“I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be same person every day.” –Stephanie Perkins
Order of Operations, or “what should I work on first?”
I’ve found one of the biggest stumbling blocks people often run into when building a big cosplay is not so much poor time management on a given task, but performing the tasks in the wrong order. This tutorial goes hand in hand with the first one I wrote on the planning process.
So, you know what you want to build and you have performed the planning process worksheets, yay! So how do you determine what to do first? Lets look at the parts and give them weight.
DO FIRST: harnesses and body form modifications. Any extra appendage: wings, tails, spare limbs, ghostly avatars, yadda yadda, requires a harness or under-belt of some sort. Also specialized underclothing or body form modifications fall here, these would be things like: stilts, humps, second heads, fat suits and anything required for a gender swap. These are always absolutely the first step! All the rest of the costume must be fitted around these items so they must come first.
BEGIN SECOND: Anything that will require drying time, which means paper mache builds, plasters, bondo, etc. and painted things. This is usually props but sometimes costumes too.
BEGIN THIRD: What part of this costume has the greatest visual impact? Work from this area out to order the importance of otherwise equal costume parts.
Harnesses and body form modifications:
How do you know if you need this? Well if there is any kind of appendage, you need to know how to attach it to yourself, so yes you need a harness of some sort. Lightweight fairy wings can be easily supported by a substantial bra or real corset (not a stretchy one), simple tails by good dance trunks or bike shorts. Examples: http://www.corset-story.com/overbust-with-hip-panels-peach-bloom.html http://www.discountdance.com/dancewear/style_TB131.html?pid=21249&Shop=Style&SID=746601475
But angel type wings, Doc Oc type arms and most ghostly forms need much more serious harnesses. These will wind up looking and fitting much like a double under jacket holster. An example: http://www.cabelas.com/product/hunting/hunting-accessories/holsters-belts|/pc/104791680/c/104734980/sc/104388480/bulldog-deluxe-shoulder-harness-with-holster/751927.uts?destination=%2Fcategory%2FHolsters-Belts%2F104388480.uts
Heavy or multiple tails, hip wings and tentacles that extend from well below the shoulders require a belt like form underneath the clothing. These will often wind up looking much like girdles of the 50’s (which if you can find one to build off of is worth the time savings). Examples: http://vintagegaze.tumblr.com/post/75371705130/1960-warners-bras-and-girdles-ad-from-february Notice how most start well above the natural waist, this is important when supporting extra appendages.
Drying Time builds:
As the name states, anything that has the variable of time built into it, must be given the maximum allowable. Usually this means carving and paper mache-ing a weapon before going shopping for pants & shoes. which I admit feels wrong, but especially if the prop in question ranks high in visual impact, it really is more important than finding suit pants or dress shoes.
“I’ve always thought of accessories as the exclamation point of a woman’s outfit.” -Michael Kors
For many characters this is the face & chest, but not always. Can’t tell which part is most important? Get an image of your character and a couple pieces of paper, cover the body showing only the head, would anyone know this character or it’s genre from that alone? Now cover the head and waist down, ask the same question, cover the person and show only their accessories/ weapons, ask the same question. Keep going until you can determine this. Some characters are stupid easy, everyone knows Captain America, Batman & Superman from their logo alone, no matter the style or specific materials used. Some characters are much harder. If all you are looking at is a black suit with a white dress shirt and plain black tie it could be dozens of different primary or secondary anime characters, angels from supernatural, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Men in Black, etc. The chest and sometimes even face is not the area of visual impact in these characters, it’s the accessories that make it identifiable. In these type of characters, the accessory or weapon becomes a higher priority than the costume itself.
How does determining and following this order of operations help?
It assures you of a reasonably well put together and recognizable character even if you run out of time or money. Castiel without his wings might as well be a Mormon missionary in winter, assuring yourself of the harness and wings first makes him who he is. If Captain America is wearing combat boots instead of red boots, it doesn’t take away from his recognizability if his shield and chest are well made. Agent J, without his Ray-Bans, Neuralizer and Noisy Cricket, is just a dude in a suit.