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Tell us about your first cosplay experience. Who, what, when, where, and how did it go?

In 2000, I went to A-kon with some college buddies. I'm not a social fan; my best friend and I had survived perfectly well without conventions for years, procuring manga and anime on our own and being quite content about it. I was very hesitant about going to the con, but peer pressure won out!

My roommate was not only an A-kon veteran, but also a cosplayer (Integral on Cosplay Lab). I gave her a hand where I could; braided her hair, pinned up leg wraps, that sort of thing. Being a cosplayer seemed not only a great exercise in creativity, but also a way to show off your work while maintaining anonymity. If you rob a bank wearing a bunny suit, no one will remember your face, they'll remember the bunny suit. Something along those lines. :) I work in the sciences, which I love, but the artistic side of me cries to get to come out and play.

Later that year, sitting on Integral's couch watching Rabi~en~Rose warn against the dangers of eating food you find on the ground, someone said "Those are really cute costumes." It's been too long, I can't remember who was to blame anymore. While I was too shy to costume on my own, a group seemed like a great idea. We were firing up our sewing machines as soon as winter break hit!

What’s usually the first thing about a character that catches your eye (hair, personality, accessories, shoes, etc.), and does that first impression translate into cosplay for you?

Cosplay is still all about the character for me. I can't watch an anime anymore without dissecting how to make a costume, but the outfits that I choose to create are personalities that appeal to me. A cute outfit is always cute, but if it's not a character I like, then I'm sure there will be someone else out there who will do a much better job with the costume than I would. ^_^

I used to read or watch something new and then immediately turn around and make a costume; I started my Resident Evil costume the same weekend I picked up the game. Now I try to give myself a "Cooling Off" period to pick the costumes that will mean the most to me. My wallet appreciates it.

Do you concern yourself much with whether you physically resemble the characters you want to portray?

A little. Maybe not as much as I should. [laugh] I think it's always a consideration; my friend Ringo is very tall, and we try to align our character heights somewhat appropriately, though that's not a rule between us. I'm grateful for her statuesque height because she's the only Yuuko-san that I could be a reasonable Sakura next to!

If you cosplay an obscure character, does it bother you when people don’t recognize you or mistake you for someone else?

Wow, I would have quit cosplaying long ago if that bothered me in the slightest! I have some unusual tastes, and my costumes definitely reflect that. We try to limit me to "One Obscure Manga Cosplay Per Con!"

I love wearing obscure stuff because then, when I'm queried about it, I get to pitch my favorite manga. So beware asking me what I'm from! It's also a fabulous way to meet other fans of the series who might never cross paths otherwise.

Anecdote: My favorite "Misidentification" so far must be my Miracle Dieter Miyuki costume getting mistaken as Faye Valentine. Oh dear, that was memorable. And he didn't seem to believe me when I told him I wasn't Faye!

Are there any props, pieces of clothing, or fabric you’ve used that, upon completion, you’ve responded with, “Ugh! I’m never making one of those/using that stuff again!!”

I've had many more positive experiences than negative. I think careful fabric choices have aided me in that. But for convenience's sake, it'll be a long time before I use fiberglass again; I don't have the resources nor space for it. Integral still gets great results with it, but it's just not for me. We joke that every costume is required to involve something highly flammable or toxic.

I hesitate to use the word "never" about anything costume-related, since that's almost a guarantee it'll end up on my to-do list. >_<

Which is often the most challenging part of a costume for you to construct?

I don't think I've ever installed a zipper-fly in pants that has opened to the right! [laugh] And I have a nasty habit of sewing sleeves on inside-out, but I'm working on it. One step at a time. :)

Seriously though, I tend to procrastinate on shoes since I'm poor at them. Then they're even worse since I was rushed! Nick's Athrun (Gundam Seed) boots still reeked of E-6000 on the way to Expo. XP And I know next to nothing about jewelry; the last time I had to make jewelry was something involving pony beads at Girl Scout camp so I'm lucky to have a very good tutor in Ringo.

Walk us through the typical manufacturing process for one of your moderate to difficult costumes.

Research! Research everything I can get my hands on. If it's a single reference image costume (Dragon Queen Sakura; Mitsuki), I pore over that image and angst over that image until I've discerned everything I can from it. When working on Mitsuki, I completely misinterpreted the skirt since I was working with an image from the manga that had text at the bottom; when we got the artbook and a textless version, I saw I was way off! If I've picked something from an anime, I screencap and sketch. If I can get a character book or Newtype sketches, that's the Holy Grail of Cosplay Planning. I recorded segments of Resident Evil gameplay. (You get a close-up of Rebecca's shoes when she's going to rescue Billy! Sure, the zombies ate me, but it was a small price to pay.)

For my historical costumes (Sophie; Lucrezia), I spend time researching period-appropriate construction and proper undergarments. Corsetry has been lots of fun! I don't always follow the rules I find (Yes, I still back-stitch!), but it's better to be informed. The same goes for traditional Japanese clothing; read books, visit websites, see the real thing if you can... then try it for yourself.

Next up is long happy hours of shopping with Ringo-chan. We love Denver Fabrics, they've helped me out with the "Perfect Fabric" many times. We also hoard Joann's coupons like chipmunks. But we can't shop forever, unfortunately; then it's time for pattern-drafting. Sometimes there's a great pattern commercially available. Vogue has some amazing suit patterns that make elegant uniforms, and Simplicity 8851 belongs in every girl's repertoire [laugh]. I'm also extremely spoiled to have a copy of Pattern Master Boutique from Wild Ginger Software. It has a variety of options for clothing patterns generated to your measurements. Commercial pattern sizing is painfully off, but nearly everything out of Pattern Master is the right fit the first time. After I get a basic pattern, I can start adapting it to create the right proportions. A nice silhouette is very important to me.

I work from the inside out. If specific undergarments are required, those come first, since they'll affect the drape and sizing of the finished piece. After the basic garments are complete, it's on to trim and accessories and wig. Props are almost always last for me. With Meryl (Trigun), the guns came first, since the cape construction required that the holsters were completed. But typically, the prop is the finishing touch; great if I finish it, but in a time crunch I can survive without it.

The final step, which is extremely important, is coaxing and cajoling friends into cosplaying characters from the same series. Because group cosplay is still the most fun. XD

Koge Donbo says to you, “I need you to design the next lovely couple for my all-new shoujo manga: the beautiful yet cute starlet and her handsome but boyish leading man.” Who will you create? What will they wear? Naturally or artificially flavored hair?

Ha! As long as the lead girl had something surreal strapped to her head, and the boy had impossibly large watery eyes, I'd be satisfied. As for outfits? Military uniforms, of course.

You can’t take it with you when you die, but if you could, which costume would you want to wear for the rest of your afterlife?

Takuto (Full Moon) comes ready-made with wings, but that's a bit presumptuous of me. Pepper has a harp! That seems heavenly enough. ^_^

Have you used your singing talent in masquerade skits? Which skit has been your favorite so far?

[laugh] Any singing ability I have is Highly Classified, so no, definitely not. I sing at church, and at karaoke, and in my car, not necessarily in that order. ;)

I'm not much for skits, really. I was on the Forensics team in high school, so I value efficiency: get on stage, make your point, get off stage. I don't attend masquerades often either; I'd much prefer to hang around backstage to get a close-up look at costumes and chat with people.

Tell us a bit about the group, Paper Wings, in which you’re a member.

We're just a bunch of old college friends who started cosplaying together and slapped a pretentious-yet-stupid name on the group.

Since early on, we've been hosting "Iron Cosplay" at various conventions: we give you stuff, you make a costume, you tell us what it is, our esteemed judges see if they agree. It's always loads of fun! ^_^ But we don't just host the event, we love making costumes out of what's lying around our hotel room too. (Celine is, by far, the most talented at making ghetto costumes, but we aspire to be like her.) Toilet paper is a staple ingredient in any bad costume, and we once made toilet paper wings for a 3-minute Kotori (X) costume... hence, Paper Wings. Yup, it's just that stupid, but it made for a swanky domain name!

We aren't a competitive group or performance troupe, we're just some old lady procrastinator cosplayers who try to give each other encouragement.

At conventions, cosplay has grown to the point of almost having its own life. What do you see as the good and the bad of its rise in popularity?

Every fandom is represented, every age group, every skill level. You get to meet all sorts of people and see some really amazing works of art and creativity. We're a community with a lot of knowledge to share, and there are plenty of opportunities to support one another.

As far as bad aspects go... I dress up like cartoon characters for fun, and amazingly I don't get arrested for that. Life is good!

If you have any additional comments or any rumors to dispel, here’s your chance.

My friends gamely tried to come up with some rumors about me, but they're all too silly to print. Feel free to spread some if you like!

To the Tomoe family, thanks so much for this website; every time I'm planning my costumes for a convention, I come here because otherwise I don't remember anything I've made. [laughs]

Thanks for reading my interview. I hope I get to meet you all at a convention someday; I'll be the one in the uniform!

see more of Makoto's costumes here

Emphasizing that cosplay truly is an art form is what I appreciate in your work, Makoto. You have a great attitude about cosplay, and it really shines through in your creations - that is refreshing to see. I can definitely relate to losing track of the costumes I've worn, and I can only imagine that it gets harder the more you have. It's heck getting old, but cosplay is one of the few things left that keeps us young and health experts haven't ruled it out yet - although Ramune and Pocky should not be your only sustenance at conventions. Lesson learned. Here's to your future triumphs and even to those few 3-in-the-morning-mistakes that are bound to happen. No one will notice the sleeve is inside least not initially.


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