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Interview with a Cosplayer: Mindy, The Geeky Seamstress

Interview with a Cosplayer: Mindy, The Geeky Seamstress

Cosplay has been growing in popularity among geeks, but it still manages to be a bit of an intimidating part of the culture to us non-crafty folks. To help demystify cosplay, we’re interviewing the people behind the masks about their art. Last week we spoke with Mia Moore, whose tutorials can really help new fans find their footing. Today, we’re talking with Mindy (also known as The Geeky Seamstress). Mindy also offers great tutorials for beginners on her blog, occasionally takes commissions, and writes about her own endeavors on her site.

sailor jupiterImage Credit: Aperture Ashley

How long have you been a cosplayer, and what was it that got you interested in cosplaying?

I started cosplaying early in 2012. One of my co-workers knew I minored in Japanese during college, so she asked if I had an interest in anime and manga. She then told me about A-Kon, which is one of the longest running anime conventions in North America. We attended A-Kon in 2012 together and she helped me put together my first 2 cosplays: Korra from the Avatar series and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Attending A-Kon was a surreal experience: I’ve always been into geeky things, but I’d never attended such a huge gathering comprised of people like me. It was like coming home.

Since you go by “the Geeky Seamstress,” does that mean you sew all of your costumes or do you assemble them from existing pieces?

I assemble the bulk of my fabric-based pieces from scratch. I’m a large and tall woman, and I’ve always had a hard time finding ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes that fit my body well. Learning to sew and tailor things to fit my body has been a huge boost for my self-esteem and confidence. I even took a full year off of buying RTW clothing and made all of my daily wear clothes from scratch. Through sewing my wardrobe, I’ve learned all sorts of ways to alter and tailor clothes to flatter my figure and have complete control over my wardrobe in a way I never had with off-the-rack clothing. It’s also very gratifying to have such a practical skill.

That said, sewing is one of the few parts of cosplay I’m willing to make completely from scratch. I do look to several friends and colleagues in the community to help me out in areas where my skills are lacking. For example, I’m super impatient when it comes to props, so I turn to my friends Callula Cosplay and Kevin Dale for help in that arena. We do a lot of skills swapping. I’ll make them spandex bodysuits and they’ll make me gorgeous props and accessories like my Belle mirror and my Captain Marvel cowl!

I am constantly blown away by how much work goes into creating an outfit from scratch. What is the most challenging part of creating a new outfit?

Figuring out how to turn a specific piece from a 2D format into a real-world creation is one of the hardest parts of building a costume. Comic book and video game characters aren’t bound by the laws of physics or even basic fabric principles. Most comic book superheroes and heroines, for example, have these insane bodysuits that are basically a second skin. Spandex does not perfectly mold around breasts on its own! Getting a real life bodysuit to do that often requires tailoring and extra seam lines that aren’t included in the artwork.

belleImage Credit: ACCosplay

You occasionally take costume commissions. How does the process differ in creating a commissioned costume rather than one for yourself?

The basic process is pretty much the same. When I decide to do a new costume, I create an itemized breakdown of every single piece I’ll need to build or buy. Doing that for myself was great practice when I started offering commissions, since it helped me determine how much to charge.

Where commissions vary from making costumes for myself is figuring out fit for other people (especially across distance) and getting details down that line up with what my clients want. Sometimes what I have in mind doesn’t line up with what the customer wants, whether that be fabric selection, a specific technique or something else. I always involve my clients in the planning process to make sure they end up with a product they love.

What is the best and worst cosplay advice you’ve received?

Probably the “worst” advice I’ve received is to cosplay to my body type. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to do that, but it’s also very limiting. I’m more of a tomboy and just shy of 6 feet tall with a very broad build, so I gravitated towards warrior women. I felt like I couldn’t wear cutesy or pretty costumes. After making a few ballgowns, two versions of Disney’s Belle, and a Pokemon trainer, I firmly believe in cosplaying what you want. Cosplay is a love letter to your fandom, so don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t cosplay a character you love.

The best advice I’ve received about cosplay is to just have fun with it. I can get very absorbed in new creations and sometimes lose sight of the end product due to obsessing over small details. But at the end of the day, I’m just here to have fun, learn new skills, and create pretty things.

What advice to you have for other aspiring geeky seamstresses looking to either start cosplaying or build their own costume design business?

Be patient and kind to yourself. Even with the wealth of knowledge available, your first few builds probably won’t live up to your expectations. But that’s okay! We all start somewhere. Stick with it and try to build a few new skills with each new project while perfecting old skills.

Where can we find you online?

I blog about sewing and my cosplay creations over at my blog, The Geeky Seamstress. I’m also on Instagram and Tumblr as @thegeekyseamstress, Twitter as @geekyseamstress, and Facebook. I recently opened an Etsy shop with geek-themed clutches and some of my gently used cosplays. You can also email me at [email protected]

Image credit: All photos from Mindy’s personal collection. Captain Marvel photo taken by Kristi Grunden Photography, Sailor Jupiter photo taken by Aperture Ashley, Belle photo taken by ACCosplay

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