One of the larger elements of almost any RPG – such as World of Warcraft or Skyrim – is crafting. Blacksmithing, tailoring and leather-working mean that you get to create your own costume, level up your skills and be ready for battle. One gamer has maxed out her real-life crafting skills and makes incredible bespoke costumes for others as well as herself. She married in June 2010 creating a themed bride-and-groom costume for her renaissance-themed wedding. Over the last month we’ve chatted back and forth about the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot – I’m willing to wager that Deanna is the biggest Lara Croft fan on the planet – and today she is talking to us about her handiwork:
How long have you been into costuming/leatherwork?
I’ve been doing costuming for about nine years (holy cats! I didn’t realize it was that long) and leatherworks for about five.
So what got you started?
I remember watching the first Resident Evil movie, falling in love with Alice’s red dress and thinking “I bet I could make that…” I had sewed a few random things here and there, but nothing too extravagant. I promptly went to the fabric store for supplies, busted out my mom’s sewing machine and threw together a horrible polyester rendition of that dress. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it. When I started researching online about costuming I found out about cosplay. I was like “It’s a thing! People dress up as video game and movie characters and it’s called Cosplay!” From there, I was hooked.
So your costuming led to leather-working that transitioned into cosplay?
It was actually the other way around. After posting my cosplay pictures online I started getting emails from people “Can you make this for me? How much would it cost for this costume?” And since cosplay is a pricey habit, it only made sense to try to make some money from it. Also, did I mention I’m addicted to creating things? If I’m not making something for myself, I’m making it for someone else. The leatherwork aspect of my costuming came from an order for Selene’s costume from Underworld. I made the corset and jacket from vinyl, but one customer wanted the entire thing in LEATHER (eek!!) I ended up buying 5 sides of leather (about 100 square feet) and using maybe half of it – haha!
What has been the most difficult piece to make and why?
Definitely the boots to my Leliana armor. Mostly because of lack of reference pictures, but the boots themselves are improbable if not impossible haha It took me a couple of days just to draft the patterns, then making boots from scratch PLUS the armor pieces on top of them. I had a complete brain meltdown while working on those things.
What would you love to make?
Ah, where do I start!? My most recent obsession was a replica cloak like the Starks wear from Game of Thrones. I have since finished that and I keep running over the idea in my head of a Steampunk Leeloo (Fifth Element)…Basically, I want to make everything. Every new idea I get is my new obsession and it takes over. Whether it’s a new technique I want to try, or a new material that inspires a project, I always have the urge to create. Ultimately, I would love to work in the movie industry, making costumes and doing leatherwork on a big budget epic scale.
What is the development process – sketch book, computer design…?
It usually starts with an image, whether it’s a reference picture for a cosplay or an idea in my head for something original. I usually choose a project that has a certain aspect of it I can’t live without. For Bloodrayne, it was the metal spike shoes and the blades that lock into place. For Leliana it was all that delicious leather armor. Oh, and for Merrill (Dragon Age 2) it’s that wicked full body chainmail suit (which is about 80% done at the moment).
And, obviously, I have to know and like the character. I completely fail at sketching, so it pretty much goes from my head to making patterns and then construction. I usually start with the part of the costume I know I can complete like a small accessory, or that “certain thing” about that costume I love. From there it’s trial and error, fit samples, construction and then final details, (my favorite part!).
What do you geek out to when not costuming/leatherworking?
In my down time between projects I’ll usually read, play video games or watch tv. I also study Kung Fu and rock climb, but I don’t know if that’s considered geeky. (no, it’s totally geeky because I’m inspired to do things like that because of Lara Croft. She’s pretty much my idol.) I love the Dragonlance book series, currently I’m reading Betrayal by Jean Rabe. I have a tattoo that says “Est Sularus Oth Mithas.” I watch a lot of old tv shows I grew up on, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek TNG and Xena, but my friends got me hooked on Game of Thrones and that’s pretty much taken up all my free time – haha!
Playing Skyrim, Fallout 3 and some Might and Magic 7 in my down time is the extent of my gaming lately (costuming really does control my life sometimes). I have to say, though, I’m looking forward to the new Assassin’s Creed game. Something about a video game about the American Revolution gets me all giddy.
I’m willing to bet you will be some serious inspiration for costuming from Assassin’ Creed – definitely going to be a great game. Maybe I should be inspired by that for a convention with the fact that in four days time I shake of the tyranny of Britain and become an America citizen! Hah! Speaking of conventions- any chance we will see Merrill this year?
It’s a work in progress; the whole costume is about 80% done. Finishing the chainmail and a few final details on everything (like straps and buckles) are all that’s left. I also need to make my staff, but I plan to have this finished and debuted at DragonCon this year.
Fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing with us – looking forward to seeing more of your creations in the future.
For more on Deanna’s incredible work – and to keep up-to-date with her latest creations – check out her online footprint here: