I'm back from CostumeCon! And there's a lot
to write, so it'll be a day-by-day breakdown of things. CostumeCon officially runs for five days (A Thursday social and shopping trip, programming Friday through Sunday like a regular con, and a bit of panel programming on Monday morning), but as I'm mostly local to the area, there was no point attending for Thursday and things let out early enough today that I was able to be home in time for lunch and a review. It was a pretty tight budget for this one compared to my first CostumeCon in 2014 when I was flush with cash, but it definitely did not diminish my fun. Friday
Although programming started pretty early in the day Friday, a combination of travel time, hotel check-in time and schedules for both us and our hotel roommate made us not get there until the afternoon. We met up with our friend/hotel roommate for the weekend (first time, in fact, that we've had extra roommates at a con in our seven+ years of attending them) and hopped on the GO to Mississauga in the early afternoon, arrived a little before 3 and checked in. The Meadowvale Hilton, where it was held this year, is pretty nice; it was a welcome change from the last couple times I'd been in hotels for events and "roach motel" would have been too flattering. However, it's a bit too modern for most photoshoot purposes (I had hoped SO hard for a fancy ballroom staircase or palatial-looking hallway for Anastasia, but nada), and not great for dining if you don't fancy dropping $50 on a single dinner. Its restaurant is pricey, and no kitchenette amenities (though you do get an actual KETTLE, not just a stupid keurig!). FORTUNATELY, it wasn't a long walk to some cheaper food options, and to save money we brought a LOT of our own stuff. All our breakfasts for the three days, snacks that usually doubled as lunch, and a packed AA-style lunch for the Friday. Our suitcases were BULGING with both this and the costumes. I had my giant convention suitcase, Furilas used my other suitcase, both of us had full backpacks, and having to carry my axe because it didn't fit in any of our bags. Also, the Consuite at CostumeCon was a fantastic provider of tasty after-dinner snacks. More on that later.
So, once checked in, it didn't take us long before we were unpacked and getting into costume. I put on Heather for the Friday, while Furilas kept to regular clothes with a nerdy shirt and my roommate a D. Gray Man cosplay (I'm not familiar with the series, so I don't know exactly who). Getting ready did make me miss half of the first panel I'd wanted to attend, "A Politically Incorrect history of convention costuming". What I did catch was great; archival footage of many Worldcon and CostumeCon costumes from past decades (mid 70's to mid 90's was the general timeline used) that today would NOT go over well at a convention, and some that didn't, even then. Origins of the "no peanut butter rule" and "No costume is no costume" rule in competitions, and the sad story of the "proto-cosplay celebrity" in the 1970's, a 14-year old pushed into the masquerade, in a commissioned and very sexualized costume, by a stage mom who then proceeded to try and sell poster prints of her daughter in the extremely inappropriate costume in the ad pages of sci-fi magazines. (Yikes
. Hope to glob we never see THAT happen again...)
After that panel, there was nothing else in the way of panels that caught my interest, and panel programming tends to stop in early evening for the various competitions. So we used that time at first for some shopping. The vendor's room was fairly small, but WHAT a delight to the costumer's eyes (annnnd not so much for the wallet). I picked up quite a few things for the 1880's mourning dress plans; some corsetry items like boning tape and a new busk as I want to make a completely new and better corset for the project, a faux-jet hat pin, and period-appropriate silk stockings. There was certainly a nice variety of things catering to the historical costumer, steampunker and hardcore cosplayer; reproduction weaponry for 1812 and Civil war eras, jewellery and accessories also appropriate for various time periods and for fun steampunk and fantasy wear, historical and ethnic dress patterns, corsetry supplies, beautiful fur pelts, worbla, wigs, SFX makeup and vintage fabric trims, etc. etc. etc.
So once I'd burned some cash and seen all that was for sale, we did a walkaround. Most of the promotional tables at that point were closed for the night, but the official photography booth (manned by DROO) was still running, and I paid the cost of getting myself some REALLY nice photos of my Heather cosplay. I was lucky enough to get them just before his camera batteries finally ran out.
On the Heather cosplay, I'm pleasantly surprised how much attention it got. I figured that at somewhere like CostumeCon, Dragons: Race to the Edge would be a barely-known series, but easily seven or eight people on Friday night recognized my costume; and most wanted photos, then to nerd out about my folding double axe when I would swing it open for pictures. Also, one of the vendors I talked to may cosplay Dagur, I hope he contacts me so we can get pictures together!
After that, our stomachs were growling. We had planned to check out the Friday night social, which runs simultaneously with the Single Pattern contest, but a combination of "HUNGRY" and "Well, the social has very little in the way of food right now and a big-ass line for it" had us heading out to get dinner. The weather was not great (on and off drizzle and chilly), but we bundled up in our jackets to go and get Thai food to take back from the plaza of restaurants and shops a little ways down the street. Unfortunately by the time we got back we'd missed the entire show, but at least we had food and found some old convention friends at a table to sit with. The evening was then passed in what I have missed for a good long while at conventions; getting to actually SOCIALIZE! All the conventions in the past year that I've been to were either as a vendor, so time was scarce for having any fun with friends/other people, or our other friends didn't go, or our friends that did go were too busy to meet up for a dinner with us (and vice versa). There was tasty eats- and the portions at the Thai place we got our food from are HUGE, so I gave half my dinner away for lack of stomach space- and a heroes vs. villains game with beanie babies (so, there was a cape on a scorpion, cue that Simpsons episode with Hank Scorpio and the catchy as heck ending credits song. "He'll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth, SCORPIO!"...), lots of conversation, and I even found a table being run by the staff of the former and much missed Con-G and got myself a badge ribbon from them. We then checked out the Con Suite upstairs in the last hours before bed, and hoo boy, my stomach HAD to make space. There was a delicious party going on! Also, I made the mistake of going in my full Heather cosplay. Not only was it hot for a large amount of leather, but VERY crowded and Heather has SHARP, POINTY PROTRUDING PAULDRONS on (Oh hi, alliteration). Thank goodness I left my axe in the hotel room. Whoops... but anyway, there was much to be eaten and drank. Lots of desserts, a huge variety of alcohol (I stuck with water, I'd had enough sugar as it was), chips, soda, etc. And once my stomach couldn't take any more and Friday had turned into Saturday, we finally went to bed. Saturday
And, the biggest day! We had planned to wake up at 9, but Furilas had set the alarm and failed to make it for THAT morning, so we all wound up sleeping in until 9:30. Then, it was a bit of a frantic rush for the morning. We had our in-room breakfasts of cereal with almond milk, juice boxes/tea and danishes we'd brought, and as I'd NEVER be able to handle twelve hours in Anastasi and stay fresh for the masquerade, for the morning until my tech rehearsal I got into Tali'Zorah. My roommate had more stamina and got into the crazy outfit of her Draculaura cosplay from the get-go (fit and flare dress with crinoline, huge platforms and worbla top hat to name a few....). Unfortunately I'd forgotten to repair my brooch-fastener thingie that holds her hood shut as it had broken at Anime North- not seriously, but the velcro on one side had begun to peel off and it pulled right off this time- and so I lost MORE time trying to contact-cement it back on and quickly set it while getting the rest of my stuff together. So I then sent Furilas downstairs to set up a recorder for the 18th century fashion terminology panel I'd planed to attend, but a small relief came that the panel had been moved/cancelled (not sure which... I never DID get to go to it.). So then I managed to finish getting Tali on and fixed enough to wear a few hours, and headed down to catch the next planned panel; how to wear yukata. I had a basic knowledge on how to put on kimono and yukata, but seriously basic. I was very happy to get some nice demonstrated instruction on how to get a yukata to nicely fit on you along with tying the obi more than the one way I know. Just a shame that Furilas' yukata hadn't fit in the suitcase, or I would have just brought it along for trying on him while there. I was also planning on finally sewing my own (ACCURATE) one this summer, so it's definitely handy info. I wasn't aware it was going to be a hands-on panel involving actually putting them on, though, so Tali rendered me quite unable to ACTUALLY put them on. But at least I got to practice the menswear dressing on Furilas.
After that, we had an hour between another panel, and I had seen a beautiful grand piano in the hall on friday and got a twisted idea of photographing Tali attempting to work a piano with her quarian fingers. Hilarity and photographs ensued! However, I managed to play a few scales WITH my gloves on, so booyah. Tali is also the costume that gets the most "How!?" comments, so there was a lot of answering questions about the making of my gun, helmet and boots in between shots.
Then at 1, we headed back to the room of the last panel for another fun wearing demo; how to wear a sari! This one, I stripped off all the armour pieces so I could actually participate this time. Glad I did, it was fun! And saris are definitely more complicated than I thought, but oh so pretty (the panelist brought in her WEDDING sari to show, oooooooh....). That said, I now have a hilarious photo of me in a purple sequined sari and half my Tali costume plus helmet and gloves while striking a Bollywood pose (hard not to with two-fingered gloves...). No, I'm not uploading it.
I had then wanted to attend a panel at 2 (Understanding eras of historic dress), but Anastasia commanded much getting-ready time and I was also famished and in need of some lunch. And because we weren't willing to pay the price of hotel fare, lunch was the snacks we had upstairs. So, the next hour and a half consisted of eating bug-bars (so, a recipe Furilas makes for cons. Essentially, granola bars with cocoa, raisins, corn syrup.... and a protein supplement of cricket flour. Very filling and a great energy boost and the crickets aren't even detectable in the mix, long as you don't freak out at the occasional sight of a bug leg), ironing that monstrosity of a dress, and then getting INTO it. I underestimated how much ironing I needed to do and the hotel iron SUUUUUUUCKED, so I was almost panicking at getting ready in time for my tech rehearsal at 3:45. With ONE minute to spare and practically running down the hall in my horribly-uncomfortable shoes and dress train and my sash pinned on crooked and still putting my lipstick on, I made it! And thankfully, THIS time they were actually on schedule with the techs and I didn't have a half hour wait. I got to do a quick run through, make sure my audio was correct, got a few extra tips on my presentation, and then, had just enough time to fix my sash, stop for some photo requests (and the Northern Lights Costumers Guild table gave me a hall award badge ribbon!) and sit in on part of the panel "Make do and mend", a panel about WW2-specific sewing techniques to repair and repurpose clothes to make them last longer under rationing and shortages of the time (with applications to today. You don't want to know how many times I have darned the duvet cover I have had for 15 years bought used from a yard sale and just can't bear to throw away, except that now I need to move up from darning to patching...). Unfortunately I didn't get to hear all of it, because greenroom check-in for the masquerade was at 4:30. Looking fully resplendent in Anastasia (though this time, not letting my dress train down as five minutes on the hotel floor had already turned the gold-coloured balayeuse grey) I made my way up and got into the greenroom.
Now, the masquerade. It was a big one again! Over eighty entries this year. Unfortunately it was not well organized this time. Last CostumeCon? You checked in, were assigned an entry number based essentially on how soon you'd come in the door after check-in or how early you'd registered for the masquerade (I forget which), and judges called the contestants over for their workmanship judging and photo by number. It really didn't work like that, this time. It was an unorganized line of people without the reg desk even set up yet, so workmanship judging started without contestants having their entry numbers. Line was long with only two judges, but there wasn't much grumbling as we still had an hour before the masquerade was even due to start and people were willing to hold spots in the lines so people could get water/snacks/pee break while waiting. But then, half an hour into the line, the reg desk and entry numbers were finally open. Those who WEREN'T in line for judging yet were able to grab numbers, and then that's when all hell broke loose.
So, after being in line for at least 45 minutes and being NEXT IN LINE to get my work judged, also most of it with no ability to sit (NOT in a heavily beaded Russian court gown with full Victorian underpinnings if all the chairs have been taken away....), first another three were let in ahead of me with the director saying that they were the first entries on stage and the masquerade started in 15 minutes, so they needed to be rushed ahead for judging. I'm frustrated but fine, it's three people. And then? Well, the chaos that is NOT having the reg desk open before workmanship judging meant that EVERY entry before #30 that hadn't had judging yet had to be rushed ahead of me. Did I mention that numbers weren't assigned yet when you got into the green room, either? So only a handful of those first thirty had actually gotten judged by this point. Over twenty people were expedited to the front, while us who had waited for over an hour in line had to stay put. Thankfully Furilas had come in with me and brought some chairs from the hallway in and fetched water and granola bars for both me and those around me or it wouldn't have been possible to actually keep standing in line. There was a large complaint circle going on soon after with those who had been close to the end in line like me. I have to say it, it felt reallllllly weird and almost ironic to be sitting all fancy and regal in one of the chairs while most around me were griping with me on the floor. Like I was holding some sort of Queenly masquerade court.
At that point because so many people were beginning to freak out that they weren't going to get their costumes judged in time before going on stage (Oh yeah, and I got someone to get my number for me. BLAGH. I was #60 and already wanting out of my costume) the directors had to step in and yell that you could go back AFTER your entry to get workmanship done if you didn't have time (I don't think many had to, at least). The masquerade also got a short delay, but then, when does a masquerade ever start right on time anyway, but finally the clusterfuck started to subside a bit, and after waiting for an extra HOUR in line for judging, I FINALLY got to get my dress, beading and underpinnings examined, then to actually sit down in my den. Luckily my hotel roommate was in mine, so we managed not to be bored in the almost hour long wait before it was our turn to head to the stage.
Now that the griping about disorganization is over, the masquerade itself! As one can expect at CostumeCon, it was a great show and an enormous variety of costumes (I recall that back in 2014, there were about twenty Frozen-related entries. This year? Not a single costume duplicate!). Favourites included "Loofah- The League Of Older Female Action Heroes" (who won "Best upcoming Netflix original series idea"), "Tentacles" (A tribute to Chthulhu...done to a Fiddler on the Roof song, with extra tentacles!), "Late One Night in the Laundry Room" (So that's
where the socks went...), and many others. Finally, it was our den's turn to get to the stage and soon, my turn to be ON stage. I was still a bundle of nerves when my turn came up, but my routine went off without a hitch. A regal presentation with the parade wave, a dress spin, curtsey, and so forth. And according to Furilas in the audience, the stage lights made my costume go BLING BLING BLING BLING on the stage in terms of sparkle. And you know the audience loved it when they're cheering BEFORE you're finished. Results of this, coming later.
Also, Furilas recorded the whole thing, so I'll have a video available soon to see for yourself. (A somewhat lower quality FB video of the whole masquerade:
I'm entry #60, about 1 hour 36 minutes in.)
Once I was finished, I grabbed my bag from the green room and joined Furilas in the audience for the last 15 or so entries. And once the masquerade was over, I suffered through an extra hour in my costume for the masquerade contestants photo-op lineup (essentially, you could go back up onstage for the audience to take proper pictures, as video is permitted but no flash photography during the masquerade). Worth it, except for my poor, poor feet by the end of the night. The shoes I bought for this costume? GOOD GOD THEY ARE HORRIBLE. They don't fit very well and even with a block heel were hard to walk in due to the weight of the dress train. And then I also tore through several parts of my socks (not sure if the shoes were really that awful or my socks were just old and cheap...). So, it left me with several bruised toenails and a blister by night's end on top of the usual high-heels aches as I wasn't able to spend all that much of my greenroom time out of my shoes. Unfortunately it's not very Princessy to be limping down the hall and going "OW FUCK FUCK FUCK OUCH GOD DAMN IT OW I HATE THESE SHOES!" the entire time, but at least I was still able to hide that for picture requests (yes, I was still getting them on the way back from the masquerade. The dress really was spectacular!).
After all that, Furilas, our roommate and myself all promptly headed up to our room to get out of ridiculous costumes, shoes and wigs, and order up a dinner of pizza delivered to the room. This masquerade was a tiring one (I really had a love-hate relationship with my corset that day. Love, I actually got some back support for those long hours standing. Hate, well, I couldn't relax much when sitting and my waist was squished in for seven hours...), so we basically stayed up long enough for showers, scarfing down dinner, deciding that the male wig head our roommate had brought along looked like Vladimir Putin (we even googled a picture to compare. .....yep.), and figuring out tomorrow's plans before crashing into bed at 1 and sleeping like logs. Sunday
The last full day! We woke up at 9, did a similar morning routine to Saturday with a good bit of relaxing as there were no panels before noon we were interested in and the future fashion folio went on around noon (so, no programming during), and as Tali'Zorah hadn't had the brooch piece properly fixed from yesterday and I'd been pleasantly surprised at how much love Heather had gotten, I started off the day in my Heather cosplay once again after giving the wig a little sprucing up while my roommate pulled out all stops for her Regina cosplay (and towered imposingly over me all day in heels and a big wig!). The day started with a panel at 1 on researching resources for historical costuming, lots of good info gotten from it (so yeah, planning to try the historical masquerade next time! This was needed), and the plan next was to go to a leather sewing panel at 2, which was unfortunately cancelled (seriously, ALL three of us had wanted to go to it). Instead I sent Furilas to run back up to the room to grab my Anastasia dress for the SF&F masquerade show and tell panel going on at the same time, and a bug bar because suddenly my stomach was protesting loudly at being empty despite having had breakfast not even four hours ago. The show and tell panel was worth going to; various contestants from the masquerade brought pieces of their costumes and in show and tell fashion, got to explain to the audience how they were made and answer any questions people had about them (the main questions I got for my dress were, unsurprisingly, about the beads. "How long", "What kind", "How many", and "What made your tiara sparkle so amazingly". Well, all the seasons of Dragons, nine seasons of Forensic Files and one of Murdoch mysteries, 10/0 Czech glass seed beads for the coloured parts and 3-4mm flatback swarovskis for the main dress sparkles, the stock of three Michael's stores and all the small clear flatbacks of an online swarovski store, and "A whole bunch of dollarama rhinestones and a lot of patience!").
As well, the winners were read out at the start; well, those 200+ hours of beading paid off! I won two awards! "Most Regal" in presentation, and an Honourable Mention for beading in workmanship. With that, I could have floated off into the stratosphere had there not been a ceiling in the room! I proudly wore those two beautiful purple ribbons for the rest of the day.
After that panel, there was a break between the next one I wanted to attend. I decided that it was getting too hot to keep Heather on (it was a VERY warm day) and it was also beginning to make considerable con funk build up on me, so I took that hour for a fast shower and changing back to normal clothes for comfort's sake. So on that note, Heather unfortunately won't be coming to Anime North with me. Much as I love the costume, it's just too hot for end-of-May wear with so much time spent outside, especially combined with a big axe to carry and pointy armour in big crowds. It'll only come along if it's going to be unseasonably COLD all weekend for once.
After that, the last Sunday panel was on, though I was several minutes late (thank goodness it was literally across from our room block's elevator!), an introduction to hatmaking. Generally I've always hated hats, but for Victorian costuming, they're basically mandatory, and as I'm both an ambitious masochist and trying to not go bankrupt on the mourning dress, the plan was to make my own (thankfully, there are
1880's commercial patterns around so I can get an accurate shape without too much tearing my hair out).
After that, there was just enough time for dinner before going to watch the historical masquerade. The three of us met up with my long-time con friend and her boyfriend so that five of us headed out to the plaza, half of us in full costume, for some Chinese takeout to eat back in the audience of the masquerade.
Well, dinner in itself was a whole load of hilarity. The place we ate at (Ming Room) is both Chinese and Indian cuisine, and in lieu of the typical soy sauce given out with Chinese food, what we got for condiments was an unidentified container that smelled and looked vaguely like hoisin sauce. What better way to figure out what it is than to eat it? Well, so we thought. First Furilas tried some. His reaction? "Oh god I think I'm dying!" and needing all his and most of my drink. Then, our hotel roomie tried some. Cue "OH GOD MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE" and running for more water. Third, my old con friend's boyfriend. A LOVER of spicy food, who promptly coughed, gagged, also repeated his tongue was on fire and ran for some chocolate milk in the hotel gift shop. Finally, my old con friend herself. The ONLY one who didn't seem to have a crazy tongue-searing vision quest in spicy sauce form (though at least she agreed, "Oh yeah, that is SPICY"). My tongue despises hot spice, so I knew better than to tempt fate and see what would happen to me. Though Furilas' description of the purple desert he was in while seeing through time itself sure made me tempted....
Let me just state with that, I'm extremely glad that we'd done this BEFORE the show started.
But dinner hilarity didn't end there. The fortune cookies were next! The brand this place used made some seriously passive-aggressive fortunes. We'd all gotten double cookies for some reason and I'd bought an extra bag of six, just for the heck of it. Hilights included "Your success will astonish everybody", our other couple getting identical fortunes of "Someone attractive is thinking of you", mine being "You are the most diligent and capable worker in your business" (Oh gee, I work alone, I'm that by default!), "your presence reminds people that there are other beauties in the world" (aka, "My fortune cookie called me ugly!"), and then, one single GOOD fortune for the last cookie for all of us (Along the lines of "Laugh, smile, share and make memories with each other").
Then, finally, after a considerable delay, the Historical Masquerade started. It was smaller than last CostumeCon (28 entries), but still many excellent entries and costumes (with a seeming skew toward 1920's/1930's and 18th century this time). As it was only 28 entries, the masquerade itself didn't take very long, but we were waiting in our seats for both the awards (as workmanship judging in historical is done in advance of the masquerade and not in the greenroom, judges only have to deliberate on performance scores after so it can be done soon after), and remaining convention announcements and other costumer guild awards. The two hours between that and the announcements was pretty disorganized. After the historical photo-ops, the tech crew didn't seem to know what they were putting on the screens, and the announcements were immensely delayed. That there were still people staying for it, somewhat surprising. But finally, they did get done, and I got to find out who won what for the historical masquerade, the location for CostumeCon 38 (In three years, I'm going to Montreal!), and the other special awards to be given out. After such, there was a "We won CC38" party in the ConSuite by the Montreal bidding table, complete with maple cream cookies, crepes, and little Quebec flags everywhere. Well, I can't say no to more sugar, so we partook happily and did some socializing, mostly with CostumeConers we hadn't yet met. We finally called it a night to pack and get to bed at 12:30, and slept once again like logs.
On the Monday, aka today, we got up at 9, finished our packing, had breakfast, checked out, and had time for the Historical masquerade Q&A panel (along with excitedly talking with several other previously online-only friends I'd finally met in person who did the historical masquerade) before we had to catch the GO home (and we shared the ride with another congoer from nearby who told me about Guelph's SCA, so well, looks like I'm joining as soon as I have time for a life again!). And now, I have to make yet another road trip as of tomorrow to take care of the last of Dad's things before the end of the month, so I'll try and keep uploads coming this week but they may be sporadic.
Now, in summary; CostumeCon was a blast! I haven't had a convention this good in AGES. All the big fanciful costumes of Anime North, plus pretty historical dress, without the ridiculous crowds and too-far-away hotel issues, a nice hotel room, lots of friends and socializing, the sweet-ass ConSuite, winning TWO awards in the masquerade (last bucket list awards to achieve now, a CostumeCon and Anime North best in show), lots of panels involving crafting and getting to wear my finest. If I could afford it, I really would go every year. My next con will be Ad-Astra from May 5-7, so I'll have my sell list up a day or two after my May updates journal (So, can I have a con in the MIDDLE of the month again now, please? I really hate having new front-page journals so damn fast...).