Archive for January, 2013

My next article for Nerd Caliber is up! You can view the original, as well as countless other interesting nerd news articles at http://nerdcaliber.com

No one is born with perfect underwear. Purchasing proper undergarments for cosplay is something that you learn from years of experience, embarrassing photos, and annoying garment flaws. I’m here to save you some trouble and make you look better in your costume with a complete guide to cosplay undergarments.

You put countless hours of work into your costume, making sure that every detail is camera ready. But what about what goes under the costume? Have you thought about the parts the camera will never see? Sometimes having the right unmentionables makes all the difference in when casting off reality and bringing your character to life.

What’s the first step towards perfection you ask? Well, let’s start with the girls. I don’t mean the ladies; I mean the girls. Having the right bra (or lack thereof) is of major importance to just about every costume since your bussom is front and center. When cosplaying, you should really be wearing a bra, however we should never see that bra. That can sometimes be a challenge with skimpier costumes. My first recommendation is that everyone get familiar with bra-strap holders. These range from small clips to long horizontal straps. They clip onto your bra straps behind your back and keep your straps from falling down your shoulders. These are great for sleeveless costumes which don’t have an open back. You can also look into racer-back bras to ensure that your bra straps won’t be making an appearance, but without the extra assembly.

But what if your costume doesn’t have a back? Or shoulders? There’s always strapless bras, but hell, what if you costume doesn’t have a front? Well if you’re going to be bearing a lot of skin, but still want the extra lift and support of a bra, underwear and dance manufacturers everywhere now make stick-on invisible bras. These strange limited time use undergarments are essentially two free-floating bra cups which adhere to your skin independent of each other or any sort of strap. Some of them even allow you to “stick and lift,” as to effectively glue your breast in a higher location.

What if even these invisible bras cover too much boob? Well then you should rethink your costume, missy! No. I kid. But seriously. Put some clothes on… Anyhow, at the very minimum, one should be wearing at least a decent pair of pasties or petals. Petals are essentially adhesive nipple covers. They cover nothing except the very bare minimum and come in a range of shapes and nude colors. Petals are actually meant to be worn under very thin or tight fabric like a leotard, which otherwise do provide full coverage, but are an embarrassment in the cold. However petals will also work for you if your costume calls for nothing but suspenders on your top half. Where can you get these petals and invisible bras you ask? Just about any major lingerie retailer will have them, as well as any dance supply store.

Now that we’ve talked about hiding your bra, let’s talk about the bra itself. Bras come in several different shapes, sizes, and cuts, and they’re all designed to do different things. The first step in choosing the right bra is knowing your size. Grab a measuring tape and google super quick how to find your size or visit your local Victoria’s secret for a free fitting. It’s not rocket science but there are a remarkable number of women out there in the wrong size bra. Once you know your size its time to learn your shapes. They’ve got full coverage, demi, balconette, and plunge. They’re names say pretty much everything you need to know: full coverage covers the whole breast, demi means a partial cup which covers half to two thirds of the breast. A balconette is cut straight across the top and are shaped kind of like tea-cups, while a plunge has a super low neckline. Not every cut looks good on every woman. Try a few different styles on to see what looks best on you and will accommodate your costume’s neckline. The most commonly used styles in cosplay would be plunge and demi because of their low necklines and cleavage-creating side support.

Speaking of cleavage, it’s time for the fun stuff–the padding. Most bras today come with some form of padding in them because the whole world tells us that our boobs need to be perky, round, and enormous. An unlined bra means that there is no padding, and is typically of no use to cosplayers because so many anime characters have giant, well sculpted melons. A lightly-lined bra has a little bit of padding, and a push up has quite a bit of padding. There are pushup bras out there today (I’m looking at you Victoria’s secret) that will add one or even TWO cup sizes. These are a good investment if you like to cosplay women.

But what if even two cup sizes aren’t enough? Or what if you want more cleavage? There are lots of tricks you can do yourself at home to transform your chest for the day. Ever hear of chicken cutlets? Not the kind you eat of course, but the kind you stick down your shirt. No? Let me explain. Chicken cutlets are…well…silicon chicken cutlets that can be positioned in the bottom or sides of your bra to create more lift or cleavage. Some people also use socks. If you’re going all out to get cleavage out of a small bust, you can even use medical tape to literally tape your cleavage in place. Just lift, tape, and repeat until you’ve achieved your desired lift. But think carefully before taping that sensitive skin. Taking off a costume has never been so painful.

What if you need to go the other way with things? What if you need a small bussom? For minimal compression you can wear a simple sports bra to hold things down. If you need even more flattening power, you can bind your chest with an ace bandage, or wear a compression top. Google has more information for you, I can assure you. Find a good tutorial, and practice before the day of. Though I’ve never bound my chest, I hear it can be quite uncomfortable, especially if done incorrectly. Therefore, I do not feel qualified to comment on how it’s done.

Okay enough about boobs! What? I know, you can never have too many boobs. But what about the rest of you? Moving down the body, next we have the waist. I’ve never heard of a cosplayer trying to make their waistline bigger, but if you are that special exception, there is a chocolate cupcake in your local bakery with your name on it. Buy two dozen of those bad boys, and meet me at next month’s convention. However if you’re looking to shrink in a pinch, well then I’ve got some real pinchers for you. I’m sure everyone has heard of spanks. It’s that terribly tight long underwear that your mom wears to family gatherings and funerals. It looks awful by itself, and it may remind you of your high school reunion, but it can make a big difference. There are spanks, cinches, and control tops available for your back, stomach, hips and thighs. These are great if you need to smooth out an area or look like you’ve lost a few pounds before the big day. However I can’t stress how important daily exercise and healthy eating are to every aspect of your life, not just cosplay. So if you have the time and motivation before the con to change your body naturally, I would go with that route, and save the spanks for plan B.

But what if you’re already as thin as you’re going to get, but you need a more dramatic silhouette? That’s where the most famous undergarment of all can come in handy: the corset. Corsets were actually our earliest bras, meant to take the weight of our chests off our backs and keep a lady’s spine in alignment. The earliest and most basic corsets did nothing for a woman’s waist. Waist training came about at different times in different cultures, but is now synonymous with the corset. If you’ve never trained your waist before, a corset can compress your waist up to four inches. An especially toned man or woman will likely only see two inches of waist reduction because fat compresses more than muscle. With practice, it is possible to shrink the waist six or even eight inches or more. This is called waist training and is a serious commitment. It involved wearing a corset all day and night, training your body to literally rearrange its organs to develop a smaller waist. I cannot recommend that anyone attempts waist training without some serious research and consideration as the side effects can be quite serious. But don’t worry, shrinking your waist up to four inches for a day or two is not going to cause any permanent harm unless you have a pre-existing condition which makes this activity dangerous. I will caution you though, it only takes three eight hour days in a corset for the stomach muscles to begin to atrophy. This is because you use your abdominals all day to hold yourself upright. When you’re in a corset, your stomach no longer has to do any work, and the muscle begin to get weak and flabby. If you’re going to wear a corset for the weekend, I recommend doing three sets of ten sit-ups at the end of each con-day to keep your abs used to doing some work.

Now that we’ve covered how to shape your body for your cosplay, lets take about how to keep your cosplay in place. We’ve talked about bra strap holders, but what about holding up your tights or gloves? For tights I like to use a garter belt. You can get decorative ones for show on the internet, but sometimes just a practical, comfortable, everyday garter belt from a lingerie boutique is most effective. For gloves and small accessories that like to slip and move around, the brand Hollywood makes a whole range of fashion tapes and garment straps in every shape and size imaginable. Designed to hold up straps, keep necklines in place, heck, they even have straps to keep your pants tucked smoothly into your pants. You can find Hollywood products at a range of department stores, as well as Joann fabrics.

Moving down the body further still, next up is the feet. You may not think that your foot underwear could possibly be that important to the overall look of your cosplay. But let me tell you that after 14 hours in heels, your foot underwear is the MOST important part of your cosplay. Finding the right socks, sole inserts, corn cushions, and heel pads for your shoes will make the biggest difference when its 11pm and you’re still taking pictures and standing in lines. At the very least, I must insist that you pack a few bandaids in your convention pack. If an unexpected blister pops up, or your shoes start cutting your heels at the hundredth hour, you’ll thank me.

Since we’re talking so much about underwear, lets talk about some underwear. You have two options and two options only. Seamless, and a thong. Unless you’re wearing jeans, parachute pants, or a ball-gown, don’t risk anything showing. Stick to nude colors, and keep it tiny and seamless.

This article is almost over, I swear. I just have one last thing to add. You’re undergarments are meant to go under  your costume. In almost every case, we the con-going crowd should not be able to see your bra, spanks, or fashion tape poking out from under your costume. However there are a few cases where undergarments become over-garments, or at least base garments that will be viewable in certain poses or even at all times. These may include a leotard, unitard, or tights. Remember, if we can see it, make sure it looks presentable. You are not, under any circumstances, allowed to wear sheer top or control top nylons if your tush is not covered. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the top of many kinds of tights look different than the rest of the legs. They either have some sort of embellishment or stitch change meant to shape and lift your bottom. If you are cosplaying a ballerina in a tutu. DO NOT WEAR THESE TIGHTS. You need to get yourself some tights made for dance. Dance tights will be the same level of sheerness from top to bottom, and you won’t have to worry about hiding any weird designs or lines from the public. Remember that a convention is still, believe it or not, considered a public place. Therefore if you wouldn’t want your coworkers to see a particular garment, don’t leave it exposed at a convention.

Underwear may not be the flashiest or the biggest part of your cosplay. It may not earn you any compliments and it may not be homemade. But the right underwear does make a difference. It’s the difference between a great cosplay and an amazing cosplayer. It doesn’t make your costume look any better, it makes you look better in your costume.

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Alrighty, I will start with the Queen City Kamikaze Con business so we can get that out of the way and start looking at some pretty masks. February 16th, Manchester, NH, I will be vending at a one-day anime convention called Queen City Kamikaze Con. Admission is only $10! My table will be named under the collaborative fair project, “Faire Trimmings,” which is also the new title of my Etsy store, though the URL and username remains the same. Basically, Faire Trimmings is the name of any project that me and Kelley Griffin work on together, so that we can keep our individual art careers as separate endeavors.

In the Etsy store today we’ve got some new masks up! Including this super mischievous leaf sprite mask for only $20. All of my masks are hand-cut, carved, and painted with a waterproof acrylic ink, then sealed with a waterproof acrylic varnish. All of my masks are one-of-a-kind, so if you see one you like, you’d better get it before its gone forever. Just click on any image in this post to be taken directly to the listing.

I have also recently added two new super hero masks. The above is the slimmer of the two, designed to fit the petite face of a woman or teenage girl without covering all of her beauty. That’s one thing that I always found annoying about wearing a mask with a costume–if the mask is too big, it would cover my entire face. I like my face, and I would like for people to still be able to see it. These slim masks are my solution. They cover only what’s necessary to hiding your identity (essentially your eyebrows) and nothing more.

Another new listing in the shop is for the option to add a length of cord or ribbon to your mask purchase. All of my masks come with pre-punched holes designed to allow this particular suede and ribbon to pass through them snugly, but without snagging. At this time I offer black suede cord and black organza ribbon. The cord is barely noticeable once the mask is on your face, especially if you wear it under your hair while the organza is a dressier more decorative accessory.

The second of the new slim masks up for sale is this standard black mask made to fit any adult face. It is not slim, it is not over-sized. It is simply an average black mask. This makes it a costuming staple, really. It’s like owning a white camisole–you gotta have at least one!

Remember I also make custom masks. So if you have a specific costume for which you need a mask, send me a message and I would be happy to help!

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This weekend was awesome. Besides a wonderful annual caricature gig on Saturday afternoon (I love being paid to draw children), my best friend Kelley came up to my studio in Lowell for the weekend to have a super craft marathon. In a day and a half we got a solid 10 hours of work time in, as well as 3  hours of brainstorming, art-absorbing, and inspiration gathering. The rest of our free time was either spent sleeping eating or shopping. But shopping is also a part of the process I assure you. What better way to scout retailing techniques, research the latest fashion trends, and build your personal brand than by shopping? I think every artist can relate to me when I say that  shopping–not even purchasing but the act of browsing–is an important part of the 24 hour creative process.

Anyway, During our time in the studio, Kelley was hard at work on her beading projects, totally absorbed in that one task despite the fact that she lugged an entire shoulder of leather up to the studio in order to get started on some bags and masks. She finally took the last hour or so of work time to pattern and trace on her leather just to get started. But in the mean time, she got a lot of beading work done! Above is a shot of one of her intricate beaded necklaces. Ever talented and creative, Kelley even made me a headdress in order to practice the design in preparation to make a whole line of beaded headdresses, and it is absolutely stunning! I have to take some better pictures, but you should be excited for the dripping beaded magic that will be coming off of my head in the near future.

I on the other hand spend the entire weekend working on using up the last of my quarter hide making masks, braces, and hair accessories. In the photo above, I am sporting one of my favorite new mask styles which I found to be especially flattering. As frequent readers will know, I just patterned about 10 more styles of masks for men, women, and children. The masks range from thick to thin, pointy to soft, with a range of eye hole sizes and nose shapes so that my brand will accommodate a wide range of face shapes. Your nose does not have to settle for some “standard” mask shape. I offer variety. Anyhow, I think the standard black mask was a good place to start with the new mask patterns. Classic, versatile, sexy black masks; can’t go wrong there.

Here’s a picture of black masks, freshly painted, all lined up and ready for varnish. I tend to make small items in batches in order to work more efficiently, and thus save you and me money. So what’s next? Well, these crafting weekends will hopefully be a common occurrence in 2013 as we sign up for more and more conventions at which to sell our goods. Our first “test convention” will be Queen City Kamikaze Con at the Manchester New Hampshire High School on February 16th. It will be a minuscule convention, which is why I consider it a test, but it will be a chance to practice hauling our merch and display stuff around, setting up quickly, and give us an indication of what items sell to which demographic. We want to focus our time on making things that people actually want. So on that note, if any of you readers have any requests for cool leather accessories, armor, or jewelry, leave us a comment below and we will certainly take a shot at adding your request to our line.

In the mean time, you can see what we already offer at the Etsy store. Soon to be retitled, re-styled, and restocked, that is where we will be selling our products to the online and international community. However some items may sell at conventions or fairs before we have a chance to list them online. So if you are looking for something specific, shoot us a message and we can let you know if there’s anything in our inventory that meets your needs. We will try to list as much as we can online, but listings take time and some things are sure to be missed. Hope you understand.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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