I hinted in my last post that I was making good progress on my Borderlands Dr. Tannis costume but I really should back up the claim with some evidence. I confess I’ve probably been a better cos-maker in the last month than I have a cos-blogger; as I’ve just been motoring on with the costume rather than pausing to take as many work in progress shots as I probably should have done along the way. But I think things are going pretty well…
A Room of One’s Own
Before I go any further I must tell you about one exciting development that is related more to cosplay in general than to this specific costume. Guess who now has her own dedicated room just for working on cosplay and craft projects? It’s wonderful! Previously I just worked in our guest room and had to put everything away and turn the space back into a respectable spare bedroom every time a friend came to stay. But now we’ve turned our box room into a proper little crafting space for me! I absolutely love it and it’s made it so much easier to work on my Tannis costume in short bursts. Much as I love to devote whole long days to sewing, gluing and painting it’s not always practical to do so due to pesky things like working a full time job. Having my own proper work space means I can do things like adding a quick coat of paint or lacquer before work then come home and finish off a piece that evening, picking up right where I left off.
Before I colonised it for cosplay, the Chez AddAltMode boxroom was our rat room. This is when we were taking in rescue rats and had a huge cage of 8. In the last year we haven’t taken in any more rats and are letting our group dwindle with the view to taking a break from rat-keeping altogether in the not too distant future. We still adore these wonderful rodents but they just don’t live long enough and goodbyes are hard. Ten years of regular rodent goodbyes is enough to wear down anyone. We’re feeling ready now to share our lives with a pet who may be around for more than just a couple of years. So we’ve downsized to a smaller rat cage downstairs in our living room and lo and behold the former rat room is now a cosplay room. I have a wallpaper pasting table up in there currently but hope to invest in something a little sturdier soon. I’m still luxuriating in the privilege of having my own space to work on my favourite hobby. And the rest of our house is looking considerably more tidy now all my crafting mess is confined to one room!
Belt bag and light
So, I’ve finished off Tannis’ belt bag and light. As I showed last time, the bag is one I already owned that was given a new clasp and a cel-shading style makeover. I’ve since added the the teardrop shaped light thing that clips on next to it.
I made this out of foam with a card backing for stability. I wanted to make it light up like it seems to in the game. To do this, I added a small battery operated bike light inside it. There’s a little hole in the back that allows me to reach in and switch it on and off. The light produced was rather blue so I added some yellow transparent plastic over the where the bulb is. Money saving tip: coloured acetate sheets purpose-made for crafting are quite pricey and tend to come in bulk packs of rainbow colours which means buying loads of sheets you won’t actually use. A great cheap substitute is cutting up a plastic document wallet: I had good success using document wallets for the see-through detailing on Slipstream’s cockpit and blaster tips, so I used the same technique here, this time with a yellow wallet.
Tannis wears a tank top in some kind of heavy brown fabric that looks like it fastens at the the front. I bought the fabric and made this from scratch using a pattern I developed myself. I haven’t got that much experience making patterns (translation: I had no idea what the hell I was dong) so I’m pleased (and relieved) with how it came out. My top has a velcro fastening at the front (all my costumes use a ton of velcro). I still need to add some of the cel-shading style black line detailing which will be done with fabric paint, but here’s the basic top anyway:
Tannis’ iconic red coat was always going to be the most challenging part of this costume. I am thrilled with how mine has come together, although I can’t claim all the credit for myself as I had a lot of help with it. I was struggling to make the pattern for this (tank top patterns are one thing, a whole coat is quite another) so my Mum introduced me to a friend of hers named Lynn who is a fantastic seamstress and got the basic coat put together and looking so good for me. Lynn is a marvel!
Part of me feels rather guilty that I haven’t figured every single element of this costume on my own or with B’s help like I did on my Transformer costumes, but I don’t think there’s any shame in asking for a bit of help when needed. The lions share of the work on the overall costume has been mine; it’s not like I just bought the costume ready made online (lots of people do, and there’s no shame as long as you’re honest about it). Plus there’s still a lot of work to be done to turn it from a red coat into a Tannis coat.
I am much better at detailing than I am at pattern making, so this part of the process is a real pleasure. I am working now to add in all the Borderlands touches: the patches on the shoulders and arms (I’m halfway there with this, you can see the shoulder patches I’ve done in the shots at the top of the post), and the fastening and button details on the neck. I also need to add belt-loops to support the bag and light which Tannis wears over her coat. And of course I’ll be accentuating all the seams and edges with black.
Backpack and straps
Probably my favourite element of the costume that I’ve created so far is her backpack thing (I still haven’t figured out exactly what it is). My initial plan was to make this hollow so that I could actually use it for storage (because pockets are so useful at a convention, and after Slipstream any practical touches to this costume feel like such a luxury), but having studied the screenshots at bit more closely it’s very narrow so there really wouldn’t be much I could usefully put in it. I decided to go with durability over usefulness and make it just a cosmetic item. The backpack is foam and card and the straps and back piece are made from brown canvas and the same brown leatherette I’ve been using for Tannis’ coat patches.
The pieces on the straps are foam with plastic screw covers for the detailing (I love rummaging through our DIY supplies to see what I can “borrow” for costume purposes). The screws attaching the back piece to the straps are real screws. These add considerably to the weight of the backpack but I think this is a good thing. Foam is so light that without the screws I could barely feel that I had anything on my back. The extra weight also makes the whole thing hang in a more realistic manner.
Greaves – in progress
The final component left to actually build for this costume was Tannis’ footwear. I needed to get some more reference shots to know what to make here. Cue a lot of time spent stalking her in game – not easy since she tends to hang out in a really dark and cluttered room in the Crimson Raiders’ HQ.
But I did eventually ascertain that she has greave-style leg armour over regular boots. So I spent yesterday building the appropriate pieces. They’re not done yet – currently the pieces are constructed (four: a top and lower piece for each leg) and assembled. I’ve given the foam two coats of PVA glue to get a nice texture for painting and the plan for this afternoon is to start getting the colour on to them. Here are a few in progress shots for now and you can see the finished results in my next one of these updates – which should pretty much see the completed costume.
What do you think then? Coming together?
On the clock
We are hoping to debut our Borderlands cosplays at our local DEVCON which – somehow – is now just a month away (where is this year going?) As you can see, the Tannis costume will definitely be ready but we haven’t done anywhere near so much on B’s Salvador, so September is going to be a busy month. Wish us luck! I think it’s probably do-able, and there’s nothing like a bit of pre-convention pressure to get you focused on the task at hand, but ask me again if I’m still feeling so optimistic in a couple of weeks time!