I’ve been easing my way, a little at a time, into cosplay. The reasons being that 1) Representation matters to me, so I prefer to primarily cosplay women of color; 2) cosplay is expensive, time consuming, and skill intensive; and 3) chronic illness and the struggles it brings to daily life can make cosplay challenging or frustrating rather than fun, so taking baby steps instead of huge ones prevents me from throwing my hands up in frustration and giving up.
The only con I do right now is DragonCon in Atlanta. I start planning for next year’s cosplay about an hour after I have recovered from the one I just attended.
My best laid plans for 2015 came off the glow of a successful weekend of having cosplayed Garnet and Connie Maheswaran from the brilliant Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. I’d managed two characters in one weekend, and I set my sights on scrappy little Amethyst for 2015.
But somewhere along the way, as I watched more episodes, my brain said “Amethyst can wait until 2016. Do Rose Quartz!” I think the fact that I’m fat and was thrilled to see a fat heroine—one who was clearly deeply loved, powerfully respected, better than competent, and most importantly not played for laughs—influenced my decision.
Representation matters to me on more than one axis—intersectional feminism for the win! Representation matters to many other fat women as well. I’ve seen easily dozens of Rose cosplayers since last year, and I expect to see dozens more going into 2016.
The hardest part of a Rose costume, for me, was the wig. Honestly, the hardest part of any costume that requires different hair is the wig.
Until the summer of 2015, I had dreadlocks down to my thighs. I finally made the decision to cut them to my mid-back in the early part of the summer, but there’s still a whole lot of hair left to contend with.
I learned last year, happily, that Arda Wigs made a wig I could get over the hair at its full length, if only just barely. Unhappily, I was not to be reunited with them this year. Right after the 2014 holiday season, I went to purchase a long pink one, and they were sold out and had no idea how soon they’d be back in stock! I told you Rose Quartz was popular! After a moment of panicked flailing, I found Epic Cosplay had pink wigs in similar hue and length. I knew I’d be modifying the wig, so I got extra wefts and clip-ons, and I ordered a long necked wig head to work on. I must remember to keep in mind how long it takes to ship things from Asia, though, because waiting on that wig stand was nerve-wracking!
I ordered the dresses that I would use to build Rose’s dress from Sanctuarie, a plus size store that has served me well for years. I hit eBay for the fluffy hoop underskirts, and JoAnn Fabric for the belly star cutout and facing for the back of it to attach to the dress. The boyfriend, who had cosplayed last year as Steven, donated the pink gem purchased the year before from Amazon.
Making the wig was not difficult so much as it was time consuming. I didn’t really take a work space into account, so I used my ironing board. It was not at an ideal height, so I could only work on the wig a little at a time due to the complaints of my back. I have bar stools at my breakfast bar, so I’ll have to see if that helps with the issue at all.
I Googled “rose quartz wig” to see what others were doing and how to get the look of Rose’s giant cartoon ringlets. There’s also a Tumblr where cosplayers share their experiences with where to find costume pieces and how to style their wigs. A lot of cosplayers were just putting them into the biggest rollers they could find, or using the biggest curling iron they could lay hands on. Some of the methods involved using nearly boiling water.
I tend to be an accident prone klutz, so while that seemed doable, my better judgement told me to keep looking. Eventually I ended up with a couple of drill curl tutorials and added my own modifications. All in all, my materials ended up being:
- 1 Wig from Epic Cosplay in Princess Pink
- 3 wefts of hair, long, in the same color
- 10 clip-on hair pieces, long, in the same color
- 5 more wefts of long pink hair from eBay when I thought I needed more (not quite in the same color)
- Paint brushes of varying sizes (from any craft store; I think I found these at Michaels—in store, not online)
- 1 box of wig pins from Sally Beauty Supply
- 4 rolls of wired satin ribbon in as close a shade of pink to the wig as I could find (also purchased in store from Michaels)
- 5 bunches of artificial pink roses from JoAnn Fabric
- A jar of Mod Podge (also purchased from Michaels, in store, not online)
- 3 pool noodles (one from Wal-Mart and the other two from the Dollar Store)
The ribbon was purchased to combine the steps from the tutorials I saw that required laying thin jewelry wire along a hair-length strip of clear packing tape. I glued the hair to the wired ribbon and spread them across the ironing board to dry.
To make the giant ringlets, I had seen people use paper towel cardboard cores. I wanted to get as close as I could to Rose’s impossibly gigantic ringlets, so I wound the hair around pool noodles. I secured them in place with the wig pins so the hairspray would lock in the tight ringlets. The first attempt at making the ringlets came out great, but to my dismay, the hair was too heavy for Sally’s strongest “freeze” hairspray. Once off the pool noodle, the ringlets slowly unwound over the next hour until they were very nearly straight again. I was fretful for a while as the clock ticked down toward DragonCon. I hadn’t come up with a backup costume! The Garnet costume needed reworking! The Connie costume needed reworking! In near-desperation, I dipped one of my paintbrushes in Mod Podge, spread it along the length of hair and rewound the ringlets. Success! They took overnight to dry, so with only three pool noodles I had to work for a few days to get them all as they should be, but I was very pleased with the results!
All the tutorials I could find for the wig suggested sewing wigs together. I bought the needle and thread, but never mustered up the courage to try sewing the hair on. Instead, the hair got glued into place as well, also with Mod Podge and a brush. Finally, to hide the places where I glued and clipped the extra hair on, I stuck in pink plastic roses. They’re in keeping with Rose’s name and with some of her powers as portrayed on the show.
The last piece of preparation I did at DragonCon. I had to braid my locs and stuff them under a wig cap (I should have used two!), then tug the wig gently until it sat in place. It didn’t sit as willingly as I would like. Some pins may be an addition to Rose Quartz version 2.0 for next year. The wild stray hairs at the end of most of the ringlets were trimmed, and the bangs of the wig were trimmed so I could see and not walk into things. The only thing that didn’t fall into place as hoped was the belly star.
Without further ado—the costume and the wig:
The only thing that didn’t work out pretty close to my plans was the belly star. The glue I used was not up to the task of adhering to the dress. Fashion Tape will solve that problem next time.
I wore the costume to DragonCon on Sunday to the StevenFallsOver fan meetup. The meetup was super crowded, and I was one of many, many Rose Quartz cosplayers. The ribbon shows, but it just looks like it does in the cartoon—a shadowy darker shade of pink on the inside of the ringlet.
Was it a perfect job? No. Serviceable? Yes; more than! I’m very proud of the most complicated cosplay undertaking I’ve ever attempted. It has given me a lot of confidence that I could and can pull off more complicated cosplay, and in a way that doesn’t break the bank. I’m going to more than likely sew a wig for True Blue Spark (see cosplay pictures from DragonCon 2014 above) now that I know what I’m doing and how to do it. He was a little disappointed he couldn’t be Greg Universe to my Rose this year. But there’s always next year!