Monday, April 22, 2013

Top 10 Things I Learned at AwesomeCon DC

Hey folks. I'm back after a fun-filled weekend at AwesomeCon DC.  It was, well, awesome! And I'm not just saying that because our BioShock Infinite costumes scored us first place in the costume contest yesterday (YESSSS!!).  We had a great time and it was great to see fellow comic and gaming fans turn out en masse to represent DC. 

As I've mentioned, I work full-time and it turns out I  am running low on time for the blog tonight, but wanted to make sure I got down a couple afterthoughts on "BioShock on a Budget" and AwesomeCon.  To that end, I am going to wrap up with a top 10 list of things I learned at AwesomeCon DC.

10.  HomestuckI finally learned about this web comic and who the hell all these cosplay folks are with the bright orange horns.  Thanks to our fellow entrants in the costume contest for educating  me!  

Thankfully, no fire marshals in the room
for Super Art Fight....lots of
9.  Hard-Core TableTop Gaming.  Admittedly, board games have never been a big part of my gaming experience--I'm more a console person--but AwesomeCon's "Mind of the Geek" game room showed me that tabletop gaming is alive and well.  Not only that, but people are really serious about this stuff---we saw the Warhammer table break out a tape measure to determine the outcome of one player's movements.  That was a new experience for me.  And hard core. 

8.  Super Art Fight is awesome and showed that it is possible to cover a large sheet of paper with comic characters disguised as Amish gangsters, seahorses, and baked goods.  Who knew there was a whole world of randomly-themed and timed competitive comic artistry out there?!

7.  Cosmetic contact lenses suck. I tried to stick it out all day Saturday with the blue contact lenses for my Elizabeth cosplay, but ended up wandering around with my finger stuck in my eyes half the time trying to readjust my contacts; the other half of the time I could barely see, and just walked uncomfortably around the vendor area. Perhaps a secondary lesson learned should be that spending $9.99 on a pair of blue contact lenses online is a bad idea.  That part of my BioShock on a Budget cosplay was an epic fail.

6.  Ernie Hudson is the same as ever.   It's like he's been preserved in a jar since Ghostbusters.  He looked the same this past weekend as he did when he played Winston.  So cool to see him there!

5.  Cosplaying is an event unto itself.   Since this was my first event truly cosplaying, I didn't realize until this past weekend how much time I would spend just walking around, getting photographed, taking photographs, and talking to other the point that we missed several panels that we wanted to attend!  But it was great, and I would definitely cosplay again.

4.  Comic and gaming fans are just nice people! In a city like DC where people tend to be very stand-offish, it was refreshing to go to AwesomeCon and be able to strike up a conversation with just about anyone, of any age, any background, and not be judged or ignored.  We really enjoyed getting to meet all sorts of other gamers and learning a thing or two about comics and tabletop games as well!

3.  Comic people helping comic people.  We met volunteers from the Hero Initiative, an LA-based non-profit that raises funds to help comic veterans with financial aid, for anything from medical expenses to retirement to getting back in the industry.  It's a great cause.  You can help out too, via their website,

2.  You CAN cosplay on a budget and, moreover, win a costume contest on a budget!! Jon and I were overwhelmed by the support and approval that we received from judges, fellow cosplayers, and the crowd at the group costume contest yesterday.  We're so happy that people enjoyed our version of Elizabeth and Booker from BioShock Infinite!

1.  DC Fandom.  There IS a large comic and gaming fan base here in DC, we CAN have our own convention, and AwesomeCon will be back and even bigger and better next year!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BioShock on a Budget: Cosplay for under $50

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to cosplay for AwesomeCon DC this coming weekend.  Now, I've been preparing my costumes for San Diego Comic Con for months, and one of the challenges I have frequently encountered is balancing cost, time, and attention to detail (the latter being extremely important to me).  But, I have found that being resourceful and creative can cut down on costs, and putting together a costume can still be managed as a side-project for someone working full time.  To prove that point, I decided to challenge myself to put together a convention-worthy cosplay for less than $50.

The Decision

Inspired by my recent playing of BioShock Inifinite, I settled on Elizabeth.  Before I definitively selected this character for cosplay, I considered several main factors which are relevant to any cosplay project (unless you're independently wealthy): 
1.  What skills do I have? 
I cannot sew, so I knew whatever I put together would be limited to stitch-free modifications and ideally a lot of pieces that could be found in my closet or at a thrift store. I do have some painting and artistic ability so I wanted to capitalize on that for some of the details.
2. How much time do I have? 
I work 10+ hours a day and do other stuff on the weekends, so assembly of my costume could not be a full-time commitment.  I was willing to set aside roughly 1-2 hours every couple days to work on different aspects of the costume.
3. How much can I spend on this?
I limited myself to $50 for this cosplay. Cost is something that I weigh carefully before embarking on any new costume projects.
4.  How accurate do I want/need this costume to be?
To me, costume accuracy to the original character is paramount; however, sometimes it is unrealistic to get every single detail correct, particularly when you consider my other three factors.  I had to ask myself which details of the costume am I willing to sacrifice on in light of the other constraints? I discovered that this answer changed as I began to search for key pieces of the costume.

The Hunt

Having assessed Elizabeth's costume while playing the game and looking at additional images online, I determined that many of her clothing pieces could be reasonably found at a thrift store, or at least something similar that would require embellishments or small alterations. So, I made my shopping list and headed out to my favorite thrift shops: Unique Thrift Store in Wheaton and the Georgia Ave Thrift Store in DC.  These places have a large inventory of clothing and are much more reasonable than the hipster consignment shops in U Street Corridor (but you know I Iove you guys).

My first visit to the thrift shops was largely a success! I found the pieces below which were more or less consistent with Elizabeth's main clothing pieces.  In total, these cost me  $11.89.

I knew it would be unrealistic for me to find a white blouse with blue-with-gold-trim collar, so I thought I could use a fitted blue collared shirt under a blouse, and paint on the gold trim, which is what I've done above.  Any gold acrylic paint will do, but in this case I used a gold fabric pen (about $2.99 at Michaels).  The skirt isn't exactly what I wanted--Elizabeth's skirt is a lighter shade of blue with dark trim on the bottom--but this is one of those times I had to ask myself, given time, money, and my skill limitations is it likely I will find a skirt that is a better fit for this cosplay in two weeks?  I decided that I wouldn't.

The other accessories that I wanted to ensure were part of my cosplay to really add that attention to detail (and utilize my art skills) were Elizabeth's brooch necklace, her blue hair ribbon, and the book that she was carrying with her when Booker first encounters her. I figured out from looking at a ton of online resources that the book is The Principlies of Quantum Mechanics by Rosalind Lutece, an NPC in the game.  At Michael's, I miraculously discovered that they sell small photo storage boxes that are designed to look like books.  I couldn't believe my luck!  It was $10, but splurged since it would save me some time (would only require minor modifications) and it would be dual use as purse-like storage for my cosplay during the convention.  Taking cues from BioShock photos online, I hand-painted a paper cover for the book and the binding to reflect the correct title and author.  I just taped it over the pre-printed design.  Here's how it came out.

The second accessory I crafted was Elizabeth's brooch.  In screenshots it appears to be a light blue lace necklace with either a birdcage or a bird design on the blue-colored brooch (depending on what Booker chooses for her in the game).  I found some inexpensive white lace ribbon at Michael's ($1.99) and a sheet of blue foam which I planned to use for the back of the brooch. I used blue acrylic paint to color the lace, and then I drew a bird like the one on her brooch and cut it out of a fairly thick piece of white cardboard.  I cut a circle out of the blue foam that would fit the bird cut-out, and painted the edges (again, just plain acrylic craft paint, $0.99) to match the design of Elizabeth's brooch, and glued it all together.  To make it a necklace, I used an elastic hair band piece that is usually sold in the jewelry section of the craft store--again, inexpensive, like $1.99.  Here's what it looked like before I linked all the lace pieces together.

The third accessory, her blue hair bow, was easy enough to find at the craft store; I intended to just buy some plain blue gift ribbon, but they actually had pre-made bows for the same price ($1.99), so I just bought that instead. I'll just tie it on to one of my hair elastics.  Done!

Lastly, I knew that I still wanted to modify the skirt that I bought so that it looked at least a bit more visually similar to Elizabeth's skirt, even if the coloration was off.  In the game, her skirt has four horizontal strips fastened by buttons at the top and bottom of the skirt.  I cut up some similar-colored blue fabric ($2.99 at the thrift store) to look like these strips and used fabric glue ($1.99 at craft store) to adhere them to the skirt.  I added some buttons to match the placement on Elizabeth's skirt.  I also used the fabric glue to shorten the skirt slightly since it was almost full-length when I bought it. Here's what it looks like now.

One thing that you have probably noticed I haven't touched on...and is a fairly important part of any ensemble for us shoes.  Elizabeth is wearing steampunk-style, lace-up knee-high boots in the game.  I was concerned about this component of the costume because a not-so-great pair of boots can easily go for $30-40, and my timing is off to catch the clearance sales from winter.  While I did not own any such boots, I do have several plain brown and black knee-high boots that would suffice in the case that I would not want to spend the extra cash getting a pair of lace-up boots that I may or may not use again.  Now, don't judge me, but I opted to buy a pair of lace-up boots that I really liked, but they put me WAY OVER my $50 budget for this cosplay project.  I have decided to write off this part of the costume as an expense because 1. I did have another option in my closet that could have been used, and not exceeded my $50 budget, and 2. shoes have reuse value  for costumes and I could have conceivably already had a pair of boots like this.  Fair enough? Good!

The Verdict

So, tallying all my expenses above the total came to $33.83, not including shoes as I mentioned.  So it was absolutely realistic to stay under $50 for this cosplay! YOU CAN DO IT!  You may be wondering how much time I spent on this project, between the thrift store trips and putting everything together.  I would estimate about 12 hours, spread out over two weekends and 3-4 evenings during the week.  It was a bit of a time sink, but ultimately doable since I chose to make it a priority for AwesomeCon.  It did interfere with my ability to get on the PS3 for a couple days, but I thought this was a worthy excuse!

Check back next weekend for the big reveal of my BioShock cosplay (to include my husband's cosplay of Booker--a whole other project!) and photos from AwesomeCon DC!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Getting in Shape for Comic Con, Part 2

With our costume ideas finally starting to come together for cosplay for SDCC, I thought an update was in order.  In Part 1 of this series, I revealed that the first character I will be cosplaying is Mad Moxxi from Borderlands 2.  The main difference being that Moxxi in Borderlands 2 dons a purple-colored outfit as opposed to red, which was how it appeared in the first Borderlands game.  At this point, I have procured all the accessories, finished my Rubi gun (which was revealed in part 1), so just working on the jacket and hat...and SPATS! Who knew it would be so difficult to find a spats for ladies?  If anyone out there has any leads on such a thing, please send my way....

I think this interpretation of the Wolverines
by Paolo Rivera is particularly clever.
On other fronts, my other half has decided on his costumes for SDCC...the many faces of Wolverine.  Since he was terribly concerned about how long it might take him to grow the facial hair for this role, he stopped shaving about two weeks ago...yes, this is for an event in July.  For the purposes of this blog series, I thought it would be fun to do a time lapse of his facial hair. Well, here's a photo from day 1, paired with a photo from today.

Day 1
Two Weeks Later


Clearly, facial hair is not going to be a roadblock for him to do the Wolverine cosplay.  HOWEVER,  this blog is titled "Getting in Shape" for Comic Con, not growing facial hair for Comic Con, and both the husband and I have some work to do on getting fit for our respective cosplay roles.  To that end, we are adopting a couple new healthy habits that we hope will help us achieve our goals by July:
1.  Eating a clean diet five days a week.  Look, Hugh Jackman did it to get ready for his role in The Wolverine, so we can too....right..?
2.  Consistently working out--with the help of my pal Ndsettia at Vida Fitness in DC!
3.  Using the PS3 Move with my Just Dance 3 and 4 games a lot more often, and doing squats while we're playing non-Move games.
4.  In a few months, we'll be trying a 5-day juice cleanse through Khepra's Raw Food and Juice Bar ....yeah...stayed tuned for future posts on how that goes...

Lastly, I thought I should at least do a reveal of my next planned costume, which is mostly complete thanks to my gal Kim at CreationKO.  Here's a photo of her project in the works... #carolcorps!  Just got my blue fashion contact lenses in the mail today too, which should be interesting since I don't normally put anything in my eyes.

AND stay tuned soon for another facet of my foray into the world of cosplay, with a special feature on AwesomeCon DC....BioShock on a Budget!! My adventures in assembling a costume for BioShock Infinite for under $50.  Until next time!