I'm a big fan of Portal, and since Chell is the only human character in it I didn't have much difficulty deciding who to cosplay. I also wanted to make something significantly different to any of my previous costumes; I'm used to making things like long dresses with lots of trim and fancy details, but I've never made anything as practical as a jumpsuit before (in fact, I don't think I've even made pants before...) The prop making was also a bit of a new experience to me.
I must confess that this costume is a bit of a last-minute effort - I started it about three weeks before the con, with the idea that it would be "pretty easy" and "I could get it done in heaps of time" - but this turned out to be more than a little optimistic; this has probably been my most challenging costume yet (although that might have something to do with the time frame I guess...)
The one thing that did make my life a lot easier was the fact that I managed to obtain the software development kit for Portal, which lets you look at all the 3D models of the characters and weapons. Instead of spending hours googling for reference images, I could simply rotate the character model and zoom in on whatever detail I wanted to, allowing me to figure out the costume with ridiculous levels of accuracy. Of course, this also meant that I couldn't use the wonderful excuse of "I couldn't find a reference pic so I just did what I wanted to" - in the long run I suppose it's probably just made me more obsessive about details, but I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The jumpsuit was the first part I made - I expected it to be pretty easy considering I've done a fair amount of sewing before, but that was not the case. I couldn't find any suitable patterns for either the top or bottom half of the jumpsuit, so I drafted my own. It was difficult to get the fit just right - the seams around the waist are in odd places that didn't quite correspond with anything I'd tailored before. The orange fabric is a slightly stretchy twill fabric, and the details are mostly cotton bias binding, with some waterproof nylon for the label, the belt-thing and the applique on the back. (I wanted to use shiny white PVC, but the closest I could find was mint green nylon that just happened to be white on the back.)
Most of the sewing was done with a sewing machine but some of the details (like the topstitching on some of the pockets and collar) were hand sewed.
I found it extremely refreshing to make a costume that is supposed to look slightly worn out and grubby. I enjoyed leaving it in a crumpled heap on the floor and casually tossing it on dusty surfaces, and I made sure to wear it whenever I was doing any painting, gluing, cooking or anything else that could make it look convincingly mistreated. In the end, I did have to do some of the distressing manually though; it's mostly pencil and chalk.
Making the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device was surprisingly satisfying in that it cost me less than six dollars. The vast majority of it is made from various bits and pieces that I already had lying around at home, and the only things I had to buy specifically for it were a plastic folder, some florist's wire and some electrical tape. The barrel is made from miscellaneous plastic containers and bottles I found in the cupboard and the recycling bin, and also a cardboard tube and some craft foam. The large part of the barrel at the back of the gun is a paint can. I used some plastic cut out of a black folder for the curved part surrounding the clear tube. The little claw things are also made from the folder plastic, with some florist's wire hot-glued in the middle. Some parts of the gun were painted with black spray paint, but a lot of the parts were already black (the parts made from the folder) and for some of the smaller parts I simply wrapped them in black electrical tape.
The white curved parts of the gun are based on a papercraft model of the gun that I found on the internet, coated with a few layers of papier mache and then painted with acrylic paint. Originally I intended to cut them from plastic containers and bowls, but I couldn't find anything with the right shape and size so with only four days left I had to resort to papier mache. It's not quite as smooth as I would like but I'm pretty pleased with it nonetheless; it's much better than any of my previous papier mache attempts. The black logos and details on the shells are cut out of electrical tape (I LOVE that stuff) and the little bobbly bits where the cables are attached are made from craft foam.
The various components of the gun are held together with duct tape, electrical tape, double-sided tape and hot glue.
The heel springs took quite a while to figure out. I guessed they would be made of some kind of springy metal, but how they were attached to the legs was a bit of a mystery - some sources suggested they were surgically attached, which obviously meant I would have to improvise a little, with both the materials I used and the way I attached them. I made some elastic straps to attach the heel springs just below my knees, and experimented with various combinations of metal rulers and strips of cardboard to try and get the right flexibility, but the metal was too heavy and the cardboard not springy enough. Plastic seemed like the best choice, and after wandering around the $2 Shop for about forty-five minutes, I found something perfect: plastic fly swats. The handles were slightly springy and the swatting part at the end was flexible enough to make the curved part at the end. I cut them to the right shape and added some extra bits of cut-up plastic containers in various places for a bit of reinforcement. I then covered them with craft foam and sewed the elastic straps onto the top. I knew if I tried to paint the craft foam it would just end up cracking and getting worn off on the bottom, so instead I covered the heel springs with black duct tape.
The white attachments at the top are constructed from various bits of plastic containers, with the details made out of leftover nylon fabric from the jumpsuit, leftover folder plastic from the portal gun, some craft foam and of course various kinds of tape and hot glue. Although walking on my toes got painful after a while, it was worth it.
I'm impressed with how the wig turned out considering the extremely low quality materials I used. It was originally one of those horrible tangly long halloween wigs, but I'd cut it to about chin length for a costume I made a while ago. The fact that it already had a centre parting inspired me to reuse it for this costume, and the fact that it looks scruffy and poorly maintained just like Chell's hair was an added bonus.I bought a $4 clip-in hair extension and used the wefts from it to make the short wig just long enough to pull into a ponytail. The wig's pretty thin in places but since it's tied up it's hardly noticeable. As a finishing touch I used temporary dye in some of my own hair that is visible at the edges of the wig.
The only part of the costume that I didn't make from scratch is the white t-shirt worn under the jumpsuit.
Christchurch Armageddon '10 - Technical Prize - Open Division