Sass and Sewing with Helen Alice Cosplay
Hi! My name is Helen Alice and I’ve been cosplaying for 8 years. That sounds like I’m joining a self help group, but I’ve been cosplaying for 8 years, I probably need one anyway. Most of my cosplaying relies heavily on sewing, as I’ve been sewing since I was 10, I’ve studied fashion and I’m working on getting a degree in Contour Fashion soon too, however I have experience in lots of areas cosplay, and I’ve won a few competitions for these skills too. I cosplay characters from varying media, and I don’t like limiting myself to just one style of costume. I’ve been a guest at events where I really enjoying meeting people and talking shop about cosplay, and I also really like helping people with costume problems when they get stuck, I’ve spend so long reading how-tos on the internet, I might as well help other people out.
How did your Cosplay journey began and how has this developed over time? Can you tell us about any cosplay mishaps and how you’ve grown from there?
H: I got into cosplay by seeing it mentioned in some of the anime I was watching, and I was curious about it so I looked it up and decided I had to have a go. I then threw myself in the deep end at the age of 13 by attending MCM in London. I had a great time and I kept going, back then it was an annual event for me and I would spend a year thinking about my costume. The third time my friends and I made our own costumes, they were terrible but we were so proud we had a great time. I decided then I had to make my own costumes because it was much more enjoyable for me, and then my Mum stepped in and helped me learn to sew! The first costume which I think I 100% nailed was the first one I did without any help was my Kushina Uzumaki costume, and I think I love it much more than I would if I had brought the costume.
You’ve now guested with us helping to head up our ‘sewing zone’, you also spoke in your panel about the importance of fabric even with cosplays using ‘armor’ can you tell us more about the use of fabric in this way and why its important?
H: The first costume I made was an ANBU uniform from Naruto, and even though it does have armour sections, more of the costume is made up from fabric, and if you don’t put the effort into those parts it can really let your costume down.
I’ve also made 2 fem!Iron Man suits, and both times the costume relied on the bodysuit underneath to 1. Keep it PG and 2. For all the armour to be secured to, so for this I had to think of what bodysuit I could move in, and if it would be able to take the strain of it.
The first thing you put on in any costume is going to be a layer of cloth, and if you make sure you get that bit right it sets your armoured costume out from the others. Especially in competitions where most people assume that those in armoured costumes haven’t sewn the base layers, if you have it really gives you the edge.
What should you do if you wish to get started with fabric and sewing, can you recommend any good places to source fabric and samples, any fabric to avoid completely?
H: Look locally first and see what your area has to offer you. Where I live there is a local market with a range of fabrics and I tend to buy there most, each time I buy something I try and grab a few samples of other fabrics they have in just so I know what’s what. However it’s not the best stocked, they don’t have the really odd (or sometimes basic) things so I would then turn to ebay or other online stores, but before buying lots of a fabric, buy a sample so that you don’t end up throwing money down the drain.
Personally my favourite place to go to buy fabric is Birmingham, they have the Fancy Silk Store, Rag Market and a few other store right outside the Bull Ring and it’s easy for me to get to, being a midlands girl.
What would you say the main difference is technique wise between fabric and armour based cosplays and is one more superior than the other?
H:Sewing has been around for hundreds of years across the globe, and the are thousands of technique involved and each piece of a costume will include different ones, and you can always find new tricks and tips in sewing to improve your work. While you won’t learn everything to do with sewing, you can certainly master your own corner and get your own methods and techniques established.
However armour making, in my experience (which is mostly worbla) there are only a few different routes you can take to make your costume. Maybe it’s folding your worbla vs sandwiching it, but thats about as varied as the methods get, from there is prime and sand. While there is less to do, the time and effort it takes to get things to look perfect is as demanding as a sewing project in my mind.
In sewing you might spend 40 hours doing embroidery, but in armour you might spend 40 hours priming your pieces getting them ready to paint.
There are reasons to pick a favourite style but each is as difficult to master and both sewing and armour making has to be treated with respect because it’s hard work!
Helen, if you don’t mind me saying so your ‘cosplay brand’ puts across a fantastic image of a strong independent woman outwards to the cosplay scene. Can you tell me more about this, why the voice of women and independence is important in cosplay and what it means to stand up for the cosplay community itself.
H:The women I’ve met in cosplay inspire me so much and it’s often things that people don’t realise is strong and important that we have to admire. Little things like when Captain Amelia and I wore our Alice and Cheshire Cat costumes some people behaved poorly and took our pictures without asking our permission, yet got insulted when we asked them to delete those pictures, as if they had some right to take our picture without asking, simply because we were “Cosplay girls”, as if that was a demeaning thing, but it’s far from it. By saying something to them, and making them understand why they can’t do that it make them understand they can’t walk over “Cosplay girls”.
Another example is when LolaInProgress has given interviews on video to men at conventions who have gone out of their way to try and humiliate girls in cosplay for being “fake geeks”. It was a delight to watch this as she floored the guy asking questions, even making him stammer and try and change the subject when he was shown to be a fake geek on the topic he was trying to test her on.
Having worn a few well- smaller costumes, people have tried to give me a hard time about my body shape. But the thing to remember when someone tries to mess with you like this, or any other way is to remember they’ve gone out of their to upset people and suck the fun out of things. And if for me thats something to laugh at whenever people try and put girls in cosplay down, we’re out to have fun and enjoy ourselves and these people are just acting like morons for petty reasons, just ignore them and you do you, the more fun you have the more it diminishes anything bad anyone has to say about you.
How would you empower other women in cosplay and advise them against negativity in the scene?
H: Just carry on no matter what. Sometimes it gets catty and petty and you might find yourself in situations that aren’t great, but just take a step back and remember, you really are here to enjoy yourself if you’re not, then think about why and change that thing. If it’s other people making it hard for you to find the fun in cosplay, make new friends and move away from toxic people. If it’s online, then instead of getting bogged down in the comments, do something you enjoy which is going to improve you and your cosplay. The best way to beat any negativity is to realise it and just turn away from it.
Do you feel there is a distinct difference between ‘sexy’ female Cosplay and ‘powerful’ female cosplay, is there a direct line that can be drawn and should the distinction be made?
H:Cosplay is about doing what YOU want, cosplay for you and no one else. Powerful female characters are often pretty sexy, lets not kid. However you can get one without the other. Girls+Anyone cosplaying girls, go cosplay powerful characters, you’re gonna enjoy it. If they’re sexy then own it!
However exclusively “sexy” costumes often play up to the stereotype of the hot girl who’s an airhead and just their to be eyecandy, especially as some cosplayers do put on that act to gain attention. And that can attract problematic people to you, and the hobby and cause problems.
When I cosplay Vulpix, I’m wearing it because I love that costume, I feel awesome in it, but it’s really insulting when someone shares my photos with the tagline of “Wow sexy girl”. Heck?! Thats it? I’m more than that, surely they could come up with something better. However some cosplayers are out exclusively for this kind of attention, and I think thats the “Sexy Cosplayers” side, which is fine but it does cause problems for the wider community, and I think they need to think about how they’re showing the community to the world.
Can you tell us if there are any strong female fictional characters you follow and would like to be, and if so what is special about them and why do you follow them?
H: So it’s no secret that I have a bit of a girl crush on Margeary Tyrell from Game of Thrones. She’s the Queen for heavens sake. She’s clever, in charge, plays the long game and also very pretty with great taste in dresses. Her story is about owning yourself, and out smarting the enemy. She does do sexy well, and it does get her where she wants to be and if it doesn’t she manipulates her way there, clever girl.
I’ve made 3 of her dresses so far, and I am planning more. She’s got a special place in my heart now because she’s one of my favourite female characters, and because I’ve spend so much time following her character and making costumes, it feels great to get to portray her.
How have you watched the cosplay scene grow to date and how do you imagine the cosplay scene developing in the next ten years?
H:I said I started cosplaying when I was 13, back when MCM had proper physical tickets! Throwback! Back then it was harder to connect with cosplayers outside of conventions, and there weren’t many resources online for how to make costumes. But thats been totally turned on it’s head now, it’s easier than ever to find cosplayers now, as most have their own Facebook Pages, their are apps for meeting new friends and THOUSANDS of people ready to help you craft and tutorials and guides online on how to create things.
Not only that but it’s changed in the public eye, I used to have to say “Oh I er- make replicas from tv…” a few years back, and now if I say “Oh yeah I’m a cosplayer” people just smile and nod because it’s a pretty standard thing to do at this point.
Also the media I think is going to really start backing cosplayers, more TV shows, more promoting other things, gaming companies sponsoring cosplayers and so on, I even know a few cases where cosplay and high fashion are beginning to overlap.
Jeni popped down to see you at EM-Con recently and did a photoshoot with you, can you tell us about your character, the poses chosen and what your aim was to put across in this shoot?
H:I was wearing Oswin from Doctor Who, she’s such a nerd I love her. She’s a scientist, trapped on a planet, even worse she’s trapped in a small room, from which she has managed to hack into all the teck on that planet and help the Doctor throughout the episode, she’s funny too, however not a good cook. I originally cosplayed her back in 2014, because I look a bit like the actress. Shooting with Jeni I wanted to get a few shots that resembled the small room Oswin is trapped in, and then get a few shots of the whole costume. Getting shots of the whole costume is really important(And I often forget) because it shows all your work and it’s really good for using online or in your costume portfolio. However I kept Oswins personality in there, her sass and smirky smile because while I wear the costumes, I like to try and keep the character where I can, after all I am pretending to be them.
2. Chii- Sonesh Sonshi Photog
3. Vulpix – Kyle McVean Photography
4. Margeary- Aperture Photography
5. Oswin- Jeni.