This week, The Cosplay Corner welcomes Canadian cosplay powerhouse Ammie! With over 10 years of costuming experience, Ammie combines her two loves of fashion design and geekiness to bring her favorite videogame and anime characters to life. She is also a talented costume commissioner and has positioned herself as a wonderful online resource for the cosplay community – posting detailed descriptions of her creative process and construction techniques. With cosplayers like Ammie, it’s little surprise that cosplay is booming in Canada and we can’t wait to see what Ammie has in store next!
With 10 years now of sewing and cosplay experience, do you think your love of costuming and design will translate into a career in fashion?
Ammie: Ultimately that’s where I would like to be. I really enjoy designing and creating costumes and clothes. That type of job is still what I would like to consider. I mean, working for a local theater making costumes for stage plays would be good. Making and designing costumes for movies would be amazing!
It’s easy to look at cosplay as just the process of copying a costume design, and a lot of people seem to discount the challenge behind translating comic, anime, and videogame designs into real life. Do you think making cosplay costumes is just as challenging as creating original designs? What are some of the biggest challenges you face translating illustrations into realistic, wearable garments?
Ammie: That’s a really great question! Mimicking designs and designing your own stuff are two different things entirely! I have done both so I know how both of these things translate and work. Mimicking an existing design – whether it be from a movie, game, comicbook or anime – already eliminates the design factor in making a garment. You have a piece that has already been designed out. The issue with cartoon characters, such as game, anime and comics is these outfits are designed by people who usually don’t have the knowledge or skills of a clothing designer/maker. So a lot of the outfits make no sense in everyday wear and sometimes do not translate well into reality. Having an outfit stay on your body without straps and having a giant opening in the front becomes seemingly impossible to create into a real life fashion…unless of course you use invisible tape and clear straps. Even then, the clear straps can usually be seen in photography flashes.
Making a costume from a movie translates a bit easier. This is an already existing garment made by fashion designers and seamstress/tailors. It’s probably the easiest of costume creating just because it is possible to make it exactly like the source material. However, obtaining the exact fabrics that are used is a whole other story! Designing and creating your own fashions takes a lot of hard work. You have to come up with a concept first off. I find when I am designing an original recreation I become inspired by other outfits or themes. Often, I create original designs for movies or television shows by creating a character within that universe. That gives me first design element – understanding what era the character is from. What their status is in the plot, and what type of character they are. I have recently created a lot of original designs and have yet to get them photographed to post. I am hoping to have that done within the next two years because I really want to go in more depth with original designs.
I think the hardest original design I had to come up with was a Dark Knight inspired Harley Quinn. I have seen many fan artworks out there and photoshops of various actresses as the character, but I wanted something totally original. Another element I found really difficult with it was the fact I was designing something that wasn’t existent…but is. This is a real character from the comics who has a very distinct look, yet she was not featured in the film. So I had to come up with a design that stayed true to the characters roots, but it had to be plausible in the Nolan style universe for Batman. I also took liberties from Heath Ledger’s Joker to help improvise what Harley may look like if she were to appear in the film.
Steampunk is another genre I have recently began to make costumes from. The whole Steampunk thing intrigues me. I love the vintage style garments mixed with a modern technological twist. Most people think if you add goggles and gears you have a Steampunk costume. I researched up garments from the 1880′s to get inspiration. I added a modern flare to it to separate it from a vintage style dress. I love Steampunk because it is all original works people have and often have stories made up about their characters in the Steampunk world.
You’ve mentioned pattern making a few times – do you typically draft your own patterns for costumes or modify commercial patterns?
Ammie: I do a combo of both. More so now it’s self drafted. If I should happen to have a pant pattern on hand that looks just like a pair of pants I need to make I will save myself the time and use the pattern. I don’t think I have ever followed a pattern 100% to directions come to think of it. I have always modified the pattern or changed different methods of constructing it to fit in my comfort zone of creation. I gained all my knowledge from commercial sewing patterns, from terminology to how a pattern looks and fits. They are really great for helping novice costume makers understand the basics of garment construction!
What are some things cosplayers should consider when purchasing fabric for a costume? Satin, of course, has become widely hated within the cosplay community – are there any other common mistakes you see cosplayers making in terms of fabric selection or care?
Ammie: I generally look for different types of weaves. If a character looks like they have a specific weave in their costume, keep that in mind. A lot of denims and tweeds have very distinct looks. They also are great sturdy fabrics to use! Using broadcloth is a sentence for a malfunctioning costume. I will only use broadcloth to line certain articles of clothing, such as corsets. The cotton helps absorb moisture from the body and makes wearing closer fitting garments more bearable for longer periods of time.
I only use satin when I see a character has a shine to their costume. I use it in my sailor fuku skirts, collars and bows. The main reason why I chose satin for those is in the anime they have a shine running down the panels of their skirts. That indicates it is a satin style fabric. I use a matte lycra so the satin doesn’t look to over powering with shine. The contrast works really nice! Satin also comes in every color you can imagine, which is crucial for Sailor Moon costumes. I have made a Sailor Mars costume from cotton; I still need to photograph it. It has a nice matte look, but looks less quality in comparison to the satin. Pressing a garment out before wearing it is a must! If your costume has been sitting in storage and has wrinkles all in it that will show up in photographs and make your costume look less appealing. Nothing is worse then having wrinkles in an amazing looking costume. It really takes the overall look down. I can’t stress it enough, press out your costume before you wear it!
It’s also very important to you to provide full descriptions of your costumes and you respond very quickly to comments or questions about your work! Why is it important to you to provide resources and advice to other cosplayers? Do you feel that sometimes cosplayers can be a little resistant to help others or get possessive over certain costumes/character?
Ammie: I always try to give the best and most clear and accurate description I can when it comes to how I made a costume. I will say if anything was purchased or made by either myself or others. If a costume you are wearing was made by another please credit the person who made that costume for you. I have run into some issues of people who have commissioned me to make them costumes and they don’t give any credit back to me for their costume. It is very important to give credit where it belongs. I lose a lot of clients due to the fact people don’t credit me for garments I have made them. By not giving credit you are allowing the public to assume you made the costume yourself.
I always answer my messages back as soon as I can. I do sometimes get overwhelmed with questions and requests for costumes. I do always get back to people though! I like to help out as many cosplayers as I can when it comes to understanding design elements and fabric choices for certain characters. If I have been down the road and understand what works and what doesn’t I will inform people in my descriptions. I have seen some people become overly obsessed with cosplaying only one said character and thinking they are the greatest one and sometimes go as far as insulting other people who like to cosplay the same character. Unless you have the copyright license to that character it IS NOT YOUR CHARACTER! Other people have the right to cosplay whatever they want. It is a freedom and an expression of admiration for the character or series they choose to cosplay from.
I have also seen other well-done cosplays where people refuse to give any info about and decline answering questions about general construction. Whether this is because they just don’t have the time to write out a full description or perhaps they didn’t see the question. They could also be getting overrun with a constant stream of questions in regards to the construction. If that’s the case they should really consider posting the construction either under their profile, on their site or in a forum so the questions can be answered. It just looks rude when people don’t respond. It honestly looks like they are ignoring the very people who admire their work and leave them all those wonderful comments.
Alright, so it’s the day of the convention and your costume is completely finished! Are there any tricks you’ve learned over the years that you use on convention days to make sure your costume, wig, or makeup look fantastic?
Ammie: All I bring to a con for good results are an emergency sewing kit, good long lasting makeup/powder for your face and wig detangle spray. I also do makeup tests in the upcoming weeks before a convention to ensure I have the right makeup look I want for a character. Even if you don’t wear makeup on a daily basis it is very important to wear it with a costume. The one thing you want to do is LOOK like the character you are cosplaying, not look like YOU are dressed as the character, if that makes sense!
Unfortunately, posting your work online also opens you up to criticism from people – many of whom have never actually cosplayed themselves or made a costume. How do you respond to negativity online?
Ammie: I take it where it comes from. I understand everyone has a different vision of what a character is supposed to look like, but cutting people down for something they put work into isn’t right. Unless the individual wants the critique so they can improve with future costumes, people should leave it be. It can actually be considered cyber bullying, and from what I understand they are really cracking the whip with that type of stuff.
People who tend to talk bad about others are usually:
People have to understand everyone is a different skill level. Some people have exceptional skills, where others are still novices and learning. I respect all cosplayers at every skill level. The main point is to have fun! Express yourself and the love you have of the character you are representing! As for the people who tend to critique and have never attempted a costume themselves, I’m sure their hobbies and skills are just as laughable and terrible as they claim certain costumers’ attempts are. It’s very needy and “desperate for attention” people that have nothing else better to do with their time then troll people online for a thrill. I’m not sure what they expect to gain from it. They are just cowards hidden behind a keyboard as far as I’m concerned.
Want to keep track of Ammie’s work online? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: