Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cosplay Couture

When Luke Milton and I aren't reviewing pop culture or making fun of movie novelizations, we're often doing photoshoots with me modelling costumes that I have designed and made myself, mostly based on icons of pop-culture. Cosplay you say? Not quite, don't get me wrong, I love cosplay, but obsessing over accuracy all the time can get a little boring, costumes are all about being creative and imaginative and I prefer to present my own take on a character. Thus I coined the term "Cosplay Couture" and have been experimenting with the concept ever since. Join me below the cut for a more in-depth explanation and some photos of our work so far.

In the past five years or so I've studied art, textiles, make-up, fashion, props and costume design, I have a passion for history and I also know my way around fabrics and pattern drafting. In a way I think I've always been searching for a way to combine all these interests. When Perth started to have its own conventions, the first major one was Supanova in 2008, it was only natural that I would be drawn to cosplay. My early work is pretty embarrassing and shall never see the light of day, mostly because I am ever overambitious and go for super-complicated costumes. But at least I learned a lot.

Thing is, I tend to gravitate towards male characters, at first I would do crossplay but that never looked convincing, then I tried rule 63, which is where I got to be more creative and design a female version of a male character. But something was missing, I felt like I needed to elevate my work somehow, stand out from the crowd. Around this time I discovered the art of Kevin Wada
And Annie Wu

Star Trek

  Oh and this spectacular design inspired by Catwoman by Christian Dior

 Yes, now this is what I'm talking about! Fashion is all about drawing reference from the world around you and interpreting it in new and different way.
Another thing that sets Cosplay Couture apart from normal cosplay is how it's modelled. Most cosplayers don't know how to pose and often the photos are taken at crowded conventions under fluorescent lights, maybe some of their make-up has rubbed off or bits of their costume is coming apart. Don't get me wrong, there are some talented cosplay models out there who really embody the character to the point that you almost believe that they really are that person.
But that's not what I'm going for, I needed something more glamorous, more dramatic and less literal. Fashion modelling is a very different style, the way those models carry themselves making both their bodies and their outfits look amazing, there's a sense of commitment and intensity, a good model should be able to sell a concept no matter how outrageous.
And that's what I'm attempting to emulate, I have some modelling experience, but since starting this project I have become far more invested in researching how it's done. I particularly look at androgynous models, as most of my costumes are based on male characters I think it best to try and  be somewhere between the two genders rather than go to one extreme or the other. Thankfully androgyny is really in right now.

I had been modelling with Luke for a little while and he suggested I combine my sense of fashion and costuming abilities together because they were unique skills that few other people possessed together and we had the advantage of being able to photograph it properly. Our first shoot was based on the 10th Doctor played by David Tennant.
 I had been wearing a fairly accurate cosplay of his for sometime, so I swapped out some of the accessories, got experimental with the hair and make-up and wore the outfit in a way David never would have, but all the while being as faithful to the spirit of the character as possible. You see the reason I call it Cosplay Couture, rather than Costume Couture is that it must say something about the character, these are all loving homages to the characters and I try to embody their personality as much as possible. It also influences my design choices, to do a 10th Doctor in a skirt for example just wouldn't suit the character, same story with 11, I thought shorts would work best as he's very school boy.

 We eventually intend to do our own take on all the Doctors but in the meantime we have given the Couture treatment to other characters.

The Lone Ranger

Nathan Drake

Sherlock Holmes (classic)
Sherlock (BBC)

Cosplay Couture was also born from my own fashion sense, I have quite a vast wardrobe and the way I dress is often inspired by a character or an era in history but done in a way that looks modern and fashionable. While I do make a lot of my costumes, many pieces also come from my existing collection.

Beyond the costumes themselves, the photography is everything, we've been learning a lot about composition and lighting and even the power of colour vs black and white to find just the right tone for our work. We have also been searching out more unusual locations, working in a studio can be rather repetitive and restrictive. Scouting locations can be a lot of fun and when we find something that works, it's exciting because it helps sell the concept and the character just as much as anything else. It can present some challenges, primarily lighting and weather, but it's also given us some happy accidents.

For a more detailed breakdown on each of these shoots, with words from both myself and Luke, please check out our Tumblr or Facebook below.

External links- (sketches of upcoming costumes are posted here)


  1. Courtney you are brilliant! I've been trying to decide how to embody David Tennant's 10th doctor for a costume party and then a convention coming up, and you are voicing a number of thoughts I've had throughout the process. I don't know if I'll take as much liberty as you did, but I'm going to pursue my very own version of the 10th doctor instead of trying to fit precisely into Tennant's shoes, seeing as I am a woman and that's darn near impossible. It also inspires me for future cosplays and exploring variations on a theme. The photos are great! Keep experimenting and having fun!

  2. Just saw that message now, thank you very much and glad to be of some inspiration!