Cosplay Lab - Tristen Citrine's Spotlight
Mar 16, 2023
Tell us about your first cosplay experience.
Technically, my very first cosplay would be when I was 7 or so. My mother did some seamstress work, and I was infatuated with any- and everything Rainbow Brite. There was going to be a talent competition at my Summer Camp that year, so she made me this insanely elaborate Rainbow Brite costume complete with yellow-orange yarn wig. I remember distinctly that I wouldn't stand still while she tried to put my makeup on, so she made the purple star out of a colored piece of hospital tape and slapped it on my cheek. We worked up a cute little song and dance where I bopped around and sang “Color Symphony” from my favorite Rainbow Brite record (one of those cool, colorful picture LPs). I ended up getting second place to a kid who dressed up like Bruce Springsteen and sang “Born in the U.S.A. ” Needless to say, my mom didn't want the costume to go to waste, so I was Rainbow Brite for that Halloween and the next. Those were by far my best candy hauling years, too!
Really, though, my first anime cosplay would be at my first Anime North in 1999. I had been watching entirely too many Sailormoon fansubs when I decided it would be cool to go to an anime convention and wear a costume. I had no idea so many people even went in costume… it was GREAT! Even better, people knew I was Queen Nehelenia whereas before, I'd had trouble finding people who even knew what in the heck Sailormoon was. Adding to that, (my now husband) Joshua decided to dress up as well and wrote a hokey, fun little skit for us to perform at the masquerade. Anime North was a wonderful experience, and I made a lot of friends I still have to this day. That weekend in Canada was definitely the start of something big.
You have a great mix of original concepts and show-/game-referenced costumes in your collection. Which type do you find more challenging to make, and which is more rewarding?
Everything I make is rewarding in one way or another, or else I wouldn't find the motivation to sit down and make it. Every creation has its place and reason, strange as that may seem. In actuality, I don't like to plan anything too far in advance, save for really large projects. I, rather, like to keep a lot of tools and materials on hand as an inspiration to create. Sure, I collect things for possible costumes, but, really, the ideas just kind of happen . For instance, Jigglydomme and Miss Moogle were crazy ideas jotted down in the middle of the night from a random conversation that evolved from, “Ya know, a bondage Pokemon would WORK, no really…. It would WORK!” As for challenge vs. reward, pound for pound, it is definitely the musical-based costumes. Some of the fabrics can take months to find, like the metallic red/black fabric on the Kayou Show Sumire costume, or all the trims and beads for the Seramyu costumes. When the original is a costume that actually exists, you know the materials can be found, so the challenge is in the hunt for them. It is so rewarding when you finally gather all the pieces and can begin. I distinctly remember crying out for joy when I found that Sumire fabric. Oh yes.
I also find original designs to be a challenge, but the theme and variation aspect on the outfits such as the infamous Toad Girl costume, add a nice spice to my cosplay portfolio. Of course, when something like Toad happens, it is hard to live it down. Nearly every convention I go to, sure enough someone will come up to me, no matter what costume I'm wearing, and ask if I'm the “Toad Girl.” Funny stuff.
When constructing a costume, what's your typical sequence of work? (i.e. Easiest or hardest elements first, patterns or not, etc.)
More often than not, my costumes take less than two weeks from concept to completion. In my sewing studio, I keep lots of reference art, art books, game guides, a DVD/CD player, VCR and TV. I try to keep a lot of inspiration in my creative space to get the juices flowing. Usually, I start with patterning and making a muslin unless it is something similar to what I have created before. I keep master patterns that I've drafted to my shape, for skirts, pants, jackets of several cuts, and a master Sailormoon fuku pattern, which comes in very handy. Every costume's muslin is filed into manila envelopes with its reference art and notes in case I ever need to go back and use the pieces again. The master patterns I make are drawn on heavy butcher or craft paper which is definitely superior to pattern tissue. After the pattern drafting, I create a color card that I attach to reference art for any fabric shopping needed. These color cards and art tend to stay in my bag so I can pull them out anytime I'm out shopping.
As for fabric shopping, I do most of my buying wholesale in Los Angeles . I tend to buy common fabrics, such as crepes, lycras and brocades, in bulk and keep a lot of colors on hand for creative urges. I'm also a fan of lightweight denim or twill in white because I dye a lot of my fabric for cosplay. All the fabric for Mermaid Sara, Sumire's yellow dress, and Shirobarahime, was originally white and dyed to match the art. I try not to keep my fabric and supplies shopping strict so can I keep an eye out for sales and interesting finds and, most of all, keep an open mind, letting the fabrics find me. My Saiyuuki Sumire costume was on the back burner for ages, then, during a buying trip in L.A. , my friend, Kyle, saw the fabric I had been dreaming of on clearance at Michael Levine's. Destiny, I tell ya, destiny .
Then, I pretty much go into creative mode, barely emerging from my studio until the project is done. I tend to get ideas and go with them, not planning around cons or events in particular. Once in this stage, costumes rarely take more than a week or two to get done. FF9 Shiva took about that long with all the dying, rhinestone work, etc.
I like projects with detail and handwork on them that I can take with me to work and school or traveling. Most of the beading on the Sun Faerie was done on plane trips to and from Baltimore . Nothing better to do on a long plane ride… might as well bead up some sparkly things and make good use of that fly time! Also, I do a fair amount of hand stitching and embellishing for both personal and professional work while at my computer. So, if you see me on Instant Messenger for a while, I'm probably working on something. When I have no urgent projects, I like to make strands of beads to sew onto costumes.
What's your favorite tool of the trade?
My Janome Memorycraft 9000 sewing machine and Viking Huskylock 936, by far. The Janome is built like a tank, is just fabulous, and I would wholeheartedly recommend Janome machines to anyone interested in the art of sewing. Of course, I am in love with my serger, too. Most everything is made due to these two babies. I also keep a Kenmore computerized sewing machine and serger on backup which are set up in case I need them or have friends over to sew with me. I also love my big worktable and the large space I am blessed with to create in. My house is great for sewing parties, and woooo, I love having them!
If money and resources were no object, what would be your ultimate cosplay?
I haven't really thought of that, as, when I set my mind to create something, nothing stands in my way to get it done. My current dream costume, which I will eventually create, is Orihime's Arabia no Bara dress. It's a huge white ball gown covered in sheer organza petals with an insanely long train that can be pulled up to make her face the center of an immense white rose. It is gorgeous and elegant to the extreme. Bonus points if I can get one of my good friends to do Reni's Moon Prince Desire with me. ** swoon **
Most people will agree that meeting new friends is as integral to cosplay as the costumes themselves.
When in Japan for Joshua and my honeymoon, my friends, Barbie and Kaie, got us tickets to the 555 th showing of the Sailormoon Musical as a gift. It was one of the special meet-the-cast days, and they did an extra parapara dance at the end of the show as well. Needless to say, the show was sold out, and there were a lot of cosplayers of all ages.
In Japan, you just don't go around outside your event while in costume, so the three of us changed into our costumes in a restroom near the Sunshine Theater. I thought since Barbie and Kaie were such pros at cosplay, they would get ready really quickly. I made sure I got into Seramyu Venus as quickly as possible so I wouldn't hold up my friends.
Needless to say, I got ready before them, so I propped myself up in the restroom's windowsill and looked out over Ikebukuro while they finished. A little girl in pigtails holding one of the pre-made Seramyu Eternal Moon costumes on a hanger came into the restroom with her mother to change. She looked at me up in the windowsill and shrieked something frightful. She then rambled in Japanese and ran away from the bathroom.
My friends were giggling at this point while I was mortified, wondering if it was some type of cultural shame to be sitting in a window while in costume. Worried and nervous, I asked what the girl had said and what I had done wrong.
Still giggling, Barbie explained that the little girl was embarrassed because she caught Sailorvenus in the bathroom! Eventually, the little girl came back to change. I introduced myself in broken Japanese, and all was well. As for the show, it was fabulous, and I can't wait to go see Seramyu again! Next time, though, I won't mysteriously lurk in bathroom windowsills.
You are chosen to be a consultant on the new Sakura Taisen musical.
What suggestions do you have for an exciting plot and extravagant costumes?
I think it is time for Iris to have a starring role in a Kayou show and Alice in Wonderland would be a fabulous story for her. Especially since some of the musicals lately have been a little drug-trippy, like Shin Takarajima was, this would be right up their alley. A show such as this would provide many parts and interesting plot elements to twist and turn. As for cast, I'd pick Iris for Alice, Sakura as the Cheshire Cat, Maria as the Caterpillar, Orihime as the Queen of Hearts, Kanna on comic relief as the King of Hearts, Reni as the White Rabbit, Kouran and Ohgami as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and Kaede as the Mad Hatter. In addition, the Baragumi would be great in filler roles, such as the flowers, which could also serve as an inside joke.
As for music, I see Reni and Iris with a powerful duet, Kanna and Orihime with a comical one, with the possibility of Orihime also having a rock solo. Maria would have something jazzy-funky, Ohgami and Kouran would definitely be cute, and Kaede would have a sexy song. Sakura would have another one of her famous production numbers ala her set in Shin Takarajima , and, of course, the Baragumi would have something cute and downright bizarre.
Of course, there would have to be a new Revue number, possibly an update on their Kore ga Revue outfits. New, grander revue feathers, too. Maybe something with an image colored gradient dye? Spend that Sega money… make it nuts !
Consequently, I just heard, after writing the above, the next Sakura Taisen Musical will be Aoi Tori with Iris and Reni as the leads. Cool stuff!
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now, and will cosplay still be a prominent feature in your life?
I think my passion for creativity and costuming will always stay with me because I am “the enthusiast” personality type. Cosplay is definitely a good outlet for that. I don't see my “Final Stage” for cosplay any time soon, but, as with all things, I see my passions changing direction. Change is constant, and you just gotta roll with it, or all you will do is stagnate. So, if cosplay and costuming is still interesting to me ten years from now, I will be involved. Anything can happen, though!
If you have any additional comments or rumors to dispel, now's your chance.
Hmmm, other than my unnatural obsession with citrus, citrines, shiny objects and orange ?
I've had quite a few people write or Instant Message me after conventions complimenting my work, but they were too afraid to talk to me in person. This always makes me a little sad because I really like meeting new people who share common interests! When you look at the big picture, not a lot of people are even into cosplay, so we should stick together in our fandom, right? The way one looks in and poses for pictures can convey many different messages; that's very true. I guess what I'm saying is, come say hi to me – introduce yourself. Let me know a bit about you . See, we're all just fans here, doing that thing we fans do. I may be busy for a bit, be late for a panel or other con-related thing, but I always do my best to talk to everyone! Also, I am notoriously bad at email. Horribly slow about answering it all, even though I try. I will admit, I'm much better with Live Journal www.livejournal.com/users/tristencitrine/ which gets updated almost daily. If you're interested in my day-to-day ramblings with the occasional costume update and crazy cat pictures, go check it out!
Let's see…. What else? Oh! My website that has been MIA for waaaaay too long! Goldenquartz is gone due to much server drama a long while ago. After restoring most of the data, it is being rebuilt at a new domain thanks to my dear friend and one of the best site designers on this planet, Mara K. It should be up around the beginning of 2005 at both tristine.com and tristencitrine.com. Looking at what we have so far, it is sure to please as it is big, bright, and very, very orange !
Rumors, rumors, hehehe. None to dispel from this end. I'm just a fan, having a great time, being geeky as all-get-out and meeting new friends. You know, standard issue nerdlet with a taste for dressing up like things that don't exist. Heh, life is orange… life is good.
see more of Tristen Citrine's costume collection here
TC, only a handful of cosplayers ever achieve Goddess-level in their costuming, yet you have blazed a trail and set a new standard for all to strive toward. Your style is unique and your technique is impeccable. I remember being inspired by your Galaxia photos a few years ago on your GQ site. Us Sailormoon baddies have to stick together. Isn't it funny that once you get past the armor-plating and being-in-character, cosplayers are just regular people? Thanks for sharing your great insights and congrats on being married to a cameko. It definitely helps having a good subject to pose.
Garry aka Prof.