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Steampunk Harley’s Cosplay Story 【Essay Competition】

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Article by Susan Hubbard

My name is Susan Hubbard and I’m a 30-something, soon to be 40-something, old school cosplayer from “back in the day” (Back in the day = late 90’s early 00’s).

I was introduced to the word cosplay and dressing up at conventions in 1999 by an online friend. She convinced me to go to Anime Expo and, not knowing any better, I only brought one costume. It was Super Sailor Moon, my favorite Sailor Moon incarnation. It was so exciting to see so many people who had similar interests as me. The dealer room was amazing. This was back before there many online shops, so the dealers actually had a wide range of hard to get items at great prices, instead of at or just below retail.

The fun I had was astronomical. Before the first day was done, my friends and I already decided to return the following year with more costumes.

My older costumes were rarely handmade because I didn’t know how to sew. I am quite adept at modifying and altering to get to what I want. Thrift stores and budget clothing store were useful to someone with barely a budget!

I would go on to attend many other conventions. I would bring in old friends to the hobby and meet new ones at the conventions, many of whom I still keep in touch with via Facebook.

Several years ago, in an effort to be “managerial”, I stopped dyeing my hair fun colors, tried to look how people expected, and worked myself to the point of exhaustion that I no longer traveled to conventions nor desired to make costumes.

After 6 years devoting myself to a particular company, someone with a little bit of power found a way to get rid of me. I spiraled into a deep depression lasting just over a year.

 

What turned my costuming bug back on was when my husband and I were asked to photograph a friend’s wedding. It was a come as you are event and costumes were encouraged, including steampunk. My wheels spun for a bit. I had no money for anything new, but I had all these wonderful pieces I had collected and never worn through the years (I hoard pretty things, what can I say, I’m a magpie). I was able to put together my initial idea for a steampunk Jedi, which went over very well. To be surrounded once again with people who appreciated my efforts was so amazing! I needed to do more!

Once again, I am having fun with my hair & clothes and I’ve fallen in love with cosplay all over again.

Creating Steampunk Harley was a little bit of an evolution. After creating a steampunk Jedi, I was initially going to go into the opposite direction with a steampunk sith. Once it started to form in my head, I realized that it was also pretty damn close to what I would envision a steampunk Harley Quinn would be.

 

Although I was able to purchase the focal/inspiration point that was the corset, I could find nothing that I was envisioning, at least not affordably.

So, I dragged out the Possessed Sewing Machine.

The Christmas after my first convention, my grandmother gifted me a sewing machine. I could never get it to work. It would clunk and chug, and eat my fabric. I shoved it in the closet, hoping the day would come where I could conquer it. It followed me through two moves, sitting in the box it came in and gathering dust.

I turned to a friend with some sewing experience. She confirmed my suspicions that the bobbin was faulty. She was able to get it going somewhat, but her machine experience is limited.

After making a few curtains, I was ready to try making my skirt. It was frustrating, to say the least. None of the stitches would stay straight and none of the adjustments did anything. After many tears and aggravation, I managed to complete it. It didn’t look 100% how I wanted and it didn’t lay right, but I made it on my own!

I debuted V1.0 at a small, one day, local comic-con and it went over crazy well! I was so excited that people “got it.” Once I saw the full costume in a photo, I knew I had to redo the skirt. I contacted another friend who used to make historical costumes to come help troubleshoot my very troubled sewing machine.

 

Once we got everything going, she realized just how many problems my machine had. She took it apart and we found bits of fabric I never used. Turns out Gram bought a refurb :x

My husband, overhearing all this, flat out told me to just get a new machine, despite our budget watching at the time. I ordered it that night via Amazon.

Once I got a sewing machine that actually worked, I went right ahead to upgrading and evolving the look. I not only made a skirt, but its bustle, fingerless gloves, and gaiters.

My highlight convention experience in the costume so far is when I met the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, for a photo op. He took a step back to admire it and proclaimed my costume “fantastic!”

Harley Quinn has become my primary cosplay persona. I adopted her because my husband says she reminds him of me <3 I even have her diamonds tattooed on my ring finger to take the place of my wedding band. Besides my steampunk variant, I also have put together the Bombshell version and bought the Injustice 2 costume from XCoser (I promise I’ll take pictures as soon as I lose a few more inches of my thighs!! HA HA HA). 😊 

Article by Susan Hubbard

 

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