|Cost :||I gave up counting at a guess £90|
|Awards :||Audience Choice (as part of a six member group) at May Expo 08|
|Time Taken :||About six months|
|I adore the design of Motochika Chosokabe, especially his weapon, a beautifully crafted shamisen. I decided that my first task when embarking upon this costume was to make the shamisen as I figured that this would be the hardest element of the cosplay and I didn’t really want to make the costume if I couldn’t have the weapon. |
My first task was to work out the proportions of the shamisen. To get the basic idea of the size of each element making up the shamisen I cut out a very rough pattern for each section from newspaper and then compared it to the picture I had of Motochika standing with his weapon. After sizing each piece I cut another newspaper pattern but this time I took more care in copying the shape so that it matched the outline of the shamisen as closely as possible. Then I used the newspaper pattern to trace the body and head (front and back) of the shamisen onto thick cardboard from a DVD player box. I needed to join the front and back shapes of the shamisen so to give the body depth I cut a strip of thin, more flexible cardboard a little wider than the intended thickness of the finished shamisen. I scored a line down the strip about an inch from the edge and then folded this over creating a lip. Using a hot glue gun I stuck the strip all the way around the edge of the bottom body piece leaving a gap at the top for the neck of the shamisen. The neck I created from a long length of polystyrene packaging that I sandwiched between two strips of thick cardboard. The whole neck was reinforced with a length of wooden dowel which I taped to the back and covered it with masking tape to hold it in place. I wrapped the whole neck piece in masking tape and then glued it through the centre on the inside of the base threading the exposed end of the dowel through the cardboard strip so that it poked out at the bottom of the shamisen to which I would later add the knob or stand detail.
Next I glued the bottom head piece to the end of the neck and filled it out with bits of polystyrene not just to give it depth but to give me something into which to stick the chopsticks. After securing the chopsticks into the polystyrene using a hot glue gun I glued the top piece of the head of the shamisen onto the polystyrene then wrapped the whole thing in masking tape to seal it and create a firm side edge. Then I filled and glued the body piece with chunks of polystyrene to give the whole thing bulk and stop it from sagging. Then I glued the front piece of cardboard to the side strip and polystyrene in the middle and cover the whole body part in masking tape to strengthen it.
As the head of the shamisen was meant to be carved and detailed from wood I attempted to recreate this effect with cardboard. First I made the raised layer around the outer edge by sticking a strip of thick cardboard about an inch wide that mirrored the shape of the original layer.
The next task was to cover the whole shamisen in paper Mache to add strength to the prop. I used small squares of newspaper with watered down PVA glue to cover the neck and body but tissue paper for the head of the weapon. I cover the whole shamisen in several layers of paper Mache waiting for each layer to dry completely before embarking upon the next.
The chopsticks I covered in strips of newspaper to build to the shape. I covered the chopsticks in a layer of builders chalk so that I could shape them better. Once dry I sanded them down to get rid of the rough surface and achieve the shape I wanted then covered them in several layers of tissue paper and PVA glue. Once dry I lightly sanded them, and then painted them with brown and gold acrylic paint.
Next I added the detailing of the shamisen, first I took a pattern of the body in thick cardboard and then cut a thin strip out of it about half an inch from the left hand side in order to create the ridge effect seen on the body of the weapon. I set the strip on the left edge of the front section of the body and glued it. I then cover the strip in a few layers of tissue paper and PVA glue to seal the edges and give me a better surface with which to paint upon. I drew by hand the design on the front of the shamisen onto what was left of the cardboard pattern. I thought that just painting the detailing would look to flat so I traced the design onto tracing paper so that I could copy it several times if the need arose. I traced one complete version of the design onto thick cardboard; this would be the base of the detailing which I would then add the layering to create a carved effect. I added another layer of the raised details including the dragon’s heads and scales. And a final layer of the fine details like the dragon’s eyes and claws. The whole layered piece was then stuck to the front of the shamisen and covered in a layer of tissue and PVA glue to seal the detailing and give a good base upon which to paint on.
The detailing at the bottom of the shamisen I created from a wooden acorn, the sort of thing that is used at the end of the cord of a light pull. I carved out the hole at the top of the acorn that is usually big enough just to take a piece of cord so that it would fit the wooden dowel that was running through the neck and body of the shamisen. I altered the shape of the acorn by cutting of the long neck piece and sanding down what was left into a point then turning the acorn upside down I glued it to the wooden dowel with hot glue. Next I glued a thin strip of cardboard around the acorn in the middle then covered the whole thing in tissue paper Mache.
The item used to strike shamisen I made from cardboard, layering it to the desired thickness and then covering with paper Mache. I sanded this down then added the details with two more layers of cardboard cut into the design and then cover with tissue paper Mache to seal it. I filled in any gaps and all around the edge of the strike with Builder’s chalk, sanded this down and then painted it with acrylic paints.
I bought a pair of cheap, comfortable ankle boots that fastened with zips at the side to serve as the base for my footwear. The first thing that I had to do was to cut away the detailing on the top and the front of the boots to create a smooth surface upon which I could work. Next I made a v shaped cut in the front of the boots from the top, several inches down which I then joined the raw edges back together with strips of duck tape, making the boots narrower at the ankle.
I placed one of the boots sideways upon a sheet of newspaper and roughly drew an outline around it. After cutting out the paper pattern I used it to cut four pieces of brown fake leather. I pinned two of these pieces, right sides together, and then tacked and machine sewed them together from the top of the ankle to the toe. Once sewn I draped the fake leather over the boot, securing it in place with a pin at the toe and then pinning it at the back of the boot so that I could check the shape and cut off the surplus fabric. Next I carefully glued the fake leather onto the boot using a hot glue gun. I started at the ankle and slowly worked my way down the boot, pulling and trying to smooth out the fabric the best I could. As I needed to be able to use the zip to get the boots on and off I had to cut the fabric neatly away from the zip and added more glue to stick it down securely. Once the fabric was stuck in place I carefully trimmed the edge of it around the sole of the boot.
I created the pointed gold toecaps out of thick furnishing buckram which I cut in a triangle shape and then secured to the toe of the boot with strips of duck tape. I doubled over the duck tape making it sticky on both sides, this I used to stick the underside of the buckram to the boot and then I used strips of duck tape on the top of the buckram wrapping it all the way around the toe so that I could bind the toecap as tightly as possible. Then I covered the whole toecap in masking tape which would give a better surface for the layers of paper mache. Once the newspaper layers of paper mache were dry I added some detailing by sticking on a strip of thin cardboard and several crescent shapes, then I added a thin layer of tissue and PVA glue to seal the detailing. I lightly sanded the uneven parts of the paper Mache and then painted the toecaps with gold acrylic paint, finishing off with clear spray varnish. To give the appearance of wedge shape heels I painted the side of each boot with gold acrylic paint. I thought this would be the easiest option as attaching the pointed toecaps made walking slightly awkward as it was and adding fake wedges that might become unstuck would cause even more trouble.
The first thing I did to make the leg covers was to take a pattern of my leg. I did that with some help from my mum who pinned the newspaper at the side of my legs and then I cut off the access. I used the paper pattern to cut the same shape from 18” stiff buckram including cutting out the V shapes where the access paper had been removed. Then I joined the edges of the V shapes back together with duct tape which made the buckram fit more snugly around my leg. Next I covered the whole thing in duct tape in order to create a smoother surface to attach the fake leather onto. Leaving a good 2” overlap all the way around I hot glue gunned a piece of brown fake leather onto the buckram. Starting at one edge I slowly glued, pulling the fabric across the buckram so that it lay as flat and taut as possible.
I punched a row of holes down each edge of the buckram at what would become the back of the boots and I would lace with brown cord to fasten them to my legs. I added a strip of fake leather at one edge of the boot which would serve as a tongue under the laces to cover any gaps if I need to loosen the fastening.
The gold detailing on the boots I drew first by hand with a pencil and then painted over using several layers of acrylic gold paint. The gold decoration around the ankle of the boot caused me a few headaches before I came up with the solution. In the end I used funky foam as a base for the detail as it was flexible enough to be place around the ankle part of the boot which also helped cover the join behind the boot and the boot cover. First I cut the desired shape from the foam then covered this with a scrap of white cotton and secured it in place with glue and stitching. I drew out the design with a pencil and then traced over that using a fabric paint that puffed up when dry. I left that paint to dry over night and once the design was completely dry I painted over the whole thing with the same gold acrylic paint that I had used for the details on the boot covers. I stuck one side of a strip of Velcro with a hot glue gun to the back of the ankle detailing and the other side to the bottom of the boot cover so that I could attach the two pieces together and hopefully give the illusion of a whole solid boot. My final task was to make four small bows from turquoise ribbon which were then sewn to strips of the same ribbon and then stuck to each boot cover with a hot glue gun.
For Motochika’s top I used a Simplicity Kimono pattern as a base and then it would just be a case of shortening the pattern to make a shorter finished garment. Unfortunately I had great problems getting the desired colour, my first attempt when hand dyeing (I tried this cause I wanted to try dip dyeing but failed and will have to practice this method another time) was totally wrong and so I had to remake the top from scratch as I couldn’t take the dye out of the garment without leaving it several different shades. So with the second version of the top I used a Dylon washing machine dye which although wouldn’t allow me to do the dip dye method was a much better colour. I cut each piece of the pattern out and then dyed it as I have had trouble before with having too much fabric in the machine and not achieving an even colour throughout the fabric.
One the fabric was dyed I made up the top but due to the fabric all being now dyed pale blue I need to create the white bottom section of the sleeve. In an ideal world I would have liked to have got the shading by graduation dyeing or painting with fabric paint but both methods did not work so I decided that the best thing to do was just to cut the blue part away at an angle and then add white fabric to make the bottom of the sleeve. Next I cut two a two inch strips of black and gold Chinese silk which I made into tubes and then sewed these to the inside hem of both sleeves to create the effect of the garment he is wearing under the top. Then I painted the strip of fabric which would be the collar of the top in gold fabric paint and once the several layers were dry I hand sewed it to the raw edge of the top. Using a scrap of dyed pale blue fabric I cut out a circle and then with the cardboard template I had created drew on the Chosokabe clan symbol. This I painted with the same gold fabric paint that I had used for the collar and once dry I loosely hand stitched the fabric to the back of the top. To neaten the clan ‘patch’ I carefully stick the gaps between the stitches with fabric glue.
The last thing I need to do to complete the top was to add the flowery patterned strip to the right edge of the garment. I drew a section of the pattern covering it from an art book picture of Motochika onto a strip of cardboard which I had already measure to be the desired width plus about an inch either side of the finished strip. Then I cut out the pattern so that I could trace around it onto the fabric, repeating the design until I had enough to run the length of the top. Using a sea green acrylic paint I first coloured the darker background areas, then adding white to lighter the original colour I filled in the leaves and finally adding even more white high lighted a few details on the leaves. Once everything was dry I hand sewed the strip to the length of the top.
As only a small section of Motochika’s chest armour is visible I decided to cheat a little and create something that wasn’t fitted to the body, therefore making it more comfortable to wear with the binding. For the base of the armour I used a white t-shirt with a wide scoop neck to which I added a panel of black fake leather to the front section. I stuck the fake leather with fabric glue and once tacky machine stitched around the edge of the panel to make even more secure.
The gold detailing around the collar and down the front of the panel were made in the same way that I used for the gold design around the ankles of my boots. Funky foam covered with fabric upon which I drew the details with fabric paint that puffed up and finally painted with gold acrylic paint. Finally I stuck the gold details onto the fake leather panel with a hot glue gun.
The hand guards I made from buckram, cut to shape and then covered them in the same black fake leather that I had used for the chest armour. I stuck the front section with a hot glue gun and then tucking the half inch of overlapping fabric and sticking that down to what would be the back of the guard. To neaten everything I added a piece of fake leather to the back of the guard and hope that this would also make the thing more comfortable to wear. To secure the hand guards I attached two strips of thick elastic to the top and bottom of the guard which would go snugly around the top of my palm and my wrist. I decided to paint the elastic with gold fabric paint as I thought this would blend in better with the rest of the armour rather than try to achieve a flesh colour and get the shade wrong.
I knew that I was never going to be able to buy a wig like Motochika as he has such a unique hair so I knew that I would have to try styling a wig for the first time. First I searched e-bay for suitable wigs, this proved harder than I had initially expected as finding a dark grey wig seemed few and far between. In the end I managed to get a long, spiral curled wig that was the best shade of dark grey that I could find and a light grey wig that had long bangs which was pretty close to Motochika’s style.
First I pinned the light grey wig to a polystyrene wig head which I then stuck onto a pole so I could work all around it with ease. After giving the wig a light comb through, I separated the fringe, combing it forward to create a hairline which I would be working around to make the two tone style of Motochika’s hair and then tied it up out of the way. I pulled the remaining hair into a loose ponytail so I could get better access to the nape of the wig. Next I carefully cut each weft from the dark grey wig because of the curled style of the wig this proved harder then a straight wig but finding a dark grey was almost impossible so I just had to work slowly combing through each weft. I sewed the wefts one by one around the hairline between the fringe and the rest of the wig and around the nape of the wig. I stitched the wefts in the opposite direction that I intended the hair to go so that would cover the stitching once the wig was styled. Once all the wefts were sewn I carefully pilled the light grey wig into a high pony and secured this with several elastic bands. Then I cut off the excess hair about an inch from the elastic band making a small stub which I covered in fabric glue so that when it was dry it would form a rubbery surface over the stub. Then I pulled the dark grey wefts into a pony tail around the stub then fastened that in place with an elastic band. I cut off the excess hair as it had become too tangled so with what was left of the dark grey wig I cut strands of hair, dipped them in fabric glue to form a rubbery end and bind them. Once dry I pinned then into the stub and when I was happy with the placement I secured them with a strip of duct tape. I had also cut a strand of light grey from the back of the wig and used fabric glue to make a rubbery end, this I stitched into the front of the fringe of the wig under the top layer. I made the gold hair decoration in Motochika’s hair with the same method that I used to make the gold detailing around the ankle of the boots and secured it to the pony tail with double sided tape.
The sash I made from a length of pink rough silk folded into a tube and fastened at the back with Velcro. As the sash appeared to have a gold lining I decided to get this effect but painting the back of the sash with gold fabric paint. I looped up the tail of the sash back onto the main part of the sash at the back and then sewed it so that the gold underside would be showing. The cords of yellow, white and gold I made with lengths of satin cord that I stitched together so I would wear them by pulling them over my head. On the white cord I threaded four polystyrene balls that I have covered in paper Mache and painted silver. The cords are to be held in place by sticking them between strips of Velcro that I had sewn in place and hidden under the tail of the sash.
Motochika’s trousers I created by purchasing a pair of white jersey fabric leggings from e-bay. I dyed these pale sea green colour using a cold water dye in a bucket and then painted and sponged on the design with indigo mixed with black fabric paint. Once the design was dry I cut the slashes into the fabric unfortunately due to stretching the legging to paint ton the design and the nature of the fabric the bands left started to sag. As there wasn’t anything to support the loose fabric I had to work out a way to keep the bands in place on my leg. The solution that I came up with was to sew pieces of flesh coloured tights to the inside of the leggings and then short the fabric of the stretching bands by taking them with a tuck to the fabric at the middle of the back bands and the side of the front bands.