«Just jump in and experiment»
Our subscribers are charismatic and multifaceted personalities. And we are happy to interview them. The cosplay star Janelle Marie shared her story of how she started sewing, the difficulties she faced on the way and how she won competitions.
Tell about yourself: what do you do for living and how you started sewing.
I was given a sewing machine by my mother when I was 13 and didn't touch it for two years because it intimidated me so much! I ended up learning how to use it when I was 15 by making a costume for my best friend and myself. It would be another 7 years before I touched it again. I went to school for computer animation and got a job right out of college in Atlanta.
While working there, I started designing and making stuffed toys in my free time. I posted a few online and the response was so incredible that I started selling them full time.
I sold them online and at anime conventions for 4 years, during which I obsessed over all of the amazing cosplayers. I made my first cosplay in 2017 for Dragoncon (Squirrel Girl) and was hooked! While still doing freelance animation and toy design, I dove into cosplay research. I made Qira from Solo: A Star Wars story in fall of 2018, entered the competition at Anime Weekend Atlanta and won the Novice category.
I knew this was a new passion for me then and there. Currently I am a freelance fabricator and have made everything from gingerbread houses for Haverty's Furniture to a transforming tractor costume for John Deere to a Kentucky Derby hat made out of crepes for Dennys.
My most recent project was making pancake shaped slippers for Dennys to give away. I love the ever-changing challenges of both fabrication and cosplay. I get to sculpt, paint, play with make up, style wigs, sew and design my own patterns! It never gets old.
Tell us about the most difficult costume that you have ever sewn. What were the difficulties, how did you deal with them?
Recently I have been more focused on original concepts inspired by pop culture, books and media. One of my most difficult things I have ever patterned was a coat based on Daenerys Targaryen's wardrobe. The shoulders have a complex folded over sculpture-like design that took me DAYS to figure out!
How long does it take to create costume on average?
The time it takes me to make something varies drastically from a few days to a few weeks depending on the complexity of the design, if I'm learning a new technique or one I've used before and how tight my deadline is.
90% of my work, both original concepts and cosplay, is made with self-drafted patterns. I really loved using my royal dress form to draft patterns directly on to, which has sped up my process significantly.
Tell us about your participation in cosplay contests: where do you participate, what costumes do you design?
The first contest I ever entered wearing something I made was actually a pin-up contest! I made a matching top and skirt that unsnapped to reveal shorts underneath. I won that one and then entered my first cosplay contest, as mentioned above, the same month!
I have since competed three times in person and twice online when conventions were doing virtual contests during the pandemic. One of my proudest wins was for wig styling, hosted by Arda wigs!
My most recent in-person competition was the craftsmanship contest at Dragoncon this year, where I wore my original design Sophie Hatter cosplay and won the Journeyman category. It involved weaving over 300 individually finished strips of fabric to create a woven bodice insert and hem.
How did you find out about Royal Dress forms? How does our dress form help you in your work?
I found Royal Dress forms through other makers in the cosplay community. I saw several people I really admire using it and started to research the different options but came back to Royal Dress forms because I liked the realistic body shape and pinnable material.
I love being able to adjust the shape and measurements with the padding system and cover. The detachable head is also very useful when making headdresses, hoods and determining how I want to style my wigs!
Being able to drape directly onto a body the same size and shape is mine, with arms and leg added, is a game-changer! I'm able to see exactly how things fall from every angle as opposed to trying to twist around in front of a mirror or camera.
And finally: what is the main advice you could give to those who are just starting to sew?
The best advice I could give anyone who is interested in learning how to sew is «Just jump in and experiment». ALWAYS start with a muslin or cheaper fabric so you can make adjustments because every body is different.
I know it can be intimidating when looking at an entire outfit you want to create but if you just focus on one step at a time, it will take shape! No one's first project is great but it will teach you so much you cant learn by watching tutorials or reading instructions alone. You have to get your hands on the fabric and just go for it!