My First Comic Con: NYCC 2018 Day 1

Ever since we started dating about 13 years ago, my husband Mike and I have wanted to go to a Comic Con. But every year, we inevitably either missed the ticket deadlines or had other events on con weekends and we didn’t get to go – until this year, when I made going to NYCC a top priority, and snagged us Friday and Saturday passes for our very first Comic Con ever!

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I honestly had no idea of what to expect going into this weekend, except that it was going to be insane in the best way possible. I did some research and learned some tips and tricks about using cash and having your phone charger and bringing snacks, all of which came in handy. I also did research on the panels and signings and photo ops available, but nothing really jumped out as a “MUST DO”. I downloaded the NYCC App (highly recommended) and marked a handful of things as “would be nice” attractions, but wasn’t going to die if we missed anything. I’d heard about the long lines and didn’t want to waste our whole first day standing around, so we didn’t buy any experience tickets ahead of time. And to be honest I’m kind of glad I went in without a plan, because we had so much more fun just kind of wandering and discovering things as we did.

So we started the weekend on Friday with a train ride into the city – and I wore my specially-purchased Nien Nunb tee because honestly if anyone is going to get this shirt, it’s the crowd at Comic Con. Joke was on me though, because Mike and I were basically the ONLY people not in costume and no one cared about my shirt. BUT its bright yellow color did help Mike when he lost me in a crowd a few times, so, win.

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After spotting my Rebel Legion friend Matteo in his Star Wars/Kingdom Hearts mashup cosplay on the steps in Penn Station getting off the train (hey, Matteo!), we followed the crowds to the Javits Center on a gorgeous, just warm enough NYC day. The line to get in wasn’t too crazy, and security was very efficient – we didn’t have to wait at all, even though the line looked insane from where we stood.

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I won’t lie – walking into the Javits Center always gets me a little moon-eyed. I’ve gone there for race packet pickups before, most notably the NYC Marathon last year, but this time it just… took my breath away:

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I still get goosebumps looking at this picture. 

Once we were in, it was kind of non-stop insanity, in a good way. We kept pointing out amazing cosplays to each other like we were watching the coolest parade ever pass us by on either side. There was no way we could take everything in at once, even before we walked onto the Show Floor.

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Eventually though, we made our way into the main Show Floor and promptly went into geek overload.

Our plan was to just pick a direction and start walking until one of us found something to stop and look at, or change directions when we hit a wall – kind of like a Roomba. This approach worked out for us and we managed to do a fair amount of shopping – and even randomly ran into a few friends! – within the first hour or so.

I was especially enamored with the Jurassic Park and Labyrinth statues you see up there. Don’t think I didn’t take their card and immediately set a reminder to start saving up for my very own topless Ian Malcolm to adorn my living room.

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Bonus points for spotting the Hallmark PopMinded booth and snagging my very own Queen Amidala Itty Bitty within the first 5 minutes of walking in!

One funny story from our first hours at the con: As a kid, I was a HUGE fan of Greg Hildebrandt‘s artwork. A family friend who was into card collecting gifted me a full set of these beautifully illustrated trading cards of his art, featuring mermaids and fairies and dragons and all the things a 7 year old only child with an overactive imagination lives for. It’s only a coincidence that he and his brother also happen to be the artists who created the first iconic Star Wars poster!

Well, fast forward to 2018 when this 35 year old comes around a corner at Comic Con and walks face first into Mr. Hildebrandt himself, at his booth, where he was working on a painting in real time for all to watch.

Yes, that’s his back there. And no, I didn’t take a photo with him. Because folks, when I tell you he was knuckles deep in a plate of cheese fries, licking his fingers like a kid at a carnival, I am not exaggerating. My husband was like, “Maybe it’s better you don’t ask to shake his hand right now.” The woman at his booth even scolded him to wash his hands with Purell before touching his painting again, so I wasn’t about to interrupt that.

And that’s the story of how I “met” my childhood art idol Greg Hildebrandt at Comic Con.

After a few hours of wandering, we thought we’d go get some food, but got sidetracked by the Good Omens experience set up in one corner of the lobby, where you ride an “elevator” to heaven or hell and have your photo taken in a classic car (well, the Hell side had a car, not sure what Heaven had) and get a pin and journal to help hype up Neil Gaiman’s new series coming out in 2019. Being a huge American Gods fan, this was quite fun.

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This was also fun because, while it was about a half hour line, it also gave us a chance to kind of decompress and talk about what we’d seen so far, while being relatively alone (aside from the friend I made ahead of me in line who excitedly told me his life story in the 20 minutes we had together). Its location on the upper level also made for PRIME people watching:

Afterwards, we opted to go outside to what I’ll call the “driveway” section of Javits Center, under the main lobby where you walk in kind of underground. Here, they had parked a handful of food trucks serving all kinds of delicious goodies like Ecto cooler, fresh empanadas, and the pulled pork mac and cheese our Good Omens Line Friend (TM) had tipped us off to.

The only problem with this was the hour long wait we had to endure for it. By the time we got our food it was 2pm and I was ravenous. But we found a quiet corner outside and enjoyed the fresh air while chowing down the most delicious mac and cheese I think I’ve had outside a family thanksgiving dinner table.

Since we were already outside – and it was an absolutely beautiful day – we opted to take a stroll outside and check out the cosplay and experiences they offered there.

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Picture perfect NYC day

There was a Rick and Morty merchandise tent, an American Gods popup restaurant, and a food truck giving out free donuts in exchange for your vote in the People’s Choice Awards. Naturally, we took part in this (you’re welcome, Deadpool 2):

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After scarfing down our donuts and contemplating what our next adventure would be, a woman walked up to me with a full bottle of Venom-branded iced tea and a Brisk cup and asked, “Would you like some iced tea?” Not one to pass up free things, I said sure, but was left wondering if she was part of a branding thing or just wanted to offload this giant bottle of iced tea I was now left with.

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Note my puzzled but grateful expression.

Next, we wandered back into the Javits Center on the left side of the building, where we hadn’t ventured yet. When we came face to face with the Harry Potter Pensieve Experience, I looked at Mike hopefully and back onto another half hour long line we went.

Basically this was an experience selling the new Harry Potter audiobooks on Audible by letting you pick a pensieve memory bottle belonging to one of six characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Dumbledore, and Voldemort. You then go into this chamber where they have a handful of stations with screens playing psychedelic memory swirly images and headphones. You drop your bottle into the reader and put the headphones on, and then listen to a snippet of the audiobooks that pertains to your character. In my case, I picked Snape (my poor, misunderstood hopeless romantic sad sack), and got to relive the parts of the book where he remembers being bullied, barks at Harry for being just like his father, and yes… where he reveals to Dumbledore that he’s still in love with Lily Potter, “Always.”

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actual footage of me, both in the Pensieve Experience, and now, reliving the experience while writing this blog

After that gut punch to the feels, we went for a dive back into the Show Floor to explore some more. There were really endless rows and rows and corners and pockets of places to explore, and we missed probably 80% of it. But we were pretty psyched to stumble upon an actual school bus parked in the middle of the floor, promoting the Heathers reboot on the Paramount channel.

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Because “What’s your damage, HEATHER?” is basically my life motto, this was a must do.

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After a quick 10 minute wait, we were herded onto the bus by a Heather in yellow plaid with a, “Get on the bus and join the other bus trash.” Three other Heathers already on the bus were teasing the people ahead of us and taking photos FOR them, so I figured I’d get in on the action and pretend to be a Heather too.

They accepted me as one of their own and proved it by taking a selfie with me, and then sending me a thank you gift in the mail for sharing my photos on social media. Integrated Marketing for the win!

With our attitudes properly adjusted, we decided to walk around some more and discovered the Live Stage by the SyFy Channel, which was basically a small stage surrounded by chairs that anyone can sit down in and watch as celebrities and other presenters are brought on and interviewed in 15-minute segments.

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You can imagine my surprise when I checked the NYCC app and discovered that the cast of American Gods was due next – and WE GOT TO SEE ALL OF THEM!

I damn near fell out of the chair when every single damn person from American Gods got on that stage, INCLUDING NEIL GAIMAN HIMSELF and Crispin effing Glover, too! I mean – you could have punched me in the face and I’d have thanked you at that point. It really was a dream come true.

With that, we knew the day couldn’t get much better – and it was a good thing because the Show Floor was closing! So we slowly made our way back out of the Javits Center and discovered that the driveway where the food trucks had parked basically turned into Photo Shoot Alley, filled with incredible cosplayers all wandering and lined up informally for photo ops, which we took advantage of in spades:

I honestly wish we could have stayed all night, but I was fading fast, it was after 7PM and we still had a train to catch to get home. So we dejectedly walked back to the train station, not wanting to end the day, but so stoked that we still had Day 2 to look forward to!

Making a Scavenger: Rey’s Hair and Makeup

OK so now that we’ve covered how to build Rey’s staff, outfit, tabards and accessories, we’re left with the finishing touches: hair and makeup.

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I’ll be real: I’ve seen some girls go all out and do contouring and all that to try to achieve Rey’s facial structure and they SLAY.

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I don’t do that.

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Only because I don’t know how.

And also because I’ve found that kids just kind of go with it and don’t care if you’ve got the perfect Daisy Ridley cheekbones. Hell, I’m sure when they see me they know I’m not Daisy Ridley – or they see me and think Daisy Ridley really let herself go, because I am not close to her physically in any way, shape or form, aside from the brown hair.

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Instead of driving myself crazy pre-troop, I focus on THREE things when doing Rey hair and makeup:

  1. A defined brow
  2. Highlighter (to simulate that desert sheen)
  3. Three buns

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For makeup, I don’t stray too far from my everyday routine, but just add a few extra layers or extras.

  1. First I start with my everyday foundation, IT Cosmetics CC+ cream in Light. It adapts to my skin so even if I get some color in the summer it’s not mask-like.
  2. I’ll pay some extra attention to my brows with my every day Cover Girl Easy Breezy Brow Pencil in Rich Brown. If I’m feeling extra, I’ll use a setting wax on them too.
  3. I’ve used Maybelline Define-a-Lash pretty much as long as I’ve HAD eyelashes, so I stick with that.
  4. I honestly don’t remember where I picked up the Bronze/Blush highlighter palette up there, but it’s my go-to when I want to be EXTRA, when cosplaying or on date night. I’ll dust some on my cheeks and forehead to simulate a little desert shine and tend to like the way it looks in photos (see above for this highlighter in action).
  5. For lips, I flip flop between just a swipe of chap stick for a natural look, and this old-as-hell Cover Girl Lip Slicks in Bronze Goddess. It’s a sheer, bronze-y gloss that just adds a slight pop of color that looks like I spent the day in the sun. Which, you know, Rey…
  6. When I’m all done I take a big brush and dust a light layer of my most prized possession: bare Minerals Mineral Veil. This is a finishing powder that I honestly didn’t know I needed until I got it for free with a Sephora purchase. The full size is ridiculously expensive and when this one runs out I will undoubtedly start a gofundme to get a full size version because it is that integral to my LIFE. It’s a basic setting powder that holds everything in place but it’s like… magic because it doesn’t add any color or a chalky look. It just… makes everything perfect. Which is helpful when I’m at a 7 hour troop where I won’t have time to check my look in a mirror every hour.

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Although if Phasma’s around, I’ve got a walking mirror whenever I need it 😉

Once the makeup is done, I tackle my buns.

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The three-knob hairstyle is by far the most iconic part of the costume, and I’ll be honest: I love it. I love that kids can emulate Rey’s look easily just by asking their moms to do their hair, and my heart leaps with joy when a little one with Rey buns bounces up to me at a troop and I get to exclaim “We have the same hair!!” and see their excited, proud smiles!

The thing is: I’ve got what I call Bun Luck(TM).

When I first started cosplaying as Rey, I had loooooong hair, in varying layers:

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This made for incredibly difficult buns.

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Even when I tried two buns, I wound up ripping a lot of my hair out when trying to take the buns down.

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Halloween 2017: these took 30 minutes to put up and 30 minutes to take out.

For many reasons – easier buns being one of them – I chopped most of my hair off in January and have had mostly Good Bun Luck since then.

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Aside from the day I took my Rebel Legion submission pictures (when it took me about 45 minutes and a near meltdown to get the buns in), I’ve been able to nail the buns on the first try EVERY TIME.

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I figured out the trick early on to get the “biggest knob on the bottom” look: start with even less hair in the top bun than you think is right, and then build the next bun using what’s left, including the tail of the previous bun.

Then bun, wrap, repeat.

It took me a lot of practice, but that’s honestly all I can give you by way of advice. That, or make friends with a handler at a troop who just finished putting Rey buns in her little daughter’s hair and give her puppy dog eyes until she offers to do your buns.

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Seriously, we were the best Reys there, thanks to the Resistance Hairdresser:

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And that wraps it up for my Rey build! I hope you enjoyed learning how I built my Rey and can’t wait to see what you create using my tutorials and advice!

Scavenge on! ❤

Making a Scavenger: Rey’s Accessories

With Rey’s staff, base outfit, tabards and arm wraps complete, it’s time for the finishing touches, or what I call the Four B’s: belts, boots, bracer and butt bag!

Belts and Bracer

I’ll start off by saying that I could have made these myself. But if I did, they’d look like junk and I’d probably be short a few fingers because I don’t know how to cut leather. SO I once again turned to the lovelies in the Rey Cosplay Community on Facebook, where countless talented creators with a passion for Scavenger Gear reside.

For my belts and bracer, I opted to work with one girl who had done a bunch of pieces for other group members, and I was not disappointed in the least. She took my measurements and built these babies to my size – and even combined shipping with my 3D Staff pieces since she lived near the guy who made them!

 

She also made the holster in case I wanted to go full Resistance Rey later on! (Spoiler Alert, I did.)

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The best part: lovely personalized little notes that only I know are there 🙂

These are beautifully crafted and handmade leather, so I had to do a little breaking in if I’m honest. It was stiff at first but after a few wears and just twisting and rolling the leather around in my hands, it’s gotten softer and more pliable – and more weathered.

Boots

I’ve seen SO many talented cosplayers build their own Rebel Legion-approved Jakku Rey boots by modifying existing boots. They’ve saved TONS of money and created some really incredible things.

But much like the belts and bracer, I lack the talent and time to create such masterpieces. So I saved up some cash and sprang for the basically-screen-accurate-yes-they’re-licensed-and-approved Po-Zu Rey (formerly Piper) boots.

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*Gollum voice* my precioussssessss

To be honest, these were actually a super wise purchase. I picked them up during one of Po-Zu’s insane sales so they were much cheaper than regular price, and I’ve worn them a HELL of a lot outside of cosplaying. They’re quite comfortable and vegan (if that floats your boat) and they’re adorable with skinnies and a long sweater… or casual day Rey 😉

 

So while I can’t take credit for making them, if you’re on the fence about getting them I can vouch for their comfort and quality!

Bag

While this is the final piece I’ll discuss making, Rey’s butt bag was actually the first piece I made. And I call it a butt bag with only the utmost respect – it genuinely is a bag that sits on her butt by way of the second belt, and is not to be confused with her “scavenger pack” which she’s seen with in the beginning of the film in “Full Scavenger” costume with head wraps and goggles.

 

She may be a scavenger, but the girl sure owns a crap-ton of BAGS.

I started out with this bag that I’d seen some other girls successfully modify.

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All told, it’s actually a pretty decent bag for the money, and requires little modifications that even a novice can do. Like I said – this was the first piece of my first real cosplay “build”, and I feel like it was a great place to start because it boosted my confidence in my skills.

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It came with belts that I didn’t end up using, but it essentially had everything I needed, minus the black Alice clip and spare Square rings for the side of the bag, which I was lucky enough to get from another Rey in the Facebook group who had extras.

One day when I was in the throes of a nasty case of bronchitis, I finally decided to start this baby. And while it took me the better part of a day (and a few band-aids), I was so proud when I was done.

 

Here’s how I did it:

  • attached black Alice clip to lower left with khaki thread
  • removed random loop on top flap
  • replaced D rings with screen accurate square rings
  • re-positioned side tabs with new rings and re-sewed them on with space in the middle (secured with hidden hot glue too, shhh!)
  • cut up a cardboard box and re-taped it to fit the inside of the bag and keep its shape (see photo above of that in progress)
  • weathered with eyeshadow

And that was it! With just a few hours of mindlessly sewing while I sneezed and watched old episodes of Hannibal, I had a perfect Rey butt bag and I was ready to submit to the Rebel Legion!

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Or SO I THOUGHT! (cue dramatic music by John Williams and tightly-edited action scenes interspersed with me crying in a bathtub surrounded by RIT dye).

Stay tuned for the harrowing tale of my first rejection and my comeback!

Making a Scavenger: Rey’s Tabards and Arm Wraps

So you want to make your own Rey cosplay? You’ve come to the right place!

First, take a look at how I built Rey’s staff and created her base outfit. Once you’re up to speed, let’s go into those “extra” pieces that make Rey’s costume so recognizable.

Tabards

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To start, I had a bunch of gray gauze left over from my first version of Rey, so I figured if I just made them a little more brown, I could match everything.

Oh how wrong I was.

Not only did I not get the colors right, but I also mismeasured the fabric I had left. After I’d spent two full days of unemployment dyeing gauze with different mixes of dye, tea, and coffee, I tried them on and realized I needed about 2 more feet to get the length right:

At that point I had dyed everything so much that I wouldn’t have been able to get that color again in a million years, so I decided to start from scratch with a fresh batch of white gauze that I could dye to the perfect colors – and cut long enough to reach the right length.

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Once I had them dyed and measured properly – again with a mix of different dyes and tea and coffee – I did some ninja stitching that ended up saving me TONS of time and fidgeting attached them to the shirt at the shoulders.

You see; so much of Rey’s look is strategically placing those stupid tabards in the right spot so they look effortless, but let me tell you – there is a LOT of effort involved in getting them just right!

First I gathered the fabric at the shoulders and sewed them through with a few gathering stitches. To get them the right width, I threaded the needle and thread through the whole width then scrunched it up on my shoulder while looking in the mirror, and tied off the thread at the right width.

After the shoulders were shirred, I then draped everything at the right length and direction, then added a few stitches at the shoulder. This makes it easy to get in and out of the shirt and keeps me from having to re-affix them every time I get dressed.

Lastly, I put the whole thing on – belts and all – and fidgeted and futzed with the wraps until they laid just right. Then I sneakily safety pinned the spot where the fabric criss-crosses in the front and where they nearly connect in the back. The catch with these: the pins are hidden by the belts!

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Once they were on, I finished them with some weathering courtesy of my trusty eyeshadow weathering technique I learned while working on the shirt. And I even mopped up some eyeshadow spills with pieces of tabard for the uneven splotchy look with some success too! The fun thing about Rey’s outfit is that it doesn’t need to stay CLEAN!

Arm Wraps

Yet another great thing about the Rey Cosplay Community on Facebook is that it’s international – meaning those UK Reys get all the good Boots wraps!

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These are apparently the screen accurate wraps that Daisy Ridley wore in the films, and I have to admit: they are pretty badass and accurate.

To get them to look right, I discovered a tip from another Rey: Take Dollar Store knee high pantyhose and cut the toes out, then use them as makeshift compression sleeves which you tucked the edge of each wrap into and wind down the arm to the wrist then tuck the edge in.

While other Reys have used two wraps on each arm or cut one in half for more layers, I found success with just one wrap on each arm, with minimal gapping or slippage. The pantyhose act as a kind of grippy liner but don’t choke the life out of my not-very-toned bicep or create that unpleasant sausage-casing look that a full on compression sleeve would do to me.

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Once they’re wrapped, I then take the same approach to weathering them as I did my shirt and tabards: a bunch of eyeshadow and a big brush. This ends up coating the edges just right. While I have to go back each time and re-apply the weathering, it actually adds to the rough and tumble kind of feel of the whole thing. Win-win!

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Next, we’ll take a look at how I finished my Rey with the 4 B’s: bracer, belts, boots and butt bag!

Making a Scavenger: Rey’s Base Outfit

Originally I had considered mashing all of the soft pieces I created for Rey into one long post, but after I hit 1,000 words halfway through the pants alone, I decided to break them up into shorter posts so you’re not hit with a wall of words.

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You’re welcome.

Before we start, let me make two notes:

ONE: There is a saying among Rey cosplayers that our girl’s outfit consists of “fifty shades of greige”, and let me tell you: this is one hundred percent true. Depending on what source material you’re looking at (movie stills, photos of the costume from traveling displays, the movie itself), the material changes colors, making it damn near impossible to perfectly match the original.

Having said that, the goal when dyeing your pieces should not be to match the screen-worn outfit, but for all of your pieces to match each other. That is, your pants need to be the darkest of the pieces, with the shirt being the lightest along with the arm wraps, and the tabards (the flowy fabric that drapes from her shoulders) is somewhere in the middle.

Now, if you’re just going for a con Rey and have no desire to go for Rebel Legion approval, by all means, GO NUTS. Get down with your greige self! But if you’re going for 100% screen accuracy, prepare for a lot of tears, a lot of wasted dyeing, and desperation on a scale you previously only thought existed in Jane Austen novels.

And TWO: f you’re building a Rey – Rebel Legion or not! – I HIGHLY SUGGEST you join the Rey Cosplay Community on Facebook. If I hadn’t joined the group, I never would have known where to even begin. This group has the most detailed files and lists and links, seriously. I have yet to find another costuming-focused group on FB with as many well organized resources. Go join. I’ll wait.

Good? OK. Let’s get started.

Shirt

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To make Rey’s shirt, I started out with a recommendation from the Facebook group – there were 3 or 4 options, but at the time this one was the only one available, so I went for it. In hindsight, I could have easily gone a size or two smaller on the shirt (and wouldn’t have had to take it in on the sides like I ended up doing), but maybe when this shirt falls apart I’ll upgrade.

Either way, I started off with white and just dipped the shirt in a big pot of tea that I had brewed to add some brown to my tabards (more on those in another post). After the tabards were done, I tossed this pure white shirt in there for a few seconds and voila: perfect color.

But the shape was off because I bought it big, so I took in the sides, sliced the sleeves shorter and stitched the collar up ever so slightly so it resembled our girl’s busted up tunic even more:

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To finish it, I weathered it with brown and black eyeshadow and a big-ass makeup brush.  It was surprisingly easy to get it looking kind of grimy within a few minutes!

Pants

Many girls in the Rey Facebook group had luck with these pants from Amazon. Because they were so cheap and wouldn’t require hemming, I got them in white first. I say first because I had to eventually re-dye them, but we’ll get there.

On dyeing day one, I had next to no idea what the hell I was doing. So when I first dipped my white pants into a bath of Sandstone and Frost Grey Rit dyes (according to the Rey Facebook group this was the concoction that worked for everyone), I took them out and screamed: as you can see on the left, they were basically blue/green and unusable.

Now, this was also before I DRIED the pants. For all I know, they would have been just fine if I’d waited for them to dry. But I panicked and immediately tossed them in a pot of dye remover… which gave them a permanent green tinge.

I’ll pause here to note that the dyes I used were specifically for synthetic fabric, which is what these pants are made of. But the ratio of colors was never really listed anywhere – it’s always “just eyeball it”, so I did. Depending on what fabric you use, you might be able to use regular Rit dye and get better results than me! The point is start slow and do not get discouraged.

At the time, I thought the pants (after drying) looked a tiny bit green, but because the colors all had to be relative to each other, I took a break and focused on finishing the tabards before I went back to the dye pot.

So stay tuned for my next post where I go into detail on how to make Rey’s tabards and arm wraps!

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Post Race Park Hopping

If you missed any of my recaps from this weekend, catch them here:

When we last left off, I’d just finished the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and earned my Rebel Challenge medal! After a quick shower and slipping into some Pro Compression recovery socks post-half, we decided to hit up Disneyland for our last full day in California – and MAN was it fun!

We’re not huge Disney fans, but when you walk through those gates and smack-dab into a parade of characters and marching band led by Mickey effing Mouse himself? You feel the love.

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The plan was to make a beeline for Star Wars Launch Bay because that was where Chewy and Vader were – I wanted at least to get photos with them before we did anything else.

 

 

I didn’t know what to expect – remember, I’m a total Disney newbie, only been to WDW like twice in my entire life, and not in about 17 years – but when we walked into the Launch Bay, I went into total Star Wars overload.

 

 

It wasn’t just a place to hang out and take pics with the characters, it was like a little museum! I also didn’t realize that Boba Fett would be there and walked in on him leaving for a break. A cast member with a tiny Minnie Mouse voice informed me that “Mr. Fett has an important meeting so unfortunately he has no time for photographs now, but Lord Vader is on the ship now and accepting visitors. We have also received reports of a Wookiee being onboard, but if you find him, please report him to us immediately.” I die.

So we found the spot to wait for Vader before being invited into his inner chamber for a photo op. I put all of my medals on for the picture, but that may not have been the best idea.

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Despite my best efforts to flatter our Dark Lord by complimenting his cape as I was introduced, I immediately had my personal space invaded and was accused of being “guilty by association”. I won’t lie – I really flinched, it was scary!

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not pictured: the fact that I may have peed myself a bit

Mike stepped in when he sensed the danger and saved me in time for a group photo (that I still look terrified in, lol):

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Once they took the picture I all but ran out of there, then discovered that Mike had some words with Vader after I left. He claims he was telling Vader that he was “on his side”, but the photos show a different story:

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Listen here, bucket head. I’m the Emperor now. You work for me. Got it? No back talk. Get out of my sight.

As soon as we left Vader’s area, I spotted the line for Chewy – FINALLY I was going to get my Chewy hug! I’ve waited forever. After the 15 minute line, I could barely contain my excitement, and by the time we were greeted by the Wookiee himself, I couldn’t help it – I burst into tears. Like full on, had to wipe them away tears. But to his credit, Chewy took one look at me and gathered me up in his arms for the BEST HUG EVER. I’ll never forget the feeling of him patting my back like I was some small child, like “There, there, tiny hairless Wookiee. It’s OK.”

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No, really – if you zoom in you can see the tears in my eyes:

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After my hug we got a group shot – when Mike came into the photo Chewy gave him a big hug too and that pic cracks me up just as much: look how happy I am that Mike got a hug too!

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It looks like Mike just accepted Chewy’s offer to be his best man.

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I was not ready to say goodbye, but we had to. The cutest part came when we turned to leave and Chewy reached out to play with my medals – he went right for the spinning BB-8 on the 10K medal and spun it. Mike tried to give him a high five but he didn’t quite get it, to which his handlers offered, “He’s new to earth, he’s working on it.” My heart. It bursts.

After that, I had to take a moment to collect myself, and realized just how hungry I was. Oh yeah, I had run 19.3 miles in the past 36 hours, maybe I should get something to eat! So off to the Galactic Grill we went, where I treated myself to a post-Rebel-Challenge victory lap of a Cheese-3PO Burger (I die), a Dark Side Lemonade (omg), and a Darth by Chocolate parfait for dessert (COME ON).

 

 

While we ate, the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show happened to start right behind us, so I wandered over and caught some of it just in time for you know who to show up:

My favorite part of that video is hearing the grown-ass man standing next to me shout “OH YEAH!!” when Kylo Ren comes out of the fog. Never gets old.

After the show I returned for my dessert – worth every Imperial calorie.

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At that point we’d only touched a part of the park, so we made quick work of the lines at Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

 

 

It was fun seeing the original attractions that I’d only ever heard about before – and the lines weren’t TOO long so that was a nice bonus. Throughout the day I kept checking the lines for Hyperspace Mountain because that was the ONLY other ride I wanted to hit before we called it a day, and unfortunately my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the running and standing. Finally before we were about to call it a day, the line opened up again (it had been closed on and off all day) so we jumped on it and waited for nearly 2 hours.

 

 

Now, neither Mike nor I knew what to expect going into this ride. Mike especially. I knew it was a coaster, but forgot just how long it’s been since I felt speed like that. Needless to say, I screamed pretty much the whole time, between laughing and shouting out “It’s a TRAP!” when Ackbar does during the ride. By the time they took our photo on the final drop, there was virtually nothing left of us but shocked skeletons clinging to the handles of the coaster cart. No, for real:

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WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR HYPERSPACE MOUNTAIN.

After that, we called it a night at the park and hobbled our way to dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney for a final meal (and glass of wine).

 

 

We couldn’t have timed it better, either: the nightly park fireworks went off just as our meals arrived so we were able to watch them from the comfort of our table!

The walk back to the buses was a painful one – my legs had basically called it a weekend and decided to stop working, but we made it back to the hotel and crashed before leaving the next day.

Overall, it was an incredible weekend that lived up to all of my expectations and then some. I never thought things would go as well as they did. And I was so impressed with the whole experience that I got home and immediately upgraded my plans for the next race: instead of just doing the half in April, I decided to do the whole Dark Side Challenge instead, and earn another set of 3 medals for those races in addition to the Kessel Run medal for doing both Star Wars Halves in one year!

I can’t wait to tell you all about what happened next when I took on another 19.3 mile challenge for the Dark Side in Disney World! Stay tuned. 

 

2017 Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Half Marathon

Don’t forget to read about the runDisney expo experience and my recap of the Star Wars 10K

After running the 10K – and all-out racing about half of it to beat the time cutoff after nearly 45 minutes of character photo stops – I woke up at about 3AM Sunday with sore legs. But I geared up in my deconstructed BB-8 costume and we headed back out to the starting line for the half marathon, taking our time now that we knew what to expect.

After milling around and watching the pre-show (most of the same patter as the day before, but with a Vader appearance instead of a Jedi show), I kissed Mike goodbye and headed into the Corral G where I met up with a Twitter/IG friend Alex (who I’d met in person for the first time the day before at the We Run Social meetup)!

Just like the 10K the day before, the half started on almost the same course through California Adventure then Disneyland for the first 4.5-ish miles, and had character stops along the way. I had decided to not stop for any long lines, so I ran past the long line for BB-8 and skipped Chewy because I knew he’d be in the park. There were a few other stops for Rebels and I think an R2D2 stop again, but I DID stop for a few fun little things that took only about 2-5 minutes each, with almost no lines:

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Had to stop for just one of the Mile signs

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Stormtroopers found me!!

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I found a speeder! Wish I could have stolen it to finish the race.

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Alliance Starbird sighting on the roller coaster!

I also had to stop at around Mile 2 when I noticed the words scrolling along the marquee of a theater in California Adventure:

Yes, it says “May the force be with you, Princess Leia Organa”, and yes, I openly sobbed and had to catch my breath before I started running again. I was wondering if there would be a tribute to Carrie Fisher, and this was a very sweet, subtle way that still took my breath away. Well done, Disney.

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After we left the park at around Mile 4.5, the rest of the miles were out on the streets of Anaheim. I was prepared for this with my headphones, and also knew from previous runner’s race recaps that there would be a lot of on-course entertainment. BOY they weren’t kidding! Local marching bands, color guards, spectators, cosplayers – TONS of cosplayers! – at basically every step of the way there was something to dance to, smile at, take a selfie with, and generally enjoy.

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Like a random “halfway-ish point” sign that someone made and took our pictures with!

When we got to the cosplayers around Mile 7, I had a blast.

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Kylo Ren was the first person I ran into, and after taking a selfie and telling him to smile, he punched himself in the stomach to summon that anger in response. The Leia a few feet away from him was laughing as I got to her next. I asked her, “He’s your son, can’t you get him in line??” to which she replied, “I just can’t do a damn thing with him.” We had a good giggle at that:

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Beyond that, I stopped at SO many points for a few seconds to selfie with these folks – they were TRULY happy to be out there giving out high fives and taking photos. Some people even tricked out their cars!!

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The energy on the course was like nothing I’d ever felt. Everyone was laughing and cheering and calling out character names, having a blast, and I swear when I passed the first section of cosplayers, my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard.

And just when I thought it was over, another wave of folks had lined up around mile 8! Han, Lando, a pack of hysterical Rebel pilots, Jyn Erso – even Finn came out to cheer us on!

These people gave me just the boost I needed to get through the double digit mark. Around Mile 10 I ducked off course for my third port-a-potty stop of the race and finally decided to stop at the medical tent nearby for some Imodium. My nerves were wreaking havoc on my belly (as they tend to do during big races) and while I ate light that morning, the cramps I was experiencing when I started to run again after every walk stop were getting to be very painful. Hey – running isn’t all glamorous selfies and happy fun time! But luckily the pill worked and within minutes I felt much better in time for the final 2 miles.

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I was feeling tired by this point, and I’ll admit I walked a little bit every half mile. The pain of re-starting my run though was a bit much so I decided to shuffle along without stopping once I hit the final mile. All the bathroom and photo stops had brought my average pace to around 13:40/mile so while I knew I wasn’t in danger of being swept, I also wanted to give it my all.

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Once we hit the Mile 13 marker, I took off. The crowds lining the finish chute were SO excited, and the energy was contagious. A few kids even yelled out “BB-8!!” when I passed and made me laugh.

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With the finish line in sight, I started to well up again (god I’m a huge softy), and crossed with a huge smile.

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And just seconds after I crossed, the confetti canons went off!

I was handed my half marathon medal and started crying for real now – I had done it! 19.3 miles in two days, plus extra from walking around the park too. It was a huge scary goal that I’d set for myself months ago with a slight bit of fear that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. But I had done it, and I was still standing and smiling!

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The runDisney staff made it super easy for me to get my Rebel Challenge medal, calling out that challenge runners were to take a right to have our photos checked (they photographed us at bib pickup) and to receive our medals. I didn’t have to wait at all, just walked over and was handed my medal and wished congratulations. Then we had the option to take Rebel Challenge photos (yes please!) and walked out of the finisher’s area with my second runDisney snack box of the weekend to meet up with Mike.

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It was a beautiful morning, and after shuffling back through Downtown Disney to get to the bus, we made it back to the hotel for a quick shower and got back out to Disneyland for our first day in the actual park – and to show off my new bling!

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Overall, it was an incredible experience, from start to finish. I was so impressed with the way the race was managed that I upgraded from the Dark Side Half Marathon to the challenge as soon as I got home!

Stay tuned for my final post about my Disney trip, in which I eat all the Star Wars themed things and get the best hug of my life from a real Wookiee!