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Unread 08-31-2012, 06:09 PM   #1
Amanita
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A bit of a workmanship/judging question

This is something I was thinking about last night-
When I do my original designs, I try to design costumes that look like they would actually work in real life, functioning as actual clothing.
I've said before that I'm working on skyscraper personification costume ideas. I've been focusing on the NY skyline, but now I'm also looking at some of the awesome new towers of Dubai. There are some real beauties over there, which would look amazing turned into characters.

Now, back to the design and workmanship aspects- like I said, I try to design costumes that look very cool, but would still function in real life. I like multilayered costumes, they're a lot more visually interesting than just throwing on a single robe or pants and shirt. However, where a character hailing from Dubai is concerned, piling on numerous layers would probably be a quick ticket to heat exhaustion in that hot climate, even for a creature as robust as one of my skyscraper-incarnates. So when designing an outfit for a climate like that, one possibility might be faking the layers- using double layered sleeves, false collars or yokes, and even partial waist capes to make it look like more layers of clothing are present than there actually are.

Now, I've heard of some people using such methods as pure shortcuts, faking the appearance of just about everything just to save a little time and fabric. But in my case, such false layering wouldn't be done purely to save money, time, or to skimp on fabric. It would be a conscious design choice- the character would actually dress that way, in order to present a graceful, multilayered appearance, while still staying comfortable in the heat without too much bulky fabric.

Do judges tend to look down on such false layering, or if there was an actual design/in-character explanation for it, might it still pass scrutiny?
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Unread 08-31-2012, 09:16 PM   #2
CapsuleCorp
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If you explained it exactly like that, no judge worth their salt would be disappointed. In fact, most judges I know/respect would LOVE to hear the thought process that went into it. Pull it off construction-wise, and a good workmanship judge should be suitably impressed.
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Unread 09-01-2012, 10:37 AM   #3
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I remember reading posts from people here complaining about the really baaaad faux-layering that they saw from Bleach cosplayers- simulating the white under-kimono collar by sewing a band of contrasting white trim onto their outer (black) robe. And I also remember a conversation with one costume maker at a local one day gaming convention. She advocated faking EVERYTHING. I showed her some of my character sketches, including one who was wearing a fitted Mandarin collared tunic, that buttoned up the front. She was all like "I wouldn't tailor it, I'd use stretchy t-shirt fabric. I wouldn't make all those frog clasps functional, I'd make just the top one or two actually work, the rest would be faked..I wouldn't make that button-up blouse like that, I'd fake most of the buttons..I'd fake this, I'd fake that, fake..fake..fake.."
And she showed me a sample of her workmanship- One gentleman wearing one of her Jedi costumes, of which she had made a large batch for the Phantom Menace premiere. I had to give her kudos for the clever modification of a cloak pattern, to make that outer robe. But the hem wasn't finished, fraying all over, and I bet that if I had checked the seams, those would have been left raw too. Yes, she captured the look of the overall Jedi outfit well, but the workmanship was clearly of the "fake and skimp, save time" camp. In short, the outfit ended up looking not much better than a halloween costume.

On the other hand, I'm of the school of thought where I don't make "costumes", I make clothing. I finish all my seams, do up my hems, actually make all the buttons and frogs functional, and fabricate the entire garment with all the care and attention that a "real world" clothing piece would merit. I don't do "costumes"- costumes like the example mentioned above wouldn't hold up to what I put them through. I make clothing. It just looks more interesting.

I suppose another good example of "faking" worthy of emulating would be how many Japanese women put on their kimono and obi sashes these days- they have been known to use false collar facing, and take a lot of shortcuts with the obi, making it a lot easier to put on. But they still look fabulous, and even the "shortcut" pieces are skillfully made, and need some skill to put on properly.
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Unread 09-02-2012, 09:03 PM   #4
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Well, those are definitely two ends of a spectrum. But the problem with the Bleach costumes done that way is that "faking" layers is not only inaccurate, it looks bad. If someone wanted to save themselves time or heat stroke or something by wanting to cut down the layers on either a Bleach shinigami or a Jedi tunic set, the proper way to fake it is to use a juban - a collar piece, similar to a dickey, worn beneath the outer layers. It's authentic, historically speaking - that's how the Japanese actually did fake their layers. Constructed well and worn properly, it looks quite nice. A strip of bias tape attached to the outside edge rarely looks good, especially after one washing where the poly/cotton tape shrinks unevenly. Never mind that the under-arm slits in the black kimono clearly reveal the white shitagi underneath - you can fake a collar and even add a "lining" to a sleeve to look like two separate sleeves, but you can't fake that part of the under-layer.

But I digress. The point being, sometimes cutting corners works and sometimes it doesn't. The mark of a skilled craftsman is knowing when it's appropriate and when it's not, as well as being able to identify and properly use the kinds of techniques to simulate layers. Example, knowing when and how to use a dickey, or a juban. When it comes to stage masquerade, believe it or not, I find some of the long-time veteran Masters advocate cutting corners more often than not in order to maximize comfort. Many of them have either theatre background or have been doing this long enough to know that they don't NEED three layers of garments if the judges aren't going to see the underlayers at all, and they've learned the proper tricks and gimmicks to give the illusion - precisely because it IS for stage and what matters performance-wise is looking the complete picture on stage, and being comfortable, mobile, etc. What counts in their favor for workmanship is being able to construct the costume so that until you actually point out to the judges (and explain your reasoning), they can't tell that you faked layers, cut corners, etc. Example: it's one thing to eliminate a petticoat because you just don't feel like wearing one; it's another to somehow have rigged up your ballgown to still float as if there IS a petticoat underneath without actually having one.

Personal taste also plays into it. I haven't reached the stage in my hobby-career yet where I feel comfortable cutting corners. Every costume of mine is a complete garment, like you say Amanita. I prefer constructing garments, particularly if I have any intention of wearing the costume in the halls later. What works on stage doesn't necessarily translate to the halls. Someday I may be at the level where my competition pieces are purely for stage and never to be worn again afterward, in which case, I might find myself constructing elaborate faux setups so that I can lounge comfortably in the green room, whip on the big costume for the stage, and then slither out of it easily. That takes a level of skill and ingenuity that I haven't reached yet.
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Unread 09-03-2012, 02:06 AM   #5
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Just a clarification, in my experience a juban is actually a full underkimono. What you're thinking of is an easy-collar (aka "kantan han-eri") that is just a collar piece meant to make it look like you're wearing a juban. It's very useful in hot weather!
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Unread 09-03-2012, 11:52 AM   #6
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Is that so? I've always been told that the faux collar is a juban! Thanks for the tip, I will remember that and use the proper terminology.
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Unread 09-03-2012, 01:42 PM   #7
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I've got "the book of kimono" in my collection, and it describes a lot of these false layers quite well- they're not cheesy fakery like those shortcutting Bleach cosplayers, that kind of faking takes a certain level of skill, akin to what Capsulecorp describes- creating a convincing illusion, not just leaving things out or half-assing them. I'm actually considering making a han-eri to wear with the blouse of my latest cosplay (constructed using folkwear's Thai blouse pattern) It will look good, and also keep grey makeup off of the actual blouse collar, being easily removable for washing. I've also got a dickey pattern which I can use if need be.

I think my irritation with Miss fake-it-all stemmed from the fact that with a lot of the faking she described, it wouldn't have taken much more effort to do things the right way. In terms of a tailored, mandarin collared shirt, patterns exist for those, which aren't really hard to work with. And leaving massive cloaks unhemmed with threads dragging everywhere is just lazy and unprofessional looking. (Unless you WANT the ripped and tattered look) Compared to the time it takes to assemble a garment in the first place, doing a good finish doesn't take much more time.
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Unread 09-04-2012, 01:37 PM   #8
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There is a difference between faking something as a conscious design choice to improve practicality, and faking something because you don't know what the hell you're doing so you settle for something you think is "good enough". Jedi chick sounds like the latter.

When I judge, I'm totally cool with the first type. Conscious choices for the sake of practicality are things I'm okay with - I may even give more standing to when it's done well. I always like hearing the thought processes that go into planning. However, corner-cutting to make the costume easier or to make up for a lack of knowledge will not get extra points.

As far as I'm concerned, in the end, it's mostly about good sewing technique and proper fit. With original costumes, I feel that whatever the base idea is needs to be conveyed in the design, as well.
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