemble. I seem to remember whole stuffed birds being depicted in one painting.

Another entrant made a serious mistake in her costume planning. She had made a gigantic hat, and had curled and pinned her hair up elaborately to off-set the hat. However, she had just placed the hat on top of her head. If it had been a regular hat that sat down snugly around the crown of her head there probably wouldn’t have been a problem. But this was the kind of hat that sits atop the hair. Hence, it needed a hat pin to secure it. She did not use one, however, and the hat would periodically drift off her head. It’s not that there was a breeze blowing it off. It was just creating some serious wind drag of its own while she moved. Needless to say, the audience was not impressed with her presentation.

I found out later that, due to the presence of so many superb costumes in this category, the judges ended up having a split in the awards. I believe there were three winners for Best in Show for the Historical Masquerade. One of the winners was this presentation of a classic Coco Chanel outfit. The fact that this one came in equal with pieces from periods like the French Revolution, Victorian England and American Civil War just goes to show you that the big frills and lace and so forth doesn’t necessarily make a costume piece the Best in Show. It’s a great deal to do with the construction of a piece and, especially in the case of the Historical Masquerade, how accurate you are to the source material. By the way, I saw this woman a couple of times through out the weekend and she was always dressed to the nines in what people might consider as more recent historical fasion. She had been wearing an absolutely wonderful late 1920s/early 1930s outfit at dinner the night before. Sadly, Maggie didn’t see it and I didn’t think to get a picture of it.

Overall, the entire convention was fantastic. It was actually a bit smaller than I expected it to be…fewer panels than I expected, but there are also a lot more workshops. I think one of the reasons they don’t really have a whole lot of panels is because so many people take part in the masquerades and that takes up a lot of time. Even though we didn’t lead any of the panels, we felt our insights during said panels were listened to. And just wandering around the lobby, taking pictures, and meandering through the vendors’ sections is worth the admission cost to the convention alone.

Final conclusion? If the Costume Con happens to be near your area, plan to check it out.

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