• Stephanie Dola

World Cosplay Summit 2019, UK Qualifier - Adapting Sailor Moon

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

The World Cosplay Summit 2019 qualifiers are nearly complete! I entered the UK qualifying round at MCM Comic Con London in October 2018 and this was my experience.

The Lead Up

So it was only announced in September that UK qualifier for WCS would be moved from the MCM Comic Con in May to the event in October. Understandably, panic ensued among the UK competitive cosplay community. I had originally intended to enter Clara Cow's Cosplay Cup as Sarah from Labyrinth but I didn't read the darn rules properly (kind of a theme for me... Damn it...) which disallows film costumes from qualifying, so that was out.

When I received a message from an old friend in the competition circuit, Enja Cosplay, saying that his original partner had pulled out of the qualifier a perfect storm seemed to come together. He had originally intended to do a Sailor Moon skit as Tuxedo Mask, I happened to have a Sailor Moon costume already (though spoiler alert, that did not save me from sewing until the last possible minute as usual). We decided then to do the contest together as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask and the following weekend I found myself in London working on the costume.

As I said, I already had a Sailor Moon costume that I had made for a photoshoot years ago. The standard was pretty good; the sewing was clean but those accessories... I had made them out of Worbla and very badly. The bow on the back also stuck out far too much and the gloves had turned pink from the terrible paint job I had done on the wand. Additionally, we had decided to go with the Sailor Moon Crystal references so there were a few small things that I had to change to make it accurate to that version: the sleeves needed to be pink instead of clear and the brooches and wand needed to be changed completely (which I was completely fine with because I'd bought one of the brooches and made the second out of a Styrofoam heart covered in Worbla... so really badly).

Luckily for me I was in the presence of an expert. Enja walked me through the entire process to completely remake the brooches, the heart on the choker and the moons on the boots out of resin. We first made the master copies out of varying layers of Sintra, cast these in silicone and then poured in the resin. Enja experimented with various combinations of Cast Magic and different colours of resin and eventually settled on a thick coat of gold Cast Magic and opaque, white resin to get the most metallic look possible. We added an additional coat of metallic gold spray paint, much to my insistence and Enja's dismay, some clear sealant and painted in the different colours and shading with a combination of enamel paint and nail polish. Finally we added lots and lots of glitter nail polish as a top coat, much to Enja's insistence and my dismay, and added the gems on with superglue. When I put it like that it sounds like a really straight forward process but start to finish this all took us about a week's worth of working time.

We were able to sand back and repaint the wing hairclips and what I like to call my 'headlights' to a satisfactory standard. The crown was also remade out of a 1mm sheet of Sintra which we very lightly heat formed and spray painted in gold.

Then. There was. The dress.

I already have the costume I said. This contest will be very little work I said.

What I hadn't taken into consideration was Enja's vision for our skit.

I'm going to write up a more detailed post for how I made my transforming Sailor Moon tearaway but as a quick note it was not as quick as I first planned.

The Skit

We wrote our skit very early on in the process because we only had two weeks from when we submitted our application to the deadline for the audio. One thing we decided very early on is that we wanted our skit to be quite generic, something that would be easily appreciated by everyone, even those who didn't know the series which turned out to be a very good call. We also embraced the fact that the performance was going to be very very cheesy and there was no way of escaping it.

We ultimately decided to play on the magical theme of Sailor Moon. Enja had experience doing magic tricks so we based the skit around Tuxedo Mask performing these tricks before the final trick where I transform from Usagi to Sailor Moon using a spin-out tearaway dress. 

Because we wrote our own script we recorded our own audio using Audacity and a spare microphone Enja had lying around. We did many many takes of each of the lines, so we were quite bored of the script by the end of it (I nearly threw the microphone at Enja for the amount of times he had me say 'school bus', those words have no meaning to me now). This did make it easier when it came to rehearsing the skit though because we knew the script so well.

We started practising a week before the competition, just to get the basic blocking down and start the process of learning the timing for our lines. We didn't have the completed tearaway or some of the tricks at this point so there wasn't much we could do but I did think rehearsing it this early helped us feel a lot more confident on the day as we had a lot more time to become comfortable with the audio.

There were two parts of the performance which I was nervous about, the first of which was the timing at the start of the performance. Where as throughout the rest of the skit we had background music to help with our timing and cues, at the start I did not. I had to rely on counting out steps, which left some room for error if I counted even a little bit faster or slower on the day, something which nerves would make far more likely. The second was pulling that f***ing stopper off of that f***ing cane. After Enja performed his tricks I had a small moment where I make a cane disappear and there were a few times in rehearsal where I just couldn't get the end off of the cane which made it vanish. There was nothing I could really do about that one except just remembering to pull extra hard, especially while wearing gloves as this made it very difficult to pull.

The Day (and the Night Before)

The night before the competition I was up until 2am working on the finishing touches to the costume. This is actually pretty good for me and I managed to get a solid 6 hours of sleep on a con night, virtually unheard of.

Enja arrived early the next morning and we both got ready at the hotel. As is tradition we both had little sewing jobs to complete at the last minute; I attached a few extra poppers onto my tearaway dress and Enja was sewing... something, I have no idea I wasn't paying attention. I decided I wanted to wear my tearaway dress over the top of my Sailor Moon dress throughout the day, mostly because wrapping it around myself took a bit of help and also because it was cold and I am a wimp. This did make me look quite funny while walking around the convention and had the added bonus of completely surprising a few of my friends later on who didn't know the trick and aren't familiar with the transformation cliche.

We got to the con at about 12 o'clock. This was my partner Liam's first Comic Con so we collected our wristbands and had a walk around, agreeing to meet Enja and his partner Lisa at the Cosplay Desk for judging at 1:45. We met up with two more friends coming along to support me which was so nice, they'd never experienced a Comic Con either so I was quite excited for them. My friend Marisa even ended up buying her first wig (her partner Jason was very pleased about this...).

1:45 came around far too quickly. Enja had already signed us in at the Cosplay Desk and checked out audio earlier in the day because he is twenty times more organized than I am so all we had to do was to wait to be brought up. We were taken upstairs to the green room just after 2 o'clock and had to wait there for the last judge to arrive, at which point Enja's nerves started to hit him, though I was still feeling pretty calm. We were first on the judging list as well so when the judges arrived we were called through immediately and it was all downhill from there.

Judging in competitions for me is always a blur and this time was no exception, in fact having two costumes to talk about made it so much more chaotic. We had 5 minutes with the judges so came up with a vague plan before hand where Enja would begin by talking through his costume, spin me out of my tearaway which I would hand over to the judges for inspection while I briefly talked it through and then go through my main costume. I wish we had had more of a plan because I have no idea what I talked about in those five minutes. I think I'd become so absorbed in my costume making that week that I had no idea what construction information was relevant or worth pointing out! When I was spun out of the tearaway we didn't have as much space in the room as we needed so it was a little bit clumsy, I got my pigtails a bit wrapped up in my dress and just popped the rest off. I handed the tearaway over to one of the judges and he pointed at the armhole seams, murmuring something to the judge next to him. They seemed impressed. Thank god.

After that I have no idea what I said or didn't say. Enja nudged me at one point and just said 'time'. Honestly I had no idea that our five minutes had even run out, the middle judge was really nice about it though and said she'd rather we got to say everything we needed to which is unusual with judgings as they are typically pretty strict with time. One of the stewards came to get us eventually and we went onto the balcony to have some photos taken by the official photographer who did an amazing job.

That's when I started to feel the nerves, I think the chaotic judging got my adrenaline going. Oddly this is when Enja started to feel calmer! At this point I was wrapped back up in my tearaway dress so we decided to get a couple of runthroughs in of our performance, which was difficult because we could barely hear the audio from Enja's phone speakers in the large noisy room. We went through the performance three times, missing out the transformation to maximise practice time. Other teams used this time to build set pieces and a few were also practising their performances. After we finished we sat down and waited for the final team to come out of judging and without the distraction of rehearsing I was just a bundle of nerves.

Finally the last team came out and the first three pairs were taken backstage. We got there just as the show was starting and because Enja and I were the first pair on we were already stood ready to go. The stage ninja asked if we were ready as soon as they got the go ahead to start the show and weirdly this is when my nerves disappeared. I had this odd sense of 'we've done all we can so now we're just going to go out there, do what we've practised and whatever happens happens'.

And that's exactly what we did! We gave the ninja the nod and our audio started. I was first on stage and did the intro section which went smoothly, though I did mess up the timing of a line by a fraction of a second. Then Enja entered and performed the magic tricks, which got a bit of a chuckle from the audience. At one point he pulled out a giant card which landed awkwardly at my feet when he threw it. Because of my ridiculous shoes I had to look down and take a very careful step over it so I didn't trip and die (or just make a fool out of myself...). Other than that everything else went very smoothly! I managed to get the end off of the disappearing cane, despite the fact that Enja chose the moment just before we went on stage to warn me it might be more difficult now that it was filled with petals... The transformation happened and got a massive cheer from the audience (though in complete fairness a lot of that may have been my friends and family who took up an entire row and are also generally quite a loud bunch) and that was it! I didn't mess up the ending and we were off!

The Result

Once I got off stage I immediately looked a fellow competitor in the eye and exclaimed 'it's over!'. She was very reassuring of the fact that indeed, it was over, and now I could relax.

But relax I did not...

The nerves came back again full force the moment Enja came up to me. As we had discarded props and other items on the stage the stage ninjas were collecting them to bring to us. I think he took one look at me before he said 'you go, I'll wait here and get the stuff' so I went off to the washroom just to remove myself from the environment. Because I am me I actually ended up taking a wrong turn and walking straight through the middle of a celebrity photo op. Luckily they found it funny and I was able to escape without angering anyone.

When I came back I went straight into the audience to watch the rest of the contest. I came in partway through the fourth performance, which was a skit featuring an adorable Frozen duo doing a twist on 'Love is an Open Door'. So cute. There were only three WCS competitors including us and one of the other teams had already performed when I got back. The second pair was a Kill la Kill group who made quite an entrance. They had the most set up of all of the teams with three large set pieces and the time that the stage ninjas spent setting them up mounted the anticipation. When they started I have to admit I did think they stood a good chance of winning the WCS qualifier, bearing in mind that I hadn't seen the second team. The Satsuki cosplayer opened the performance and she had amazing stage presence; she really embodied the character in her opening monologue with very strong movements and quite a stern demeanour.

After their performance there were a few more C4 entrants before the judges left to deliberate. This was the worst part for me nerves-wise, I absolutely hated the anticipation. Poor Joe, the competition presenter, always has the most difficult time at this point, trying to stall and kill time while the judges discussed the competitors. I remember one year he resorted to a dance off which I wholeheartedly support him bringing back.

Finally, after an eternity of waiting, the judges returned. Enja suggested we head backstage for the announcement so we got up and stood by the stage. All of the contestants were stood in a line just to the side of the stage but because of where we were we couldn't see or hear anything that was going on onstage. We didn't even realize that the first announcement had been made until one of the ninjas started shouting down the line for one of the teams. The understanding from backstage at this point was that it was the announcement for the first runner up for C4 though soon enough we were able to hear WCS being called. We strained to hear and just about made out 'Sailor Moon group' before we were hurried on stage. I was honestly in disbelief as we walked up and collected the obnoxiously large invitation from the judges (which I love and want on my wall forever). We stood towards the front of the stage just absolutely speechless until I looked over at Enja and just said 'dude, we're going to Japan!'. At this point I could make out my family and friends in the audience, who had all stood up and were cheering very very loudly.

The runner up and qualifier for C4 were then announced, congratulations to Kyokyo Cosplays and Dewnor Cosplay for their C4 win! We had our photos taken with the awards and after a little while the lights came on in the theatre and the audience began to file out. My friends came up to us and Liam awarded me my unofficial trophy, which was a keyblade he had bought me earlier in the day as a surprise, either as a trophy or as a 'well done for all the hard work' commiseration award. We all had photos and then I was approached by Joe who explained to me the procedure; it was recommended that we start work on our costumes but take photos of everything as WCS would send us loads of paperwork nearer to the contest and photos would make filling this out much easier. He then explained that MCM would be in touch soon to make travel arrangements for Japan.

After awhile I managed to get over to the Cosplay Desk where all of our things were stored. The first thing I did was take off my shoes, which felt so so so good.

So that was my experience at the World Cosplay Summit UK qualifier at MCM Comic Con London! I hope you enjoyed, if you have any questions please leave a comment and don't forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitch to get updates on how our prep for finals is going! Finally, subscribe to this blog to get more cosplay related content and I'll see you on the next one!

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©2018-2019 by Stephanie Dola.