Tuesday, June 7

2016 Cosplay: Sirius Black

Let's cut to the chase here.
In the span of a few short months, my son, who is almost six, became obsessed with Harry Potter.

I started reading the books to him during bath time, unsure if he had the interest or attention span. Turn out, he has both. Wheelbarrows of both. Now I show him the movies after we finish each book, and he listens to the audiobooks everynight. They help his reading skills; just last weekend, he read the first Sorting Hat scene to his mom. (It's a little spooky.)

He turns every stick into a wand or a Quidditch broom. All he talks about is how everyone else at the school could have beaten the basilisk in the second book. For example, Fred and George would have beaten it with bludgers. Dude's all in. We recently started the fourth book, ... and the Goblet of Fire. So far it's about sports fans camping. We're not thrilled.

Last year we took him to his first DragonCon. Back then, he was all about the Lord of the Rings movies, and he was adamant about going as Frodo. So we made him a costume. He was a hit, even to the actors from the films. This year, yep, he wants to go as Harry Potter. Because we're late to this franchise, the Potter costume materials are fairly cheap, and we'll buy most of them instead of making them. I asked if he would mind me going as a Harry Potter character. He said he'd be up for it, and I suggested Sirius Black. He said sure. He thought I would dress in the prison costume. I had other ideas.

Lookit this guy.
I secretly considered this costume for years now, starting when I first cosplayed as Oldman's Commissioner Gordon in 2012.

The cops were real, and they were spectacular.
I did that a few years, and people suggested additional Oldman roles (Zorg, Dracula, the guy who screams EVERYONE). Instead, following great demand from other DragonCon attendees, I went as Littlefinger, the first costume for which I had to put thread to needle. I felt pretty good about it, and it was received well. I had me a bit of a strut, I did.

But the Sirius costume is intimidating. Gordon and Littlefinger and Shipwreck from GI Joe were easy to put together. For Shipwreck, I went to military supply stores; I did practically all the shopping in one weekend. For Gordon, I shaved and wore one of my suits. Couldn't be easier. Littlefinger's costume required what now seems like no work at all. But Sirius's "bass player in a 1970s Doctor Who-themed funk band" style is a high mountain to climb, and I figured I'd be better off farming out the work.

Let's get dandy.
I did a lot of legwork upfront. I found a pattern at a craft store. I hit similar stores in the area for fabrics and made lots of notes on materials and cost. What would be comfortable to wear in Atlanta? What would be easy to work with? How could we simplify the pattern? My idea was to walk into a seamstress shop with reference pics, pattern, and measurements and give her tons of time to slap this together. I had a plan.

What I did not have was the money to cover the estimate I got back. It raised my eyebrows, but, not knowing the market, I thought it sounded borderline reasonable. It would at least be professional and sturdy, unlike what I might attempt. But when I ran the estimate by my wife and friends, they balked. They said it was way too high for just a coat and vest, which is all I asked for. Way too much for a costume. OK then. I'll try to make this myself.

(Aside: Why not try someone else, you ask? I wanted it to be made locally, and I live in the sticks. The seamstress I contacted is the only one in our phone book or local Google. The only fabric store within a half-hour of my house sells quilting materials and only quilting materials. 'Tis a small mountain hamlet.

Second, if I let slip the previous estimate, the potential tailor would reasonably think I wanted them to sell themselves short. I Googled Sirius Black costumes, and I found someone offering to make an entire costume for about $200, but it's online, and that seems fraught with peril. I'm sure people work those kind of partnerships all the time. Me, I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about mailing fabric samples back and forth and double-checking measurements and so on.

And, third, I wanted to give this a try first. If I bombed, I still had time to hire someone, and that earned firsthand knowledge of the suit's difficulty would make the next estimate easier to swallow.)

You must know -- you need to know -- that I am new to sewing and costuming. But I have mentally cataloged a great deal from cosplay blogs and friends who make outfits. I'm lucky to know skilled and creative folks. They set a high bar, and they post lots of process pictures and information. I wanted to do them proud. I got to work.

Anyone for bowling?
I found the shirt and pants at Goodwill for $10. The shirt was the right hue and size. The pinstripe pants are two sizes too big, but that's easy to fix. Even I can do it. By cheating and using safety pins, but still.

I bought some white and gray fabric paint. The gray was too faint on the test I did inside the shirt. I didn't bestripe the whole shirt because the suit jacket and vest will cover much of it. I only did those four sections and the collar. This took maybe 20 minutes. Dried quickly too. So far, so good.

OK maybe.
I wound up buying two wigs. The first was a Jesus wig-and-beard set deeply discounted after Easter. But it was a little long and didn't quite look right. I shopped around some more hoping I wouldn't have to trim the first wig. I found the above wig from a local shop and found some online tips on how to flatten wigs. This guy's a little poofy. But some water and a hairdryer set on low work really well, he discovered after taking this picture.

My hand looks gigantic.
The Sirius wand was on eBay. The Amazon prices were a bit steep. eBay is a great resource for cosplay, but you sometimes have to search a wide range of item names to find exactly what you're looking for.

Let's start surgery.
It took forever to find a decent jacket. Thrift stores, Amazon, and eBay all failed me. I happened upon this via a Target ad, and this is the most expensive item I'll only use for the costume. (Google tip for future Siriuses/Siri: search olive blazer). It's not a frock coat like Sirius wears, but this is close to the shade I wanted without spending $200. I used a small brush to apply fabric paint instead of trying to sew on stripes. That road leads to madness. If I had a sewing machine, I'm sure it could have been done, but I'm not at that level of construction yet.

Collar first.

Stripes originally.
When I finished, the stripes looked a little too bold, and I tried to dim them by scraping away the paint. Sandpaper didn't work, but a copper Brillo pad did. Sirius's clothes are a little threadbare anyway, making scuffs acceptable. Plus, it slightly thinned the jacket, making it more practical for the DragonCon heat.
Stripes finished.
And that looked aw'ight.

Steppin' out.
The shoes are the most expensive costume item that I can also wear every day, and these were almost half price. JC Penney has these for just under $70, and I needed brown dress shoes. I've worn them about to break them in. I get compliments. I got these one size too big in consideration of all the walking I'll do at DragonCon. I can add a gel insole if needed.

See my vest. See my vest.
The vest was another dumb-luck eBay find. It's velvet, it's dark, and it's my size. In Googling the Sirius vest pattern, I found this helpful video that actually breaks down his outfit straight from the horse's mouth.

These are screencaps.
So handy.
Instead of replicating it, I decided to credibly simulate it. I grabbed some adhesive foam shapes from the craft store. These are intended to be used on customized stamp blocks for paperwork, but they worked pretty well on the velvet. I made stamps by adhering the foam shapes onto the back of gluestick packages.

A boon to laziness.

The back of a stamp.

The front of the stamp with spacing marks matching the leaf angles.

The package gave me a strong pressure surface and a good handhold. My best trick was this: When I made the stamps, I first measured a one-inch spacer on each of them so I knew immediately how closely to place the stamp farther down the rows. You can see the marks on the packages. There are two of them because the leaf angles alternate by row. I hand painted the shapes each time I used the stamp instead of mashing them into puddles of paint. If I did that, the stamps would smear the fabric with excess paint.

I done thunk this through.
Green and gold.
I did each side of the vest separately using paper towels to protect the material from the acrylic paint. The velvet required lots of touch-ups with a small paint brush, but the paint adheres very well. This stuff ain't brushing off in the packed crowds.

Roses. As if by magic!
I let that dry then added the roses by hand. Lastly, I regarded those buttons and thought I would just paint them gold. And I did! And it looked horrible! I decided to buy new buttons, cut off the originals, and sew on the new ones. That meant I had to learn how to sew buttons.

I found good tutorials online. I practiced first with a spare piece of cloth and realized two things: The buttons I bought were simple loop backs, not the four-hole types; that made sewing them on very easy for a newbie like me. But, second, the buttons were too big for the holes. Gah. I bought new buttons and sewed them on the vest in just over a hour's time. For a rookie, I feel pretty good about the work.

I found the vest chain on eBay as well. I searched for art deco pocket watch chain and snagged it within 10 minutes. I couldn't find a proper red pendant for the chain and instead painted cheap plastic jewelry. They came in sets of three, and I painted all of them as back-ups in case the first one fell off. I safety pinned the chain ends inside the pockets and attached the center of the chain to the vest using slide rings (like you use for keychains) on a buttonhole and used a smaller slide ring to attach the painted bauble to the first slide ring.

There's a very quick look at the Sirius belt buckle on that YouTube video. I didn't find anything resembling it in shopping searches, even in western gear.

I instead bought a blank oval buckle with a similar border online for about $5. I tested markers on the back to find one that didn't smudge. The Sharpies worked fine and dried quick. I drew the pattern freehand in a few minutes.

Right after I finished it, my son, the obsessive, asked if I was going to have hand tattoos too, and I didn't know what he was talking about. He picked up the TV remote and found the shot he had in mind, as Sirius says goodbye to Harry at the end of the third film.

Oh, well. Yes. Of course, dude. Of course. I'll add those to the neck and chest tattoos I'll draw on with Sharpies. The patterns are online.  I did a marker test, and it should be pretty simple.

Darn poofy wig

I'll shave the facial hair back a bit and calm down that wig and Sharpie on the tattoos, but, otherwise, that's it. The above picture shows the blank buckle, and the wig in its natural, peacock-display shape.

I'll wear this to HeroesCon for a few hours as a test drive and polish it for DragonCon a few months later. We'll see what I discover about it in Charlotte -- including, crucially, how recognizable it is -- very soon.

1 comment:

  1. hands down, best tutorial for this entire costume! thank you for all the tips!