Cosplay: 2014 Cosplay Season is Go!

It has been far, far too long since the Care and Feeding of Nerds has featured a cosplay post. Just the notion of writing about costumes was enough to make me a giddy, grinning, hopeless case. Realistically it's been about seven months since I've done any work with costumes and just under a year since a convention-level piece swallowed up the majority of the floor space in our office. In the grand scheme of things that's not a terribly long time, particularly when I'm always going on about Lorenz transformations and wondering how the passage of time seems to hasten every year. Still, a year without cosplay left me with a considerable sartorial jones that will finally be addressed.

Last March, the runaway hit of PAX East was the playable demo for Transistor. In the 10 months since, Supergiant Games has been working tirelessly to perfect the alpha and have the title ready for release later this year. During that same period I have been completely unable to get the demo out of my head. Everything about the game: the mechanics, the premise, the color scheme, the sci-fi/noir setting and the soundtrack...good gravy...the soundtrack. Add to all that a capable heroine with oodles of narrative potential and a personal respect for Supergiant's attempt to self-publish and I was 110% sold. Given all that, the very first entry on the 2014 cosplay docket will be Red from Transistor.    
Construction on the actual costume began about three months ago, but it has been somewhat slow-going as the holidays and life in general sought to interpose. Such is the benefit of getting an early start that I'm now, less than three months out, not scrambling to complete pieces. Yay for the cosplay lineup!

As with every character I attempt to re-create, the next step after making the initial selection is to thoroughly catalogue all the components of the costume in the source material. With Red, I had two outfits to choose from: her floor-length evening gown from the earliest scenes of the game and the tattered remnants of that gown that she dons for the majority of actual play. I've chosen to make the latter, as this is what Red wears during all the action and it seemed like the more interesting of the two options.

Red's primary costume consists of the following: a short goldenrod-colored dress with a fairly ragged hemline and feathered collar, a black corset-bodice, thigh-high stockings and knee high boots, a black or dark brown coat with a elbow-length sleeves and, last but certainly not least, the eponymous Transistor sword. Upcoming posts on the costume will be divided into dress/bodice/coat, sword, and accessories. The dress and bodice are mostly complete, but this entry is going to focus on Red's physical features so I can post complete procedurals on the other pieces once they're entirely done.

From the demo and what artwork has been released to date, we see that Red is a young woman with short, deep red hair and bright blue eyes. She wears her hair in a sideswept, tustled way akin to the bobbed styles popular during the American Jazz Era. If you happen to have bright red hair (or can otherwise attain that color), you can achieve this look for yourself by setting your hair in pincurls, then deconstructing the curls and combing them around your head. If your hair is not that striking scarlet hue or you'd rather not spend a night with dozens of bobby pins stuck to your head then a wig is probably the best course of action. 

There haven't been too many mentions of wigs on the blog and that's largely because I tend to avoid wearing them. That's not to say that wigs aren't excellent additions to a costume, just that there are some considerations to take before incorporating them into your costume.

Wig Pros

- Wigs come in an unfathomably diverse array of colors, lengths, and styles. In the vast majority of cases it is exponentially easier to slip on a wig than to try and get the same look with your natural hair.

- Wigs generally hold a style and accessories better than your natural hair, as they are designed and textured for just this purpose. Also, since you'll likely be wearing a cap as well, they aren't impacted by your body's unique chemistry or things like sweat.

-  You can 'pre-style' a wig well in advance of a convention, which translates into more free time for you on the actual day of the event.

- The myriad of color options and feasible styles allow for a high degree of precision in your cosplay. A wig can allow you to very closely approximate certain characters or species.

- Thanks to the magic of the internet you can get good quality, highly versatile pieces for very reasonable prices.

Wig Cons

- Actually wearing a wig can get very uncomfortable, especially if it's been a few hours since you first put it on. Unless you have short, obedient hair, you'll need to wear a cap beneath the wig itself. This double layering can leave you very warm and/or irritate the skin nearest the cap. If at all possible, take the wig off every 3-4 hours and let your scalp breathe for 20-30 minutes.

- While many wigs can be purchased for decent prices, those so priced are typically made of synthetic hair. If, for whatever reason, you need or want a wig made of human hair be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars.

- Wigs do hold styles well, but, like your own hair, they can be easily crushed, matted or misshaped. If you have to transport your wig you may want to either wait until you've arrived at your destination to style the piece or invest in a hard carrying case (tupperware works well for this!).

A last note on wigs: though it's tempting to want to skip the wig cap, it ultimately makes wig wearing easier and gives you a cleaner, neater finished look. They're also fairly inexpensive and/or easy to make (just trim a length of cheap pantyhose or tights to pull over your scalp).

Aside from her hair, Red's other distinguishing physical feature are her piercing, almost electric blue eyes. If you happen to have blue eyes, there are certain makeup applications that could create a similar effect but we'll go into that in another post. If your eyes aren't blue colored contacts are likely going to be necessary.
Colored contacts have a bad reputation built on horror stories of cheap lenses scratching corneas and causing all sorts of ocular infections. Every so often one news outlet or another will cobble together an expose on such lenses and introduce fresh panic to the masses. So, do colored contacts deserve that public blight? Eh, yes and no. 

Are there plenty of sketchy contacts on the market? Yes. Are there also good quality contacts that will serve your cosplay needs? Yes. The key is to be able to discern between the two. The easiest, safest method for procuring colored contacts is to obtain them through a licensed manufacturer of standard prescriptive lenses. Acuvue, FreshLook, and Lenscrafters all have lines of cosmetic colored lenses. The catch: you need a prescription or at least the written approval of an eye care professional. If you already wear glasses/contacts you can use your existing prescription at any one of the above listed companies. Bonus: some of them will even give you a free set of 30-day trial lenses!

If you don't have an eyewear prescription or the major manufacturers don't make the color you need for your cosplay (since the latter tends to only be offered in a limited range of hues) then your best bet is to branch out to internet purveyors. This is where things could potentially get dicey, but there are reputable sites to be found. NEVER ever ever buy lenses from a Halloween or novelty store, a convenience store, or a street vendor.

I tend to favor Turtle Contacts and Brilliant Contacts on the occasions that I've needed an eye color beyond the standard human spectrum. Both sites use extremely high quality lenses, have a very wide variety of colors available, and have excellent customer service. Both vendors also have extensive usage FAQ sections that will walk you through how to wear and care for your lenses. It is extremely important that you take the time to read all of those sections. A significant number of the incidents of eye damage stemming from the use of colored lenses can be attributed to improper care and application. 

Make sure you have multipurpose contact solution and a sterile storage case on hand before your lenses arrive. Both of these are usually pretty inexpensive and are  available at most drug stores and  supermarkets. Follow all instructions for the disinfection, storage, application and removal of lenses, especially if you've never worn them before. Actually applying the lenses can be tricky and will involve some practice. Be patient with yourself while you're getting the hang of using the lenses and give yourself about a week to get comfortable applying and removing them.
So now that you've got some purchasing options there are a few things to consider before buying your lenses. 

- Do you naturally have light eyes or dark eyes?
- Do you have an astigmatism?
- How drastic a change do you want to make to your eye color?

If you have dark eyes or you're going for a very drastic change from your natural color, then you will want to limit your search to opaque lenses. As the name implies, opaques will layer a new color or pattern entirely over your iris, covering your natural hue completely. Aside from the density of the color, these are not materially different from other colored lenses. These are your only option if you have dark eyes and you'll want to look for the word 'opaque' or 'for dark eyes' in the product description.

If you have lighter eyes or want a less dramatic change from your natural color, then you have the option to select translucent lenses. With translucents, the lens layers semi-transparent color over your eyes, blending your natural hue with that of the lens. Like the opaques, 'translucent' will likely appear in the product description, though many sites will not explicitly list such lenses as being for light eyes.

If you have an astigmatism, then your options will be a bit more limited and you should stick to the prescription-required lenses mentioned earlier. Your eye care professional may be able to recommend vendors that will make custom lenses in non standard colors. You should NOT try to wear circle lenses unless you've been cleared by your eye care professional to do so.

More cosplay updates to follow! Here's to kicking off the 2014 cosplay season!

Important notes: None of the above post should be considered medical advice and is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Colored contacts are used at your own risk. The author and Care and Feeding of Nerds does not assume liability for any injury incurred while using colored contact lenses. If you have any questions or concerns regarding colored lenses, please consult a licensed eye care professional.

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