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Aug 13-14, 2016
Today I spent a few hours sewing a piece in my Luffy costume. It isn't completely finished but you can see the results below. What needed to be sewn? The shirt was originally a tank top from American Apparel. While Luffy wearing a red tank top is absolutely acceptable in a pinch, it needs to be a 3 button vest to suit say Season 3 Episode 78 where they leave the island of the giants and Nami is sick, so they go to the winter island.
If you're incredibly lazy, sewing isn't necessary for this cosplay. If you don't intend to wash the shirt or wear it more than a handful of times (shame, shame!), then a cut shirt will actually look reasonably authentic. A really good reason to sew a cosplay is to reduce the likelihood of fraying. Many fabrics when cut will fray. The cotton from this shirt almost certainly will fray in the washer. If you've never sewn a garment, you probably didn't know that because a part of the professional sewing business is ensuring that doesn't happen. Exceptions exist, but Luffy's shirt is most certainly not frayed and you won't want yours to be either.
Two interesting and new things I tried on this shirt: Hemming and a variation of lock stitch. Hemming seems pretty easy, go back and forth over the frayable part, assuming I understand correctly. It's done best with a machine, but I don't have a machine, so by hand. I tried it on one side but not the other, so we'll see if there's any difference after it goes through the wash. The second thing I tried was a variation of lock stitch that is by hand. Lock stitch is a machine stitch where a second thread is interwoven with the thread being pushed through the fabric which pulls the two against one another. You can see it in a lot of clothing because of course clothing is stiched by machines. So what I did was I ran a thread on the underside of the stitch interwoven. Because the other side wasn't pulling on it, it didn't have the same affect. What it did improve was the likelihood of a thread breaking causing a catastrophic failure. Say the main thread breaks, it'll pull out but the secondary thread will still have some connection to the neighboring threads. Or that's the idea. Who knows if it will actually work. I'm not going to break a thread just to try it out. Maybe on a test garment. Since thread is cheap and the process is not terribly difficult, I'll try it out a bit more.
How much did the Luffy costume cost? I originally bought the hat and shirt years ago but I think the hat was around $10 and the shirt was around $20-30. Add in spool of red thread, a few strips of red duct tape, and a pair of cutoffs I made from a pair of old jeans and it's a total of $33-43 not counting labor which is free. Did I mention the red duct tape? I could have used a yard of red cotton which sells for about $5 per meter, but when I have a whole roll of red duct tape, who really cares what the fabric is made of and if it's a tad misshapen?
So in order to finish the shirt, I had to buy a spool of red thread. How much does 114 m of red thread from Mexico cost? $2.49 before tax. Since I was going to a craft store I decided to make a list of things I needed. Seam ripper, needle threader, bobby pins, buttons, fabric. Because I was in a store instead of buying online, I looked around and found all kinds of awesome things that are totally out of my price range until I become a professional (or at least people-buy-this-on-Etsy professional) tailor. If you want a halloween costume or cosplay and it's too expensive, send the design (not the thing you want me to copy, the design) and I'll let you know what I can do. I recently looked at cosplay outfits and compared the price to the price of the fabric -- yeah, they're profitable enough to factor in labor and sales and marketing.
I asked the nice floor manager what her cheapest fabric was. She asked what I intended to use it for. Practice, to improve my skill. The thing is if you're spending $6 per yard on good fabric (I did and I'm not ashamed of it) you will have the problem that any mistake is an expensive one. At $2 per yard, you can afford to make 2 yard mistakes. Who has lost $4 in an hour to a hobby? Who has lost $12 in an hour to a hobby? There is an opportunity cost lost when you make a mistake, but more importantly $12 is a lot of money. Who reading has lost $300 in a rapid realization but known that they can get it all back by putting in a few dozen hours and a few diodes? So I bought about 3 meters of unbleached muslin at around $1.88 per meter. Of course, it's not per meter, it's per meter times 0.9 meters because length and width. And obviously there's a thickness as well that we disregard because it's less than a millimeter. An online retailer says this about muslin: "ideal for making hung curd, soy milk, cottage cheese and more. Just squeeze and press chunks of tofu wrapped in this muslin cloth to discard excess moisture. You can also use it for straining liquids such as broth and stock." Okay, I guess I didn't think of that but I'm going to be making incredibly low quality clothes out of them and then I'm going to critique those clothes in order to improve my sewing skill.
I'll keep you informed of what happens to the muslin.
If you've been reading my blogs carefully (no worry if you haven't, it's a lot to read), you will probably wonder: where was the muslin produced? What does where fabric was produced have anything to do with anything? Repair, Don't Replace spent a long time talking about garment industry and why you shouldn't buy clothes if you have any reason to suspect that they have been produced in a sweatshop. My sewing project is partly in response to the terrible conditions and the unethical justification of sweatshop labor in the garment industry in countries that I would refuse to work in. If you would refuse to work in those conditions, you should refuse to buy clothing from countries where those conditions exist. This harms the good garment producers as well as the bad garment producers but since it has been a race to the bottom since 1995 or before, those good garment producers were already under significant market pressure. The only reason there are good garment producers in the world is because wholesalers, retailers, and customers demand them. And how does one demand them as a consumer? Retailers and wholesalers have made it nay impossible to choose, so consumers who care about ethics must choose not to buy clothing from any of these sources. American Apparel, American Giant, and a hundred other garment manufacturers have unimpeachable standards for their factory working conditions, but there are some things they won't be able to sew for you.
That said, the muslin I bought was made in China, a place where I would not buy clothing for any reason. Why do I have a different standard for clothing and fabric? Fabric is a much different production process than clothing. While fabric is machine intensive, garments are labor intensive. That's right, the cost of a garment is significantly more than the cost of the fabric that the garment was made of. It comes logically that a garment requires fabric, machines, and the labor to produce the garment where fabric requires none of the machines or labor to produce the garment. Any mistreatment of workers in a fabric factory would be a fraction of that in a garment factory if at all. While I would still prefer American made fabric (or fabric from any country I would be willing to live and work), I am willing to accept fabric from any country so long as I don't have direct evidence of bad treatment of workers. How many garment retailers or wholesalers have written the previous paragraph in different words?
Yesterday I finished my first piece of legitimate clothing from scratch. It was bicycle shorts. I won't be posting a photo until I can get someone to take an photo of me on my bicycle because it's a little embarassing to wear skin-tight clothing for the Internet. Thanks those who have learned the hard way that the Internet isn't all kitties and awesome. If you don't want someone to alter a photo of you, don't take the photo or get a piece of hardware that is airgapped to take it.
Another cosplay I did back in March and never posted (sorry about that) was my Doc Ido from 銃夢. If you've read Battle Angel Alita or watched Battle Angel, you know who I'm talking about.
No sewing was required for that costume, but if you look closely, I had to make a pair of eyeglasses. Since my budget was about $5, I made the frames out of galvanized steel wire I had from 2000, the lenses from burnt CDROMs I had lying around, and the only piece that cost a cent today: nosepads. The refractive grating on the CDROMs made rainbow colored lights around any light source, which was very awesome and also made it impossible to wear the glasses for more than a few hours. I recommend real lenses (say a pair of cheap $10 glasses) if you have the money to buy a pair. The correct name for the type of glasses is pince-nez if you're searching the Internet for a pair. It literally means pinches nose in French and is not pronounced how it looks in English. The lab coat cost ~$30 from University of Washington Bookstore. The rest of the costume I had. The dot on my forehead is the mark of the Tiphareans drawn in marker.
So what's my next cosplay? It's almost certainly going to be Hal from WORLD END ECONOMiCA, a delightful visual novel about a young guy on the moon. Easily worth a playthrough or if you're lazy, you can watch someone else play it through. But I definitely prefer reading it, you'll thank me later. What does Hal wear traipsing about the moon? Grey shirt, long brown shorts, brown plasticy boots, blue overcoat, and a long dark red scarf that defies gravity (which is significantly reduced on the moon, I'm sure you know if you've ever talked to anyone about the moon for even a short amount of time). Why do I like Hal? Because he's living the best possible life in the universe. And that's something I enjoy roleplaying.
- Ido -- The cybernetic doctor who isn't a cyborg himself, leaves the paradise of Tiphares to serve the poor inhabitants of the scrapyard. Everyone idolizes him, he happens upon one of the best martial artists in the universe on a scrap heap, he happens upon one of the strongest fighting bodies in the universe on the scrap heap, and then the story starts and he's just there to be the symbol of hope. His character flaws are important and non-trivial, but only make the story better.
- Luffy -- Luck abounds, eats one of the best devil fruit giving him basically unlimited energy with only one drawback. Has very few character flaws, basically they wrote him as never being wrong. He repeatedly says "海賊王に成るな!" or in hiragana "かいぞくおうになるな!" which translates into "I'm going to become the pirate king!" Luffy doesn't get tiring after all the episodes I've watched, which is a fraction of how many exist.
- Captain Tylor -- Unlikely space ship captain during an unpopular intergalactic war against technically superior aliens. Luck and irresponsibility together means this character's flaws are his strength. Never do they get to the point where Tylor has done something so horrible that no one is willing to forgive him a few days later. He does some awful things and gets away with it. I will cosplay Tylor as soon as my sewing skill improves and I luck upon some of the necessary pieces.
- Spike -- martial artist, space pilot, bounty hunter living on a space ship with everything he hates: brats, critters, and women with attitude. Extreme bad luck keeps the show going and makes this character likeable even though he is ... no spoilers even though Cowboy Bebop is 20 years old.
- Keitaro Urashima -- ronin and unlikely girl's dormitory manager who is repeatedly abused by a few of the violent residents, falls in love with someone he doesn't know the correct identity of.
- Rurouni Kenshin -- wandering swordsman decides to settle down with a group of misfits who gather around him when they see that he's practically the best warrior in the universe despite the handicap-made-superstrength of true pacifism. He won't kill his enemies but he will struggle endlessly with his past while he defeats Japan's greatest swordmen and a couple characters that have odd superpowers.
- Shinji Ikari -- Easily the most malign of all my top choices, Shinji is the unlikely pilot of EVA-01, a giant robot. Coerced to pilot the robot in situations that become unsustainable and horrible, he loses his perspective over and over again. So what does Shinji have that Asuka or Rei doesn't? Because he's the main character, he gets to choose where the story goes and even though he isn't the hero we want, he's the hero we deserve. While most of us wouldn't be so wishy-washy about saving the human race, Shinji doesn't have the advantage of being an otaku watching Evangelion for the sixth time. When I was Shinji's age, I was Shinji without the whole giant robot thing.
- Vash the Stampede -- Misfortunate blonde with a long red coat, followed by two insurance girls who unsuccessfully attempt to hinder him acting out. An obvious character for this list, the incredibly important plot points that I won't spoil even though Trigun is 20 years old.
- Tenchi -- Surrounded by every good female stereotype, Tenchi ... I forget it's been so long.
- Light Yagami -- Kira, owner of the Death Note, has delusions of grandeur because of his over-acceptance of eye-for-an-eye justice as a means of deterrant and retribution, but still doesn't become unlikeable enough to lose crowds. His costar did overshadow him, but L is just another perfect person on this list.
- Alphonse Elric -- Despite a terrible alchemy accident and being an orphan, Alphonse is a suit of armor and is likeable for as far as I followed the anime. Because he isn't the fullmetal alchemist, the fate of the world doesn't rest on his shoulders. His character flaws are important but he's young. His brother, Edward doesn't get a spot on this list.
- Tadayasu -- A less popular choice from Moyashimon can see all manner of microscopic things and doesn't have the intelligence to translate that into superpowers or wealth. He still knows how to have a good time.
- Kintaro -- A genius law school dropout finds entry-level jobs in the vicinity of women in Golden Boy. Sexual harassment is a joke in this very perveted ecchi anime.
- Kyon -- The victim of God (Haruhi Suzumiya) survives a handful of ridiculously implausible scenarios during high school. Has a good time and doesn't have to worry about existential crisis.
- Great Teacher Onizuka -- punk who is a complete idiot becomes a teacher at a very troubled school. The fact that he can't read or write complex kanji doesn't matter because he wins over the students making him irreplaceable. He uses his effort to actually help the students giving them a chance at premature enlightenment (for example, Tomoko).
- Naota -- Unfortunate victim of a space pirate and the whimsical girl who is in love with him (the space pirate, not Naota), the corporation that wants to destroy the human race, and the quasi-government agency organized to stop the space pirate. All of that comes to a head in each episode when Naota shows his complete and total bravery only in the face of annihilation. Just an amazing character surrounded by deep characters.
- Naruto -- Overpowered and ambitious but unskilled ninja becomes the most powerful ninja even though just about everyone has unique physics-defying super powers. The anime goes to hell after a while but that happens.
- Sato -- Another unpopular character from Welcome to the N.H.K. is the perfect posterboy for NEET, which is an awful trend in Japan and around the world where people retreat from society. How is he a member of this list? He is pursued by a helpful girl who has a good reason to cure him. He is sympathetic and overcomes adversity in a way we don't expect despite him having the full house of character flaws.
I'm sure I forgot a few. Why is this a common theme across anime subgenres as well as other genres of film and book? Probably because it's a wish fulfillment fantasy that easily hooks young guys like me who are easily amused by guys getting their way. Entertainment is not always about eating your vegetables, sometimes there's gotta be an awesome character that gets to be the hero. There's a more deep answer than this, but I'll leave that for the reader to contemplate and add as a comment.
If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, leave them below.
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