Friday, August 12, 2016

Tenjou Utena - Adolescence of Utena

The dream cosplay. It's surreal to believe that I actually completed it this year, but at the same time, 2005 was the hallmark of when I started going to cons, but 2006 was when I first started cosplaying at cons. That means that technically, 2016 is the anniversary of officially cosplaying!

So, how to do you celebrate a ten year milestone? By cosplaying as your one true hero! I've written about my early convention experiences before, but I don't think I will ever tire of writing how my love for Utena propelled my way into the world of anime. It's funny to think that I got into anime through Utena because I related to the storyline and felt so strongly connected to its intelligence. Ironically, anime isn't always the most intelligent form of art out there, but it certainly left an impression on me that's more than just obvious in my life.

So naturally, when I first got into cosplay, I wanted to cosplay as Utena. I didn't have many skills in sewing, so I originally commissioned back in 2008 her school uniform to wear to ALA. It wasn't the best made, but I wore it as a jacket to school (I was one of those) and I wore it to ALA 2009 as a jacket since I was wearing Latias at the time.

Even after I learned to sew, I avoided the idea of cosplaying as Utena because I felt so intimidated by the idea of making my dream cosplay. To be honest however, it was one of the best experiences I ever had, and overall one of my favorite cosplays to make (and why I like regularly watching ice skating on television now).

My apologies for the bathroom shot.
The jacket was a modified vintage pattern I had found for marching band uniforms. I started out by making some changes to the bodice and sleeves, namely because the jacket has red channels that run down the peak of the bust and form a bridge between the white and black. It took a few tries to get the size of the channels right, but the mock-up portion helped me avoid some of the pitfalls. I know I would have run into on the final version.

For fabrics, I selected a white bottomweight with some stretch, which was similar to the fabric I had used on my brother's Sanosuke cosplay. The black fabric was a stretch polyester, which sewed really nice and held its weight against the white bottomweight. Originally, I was going to go with a red silk for the channels, but I ended up using a double layer of red cotton, which I like, since it helped keep the costume from looking too garish. The original mockup of the jacket was a fairly straightforward process besides creating the channels and creating the bottom flaps along the jacket. I added some length into the sleeves and a little more to the collar. When I came to making the final version, I accidentally forgot to sew the pieces together with the bottom flaps, so I carefully went back into the lining and added them in. For the collar, I added red bias tape along the trim, which matched the color of the channels, and Shii gave me some heat-transfer vinyl in metallic gold for the triangle along the edges.

 I'm new to the pocket game, but I got through eight episodes of Owari no Seraph: Battle in Nagoya while working on the base of the jacket and adding welt pockets onto the front of each side. I followed an online tutorial while using the triangle shape, and then adding the shape. They're functional, which is always a plus, and they're lined, so that's another awesome plus. One element of the costume that has stumped me for years were the cuffs, and how exactly they kept their shape and had a little excess to them. I looked around for some options until I figured to just make the cuff larger than the sleeve, and pinched the cuff to get the peoper sleeve measurement, creating that sailboat silhouette. I added all of the trims and double interfaced it to keep stiff. Then, I handsewed the cuffs onto the finished sleeve, which took much longer than I had anticipated but I had ice skating competitions on television to make a night out of it.

In the end, I had two cuffs securely sewn onto the sleeves, and I added matching rose buttons on each side for a little sparkle. Then, I handsewed the buttons along the top of the jacket, and sewed snaps along the inside to make the costume easy to get in and out of (at the time, we had also other ideas for costume changes and the like, so I kept that feature). I also can easily wear a shirt underneath my jacket.

The shorts were pretty quick to make. I made them in about maybe a total of two hours at most. I took a short pattern I had already made and calculated for the black stripe and some seam allowance. I went straight for it without a mockup, and overall, everything turned out great! The shorts are finished with a serged hems to also reduce the bulk as much as possible, and was fitted with a waistband. Both fabrics have a stretch to them, which help with the fit and comfort when I walk.

With Nami and Utena photobombing in the back.

So the next parts of my costume are territories that I rarely venture into, but I had a lot of fun working on - the epaulets and the shoes. I'm admittedly not terrible, but hilarious when it comes to making prop pieces, but I wanted to take a stab at making my own props for Utena. The epaulets are my favorite part of the costume.

I purchased at the plastics shop two semicircles made of acrylic and added about four coats of red acrylic paint on them. Then I top coated them with polyacrylic to seal them, and a gloss finish for some more shine. For the base, I took two lids from 5lb protein tubs and primed them with Gesso and painted them with gold acrylic paint. Once they had dried, I glued a trim of golden fringe along the edge. Once everything was properly dried, I attached the semicircles onto the finished base. To attach them onto the jacket, I used E6000 to attach two large snaps beneath each of the bases. I then handsewed two matching halves of the snaps on the jacket, so that they perfectly matched. Having large snaps keeps them extremely tight and secure.

For the hook and charm, our friend Frye made the bases for them out of scraps of EVA foam. I made both mine and Lyric's but priming the foam with a few layers of Gesso, and then painting it with a mixture of gold acrylic paint and gold leafing. I then made the gem by taking premade casted gems out of resin and painted them teal by adding nail polish on the backs of them.

 For the edge, I took craft foam and sized it so that the gem could fit inside it. I primed it, and then used the gold leafing to add some color to it. I attached the gem together using E6000. For the cord, I took some red cord I originally had for my Yuuko cosplay from years ago. I added fray check on the ends, and then used one of the jewlery hooks to add onto the end and attach it to the edge of my shoulder on my jacket. The other end is attached to the gem and the triangle, which has a safety pine glued on the back so that I can attach it to the front of my collar.

The shoes were afairly simple but time consuming process. I purchased red shoes at my local store, and using the seamlines as the guidelines, used masking tape to square off the area I needed to paint white. I primed it with a few layers of Gesso first and worked on the epaulets in between till they dried. Then I painted another few layers of white paint and waited for that to try until I removed the masking tape. The shoes are fairly intact even with all the stage performance, rehearsals, and walking, so I'm pretty happy that I may only need to add a coat of touchups for the next time. For the socks, I sourced black knee highs from my daily wear.

The sword was made by my friend Frye, who made it from a polyurethane base that was pre-cut into the length and then shaved off along the top for the tip. He then molded the top of the hilt using worbla and made the rose on the end out of craftfoam, and then once all finished, painted it. It's fairly lightweight and easy to use as a prop, and worked really well for our skit.

The wig was purchased from an online Taobao shop called, Grand Young Cosplay Wigs. I use it for a lot of other characters, but it was purchased about three years ago with Utena specifically in mind. I cut and styled the bangs, and is pretty decent at staying tangle-free considering how long I wore it. It's extremely comfortable for a long wig as well. In the future, I might style the bangs a little more.

The contacts are EOS Adult Blue, and are available on Pinky Paradise.They're my go-to pair for blue contacts since they are a decent size and are bright against my dark brown eyes.

 - NYX Photo-Loving Primer
 - Smashbox Primer Water
- MAC MatchMaster Foundation
- Revlon PhotoFinish Powder
 - HolikaHolika Undereye Highlighter Pen
 - Covergirl Flamed Out Pencil in Pearl Pink
 - Japan Kiss Me Heroine Eyeliner in Black
 - Too Faced Chocolate Bar Eyeshadows
- Coastal Scents Eyeshadow and Blush Palette
 - ColorPop Cosmetics Lip Liner
- Missha Cosmetics Lip Tint
- NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss
 - Smashbox Contour Palette
- Diamond Eyelashes - Series 2 No. 1


Credits to Richard Mann Photography
 I have yet to rewear it to another convention, although I am planning on likely for either this year's PMX or ALA 2017. I'm pretty happy with several elements of the cosplay, and since I'm working on her classic duelist outfit at the moment, I'm tempted to make a con lineup exclusively to Utena cosplay in the near future.

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