BlizzCon Costumes- The Adjutant

BlizzCon presents an incentive for real-life tailors and engineers to take up their needle and thread and their cardboard and spray paint, in order to fashion amazingly realistic recreations of their favorite Blizzard characters and creatures. After this year’s costume contest, we invited the winners to write articles on the art of costume-craft for us to share with the community. Here’s the second entry in the series, written by Avery, who won first place for her unique and creative take on the StarCraft II adjutant.

My name is Avery Faeth and I’m the creator of the StarCraft II Confederate adjutant costume from BlizzCon 2011. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share my creative experience with other gamers and cosplayers. Compared to most in this community, I’m a relative newcomer. I’ve always had an interest in fashion and design, forsaking store-bought styles and Halloween costumes for something I had to make myself.

When I went to BlizzCon 2009, fueled by my enthusiasm for my recently level-capped troll shaman, I decided to undertake my first official cosplay and go as her. The next year, I raised the bar for my personal achievement and donned a Lady Deathwhisper costume.

I knew I could challenge myself more; and fresh off a sixteen-hour StarCraft II marathon, the idea for the adjutant was born. Anyone who’s played any iteration of a StarCraft terran campaign is familiar with the adjutant and its casual way of warning you of your impending doom, but it also lacks the notoriety and coverage that girls like Kerrigan and Nova have earned -- the perfect mix of obscurity and nostalgia for my tastes. Through the development of these costumes, I’ve established three cardinal rules for my cosplay –

  • Trial and error. Have a back-up plan for every effect you want to incorporate into your costume. I’ve learned most of my costuming skills from messing up what I thought would be a fairly simple procedure. Think beyond the prescribed way of doing things. Allow room, time, and materials for your mistakes, so you don’t waste precious resources. And try not to let your setbacks get you down!
  • Balance creativity and costume loyalty. There is room in every costume for thinking outside the box and adding your own personal touch; but bear in mind that the more liberties a costume takes, the more open it is to misinterpretation. I like my costumes to look like the character stepped from animation or fantasy into the real world -- more like a magic mirror than a screenshot. You also want to choose a character you know will be recognized, but not blend into the crowd.
  • Plan and prepare. Research, recruit, and reach out! Most of the new techniques I learned and materials distributors I found were from simple searches or recommendations. Do a test run of your costume to allow for all contingencies. If at all possible, get a friend to help at the convention with emergency supplies, necessities, and general “handling.”

I spent a good amount of time simply brainstorming, sketching, and rehashing ideas on how to pull off the right look for the adjutant. Since the robotic effect is dependent on the illusion of an incomplete body, I decided to base all the individual pieces in black and attach the robotics to them, defining the body parts with an armor-like chassis and festooning the exposed areas with wires and circuitry to disguise my real limbs. The top is a spandex/lycra dance unitard and hood, decorated with a variety of materials including actual wires and cables from deconstructed computers and televisions, Rexlace (flat plastic tubing), and tubular crinoline (woven expandable tubing). The bottom is a modified hoop skirt with a flat front panel, made from theatrical backdrop fabric. The skirt is covered in what essentially amounts to junk -- phone faceplates, television monitors, telephone wires, and copious amounts of tubular crinoline and foam caulk saver.

For the adjutant’s “body,” I created my very first set of cosplay armor. I still have a lot to learn in this field, but I was able to roll with the mistakes I made on this set and work it into my design. The chest piece, shoulder pieces, abdomen piece, and hip- and rib-covers were made from a foam form and covered in Wonderflex, then gel-painted, gessoed, sanded, painted, and finally detailed. The plug on my back, labeled the “power pack,” is the leftover casing from a television/radio I scrapped for decorating the skirt. It is all secured with backpack strapping and buckles. To hide my arms, I created long, close-ended sleeves and covered them in similar wires-and-tubes designs. For the headpiece, I gutted a cheap pair of headphones, repainted them, and attached the wires and tubes to them.

The adjutant’s face presented one of the biggest challenges, since its anatomy is not strictly human. I knew that the mobile parts of the face would be easy enough, as the adjutant is basically a “girl in grey.” I created the effect of the extended, plate-like forehead by cutting and shaping a plastic mask and painting it to match the armor. I ran color tests on the makeup beforehand to ensure a match, and secured the mask with prosthetic glue to both my face and the headpiece. All of the lights in the costume were individually powered, a choice I knew would be inefficient and time-consuming but ultimately gave the look I wanted. I used fiber optic hair clips, individual magnetic LEDs, battery-powered EL wire, and re-appropriated hazard lights.

The original seed of an idea for this costume was planted on July 27, 2010, and the final touches were placed on October 20, 2011. Of course I managed to squeeze about 175 of the 200 hours I cumulated working on this costume into the last month before BlizzCon -- most costume success stories contain at least a touch of procrastination! My costumes have grown considerably from year to year; but every time I show up at BlizzCon and see all the other amazing costumes out there, I push myself to do bigger and better next time.

This costume took me from Google image searches to the cosplay community for counsel, from Home Depot (where I bought out weekly shipments of foam tubing) to a specialty fabric wholesaler (where I opened my first business account in the name of costuming). There’s nothing to compare to the feeling of seeing all the little pieces come together off your studio table, or living room floor, or dressform into a manifestation of something near and dear to you. Well, nothing like being in it.

I want to say thank you to fantastic community that Blizzard games have introduced me to. The gamers and con attendees who are just as enthusiastic about the stories and characters as I am make me feel confident and at home, even in a crazy costume and looking nothing like myself. I couldn't have completed this costume without the help of all the friendly and thoughtful people in the cosplay community, or without the support and encouragement of my friends and family. I hope to see all of you -- and the costumes you dream up -- at next year's BlizzCon!