Saiunkoku Monogatari


Best in Show, Ohayocon 2011
First Place, Professional Division, Gen Con 2011


The Fabulous Land of Saiunkoku, Gen Con 2011
Saiunkoku Monogatari

Costume highlights for each character:


  • Pants are historically-accurate mompe from a vintage pattern.
  • Armor is constructed of vinyl Murphy flooring (a.k.a. the tap surface used in dance studios). Armor coloring is a variety of wax antiquing pigments, paint and ceramics sealant.
  • Armor structure is based on authentic design (yay for TWO museums with Asian armor exhibits!), but uses magnetic snap attachment instead of ties for practicality and to reduce strain on the material.
  • Materials used for sword construction include wood, vinyl, extruded polystyrene foam, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, PVC, leather, ethylene vinyl acetate foam, and a shower mat of unknown material. Sheath ornaments and gem settings were hand-molded using slow-curing epoxy putty; the gems are transparent epoxy resin, cast with iridescent powder and glitter suspended in resin, then glass-painted to jade color and backed with adhesive aluminum for refraction.
  • All cords and tassels on the costume and sword were hand-braided from fine embroidery floss. The sword tassel incorporates three colors for the gradient effect.


  • Robes are based on historic designs; we used historical pattern books, textiles in museum exhibits, Chinese imperial clothing documentaries and cinematic Tang Dynasty recreations as references.
  • ALL SILK (except cross-dyed deep purple and tan brocade) was dyed especially for this costume. (Huzzah for finding an unreal clearance sale in NYC! imported Italian silk for $4/yard!) There are five colors in addition to the white base robes. Dye colors were custom-mixed from two types of dye, and each color used as many as five commercial colors to blend to the right hue. (Example: The pale purple outer robe was a mixture of Brown, Navy Blue, Royal Blue, Kelly Green and Purple dyes.)
  • To ensure proper fabric luster, no black dye was used anywhere in the costume. All “black” sections were dyed with a custom mixture of multiple colors (Brown, Navy Blue, Royal Blue and small amounts of several other colors).
  • All designs on the front cloth are DYED using Batik and resist-dye methods; no fabric paints or inks were used anywhere on the costume. Colors were custom-mixed to match references, and each color was applied in as many as three separate dye sessions to achieve proper intensity. Small designs were applied by hand with a paintbrush, and large areas were dip-dyed. Swirly leaf pattern on trim was created using a rubber stamp and a concentrated dye mixture which was then steamed into the fabric.
  • Green stone on belt was removed from a jewelry pendant, then ground down to the correct shape with a rotary tool, finished with varnish, and secured to belt via a ribbon mount.
  • Crown is built over a chocolate-covered cherry box (the Chukar Cherries Pike Place Market gift box is the perfect size and shape!) and is constructed of the same vinyl as Seiran’s armor. Details are wood, plastic, vinyl and jade glass (beads).
  • The unseen undergarments are made of bamboo/cotton blend.


  • Seven layers of silk robes; nine layers total.
  • All silk is hand-dyed or hand-painted. The variegated trim on the robes is also hand-colored.
  • Shoulder detail is sueded leather, which was painted, soaked and hand-stretched over a form.
  • The rooster appliqué around the collar is 100% embroidered by hand over a freehand design sketched on hand-painted silk. After it was sewn on to the robe, CosPinay added an additional metallic purple embroidery line around the edge. Just because she’s detail crazy. ^_^
  • All jewelry, imperial hairpin, belt embellishments, etc. are handmade of Apoxie Sculpt and various kinds of beads.


  • For the shoulder detail, we created 1.75 yards of embroidery replicating the pattern from the artwork (and we only broke one needle this time! XD).
  • The trim around the jacket is two layers of topstitched bias tape, with additional appliqué on the corners.
  • Each metal cord finial is constructed of three pieces of jewelry findings sewn together; the cotton cord was dyed to match the reference image.
  • Staff is two 36″ solid oak dowels, stained with ebony wood stain, with basswood finials. Staff screws apart into two 37″ halves for safe hallway transport.
  • Boots are sueded leather; the trim was sponge-painted with acrylic paint, then buffed to match the lighter suede color. The white border was brush painted.
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