I am absolutely stunned by all the amazing cosplayers I see when I go to conventions. I had the great fortune to be introduced to Lauren— not only does she create incredible costumes, but she is also charming and talented. A huge thanks to her for being my first cosplay interview!
Enjoy! ~ Deanna
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Lauren Rapciak, though my cosplay alias is “Troppy.” I am 27, living in Chicago, and balancing a few passions– one of which is making costumes. By day, I work at a science museum. By night, I mostly blog, sew, and play video games…Wow, I never really thought of it until just now, but I guess I’m really an indoorsy-type!
2. Why did you start cosplaying?
The desire to cosplay first popped up in 2000. I was bullied quite severely in high school, and had been longing to find people I could relate to. I heard about a convention called AnimeCentral. I couldn’t get my mind off of it; I HAD to go!
Perhaps because the “real” me was so miserable at the time, I decided to dress up as someone else. Cosplay was an escape. I could be anyone I wanted to be. It was empowering… For the record, I gained a solid batch of confidence later in life. Mousey, baby Lauren does not require any sympathy. 🙂
3. What was your first cosplay?
So embarrassing! A friend’s mom insisted on making my first costume. It was Aisha ClanClan from the anime Outlaw Star. It didn’t look right at all– wrong materials, wrong shape, and no wig. I vowed to make my own stuff from then on. Sure, I didn’t know how to sew, but I put together Yuna from Final Fantasy X anyway. I was SO proud. I even wore my beaded Yuna earring to school!
4. What is your favorite?
If we’re speaking in terms of quantity, I’d have to say Rose Tyler from Doctor Who. Rose costumes are interesting– they require no sewing, only months of scouring eBay for screen-accurate hoodies and brands. I have over 10 Rose costumes.
In terms of quality, my favorite costume is EASILY my most recent one– Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. I wanted so badly for it to be perfect that I made it twice. The velvet is gorgeous, and I feel really pretty when I wear it. Best of all, I got engaged in my Elizabeth costume– right in front of the folks from Irrational Games! No other costume has such emotional value.
5. What’s your dream role to cosplay?
Ooo, tough one. Queen Amidala from Star Wars, AndrAIa from ReBoot… It’s funny– my first costume ever was Yuna, and my dream costume is probably her wedding dress. It’s a high-low gown with angelic wings and feather trim. While many women have attempted the gown, nobody has built it entirely the way I would. I don’t just want feathers around the edge of the dress. I’d line the inside of the entire skirt and train with feathers, too.
6. Tell me a little about your process– from development to construction.
Before I even start a costume, I gather a tremendous amount of pictures and screenshots. I really take pride in the amount of detail research I do. The most recent example of this was Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I couldn’t tell if there were little ties on her shoulders or not. So, I watched movie clips frame by frame dozens of times, AND enlisted the eyes of several other cosplayers… For the record, those little ties were definitely there. Nailed it!
After the research period, I really don’t have any trade secrets. I try to find a sewing pattern that looks like the costume I want. While I have pretty poor spatial reasoning, I have developed a talent for altering patterns.
My sewing quality improved exponentially when I got a serger. You’d think I’d be satisfied now, but no. I want an embroidery machine for Christmas!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about construction (or… haven’t learned), it’s that sewing ALWAYS takes me longer than I expect it to. I never seem to budget enough time, and end up sewing the night before the con. I’d like to give a shout-out at this point to my friend Jess, who sewed every single button onto my Envy Adams coat a few months back– I yet again had poor time management! Thanks, lady.
7. What was the biggest cosplay challenge you’ve faced?
My Catherine wig! Catherine, from the video game Catherine, has gravity-defying hair in two large spirals. To achieve this affect, I used some surprising supplies.
First, I sandwiched floral wire between two pieces of plain old masking tape. These base pieces were each over 6 feet long! Then, I glued wefts from Arda Wigs down both strips. Hair by hair, strand by strand, this took over 10 hours. Finally, and very carefully, I bent those monsters into spirals. I’ve never heard hair make such a weird crunching sound before… But it worked. WHEW. I am very lucky, considering I invented the entire process myself.
8. Spectators are often amazed and quite complimentary. What kind of reactions have you had? What was your favorite reaction?
My favorite interactions happened when I was hired to portray Narcissa Malfoy at a Harry Potter event. When Book 7 was released, Oak Park, Illinois turned its downtown area into locations from the series. The basement of a church had transformed into Azkaban. For hours, Mrs. Malfoy stalked about the prison, running from Dementors and wailing as Lucius was thrown into a cell. Kids truly believed I was Narcissa. Either they loved it, or they booed. Gosh, I ADORE being a villain!
9. Give us one pro-tip for creating your cosplay looks.
I’ll give you a few: 1) Splurge on a high-quality wig– it can really make or break a look. 2) Storage space is your friend– sew in hidden pockets, or find a character-appropriate bag to carry. 3) Try false eyelashes– they’re fun and striking! And 4) Bring a buddy. I know this sounds cheesy, but cosplay is 10 times more fun with friends. I’ve traveled with X-Men, the Serenity crew, The Clash at Demonhead, and countless others. My best cosplay memories are from groups like these. I guess I’ve come a long way from the isolated, lonely convention-goer that made her first costume!