Saturday, December 22, 2012

How To Make A Fi Cosplay From Zelda: Skyward Sword

It seems like my cosplay debut pace is about 1 new costume per year. Pretty slow, but I'm hoping to change that as time goes on. I have so many ideas and inspirations for new outfits!

Come read all about how I brought Fi to life through the magic of cosplay! The below photo is an updated version of the outfit. This post shows how I made the old version and I will talk about the newer version below all that.

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

If you would like the short version of how I made this costume, watch my YouTube video below. If you want to see lots of work in progress photos and read looooots of details to get a better idea of how everything worked, read on.

In 2012 I showed up to Anime Banzai in Layton, UT dressed as Fi from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I loved that game overall, though sometimes the gameplay was tedious or outright nervewracking (those spirit levels! So many near heart attacks!!). The storyline and music really nailed the feel of the whole Zelda series and it was so cool to know that this was where everything started. Flying around on giant birds? HECK YES. The characters were awesome.

And then there's Fi.

legend of zelda fi official art skyward sword

Fi is part of the storyline, but the game developers also use her as an annoying sidekick that even breaks the fourth wall and tells you your batteries are dying. She's a more dynamic Navi. She speaks in some ancient gibberish language (which ultimately works out since you never hear the speaking voices of the other characters throughout the series). I did like her elegant, graceful dances when she helps Link gain new power. Her singing face is downright scary though.

I'm not exactly sure why I chose Fi. I've seen several approaches from other cosplayers and wanted to try something a little different. It's a design that's beautiful in its simplicity and elegance.

The main thing I wanted to get right for Fi was the arms. Her shoulders and arms are supposed to be reminiscent of the Master Sword hilt, so to me, that meant a sculpted look. In the game, Fi looks like she is sculpted from ceramic, glass or metal with a glossy shine. I wanted to make sure the hair and the arm pieces were the right shape.

Here is how I did the arms:

Patterning out the arm "wings"

I had a large piece of Astrofoam on the bottom, then 3 "U" shaped pieces glued with hot glue on top of that. There are also darts in the bottom piece to help create a rounded shape.

Both wing forms

I bought some satin and glued it over the foam forms. See how it creates that "sculpted" shape?

Both wing forms with fabric glued over them.

Bottom side of the forms.

My camera is terrible at picking up light at night. Anyway, here I am just making two long rectangles of satin to create the ruffles on the edges of the wing forms.

Here is how the forms look with ruffles attached.

Next, I'll show you how I did the headpiece. Fi has a very precise "hairdo" that looks like ice cream with a little point on top. It's really cute!

I used 2 pouches of white model magic and rolled it out with a rolling pin. I wanted to get uniform thickness as much as possible.

I wrapped my own head with plastic wrap and masking tape, marking the masking tape with where the bangs needed to be on my head. Then I got a wig head, put the plastic wrap form over it and stuffed it a little so I could have a decent head double. Following the marked guides on the masking tape, I shaped the model magic over the head into the shape I wanted.

Model magic is a marshmallowy substance. It isn't easily smoothed down like clay. I had lumps and imperfections everywhere, which is alright because I planned to cover it with the satin I used for the cowl/wings. Her hair and face match her wings so it made sense to use the same fabric.

Model magic smells weird as it dries. When it does dry (this took about two days in the thickest parts) it feels just like a dried marshmallow. Still flexible, but holds its shape.

Basically I've created a "helmet" that fits very snugly to my head. This wig head has a strange was donated to me by my grandma but I don't know whether she drew it on. Someone also wrote in pen on the bottom: "Don't fart". Knowing my dad and two uncles, I bet all of it has a lot to do with them...

Now the fun part...pinning darts into the satin that will cover the head. I had to decide where the most strategic places would be for seams. Her head should be seamless, but the available materials limit us cosplayers sometimes.

Excess fabric is cut off and darts are tight to the head.

After I took the satin off the head, I had to cut a copy of the flattened shape on the other side of the fabric because the bangs are asymmetrical.

 The head form as it dries. There were lots of little wrinkles from the plastic wrap that was underneath.

I feel like something out of The Wizard of Oz or Whoville :D

Next I sewed the darts in the satin and hot glued the satin onto the Model Magic form. I really like the results!

There are some wrinkles here and there but overall it looks good from the front.

For the under dress, I used a basic sleeveless dress pattern and added a hem to the bottom that is padded with quilt batting. Also just sewed some gold ribbon onto it.

The cowl was pretty easy to figure out. I took a duct tape dress form and just started pinning and pinning...

Cowl glamour shot to show how tight it is to my neck. Also I put the wings with it to kind of gauge how it was looking. Eventually I sewed the wings right onto the cowl. There is an invisible zipper in the back that lets me get the cowl/wings piece off with minimal effort (though I do usually need someone else to unzip it).

Let's talk about the fun part: making the big jewel!

I had never done anything like this before so it was a big exciting experiment. I had seen other cosplayers do amazing things with resin casting so I bought some EasyCast from Hobby Lobby. Check out my adventure:

Started out with cardstock to come up with the shape and size of the jewel.

 I wanted to create fill lines on my mold so I figured out the bottom dimensions of the jewel and stuck that piece in the mold pattern and marked it.

See this plastic model magic box? It's about to be dissected...

Used my pattern to cut out the pieces from the Model Magic plastic box. This was a huge risk because I didn't know whether this plastic would tolerate the chemical reaction OR the heat involved with resin casting. I took my chances because it was the only way I could think of at the time and the box had such nice flat surfaces. It worked out luckily.

 Mold with fill marks put in with sharpie. I simply used clear packaging tape to stick the pieces together.
At least I was careful about one thing: my own personal safety!

Here is my setup: the mold, stuck in a piece of model magic to keep it level, some newspaper, a paper plate, some craft sticks for stirring and the EasyCast resin.

For the dye, I used blue and green food coloring. I heard from someone else that it would work "in a pinch". It mostly worked...but it didn't dissolve completely so there are little dark dots all throughout the cast. Don't be lazy like me--use the official resin dye you can find at Hobby Lobby or online.

Okay, so it actually worked somehow, with the exception of the mold leaking quite a bit because my taped seals didn't go all the way up the sides. They DID cover the area I needed however so I still got my full jewel out of it. One more reason not to be lazy!

For the jewel setting I was going to try bits of Astrofoam covered in gold lamé fabric. This turned out to be too bulky.

After a while, I suddenly remembered I had a glitter Foamie sheet! Way easy to make a pretty jewel setting from. Some cutting and glue and it's done!

I glued some fleece fabric onto the back of the jewel for easy attachment to the cowl. I simply sewed it into the cowl :)

Before I had a Dritz dressform...I taped my duct tape dress form to my vacuum for pictures. You CAN do amazing things with limited resources! Haha.

Believe it or not, the greatest struggle I had with this costume was the legs. Fi has these stockings with a very precise pattern down them, black background with teal diamonds.

My first failed attempt with with opaque black stockings, fabric glue and ribbon.

The fabric glue I bought comes in a clear bottle. I used a cheap paintbrush to put it in the precise areas I wanted, the junctions on the diamonds. Unfortunately that glue is really awful to work with and has the consistency of snot. It also shrinks a little when it dries, leaving me with a wrinkled mess of ribbon. Sorry the picture doesn't show much (again, problems with lighting at night) but you can kind of see what I'm talking about. It was a shame too because the ribbon was the perfect color and width.

When I went to Banzai I didn't have stockings ready so I just wrapped some ribbon up my legs a couple times to my knee. No one really noticed but I still want to do better than that for next time.

I went shopping online for some black diamond pattern stockings that are see-through on the diamond edges. You would not believe how hard it is to find just the right size diamonds for Fi, haha.

I found something with smaller diamonds that will work for now. Underneath those tights I will wear a pair of mint green ones that show through the diamonds. This picture is awful for lighting but the effect in real life is pretty good.

One note of warning: Do NOT try to order anything from Forever 21. My horror story is as follows:

1) Picked out two pairs of stockings from their website.
2) Tried to order, got an error message that wasn't specific.
3) Luckily their chat was working and employee told me that at the time, Paypal wasn't working with their site.
4) So I pay with credit card and it works.
5) I order expedited shipping in order to try and get stockings by Banzai. It's $16 for shipping.
6) Get an email I think 2 days later that my stockings are shipped, but one pair wasn't in stock so they refunded me for that one. (Seriously? you let me order it but you don't have it? who is taking care of your website?!)
7) Get my one pair of stockings A WEEK LATER. My other stockings, the diamond ones, came like 4 days sooner and that was on a regular shipping option from an Ebay seller!!
8) Wrote an email to Forever21 customer service, asking to get my expedited shipping $16 back since I didn't believe there was anything expedited about it at all. (the stockings themselves were only like $6 so that was most of my order price!).
9) No response from Forever21 to this day.

Moral: Do not order online from Forever21. You will probably be sorry...

Anyway...back to Fi. For her face, I've seen a couple different approaches. Most people go with a mask, but it's those generic masks from the hobby stores that have really creepy face shapes. Fi has a cute young lady face with large almond eyes. I debated for a while on whether to do a mask. I bought one from JoAnn that I believe I can form into something that resembles Fi with a little dremeling and paint work. It's shaped like a butterfly but I can fill in the gaps.

Would Link players want THIS following them around a con? We'll see.

Mostly I just think it's offputting for people to look at and talk to a mask. I had the same dilemma with my Sailor Moon transformation costume. For Banzai, I decided to go with face makeup.

I bought some stage makeup from the local costume shop, TaylorMaid. It's called Ben Nye in the color "blue spirit", which was more than appropriate for Fi. It's a dry cake powder and you can apply it with a wet brush directly onto your skin.

Here's a little makeup test I did before the con. I did a darker blue on the lips with some eyeshadow powder, but my lips started tingling. I decided that was probably a bad thing and didn't do it again.

I absolutely LOVE this makeup. It is light and breathable and doesn't make you feel hot or uncomfortable. I barely remembered I had it on. It matched the light blue satin really closely.

It will rub off onto other things a little bit at a time, but it stayed on all day at the convention with the exception of the area right where I was blowing my nose (it was a little cold and I tend to blow my nose a ton. Gross but true).

I used a dark blue eye liner pencil and some eyeshadow powder to outline my upper eyelid. When I close my eyes it almost looks like Fi's eyes. Mostly though I just kept my eyes open and it still worked. People were able to interact with me and I could emote any way I wanted, so I think I will favor the makeup version of this cosplay. I will certainly try the mask sometime just to see if it looks more like the character.

As for shoes, I totally forgot to take pictures. They are just black pumps from Saver's. Easiest part of this whole crazy thing.

legend of zelda skyward sword fi cosplay cosplayer anime banzai 2012

The best pic from Banzai is the first one we took right outside of the con.

Later on I was invited to be a part of an epic photoshoot at a castle-like location in Provo so I made some adjustments and updates to the outfit. First, the model magic "helmet" started to crack and fall apart so I remade it with some green foam that is about 3/4 inches thick and re-covered it in satin. It's far more comfortable and durable, even if it doesn't hang as close to my head. I also added a little diamond jewel to my forehead using spirit gum

Next, I revamped the setting on the large jewel on her chest. Instead of the sparkly foam, I made it more dimensional using Worbla and gold acrylic paint. It looks way better now.

On the wings I added large pockets for my arms to hang out in so I could flap the wings and stay a little warmer too. The legs are updated with the two layers of tights and I love how they turned out!

Here are my fave photos from our shoot! Link is cosplayed by my insanely talented friend SugarPoultry. You NEED to see her art! She is a master at drawing dragons, werewolves, Dr. Who and so much more. She also sells t-shirts of her work!

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

Let me dance for you!

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

I did a LOT of jumping to look like I was floating! Here I teach Link the Skyward Strike.

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

Master, there's an 85% chance that a giant bird might poop on your head at any given moment.

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

I must go, my people need me!

skyward sword link fi cosplay legend of zelda

I like the feeling of this one. I was trying to evoke the same feeling as this promo art although I couldn't quite remember what it looked like at the time.

 Hope you enjoyed this and that it helps you on your cosplay journey!