Grace has been a costume that I have been planning for over two years now. She is by far one of the most meaningful comic characters in existence to me. I knew that I would not make the costume until I had the resources to make it perfect. It is still not quite there, but I am pretty happy with it. I plan on redoing the wings so they look more natural, and I also have some execution things I need to straighten out. All I know is that after being Grace once, I need to make another one of her costumes. Who knows, maybe when I get in a bit better shape around the midsection I will do the bikini version of her costume.
I was drawn to grace as soon as Aspen Comics put out the first preview of her. Dragonflies are of particular importance to me because of a poem someone sent me after the death of my brother. I even have a dragonfly tattoo on my back. When I saw Grace and her beautiful wings, combined with the fact that she also has a dragonfly tattoo in the same place I felt an immediate connection.
I made solidified my decision to make this costume last year at San Diego Comic Con. Michael Turner has always been a hero to me. He is the sole reason I discovered the world of comics. When I had a chance to meet him at SDCC in 2007, I actually cried. I knew that the next year I wanted to bring Grace to life in order to show him. Unfortunatly, Michael passed away a few months ago. The news of his death was a huge blow to the comic community and it will never be the same.
His passing pushed me harder to make a Grace costume, but also changed my mind as to what costume to wear. My entire office is dedicated to Turners work, and one particular poster of Grace sits next to my desk. It is a print of Grace sitting somberly in a black dress, looking as ethereal as always. I chose to do that costume instead of my previous one in honor of Michael and his work. I felt it was a bit more formal, and there was no denying how beautiful the costume was.
I got to work almost immediately after deciding to make the dress. I picked up a pattern from JoAnns for a one-shouldered evening gown. After picking up the material, I used my moms extensive sewing knowledge to help me sew the dress. It was pretty straight forward, but I am still not to the level of sewing skill I needed to do the dress on my own. I modified the dress a bit to have a slit on one side of the leg. In the poster you can only really see one side of Grace, so I had a a bit of room to play around.
After finishing sewing the dress, I went on to painting. I loved the amazing cloud pattern that trailed up the dress on the poster. The colors were amazing. I bought a ton of different colored fabric paint in metallic colors and went to work. Because the pattern was very random I did not have to worry about it being perfect. I am pretty happy with the results. The only bad thing about the paint is that it made the dress a bit stiff on the train.
Painting the dragonfly was tough and done by hand. I just painted it on with the gold fabric paint and added the gems afterwards. I added the buttons last to the dress and it was done. You can’t really see Grace’s feet in the poster, so I bought some beautiful gold shoes to go with the costume. I love them and don’t feel too bad about them because I know I can wear them for more than this costume.
Next, I started the crown. The problem with Grace is that her hair, wings and crown seem to change in every new comic issue. This made it a bit hard for me to find other reference materials to look at when making her crown. In the end, I looked at them all and made one that was a bit out of my imagination but that I felt Grace would wear. I crafted it out of Wonderflex, painted it gold and attached all the gems with glass glue. It is a bit heavy to wear so I supported it with a golden headband that sits on top my head. After a bit of pinning and positioning it sit just fine. I pinned it to my wig which I ordered from Ebay. I know that I will want to do another Grace costume at some point, so I was thinking about getting a wig that was a bit less costume-specific. In the end, I wanted the costume to be perfect so I decided on a purple and black wig. I fudged the hairstyle a bit on my end because I preffer curly hair to straight hair. The finishing touches of the wig was some glitter spray which made it luminesint as it is in the comics.
Funny story about the wig – someone stole it at SDCC an hour before we were about to leave for the convention. The long and short is that it was sitting out in the hall drying from the glitter spray and I shut the door so one of the girls could change. In that short amount of time someone took it. After breaking down crying, we checked the security footage in the hotel and found who took it, got security to unlock their door and took it back. I hate people sometimes.
Back to the making of the costume. The last part – and obviously the most difficult – was the wings. I had NO idea how I was going to make the inintaily, but LillyXandra of FireFly Path pointed me in the right direction. Grace has realistic wings in that they are meaty – they look like they could support her in flight. They are not demure and delicate, although they are still beautiful. I wanted my wings to look like they were made of flesh and bone. I started with some thick metal wire and made the frame for the wings. I knew I wanted them to go at least down to my knees. I like the wings better when they are spread out for flight, but I knew that I would be walking down crowded isles and so I decided to make them in the tucked back position. After framing them, I added polyester batting to them with liquid latex as adhesive. I made the thickniss vary, adding more batting near joints. When finished with that, I used the liquid latex again to adhere cheesecloth, which combined gave it a bony texture. That whole process was a bit of a nightmare. I finished by painting the wings with a variety of different colors to make them look a bit more realistic and pop a bit. For the actual wing membrane I used irridecnet cloth and attached it again with liquid latex.
The biggest problem came when trying to figure out how to attach them. In the end my dad and I decided to anchor the ends of the wings down into a corset under my dress via PVC tubing. The tubing provided enough length to distribute the weight down the full length of my back, but was VERY uncomfortable and looked a bit more bulky than I would have liked. For this reason I say that I am not quite done with my costume.
I want to remake the wings entirely. I think I went a bit overboard on the bones and want to make them a bit more thin and long. I also want to find fabric that is a bit more transparent, I don’t like how hard it is to see through the iridescent fabric. A also need to find a better way to harness the wings to my costume. It is a bit tricky because it is a one shouldered dress, so the weight needs to rest on my core. The problem is that the corset needs to be tied unbelievably tight to keep the wings from drooping, and that creates undesirable lines where my corset ends at my waist and near my chest. It is not really flattering to have it so tight that it cuts into my underarms and stomach.
So that is the scoop. This costume was hard to make, but unbelievable to wear. I felt regal in it and felt like I did Michael justice. I stopped by the Aspen booth at SDCC, and instantly started crying…something I was really hoping not to do, but I expected would happen. Everyone at the booth was amazing and took the time to talk to me and take photos. Peter Steigerwald – one of the most talented artists in the comic universe – was especially nice and he even followed up with me after the convention. I also ran into another fantastic Grace cosplayer and we had a chance to talk.
As far as shooting this costume goes, I want to do it when I am finished redoing the wings. I plan on shooting Grace on a cliff bluff an hour or so north of my house at sunrise. I feel that the sun coming through her wings as the day starts will be perfect for the ensemble. Don’t worry; I will post those photos when they are taken!