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Dressing the Character Profile: Queen Elizabeth I!

12 Dec
And now, for something completely different but still royal! I’m super excited about this profile, and I think once you look at a couple of pictures you will be too. I’ve never seen actor Kimberly D. Stockton portraying Queen Elizabeth I, but boy have I seen pictures, and doesn’t she just look spectacular? She was nice enough to fill out this profile and then wait around for weeks and weeks and weeks while I had crises and went on vacation and, I don’t know, stared at the walls and neglected to post it, so kindly turn your full attention to her answers (provided you can stop looking at pictures, which I’m having trouble with myself).

Bow before your Queen, peasants! And everyone else!

Kimberly D. Stockon [Blogger’s Note: she says to tell you her website is in the process of being rebuilt] portrays the legendary Queen Elizabeth I through various years of her life, 1550s-1570s, at the Tennessee, Louisiana, and Santa Fe Renaissance Festivals.

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Dressing the Character Pt. 2 – The Basics

14 Oct
Alright, so after weeks of soul-searching, we’ve picked a character. Whether we’ve finally gotten over our aversion to wigs and decided to be She-Ra, or are portraying Amaryllis Tallcake, King’s Confectioner, at the local renaissance festival, we need to start dressing this character, because they’re naked at the moment and that’s kind of awkward. Let’s talk about the Basics!

There are a couple of basic questions that it will be helpful to answer:

Who is this character?

  • What do they do? Whether you’re costuming for a ren faire or a con, what a character does is probably a defining characteristic.
  • What are they like? Are you portraying a tomboy, a sharp dressed man, a banana who has somehow gained sentience (I could not find a trope listing for this)? All these sentient beings are going to dress differently.
  • What is pleasing to them? What do they like? What do they hate? Do they have good taste, bad taste, no taste? Are they trying to emulate someone or something? These preferences may or may not overlap with your; we’ll discuss this later.
  • What is available to them? What materials, dyes, colors, cutting techniques, exist in their world? What can they afford? What can they reasonably be expected to get their hands on, given the constraints of geography, travel, trade, etc? (You also need to ask these questions about yourself, but we’ll talk about that next week).
    And this leads us straight into…

How do they dress?

Things to consider here include: time period, regional/national dress, and established/canon outfits.

  • Time period is pretty obvious. People dressed differently in  1534 than they do today. Hell, people dressed differently in 1534 than in 1554. People will dress differently 20 years from now. Whatever your time period, it will have a huge effect on what your character is wearing. There may be laws about what kinds of clothing people can wear. Even if there aren’t, there are fashions of the time and historical availability of fabrics and dyes, not to mention construction techniques (protip: princess seams are not period to the English Renaissance) to consider.
    Please note: I don’t think you have to sew everything by hand if you’re making a costume from a time before sewing machines were invented. Some people do think that, and I think those people are crazy (if you want to do that, of course, don’t let me stop you, but I think you are crazy). That being said, you really ought to make an effort with the historical accuracy if this is going to be any sort of public thing. Don’t be The Tudors.
  • Regional/National dress – this is slightly less true nowadays, what with television and the Information Superhighway(TM), but you’re still going to find variation. Back in Ye Olden Days, when travel was difficult and took a very long time, and we also didn’t have Google, this variation was more pronounced. You can use this to your advantage if you’re playing a world-travelling character and mix-and-match different styles for a fun hodge podge, but if you’re dressing a character who has never left their small English village, they should dress like an English person.
  • Established and/or canon outfits – if you’re dressing an established character, like Frankenstein’s Monster, or a character based on a real person, like Robert Dudley, you have an added resource in deciding how you’re going to clothe them: how they actually dress(ed)! This can be super helpful, super limiting, or super both. There may be any number of sources for this: portraits, movies, text descriptions,  half a dozen other things. In any case, it’s important and should not be ignored.

And finally…How much leeway have you got?

Your venue is going to have a lot to do with this. If you’re on a cast  or otherwise Employed Somewhere, there will probably be rules related to what you can and can’t wear (feel free to try and get around these, but come prepared with research, be ready to hear “no,” and don’t tell the people in charge I told you to challenge their rules).

Ultimately, you’re looking for The Line. Every character, every time period, every venue has certain visual cues that clearly state “this is XYZ character/time period/venue,”, and when you’re designing, you’ve got to know those and include them. You can tell people you’re Spiderman all day long, but if you’re missing the Spiderman logo, no one is going to believe you and You Will Have Failed. Likewise, you can insist over and over that you’re Ye Olde Renaissance Goatheard, but if your bodice zips up the front…well.

That’s about it for the basics. Next week* we’ll talk briefly about my least favorite costuming topic: Your Resources (Subtitled: Paying For This Shit).
*I am aware that I said “next week” after my last Dressing the Character entry, which was more than a week ago. Would you believe I was abducted by aliens, causing the delay? No? Well to hell with you, I do what I want.

Dressing the Character Pt. 1 – Whoooooo Are You?

23 Sep

The first thing you need in dressing a character is a character.

Actually, no. The first thing you need is a venue–i.e. a place to wear this costume. A venue can be any, all, or none of the following: a renaissance festival at which you are working; a renaissance festival at which you are visiting; a costume contest at a bar; the office Halloween party; the grocery store; the bedroom of your Special Someone(s); or any of seven thousand other things. Wherever you’re going to wear this thing, I’m not going to judge you. Others might, but I won’t!

Your venue is going to inform a lot of your choices. It may have rules, or a bizarre climate, or stairs you have to climb 75 times an hour, or a creepy boss, or that one bitch whom you are determined to outshine, or a million other little things you’ll want to take into account. Furthermore, your venue is more than likely going to inform your first and most major choice: what character are you going to be?

This brings us back to where we began: Choosing a character!

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Dressing the Character Profiles: IK, King of the Trolls!

22 Sep
I’m super excited to begin the Dressing the Character Profiles with IK, King of the Trolls, portrayed by actor/artist Bryan Thompson, out of Atlanta, GA! Bryan was nice enough to tell me all about this spectacular and popular character and the costuming that goes with it. His answers to the Dressing the Character Profile are below!

Behold IK, in all his majestic glory!

IK, King of the Trolls can currently been seen regularly at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, but makes rare appearances at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival as well, and even rarer appearances at some other Renaissance Festivals in the Southeastern United States.  Other appearances are at events such as DragonCon and ImagiCon, and on three occasions he’s officiated weddings.

Time and Place of Origin: Immortal, usable in any time period.  Trolls are traditionally associated with Norwegian mythology, but IK’s costume is more of a Celtic design, with many accents showing his connection to all things natural.  The costume is a mixture of earth tones and textures, from the wreath of sticks that is his nest-like crown, to the giant toes bursting out of his perpetually muddy boots.

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Dressing the Character – Intro Post

17 Sep

Let’s talk about designing a costume!

“But stonebiscuit,” I hear my legions of readers say, “what makes you qualified to write about costume design? You can’t sew, your renderings are shit, and you are less funny than you think you are.” First, that’s kind of rude. Second, my qualifications are many-fold. For one thing, I am very opinionated. For another, I enjoy sharing my opinions. Now that we’ve established I’m qualified to talk about costume design on the interwebs, let’s move on.

We at stone biscuit productions are proud to introduce a new feature here at What Is This I Can’t Even:

Dressing the Character

The idea here is to talk through the process of designing a costume from the beginning to the end, starting with an idea and ending with a workable list or a rendering or a stick figure drawing with lots of arrows or some combination of those. My aim is to go through all the things that one could ever possibly need to consider in designing a costume, from bottom to top, shoes to headgear, underthings to makeup, prosthetics, and accessories. I will most assuredly fall short of this goal, BUT! I at least want this to be a jumping-off point.

Questions I Have Frequently Asked Myself

  • Why “Dressing the Character” rather than “Designing a Costume”? I think it sounds better? Seriously though, my degree is in acting, not in costume design. I don’t know shit about how costume designers work, and I don’t want to pretend to; all I know is my process, which is essentially just deciding what my character would wear.
  • Will this be a single post, or a series of posts? I’m glad you asked. Dressing the Character is going to be a series, posted approximately once a week. I’ll be aiming for a new post every Friday. I was also aiming to get up before eleven today, though, so let’s not bet the farm.
  • What sort of costuming will be the focus? It’s going to be mostly geared towards renaissance festival costuming, since that’s where most of my experience lies, but I’ll include considerations for other venues as I think of them. Honestly, I don’t think there’s that much of a difference once you get past the character creation part.
  • Will you be including real-life examples? Why yes! How funny you should ask. I will, in fact, be adding Real Life Costuming Profiles, featuring people whose costumes I love/envy/respect/admire/want to eat. These will go up as I get them from people. Again, most of those people will be renaissance festival performers, because that’s what I have most experience with. If you’d like to be included and I haven’t contacted you, feel free to tell me (empresscats at gmail dot com). I promise nothing.
  • Seriously, why do you think you’re qualified to talk about this? Because I’ve got nothing else to do. Boredom is the mother of blog posts.
  • Will you accept, encourage, and perhaps even beg for questions, comments, suggestions, discussion topics, links, resources, and guest submissions? Why yes. Yes, I will.
Any questions? Look for the first portion of Dressing the Character on Friday. What day is it? Saturday? Great, that gives me plenty of time.
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