13th March 2015: Making of Xiaomu - the rest Xiaomu is a 700-year old fox spirit who is partnered up with Reiji Arisu in the games. They work for Shin-ra, an organisation that investigates disturbances in the space-time continuum, and she originally worked alongside Reiji's father, who was killed when practicing forbidden arts.
Xiaomu is a great character in the games and she has some of the best lines - she has this uncanny ability to say what everyone else is thinking, except she has NO shame and just comes right out and says it, including breaking the fourth wall with free abandon XD Her character design is really fun anyway but tbh I just wanted to cosplay her cos she's frickin' awesome.
This was my first time working with pure silk - I got a very good bargain on Ebay and got 2 metres of black silk for just £35. When sewing silk you need to avoid pinning it as much as possible or pin on the edge of the seam allowance as pins puncture and can warp the fabric. Sharps or microtex needles are required to sew it, as well as a low thread tension. Needless to say, I did a full mockup of the dress in muslin before going anywhere near that silk!
I did the outline of the dragon in Pebeo pearlescent white gutta (THIS DOESN'T WASH OUT unlike the transparent gutta - you've been warned!) experimented with 2 different silk paints to do the white dragon design - Jacquard Dye-na-Flow and Jacquard Neopaque. The Dye-na-Flow soaked right into the silk and produced no colour change at all, so that was no good. So I used the Neopaque, which works very similarly to Dylon fabric paint, and built it up layer by layer to get a completely white surface. It took five layers of Neopaque to get the coverage you see in the photos. You then need to iron the silk (ulp!!) to set the paint. I put off doing this for about 2 months, I was so terrified of ruining all my hours of painting work XD But it was fine, you just need to have your iron on a low setting - use a pressing cloth if you're really worried. You can steam silk, in fact if you hang it up in the shower room most of the creases will drop out. But if you put loads of water on it, which happens with my somewhat leaky steam iron, then it can stain. So I just used my iron on the silk setting and emptied all the water out of the iron before starting. With that many layers of paint the silk does start to curl so ironing it is important to flatten things out too.
After painting the dragon and setting it, I cut an identical copy of the dress out of this gorgeous red brocade satin fabric I have (which doesn't show up in any of the pics, ALL OF MY SADS - might post a separate pic cos it's so nice!) I then sewed both dresses separately from each other, turned the red one inside out and put it inside the black one to act as a lining for the dress. The dress is sleeveless and I didn't want to have to hem the silk because it would have loads of puncture holes from the needle, plus there is a red lining on the reference art, so it was a good move!
Once the dress was all lined etc, I had to cut in where the zips were going to go. They were big chunky zips that I bought from orgxiii.org who make them for Kingdom Hearts costumes so I didn't need to worry about having pre-cut in their locations during patterning, there was enough fabric to fold back to expose the zip teeth to make it possible to just cut and part. Believe me, it was a little nervewracking cutting into the dress after all the work I'd done on it! After cutting I backstitched the cut ends several times to stop the thread unravelling. I notched the zip that goes over my chest before inserting it, to help it to curve more easily, but it was still a fiddle getting the thing in, I found it easiest to pin down the front first to get it looking nice, and then do the red lining separately with pins in at the back. Needless to say with it bristling with pins and it being so crucial to sew it in exactly the right place, I hand-sewed it in. I could have actually done some crude basting to hold it in place and then put it under the machine but what with the curve and it being silk and showing the holes from any tacking or basting, I decided that hand sewing was just a better option. I had to handsew the larger zip anyway because the chunky teeth made it impossible to sew close enough to them to get a tidy finish.
The jacket was easy enough because I just took the mockup I'd made for Tiran's Reiji jacket and slimmed it down, omitting the sleeves and widening the armholes down to the lower ribcage. The jacket was made out of regular ol' cotton drill with the black detailing done with bias tape. On the reference art the red 'pockets' at the top of the jacket clearly are folded over so I cut extra fabric in that shape and sewed it onto the jacket, leaving the bottom ends free, prior to bias binding the whole thing. I used two different types of bias tape - a medium width for the front and back, and a large width for the edging. The soft cotton bias tape I used for the edging has a tendency to twist during sewing so you really have to pin it into submission and make sure you haven't accidentally twisted it over during pinning. I didn't need to interface it because it was lined with the same fabric which is reasonably heavy in weight. The studs are regular self cover buttons with no covering, and the rings were wooden curtain rings sprayed silver. At the bottom I used a wide bore needle to weave the black leather thong. The clasps were Worbla sprayed silver.
The shoes were just Ebay specials with some red leatherette used to add the extra straps between the ankle and the toe strap, and green glass pebbles were glued on to add the bit of sparkle seen in the reference art.
Xiaomu's staff, 'Suiren' was made entirely by Tiran and I take no credit for it whatsoever! It's a curtain rod with an acrylic rod attached to some balsa wood dowelling to make the sword cane hidden inside it. The large circle is made out of cintra. The rings are metal because I really wanted them to jingle! They make the whole thing top heavy though. I knocked it over and broke it the week before the con and had to get him to fix the results of my stupidity DX He also made 'Platinum', Xiaomu's gun, out of balsa wood.
The gloves were another Ebay special with white jersey cuffs (and tassels on one hand and not the other, silly reference art!) - they are only attached to the glove at one point otherwise I wouldn't be able to get to the straps to put them on! The prayer beads are actually superglued to my arm DX I tried sock glue but they wouldn't hold!
And then the wig.... well... to be honest, you can just watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jat3iSU4ZwA
I dyed the tips using the FW ink method which you can read about here:
And coloured the fringe bits at the front using a brown Sharpie because dying just a small part like that with dip-dyeing is pretty hard to do.
Toupee clips are sewn to the inside to help keep it on my head, it's very back heavy so there are three clips at the front and one at the back to keep it pulled down over the back of my head and all the wire stuff. I used a piece of yellow felt against my head to stop the worst of the wire rubbing. Before I put the wig on I put on a mesh wig cap from Coscraft, it has a hole in the top to enable you to pull it right down over your head, I pull it right down and leave it around my neck. The wirework underneath the wig is then bandaged to my head!! Once it's bandaged in place I can pull the wig cap up which sweeps my remaining hair out of the way. Then I can pull the actual wig down over the wire work and the bandages. I can't say it's the most comfortable wig I've ever worn but it does stay on. The one disadvantage of doing it this way is that my head height does grow a bit, which is evident in the photos. Xiaomu has a really boofy messy hair style at the front anyway so it doesn't look too disparate, I hope. Next time around I would reduce the wirework a lot more but I wanted the hair tails to stay up properly, which they do, so it was worth it!
Overall I'm really proud of this costume, all the individual elements came together really nicely and it has a great visual impact. The wig looks far better in photos than it does IRL, I feel - I was really close to binning it at one point, I got so frustrated with how it was turning out, but when with the rest of the costume you notice its flaws less. It's much harder to get wefts to adhere to a curve when you're then continuing that curve down into a straight line, they start to pull away, so it's at the curves that the coverage of hair is the poorest. But the yellow felt underneath in the few places where it can be seen does blend reasonably well with the wig hair itself in the photos, so that's something. I learnt a lot from the experience, it's the most ambitious wig project I've ever attended.
Tiran joined me as Reiji and we had a fun photoshoot even though it was a bit chilly to be wearing a sleeveless skimpy dress in March! This is probably the most revealing costume I've made but even then it doesn't show that much - tell ya what though, having goosebumps on my butt was an interesting experience DX
We had a photoshoot with ManyLemons as well so I'll add the photos from that to this album when they're available!