HARDWORKING AND TALENTED — MEET ACT COSTUMES.
We sat down the other day with the lovely ACT Costumes to chat comic cons, costume technology, and everything in between.
Well first let me start by saying, thank you for taking the time to do this! I truly appreciate it!
ACT – Of course! I love talking cosplay with people!
How long have you been cosplaying for? What or who inspired you to start?
ACT – I’ve been properly cosplaying since about 2014 when I was in grad school in Houston for costume technology. However, my mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was a kid and made me Halloween costumes and baby clothes growing up. I guess you could say I’ve been cosplaying for a good chunk of my life! But going to Anime Matsuri in 2014 made me realize what I was missing – it’s a huge annual con in Houston that I had heard was a lot of fun, so I made a really haphazard Flame Princess and went. Within 10 minutes of being there, I found a sense of belonging I never really found within the theater community.
OMG I’m not the weird one, we’re all fandom nerds and we can freely be geeks about our fandoms!
It took me a few months to realize this was something that I could have fun with and also make cosplays for other people with the skills I was learning at school. For me, it’s a perfect blend of things I love and know how to do while allowing me to indulge in my nerdiness for sewing and anime and comics!
So costume technology? What is that?
ACT – Costume technology, as opposed to designing, is basically everything encompassing costume making. A lot of my MFA training was in pattern making and draping clothes without a pattern, essentially making the pattern from scratch. We also learned a bit about mask making, resin casting, fabric painting and dying, and lots of other arts encompassing costume making. Most of our experience is in replicating historical garments for the stage, but one of the appeals of cosplay is taking these skills and translating them to outfits that don’t exist in reality – the challenge of taking something from, say, an anime where characters have non-human proportions and putting them on a real person, or looking at a costume and breaking it down into something that can work in real life is a challenge and allows me to grow in my skills and get even better! Even with a master’s degree, there’s always something new to learn like dabbling in worbla and EVA foam armor. But also, to expand on the community, the Houston community is very different than in, say, Los Angeles. Here,
But also, to expand on the community, the Houston community is very different than in, say, Los Angeles. Here, there are so many conventions going on for most of the year, so there are a lot more opportunities to either make a living doing cosplay and to meet new people. In Houston, the cons weren’t as frequent so there was a little more of a celebration atmosphere there, whereas in Los Angeles there’s a lot of people who have that kind of “cosfame” just from attending frequent events and have both the opportunity and platform to be able to show off their work on a larger scale. So while Houston felt more like a party, Los Angeles feels like a steadily increasing challenge to continually improve on your skill and craft after meeting and seeing these other amazing cosplayers who can do such detailed and incredible work. It’s inspiring and has made me want to get out of my comfort zone to do more detailed work and prop pieces.
So cosplay was just a natural transition for you. You already went to school to learn the trade and the cosplay community gave you the opportunity to put those skills to use. That’s pretty amazing!
Are you just making costumes for yourself or do you also do work for others? And with your experience what kind of end goal do you have career-wise?
ACT – I actually have started a cosplay commission business for myself since I moved out here, so I make cosplays for both myself and others! One of the reasons I wanted to move back to California after living in Houston was because there were a lot more opportunities and avenues to make a living doing this. I’m very proud that in less than two years, I’ve been able to develop the reputation I’ve gotten as a commissioner and cosplayer. I thought it would have taken a lot longer, honestly, cuz I knew no one in the community out here. But as I attended more cons I got to meet more people and connect and share ideas, and the more I’ve been able to find good people to collaborate with and be inspired by! In terms of my end goal, part of that “five year plan” I had for myself when I moved here was to hopefully be able to have a workshop/workspace to not only work on cosplays and commissions, but to hopefully expand to teaching the basics to others so they can make their own, too! It would be nice to
It would be nice to have more recognition as a cosplayer like Steph Von Schweetz or Yaya Han or Commander Holly, but that’s not necessarily the main thing I’d like out of pursuing a career in cosplay. I joke frequently about how I want to be 80 years old and still cosplaying, only more characters like Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove or the Vuvalini from Mad Max or even older Marine captains from One Piece. The more I say it, the more I would like to continue doing cosplay and sharing the art of costume and garment making to others while challenging myself to do new things or get out of my comfort zone in terms of modeling my own cosplays. So basically, continuing on the path I’ve already started on but expanding outward and mentoring others who want to pursue costuming, either for theater or for cosplays!
That’s some pretty amazing and ambitious goals! It’s pretty crazy that a once hobby can be a career now.
Who would you say is your idol(s)? If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would you like to work with?
And who out of your fellow cosplayers do you enjoy working with or have enjoyed working with the most?
ACT – Thank you! That’s kind of the dream, isn’t it? I’m really fortunate that things have been going as well as they have! As for idols, I don’t really “idolize” anyone like, say, younger up and coming cosplayers who want to emulate cosplayers like Jessica Nigri. There was one cosplayer I went to a panel for at Anime Matsuri named God Saves The Queen Fashions that had a few panels on the business side of cosplay that really helped me on my way to where I am currently. Her work is impeccable!
In thinking about people in the industry that I would like to work with, I’m always down for collaborations or group cosplays or working together on one big project, and I’ve worked with some great people so far! As a technician, I would love to learn more foam prop stuff with Evil Ted since I have a lot of room to get better there! In terms of cosplay modeling and such, shooting with DapperGeekNews would be amazing since they compose some great shots spanning a variety of styles and fandoms. Other than that there are a lot of photographers I’ve worked with like @shutterbug.sam and @wafflopogusarts that do amazing work and create visually interesting pieces as well. I’d be honored to keep doing stuff with them in the future!
I’m still kind of in that stage where I’m just grateful people like my cosplays and want to take funny pictures with me!
I’ve been blessed to have met a lot of people since I moved back here, and while some of them have come and gone, working with @elf_of_sapphire and @howl_of_dawn has been a lot of fun and presented me with more interesting and detailed cosplay challenges for group shoots – we did an Art Nouveau Sailor Scout shoot at WonderCon this year based on Hannah Alexander’s fan art. That was probably the most expensive cosplay I’ve made so far for myself that I really enjoyed putting together and finding other scouts throughout the day! I’m looking forward to collaborating more with them and others in the future – I’m attempting to try and coordinate a One Piece shoot with all 9 members of the crew since I don’t see that often, but it’s been a bit more difficult to coordinate than I thought, so I’m hoping that trying to do that will let me work with new people I’ve never met before, too!
Out of all your work you have done, which would you say is your proudest work and which do you wish you could revisit?
ACT – My proudest work so far is probably my Attack on Titan cosplay – I’m an otaku for that show. That and Kill la Kill got me through my last year of grad school! I hand embroidered all the patches, including the big one on the back, recut the jacket twice, and made the manga version of the ODM gear, with the engine and swords and gas canisters and everything! It’s so uncomfortable to walk around in for long, especially in the summer, but putting that on and having the gear strapped on makes me feel like I can fly around like them, too! I even wore my Scout Jacket to my graduate thesis presentation for courage! That story means a lot to me, and even though I don’t wear it often, I’m still proud of everything I did on it. For my first foray into props (and a couple horrendously failed attempts at the gear before figuring out the easiest way to wear it all) I’m really happy with how it all came out! There is one I’m actually going to revisit as a challenge with a friend since we both like the same character and want to redo them better – Dark Phoenix! I have a thing for fire based characters, and seeing the Dark Phoenix saga on the X-Men Animated Series and later reading it solidified how much I loved the idea and concept of her. The absolute power corrupting, the constant struggle with one’s self to do what’s right, and being able to challenge Galactus despite only being basically a teenage girl really resonated with me during that angsty teen phase growing up. Now that my skills have gotten better and I’ve learned the importance of a good wig, I’m hoping I can do it for Comikaze this year!
So on top of costumes, are you also a prop master as well?
ACT – Oh, not by any means! I had a partner previously to work on props with, but unfortunately, our schedules never worked and we just kind of grew apart as people. We did work on a giant ship piece backpack from Kantai collection for Anime Expo last year but there was a lot of hand-holding on it. I did learn a lot from the experience and want to start practicing more armor and prop stuff in the future. My first big prop project like that this year is going to be Hela from Thor Ragnarok. I’ve already asked a few cosplayers and friends for advice on how to do it, so I’m looking forward to giving her giant headdress a try!
You mentioned you were sewing earlier. What are you working on next? Personal or a commission?
ACT – Well, I tend to have a few projects going on at the same time. Currently, I fixed an old Nico Robin cosplay, finished a commission of Shinobu’s polka dot dress from Jojo, and I’m about to start a Starfire commission. On top of this, I’m about to finish the last of three custom Etsy order requests from Titan Con last week. I tend to keep myself really busy a lot of the time!
We definitely understand having multiple projects going on at the same time. I’m working on 3 articles at the same time!
What would you say has been your favorite con so far? And which cons do you wish to go to in the future?
ACT – It’s surprising – in the 2 years I’ve been in CA, I’ve seen at least 3 cons start and end forever. Which I guess makes it awesome since that particular con you might not be able to experience ever again. Anime California 2015 was really memorable since it was a smaller con, had great guests, and was easier to hang out and talk to people. I just loved sitting outside near the Anaheim Convention Center fountain and playing card games with people I just met and having a blast! I have a lot of fond memories and made a lot of long lasting friendships from that convention. But in terms of sheer spectacle and things to see and do, Anime Expo is definitely one that’s always on my books to go to, even with the technical snafus last year. It’s so massive and there’s always good guests and artist alleys and dealer rooms there, and the spectacle of bigger name cosplayers showing up and showing off what they’ve been working on for it is fun… Despite it being incredibly hot and crowded sometimes!I love AX but the last time
I love AX but the last time I went 2014, was just a horrible mess
ACT – San Diego Comic-Con has been a dream for a while but considering the exclusivity and high demand for tickets and Hall H, I feel like if I actually go, I might end up disappointing myself because I’ve hyped it too much in my head. Plus I want to cosplay but I have a feeling I would just be camping in Hall H the whole time to see all the upcoming Marvel stuff! However, I’ve heard great things about SacAnime, Dragon Con, Sakura-Con, and Katsu Con that I would love to go to in the future!
I think most of us dubbed it “Line Con 2014”
ACT – Oh Anime Expo 2015 was amazing, but AX 2014 was really poorly managed comparatively. I saw a video of that! I felt so bad but I’m glad that 2015 they seemed to learn from that and the line wasn’t as bad to pick up badges and such. Waiting to get into the building itself can be a hassle – I almost passed out from the heat at one point since there wasn’t any shade!
So outside of cosplaying, what do you do for fun?
ACT – For fun, I do a lot of reading, Hulu and Netflix binging, sometimes exploring other areas of LA I haven’t been to yet. A lot of my fun looks a lot like being lazy honestly! I guess working on my own personal cosplays falls under the fun category as well, since I like making stuff for myself, too, but since it’s still kind of “work” I will say I love revisiting stories and shows and finding things I didn’t notice in them before upon the first viewing. I’ve written a few Attack on Titan meta pieces and theories on Tumblr that turned out to be correct down the line, which is a fun feeling to know you’ve deduced something correctly!
That’s awesome. So not just a cosplayer but also a writer? Neat!
ACT – LOL, thanks! It’s mostly stuff that means a lot to me, so most stuff I’ve written has been Attack on Titan based since there’s so much mystery behind everything and foreshadowing to other things.
So if a new cosplayer were to ask you for a piece of advice, what would you say to them and what is the best piece of advice that has been given to you?
ACT – The best piece of advice I can give is to never be ashamed to ask others for help. There can be this enormous pressure to know everything and to be able to do it all yourself as a point of pride, but tutorials and experimenting can only do so much. Cosplay can be a very expensive hobby! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted both money and time on certain projects because I didn’t ask for help, and I’m grateful to have developed the friendships and acquaintances I have where we all like to share our knowledge and help each other out. So never feel afraid or ashamed to ask for help – we all start somewhere!
And this piece of advice wasn’t necessarily given to me in person, but I’ve been told variations of this throughout my life and was reminded of it by Jinx Monsoon on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
If people have negative things to say to you out of jealousy, their own pain or issues, treat it like water off a duck’s back!
As much as I love the community, there are always going to be people trying to start drama or dislike you and insult you no matter what you do. And that’s not just a cosplay community thing… That can be everywhere you go. I’ve driven myself nuts sometimes wondering why people can be that way to others and myself specifically but doing that only keeps hurting yourself. Those kinds of people aren’t worth your time or attention. You can’t necessarily be friends with everyone, but you can be kind, and treat negativity from others like water off a duck’s back!
We wish the best of luck to all of ACT Costumes future project. Like what you see and want to see more? Want to commission ACT Costumes for a new cosplay? Check out her work at the links below.