After Maria Theresa’s heavy layers and intricate sewing, my next cosplay went the completely opposite direction; I got SUPER into the X-Men in the later part of 2013, and got attached to Mystique. Now, I’d become a pretty competent seamstress by then, so OF COURSE I had to pick the character that involved no sewing whatsoever, and instead required a completely different skillset I still have yet to master. Because that’s logical, right?
Okay, so one might think that there isn’t much “costume” to Mystique. My dad and I, however, beg to differ. Neither of us really had any idea how to pull this off when we started, so the first step was research. LOTS of it. I looked up bodypaint tutorials, how to make silicone prosthetics, the whole nine yards. There was a lot of experimentation involved, and like I said, we still haven’t gotten it quite right.
We started by figuring out what exactly we needed to make. I didn’t want to be completely exposed, both for legality and for the con creep factor. The trick was making something that LOOKED like skin, but still covered the important bits. I went through various designs for making something akin to a bathing suit bottom, and we went for doing molded silicone prosthetics for the top. And yes, that means we have a mold casting of my chest sitting on the shelf in the garage. Imagine having to explain THAT every time someone new comes over for a game of D&D.
Since I don’t have a lot of money, a lot of what we were using was… Well, let’s just say we were finding creative uses for things that were definitely not designed for costuming. The prosthetics were made from silicone caulking reinforced with medical gauze; I wanted to be able to reuse the pieces to cut down on costs, so we had to prevent them from tearing during application and removal. They’re a bit heavy though, so we have to rethink our strategy. We found that it was too thick to allow enough air to dry the adhesive… That made for a rather exciting almost-wardrobe-malfunction during an outing. How many people can say they almost flashed Hollywood Boulevard?
Speaking of adhesives, that was another part we’ve had to experiment with. We tried liquid latex at first, then spirit gum, and I think our latest experiment was an actual adhesive prosthetic. I believe it’s either Ben Nye or Mehron, but I’d have to dig it up again to be sure. I’ve since used spirit gum and liquid latex in tandem while applying smaller things like my ears for my elf characters and Spock, but I found that neither really had the strength to hold something as large as the chest prosthetics. The last adhesive seemed to hold well enough when it was dry, but again, we had trouble getting it to dry completely. We didn’t discover this until, as I said we were in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, and I felt something wet run down my stomach. And you know how in the movies, someone will put a hand to their abdomen, then pull it back and see they’re bleeding? Yeah it was just like that, but with my adhesive running through blue paint. I sure as heck made a beeline for the car when I saw that.
Then there’s the paint. We have been through so many different kinds of paint, it’s not even funny. My dad has used acrylic paints before for different bodypaint projects for photos, so that was our first go-to. While it was fine for the short time span (and smaller coverage area) required for the other projects, we found very quickly that it cracks and peels A LOT. I’ve known enough Homestuck cosplayers to know that things like greasepaint get everywhere, and neither of us fancied the thought of spending 10 hours sponging the cake-type paints on everywhere, so those were no-go. And then I read somewhere, someone said if you mix acrylic paint with liquid latex, it makes for a decent body paint. DON’T DO IT. IF THERE IS ANYTHING I REGRET MOST OF ALL FROM COSPLAYING, IT IS THE HORRIBLE, DUMBASS, GODAWFUL DECISION TO COVER MYSELF IN THIS STUFF. I will elaborate more in the next section, as it’s kind of a long story that belongs more under The Experience.
After that failure, I did some more research and saw a lot of people referencing alcohol-based body paints. I have yet to find one that is in a relatively cheap price range, so I’ll have to save up some money for the higher quality materials. I did pick up one that I thought would work, Ben Nye MagicColor, but I think that one is actually water-based, as it separated when we tried to dilute it with alcohol.
In addition to a base coat of blue, we also had a variety of different paints to try and create textures. Mystique kind of has this scale-like pattern all over, so we tried to replicate that. We had a couple paints from Liquitex that were mixed with glass beads and/or sand that looked pretty nice, but they were a little on the pricey side and took a while to dry. Last time I checked, I couldn’t find it on the shelves anymore either. Then we also used puffy fabric paint to kind of draw little dotted lines here and there for a variance in texture and pattern; it sticks better to skin when you would think, and dried with just a couple minutes under a hair dryer!
Mystique was the first cosplay for which I used my real hair; when it’s short, I can just slick it back with some hair gel and it works. With all the other costs involved, I really didn’t want to spend money on a wig when I didn’t have to. I bought some small stuff: Blue eyeliner and mascara, and some contacts.
I REPEAT DO NOT COVER YOURSELF IN LIQUID LATEX FROM HEAD TO TOE. DON’T DO IT IF YOU VALUE ANY OR ALL OF YOUR PARTS. I thought I was being smart. I did a little patch test on my elbow for a day or so, and everything seemed fine. I figured, “Great! This will work! Comikaze, here I come!” Got up at an ungodly hour, got my dad up at an ungodly hour, and spent the next five hours in the chilly October morning getting sprayed with latex. I had a friend who was on hair dryer duty, and responsible for powdering all the latex to make sure it didn’t stick; the first problem was that they were afraid to get too personal with me, and left some *ahem* PLACES unpowdered. So as soon as I’m done drying, I go to take one step and my legs stick together. Cue me hobbling into the other room after my friend, crying out “You had ONE JOB!!”.
We went to the con anyway, and I just thought “This will be fine, I’ll just be careful.” All day long, I was finding new and interesting places that my friend hadn’t powdered. And every time the latex stuck and peeled, it HURT LIKE HELL. Think like getting a full-body wax, all day. My plan had been to be Mystique the entire weekend, but by the end of day one, I was done. I wanted out of the blue hell I had put myself in.
Then came the next problem… Getting the damn stuff off. I used just about every soap in the house, right up to the industrial-strength gunk remover that mechanics use, rubbing alcohol, bug repellent (why we thought of using that is a different story), and everything worked a little bit. Just a little. I soaked, scrubbed, and picked at it until I thought clawing my skin off entirely would be easier. I think I was up until 3 am, and only got about half of it off. Then after about 2 hours of sleep, I got up early, and scrubbed and scrubbed some more, until I got enough off that I could cover it with my Hungary costume. I think it took a week before I got the last dregs of it off… It was absolutely miserable.
Awful material choices aside, the con was fairly fun; it was a bit different than the rowdy, energetic anime crowd, but we had a good time. Also, Stan Lee made eye contact with me, and I got to hold the crossbow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
I didn’t get recognized as much as I thought I would; a lot of people called me an Avatar -_- Then again, I haven’t been able to cosplay her very often, so I don’t really have a wide test sample. I’d love to meet some other X-Men cosplayers some time!
A major part of the obstacle for this cosplay, and why I haven’t done her much, is just the cost. With most costumes, once I buy the materials and make it, that’s it. I have it to use and reuse for as many events as I want. With Mystique on the other hand, all of her materials are consumables. Everything gets used up and has to be repurchased for every application. Every time I want to cosplay her, it’s more money from my pocket. And as someone on a very tight cosplay budget, that makes things very difficult.
That being said, I really want the opportunity to cosplay her more. I swear I’m going to get this bodypaint thing right if it’s the last thing I do. I just have to get my hands on the right materials, and you will see her at another con.