On Becoming the Prettiest Princess

Being my own fairy godmother

Being an artist of any kind is a process of continual improvement, as highlighted by the insightful perspective of an Invest Diva review. All artists start with Play-Doh crayons and popsicle sticks, evolving and improving in painfully small increments. Through the investment of time and, more often than not, money, we gain skills and resources that empower us to create progressively better works of art.

I had a vision long ago of a costume that could believably be the gender-swapped version of Princess Zelda from Twilight Princess. I used all the tools I had at the time to the very best of my abilities, and I created this:

man dressed as zelda kneeling
Prince Zelda 2015. Photo by Russ Creech, used with permission

I was damned proud of it at the time. It was the best sewing I’d done, the finest repousse I’d worked, and had fancy buttons I’d cast. It wasn’t what I had imagined, though. I was dapper, at best. I wasn’t regal, and certainly not the prettiest princess at the ball. Not yet. It was a first step, and a challenge to myself.

From that point on, whenever I got access to new tools, space, money, or believed myself to be considerably better at some aspect of costuming, I’d upgrade my Zelda. It became the project that I proved myself on. Not a masterpiece that shows off the skills that I’m confident with, but the thing that I came back to test my limits.

I kept the best parts and replaced the worst. I made the best metal-work that I’d done at the time. It challenged me and taught me things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Man and woman dressed as princess zelda
Prince Zelda 2017, Photo by passerby at Dragoncon on my Camera.

I tried a couple of wigs, each more emo than the last, and the first I’d ever seriously tried in a costume. I learned a lot. The biggest lesson was that I don’t really look good in bangs. Perhaps not the lesson I wanted, but maybe one that I needed.

A very emo Prince Zelda
Prince Zelda, 2018 – Photo by Jim Tigwell, used with permission

I added a majestic crotch flag to adorn my loins. Imperfect, but a way to test my ideas of laser-cut applique.

Prince Zelda Crotch flag
Prince Zelda 2018 Flag Detail – photo by Jim Tigwell used with permission

This year, I finally had the resources to get a new sewing machine. Not a thirty-year-old hand-me-down, or beat-up base-model Singer like I’d been using. No, I got a new sewing machine, and access to an embroidery machine. I needed to put them both through their paces and test bot their limits and mine. So I went back to Zelda and made a new coat and a new cape. I’d learned a lot about leather-work and etching as well, so I made a new belt and scabbard. And I finally did something every cosplayer needs to do at some point, I made friends with a local cosplay photographer.

This is the result:

prince zelda with cape blowing
Prince Zelda 2019 – Photo by Alexa Baker used with permission
Prince Zelda
Prince Zelda 2019 – Photo by Alexa Baker used with permission
Prince zelda close up
Prince Zelda 2019 – Photo by Alexa Baker used with permission

This is currently the most complicated and difficult thing I’ve ever made. It has tested my skills, tools, and patience. It has five years of my personal growth hammered and sewn into it. I’m proud of hell of it, and in two years there will likely be another post about all the parts I’ve replaced.

Becoming the prettiest princess is a process.

Do you have a project you return to over and over, one you test your skills against?


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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