by Willow Enright
I often hear from folks that leather presents entirely way too many obstacles to overcome, especially when it comes to cosplay. I hear that leather is expensive, that it requires special tools, it takes too long to work with, and wearing leather is simply uncomfortable. I’ve been working with leather for over four years, some of these complaints are more true than others.
“Leather is expensive.” This is often true. Unfortunately, budgeting is a tricky business, but like most intensive passions or hobbies, we have to plan a budget for them. If this is your first time working with leather, you don’t know what it’s going to cost, so know your upper limit on spending and have a backup costume ready. If you are the kind of person that seeks the cheapest avenue regardless of the costume, then cosplaying in leather is likely not for you.
“Leather requires special tools.” That’s simply not true. When I first started I used regular household scissors, various screwdrivers, a hammer, and whatever knife I had handy. If you want some basic tools because you plan to do more than the simple basics, then I recommend these to start: swivel knife, a hole punch set of various sizes, a decent mallet (rawhide or marble, both are a bit spendy but worth it, NOT wood) rivet/snap setter set, an 18” metal ruler, cutting board or self healing mat, and a scrap piece of granite or marble (Look for a place that makes granite counters/table tops and see if they have a free scrap bin. This is where I acquired all three of mine.) If you want to try tooling fancy designs then get a Tandy six piece craftool basic stamp set. If you usually buy your costumes and don’t enjoy making them, then making it out of leather will be more of a challenge.
“Leather takes too long to work with.” There’s never enough time. Mostly because you want everything to be so awesome. I’m right there with you on this one, however we all have our time frames and limits when it comes to getting a cosplay costume done on time, and really the only way around that is to plan like the devil. If you know that you absolutely have to be that new character coming out, then plan like mad to make sure that the timing can happen for you. I can understand that some people will always want to be the newest, most awesome character which will clearly limit your desire to make multiple complex leather cosplays that will last a long time. If that’s the case for you, then leather may not be the best medium for you to use. However, if you like leather and would use the item again for other events then investing in something that will last you is never a bad idea.
“Leather is uncomfortable.” Agree to disagree. My advice here is to know your own personal limits. If walking around all day in five inch heels isn’t a thing you already do then you probably don’t want to plan a cosplay where your character wears badass five inch heeled boots. My Mord-Sith cosplay technically should have five inched boots, however I have some messed up ankles from various sports injuries making high heels impossible for me, so I made mine flat boots. No one seems to care. The most important piece of advice is to test out your costume before you actually plan to wear it, this way you can make adjustments as needed. If you find out that your costume is too hot, then you should invest in a set of Under Armor clothes for underneath. These are special clothing garments that help to keep you cooler and usually run about $40-60 a piece. They are a bit spendy but they are an amazing investment and worth every single penny, plus they last a long time.
Whether you make your costume out of leather or not, is not my main concern. I really just want to help people who are curious about leather, and if you have read this far you are one of those few that are, and to you I say, “go for it!” If you are still under the assumption that leather presents too many obstacles to overcome then leather cosplay is not for you. Hopefully you can still vicariously enjoy it through others.
by Willow Enright
While I was attending ECCC, earlier this month, I was asked what material was used to make your costume? Leather was not the first thing on everyone's mind. A few of the inquires were "Is it plastic?," "How did you get foam to form like that?," and "Did you bake it in the oven?" Educating people along the way that leather is of course expensive when compared to foam, but how it's more durable, malleable, and protective. Thus, giving you greater longevity along with a greater quality.
How durable is it you ask? My Mord-Sith outfit, which my girl was wearing this year, was created back in December of 2012. I'd like to see foam look this good four years later. Now I know what you're thinking, four years isn't a long time. I have friends who have sported belts or purses from their grandparents younger days. I can't wait to see how long and how well this leather holds up to decades of wear!
As far as malleability is concerned take a look at this wet formed figure below. I took a piece of leather, drowned it in a tub of water, then formed it to my girlfriend, Erin. The process took hours of drying and shaping while pressed against her, as I was helping form the breast shape into the leather. I would say that it was hard work, but I love an excuse to touch leather. The abs were situated under the leather as an added template, built out of sand and a rubber glove.
I can hear the comments now, "You claim that leather can be a protective layer, how's that possible?" Well, first off, historians have been in a decades long debate over the prevalence of leather armor and whether it was widely used. That being said, there's no argument against its existences; it did and does exist. Next you'll be saying, "But how effective is it?" My response to this question is, "Check out this video."
In conclusion, while most of my cosplay armor isn't designed for real combat weapons since the leather used is a 7-9 oz. and not 13-15 oz., one can clearly see via the video above, leather as armor is quite effective against historically accurate weapons. Note, there was a distinct lack of any mace weapons, which will break your bones no matter what armor you wear. Not to mention, that leather can be formed to fit like a glove against ones body. Googling the phrase, "how long does leather last," the response from Google is, "Good leather properly cleaned and polished should last a long, long time. There are saddles over 100 years old." That's right some saddles are over 100! Let's see foam do all that.
by Willow Enright
It's been a week since Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC,) and I haven't been able to stop thinking about how it inspired me. It inspired me to improve my website, exhibit at cons, research other companies, learn how to target my audience, and build a larger stock of goods. Overall, I feel like I can be doing this... better.
For all those wondering whether or not to attend cons and network with other geeks who have made a living out of what they love to do, the message is clear. Get your stuff out there, get yourself out there, and keep at it. I can't tell you how many times numerous people said this while I was attending ECCC.
There's a community of nerdy/geeky themed entrepreneurial enterprises that are waiting to hit their big break, just like you. It's reminiscent of the old days when craftsmen and tradesmen would hone their crafts and enter into trade, barter, and commerce alike. While it may seem like these established companies don't need your business, the reverse is true. As your company thrives it has to grow. This means you need to hire someone for photography, web design, marketing, packaging, printing, and budgeting. Let me tell you, no one has the time or the skills to do it all themselves. That's why you have to surround yourself with an army of positive acolytes to help you build your passions into products.
I started crafting out of leather in 2011, and now I am making it my life's work. I am writing this blog to help myself remember some of the small steps in past projects, sharing my triumphs and failures, as well as my love of leather.