Peggy Carter began as a found-item costume that Alena put together for a movie premiere. She decided to wear it again to a convention a few weeks later, and it was so well received that she kept wearing it! It’s now a personal favorite — simple, comfortable, recognizable, and it HAS POCKETS, which practically elevates it to the Holy Grail of costumes.
Laura later joined her as second-season villain Whitney Frost.
By now you’ve probably heard the announcement that CosplaySupplies.com is now carrying Flexbond, a popular theatrical glue that up until now was difficult to come by in small quantities. After the jump, I’ll be testing and reviewing this product so you can see how it works on foam and Worbla!
I’m no stranger to hijacking theatrical supplies for cosplay purposes; I’ve been using Sculpt Or Coat for years, and I’d heard about Flexbond via discussion on the RPF, though I had not tried it out because at the time it was only available in large quantities. Now it is finally available in smaller bottles, so you don’t have to buy it by the gallon!
So what is Flexbond?
Flexbond is an adhesive and coating agent, sold primarily for theatrical set and prop applications (much like competitor Sculpt or Coat, which I’ve talked about previously). It’s similar in appearance and odor to regular white glue, only it’s much thicker. It works both as a glue and as a coating and smoothing agent for foam or plastic. It dries clear and, unlike many coating agents, remains flexible and does not crack. It is also nontoxic, which is always a plus!
My Test Swatches
I tested Flexbond on both 2mm EVA craft foam and on new, non-thermoformed Worbla (I used flat pieces, since I wanted to test flexibility rather than structural integrity).
First, here’s plain black craft foam with a very thick coating of Flexbond:
As you can see, when dry it creates a smooth satin finish. Flexbond dries clear, but because it reflects so much more light than the matte foam, the color appears a bit lighter in some conditions. Because the coat was applied thick, there are some brushstrokes visible, and there are also some tiny holes where bubbles were trapped in the glue. (Applying multiple thinner coats would prevent these issues.)
As its name implies, Flexbond is very flexible when dry and will bend, roll, and curve without cracking.
The only way I could succeed in damaging the finish was to fold the coated side in and crease the foam heavily, which crumpled the foam underneath the Flexbond and caused what appeared to be cracks – but on closer examination, the Flexbond itself was still undamaged; just the foam had creased beneath it.
Here’s the same surface after a little finger-smoothing. The wrinkles really aren’t visible unless the light is reflecting directly across them.
To test the coating and smoothing capabilities, I made a variety of test pieces using Flexbond and acrylic paint. First, I painted the thinnest coat possible of Flexbond on a piece of foam. I also watered the Flexbond down (it’s water soluble) and painted a runny form of it over another piece of foam:
The super-thin coat dried without the satin finish of the thick coat; while it smoothed the surface somewhat, it did not seal the foam completely:
The watered-down coat, which beaded up and dried in little globules, actually made a neat spotty texture that I think would look good as a form of distressing on some materials:
Over these pieces, I painted both a thin and a very thick coat of acrylic paint:
When these were dry, I tried distressing them to see how the paint held up to bending and creasing. While the foam itself creased under the paint, the only damage I was able to inflict in the surface treatment was a tiny chip in the thickest area of paint:
I also wanted to try painting directly on the foam, so I made a control piece (no Flexbond, just paint), and then separately, mixed equal parts Flexbond and paint and painted that mixture on another piece of foam. (Since the Flexbond is white, it makes the paint look lighter when wet, but it dries the correct color.)
When dry, I applied the same stress tests to these pieces. There was no significant difference in the performance of the two pieces when folding or creasing, but the Flexbond mixture (the slightly glossier one that appears lighter in color) held up a little better to scratching with a fingernail.
I also made a simple bracer out of scrap foam to test the product’s performance over multiple layers, and covered it with a thick coat of Flexbond:
Again, applying a super-thick coat, there are some brushstrokes visible in the finished product:
I added some light acrylic painting over the Flexbond, just to see how the brushstrokes looked under paint.
Important: Just like white glue, Flexbond remains WATER SOLUBLE after it dries. This is good in that you can continue to adjust or smooth it out after you’ve coated your piece, but it’s bad in that if you don’t put a waterproof topcoat on and your armor/prop/etc. gets wet, it will soften and turn white again.
When I added some surface texture on top of the Flexbond with watered-down acrylic paint, the Flexbond softened and became sticky again wherever I painted:
However, I left it alone to dry, and it went back to clear and dried just fine. I was able to go back and do some detail painting with more acrylic (not watered down) with no trouble. It remained just as flexible and crack-proof as the smaller pieces.
Finished product (in two lighting conditions):
The bracer remained very flexible, even with a thick coat of Flexbond; I could not get it to crack at all. Additionally, the Flexbond filled in some of the gaps around the edges of the stacked foam pieces, which looked nice. It would probably do an excellent job sealing the edges of foam core or other porous material, as well.
Now, on to the Worbla tests. I used Worbla’s Finest Art (a.k.a. plain old tan original Worbla), which has one smooth side and one textured side. In all tests I applied the Flexbond to the textured side of the plastic. One coat of Flexbond was not enough to completely cover the texture, but I was able to get it fairly smooth with three coats. (If I were being super conscientious about brushstrokes, I might do four lighter coats to really smooth it out, but three heavier coats didn’t look bad.)
I folded and rolled the Worbla pieces to test flexibility. The Worbla itself cracked, but the Flexbond coating never did. This piece had two heavy coats of Flexbond:
As with the foam, I made a control piece (no Flexbond, just paint) and then several pieces with varying numbers of coats of Flexbond. I applied the same acrylic paint over part of each piece to evaluate the effect of flexing on each surface treatment (spoiler: Flexing had no discernible effect on the surface treatment). Here are the results, for visual comparison:
One thin coat of Flexbond + paint:
One thick coat of Flexbond + paint:
Two thick coats of Flexbond + paint:
Three thick coats of Flexbond + paint (this produced the smoothest results out of all the combinations I tried):
Flexbond mixed 50:50 with paint (one coat):
So to achieve a smooth finish, it took at least two, preferably three, coats of Flexbond under the paint. That finish did look very nice and smooth, but anything less left a bit of the rough surface texture showing through. Also, using thick coats left brushstrokes in the Flexbond that often came through in the paint.
Bonus round: Sintra!
Out of curiosity, I tried painting some Flexbond on Sintra (PVC foam board) to see if it would stick. (PVC is notoriously hard to paint and glue without plastic-specific products). As expected, the water-based Flexbond beaded up on the surface, and peeled off relatively easily when dry. Not really surprising, but worth testing, because SCIENCE!
Flexbond is water-based, so cleanup is simple with soap and water. Most water-based glues rinse out easily with water, but the Flexbond is thick enough that I actually did have to use some soap on my brushes to get all the glue out of the bristles.
I tried spraying Flexbond using a pump atomizer, to see if I could eliminate the brushstroke issue by spraying it on. It didn’t work; the glue was so thick it clogged the mechanism on the first pump, every time. Thinning it down with water would get it through the atomizer, but by that point it had such a low viscosity it didn’t go on evenly and just made puddles. (But hey, now we know. SCIENCE!)
Pros: I was very impressed with the flexibility of Flexbond (not surprising, as that’s its primary selling point). It has a nice satin finish, and I can see plenty of applications for use on materials like foam or flexible plastics that need to bend. I think it could also be used with sculpting materials or to strengthen papier-mâché projects (didn’t have time to try that for this review, but maybe later!). I also like that it can be mixed with paint or pigments for coating, so painted areas will have the same satin finish as any unpainted coated areas.
Neutral: For pieces that don’t need that kind of flexibility, I’m not sure Flexbond is a significant improvement over other commonly-used smoothing products. While it requires fewer coats than, say, wood glue or Mod Podge, it takes a little more work to even out brushstrokes than it would with a product like Sculpt or Coat or spray-on coatings. However, if you don’t already have a supply of one of those other products on hand, Flexbond is versatile enough to pull double duty (and is less expensive than buying Sculpt or Coat by the gallon).
Cons: I am not crazy about the fact that it remains water soluble after it dries. I would definitely want to topcoat my pieces with a waterproof sealant or paint to keep them from being damaged by moisture, and even then I would probably not feel comfortable doing any sort of water-based photoshoot or wearing them in heavy rain.
Overall: It’s not necessarily the best for every application, but if you want one good all-around coating agent, Flexbond seems like it will work on just about anything (except, of course, PVC). It is the most flexible coating I’ve worked with, and it coats effectively in fewer layers than many other materials. As long as you avoid very wet environments, it should be durable enough for normal con activities and extended wear.
So, there you have it! Hopefully this information is useful to you in researching your cosplay projects and materials. If you have any questions about this review or the products I used, feel free to contact me.
Full disclosure: A small sample of Flexbond was provided to me at no cost by CosplaySupplies.com for me to test and review. However, this is not a sponsored review, and I received no other considerations from the company. This is simply an honest examination of the product I received. I don’t make any money on this stuff. 🙂
I’ve gotten a few questions about crossplay makeup (since about 60% of my costumes are male characters), so I thought I’d share one of my go-to products: Flesh-tone lipstick!
My lips are naturally full and red. On a normal day, or in costumes where I don’t conceal it, my mouth looks like it’s trying for something out of a 1940s pinup:
…which would be great if I were living in the 1940s, but when you’re trying to play a 14-year-old boy from a cel-shaded source, it’s a little less convenient. ^_^
When I first started cosplaying I used to cover my lips with foundation and powder, which worked really well for photos, but dried out my lips and ultimately caused them to crack and peel when I had to repeat the treatment for multiple days at a con. Then fellow crossplayer Karmada introduced me to flesh-tone lipstick – a product designed to cover your lips and keep them from drying out. What a concept!
Choosing A Product
As with any makeup, slight variations in shade or color temperature can make a huge difference in how well a product blends with your skin, so I suggest trying several shades to see what works best with your individual coloring. Stores like Sephora, MAC, bareMinerals, Victoria’s Secret, et al. will generally let you test any color before buying.
For F to M crossplay, choose a matte lipcolor. Many nude colors come in a gloss formula, but shiny lips generally aren’t as desirable for masculine characters, as they make the lips appear more plump and full (a trait associated with a more feminine appearance).
My nude lipstick of choice is Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense, which comes in several matte flesh tones and holds up well for hours of wear. I prefer to have a lipstick tube rather than a pot, for the simple reason that I like to carry it with me for quick touch-ups.
If your natural coloring is on the darker side, try this list over at Gurl of natural shades that work well with darker skin tones.
(Please forgive my mediocre selfies for this tutorial. My bathroom has terrible lighting, but I didn’t have anyone available to help me with photos, and I wanted to get this posted before I left the country.)
Depending on the opacity and coverage you want, you can apply more or less product. Since most lips have some natural color, you don’t want to blank your mouth out completely with a heavy coat unless you’re going for a specific non-natural look.
Just as with lip liner and lipstick, you can modify the shape of your mouth using neutral lipcolor. Because my lips are full, I generally start with heavier coverage around the contour to make my lips appear narrower. (If you’re using a sheer lipcolor and need more coverage than it provides, you can blend a bit of concealer around the edge.)
Over the center area of the lip, I use a lighter application, and lightly blend it with my finger so a hint of the natural color still shows through.
I then top the lipstick off with a light dusting of face powder to help set it and further mattify the lips.
Voila! Neutral lips. This type of application could be used for a male character or one from an anime/comic art source that doesn’t have much lip definition.
You can also start with this coloration as a base and then add character-specific lip designs on top (for example, characters with painted doll lips or other stylized mouth shapes).
Does your costume have contrast trim around the edges? Never fear — bias tape isn’t as scary as it looks! This is a very beginner-friendly guide to double-fold bias tape application.
This is double-fold bias tape. If you unfold it, you will see three fold lines. (This is the kind I recommend for trimming the edges of a garment.) If you are using single-fold bias tape, you will see only two fold lines, and you will have to use your imagination or a ruler to divide the wide center section in half in order for it to wrap both sides of your fabric.
Lay your bias tape flat and find the side that is slightly narrower than the other. You will want to put the narrower side toward the edge of the fabric in the next step.
Lay your piece out so the front/outside/side that will be seen most frequently is facing you. Unfold the narrower half of the bias tape and line it up exactly along the edge of your fabric. Pin bias tape to fabric with right sides together. (I recommend doing this with the fabric laid out on a flat surface, so you don’t get any wrinkles or puckers from holding it.)
Carefully stitch right along the fold line that is closest to the edge. Precision is important here, so go slowly!
Once you have stitched along the fold, it should look something like this:
Next, fold the rest of the bias tape around the edge of the fabric. The raw edge of the tape should be folded underneath (as it’s pre-creased to do). If using double-fold bias tape, line it up neatly so the center fold line runs along the edge of the fabric. Pin it in place. Note: If done correctly, the wider half of the bias tape should now be on the back side, and will extend a tiny fraction below the stitch line (or the front side, when viewed from the end). This placement is important, because the needle has to punch through the stitch line and catch the longer side of the fabric on the back!
This is the tricky part! With your piece facing front-side-up, stitch with the needle running right in the depression made by the previous stitching line. (This is called “stitch in the ditch.”) Your needle should land right between the two colors of fabric. If you need to, you can hand-crank the sewing machine for extra precision. If your tape is positioned correctly, the needle will pick up the longer side of the bias tape on the back side.
Magic! The stitching is nearly invisible on the front, and only shows from the back. 😀 (If you want the stitching to be less visible on the back side, you can match your bobbin thread to the bias tape color, so it blends.)
Finally, press your edges out flat with an iron to make everything crisp and smooth.
Congratulations, you have conquered bias tape. Level up! *ding*
(Note: You can see a line of stitching and unfinished edges on the silver fabric I’m using for this demo. If you were adding bias tape around the edge of a finished garment, you would normally stitch the outer fabric and lining together, flip them right-side-out, and press out the seam to make it crisp before adding the bias tape. Since the piece I’m making here is just an epaulet and will have bias tape over the edges, I am eliminating the flipping/pressing steps by stitching the pieces together directly and hiding the seam under the bias tape. This also eliminates the extra seam allowance bulk. If you do this, make sure your stitching is close enough to the edge of the fabric that the bias tape will cover it!)
Alena grew up in the 1980s. Alena likes the band Queen. Alena enjoys cheesy sci-fi adventure movies.
So when Indy PopCon announced that they were bringing actor Sam Jones to town and sponsoring a special screening of the 1980 classic Flash Gordon(the one with the soundtrack by Queen) at The Historic Artcraft Theatre, Alena declared that oh, yes, she was going in costume (in spite of being out of town most of that month, and being a PopCon sponsor, and running workshops, and having pretty much no time to make one).
After scouring the internet and fabric stores in three states for screen-accurate bugle beaded fabric, she eventually gave up and settled for not-screen-accurate-but-still-very-shiny microsequins for Dale Arden’s wedding dress. The dress pattern was drafted in the week before the convention, and the dress itself was cut and sewn the day and night before (finished, as usual, on the way to the Artcraft). The headdress is covered in nearly two ounces of glitter — that’s a LOT, if you were wondering — and the shoulder cage is draped in chains of around 5,000 hand-threaded bugle beads (mostly strung during Pathfinder sessions — thank goodness for game nights!).
And since ASIHTB works as a hive mind, other costumes had to join Dale! Laura also created her Emperor Ming costume in the 24 hours or so before the film — likewise, using microsequins in lieu of bugle beads, because for some reason beaded fabric has been out of fashion since the 1980s. (Mark got off easy this time, since Flash’s replica T-shirt is commercially available. No all-night sewing marathons for him!)
(Version 2 of this tutorial, as the original somehow got eaten in a server switch… sorry for the inconvenience! I hope I’ve remembered the details correctly.)
This is a simple way to modify boots for Sailor Moon, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or any other character with shaped/color contrast boot tops. The boots I’m making are for a Sailor Pluto costume (shown at right); they have pointed tops and a band of white trim around the top.
vinyl/leather/other material in contrasting color
glue that will stick to your vinyl
First, choose boots that are comfortable and suitable for the character. I tend to buy most of my cosplay footwear at discount or thrift stores (yes, you can clean and disinfect used shoes! Just make sure they’re in good condition and the soles/heels aren’t damaged). The boots I’m using for this tutorial have soft vinyl uppers, and cost around $6 at a local thrift store.
To determine the shape of your boot top and how much you’ll need to cut it, fold the top of the boot over to make the appropriate shape on your leg and mark the fold line with chalk, fabric pencil or tape. If your boots are too stiff to fold (such as riding boots), wrap a piece of paper around your leg and trace your desired shape on it to make a pattern. You can also use the paper method for patterning more complex shapes that can’t be folded easily.
Also note that depending on the type of boots you have, your top line pattern may look very different. For the simple Sailor Pluto design I’m using (high point in front of leg, low V in back of leg), this is what the shape of the open, flattened vinyl would look like for a boot with a zipper on the inside of the calf (left) or in the back (right):
Obviously boots with no zipper or designs with more complex shapes will have different patterns. When in doubt, cut a mockup from paper and wrap it around the boot on your leg to determine exactly where to cut.
Once you have your pattern, you’ll need to cut down to the lowest point. For boots that have a V-shape in back, like Pluto’s, this will be straight down the back of the boot (I cut right along the seam). If your pattern has multiple low points, you’ll need to cut a line down to the center of each to produce clean folds.
Next, fold the edge to the inside, following the fold line you marked earlier, and pin it in place. (If you don’t want pin holes in your material, you can use binder clips or paper clips to hold it.)
If your boot has a zipper, fold the zipper over along with the boot top. You’ll trim it later. You can shorten the zipper by looping thread around the teeth or using a metal zipper stop to block the slider.
If possible, try on your boot again (without stabbing yourself on the pins) and make sure that it looks correct. Then it’s time to sew down the fold (or, if your sewing machine can’t handle the boot material, you can use glue). My vinyl is thin, so I’m machine-sewing it. If you’re going to add contrast trim, keep your stitch line close enough to the edge that the trim will cover it. (My trim is 1″ wide but will hang half over the edge, so I’m sewing about 3/8″ from the edge here.)
Before you trim the seam allowance, try the boot on to make sure there are no puckers or problems you need to fix, At this point the top shape should look exactly as you want it, minus the contrast trim:
If you’re happy with it, flip the boot open and trim the seam allowance so there’s no excess vinyl rubbing against your leg on the inside.
Now you’ll make the trim piece for the top edge. Open your boot as much as possible and trace the top line. Mine looks like this:
Use that as a guideline to create the contrast trim. Remember that the trim piece needs to be slightly longer than the circumference of the boot, because it has to wrap around the outside and account for the thickness of the material.
I’m using a thick white vinyl for my trim, so I trace the top line of my boot on the reverse side, then use a ruler to make a 1″ wide strip based on that shape. I also add a couple inches to the end for overlap, as I’ll want to hide the zipper tab. (The way I’m doing this trim piece, it will only cover the outside. If you want a piece that wraps completely over the top edge of your boot, you can add seam allowance to the top of your pattern, cut two pieces, stitch them right sides together, flip right-side-out, and slip the finished piece down over the top of the boot before attaching.)
Before you attach anything, test your trim piece on the boot and make sure everything lines up properly. Try this with the boot on your leg, as well, and make sure it wraps comfortably around the outside without stretching or puckering the material.
Now you’re ready to begin attaching. There are two options for this: You can glue the trim on, or you can sew it. I opted to glue, since I didn’t want any stitching showing on the outside of the boot. (Make sure you test your glue beforehand and make sure it actually sticks to your material! Some vinyls and fabrics are notoriously hard to glue.)
If gluing: Start by lining up the trim on the boot and glue a single point of contact at the front center, exactly where the top point is (it’s the easiest to line up). Use a binder or paper clip to hold it in place until it sets. Then do the same thing at the center back, at the bottom of the V. It’s fine if the trim doesn’t lie flat on the table when you glue these two points, because you’ll be gluing on a curve around your leg, and you want the material properly distributed around the curve.
Important: Do not glue the remaining trim with the boot flat on the table! It won’t stretch around your leg if you do. First put the boot on, and work around your leg with the glue so you’re gluing on the curve. Binder or paper clips are a great way to secure the trim piece so it can’t shift while it’s drying.
If sewing: Do the exact same thing, only pin or clip the vinyl in place instead of gluing it at each point, then put the boot on and pin/clip the trim piece on the curve. The tricky part is maintaining that curve as you take the boot off and sew it, so make sure your pins/clips don’t shift when you remove the boot! As you sew the trim piece, try to keep the material evenly distributed so you don’t end up with puckers.
I left an overlap at the end of my trim piece, because I want to hide the zipper tab on the inside of the calf. I attach a piece of Velcro to the overlap and the piece just behind the zipper so that after I zip the boot, I can press the white flap over it and make it look like a continuous strip of trim. (You can glue or sew the Velcro, depending on your trim material.)
Once you’ve finished, try everything on and admire your newly-repurposed boots!
Tono Asuka, Aran Kei, Yuzuki Rion from the 2008 Takarazuka Hoshigumi production
So… Alena is a rabid Scarlet Pimpernel fangirl. By rabid, I mean she has read all 17 of the Scarlet Pimpernel books written by Baroness Orczy (and amassed quite a respectable collection of early editions of Orczy’s works), watched every extant film and television version, seen the Broadway musical so many times she’s lost count, has a laminated membership card for the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and even has postcards and programs from the original 1905 stage play hanging on her walls.
So when the Takarazuka Revue (a famous all-female theatre troupe in Japan) tackled Frank Wildhorn’s hit Broadway musical The Scarlet Pimpernel, there was no question that this costume set was happening. And — since this was one of Alena’s great passions in life — it was going to be AMAZING.
It took three years of planning, including a lot of research and multiple road trips to collect fabric (materials for these costumes were acquired from at least five states and three countries). All pieces were custom-patterned, and nearly every piece was made for this set, including Marguerite’s undergarments.
The dress is dupioni silk and features a steel-boned bodice, a removable train, a removable skirt ruffle (the Gen Con photos below show the dress without this bottom layer; it was removed for the stage performance), and somewhere between 30 and 50 yards of lace and organza trim. Everything that touches the floor is modular and washable. The skirt is supported by a steel-boned pannier. The costume also includes cotton bloomers (not period, but necessary for modesty). Alena went a little insane with the finishing details: Marguerite’s gold lace (all trim and the full overlay on the bodice and petticoat) was hand-painted; there are rhinestones, pearls and tiny dangling Swarovski crystals sewn to the bodice of the dress (to match the source images); even the designs on Marguerite’s fan were painted by hand. The necklace was also entirely handmade and was constructed of a disassembled hair accessory, two phone charms, a vintage button, a pair of earrings, a scrapbooking kit, and lots of beads. (A boned period corset was also made for this costume, but it ended up being unnecessary given the bodice design, so it wasn’t worn in the final version.)
Sir Percy (Laura)
The shirt is faux silk; the vest and pants are burgundy velvet with faux leather trim; the lace on the lapels is hand-beaded. The overcoat features a double cape and full skirt, and is also trimmed in faux leather. The sash features handmade metal finials decorated with tiny jeweled pimpernels. The gauntlets and hat were modified from existing pieces. The mask contains dozens of Australorp rooster feathers, as well as weatherstripping, foam, scrapbooking pearls. faux leather and more.
Fun fact: The vest (barely visible under the tailcoat) features the same huge lapels as everything else, so if Chauvelin decides to go casual, he can remove his coat and still be dressed in period attire. The entire ensemble is black suiting trimmed in black velvet and black braid (if you’ve seen the show, you know why it all has to be black). The tricolor is double-sided, and is made of matte satin. The tricorn hat was modified from a floppy sun hat (it’s amazing what scissors and twill tape can do!).
First Place in Professional Division, Gen Con 2012
Our first terra cotta infantryman was commissioned by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit, a permanent wing which includes replicas and interactive displays of the terra cotta warriors from Xi’an, China. Alena wore the costume for the members’ preview and the Grand Opening of the exhibit. The suit is made of silicone rubber and rubber-coated fabric, and was hand-painted with tinted silicone and aged with powder pigments.
Since we already had the molds, we decided to test out some other casting and coloring techniques, so we made another warrior for our own use. That one was worn at Gen Con (modeled by Ken of Godly Team Cosplay) along with our Saiunkoku Monogatari set.
First Place in Professional Division, Gen Con 2011
(Alena is the middle one.)
With Mogchelle (as Shuurei) and Ken of Godly Team Cosplay (as the warrior).
With Mogchelle (as Shuurei) and Ken of Godly Team Cosplay (as the warrior).