Labyrinth Sarah Cosplay: How To

“Through dangers untold and hardships un-numbered

I have fought my way here to the Castle beyond the Goblin City

To take back the child that was stolen …”

Many of the people I know have deep and powerful memories associated with the film Labyrinth.  Released in 1986 it stars David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, and a young Jennifer Connolly as Sarah, the girl trying to win back the baby step-brother she wished the goblins would take away from her.  She has to beat the Labyrinth within the 13 hour time limit set by the Goblin King to claim back baby Toby.  But this is a goblin labyrinth that changes around you and is full of surreal perils that need all of Sarah’s wit and cleverness to overcome.

Labyrinth is a coming of age story about Sarah’s growing acceptance of responsibility and her sexual awakening, but one that recognises that we all carry an inner child within us.  Regardless of how adult the world requires us to be, we all have the need to play and our imaginations are a core part of what makes us who we are.

Bowie’s Jareth had a huge influence on many of my contemporaries, who were all at extremely impressionable ages when the film came out.

Jareth dancing with the Goblins, with prominent bulge
Dance magic dance!

Let’s get that one out of the way now: the bulge is even more impressive when you finally get to see the film on a proper cinema screen for the first time as a grown woman.  (Previously, I’d only seen it on tv.)

This is a film with a huge number of iconic sequences, but one that is particularly visually striking is the Masquerade Ball scene.  Enchanted by a magic peach, Sarah is whisked away from her friends and shown what life could be if she opted to stay with Jareth: a glamorous life as a beautiful princess.  It’s a scene full of emotional intensity that shows how Sarah has got under Jareth’s skin.  This is about so much more than a stolen baby for either of them.

It’s a classically 1980s vision of a fantasy ball: off the shoulder meringue dresses and big hair.

Jareth and Sarah dancing at the Masquerade Ball
Jareth and Sarah

I’ve always had the urge to do this as cosplay.  Who wouldn’t want to dress up as a beautiful princess and get to be on David Bowie’s arm?  But it’s difficult to do on your own.

Black and white photograph of Jareth and Sarah standing side by side in the Ball scene
Jareth and Sarah

A little over a year ago I met a woman who has since become a very dear friend.  She does the most astonishing Jareth cosplay.  It’s uncanny.  So it was with some trepidation that around the end of last year I suggested that perhaps I could be the Sarah to her Jareth.  She was incredibly enthusiastic about it.

So we did it at WorldCon in Dublin.

Me as Sarah from the film Labyrinth with a friend dressed as Jareth
Jareth and Sarah

And it was the most magical day you can imagine.  It’s instantly recognisable, and there is huge love for the film still.  I felt like a princess all day.

Jareth handing Sarah one of their crystal balls
Insert your own jokes about playing with Jareth’s balls here. (We made them all.)

A friend kindly gave up most of the afternoon for a little photo shoot.  (Though we are both considering a pro photo shoot at some point.)  My Jareth has done some modelling work in the past, and it was fantastic to do this with someone who knew how to set up interesting shots.  (Left to my own devices I tend to stand fairly awkwardly and self-consciously.)  Playing off someone for the pictures was wonderful.

Jareth and Sarah

But how did I go about making it?

The dress

This was the largest cosplay project I’ve undertaken since Missy.  As with Missy,  I needed to mix two different dress patterns to get the look I wanted.

Photograph of the two dress patterns I usedI used the pattern on the left (Butterick 4743) for the base of the dress.  It had the right shaping for both the neckline and the bodice and skirt.  I opted for the full length skirt with fishtail, and added a thumb loop to help manage the skirt (SO important for practicality).  But I used the puff sleeves from the pattern on the right (New Look 6031).  With modifications – the sleeves were fully lined.

The fabric was from one of the little fabric shops on Goldhawk Road.  I found this perfect polyester satin.  It’s white, with green lurex thread woven through it.  That gives it the perfect shimmer for the pearlescent look of the film.  As with much Goldhawk Road fabric it wasn’t perfect – it had a flaw running through it close to one selvedge that I had to cut round.  But 8 metres of it was relative cheap and gave me plenty to play with in case I needed to recut.  (And I did: I had to recut the same lower sleeve twice after it got stained by some spilled balsamic vinaigrette I’d failed to spot on the black dining table.  Wah!)  I spent more per metre on some good quality cotton lining for the bodice and sleeves.

After that it was a fairly straight sewing job to make the dress.

  • I bound the raw edges on the inside of the sleeves.  The puff sleeves are stiffened with netting between fabric and lining, and the raw edges would have been extremely scratchy otherwise.
  • I added little bra strap keepers, made from bias binding.

  • I used some 1 mm white rattail (Kumihimo braid) for the button loops on the sleeves.  I sandwiched this between the lining and the outer fabric.
  • The sleeve openings were trimmed with a lace and pearl trim.

The biggest challenge with this dress was the decoration.  There is a lot of sparkle going on in the original.  This was always going to be a case of “More Is More”, but finding the right sparkle proved to be a challenge.  I spent a lot of happy hours searching “Wedding Dress Applique” on eBay and looking in the trimmings section of every haberdashery shop I came across.

Dining table covered in trimmings
Too much?

Yeah, that got a bit silly …

Ultimately I settled on a few key bits of sparkle.

  • The bodice of the dress is decorated with a crystal applique design.  This came ready attached to a net backing.  I trimmed it and then couched the whole thing down using silver embroidery thread.
  • I trimmed the seam between bodice and skirt by couching on a resin crystal drop trim.  This was an embellished cup chain that came in a single piece that was a perfect length.
Back view of the dress, showing the train
Dress!

 

The accessories

The other key part of this look is the accessories.  They present another key opportunity to add MOAR BLING to the outfit.  The key one here is getting the hair to look right.  To me, the solution seemed pretty obvious: embellished hair combs.  Attach the right feathers, beads and streamers to them and you have an instant, easy approach to the look.

There are lots of You Tube videos about how to embellish combs.  The principle is simple: you need comb blanks, beads and other embellishments and wire to attach everything.  (I used 0.3 mm silver plated.)

Hair comb embellished with beads, feathers, cord, braid and ribbon flowers
One of the finished combs

The combs were embellished – in roughly the order I added them to the combs – with:

  • Two different kinds of silver feathers – silver sprayed feathers for the top (the more rigid ones) and silver goose feathers (the longer ones are the bottom).  Each feather was individually wire wrapped onto the comb – if I lost one I didn’t want the whole comb unravelling.
  • Lengths of cord tied to the bottom.  I used 3 mm white rattail (kumihimo cord)
  • Lengths of lighter Kreinik Balger tapestry braid (#12) at the top.  The shade ‘Easter’ has a green shimmer that matches the fabric of the dress.  (This took most of a reel of braid.)
  • Fabric flowers made by gathering lengths of silver organza ribbon around a large central bead.
  • A picot edging made from small Czech fire polished AB crystal beads plus some crystal AB leaf shaped beads.
  • Larger Crystal AB Czech fire polished beads in a row along the base of the comb (largely to hide the untidy wrapped wire)
  • A couple of Crystal AB drops at the bottom edge of each comb.
View showing the combs in place in my hair
The final combs

On top of that I added a large paste crystal necklace that I already own.

And I made some earrings from Swarovski crystal drops (also Crystal AB) and chandelier findings.  (As I don’t have pierced ears I used screwback findings.)

WorldCon Dublin 2019

Two years ago I travelled to Helsinki to attend WorldCon.  I pre-supported Dublin for 2019 and voted for it in Site Selection.  I’ve been looking forward to it for the last two years, so it was fantastic to finally make it there.

Me driving a Back To The Future DeLorean
A DeLorean! I’m so glad someone brought one!

And I had an amazing time.

It was great to see a distinctly Irish flavour brought out throughout the event.  Some of that was in the programming, with a strong thread around Irish writing, myths and legends.  But it also featured in the stuff around the convention centre.  There was a Back To The Future rigged out DeLorean (a fine Northern Ireland company!) and a version of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones (a show filmed in Northern Ireland) that was made from hurley sticks and appeared on the day of the All-Ireland Hurling Final being held in Dublin.

Me sitting in a reproduction of the Game of Thrones Iron Throne - except made from hurley sticks
The Throne of Games

The proximity of Dublin to the UK meant that there were a lot of friends there.  Many more than in Helsinki, and from three distinct groups in my life: EasterCon people; book club/SRFC people; and old friends who were also attending, many of whom live on the island of Ireland and were attending their first WorldCon.  And after this year’s EasterCon and a really busy first part of the year I’d made the deliberate choice not to put myself forward for Programme so that I could relax and enjoy the event.  That changed the tone of the event for me, making it much more social than either of the two previous WorldCons I’ve been to.  Fewer panels, more late nights, and a lot more bar con.

Me sat in the Captain's chair on a mock Star Trek ship set, flanked by two friends
Captaining the USS Cuchulainn

Some of that was down to the programme.  Apart from a couple of items, which I will come on to, there was very little in the “cannot miss” category for me.  Lots of great items, but very few that were wowing me either in the subject or the panellists.  And with the venue offering rooms that were often quite small (leading to lots of advance queuing and frequent complaints from people who weren’t able to attend items they wanted to go to) sometimes the best thing to do was to skip a session and let someone else take a spot.

But there were a couple of sessions I simply could not miss, and I’m glad I didn’t, because they were highlights of the weekend for me.  I’d particularly wanted to catch these because I have an academic and professional background in Irish history, culture and literature, so looking at Irish writing through an SFF lens was a must.  The first of these was a session on Northern Ireland SFF, featuring Ian McDonald (one of the Guests of Honour) and Jo Zebedee.  The second was a panel on Irish SFF more generally, featuring McDonald and Zebedee again, but also Sarah Maria Griffin, on her only panel of the weekend.  I adore her writing – Spare and Found Parts is a brilliant, astounding novel – so I was particularly keen to hear her speak

There was a lot of commonality between both discussions, pulling out the essentially political nature of Irish SFF – North and South.  In both cases, writing focuses on engaging with the past, whether colonial history or the Troubles, and it provides a vital and urgent way of engaging with contemporary political issues around feminism, queer politics, violence, migration etc.  Griffin (who is a joyously angry and articulate goddess in person) was particularly vocal about the need for writers to be archaeologists, exhuming buried skeletons and exposing them and their consequences to the light.  In all cases there was a tension between writing authentic fiction rooted in Hiberno-English and strongly redolent of place, with the imperatives of finding a commercial audience.  At times that meant fighting hard to protect the text, at times a “word by word battle” as Griffin put it.

Me with writer Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald giving me a free ARC of his new novella

 

If there were differences to be drawn out between North and South, then they were ones of style and tone.  You should expect writing from the North to be sharper and harder, with a distinctive black humour.  But it’s harder to escape the Troubles, with writers frustrated at expectations that everything they write should be about that to some degree or other, or that they should expect people to read unintended Troubles allegory into their writing regardless.  (Zebedee talked about the pressure she felt under to put alien bombs under cars, and McDonald related the story of a NI screenwriter who had their work un-commissioned by the BBC because it wasn’t about the Troubles and the commissioner considered that the only appropriate topic for a NI-set drama).  If there is a gap, then Zebedee felt writers in the North were at risk of being disengaged from their cultural heritage, which otherwise would provide a rich heritage for them to drawn on.

Another stand out panel for me was one on the treatment of faith and religion in SFF.  It’s rare to see religion treated as anything other than world-building colour in SFF.  It provides some seasonal celebrations and the basis for rituals, or Gods are made manifest and appear as characters (the old Granny Weatherwax line in response to Nanny Ogg pointing out that gods exist: “That’s no call to go around believing in them. It only encourages ’em.”).  But characters are often relatively secular in their outlook – rarely do you get the sense of characters being guided by a faith-based moral code.  (One of the rare exceptions to this is Maia in Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, whose quiet faith is deeply rooted.)  This ended up being a conversation that continued in the bar with Meg McDonald, one of the panellists, while she was painting glitter on my face.  In her view, faith and belief should be active things, constantly engaging with the events of the world and adapting and changing as a result.

Blakes 7 cosplay - Avon and Servalan are back to back and Blake has his gun aimed at Servalan
Blakes 7 cosplay

Otherwise, the major theme for WorldCon for me was cosplay.  I’d arranged a couple of group cosplays with friends.  On Friday and Sunday, I cosplayed as characters from Blakes 7 with a couple of friends, who were Blake and Servalan.  It was particularly poignant this year, given the recent sad losses of Gareth Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce and Paul Darrow.  I’m very glad we did it, and it was great to see so much love out there for a forty year old television show.

Me as Sarah from the film Labyrinth with a friend dressed as Sarah
Jareth and Sarah

 

I also debuted a new costume on Saturday, with a friend.  I was Sarah from the Masquerade Ball scene in Labyrinth, to her Jareth.  I’d been apprehensive about suggesting it to her, given it could be read as me crashing an already extremely successful cosplay of hers.  But it had been a lifelong dream of mine to do, and Ida was delighted to have the excuse to refresh her costume for a very specific – and famous – scene in the film.  (I’ve blogged separately about the cosplay and the making of the costume.)

Jareth and Sarah

We had a fantastic day.  We couldn’t walk across a room without being stopped at least three times by people wanting photographs.  We gave up most of the Saturday afternoon to a mini photo-shoot, and the pictures are stunning.

Jareth and Sarah

It was the definite highlight of the con for me.

A Tale of Two Cons: Nine Worlds 2017 and WorldCon 75

It’s a TARDIS full of bras!

This summer I did the crazy thing that I last did back in 2014.  Two back to back conventions: Nine Worlds and WorldCon 75 in Helsinki.  Two crazy weeks of spending time with my geeky tribe, having my imagination and creativity stimulated and learning lots of things.  But they were very different events.

Things look different from up here – the view from the stage at Nine Worlds

In many ways, Nine Worlds has become my ‘home’ convention, even though its multi-disciplinary programming means it doesn’t always have the book content I instinctively crave.  This year I sought to help fix that, rather than just complain about it, by taking part in a panel for the first time.  My panel was Police and the Supernatural, which was a discussion about the works of Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Cornell, both of whom have written supernatural police procedurals set in London, but ones that are very different in style.  We turned out to be the second most popular programme item after the Saturday night cabaret and disco, so no pressure there then!  It was a brilliant experience, I have to say: my fellow panellists were awesome and the time flew by.  What was particularly lovely was having people coming up to me the rest of the weekend (and in Helsinki!) saying how much they’d enjoyed it.

From L to R: me in cosplay as Missy, with a woman wearing a knitted Dalek dress and another woman cosplaying as the 13th Doctor

There were some fantastic programme items at Nine Worlds.  Some were thought-provoking (including a deeply interesting session on architecture and world-building in fiction, plus one on robots, AI and the labour market) and some were deeply silly, but they all shared a generosity and humility from the speakers.  And I learned a lot, for example about theories of education through the example of teaching in Harry Potter, or some amazing examples of powerful women in West African history.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

And it was just so much fun too.  As always, you stuck out if you weren’t in cosplay or dressed flamboyantly, and people were determined to enjoy themselves and facilitate the enjoyment of others by being relentlessly and furiously kind and thoughtful. Rarely have I encountered an environment that is so energetically inclusive and generous in its acceptance of others.  Diversity in all its forms is firmly within the DNA of Nine Worlds, proving that it’s possible to do with a bit of work – and it doesn’t take that much of it either.

Me wearing a dress with cats in space, standing next to a person cosplaying as No-Face from the film Spirited Away

Numbers were a bit down on last year, which was a bit of a shame.  I think that was in part because many people couldn’t afford the time or money for two conventions and had chosen to go to WorldCon instead.  Understandable, given how rarely it makes it across the Atlantic (of 75 WorldCons, only 8 have been outside North America, 5 of those in UK, and 3 of those in London).  But those of us there were made the most of it.

Me with Major Ursa, on Day 1 of WorldCon

WorldCon75 in Helsinki was a different kind of con.  Much more book-focused, but very traditional in its approach.  Being WorldCon, the spread of authors was much greater, with big names from the US and Canada that are rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic.  There is little like sitting there eating your dinner watching George R R Martin walk past, or going to what I dubbed the “Hangover Panel”: 2pm on Day 4 (the day after the Hugos) where famous writers like Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear and Jeff VanderMeer were talking about their cats.  With lots of cat pictures and funny stories about them ‘helping’ with the writing.

From the country that brought you Lordi: steampunk blacksmiths

WorldCon was huge.  There were around 7,000 people there, in a venue that was probably designed for about 4,000.  It got full very quickly, in a way the organisers had not foreseen.  This was the third-largest WorldCon in history, with the largest still being LonCon3 in 2014.  There were a lot of complaints about the crowds and the queuing, but the organisers were responsive and I never had any difficulties.  A bit of patience and planning got you into most things, and if you weren’t able to make it into one of the rooms then ther was bound to be something else on the programme that appealed.

A person dressed as an owl

But there were a couple of off-key aspects for me.  As with LonCon 3 this felt very US-centric and dominated by US concerns with a very low level of awareness of US cultural colonialism and its impacts.  That was uncomfortable for an event taking place in Finland, and at times it just felt plain tone-deaf.  The main example of this for me was a panel on resistance, which was composed entirely of US writers and led to a discussion dominated by Trump, healthcare and various issues in the US system, with only one panellist referencing non-US examples (Kameron Hurley talking about the experience of South Africa).  All of the over-riding cultural framing was the US narrative from its founding myths of resistance.  At one stage, one of the panellists suggested that paying one’s taxes in order to support other people in society was in some ways a rebellious act.  The audience pointed out with increasing irritation that this was normal in Europe.  In another panel, an audience member from the US questioned why the panel was discussing the work of two British writers rather than the US writers she named.

A recording of Tea and Jeopardy, with special guest George R R Martin

The panels themselves felt short – 45 minutes compared to the hour, hour and a quarter of Nine Worlds.  This meant they never really got beyond scratching the surface of a topic.  Panellists rarely got to speak more than twice during a discussion.  And some of them felt either poorly organised or poorly moderated – with panellists unsure why they had been selected for a particular panel, or with moderators taking a wildly different interpretation of the brief than appeared in the programme.

Authors talking about their cats

That sounds like I’m being harsh, and I guess I am.  But that didn’t stop it being an amazing event and an opportunity to meet and hear from people I don’t normally get to encounter in the UK.  But what really made the event was the awesome crowd of people I met and hung out with over the five days of the event, swapping ideas for panels and badge ribbons.

Best dressed club. From L to R: Ali, Helena and I

In two years’ time WorldCon will be in Dublin.  There’s a huge buzz about it already, and I’ve bought my membership.  I can feel in my water that it will be another big event.  Hopefully there will be a bit more sensitivity when it comes to some of the cultural issues (I can’t say I’m looking forward to having Irish history mansplained at me by Americans – I fear there will be some crashing insensitivity displayed, but it will at least highlight the difference between Irishness and the wholly separate identity of being Irish-American).

But that’s two years away.  In the meantime there’s next year’s Nine Worlds to plan for.  Excuse me while I go and think up some panel ideas.

November 2015 – Books I’m excited about

Earlier in the year I posted about two books I was looking forward to reading.  One turned out to be a roaring the success, the other a bit of a disappointment.  Hopefully, I’ll get better than a 50% success rate with the ones I’ll mention in this post.

cat valente
Me with Cat Valente at WorldCon in 2014

First up is Radiance by Catherynne M Valente.  I met Cat at WorldCon last year.  She’s an amazingly versatile writer, producing everything from children’s fiction to adult fiction, and even wrote a Kafka homage called the Meowmorphosis.  I’ve mostly read her adult fiction, starting with the strange and odd Palimpsest.  And I’m a huge fan of her novel Deathless, which examines 20th century Russian history through a retelling of Russian folklore.

Cat describes Radiance as ‘Decopunk’.  From the free extract I received through NetGalley it’s clear it’s a glorious mash up of the Golden Age of Hollywood with the Golden Age of pulp SF.  It’s all coctails, rockets and colonies spread across the solar system mixed up with the burning aspiration of celebrity and the way we document our lives in the contemporary world of social media.

I was at the Gollancz Festival a few weeks ago . (I should have written a post about that, but life intervened.  Sorry.)  But I took the opportunity of their Buy One Get One Half Price offer to stock up on some books I’m keen to read, and to get them signed.

One of those I’m most excited about is Aliette de Bodard‘s House of Shattered Wings.  I love her short fiction, with its feminist commentary on colonialism.  So the prospect of a magical novel set in the aftermath of the destruction of Paris really appeals.

I also bought some books by Ian McDonald.  For some reason, I never bought his work when I was living in Belfast, despite it being heavily promoted as he is a local author.  But I finally read his Hugo-nominated short work Vishnu and the Cat Circus while I was on holiday last year, and was smitten.  So I’m planning to canter through his back list soon, as well as reading his new book Luna.

Both Aliette de Bodard and Ian McDonald are Guests of Honour at next year’s EasterCon.  I may go, so that’s even more of a reason to get up to date.

Nyssa Cosplay: How To

I thought I’d set down how I went about pulling together the Nyssa costume, in case anyone is interested.

For research, I watched The Keeper Of Traken, the Doctor Who serial where Nyssa first appears, and used stills found via Google Image searches to try and get the details right.

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The Jacket

NyssaoftrakenfairyskirtThis is the key part of the costume.  It was the most time-consuming to make, and is probably the most complex thing I’ve ever made. The original is in a sort of patchwork velvet in dark red/russet colours.  That is very difficult to replicate, so I ended up opting for a plain crimson velvet instead.  It has leg of mutton sleeves and a high collar. It’s fastened with four buttons, and button loops.  The hem is straight.

I used the jacket from Simplicity pattern 2207 as the base for mine.  It’s a princess-seamed jacket, which gives the right shape through the body.

IMG_1729

But I had to do some significant modifications to it. To make sure I’d got these right and understood the jacket construction I made a full toile/muslin before cutting into the super-expensive velvet.

The modifications were:

  • I recut the collar to make it a high, straight collar.
  • I recut the sleeves as well, to turn them into leg of mutton sleeves.
  • I changed the fastenings to four, self-covered buttons and button loops, which were sewn into the front of the jacket between the front and the facing.

By far the most difficult modification was the sleeves.

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I did this by making up the sleeve in calico.  The pattern was in two parts (an upper sleeve and an under sleeve), so it was impossible to do the modifications without making it up in that way.  I then cut across the sleeve head horizontally and inserted another piece of calico to add extra fullness and length (about an extra 10cm in length across the full width of the sleeve).  I pleated the excess into the sleeve opening, using the same technique as on my Rowena.  When I was happy with the look I undid the seams on the sleeve and cut the inserted calico on a straight line between the two pattern pieces.   This piece of calico became my pattern piece for the sleeves, with seam allowances tidied up.

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I toyed with straightening the hem, but decided that the shaped hem was more flattering.  If I did straighten it, I would have liked to have added a bit more length in the side seams.

The fairy skirt

This was a very simple and quick part of the costume (about 2 hours from start to finish).

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I cut a series of leaf shapes out of three different fabrics, using another bit of calico as a pattern piece.  The green and pink are both polyester lining fabrics.  The blue is a voile with a printed sparkly gold design on it.  I had it in my fabric stash already, and it provides a bit of variety in the skirt.

I layered the leaf shapes over each other.  The green provides the base, then the blue, then the pink on top.  I then gathered them into a very simple waistband which acts as the channel for some 1″ elastic.  It’s not the most elegant of skirts, but the waistband is covered by the jacket and it gives the right effect.

I left the edges of the leaves raw.  I might go back and do some simple rolled hems, but it will be a lot of work for something that is only going to get occasional wear.  I also experimented with putting some net under it for shape and structure, but found it left the skirt too bulky when the original has quite a draped look.

Accessories

There are a few other key pieces for the Nyssa look.

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The brooch Nyssa wears at her throat is very hard to see from stills and I struggled to find a good close up of it.  So I had to aim for something that was broadly the right size, shape and texture.  I made this one from a button I had in my button box that I’d got from a mixed lot of vintage buttons.  I simply glued a brooch back onto the back of it using jewellery glue.

The tiara is a child’s tiara for a wedding or confirmation.  It’s on a comb, which makes it secure an easy to position.  I found it on eBay.

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Nyssa’s shoes are, again, not really shown on screen.  From the way she moves and the sound, I get the sense they were low-heeled pumps of some sort.  And the colour clearly matches the rest of her outfit.  I’ve had these suede, kitten-heeled courts for a long time, so I thought they’d be perfect.

The tights are a pair of Jonathan Aston opaques in a gorgeous, bright blue, which turned out to be a perfect TARDIS blue.  I found them in the sale in John Lewis.

The final result

Hair and make up were very straight forward.  I scrunch dried my hair with a bit more of the creme I use than normal (Aussie Frizz Remedy) and parted it in the centre rather than to one side.  Make up was heavy on the pinks.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Lawrie
Photo courtesy of Duncan Lawrie

Yes, I know, I appear to not be wearing the shoes by this point …

Cosplay

I took part in cosplay for the first time last summer at LonCon3.  I dressed up as Nyssa, a companion of the 4th and 5th Doctors.

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I decided to do it because a friend of mine was telling me how much fun she’s had in the past cosplaying at events.  It seemed like a great way of hurling myself into the whole con experience. I’d been at other events where people had been cosplaying and I’d been in awe of the amazingly creative outfits they’d pulled together, whether it was the woman whose Wonder Woman outfit was completely handknitted, or the man I saw who dressed as a Sharknado.

I picked Nyssa for a few reasons:

  • She was a companion at around the time I first remember watching Doctor Who (5 was my First Doctor …).  My inner hipster liked the idea of going a bit retro and dressing as someone from Classic Who.
  • I also liked the idea of dressing from someone from British SF traditions.  WorldCon was in London and it seemed appropriate to fly the flag for one of the most iconic bits of British SF television.
  • It’s an easily recognisable costume. If you’re dressing up, it helps if people know who you are meant to be …!
  • But it’s also very comfortable and easy to wear.  Not skintight.  Not too much flesh showing.  Practical for things like going to the loo.  And I wouldn’t need a wig or special make up.

The idea came to me because a friend of mine saw a photo of me from a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago and suggested there was a resemblance.  IMG_0493

So I pulled a costume together for the main cosplay day of the convention.  And apart from some strange looks from the hotel staff at breakfast that morning, I had an absolute ball.  I kind of got a bit of a window into what it might be like to be Kate Middleton – people shout your name at you (well, your character’s name …), they want their photo taken with you, they give you things (hall costume awards), and I got to wear a tiara!

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It’s an amazing ice-breaker and way of connecting with people.  I met someone in the vendor’s hall who normally cosplays as the 5th Doctor and was suddenly regretting not having brought their costume this time.  I was photographed next to one of the two TARDISes at the Convention by a man from San Francisco who wanted to put me in his Who fanzine.  I even got Instagrammed by a gushing Hugo Award-winner.  Apparently Nyssa had always been Mary Robinette Kowal‘s favourite companion, and was a huge role model when she was growing up.

It’s also an incredibly playful thing to do.  I’m a big fan of play.  I have a busy job, and being able to let my hair down and engage in playful and creative activities is one of my favourite ways of relaxing, whether it’s making stuff, or being deeply silly with my friends.  As a child I used to be part of a local drama group, and I also did Drama at GCSE,.  Both of those were a great creative outlet, but I probably haven’t acted since I was a teenager.  Cosplay is a great way of having the fun of pretending to be someone else and performing a role, but without the stress of learning lines or being quite so obviously in the spotlight.

It’s something I definitely want to do again, so I’m just about to start work on a new costume to wear at an event later this year.  I plan to write a series of blogs about the costume-making process.  In the meantime, I’ll write one about how I pulled the Nyssa costume together, in case it’s of interest.