Merle from The Vision of Escaflowne
Character Name: Merle
Series: The Vision of Escaflowne
Specifics: main outfit
Time: 90 hours
Started: March 2016
Completed: May 2016
Debuted: Anime North 2016
ChibiK3r0, ConArtists, JJAB
I made this costume for a few reasons. First, I've always liked Merle. I've wanted to cosplay her since I first watched Escaflowne back in the late 90s. Second, my friend Becky recently completed her Dilandau costume and I wanted to make a new Escaflowne costume to cosplay with her. Third, I have never cosplayed a cat girl and I figured if I was finally going to cosplay one, I should cosplay my favourite cat girl of all time. Finally, this year marked the Escaflowne's 20th anniversary so I thought it was the perfect time to finally make a Merle costume.
I actually took lots of in-progress photos for this costume, so for the first time, I'm going to link them throughout my descriptive text instead of just posting them at the end.
I made a mock of the dress first. I added some darts at the bust but otherwise I kept the dress very simple like Merle's is in the series. I also played around with different versions of her shoulder pads (or "shoulder poofs", as I sometimes call them) until I found a design I liked. I took some liberties with the original design, but what I came up with for the shoulders looks round from above and is a little reminiscent of shoulder armour, which I liked.
I found the perfect yellow fabric for the dress at a local fabric store. I hand-sewed the facings for the dress to hide the obvious stitching, since in the series, I'm pretty sure her dress is made out of some sort of pelt.
The fur I bought was poofier than I originally intended, but I made it work and I like how it came out. I lined the bottom of the shoulder pads with white felt since the back-side of the fur was a little scratchy. I also hand-sewed the shoulder-pads together to retain their maximum poof.
Once the base dress was done, I made paper versions of the brown designs on her dress and taped them to the dress until I found a pattern and placement I liked that matched her designs in the series.
I made the brown patterns on her dress -- and every brown part of this costume -- out of a dark brown felt. I backed the felt in heat-and-bond and cut out the designs I came up with. Then I ironed them onto the dress, which gave the designs a very smooth look.
The armbands and legbands were simple, but took me a long time since I decided to hand-sew the hems on them. I then carefully hand-sewed white felt to the insides of them so they'd be comfortable against my skin. Each arm-band and leg-band has two snaps sewn into them that hold them closed.
The tail is made of a tube of beige fabric that I stuffed with both stuffing and wire from a hanger. The wire is what keeps the tail from falling straight to the ground. The base of the tail is not stuffed so it doesn't look bulky near my butt when I'm wearing it. The base of the tail is attached to a thick elastic that I wear around my waist. The elastic has a velcro attachment so I can easily take it on and off.
The brown markings on the tail were made and attached the same way as the markings on the dress. I ironed them on after the tail was complete to ensure they all lined up evenly the way I wanted them to. The white fur at the tip of tall was hand-sewed on.
As for the wig, I bought an "Indigo" classic from Arda Wigs in the color "rose pink". It was longer and wavier than I expected it to be (the back flipped out the opposite way than I needed it to), but it was the perfect base wig for Merle and I totally recommend it.
I put it on a wig head that I altered using this technique
, and then began styling the wig. I moved the part of the wig to the side and I poof-ed up the bangs to give them that 90s anime look before I trimmed them. I tried to make the bangs look like Merle's in the anime without making them look too ridiculous.
Then I trimmed the rest of the wig into a bob. I curled the ends of the wig inwards using a round-brush, a hairdryer and five hours of patience.
Here are some before and after pictures that show just how much work I put into this wig:
The hard work was worth it though. I absolutely love how the wig came out in the end!
The ears were made out of multiple layers of fabric and felt stuck together using head-and-bond. I made a few test ears before I found a size of ear I liked and that covered my own ears. It also took a few test ears to find a thickness of ear that stood out on its own without looking too silly.
Merle wears sandals in the anime. I know other cosplayers have managed to find similar sandals in the right colour, but try as I might, I couldn't find any existing sandals that I liked. So I decided to try something new and make sandals.
I started with a base pair of cheap black sandals that were kinda similar to what I needed. I cut most of the sandals' straps off leaving just enough of the original straps to sew new straps to. Then I sewed brown felt into four strips and pinned these strips to the sandals while wearing them to figure out where I wanted the new straps to be. Once I figured that out, I hand-sewed the new straps to the bit of original straps I left behind.
I then covered the sides of the sandals in tape to make a pattern for covering them in felt too. I cut out a piece of felt backed in head-in-bond of the same shape as the pattern I made from the tape and hand-sewed the felt to the sides of the sandals.
Here are some before and after photos of the sandals that I hope will help explain what I did to make them:
The necklace posed a challenge as I hadn't made anything like it before, so I asked Adrien, my friend and epic prop maker, for advice. He gave my some super sculpey to use to make the base pendant and some sand paper to sand it down. He also helped me put a metal piece inside the top of the pendant to keep the hole at the top from braking off. He gave me a lot of advice and I followed it to make the base pendant.
I made the bottom of the pendant flat, since in the anime, Merle's pendant is also her nail file. The hardest part of making the pendant was putting the clay "trim" around the outside edge of the pendant and getting it to look somewhat even. Let's just say it took multiple tries and the final result was still kinda lopsided. LOL.
Adrien covered the pendant I made in primer. The primer filled the bumpy parts of the pendant and I sanded off the excess primer to make the pendant smoother. We repeated this step until we got a smoothness we were happy with.
Adrien came up with a way to layer two kinds of automotive paint to get an amazing glossy red finish. He painted the whole pendant red, and when he gave it back to me, I used a tiny paintbrush and silver acrylic paint to paint the silver onto the pendant.
All this hard work paid off because the pendant looked really cool when it was done!
I bought some dark brown leather cording that matched the dark brown felt I used on the rest of the costume. I used this cording to string the pendant. (For stylistic reasons, it was important to me that I use dark brown and not black as much as possible on this costume.)
The markings on my face, arms and legs were made out of dark brown felt and heat-and-bond. (I decided against body paint since I liked the look of the fabric pieces more and because I didn't want to worry about the paint smudging onto my costume.) I patterned the markings with paper first and then cut them out of the felt/heat-and-bond. I stuck them to my body using spirit gum, which worked quite well. I went out a bought an extra-large bottle of spirit gum remover and I did not regret this decision in the slightest.
I did learn that the body markings are only good for one use, so I bought extra dark brown felt to make extra sets of the markings for future times I wear the costume.
The first time I applied the markings, it took me almost three hours, mostly because I wasn't sure what I was doing and because there was a lot of trial and error involved in getting the markings even on each side of me. The second time I applied the markings, however, it only took me twenty minutes. If you're anything like me and you're making this costume, make sure to do a test run of the markings before you need to wear it. It will end up saving you time and headaches later!
The night before I wore this costume for the first time, I decided to make a matching bag so I didn't have to carry a purse around with me at cons. I made a simply draw-string bag with the same yellow fabric I used for the dress. I decided to make the bottom of the bag a circle because I felt this was the kind of bag I could see Merle actually carrying around.
Fun fact: the bottom of the bag has a round margarine lid in it to help it hold its shape and the strings that open and close the bag were cut from dark brown shoelaces I found at a dollarstore.
And that's how I made my Merle costume.
I really enjoy making "simple" costumes and taking my time with them so this was a fun project for me. I felt it provided me with many challenges, especially since I decided to make sandals for the first time and make the pendant from scratch.
As for the experience of wearing it at a con, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people recognized Merle. The costume got a lot of love! Additionally, I met a lot of people who were like, "Your costume looks familiar and I should know it but I can't quite identify it!" because they hadn't seen Escaflowne in years. I also ran into many of people who made Merle costumes in the past, which I thought was pretty cool. This costume was very popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. I was just late to the party. LOL.
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