There are some fantastic femme fatales in the Batman universe and Poison Ivy has always been a favorite of mine. Hands down. Selena Kyle, who I’ve already tried on for size, is fun and frisky. But Pamela Lillian Isley is a creature all her own. A botanist turned eco-terrorist, Poison Ivy is a character you love to hate, or vise versa. No matter how bad she is, I always find myself rooting (pun intended) for her maniacal and misguided schemes.
Created back in the 60s, Poison Ivy has seen many different costume iterations over the years. I’ve always loved Ivy from the Batman animated series, but the costume was a bit too simple for my tastes. Uma Thurman’s take on Pam Isley in Batman & Robin was a bit more attractive, especially the long and glamorous cape. Ultimately though I drew most from Ivy’s various comic appearances, ending up with the traditional leaf covered leotard and leggings. Can’t go too wrong with that. Still, the end result was more my interpretation of her various outfits than an exact replica of one in particular. While many think of Ivy as a sexpot who manipulates people to her advantage, I always liken her to a classic (and classy) vixen – sexy, but not overtly so. Mysterious and slightly wicked, but only because she believes so strongly in her cause.
I ruled out the green skin immediately. I am a realist when it comes to cosplay, and body paint rarely looks good unless sprayed on by a professional. Starting the costume was easy enough. I ordered a brilliant red wig with big curls from eBay and picked up some green leggings at Target. The bodysuit came from Kohls, and I picked up the red and green leaves at JoAnns. I hot glued the leaves to the bodysuit, which took at least five or six hours and cost me my fingertips. The result was fantastic however, until I tried to get the thing on. Although I made the suit while on a dressform, the hot glue made the entire piece into a cast, so it was impossible to pull the thing over my wide hips or bust. There was absolutely no give. This meant that I had to remove all the leaves from the back, tearing the off in order to give the garment back its stretch. This left the back totally destroyed, and provided me the incentive I needed to make the cape I always wanted.
The cape was easy after finding some nice light green fabric to compliment the darker colors on the bodysuit. I accented the top of the leotard with red leaves, and did the same on the bottom of the cape with some intricate green and red lace. The cape ended up being my favorite part of the outfit, even if I didn’t use it in many of my photos.
I polished off the look with a pair of sequined ruby boots that I already owned, never throwing them away because I knew they would come in handy some day. I added ornamental flowers and ribbons to the sides of the boots and put a matching bloom in my hair. With that, everything came together.
I debuted the costume at FallCon 2008 and it went over well, but I was still pretty unhappy with the fact that the back of the costume was ruined. If I didn’t pose just right you could see where the fabric was shredded. Additionally, the thing didn’t fit very well and ended covering up my curves rather than accentuating them. So I decided to redo the costume entirely before my photoshoot, which I finally got around to this August.
Having learned from the first version, I knew that I would need to make something that resembled a corset – so that I could pull it on and off without ruining the carefully glued leaves. Corsets are expensive, so I opted to use the one I wore under my wedding dress instead of buy a new one. It was an underbust corset, so I decided to stick with the theme from the first costume version and accent a bra with the bright red leaves to play up the color contrast. From there the process was pretty much the same – gluing green leaves on every exposed piece of the corset. It took multiple test runs in the costume and plenty of time in front of the mirror to insure that every inch was covered, but it worked.
After I finished the gluing, I swapped the ties in the back of the corset for some green cording. I finished the costume with a green “leaf thong” that I whipped up quickly, realizing I hadn’t thought of what I was going to wear for bottoms. Since the tights I bought were entirely opaque I didn’t even really need anything, but it would have looked odd not having anything down south.
For the shoot I called on photographer David Nusbaum, who I had worked with once in the past at a group shootout. David has a fantastic eye for outdoor photography in particular, so he was a perfect fit for the concept. Makeup, which helped to pull together the entire project, was courtesy of Ali Beuning, who also did the makeup for my Marie Antoinette ensemble and Elektra costume (pictures coming soon). I only gave Ali a small amount of guidance. She did the bulk of the imagineering herself. I love the leaf eyebrows, making the whole look slightly wicked even when smiling. The red coloring by the sides of the face and green on the neck and collarbone were other great touches.
We scouted out a location near the historic Fort Snelling for the shoot and spent the better part of a day on location. The bulk of the time was spent tramping through the forest looking for interesting growth and structures to pose with. Some of my favorites were a downed tree and some beautiful hanging vines. The pictures look fantastic and effortless in some ways, but the shoot wasn’t easy – especially in heels. I ended up with hives all over my body by the end of the day, stung by every type of spiky plant imaginable. I also realized I was lying in animal scat while on the downed tree a bit too late. But hey, I was one with nature.
When we finished up in the forest we ended the shoot down near the Mississippi river for a few final ideas. I had stitched Pam’s initials onto a straitjacket (yes, I had one lying around), using the prop for a few pictures to make it look like she had just escaped from Arkham Asylum. I am still kicking myself for forgetting that we have branded AA straitjackets at work from the recent game release – a huge missed opportunity in my book. It would have been perfect. But I think you get the idea I was going for.
I was also inspired by a piece I saw of Ivy on Deviant Art, where she appeared to be watering herself in a fun and slightly cheesecake manner. I had purchased a watering can just for the occasion and the water felt great on all the random rashes I was developing on my arms and chest. I ended up in the river for a few shots, thankful for the warm weather, then called it a day. The shoot was a success in my book.
Having recently shot the costume, I think Ivy is retired for the time being – but just until I recruit my friend to whip up a Harley costume. Then the pair of girlfriends will come out to play.
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