Carmilla - Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Why I chose to make this costume:
I nearly killed myself making this costume and Dawn within 5 weeks in August/September... but it was the only break I had all year with time enough to devote to serious costume making. Carmilla came to be through a combination of the need to challenge myself and the opportunity to enter a contest again after several years.
The challenging factor comes from me working so hard on my store and traveling so much, I simply have not made a "challenging costume" for myself in years. My creativity felt increasingly stifled and I longed to immerse myself in a daring project.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, aside from being a great film, offered some of the most outlandish costume design I've ever seen in an Anime. Carmilla's outfit specifically has always intrigued me and I've pondered many times in the past if I "COULD" actually make this.
The other reason I decided to go forward with this costume now is the rare chance to participate as a contestant in a worthwhile contest. Every contest I would usually consider entering is at the height of summer during my busy season, so there is no way for me to prepare anything for it.. So I hadn't competed at an anime con for 7 years prior to New York Anime Fest, which happened to take place during a perfect time for me to make something for. They put on a great contest with a thoughtful and generous grand prize - The Yume Prize entails a paid vacation to Japan, Invitation to attend Tokyo Anime Faire and $1000 shopping spree in Tokyo. No other US convention has been that generous to cosplayers before, and in my opinion, valued our community enough to want to put such an award forth (more often than not, costume contest winners get a certificate, that's it. Maybe sometimes donated items from dealers... I sometimes feel like certain cons don't understand HOW much work all the contestants put into their entries, and don't value Cosplay as an entity enough to put more effort/budget into their contests).
The entry required a duo so I asked my friend Anna what she thought of the contest and Vampire Hunter D, and it turned out that she was a huge fan of the film as well. So we went for it and made our respective Carmilla and Charlotte costumes within a month and a half.
How I made this costume:
Oh boy, where to start. I scoured the web for reference photos and ended up having to screen capture a bunch of images from the DVD. Carmilla only appears for a few short scenes in the film (sadness, want more Vamp action!), but I studied every element of her costume from all angles until I could make full sense of it.
I was very picky with my fabrics because the character is so elegantly decadent, I wanted the costume to look rich and luxurious. I went with 25 or so yards of deep red Madonna velvet, which frustratingly is a hard fabric to work with because it frays so much and likes to move around while you sew it. For the gold skirt and accents, I settled on a textured gold upholstery which was much heavier and richer than plain satin, and had a subtle pattern of lines running through out. The sleeve fabrics were plum colored crinkle taffeta and dusty pink upholstery fabric, to further add to the texture of the costume. I also specifically wanted the colors to match each other and look real and not so "costume-y".
I started out making the shoulder pads. Basically I made a pattern for the shape by measuring my shoulders and with it made the 3D shape which totally looks like a mix between the Futurama space ship and a football lol.
I then meticulously repeated the process for all four shoulder pads and covered them in the appropriate fabrics. I sewed each cover in place by hand, and also stitched felt into the gaping openings to cover the inside hole and make everything look neat. Lastly, I sewed large snaps on the pads and they snap on and off my bodice which makes transporting them easy. The first full double shoulder pad took 20 hours to make. The second definitely a few hours less, and I used the same method to make the matching double hip pads, though they are bigger than the shoulder pieces and required newly drafted patterns.
The collar was also very interesting since it's not a stand up collar but wraps around like a bowl. After a lot of brainstorming I made a frame and covered it with Wonderflex. Then came the very tedious task of covering it in champagne satin on the inside and red velvet with black trim on the outside. All of it had to be done by hand. The collar also snaps on and off my bodice.
The bodice had to be drafted and made into a steel-boned corset to hold it's shape with the gaping opening. I really did not want to do a flesh-colored front panel as it just doesn't look realistic to me. Instead I used clear strings to hold the opening together. Most of the bodice, after I sewed the main seams together, had to be finished on a mannequin. I spent many hours hand stitching on the bodice, from finishing hems to attaching the black trim onto the red velvet. The bodice has an eyelet lace up back which is hidden by the outer velvet layer, so it would be accurate to the reference and lay flush down the back.
The sleeves are attached to the train which is over 16 feet in length. Everything is lined and the I sewed strips of crinkle taffeta and dusty pink fabric together to make the striped undersleeves.
I sculpted the pieces for Carmilla's necklace in clay, molded and cast them in plastic and made the necklace. I used the same technique on the the gold hair cuffs in the wig, except they were cast in rubber so they would be flexible. Lastly, I also made all the gold buttons on the costume out of plastic and they pin on.
As for the wig helmet, I bought two identical apple red wigs from China and used one as the base, and cut the other up entirely for extensions which I hand stitched and glued and hair sprayed in place. I also made the custom widows peak hairline.
Lastly, I made the half globes that sit on the ends of the hair cones as well as the diadem and the little gold hair beads that I put on the day of the contest lol.
The wig was laying nice and flush against my forehead the entire time I was making it, but of course when I went to put it on for the contest, something cracked and it didn't lay flush anymore. It has since been fixed for the photoshoot at Anime USA.
The finishing touch was the makeup. I applied pale white-ish vampire body and face makeup, then over exaggerated my features and did dark sunken cheekbones, angry eyebrows, blood red lips. I also wore pointed ear tips, cat eye contacts, vampire fangs and blood red nail polish.
My thoughts on this costume:
This is definitely the most bizarre costume I've ever made. I learned a lot and had fun using new and improvised or thought up techniques. There were some memorable moments of frustration and angst during the making of this costume but overall I loved being able to lose myself in this project and work long hours on it. There was also immense stress on the day of the contest to get ready in time and not mess up the skit. But with the second time cosplaying Carmilla at Anime USA, I was much more comfortable getting into and wearing the costume. The train and sleeves do get heavy after a while of posing with arms raised, and inevitably my lats will hurt on the morning after lol. And I have to take a shower after getting out of costume.. all that scary makeup O_O.
Costumes like this make me love cosplay even more - it's not always about looking pretty and cute, but I can get uglied up and be terrifying and have guys tell me they wouldn't want to meet me in a dark ally lol. In fact, after looking at photos, I thought I looked too "sexy" at NYAF and tried to apply the makeup to be more creepy and freaky for Anime USA.
Here is an article by girlsentertainmentnetwork.com about Anna and me.
See our skit performance here!