Seven More Things To Pack For Your Convention

There are all manner of lists on what you should pack for going to a convention. And this blog post is really no exception. Of course there are the staple items needed for a great convention, such as money (withdraw before the convention if possible as any cash machine around will quickly develop very long lines and then run out), a drink, snacks, your camera, a small repair kit for your cosplay, etc. But here are a few more items I often have on my packing list which perhaps you’ll also find handy.

1. Multi gang sockets 

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If you’re at a convention for more than one day, you probably have a lot of stuff to charge between. Your phone, phone charger, Nintendo DS, camera, etc. Wherever you’re staying, there will be a limited supply of power sockets, especially if you’re staying with other people. So I find one of these very handy for recharging all my stuff overnight and then just pop it away in my suitcase when I head back out for the con.

2. Portable Charger 

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These are appearing on more and more packing lists and rightfully so. If you’re like me and on your phone all the time without properly closing your apps, the battery drains pretty fast. Having a portable charger is really useful for when you’re about to run out of juice. There are more and more of these things coming out, many of which now have multiple ports and will charge an item more than once so can be a very good investment.

3. Photo ID

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Photo ID can be handy for if you’re buying age-restricted products (adult rated anime, weapon replicas, etc), planning to go for a few drinks after the con and also for proving you are who you say you are should the hotel carry out a spot check.

What do I mean by that last part? At a large convention I attend, it was reported on social media that one of the surrounding hotels ejected some people from their room. It would seem this particular group had a family room, which was intended for two adults and two children. Two of the party were asked to leave as the hotel did not believe they were fifteen years old, as claimed. It would seem hotels surrounding conventions may be clamping down on people over-crowding their rooms with spot checks, so photo ID here will be handy to prove you are the person on the booking and rightfully occupying the type of room you reserved.

Use a search engine to seek out what photo IDs are accepted where you’re from or going to.

4. Period Items

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If you’re a person subject to a monthly cycle, you probably already know what a life saver a spare pad or tampon can be. Even if you’re not due your period, take some anyway. I for one have been caught out before. Luckily my sister sharing the hotel room with me at the time was more prepared. Even if you don’t need them, you may encounter someone who does.

You may want to also include any pain relief you’ll need should Aunt Flow choose to visit during the con, and possibly a change of garments and small bag.

5. Bobby Pins

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If you’re a cosplayer, you’ll know what a life savers these little things are. They’ll keep your wig under much better control and if you have an especially thick one you’ll probably find yourself inserting more through the day. I have three different colours of bobby pin and I take a sampling of all of them with me to cons incase anybody needs.

They may also come in handy for temporary repairs. I gave one over to a lovely Mikasa from Attack on Titan who was having some strap issues towards the end of the day and it seemed to work just fine for a quick fix.

6. Sunscreen 

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Important at summer conventions if you have any skin showing. Face, back, arms, shoulders, legs, anything.

When I wore Ariel’s mermaid outfit I didn’t put any sun lotion on and got a sunburn on my shoulder which I didn’t discover until I was suddenly in pain under the shower that evening. In a way I was lucky to get away with just a burn on my shoulder. But it still wasn’t pleasant. Look after yourself and put on some sunscreen.

7. Cardboard-Backed Envelopes/Poster Tubes

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I’m putting these two together because they serve the same general purpose. Popular items to get from conventions are posters, prints from artists alley, sketches from artist guests, autographed pictures from guests and photo ops from guests. All things you don’t want to get crumpled in your bag. A sturdy cardboard-backed envelope and/or poster tube from your local stationary shop (or saved from something you received in the post) will help with that little extra peace of mind that your items will remain in good condition.

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Websites For Fabric Samples (UK)

I’m one of those cosplayers who does pretty much all my fabric shopping online. I only have one fabric shop within several miles of me and the selection never really seems to have what I want. There’s a Hobbycraft as well but that selection is only just bare basics. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes, so I turn to the many online fabric shop websites.

But here’s the major advantage to buying in store rather than buying online. As with practically anything, when browsing fabric in a physical shop you see the exact colour, feel it, look at how it drapes, test how it will photograph, etc. You cannot do this online. A lot of people who order online tend to find that the colour of the fabric that arrives doesn’t match the colour of the fabric they saw on their screen.

Therefore, samples. A lot of fabric websites will give you the option to order samples. These are first and foremost the best way to check that the fabric is actually the colour you want. They may also help give you an idea of the weight, weave, how it will photograph, etc of a fabric, though some of these things may be a little hard to guess from just a small piece. Of course it will add to your cosplay costs, but spending £1 on a fabric sample to discover it’s the wrong colour is far preferable to dropping £50 on several metres only to discover it’s not what you want.

Please note: this is a UK list only. As I am a UK cosplayer, I tend to only order from UK websites. I’m afraid I wouldn’t know where to begin compiling similar lists for other countries.

This list will probably be updated with other places from time to time. And please feel free to comment if there’s a place you know which I’ve missed off this list. Considering the vast amount of fabric websites available to the UK alone, that’s entirely possible.

Abakhan – roughly 23 x 16 cm and cost £1 each. Free shipping is available.

Ainsberry – samples cost 94p, I think free shipping is available.

Beckford Silk – samples measure 13 x 18 cm. 95p each, with free shipping available. Swatch cards showing fuller ranges are also available.

Calico Laine – samples are charged at £1 each with free shipping within the UK

Cheap Fabrics – roughly 6 x 4 incles at 99p each. Free shipping available.

Croft Mill – the first 5 samples are free, with a charge of 25p each after that. Shipping will cost £2 for just samples but are free if samples are part of a larger order. You may order samples online or request by post by sending a stamped addressed envelope. Further details on this can be found here.

eBay – this is worth a mention because many sellers here will offer samples. If a fabric search result ever shows you 99p or very cheap listings, those tend to be samples. Some listings will be just samples, some will allow you to opt for samples first, some will require you to contact the seller. Your best option is to read each listing carefully. You may even have to go to the seller’s shop to see. Not all sellers offer samples. Selecting fabric on eBay can often take some time and this is just part of it.

Eurofabrics – samples here are 90p each with free postage available.

Online Fabrics – order up to 10 samples at a time at 75p each. Delivery is £1 per order.

Ralston Fabrics – samples are available but you will have to contact the owners with details of your name, address and what you wish to order a sample of.

Remnant Kings – order up to 3 free samples at a time. There is a charge of £1 for each additional sample if more are required.

Spoonflower – not a UK website, but worth mentioning as some sellers offer prints which can be used in cosplay outfits. You can also design and upload your own. Test swatches will cost $5 and shipping to the UK will cost about an extra $2 for standard (8-10 days). Don’t forget to take processing/printing time into account. Colour guides and colour maps are also available.

Textile Express – samples are available through either phoning or emailing the shop owner. Contact details are available in each fabric listing.

Tia Knight – roughly 6 x 6 inches and cost 50p each, plus £1.25 postage.

Truro Fabrics – samples measure 10 x 5 cm. Up to 15 samples can be ordered at a time, costing either £1.20 or £2.40 each, depending upon the value of the fabric. Free postage is available.

 

One Year Of Shooting With Cosplay Photographers: What I’ve Learned

10697386_726394277447404_2983460303731123334_oStephanie Cross Photography

Just over a year ago I started working with cosplay photographers and it’s one of the best choices I’ve made. It’s turned out to be a lot of fun and I’ve met some brilliant new people through it. With most things, the first year has thrown a lot of lessons at me, and those are what I want to share with you today.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am in no way an expert on the subject. I am not a model or a photographer. And I’ve only been doing this for a year. This is just a list of things I’ve personally learned in that year which I hope might help other people as well. Working with cosplay photographers is a brilliant thing which I highly recommend people try out.

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1. Look through their previous work to figure out what costumes will probably work best with them – each photographer has a different output. Some may be bright and colourful (perfect for things like Disney Princesses or My Little Pony), while others may like to do more action poses (works well for various superheroes and baddies) and others may like to do a lot of effect edits (Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra characters, for example, could get good pictures from this). When you’ve found a photographer you like the look of, take a little look through their work and have a think about which of your cosplays their style may work best with.

2. If there’s a particular photographer you want to grab and you watch their Facebook page, you can set up notifications for when they make a post. Of course you will need to be in a position to receive Facebook notifications when they announce their shoot slots, but this is worth doing. Some photographers fill their spaces really fast, so you’ll need to get in quick, and setting an alert on your Facebook post for any updates they make can be a handy to help you with that. On a side note, doing this will also mean you receive updates for every post they make, most of which I imagine will be photo posts. Which I consider a great bonus because I love seeing everyone’s work.

Oh, how do you do it? Simple. Head on over to their page, hover your mouse over the ‘Liked’ tab and then select ‘Get Notifications’ from the drop-down menu which should appear.

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3. Confirm your details – it’s handy just to confirm the time and meeting location of your shoot either the day before or on the morning of the convention. It can also be a good idea for a photographer and cosplayer to trade phone numbers to keep in contact with each other, both for confirming details and to easily reach one another should there be a problem. Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp can be handy for this too, but not everywhere will have good internet access. I’ve been to conventions where any wifi/3G/4G signal was shaky at best and sometimes non-existent, so it was much easier to have photographers numbers to text them instead.

4. Listen to their advice – a lot of the photographers I’ve worked with must have the patience of a saint because they often had to keep telling me to lift my chin. It’s now something I try to keep an especial eye on. Listen to posing advice like this. They’re trying to get the best out of you for your photos and are in the best position to do this, as the person looking through the lens. It can be a little frustrating to think that you keep falling back into whatever your little habit is but with some practice you will get better.

11130398_1653826024850854_754697698898948360_oRobert John Parker – Photographer

5. Not all your experiences will be positive – but hopefully they won’t be too negative either. Hopefully the worst thing to ever happen to you is you won’t get on with how the photographer works, don’t receive your pictures back, aren’t able to make the shoot for some reason, or something like that. For most things, you’ll just have to accept that it didn’t go that well and move on. There are plenty of other photographers out there who you will find you like working with.

6. Stay safe! – you will see this on every cosplay photography advice post but it’s important enough that you’ll see it on this one too. Please, please stay safe. Make sure other people know where you are. Have other people with you if you can. If a photographer wants to take you away from the convention environment and you’re not sure, don’t go. If a photographer doesn’t want anybody to come with you, that’s hella sketchy (on the flip side, anybody coming with you should just sit on the sidelines and wait and not interrupt the shoot – unless they seeing something very not okay going down). If a photographer starts making you uncomfortable in any way, end the shoot and get out of there! Thankfully I’ve never had this experience as I’ve always worked with photographers already known and liked within the UK cosplay community. And please don’t let these warnings put you off entirely. Photographers are some of the loveliest people I’ve met at cons and so, so many of them are 100% legit. Those who aren’t tend to get called out and pushed from the community pretty quick. Take care of yourselves.

10272768_1887962938095923_6845079268268579291_oPatronus Cosplay Photography

7. Work with different photographers where you can (if you want) – You may have your little list of photographers who you enjoy working with and will try to shoot with when you can (like me). You may also want to keep an eye out for new people to work with for a new experience and maybe to shoot with again in future (also like me). Both are perfectly fine. I personally love to try to work with new photographers if I can grab them, but this doesn’t take away from my enjoyment with those who I usually try to book a slot with. It’s all down to you on this one.

8. Have a good handful of pose ideas in mind – some photographers will come to a shoot with ideas for poses you could do and some won’t. It all depends on the person and possibly how familiar they are with the character you’re cosplaying. Some will know the character and series you’ll be cosplaying from. Others won’t. Even if it’s a popular show such as Star Trek or Doctor Who, not everybody watches them so don’t go into a shoot expecting the photographer to know exactly how you should pose. While many photographers all have their own visions of what they want their work to look like, a lot of them want to work with you to get photographs that you want as well. So come into a shoot having a good idea of some poses you want to do. Write them down or print off pictures or save them on your phone to show them if you want. If you know where you’re shooting, having a few good ideas of how to incorporate your environment into your pictures can work really well too.

9. Thank your photographer – this is more a case of manners than anything else, and helps build good relations. Always thank your photographer after the shoot. Then once they post your pictures, comment thanking them again. If you had an especially good time and they have a Facebook page, maybe even leave a review or a comment on their wall saying so.

10. DO NOT ALTER THEIR IMAGES – I’ve not done this, but I saw some cosplayers post apologies to photographers on this issue before I did my first shoot. So that’s how I learned that this is a no-no (not that I would have, my Photoshop skills are… well they’re not). Each photographer has a different style of output and a vision they work towards for their photos. Do not take and further alter their work without permission. Some may offer to make any edits for you or some may let you play about with it to a certain extent. It all depends on the individual photographer, but never presume. For a start, it’s their picture.

11270709_760153414105579_8817471509266953721_oMartin Siggers Photography

11. Always ask about what their reposting policy is – most photographers won’t mind if you repost the photos to your cosplay page, Tumblr, Instagram, etc, as long as you credit them and don’t remove any watermarks. Always message a photographer just to double check what they do and do not mind. Like thanking your photographer, it’s just good manners to make sure. And when you repost, ALWAYS make sure that credit is there. You wouldn’t have those lovely cosplay photos if it weren’t for the photographer, so make sure people know who made that picture possible.

1511625_993314194025391_1935653887957724636_oGallagher Photography

And that’s about it from me on this. A personal thank you to all the lovely photographers I’ve worked with during 2015! You’ve come back at me with some utterly gorgeous photographs and I adore every one of them. If anyone was thinking of working with photographers, it’s something I highly recommend. They’re crazy talented and a lot of fun as well.

Where I Start My Cosplay Search

Being a cosplayer these days is pretty brilliant. If you’re into crafting parts of your costumes, there are webpages upon webpages of tips and tutorials to help you build just about anything, from costumes, to props, to wig styling.

However, with such a large amount of resources it can also feel a bit intimidating and some people struggle with knowing where to start. So it is tempting to just post in your local cosplay group or message cosplayers on Tumblr/deviantART/etc asking for tutorials.

Here’s the thing with cosplayers. Mostly, we love helping other people. We’re all nerds in costume so it just feels really good helping somebody along the road to becoming their favourite character. HOWEVER, people generally become less willing when we get the feeling you’ve been too lazy to do a two minute Google search. We have lives and projects as well, we’re not just going to drop something for a question you can possibly answer quite easily on your own with a little application.

Mangosirene has posted a Cosplay Research video as part of her Cosplay 101 series, where she talks about the rule of three when it comes to searching for tutorials. More specifically “ask three, then me”. This states that three tutorial sources should be searched before a crafter approaches other cosplayers for help. Stating within the question that you have already looked at a few sources will help should you get to that stage, as it lets people know you have bothered to do some of the leg work.

But where to start with your search? Well, here are a few places I like to check out in my hunt for tutorials:

(Please note: this is a list suggesting where to go with help crafting your costumes, not buying)

1) CosplayTutorial.com – should be one of your first stops as it’s a terrific source of information and tutorials. Click their ‘tutorials list’ in the top bar (the drop-down menu is so long you may not actually get what you want on screen), then either go through the menu or use the ctl+f (cmd+f on mac) to bring up a search bar. Quite a lot of tutorials cater to a specific outfit or fandom but can be altered.

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2. deviantART – lots of cosplayers and crafters on this website put up tutorials and sometimes share their patterns and stencils for free. Use the search bar on this website to track them down. You can help narrow things down by then selecting the following categories after your search: Resources & Stock Images -> Tutorials

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3. Forum searches – there are various cosplay and costuming forums which have been active for several years and where it’s very likely that somebody has also asked a similar question to yours. Maybe somebody else even answered it! You can find out by using the search bar on forums. Three of the ones I’ve often used are:

– The RPF: stands for Replica Prop Forum. This website tends to cater more for ‘builds’ of armour and props but also has several threads for fabric-based costume pieces as well. Threads tend to be split into seperate boards for popular franchises (Marvel, DC, etc), and more general costume and prop making. So you’ll have to select whichever board best fits your question, then use the search function on there. For example, if you wanted to make a Batman utility belt, you’d head to the DC board.

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– Cosplay.com: probably one of the largest cosplay profile and forum website out there and used by cosplayers from all over the world! This website has been going since about 2002 so chances are there’s something in there to help you out.

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– Cosplay Island: this website may not be as general as others as it’s catered for cosplayers from the UK. Though as that’s where I’m from, I still tend to use it as a search option. Mostly because if I have to purchase anything, threads are likely to list UK sources.

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4. Facebook group searches – this was a fun discovery for me. Facebook groups have a search option! So before posting to a cosplay group asking about tutorials, you can use the search bar to see if anybody else already did. The search bar tends to be on the right of the page, just underneath the cover photo.

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5. Facebook group files – sometimes a cosplay group on Facebook will gather together useful links in it’s files section. Not every group will do this, but it’s handy to just click over to have a look. You never know, you might find just what you’re after! If groups have huge file section, such as at the Pepakura Library, utilise the ctl+f search shortcut (cmd+f on mac)

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6. YouTube – I really love video tutorials, especially for things such as wig styling and make-up. Because you’re watching the person making the video actually doing the thing you want to do, so what you have to do is copy their movements.

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7. Yahoo answers – a bit more of a stretch, I admit, but sometimes Google searches have brought me to this place. There are some odd questions on there but sometimes cosplay also asks odd questions. Maybe that’s why the two can sometimes cross paths.

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8. Search engines – aka: Google it! Or Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Bing. Whatever search engine you use, it is often your number one source for seeking out tutorials. You won’t always get what you want right away. Sometimes the answers can differ depending on whether you use the word ‘cosplay’ in your search or not. But with enough practice you will develop a good Googe-fu (or Yahoo-fu or Bing-fu or whatever) which will set you on your way to that perfect cosplay tutorial for what you want.

I’m not saying you have to use ALL of these before approaching other cosplayers to ask. But the ‘ask three, then me’ rule is a good one to go by. For example, use a search engine. If nothing pops up on the first few pages, try Cosplay Tutorial. If that doesn’t have what you want, maybe someone did a video on YouTube. If still nothing, then it’s a good time to start asking other cosplayers directly. Though give MangoSirene’s research video a watch if you haven’t already, because there is such a thing as a good question and a bad question when it comes to asking about how to make cosplays.

Like I said, generally cosplayers love helping other cosplayers. But we don’t like being Google. Do a little of the work yourself first, then if you’re still stuck we’ll see what we can do to help.

I hope you find my suggestions helpful. Is there anywhere you especially like to search? Let me know! And happy searching. ❤

Trying a new beard technique!

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Sometimes I like to crossplay as male characters, and often the ones I select happen to have facial hair. Some can just be drawn on (such as Sanji from One Piece) but there are others where I’m looking for a little something extra (Lancelot from Merlin and Aramis from The Musketeers, for example).

For a few years I’ve been using a technique picked up in this video, which is essentially adding little bits of synthetic hair to my face with spirit gum bit by bit. Then putting on longer bits if the character has more defined moustache/beard parts (Lancelot and Aramis again – Lancelot needs stubble brushed all around my chin and neck area while Aramis needs more and longer hairs for his moustache and beard). It creates a really good look. However, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour to apply it. Then through the day my mouth movement is very restricted, I often have to just drink smoothies all day. Plus it becomes itchy through the day and I’m constantly shedding. There are more negatives than positives to this technique but I couldn’t think of another way of bringing it across and didn’t want to just draw it on.

(to note at this point: I know a lot of cosplayers do draw on facial hair. There is nothing wrong with using that technique if that’s what works for you. A lot can do it really, really well. I just wanted something a little more 3D, as it were, for my costumes.)

Though I will say this for the synthetic hair technique, a lot of people tell me it looks really good. 😀

Then a few months ago, Whatsername’s Cosplay showed me a new tutorial which had surfaced for doing a Realistic 3D beard by shear-lockcombs. It would seem I’m the first person she thinks of when she comes across beard tutorials. XD Today I finally gave it a go and here’s the breakdown of what I found:

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(please keep in mind that these are the opinions after a test-run which is also my first time using this technique)

– it’s a LOT quicker to apply. Whereas sticking synthetic hair onto my face takes me 45 minutes minimum, this takes me about 20-30 (and part of that was re-reading parts of the tutorial to make sure I was doing it right).

– I can still feel some restriction to my mouth. However, not as much as the synthetic hair method. After applying the fibre mascara I sat and ate a chocolate bar, which I wouldn’t be able to do with synthetic hair on my face.

– BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN APPLYING THE HAIR SPRAY. I used a smaller bottle because I felt it would give me a better precision (even if it actually doesn’t, the smaller bottle size makes me think it does and, hey, whatever helps you feel more confident with things). Keep your mouth and eyes closed incase you misfire.

– It will take practice. When doing my test run I didn’t base it on any stubble in particular, but getting a particular look may take a trial run or two.

– It will be very easy to correct if you get it wrong. Just use a bit of a make up wipe to get rid of your mistake and try again.

– Should be super-easy to top up during the day if you need. A small can of hair spray, the fiber mascara and the spoolie are quite small things to pop in a bag and just nip into the bathroom to reapply.

– I don’t know how it will feel on the face as you go on, especially in a convention environment. Of course being at a busy convention is far different to doing a test-run in a bedroom. So I can’t say whether or not it will wear off (though I imagine it will if you accidentally scratch at your chin or something) or start to feel itchy.

– Much easier to remove with a make up wipe or two.

– Does not involve smelly sticky spirit gum and having to constantly wash my hands every few sections

– Can be a little awkward to reach certain areas, but just go steady

– I would personally say this tutorial will work better for characters with more ‘stubbly’ beards, like Lancelot. I’d still apply synthetic hair for any more defined beards and moustaches.

– Quite inexpensive. Cans of hair spray can be found cheaply in various shops. Spoolies/eyebrow brushes are probably available in 99p/£1 shops. I got the fiber mascara on eBay for £3.85. The particular brand I got was Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara in brown (because the two characters I plan to use this for have dark brown hair).

– Dabbing probably gives a better stubbly look than brushing it down. But that could all depend on what particular look you’re after. This is one of those things you’ll find with practice.

And I think that’s it. Like I said, doing a test-run in the bedroom is different to wearing it all day for a convention/shoot/etc. But I will definitely try it out for conventions later in the year. I’m planning on wearing Aramis for Winter London Film and Comic Con and maybe London MCM in October, where I’ll use the fiber technique for the stubbly areas, and then stick on re-usable beards and moustaches for those parts. And if anyone wants to ever give me another excuse to wear Lancelot again, PLEASE DO I LOVE THAT COSTUME SO MUCH!

Here are some images of my first try. Of course they’re not as brilliant as they could be as it’s the first time I’ve tried this but I think with a little bit of practice this could be a really good look.

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And as a final note, please read through the tutorial yourself if you’re thinking of using this technique. Yes, you need fiber masacara for the look it gives. It also warns against things such as using hairspray on sensitive skin. If you can’t be arsed to scroll back up, the tutorial is here:

Sheer-lockComb’s Realistic 3D Beard Tutorial 

How I Made My New World Nami Sandals

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(oops, only photo I have so far which shows the sandals. Picture from Kirsty Chambers)

NOTE: This is more a ‘how I made’ rather than a tutorial. There may well be better methods out there, and if you know of any I’d love to hear them. But this was the way I did it on this particular occasion and if this post might help somebody else with their cosplay then that’s great.

Nami from One Piece has been one of my favourite characters to cosplay so far, and indeed one of my favourite characters, period. She has a fairly large variety of outfits to choose from and most of the time her ensembles include a pair of sandals. These can be the bane of putting together her outfits.

You can buy a pair of sandals which you judge to be close enough, which I know a lot of Nami cosplayers have done and it works just fine. However, if you absolutely insist in screen accuracy, there are quite a few custom cosplay website and places on eBay which will make them for you when you send them certain foot measurements. I found the average cost of this service to be around £40 – £45. However, as I like putting things together myself where I can, I decided to have a go at altering a pair of sandals. These were for my Sanji!Nami cosplay, from the Punk Hazard Arc, so I’d need to make the first pair she’s seen wearing after the time skip.

I’m not any sort of shoemaker, so I went to eBay in search of a base and came up with this pair:

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{get them here}

You can see they have about the right heel to them and the correct fitting around the ankle. It has double the straps across the foot that I need, but you’ll see what I do with that. And there’s also that strip which runs up the foot, but that looks (and was) easily removable. I ordered a pair, the fit was great, it was time to get to work making me a pair of New World Nami sandals!

STAGE 1: Removing parts I don’t need

The only part I removed was that strip which runs up from the toes to the ankle. All the other straps stay. Yes, I know that leaves four straps going across the foot and Nami’s only have two, but just wait and see.

Removing the strip is easy enough. Get a craft knife and cut open the pink parts. As predicted, they easily came away.

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And remember, if you do anything like this, be very careful when using a craft knife or any sharp object. Take care not to slice through the rest of the sandal and especially take care not to cut through yourself. Always cut away from your body, never towards.

STAGE 2: Strap covers

So why didn’t I remove any of the straps which go across the feet? Because the straps on Nami’s sandals looked thicker than the ones I have on mine. However, this could be fixed by putting together the pair of purple straps and the pair of yellow straps. This was achieved through making a cover. For I whipped out a measuring tape and the smoothest looking pleather I had. I didn’t worry about colour as I knew I would be painting it later. I suppose you don’t *have* to use pleather either. If you’re also doing this and feel you’d feel you’ll work better with polycotton or something else, that’s fine. I picked pleather because I felt it would be a similar material to what her sandals would actually be made of.

Then I measured the length of the straps, starting from where they attached to the sole of the shoe and going all the way across to the other side. This was done for one of each of the strap pairs. So for this particular one I measured one purple strap and one yellow strap.

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That was the length of my strap covers. For the width, I went back to where the straps met the sole. I then measured the width of each pair. It’s tricky to explain but hopefully a little picture diagram will help.

namisandalstage2c

I added about half an inch to each side, where the cover would be folded round. As I had two sandals, I cut out two of each from the measurements, which left me with four strap covers waiting to move on to the next stage.

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STAGE 3 – Putting on strap covers

This was probably the most dangerous and definitely the most time consuming. Over the span of just under two weeks I would sit in front of episodes of Judge Rinder then the New Zealand version of Highway Patrol, or whatever it was, to do this.

First I placed the covers over the straps, curling the half inch extra over underneath the straps. I ended up trimming the extra half inch on the ends until there was enough for it to curl just enough and snugly cover the strap ends. This is something you don’t have to do, you could just cut the cover strip long enough so it goes from end to end with the edge pressing against where the strap meets the sole.

With the edges curled around the straps, the undersides should look like this little doodle:

namisandalspleatherfolded

Make sense? I measured enough pleather to fold over onto the bottom of the straps so it would then be stitched into them to help anchor it. And there was no need to worry about the underside not looking neat as it would be against my foot the entire time of being worn.

Now the part where I really had to watch my fingers. I pinned the straps in place. I used a thimble over my thumb to help push them through the fairly thick straps. Though I didn’t push the pins right through the strap, just pushed them at somewhat of a horizontal angle to just pick up enough of the strap to keep it and the cover together.

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Then I stitched the covers to the straps by hand. I used a heavy-duty hand sewing needle and a heavy-duty thread, again pushing with the thimble over my thumb to help get it through the strap. This is another thing where I didn’t worry about the colour of the thread as I’d be painting over it. It took a while because I had to be super careful not to stab myself with either the heavy-duty needle or the many pins sticking out.

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Then it took even longer because I did rough basting stitches and then went round again taking more care and making it neater. White stitching in the below picture is the neater, while the brown is the basting.

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You may be able to see some hair snaps and bobby pins at the ends of the top strap there as well. That’s because I put in some strong leather glue to help hold the ends down. The hair grips are there to hold the two surfaces together while the glue dries.

The total casualty list was 6 pins bent beyond further use and one heavy-duty needle which snapped. Which is actually pretty impressive as I thought I’d lose quite a few more. But it goes without saying that if you ever do anything like this BE VERY CAREFUL. Use safety equipment if you need and never push the needle towards yourself.

It took a long time but I was super proud of what I ended up with. In these pictures you can also see what I mean about folding the pleather under the straps, which I feel I attempted a somewhat confusing explanation about earlier.

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And then the much simpler last part

STAGE 4 – Painting and sealing

To paint the sandals I used an acyrlic spray paint from a range called Montana Gold (from the Montana brand). If you ever use these, make sure you pop off the spray nozzle and remove the little black ring first, or your paint won’t come out. I’m glad the woman in the shop told me about this because they don’t mention it on the actual can.

Montana-Gold-3

The colour I used was Toffee because that was the one available in the shop which I felt matched the colour I wanted best. The can says that this spray paint can be used safely indoors but I tend to like doing my painting outdoor to avoid any mess and because I have it in my head that it’ll probably dry quicker.

About 3 coats of paint did the trick. If you do this, make sure you get all the little slightly awkward places as well, like ends of straps, buckles, all the way round the heel, etc.

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I sealed it with a spray called Victory Frog Juice, which is typically used to seal signs, which assures me it will do a good job. The only thing I stumbled on was I only gave it a quick light spray-over. Like the paint, I should have given it 2-3 good coatings and left it to dry properly. Because I didn’t, that may have been why some of the paint came away on the soles and straps when I first wore the shoes and why a strap and heel stuck together while travelling to London, thus some of the paint came off when I pried them apart. On that point, I tend to make sure painted shoes are packed in different plastic bags to try and protect against that sort of thing when storing and travelling. But on that occasion I didn’t. That’ll teach me.

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Or perhaps I should have used a different type of paint? More layers? Better sealing? If anyone has any suggestions I’m sure I’d love to hear them!

But I am very pleased with what I ended up with! It was perhaps a lot of work to do for the sake of saving a tenner. But, while I’m sure many commissioners provide good work, I didn’t want to risk receiving a pair of sandals which wouldn’t fit, leaving me little to no time to have another made and shipped. And then what if those were wrong as well??

It’s also because I enjoy the crafting process. I like looking at a picture of a costume and working out how I’m going to make everything. Each costume I make brings it’s own new challenges and things to learn and I hugely enjoy adding each every little thing to my ever-growing skill-set. Usually I will just buy footwear where I can and if I cannot find a match I will then look for something which needs minimal alteration. Footwear isn’t where a huge amount of my skill lies but I feel I muddle through pretty well, and I’m rather proud of what I did here.