Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Time for a Break ...

I've been making costumes for over ten years, but I've spent the past five years cosplaying.  I try to make costumes that no one else makes, and I try to expand my skillset by trying more and more complicated costumes.

Cosplaying is something I've always enjoyed.  While cosplaying at a con is always the best part of making any costume, I've always also liked the challenge of altering a pattern and the thrill of finally getting something right.  I've found it to be an incredibly rewarding hobby.

I say that my motto is, "It's not a cosplay until there's blood and tears" because it's true: I (accidentally) injure myself during almost every costume construction, and I end up breaking down in tears once or twice per project as well.  There have always been days when I just get completely aggravated and throw the costume it across the room (or hit the serger in frustration and unintentionally put a hole in the wall), but I think that's all part of the creative process. Once I get that frustration out of my system, I can refocus with a new energy.  This has always been a part of making costumes for me, but it's never been the dominant theme.

This past year, though, something changed.

I've had quite a difficult year, struggling with issues at work and feeling worthless and like I couldn't do anything right.  I haven't felt so shitty since I was in junior high.  And that transferred over into my cosplays.  I went from feeling pretty confident in my skills to feeling like I'd never made a costume before.

This year, I made three extremely difficult costumes: Shadow Weaver, which I had to draft most of myself; Eowyn, which required a lot of major alterations and drafting; and Clara, which shouldn't have been as difficult as it was, but ended up being a lot more work than expected because of the difficulties I had with the fabric.  The fabric alone for Eowyn and Clara took almost as much work as making a costume, since I had to scour the Internet and every fabric store in the Chicago area, only to have to give up and dye fabric from JoAnn's.

And those once-a-costume breakdowns turned into every-other-day breakdowns.  With every costume I made this year, I said, "I can't do this anymore."  I felt completely stupid every time I sat down to work on something.  I made careless mistakes.  The simplest things, like keeping a gorram machine threaded, turned into impossible tasks.  Things that I thought were going really well ended up disasters.  A hobby that used to be fulfilling and give me a lot of joy became a burden; instead of being eager to work on my costume at night, I began to dread it.

Worst of all, I felt like a fraud.

When I said that I didn't expect to win anything at the Chicago TARDIS Masquerade, I wasn't being humble, I meant it.  The Clara costume kept me up at night, and when I did fall asleep, I had nightmares about it.  I almost gave up on it entirely two or three times.

So it's time to take a break, at least from new costumes.  For a while now, I've wanted to remake parts of my Susan costume and remake my Liesl costume entirely.  I'd like to work on embroidering Eowyn's bodice, and I want to learn to knit so I can make Clara's shawl (and remake the Gryffindor scarf that was stolen out of my office when I was in grad school).

But none of these are projects that I HAVE to do.  If I don't feel like working on them, I don't have to.  We're not going to Dragon Con in 2014 because we're taking a trip to the UK in the fall, so there's no pressure to make anything new.  I have plenty of clothing projects (skirts, tops, dresses) that I keep putting off in favor of costumes, so I'll still be sewing, but if something goes wrong, I can take my time, or forget about the piece entirely.

I should probably fix that serger-shaped hole in the wall, too.

I just think that if I take a break from cosplay, then I can relieve some of the pressure I put on myself. For as much as I tell new cosplayers not to worry about being perfect, I can't bring myself to settle for "okay".  Now, that doesn't mean that I think all of my costumes are perfect, but that the final product is what I envisioned.  A lot of that has to do with knowing that I made something to the best of my ability, and I just feel that the costumes I made this year could have been better.  I had to settle for a lot, and I don't like putting out a final product that doesn't meet MY expectations.  Being a perfectionist used to be a positive part of costuming for me, but now it's a burden.  What's the point of having a hobby if you aren't getting any enjoyment from it?

Matt says that because we won Best in Show, I shouldn't take a break.  On the other hand, I think there couldn't be a more perfect time to stop.

That being said, I still plan on posting about the projects I'm working on, and we will have some more photo shoots coming up, so the blog should still be updated on a fairly regular basis.  So, don't go away, and remember - if there's something about one of my costumes you'd like me to go into more detail about, just leave me a comment and if I'm able (i.e. I remember how I made it), I'll write a post about it.

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