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Tell us about your first cosplay experience.

The San Diego Comic Con International 1998 was my first cosplay experience, and to this day, it’s still one of the best.  That was the year that Takeuchi Naoko (the creator of Sailormoon) attended the SDCC, and I just happened to have a vacation in California that coincided with the con, so it all seemed quite fated.  For the occasion, I created (with help from my mother and a friend) my first costume: Super Sailormoon from the Sailormoon anime.  It was awful, but in that great way that all first costumes are.  I had the most wonderful time, and I got to experience it all with my mother who shares many of my same passions for crafting and fantasy. (My mother got to meet Richard Pini, the creator of ElfQuest, that year also!)

We only went half a day, and we spent the afternoon in just the dealer’s room!  We really didn’t have any idea that there were other things going on!  But I met a lot of nice people, got a lot of pictures taken, and got to meet Naoko, which was a great honor.  But the most exciting thing happened close to the end of the day when a local NBC reporter asked me if I’d like to be in the 5pm newscast, and of course, I said yes!  I was placed between a dealer selling dragon statues and a crazy-tall actress dressed as Storm from X-men.  With her heels and everything, she was probably twice my height! So really, I couldn’t have asked for a more exciting first event!

Besides improvements in sewing technique, what do you think is the biggest difference in your cosplay now vs. when you first started?

I think it’s definitely my ability to work frugally.  I spend a lot less on costumes now than I used to, and my checkbook is very thankful!  In the years I’ve been sewing seriously, I’ve found a number of places where I can do “bargain” shopping and ways to cut costs and avoid waste.  Also, since the community’s grown so much, hard-to-find items have gotten much more reasonably priced as well as a great deal easier to find.

Do cosplay and your career go hand in hand? Do you wish it did/didn’t?

I’m finishing up my bachelor’s in interdisciplinary liberal arts (which is fancy talk for an elementary teaching degree) with a minor in visual arts.  As a teacher, I think costuming can really come in handy.  Depending on the school, I may have the opportunity to work on plays or other things with students.  I have the idea that teaching particular units using costuming to get the kids interested is a good idea, but in the real classroom, it might be harder to apply.  I don’t think they really affect each other one way or another… except maybe having summers off.  *laughs

You’ve gained some notoriety around the con circuit with your consistently impressive work. How do you keep this bit of celebrity from turning your priorities upside down?

*laughs* Oh gosh.  “Celebrity” is so funny…  I’m so incredibly mundane; I go to class, I go to work, I hit my snooze button in the morning.  I think I’m ridiculously boring, and that probably keeps my feet on the ground more than anything.  You know, real life comes first.  I’m a student, and school comes before everything else.  I’m very organized, and I keep a pretty tight schedule – always written down.  I have to know where I need to be, or I get a little crazy.  *O.o*  The same goes for money.  Bills always come first (‘cause if I don’t pay the car payment, they come and take it away!), and I have a job that I not only need, but I’m fortunate enough to really enjoy it.  So that’s another priority.  I’m really a very realistic, down-to-earth girl.

But, too, I have my little mad-moments.  Attending Oni-Con this year is a good example of that…  I wasn’t planning on going, and it put a crunch on my budget, but how could I possibly pass up the chance to meet Yoshitaka Amano (not to mention hanging out with some awesome people)?  I figured the universe owed me that much, and I could eat soup for a few weeks instead. XD

With this sort of attention on you, do you feel pressure to outdo yourself with each new project?

The only pressure I feel comes from myself; ultimately, I’m the one I have to please.  At the end of the day, I’m doing a costume because I love it, and the character, and the whole creation process behind it.  I like to challenge myself, and I always want to be moving; I can’t be a static person.  It’s always one of my goals to learn a new skill or improve an old one with each new costume.  When I finish a new costume and I can say that my technique has gotten better, or I’ve mastered a new skill, or I was successful in something I never thought I’d do, then I feel really accomplished.

If Amano-san asked you to help him design a new character, what features would you give him or her?

That’s a terrifying notion, but I’ll bite anyway. XD  I’d like to see something more like his older work, reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha’s art nouveau style, maybe taking some cues from the fashion of that period, too, since it was so elegant and playful.  And maybe sort of purplish-bluish, light-colored hair?  I just think that’d be a nice color.

When you seem to be stuck in a perpetual “bad hair day,” how do you “detangle?”

Why, then we get out the wig detangler!  *laughs*  Well, with cosplay, it’s usually just a waiting game.  Most of my “bad hair days” regarding cosplay have more to do with a lack of funds than anything else, so I try to put my creativity to something else while I’m waiting for the next check.  I rarely, if ever, find myself without something do to cosplay-wise.

Of course, I have those events where I sew a sleeve in backwards, or something else stupid, and at that point I go, “Okay, done for the day!” and go do something else.  Video games are very therapeutic when I’m frustrated. Nothing like killin’ a few Heartless to get you re-centered. *laughs*

What’s your favorite non-cosplay thing to do at cons?

Chill with friends.  Eating, drinking, playing games, cruising the dealer’s room, dancing, anything, anywhere, anytime.  I think my main goal at cons is spending time with the people I adore and having as much fun as possible.  That’s actually probably my favorite part about cons all together.  As strange as it is, when I’m at a con with people I only see once or twice a year, we can always just pick up right where we left, and I love that.

I still, after 9 years of cons, have yet to sing karaoke, although it’s one of my favorite things to do. (My deep, dark secret is that I used to be a voice major and a jazz singer… shh, don’t tell anyone!)  Each con that I’m going to, I say that I’ll change that, but I never quite get around to it.  Someone help me!  Drag me to the karaoke room next time you see me!

Walk us through one of your typical costuming processes: from conception to construction to completion.

There’s a process for that?  Just kidding!

Well, usually it starts with, “OMG I LOVE *insert name here* I’M GOING TO COSPLAY HER,” in reference to watching a show, reading manga, or playing a game.  I usually have to be pretty attached to a character to cosplay her (there haven’t been any hims yet, but I can’t say that it won’t change!); it’s all about the personality and presence of a character for me.  I love Sophie for her subtle beauty and determination, Haruhi for her pride and “commoner” sensibility, Terra for her fierce devotion and empathy.  For me, their costumes just echo those things about them.

Once I’ve set my heart on something, I attack the internet with all the resources I have to find reference images.  References are really important for me because it gives me a lot of insight into how fabrics fall and move (so if it’s animated in any way, like a show, or most new video games, it’s really important for me to get video clips, too, not just stills), the minute details, and colors and textures.  I print out the best references to take with me when I go shopping.  If I can get character sketches or things like that, those are the real treasures.

I start researching my patterns and fabrics next.  I usually spend some time on sewingpatterns.com just going over the stock of the standard patternmakers, McCall’s, Butterick, etc.  I write down the ones that look close on my reference images, and then we go shopping!

Just this year, I’ve learned to love Denver Fabrics – in Denver, of course.  They have not only an incredible, massive selection of all types of fabrics, but also really amazing bargains.  There are a few fabrics I will get online (particularly silks from dharmatrading.com), but for most new materials, I really like to be there to see the color, feel the texture, observe how the fabric moves and drapes.

   

All the time I’m doing this, I’m “meditating,” or that’s what I call it anyway. Thinking really hard about the design and the details and the finishing work, occasionally making sketches, taking notes when I think of a good idea.  Sometimes I’ll have materials for a few months before I actually start any work, but once I do, I’ll usually finish it in a matter of weeks (or days, depending on the difficulty).  Sophie, for example, was a project I finished in a weekend, although I spent a good two months just mulling over it in my head.  Usually around now, I’m buying wigs and shoes and other accessories, often by scouring my local secondhand stores. (I have bought all but one pair of my cosplay shoes secondhand.  True story.)

So the last, and usually the shortest, part is the actual construction.  I tend to do that all at once.  I usually use the pattern pieces, but not the instructions, especially when I’ve had to alter the pattern.  I occasionally draft a new pattern, or, even less frequently, use a very elementary form of draping… uh, ‘cause I never technically learned it.  ^^;

Cutting is my worst part.  I feel like it takes the longest, and it’s the riskiest part of the business.  I know people go, “OMG, Beverly, that’s great!” but they have no idea how much of my stuff just works out of pure dumb luck.  I throw stuff in and go, “God, I hope this works!” and somehow it does.  It’s a mystery to me, too.

Then onto sewing, which, for me, now involves a lot of serging because it makes life so much easier, and I really like how the insides of my costumes look.  *laughs*  I’ve shown so many people the inside of the Sophie dresses because they’re all serged and tidy, and I get all keyed up about it.  That’s really gotten to be a big deal to me; the inside looking as nice as the outside.  It’s not something people will notice necessarily, but just one more thing that makes me feel confident.

I guess completion is really when it all goes on: wig, makeup, contacts, everything!  That’s always my favorite part: to walk in front of a mirror with the whole thing on.  It’s a great feeling.

With Sailor Moon being a perennial favorite, what advice can you offer on styling odangos, keeping long ponytails in decent shape, and/or sailor collars?

Uh, get a heat sealer if you’re going to make odango. XD  Your fingers will thank you.  Katie Bair’s odango tutorial is basically the same as what I did, and the tutorial itself is really easy to understand and execute.  Other advice about odango… uh, be patient?

I don’t know about the ponytails.  I’ve never been able to keep them in good shape, other than just being really careful and always combing them out after wearing.  I also store long wigs (or ponytails, etc) in a braid to keep them from tangling… if this is a wig sin, someone should tell me. XD  And there’s nothing better than a good bottle of wig detangler and a wide tooth comb.

I think most people have the hang of sailor collars now!  They’ve actually been appearing in quite a few commercial patterns so it’s pretty easy to get good instructions.  Just remember to interface!  Interfacing is your friend!

When working on costumes, do you tend to focus on details or on getting the general effect?

I think I tend to focus more on the general effect, although I’m paying more and more attention to details.  I’m of the school of thought that it’s going to be best if it looks right on me, rather than having exact details, so I’m not opposed to changing some areas if it’s going to suit my body type better, or make the costume more comfortable, or whatever.

It’s funny because when there are a lot of details, like with Amano costumes, I’m more willing to sacrifice those smaller points (or alter them).  With more simple, clean-lined outfits, like Nausicaa, I pay a great deal more attention to the details.  Since her flight suit is so organic and so simple, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything because it would be easy to identify.

What’s one character that you never thought you’d cosplay yet you’ve ended up making and donning the outfit?

I think Aeris surprised me more than anything since it’d been so done, and I wasn’t really into FFVII until Advent Children came out.  Of course, once I saw that, I was totally hooked.  She’s one of my favorite characters and some of the most comfortable costumes I’ve ever worn, which is a big perk!  Surprisingly enough, I’m planning yet another Aeris costume: the ‘classic’ style from the original game.

The characters from the Final Fantasy games and its subsequent off-shoots are top cosplay choices around the world. What do you find so appealing about it?

Oh, where to start!  There’s just something about every Final Fantasy that everyone can love. I think that’s why it’s so popular not only as a game, but as a source for cosplayers.  There’s a cast of characters in each game that are so unique and quirky and interesting, and there’s always someone to identify with.  You love ‘em, or you hate ‘em, but you really feel something about them.

On the other side of that coin, there’s also a “formula” they seem to follow (much like boy bands… just kidding!), so you see a certain familiarity in the characters.  You sort of feel like you’ve met them before, and you sort of did, just in another guise in another game.  You can see this reflected in cosplay, too; certain cosplayers who identify with one character in one game often cosplay the “same” character in another game (Ashe = Yuna = Aeris…. Etc etc etc).  While each character is certainly unique, they occupy a particular space in the universe.  I think this is another part of the appeal of Final Fantasy all together; each game is a different setting, a different world, a different challenge, but they all have that same thread of identity in them.  It’s new, yet familiar.

Most of all, they’re some of the coolest, strangest, most interesting, and most intricate costume designs on the face of the planet, I think.  Especially with the newest games, from IX onward, we really get to see the fine details about the costumes.  There are more details in not only their designs, but the textures of the fabrics and leathers, how they move, all the details in treatments and finishing.  While it leaves little to the imagination, it still has a huge need for creativity in crafting them, precisely because they’re already so intricate.

Here’s your space for additional comments and the dispelling of rumors.

If there are any rumors going around about me, someone should tell me because I bet they’re hilarious.  The only thing I can think of is to dispel some confusion about my location…  I live in Colorado.  I’ve apparently been mistaken as a resident of Illinois, New York, Texas, and California, and perhaps some other locations.  But no, I’m living under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, just north of Denver.

I love you guys!  =D  For all the cosplayers, keep working hard!  You only get more and more amazing every year!  And a big thanks to CosplayLab, too, for always being there for the community and giving me this particular honor.  ^^  You’re all awesome!

See more of Beverly's costumes

Beverly, you probably never thought you'd one day be considered a "veteran cosplayer" when you first started, but nine years after that fateful day, you've earned quite a name for yourself. You continue to bring to life the characters you love and inspire others to soar as well. One day, you may even bring cosplay to the classroom as an official topic. Won't those kids be in for a fun time? Keep your feet on the ground while you reach for the stars.

~Mrs. Tomoe

 
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