Being an artist of any kind is a process of continual improvement. All artists start bad and get better, usually in painfully small increments. We all start with Play-Doh crayons and popsicle sticks. Through the investment of time and more often than not, money, we gain skills and resources that let us create better and better works.
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:
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.
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.
I added a majestic crotch flag to adorn my loins. Imperfect, but a way to test my ideas of laser-cut applique.
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:
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?