Fallout 3 Armored Vault Suit, photo by First Person Shooter
Jen, a.k.a Silver Ice Dragon Cosplay, becamed hooked on making costumes in 2011. Since then, she’s crafted artful ensembles featuring detailed armor, masks, and more. We asked her about her initial foray into costuming, what inspired her to continue, and what materials she often uses.
Adafruit: I read you made your first costume in 2011 and that it was inspired by Fallout 3. What specifically did you craft and what inspired you to bring it to life?
Silver Ice Dragon: My first full costume was the armored Vault 101 suit from Fallout 3, basically my character from the game, which I was playing at the time. Other than the fact that I love Fallout, I also chose the costume for practical reasons. I didn’t know how to sew, and so instead I could just buy a jumpsuit and belts and modify them. I didn’t know how to make armor, and the armored pieces were relatively simple. I also really wanted to make a Pip-Boy. That was the hardest part, but also the most fun, because I was able to use my experience with electronics to design a circuit for the LED backlit screen. And because I didn’t really know what I was doing and wanted to keep things cheap, I was very creative with using recycled materials like styrofoam and cereal boxes.
Tyrael from Diablo, photo by Sabertooth Photography
Adafruit: How did starting to attend conventions fuel your interest in cosplay?
Silver Ice Dragon: Prior to attending conventions, the only other chance I would have to wear costumes was Halloween, and most people at Halloween parties wouldn’t recognize the characters I was dressed as and would assume I bought the costume somewhere. However, the first time I went to a convention, I had so many people come up to me to tell me how much they loved my costume. I had people wanting to get their pictures taken with me, people wanting to talk with me about whatever game my costume was from, and even people asking me how I made my cosplay. Because the community was so welcoming and friendly, it inspired me to make increasingly elaborate costumes. I just loved the fact that all my hard work was suddenly getting so much more attention.
Adafruit: Your costume portfolio features some stunning armor. Which material do you find yourself turning to the most for armor or is it a mix of things?
Silver Ice Dragon: I like to use worbla (a thermoplastic) on top of EVA foam for most of my armor because it’s very durable and easy to work with. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with other materials, too – thermoplastics such as black worbla and thibra, which have properties slightly different from the standard brown worbla, and I’d also like to get better at working with foam because it’s lightweight and cheap.
Black Knight armor from Dark Souls, photo by Kyle Matthew Williams Photography
Adafruit: What advice would you offer to other cosplayers about making armor and giving it a metallic finish?
Silver Ice Dragon: If you can afford it, black worbla or thibra is a great choice for making smooth, realistic-looking armor. However, unlike a lot of people that work with thermoplastics, I usually prefer to use a single layer of plastic rather than the two layer “sandwich method.” It’s cheaper, weighs less, and plus, it’s slightly flexible, making it much easier to get into a fitted suit of armor. As for getting a smooth finish, it depends on the piece, but I usually use a combination of spray-on auto body filler, acrylic gesso, spot putty, apoxie sculpt, and, of course, a ton of sanding between layers. Apoxie sculpt is great for filling in major imperfections, like seams, but it also works well for detailing (just don’t use it on a flexible surface!). Spot putty is slightly flexible and good for filling in minor dents, and then the auto filler and gesso get rid of any surface texture. With enough sanding, you can get a very smooth finish that looks great with shiny or metallic paint.
Monk from Diablo 3, photo by Bryan Humphrey: Mad Scientist with a Camera
Adafruit: What new skills have you had to learn for cosplay?
Silver Ice Dragon: Well, before getting into cosplay, I had absolutely no idea how to sew. I never touched a sewing machine before. Now, I’m to the point where I can design my own patterns. I’ve also learned tons of new skills related to armor making – how to make chainmail, working with thermoplastics, and even simpler things like how to use a rotary tool. More recently, I had to learn leather-working techniques for my Dark Souls Abyss Watcher cosplay. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m getting better with each new costume!