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

I didn't really decide to start cosplay like, “Oh great! I want to do that.” It was my first year at university in Japanese studies, and my friends came back from a convention and decided to do a cosplay too. They were talking about who would embody which character before class started. When I arrived, there was a huge silence, and someone asked, “Lili, are you free at the end of May?”

My first cosplay with them was Saionji from Utena. It was in 1999, and I didn't really know how things worked so my first costume (and the following) was a bit crappy. I can't see photos without being ashamed of what I made, but I can't forget the moment we shared. It was my first year at university, after all.

Did you decide right away that cosplay was a hobby that you would continue, or did it take a longer time to make an impression on you?

To be honest, I would never have thought I could make costumes because I am a clumsy person who had no experience at all in sewing (and even no sewing machine). I never thought: “Oh my life is boring, I need a hobby, what about cosplay?“  I was just following friends: when someone suggested, “This would fit you very well,” I always accepted, even without knowing the character... and sometimes I had some surprises, like having to do Naga the White Serpent in Slayers which is bare and provocative!

But just following is not in my personality. I soon had some ideas to cosplay, and I recruited my friends too. We won some awards, and I met other French cosplayers who asked me to make characters in their groups and so on... until 2006! Things went so fast, I didn't have time to think about it and the place it took in my day-to-day life. I realized a few years later that it has become a passion, and that I really need it in my life to have a correct harmony between what is intellectual and what’s physical. To make a costume is the evidence that I can also produce a concrete thing, and “cosplay” is the part of fantasy and originality missing in my (too) serious life...

When you choose a costume, is it important to you to like the actual character or only to like the appearance of his/her clothing?

I often fall in love with illustrations just because I like the general aspect or some details: Kim Hyung Tae artworks are the perfect example. I also choose my characters because I love them or because I am a huge fan of the anime/manga. For instance my nickname, “Milady,” comes from the anime version of the Three Musketeers simply because I love the historical character, the Dumas character, and the manga “anime sanjushi” too... Most of the time, my choice depends on the challenge that the costume offers: I like to do things I never tried just to see if I can do it.

Does your location in Paris give you an easy time finding costume supplies like wigs, fancy shoes, special fabric, material for armor or weapons, etc.?

Ah Paris! What cooler place to find great shoes? Honestly, it really depends. With regard to the rest of the country, Paris is the best place to find fabrics, wigs, and other materials. We have more choices than in the south of France. I often buy and send fabrics for friends living a bit far from Paris because they can't find it in their area. In brief, we have a district for fabrics and a district for wigs. (Yes, districts) When I took some German cosplayers to the wigs district, they were totally amazed by the selection, but with respect to the entire world, I think the United States is the place where you can get everything you need for a better price. I must be a very fussy person, but I always buy my wigs from American stores.

You have some costumes that use a full head and a suit that covers you completely. How does making one of those compare to making a ball gown or armor?

The most covering costumes are not the most difficult to do. Of course, people can disagree, but to me, it is more simple to make a mascot than a historical costume: pieces are bigger. But mascots and armor are a real hell to wear: you're too hot, you can't see anything etc. I remember a costume with armor parts that strained me: I nearly fell down and fainted, and a friend had to help me to take if off in emergency. Making is nothing, but wearing is everything!

 
     

Your city also has many beautiful and historic locations for taking pictures. (Yes, we’re all jealous of the chateaus, cathedrals, and scenic old streets. ^^ ) Is it easy to go where you want for photos? (Do people bother you or tell you that the place is prohibited?) What’s your favorite location?

I LOVE PARIS. I live between a medieval city and a renaissance castle, and I thank God and all the divinities to live in such a beautiful location. I always try to make photo shoots in beautiful places because it helps a lot to bring the costume to life and also because it is my way of causing other cosplayers some curiosity about my country. I am lucky to have as friends such talented photographers as Ryuu or my boyfriend who shares the same ideas and who helps find the perfect location for each costume. As a XVIII° century specialist, I naturally prefer castles, and I try to take pictures there as long as the costume I wear allows it. But on the other hand, things are a bit difficult because we can't go into every place as we would like. Some places are restricted (like cathedrals or the castle of Versailles), and sometimes caretakers prevent us from making photos without a special authorization. But most of time, if the place is not a big tourist place, they permit us, as long as the costume is not too sexy. I remember during a photo shoot with Kirae as a Card Girl and my costume of Miyuki Chan, a caretaker asked if we were posing for a pornographic magazine, hurting my feelings a lot. Most of the time, people are just curious: they come to watch, tourists take pictures, and sometimes we are asked for which TV or magazine we are working.

 
 

You have over 50 costumes in your collection now, and some of them are quite elaborate. How do you keep them from overtaking your entire house? (keep in closet, sell, give away, etc.)

YES, this is THE problem. If you want some, please help yourself!
I love big accessories, wings, big hats, sword, armor, broomstick, GGX May's giant anchor...but I do have a BIG problem of space. I try to keep the costume until a photo shoot and then I say, “Cool, I can throw it to the rubbish or sell it now,” but most of time I can't. To sell or to buy a costume is not a French tendency... so my house is full of costumes: in my bedroom, in the cellar, in every cupboard, in the drawing room... but that's fine: I still have space in the closet.

Do cosplay and your career go well together?

Absolutely not. It is not a question of being proud of my hobby and to embrace it: I can say I make historical costumes, but I can't even speak about cosplay without ruining my credibility.

Five years from now, will you still be cosplaying? Ten years from now?

In five years, I would be... 30...*cry*  Honestly, I don't know what the future holds for me and where I’ll be in five years, but I won't give up such a passion easily. I think I will still make historical costumes or offer my help for commissions, but I am sure I’ll always keep an eye on this world.

When you’re making a costume, what’s your favorite task? (Drawing the pattern, shopping for supplies, styling the wig, sewing, painting?)

Excellent question! I can say the moment I hate is the one when I dress up for the convention, when all these people are watching you -sometimes with jealousy- trying to guess what you are about to wear and where you failed on sewing something.

Fortunately, there are more good aspects in cosplay, but I really don't know which one I prefer. I like to choose the fabrics, to sew pearls at night watching action drama next to my cat; I love the moment when, from nothing, the costume starts having the correct form; I like the moment my friend sees my costume, and I see theirs: we compare, exchange ideas and advice. I also like very much to invite a friend to sew at my home or to go to a friend’s to make our costume together. I often did this with Nat and Minako: it was the best way to keep our courage and motivation.

When you feel like things aren’t going well in your life or too many things are pressing down on you, how do you throw away the burdens and return to a happier time?

I am lucky; I have good friends around me, a loving boyfriend and a very nice mum. I should not complain and I know it. I am very even-tempered (who said bad tempered? ~.^), and I don't let things or people oppress me. For minor things, I lose my temper then I feel better! When I feel lost and depressed, I wrap up in a blanket and read a classic from literature that’s as tragic as possible, or I call a close friend and go to find comfort over a coffee

 
 

Which do you prefer and why: group cosplay or solo?

Group cosplay of course!  I think I make costumes to share a special moment with someone so being alone is a bit sad. When, for some very weird reasons, I decide to make a solo, I always ask friends if they want to make a character that could match with my solo, like a group of nurses from different series etc. I’ve made 55 costumes with only 6 solos in about 7 years.

I have favorite partners like Ariah, Elaïse, and Rash who are very special people to me.

I definitely prefer group, but it is really awful to organize so I found the solution: I cosplay for free or photoshoot with those who want to share this under-appreciated experience with me.

Sometimes, a costume is not too theatrical (such as school uniform or maid dress) and can be worn on a regular day without a wig or all the accessories. Do you ever wear a costume to do normal things like going to the cinema or the supermarket?

Never! ....Ok, except wearing a costume for very, very special days like the release of Pirates of Caribbean or Harry Potter at the cinema.

I make a division between my public life and my private garden: there is a time for cosplay and a time to go shopping dressed in a normal way. After the convention, I tidy my costumes away to change into myself again... This is the real costume that hides all my madness behind a normal appearance!

Here is your space for additional comments or dispelling rumors.

Just to finish, I would like to thank my friends for their friendship, especially Ariah, Elaïse, Kirae, Juliette, Faye, Sam, my boyfriend, and my mum for being so patient with me.

About dispelling rumors, I am afraid it would take a lifetime so I invite people to come and talk with me to form their own impression of me. I don’t have bad intentions; I just try to be loyal to my opinions. I hate the kind of “star-ification” around cosplayers, and I'm always surprised and sad to hear new cosplayers telling me, “I never dared to talk with you because you looked so imposing with your group and your costume!!” But really, I don't bite!

I want to encourage cosplayers all around the world: it is crazy to imagine that this hobby is recognized and practiced in so many countries. I hope the coming years will create more interest and that someone great will get the wonderful idea to organize an international convention. I hope I could make it to a convention in the USA one day. It looks very different from what we have in Europe, but I fear I still have to work on my English! ~.^

see more of Milady's costumes

Milady, you were a joy in conversation and painted a wonderful picture of cosplay in Paris. It's amazing how this hobby spans so many nations, yet we can all relate to a humble beginning when our first costume might not have been very good, but in time, we grow and meet a lot of great friends, too. You remind us that even after the cameras fade and the wigs & props are put away, we have great memories of the fun we had together while cosplaying our favorite characters. We hope that you'll be able to continue for many years creating fantastic costumes and enticing people to visit France with lovely, scenic photos.
~Mrs. Tomoe

 

 

 
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