Posts tagged Costume Con
by Laura Ulak
The number one question I get asked as a costumer (other than “Can you make me something?” and that answer is “Yes, and it will cost $1 million dollars.”) is “So you must really love Halloween, right?” And that answer would be – Yes. Sort of.
I know lots of people who have big Halloween parties and who whoop it up in costume on the day that many think of as costuming’s High Holy day. However, typically those folks are people who don’t often dress up the rest of the year. This is because it is considered “socially acceptable” to dress up on Halloween, no matter how old you are. People who are uncomfortable with wearing costumes in public at, say, the Renaissance Festival, out bowling, or for a picnic or con are very comfortable with dressing up (often in very skimpy costumes) on Halloween.
And more power to them! Everyone should have a day of fun, a day of pretending to be someone else, or just dressing up because they want to. However, for me, Halloween is pretty much a day of rest.
By the time October 31st rolls around I will have attended 2-3 conventions, 1 or more Renaissance Festivals and countless other costuming events from January 1st on through October. By October 31st? I am pretty much costumed out.
I instead focus my energies into making costumes for my children and seeing what other people are wearing. Our family hasn’t carved pumpkins in years. We don’t decorate for Halloween. Any candy that has been purchased is likely to be pretty well eaten before the big day.
Instead I use Halloween as a day to sit and think about the costumes I have worn all year, and to be as comfortable as possible. No corsets, no hoop steel, no uncomfortable wigs, make-up or shoes.
To those who love Halloween and celebrate it with gusto – I applaud you. In my PJ’s. From my comfy chair, by the fire. I’ll save an Almond Joy for you.
by Laura Ulak
I speak to you as the proud and slightly deranged member of 7 very large group costume projects. Four of the projects have already happened, and 3 are in the planning stages now. Our group sizes have run from 10 to 25 people. I have planned or helped plan most of them and in the beginning did a large amount of the construction as well.
I first got involved with group costuming when I decided in 2007 that I wanted to recreate a costume from a portrait. However, I had a large group of costuming friends, and it seemed like it would be more fun if we ALL wore portrait recreations at MNRF (Minnesota Renaissance Festival). Since we had more female members than male, I decided on King Henry VIII of England and his family. By the time we were done we had recreated not only Henry and his six wives, but also Queen Mary Tudor, Lady Jane Grey, a tailor, three ladies-in-waiting, a painter and a tour guide.
I decided early on that I could not be one of the Queens– as the person who at that point was doing the bulk of the sewing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist adjusting the outfits of people, snipping spare threads, etc., and thus I became the Royal Tailor.
Project Tudor (as it was known) taught me an incredible amount about sewing, about creating, and about managing. (I still have regrets over those last minute hats, though…) It helped prepare me for other group events, and was so much fun (despite my being completely sleep-deprived) that I was instantly bitten by the group costuming bug.
The next year (2010) our sewing group decided we wanted to be courtesans out at MNRF. Applying the lessons I learned the year before made this event come off more easily than the previous one. It helped that I was not doing most of the sewing work, and that no person was irreplaceable. When all was said and done, we had 20 Italian (esque) Courtesans. We ran the gamut from historically accurate to movie inspirations.
This was also the first year that we had a “performance.” We decided it would be fun to be introduced to the King and Queen as a wedding gift from Italy, and as such, each of our “ladies” was to have a different specialty. Since I was organizing the event, I was the Madam or “Manager” of the ladies and did the introductions. We had a contortionist, a dominatrix, a set of twins and a perpetual virgin. I feel comfortable saying that the King and Queen were VERY surprised. Hee!
As my fellow costumers got better and better at their craft and didn’t need as much in the way of direction, my role became less of manager and more of advisor. For 2011 we attended MNRF as the Royal Court of the United Provinces of the Island of Wenchlandia– everyone was Queen for a day. We had various silly names (I was Godiva Ghiardelli, the Countess of Cadbury) and everyone had to have a crown or tiara. We had a smaller group of 17, but no less amount of fun.
I did make 5 outfits in 5 days for 5 of us (including myself, although my costume had been in construction for many months prior to this), but otherwise just helped folks with questions, fittings, etc. We had no real presentation, no skit, no defined plan, and it was very nice to be able to just go and swan around and be Queens.
I decided to go to Costume Con for 2012 and thought it would be fun to enter the Masquerade. A small idea about Dr. Who turned into a massive undertaking of 12 people in 2 countries and 7 states. We decided to be Steampunkish Victorian femme Doctors, and each person was to interpret their Doctor in the way they saw fit. We had formal Victorians, Edwardian inspiration outfits, a Saloon Girl style, a Lolita style, and Cindy Lou Who. For our presentation the joke was that the Tardis had “reversed the polarity of the neutron flow” and caused the Doctor to split into pieces – female pieces. Since there are supposed to be only 12 reincarnations of the Doctor (as per Dr. Who canon), and there had only been 11 doctors thus far on the TV series, we knew we had to have a 12th Doctor. Since Erin was not a Doctor Who fan and misheard “Whovian” as being “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” we thought it would be fun to have Cindy Lou Who be our rather confused 12th Doctor. The audience response proved us correct, and we won multiple Worksmanship awards and Judge’s Choice, and had a ball doing it.
This particular group costuming event taught me even more about managing people. Particularly people you may not know extremely well, and are not comfortable yelling at! However, the thrill of the performance and sharing in something so amazing with people I liked convinced me to participate in more Masquerades. Which means I have 3 group projects on my schedule for the next two years…
There are several uniting factors in all of these experiences that have been good learning experiences, and which I think are valuable for anyone planning a large group costume event/masquerade entry to know:
1. I learned to have back-ups for my back-ups. In Project Tudor, we had to replace Lady Jane Grey a month out and I already had someone in mind for the job and she was able to step into the role almost seamlessly.
2. No one is irreplaceable, except when they are. When we did PT we did not foresee one thing – that our Queen Elizabeth I would get H1N1 the morning of the event and not be able to participate. Since QE1 was not essential to the group it was okay to be missing her (and in a bit of serendipity, her costume was the only one I was not able to mostly complete in my all nighter the night before the event), but if someone has to drop out the morning OF the event, you should still have a back-up. Or be able to grab a random person to throw the costume on.
When we did the Whos, we really couldn’t afford to lose any of the Doctors. If we had 1-3 and then 5-12 but no 4 we would have looked ridiculous. Having learned from PT, I had possible ideas for filling in for any missing people.
3. Make sure you have a drop dead date for folks to drop out. For my event for next year I have a drop dead date of one month out from the event, as we need to have time to get our AV and sound together, and we don’t want to have to go back and edit anything.
4. Keep your paperwork together and able to be transported easily. For PT I had a 3 ring binder that I had carried around for almost 18 months with the measurements of all participants, photos of the costumes, and fabric swatches to match the portraits. I sourced fabrics online, in person, in town and on vacation. I was able to pull out fabrics from shelves and match them immediately to photos because I had them with me at all times.
5. Do not be afraid to try something new. During PT I learned to make jewelry and hats and corsets and so many things that I had never tried before.
6. Learned to accept help from others. No man is an island, and people will help if you ask for help. People WANT to participate.
7. I discovered that all projects need to have a deadline for their individual parts – if something is not working you need to move on and not keep trying the same idea and hoping to get different results. Put a time limit on something new – if it doesn’t work, go on to your back-up plan.
8. It is important to ultimately have ONE person (or two who work together very well and are on the same page in regards to the project) to make final decisions. The adage “too many cooks spoil the broth” applies very much here. People may have lots of good ideas, but someone needs to be able to step in and reduce those ideas down to something that will work, and have the ultimate “NO” power.
9. You have to be willing to be tough on your members. You have to keep track of your members, keep them on task, and make sure that things progress smoothly. People who have never been part of a group or team can have a hard time going from “me” to “us.” It is your job to help them.
10. Be realistic. How many people can you handle in your group? How much space is there on stage? Do you have time to actually complete all the ideas you want to? Do you have the capabilities? And if you don’t have the capabilities, do you have the time to learn something new?
And above all – this should be fun. It may be stressful, and there may be yelling, and you may want to strangle every single member of your group at least once, but remember that you are making a memory with these people. That you are doing something together as a group to have FUN. It shouldn’t be so much about the winning, but more about the experience. Winning is nice, don’t get me wrong, but sharing a moment with your friends is the part that will stay with you long after that prize ribbon is gone.
by, Erin Schneider
Back in May, your out-going MNSoC President (Laura Ulak) and your incoming MNSoC President (Me) attended the International Costumer’s Guild (ICG) Costume Convention in Tempe, Arizona.
What the heck is Costume Con, and why does it matter to you? Well, for starters, the ICG is the guild of which MNSoC is a chapter. And Costume Con is the ICG’s yearly bash, put on by a different chapter each year. (Yes, this means we, the members of MNSoC, could host Costume Con some year. Preferably AFTER I’m done being President…) In other words, it’s an event dedicated to you and your fellow costuming peeps.
What will you find at a typical Costume Con? Well, no Con is typical. But what I’ve found at the last two Cons I’ve attended (Milwaukee in 2010, Tempe in 2012) are as follows:
1. An awesome vendor’s room, where you can shop for costuming goodness – like patterns and hats and fabric and trims and so forth.
2. Classes, demonstrations, and panel discussions about your favorite costuming topics. This year, Laura and I attended a discussion on how to grow your guild. Since MNSoC is the LARGEST CHAPTER OF THE GUILD, WOOT! we thought we should attend.
3. Not one, but TWO Masquarades – one for Sci Fi/Fantasty, one for Historical. Laura and I, plus fellow MNSoC’er Laura Vetter, plus a bunch of out-of-state costuming buddies, entered the Sci Fi/Fantasy Masq. We won Judges’ Choice:
But the very best part of attending Costume Con is meeting likeminded, friendly costumers and seeing ALL THE PRETTY. Behold the costuming GLORY:
So the next time you ask yourself, “Self? Is it worth my while to attend Costume Con?” the answer should be a resounding YES. The people are fantastic, and you get to plan at least 5 wardrobe changes. WEAR ALL THE COSTUMES! Plus, you get a sense of the larger costuming community you belong to as a member of the ICG.
Wanna go to Con next year in Denver? Here are the deets! http://cc31denver.com/
by Erin Schneider
A Brief Explanation, AKA What the heck was I thinking?
A few years ago, my friends and I developed an interest in costuming; primarily costumes appropriate to wear to our local Renaissance Festival. While discussing noble or court gowns, my best friend (Laura Ulak) and I found ourselves standing in the printed cotton aisle at a discount fabric store.
Laura – “I should totally make an Elizabethan out of camo fabric (she had been in the Army).”
Me – “If you do, then I get one in Packer fabric.”
Laura – “I don’t think that would be a wise choice for a Minnesota Ren Fest.”
Me – “Damn the Vikings! Whatever, I’d DO IT ANYWAY.”
Laura – “It’s your funeral…”
I might be paraphrasing, but that is essentially the scope of the conversation. At that point, Laura and I, along with most of our costuming friends, decided we needed Twisted Historical costumes. But where would we wear them?
Fortunately, Kirk Johnson of the Bristol Renaissance Faire told us about their Day of Wrong. Laura and I immediately planned a trip to the Faire for the summer of ’09. And I started work on my costume. It debuted in August of 2009 to mostly positive reviews, except for a few bitter Bears fans.
I would like to dedicate this costume to my Grandma Schneider, a diehard Packer Backer, and Laura Ulak’s Grandma Grace, who taught her how to sew.
Title of Costume:
Green Bay Packer Elizabethan Court Gown
Name and address of the person responsible for the entry (or the spokesman for a group):
Never you mind.
Name(s) of designer(s) and maker(s):
Drawers – pattern by Simplicity, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Farthingale – pattern by Margo Anderson, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Partlett – pattern by Laura Ulak, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Corset – pattern by The Elizabethan Corset Generator, made by Erin Schneider
Bodice – pattern by Alter Years, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Underskirt – self patterned, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Overskirt – self patterned, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Sleeves – pattern by Laura Ulak, made by Erin Schneider and Laura Ulak
Hat – purchased at Rybiki’s Cheese Shop at the Mall of America. Decorated by Erin Schneider
Earrings – designed and made by Ashley Walton
Girdle – created from gold football-shaped beads, buttons, a bottle opener, and a shot glass by Erin Schneider
Brief identifying description of the costume’s historic period, geographic origin, social class and so forth. This description should include the historic basis for the costume:
The late 15th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First. Country of origin is England, social class is Noble. In short, this is an Elizabethan court dress made from modern, licensed sports team logo materials.
This would also be the point to notate any substitutions of historically accurate materials used:
I used 100% cotton, a natural fabric, for the construction of the garment, however, the pattern is not period appropriate. I used plastic cable ties in the corset instead of metal. I used hoop steel instead of reeds in the farthingale. Accessories are completely made of artificial materials.
Bibliography of sources:
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion
Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen
Juan de Alcega’s Tailor’s Pattern book of 1589
Herbert Norris, Tudor Costume and Fashion
Ninya Mikaila, The Tudor Tailor
Margo Anderson’s online List Serve
The Green Bay Packers and the State of Wisconsin
And the outcome? I won Most Humorous Presentation. Adding to the honor and GLORY of the Minnesota Society of Costumers.