One of the highlights of my evening at the Steampunk Anachronism III Visit to Edo was attending their fashion show. On the main stage, backed by a pulsing beat, models brought to life the kabuki-inspired fashions of Kristin Costa. Costa is a twenty-five year old visual artist and fashion designer whose work is deeply inspired by the psychological, the fantastic and stories of the past. I sat down with Kristin after the show to ask a few questions about her work.
SK: So how do you describe your fashion?
KC: I usually describe it as fantasy-costume fashion hybrid and I usually start out with a concept that is psychological more than visual, and that leads to the visual later.
SK: When did you get started?
KC: I started making clothes when I was in pre-school… then I started making clothes for people. I went to clothes for fine art, I didn’t take any fashion classes at all. WHich I think kind of helped me keep an open mind. I think a lot of the fashion students, they knew all the history and they were relying on it a lot more whereas I kind of relied on my imagination. And I found when I collaborated with people who didn’t know what they were doing they were more creative, they didn’t know how hard it was going to be!
SK: How long have you been doing this now?
KC: I’ve been doing my own fashion shows and making lines like this since 2005, so a while I guess. Sometimes it was for school, sometimes it was for art galleries. I’m finally making lines that I can market online and at fairs and different vending things. I think I’m vending a cheerleading event in October!
SK: Who normally is the market for your fashion? Your fashion seems like it would appeal to a niche audience.
KC: It seems that way! I try to do a little bit of both – like in the show you just saw. I had crazy sleeves on but then there’s this dress which I just wear out. And people just talk to me in lines and ask ‘oh my gosh, where did you get your dress?’ If I did just regular fashion I would get bored so it’s like i have to on each model – this is my own control kind of thing – because I can go nuts and then it would just be wearable art. So I wanted to mix things. Wearable art is very hard to make money off of, so every model has to have one marketable wearable object and then they can have one crazy, art piece-y thing to make me happy. There has to be a balance and I think I’m finally starting to find it.
SK: It’s interesting, you use a term “wearable art”. Is that how you see your work?
KC: I try to, yes. My first love is painting so for a while I was making a lot of corsets made of canvas and painting on them… I try to view it as wearable art. It can be costume, I don’t know. Whatever people want to generalize it as, but wearable art is my favorite terminology.
SK: So you said before that you come up with a concept beforehand. Is there a concept that overarches the collection we saw earlier?
KC: The collection we saw earlier was supposed to be vaguely kabuki based, and I say vaguely because it was a mix of a bunch of different collections that I’ve done. There was stuff in it from my birdcage collection, which was all silver, green and black and with wings and stripy. It was called “Caged” and it was visually about birdcages but on a deeper level it was about entrapment and protection and people kind of caging themselves off in order to protect themselves or people who were trapped trying to get out. There was stuff from my “Monsterous” collection. Outwardly it was about monsters but upon making it, it was about inner monsters and how the innocence and the inner monsters are sometimes intermingled. My next one’s about mimes but it’s about breaking out of invisible boundaries and it’s going to be called “Glass Box”.
SK: Someone mentioned that you have a show coming up during Fashion Week! Have you done [Fashion Week] before this year?
KC: Last year I did Fashion Week. I’m not at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, but I produce my own show during Fashion Week in the vicinity of the fashion shows. If people come see it and I can publicize it… “The Glass Box” is going to be what I’m showing. I do a new line twice a year, once for spring fashion week and one for fall fashion week. This is the spring/summer 2012 line.
SK: And you said you have begun marketing more online?
KC: Yeah, I’ve got an Etsy shop and I’ve been trying to get things into boutiques so soon I’ll have a good relationship with… smaller boutiques at the moment. The steampunk crowd seems to embrace me a lot and so I’m not going to put that down. Any steampunk thing wants to put e in the shop, I’ll do it. I don’t see myself as strictly steampunk, I go really wide of that, but I’m happy that I’ve been well received.
SK: You said before that you were a fine arts major. What is it about fashion that drew you to this medium?
KC: My answer is coming from the fine arts perspective, most of my paintings have drapery and human beings in it. What made me focus on it was that my fashion shows were way better received than my painting shows, and I was able to gain an audience and let me make more money that way… I screen print now to add something to the collections, and that equals painting sometimes.
SK: I ask this question to a lot of people that I interview, but has there ever been anything you’ve wanted to costume and that just seemed too daunting? That one that you’ve got building up in your back burner that you’re thinking about what to do?
CK: I’ve got a lot of things on the back burner. I guess daunting… there is a collection I wanted to do and I think it’ll be difficult for people to receive. I wanted to do a collection called “Bitter Skin” that’s all about ailments, and people feeling limited, about like wounds. I was going to make a mastectomy dress, I was going to make a series of suicide dresses. It would all be flesh colored and blood and bruise colors, very much be trying to take these things that are only horrible and make them into these precious artifacts. Like, if the blood would be portrayed with glass beads, it would be a curiosity. It wouldn’t be a celebration of sickness or anything, but I feel like I could probably make that. It would take a lot of time because I would want a lot of detail and it would take a lot of energy and emotion to put into that, but I think it would be daunting to figure out how to show that to people. That would be something I would put on a mannequin in a gallery show because it would be too much to ask a model to do. I also don’t really want to go there because it would probably become too personal… I like vague psychologies rather than getting too personal. Like everything I do is really personal, but I think that would be too raw.
I’m going to get into something that I put in a lot of my artist statements: “It’s easier to tell the truth when you’re on the stage in a mask.” I notice this with models, like if they’re shy I will often times put them in a mask and they’re less nervous that way. I guess the most concise way to say it is it’s easier to tell the truth if people think it’s all an act. If I have a show about birdcages and everything is these birdcages, yes its’ about something very personal in entrapment and breaking free, all these emotional things. But it has the veil of birdcages and all of these visually impressive things. If I did something and it was just about these ailments, it would be very straight forward and it wouldn’t have anything to hide behind. So I guess that would fall under the description of daunting.
SK: It certain sounds like it. It also sounds wonderful.
KC: Well yes, eventually it will happen!
SK: How do you see your art, if you were to describe it to people?
KC: I think I would want it to be described as inter-disciplined. I kind of like people to know that I have more than just a sewing background. I like for people to think of it as fine art rather than just fashion you can get in a store. To me, it elevates me and I hope it elevates other people when they see it or that they feel some excitement in it that they don’t feel from a pair of jeans. I’m trying to exceed the jeans!
Kristin’s fashions are indeed a gorgeous mix of the wearable artwork she described and some pieces that would bring the deep sense of personal exploration to everyday clothing. Costa herself was in the fashion show in a black draped dress with grey patterning that could be found in any couture shop around, while some of her other creations make their home in a more fantastic realm of fashion. Still, each piece brought a stark image to the stage that could not be ignored, proving Costa’s vision is both eye-catching and inspired. Her Fashion Week show, “Glass Box”, will be going on during fall’s fashion week, with more details to come about the event posted up here and on her Facebook page. She also keeps a blog where folks can follow her works at numerous other events. I look forward to seeing more from Kristin in the future!
Before gearing up to go to only my second Steampunk event ever, I looked over my own costuming gear. Corset? Check. Airship wings pin? Check. Goggles? Absolutely. Okay, maybe no corset if I was going to take photos all day. Lace-up vest instead for comfort. And goggles… maybe not with my glasses and camera! Okay, gear necklace instead. For me, comfort was essential as I prepared for a full day of neo-Victorian steampunk fun at Steampunk Anachronism III in New York’s Webster Hall. But while costume for me was important, so was an understanding of what the event was all about.
So two days prior to the event I met up with Psyche Chimère, co-founder of Steampunk Anachronism and lead singer of the band Psyche Corporation, to get the scoop on steampunk, its aesthetic, and the event itself.
When trying to pin down a way to describe the steampunk aesthetic and its themes, we had to agree that its influences come from a lot of different places and range depending on who you ask. “It’s hard to say because at the beginning Steampunk was sort of confined to literature of the Victorian and Edwardian era, mostly the works of H.G. Wells Time Machine and Jules Vernes. But as steampunk became more popular among more people, it has diversified a huge amount. So a lot of people would be upset if you tried to say ‘what exactly is steampunk’. But you can sort of say it is anachronistic geekery with an interest in combining technology within your fashion sense.”
Steampunk, Psyche states, is sometimes associated with the cyberpunk aesthetic but steampunk tries to separate itself away from that by sticking to technology that would have been known to the people of the 18oo’s. “You’re probably not going to get into trouble saying that steampunk is science fiction as imagined by the Victorians or Edwardians.”
We got into discussing more about the theme of this month’s Anachronism, which was ‘Visit to Edo’, or the Edo period of Japanese history. The theme (which originally was going to be Steampunk in Dinoland- how fun is that?!) was changed to allow the event to do a little charitable work along with their steampunk fun. ”This particular event,” says Psyche, “is going to be very interesting, because Webster Hall has gotten involved in raising money for the relief efforts in Japan. So they asked the QAS and Anachronism, which is one of their more popular events, to join forces and raise money.”
Events have been focused around the theme of Japanese culture from Edo, such as a kimono exhibition from that fashion period, a popular tea ceremony, a Japanese/Equadorian rock band and a contemporary tribute to Japanese influences in steampunk as well. She explained, ”What I really wanted for the Japanese theme was to make it anime themed, so we’re having a cosplay contest. I feel like anime is a huge source for steampunk, and people get inspiration and draw from cosplay.” She pointed out Final Fantasy as an example of a Japanese video game/anime creation that is heavily steampunk.
Yet there was also a consideration for being appropriate to Japanese culture when organizing the event. “There were a lot of people who wanted to go towards more traditional Japanese stuff. We were definitely very concerned about stepping on people’s toes in terms of being seen as appropriating someone else’s culture or stereotyping. So we try to be as careful about that and respectful as we can and reach out to the Japanese community to incorporate traditional Japanese things. But also to encourage the anime aspect because that came out of Japan too and that’s current.” For more current performance styles out of Japan, a butoh dance troupe was added to Psyche Corporation’s set, butoh being a performance style that arose out of Japan after the events at Hiroshima.
Each previous event (one in November and another this past spring) has had a particular theme behind it to give people an idea how to costume in more than just standard steampunk. Says Genevieve, “We’ve had themes for all three events which sort of advised the costuming for the event. The first one [held in November 2010] was called Wonderland Versus Oz which was based upon a Psyche Corporation song… We had people show up dressed as steampunk versions of the Wonderland people or Oz people.”
Psyche’s costuming for all the events was provided by fashion designer Kristin Costa, whose creations were showcased at a kabuki-themed fashion show during the Anachronism event. For the first event, her stage costume was the Queen of Hearts which she describes Costa as creating a corset with aeorta tubes coming out of the back, painted as a real heart. The second, Steampunk in Candyland, had her dressed up in pink cellophane with lollipops hanging off the bottom.
Pysche wears these fashions when performing at the Anachronism in her band, Psyche Corporation. The aesthetics of her band, founded in 2005, seemed to mesh well into the steampunk atmosphere even before she was familiar with the gear-and-goggles world. “I had envisioned this world so far into the future that technology allowed you to be as impractical as you want. So if I wanted to walk down the street and wear a dress that weighs two thousand pounds with huge gothic arches coming out of the skirt, technology has made the impractical practical. So because of this world where technology is so advanced, the people there can decide whatever they want and it turned out the aesthetic is very Victorian. Technically, it’s more cyberpunk I guess but stylistically it’s hugely steampunk. And I have a lot of songs that are steampunk. For example, I’ve got a song about a girl who is made out of clockwork.” She was overheard by a steampunk Meetup organizer who heard her band perform and brought her over into the world as a musician and also as a steampunk fashion model.
Pysche also explained that steampunk’s science-minded side drew her interest due to her career focus outside of the steampunk world. When she isn’t rocking out with her music, she’s involved in bio-medical engineering, interested in developing replacement body parts for people. “That’s why I’ve got songs that have the Fibonacci sequence running through, Polio Virus DNA translated into percussion. And [steampunk] is a demographic where you find people who are really into that kind of thing, so it’s really good for me.”
She described her dedication to steampunk and steampunk music as a labor of love, stating she did the event unpaid and just recently broke even on her investments into the band. “I said a long time ago that I know I perform for a very niche genre and I don’t want to change my music, because that’s not what I’m into. When you’re performing for a niche genre you can’t measure success on whether you’re making a living. The Anachronism is an event I do because it’s good… I get to perform in New York City, in one of the biggest, most famous venues in New York City. This is awesome! I love the Anachronism, I don’t mind not getting paid!”
And what’s in the future for Psyche Chimère and Psyche Corporation? Right after the event, Psyche said she’s working on a new song about invisible restraints and mimes for Kristin Costa’s Fashion Week showcase that she will be modeling for on September 12th. The following week, Psyche Corporation goes on tour September 16th starting in Ithica New York’s The Haunt. October she’ll be at the Steampunk Bazaar in Connecticutt performing, and will be producing a music video that will be released shortly – all while going to med school!
Speaking of her time in the real world of grad school, I asked Psyche about whether or not she incorporated steampunk clothing into her everyday wear. “I guess I have a Clark Kent complex,” she laughed. “I get to be this person with underwear on the outside and spandex during special occasions and then the rest of the time… I just want to be not-noticed in a lot of cases.” She describes it as a way to keep herself and her steampunk Psyche Corporation persona very separate. “I’m told that I walk differently and I carry myself differently when I’m dressed in my performing outfit. I might have better posture and I’ll be better poised… I’ve had people not recognize me depending on the persona I’m wearing.”
Before thanking Psyche for her time, I asked my favorite question: what costume had she ever wanted to create that might have proved too daunting or intimidating, or was there a costume that she was dying to put together? “There’s one costume I’ve always wanted to do but that’s a drawing on my website of this woman in this dress that has a cage coming up out of it. But it seems Kristin is able to do anything so I feel we might be able to do it eventually! I drew it freshman year of college – it actually scared my roommate away!”
With Psyche’s help, I felt much better prepared for the Anachronism event ahead of me. Having checked out her website also, I heartily recommend checking out Psyche Corporation‘s music for some great steampunk sound and seeing her live where available! Tune in soon as I continue my review of the Anachronism, including an interview with Psyche Chimère’s co-conspirator in costume, fashion designer Kristin Costa!
Coplay and alternative fashion are just a couple of ways that great outfits can be brought out into the world. More out there fashion designers and musicians have been waving their creative flags for years (Alexander McQueen and the incomparable GaGa) as well as historical reenactments or those honoring their heritage with historical dress (such as Native American pow wow dancers). Bottom line: ‘costumes’ are everywhere we look and those pouring their hearts and souls into creative fashion choices are what I love to see, and photograph.
Another creative outlet for great costumes is performance art and none have been so popular lately, especially in the New York area it seems, as burlesque dance. These tastefully naughty shows have been gathering steam as all the rage in bars, nightclubs and performance spaces across the country. Yet none of these shows hold such a fuzzy place in my heart as New York’s own D20 Burlesque. Every show is tailored to gaming/geek themes, from a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft to internet memes and 8-Bit video games. If you haven’t seen the show, I will say this: there is nothing in the world like seeing someone dressed as Cthulhu stripping on stage, or hearing an audience sing along to ‘Peanut Butter Jelly Time!’ while a gorgeous woman dances and mimics making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ever seen a beautiful dancer (the incomparable Stella Chu) turn a Japanese school girl strip-tease into a Pedobear dance? These are only some of the performances the women of D20 Burlesque have done in the past, with more glorious, baudy, hilarious fun to come.
The response to this niche burlesque show has been overwhelming in its success too. With the shows once a month selling out at the Houston Street Parkside Lounge, an extra performance has been added to accommodate all the fans.
I sat down and spoke with Anja Keister, creator of D20 Burlesque, to get the skinny on how this gamer-inspired performance art extravaganza was brought into the world.
SK: First, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to me about the work you do with d20 Burlesque. I’d love to start out with knowing just a little more about you. How did you start out in burlesque?
AK: I grew up a tomboy but in college I roomed with a girl who was really into the vintage and pin-up look. A few years later I got invited to a Burlesque festival in Jim Thorpe PA and figured it would be fun to see if I could start doing pin-up. After seeing the shows at that festival and taking some of the classes, I was hooked. I came back to NY and started going to as many shows as I could. I took classes at the New York School of Burlesque and realized this was something I could do, so I eventually quit my full time job so I would be able to perform.
SK: That was going to be one of my next questions, actually. You get a chance to perform full-time, that must mean a number of different shows. How many shows do you normally do at any given time?
AK: I was trying to only perform burlesque for awhile but unfortunately I had to take a part time job. When doing it full time I would sometimes have up to 5 or 6 gigs a week, but now that D20 Burlesque is doing well, most of my time is dedicated to getting the word out about our shows, trying to get into conventions, and working on my acts. Although it seems small considering we are a monthly show, doing 2 news acts every month is a lot of work!
SK: I’d imagine! Let’s talk about that preparation for a bit. Along with the promotional work you’re doing for the show, you have two new acts that coincide with the theme for that month. What does preparation for a performance look like for you? How do you come up with the performance you want to do?
AK: Normally for me developing an act started with music, then costume and last choreography. When doing themed acts, it is a bit different because now I start with the 2 themes I want to do and then match the costumes to the reference with music and choreography coming last. It is definitely a challenge to make sure I match the outfits as closely as I can. With a regular burlesque act I get to use creativity to come up with a new outfit. With the D20 Burlesque themes, it is all about using my creativity to construct outfits that are made up by game designers!
SK: And to your credit, you’ve come up with some signature looks all your own. The two in specific I have in mind are your trench coat Rick-Roll of the audience for Internet Memes and your full-green body suit Cthulhu-inspired strip. While one costume was more simple the other involved a crocheted mask and a full body suit, so you seem to go all out.
AK: Why thank you! Yeah, the Cthulhu act was something I had dreamed about for awhile. The Cthulhu act, my twenty sided die act (where I constructed a big D20 I dance inside of) and my portal act for this month’s show are the three acts I wanted to do, but realized I needed an audience that would appreciate them. That is one of the reasons I created D20 Burlesque, to find an audience that would hopefully enjoy them as much as me!
SK: Portal! Aha, a hint of things to come! That’s got to be a tough costume too. How do you put something like that (or any of your costumes) together? How much of it is handmade?
AK: Well, I need to keep some of my professional secrets, but it is a mix of buying some pieces directly from the company altering pre made outfits and making my own props.
SK: Of course! And some pasty making, which I’ve seen given away as prize packages at the events before.
AK: Yeah. When I started, I used to buy my pasties, but that stopped quickly when I learned how fun it is to make them. There is something almost meditative with putting rhinestones into fun patterns onto nipple covers!
SK: Best. Meditation. Ever. (At least in my book). Just knowing you can sit down and make nipple covers and awesome costumes for work: how does that feel?
AK: It is pretty great. Growing up we had a really old sewing machine at my house that never really worked, but I wanted to make clothes so badly. Now I not only get to make clothes, I get to make really fun costumes and then cover them in glitter, rhinestones, and sequins, and sometimes, like for my Lovecraft “The Outsider” act, mirrors!
SK: And you’re doing it with great success too! D20 Burlesque is spreading, with now two events instead of just one each month. You’ve sold out events in the past with the performances standing room only. Do you think that’ll happen again? And what do you think attributes to the popularity of burlesque in general right now, but especially your show in particular?
AK: Nerdy Burlesque, or “nerdlesque” has been something that popped up on the scene in the past few years, but D20 Burlesque is a bit different. As was once quoted about our shows, D20 Burlesque is the “nerds of nerdlesque” and I think we full on embrace that! So much of gaming is based on fantasy and role playing, it only makes sense that people would want to see the more “adult” side of that! Plus, these things already have such great followings, I am glad to give people a place to come together and celebrate the things they love and devote so much time and energy to.
SK: From what you’ve said, you’ve obviously put a great deal into this show; it seems to be one heck of a labor of love. A conversation I’ve been having recently on the blog has had to do with doing costuming (and art in general) for the love of the art versus creating art for profit. While I guess this is an age-old question, you seem to be in a great middle ground: you seemingly love your work and have it as a lucrative business!
AK: It is a weird middle ground. I enjoy having these outfits, and I do occasionally wear them at other events when not performing, but it is also a business. I would say it is definitely still a labor of love though, because I could just be doing generic pretty burlesque acts, but instead I am spending my evenings at home making large D20s and painting Cthulhu tentacles!
SK: Speaking as someone who has seen the show, I think that devotion certainly comes through. So a couple of last questions: going forward, what kind of themes can we expect to see on the D20 Burlesque roster in the future? Are there any particular themes that you’re dying to do?
AK: We are going back to our roots for September and October (RPGS and Lovecraft) and then doing a show based on Zombies. I think that one will be really fun as Zombies are a major illogical fear of mine! In the new year we also plan on doing a Dystopian Post Apocalypse show and a “D20 Burlesque Gets Franchised” where people can do acts from sources that turned into gaming franchises. I am definitely looking forward to those ones as well!
SK: That sounds like a heck of a lineup! And Zombies doing Burlesque, you’re taking on a fear AND a big make-up job. Did you ever come across an idea that you were interested in doing but the costuming made you rethink your plan?
AK: There has definitely been parts of acts that were too much for me to do in a month, but if we get to start doing conventions hopefully I’ll be able to revamp acts and add the parts I’d like to add, like giving Cthulhu movable wings or having real weaponry for a D&D act.
SK: Sounds awesome! Well, Anja, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me about your work.
AK: No problem, thanks for allowing me to geek out about my costuming. It’s nice to know that while I am onstage taking off my clothes, there are people looking and admiring them!
Anja Keister and company will be performing this weekend, August 20th, in their homage to Computer Games at the Parkside Lounge on Houston Street in New York City. Tickets can be found here with more information for the D20 Burlesque shows going up on their Facebook page all the time. (Word of advice: tickets are available at the door but buying in advance is a way to guarantee you get in!) Every month now has two shows, so if one is sold out at the earlier time slot of 9:30 PM there is always the later 11:30 PM as well. Upcoming themes include September’s role-playing games and October will be a return to the work of that wacky madman H.P. Lovecraft. Anja also mentioned that D20 Burlesque is available to work events and conventions so if this nerdlesque fun is good for your event, or if you want to contact her for any reason, reach out and email email@example.com for more information.
Meanwhile, I will be updating with a follow-up photo post after this weekend’s show so stay tuned!
During my time at GenCon, I had the pleasure of working with a number of great people at Terrorwerks, a live-action airsoft event run by PST Productions. While I’ll go into more about Terrorwerks in my next post, this spotlight is dedicated to Kathleen McConnell. Kat is a long-time costumer who took second prize in the fantasy division of GenCon’s costume competition. Every year, hundreds of competitors come together to show off their finest and Kat, a self-professed ‘well-practiced amateur’ beat out many others with her original creation of Matilda, the bridge troll.
I sat down with Kat the next day in between Terrorwerks runs to discuss her costume and her history with costuming in general.
Yesterday, you were in the costume competition and won second prize in the fantasy competition. Can you describe what your costume was exactly?
I was Matilda, the troll that lived under the bridge, whatever bridge is most convenient for people to recognize… For GenCon, it was the Ohio Street Bridge over the Canal. People might have crossed it, so I might hassle them for children.
So she eats children?
Yes, I accept payment in the forms of children, bacon, shiny baubles, and children… wrapped in bacon.
The costume is extremely elaborate. About how long does it take to create that, from concept down to the actual costume?
[It took] most of the year to get all the stuff together, but most of the stuff I was accumulating over time… I go to the Ohio Rennaissance Fair most years, and the year before it was cold! And I said I want a warm costume this time, I’m going to make a shawl. And I used the left-over bits of yarn from various projects, like afghans and whatnot, and I had a bunch of feather yarn from a half-cat Hermione costume for a Harry Potter-themed convention… It’s recycled from other costumes, some of it. The base dress [was from] a Lady Stoneheart costume from the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series. I used that base dress from working at a haunted house before, and then I just did a lot of detailing with the yarn on the shaul and then a lot of bits of funky yarn, some scraps of fabric from when I made a Beholder costume, bits of things I found around the apartment. I was just running around the day before tying things to various belts and putting things in pouches. I ended up with strips of beef jerky in one pouch, saying it was strips of dried eight year old marinated in teriyaki should I not be able to find my own child for my nice warm cauldron bath full of… we’ll call them ‘soothing herbs’. Like sage and garlic.
You seem to do a lot of costuming: first, how long have you been doing this?
I just never outgrew playing dress up.
So you’ve just been doing this all your life?
Yes. And ever since I’ve been going to cons especially. I’ve been going to cons for the last ten years and I’m in costume almost constantly at cons. Because I love playing dress up I have a lot of costumes i wear. A lot of the costumes share pieces so when I’m packing its ‘ooh, if i just add this other shirt, then I add this skirt and this other thing, it becomes this other costume’ then I end up packing way too many things… Occasionally I will just wear it out to dinner or something, because it’s pretty. And people will look at you a little funny. But at cons, nobody cares or they compliment you on things.
Have you won a lot of awards for your costuming?
My first real convention was InConjunction in indianapolis on the Fourth of July weekend and I just entered the Masquerade. So every year I entered the masquerade at that convention. And every year I would enter as a walk-on, as in a non-competitive ‘hey look at me, I’m awesome’, mostly because InConjunction is a smaller convention. At GenCon, you have people who do this professionally or this is their main hobby and they are fantastic at it. And I am a well-practiced amateur, I think, so I didn’t think I could compete. A bunch of people convinced me to do the masquerade at GenCon four years ago and I did a Beholder costume. Well, it’s based on craftsmanship and my then-boyfriend was irate because I didn’t place [in the contest] and I told him… I put [the Beholder] together the Thursday night before GenCon… and it was sort of half-done and half-assed, but it certainly didn’t deserve any kind of awards.
So this is the first major award you’ve taken?
Yes… It’s a real nice ego boost.
Do you feel its important that if you’re going to be entering the costume contest that you have to make all the stuff yourself?
To me, it is. Its important that I did it. I get a little upset when somebody who had a professional make their costume won, because… I feel like they cheated sort of. They didn’t really, but I feel like the person who made the costume should get the credit, not ‘I commissioned this, look how awesome it is.’
So do you consider yourself a cosplayer or just a costumer? I mean, do you have a line that differentiates between the two or is just costuming in general?
Again, I just like playing dress up. If there is a character that I know I’ll be playing, I’ll do my best to costume appropriately, and if I don’t have costume stuff, I’ll go through my dresser and find something that that character might wear to distinguish it from just street clothes. At this point since I’ve been costuming so much I’ve accumulated. Like, I was at Good Will the other day and I found a green button-down shirt and a purple blazer. I’ve got purple pants, I’ve got a Joker costume now. Oh my God, they’re selling light guns, I’ve got a Joker costume with a light gun – heck yes! And then I wore that later to a job interview, and then I thought ‘I’m wearing a part of my Joker costume to an interview!’ and I thought ‘I shouldn’t mention this’ to the people who are doing the interview’.
Do you have any other costumes that you have planned for the future?
Yes, I have a Winter Fae costume that I would like to tweak. Again, it’s another assembled piece. I wore it to MarCon last year and people asked me why I didn’t enter that in the masquerade. I told them it’s because I didn’t make any of it. The only thing I made was that I modified a couple of skirts I had found – I had found these two silver dresses at Good Will that I think were bridesmaid’s dresses. I am neither a size six nor a size eight but when I cut them in half and sewed them up the middle, I have this gorgeous silver skirt.
How do you see costuming? Is it something fun that you do, is it art? What do you think of it as?
I guess its a hobby. It’s just something fun I do, it makes me feel pretty… I don’t ever really dress up. Like, I have a lot of t-shirts and jeans and that’s what I wear. But like the other day, I have this poodle skirt that my mom made me for this Grease medley in high school that still fits me… All my pants were in the laundry and I said, ‘y’know, I’ll wear my poodle skirt!’ So I’ll even integrate costuming into my regular wardrobe.
Congratulations to Kat on her first big win and for many more in the future!