“You think I’m just a doll. A doll that’s pink and light. A doll you can arrange any way you like. You’re wrong. Very wrong. What you think of me is only a ghost of time. I am dangerous. And I will show you just how dark I can be.”
I’ve always wanted to get into cosplay and give characters my own vintage/pinup spin. There are so many great characters that can be adapted to fit pinup styling which can give a character further appeal, dimension, and complexity. Cosplay is an art; it should be respected and appreciated all the time, money and effort that goes into it. I’ve never done a full cosplay before, so when I got offered the task of creating a pinup Harley Quinn I was really excited… until I actually started making the costume.
Harley is a complex female character, her strengths, weaknesses, imagery, and symbolism make her relatable, adaptable and personable. She is instantly recognizable and her appeal has greatly expanded after the latest Suicide Squad film. When I started designing an outfit, there were so many different eras to choose from so I ended up going with a mixture of a couple. I pulled the coloured makeup from the Robbie Margot version as my main colour pallet and found an image from Elseworld’s (1998-) where Harley wore a bodysuit. I removed the sleeves and added a sweetheart neckline to mimic the Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles (2015) outfit. I added some lace frills to give the costume some white elements and went to the fabric store. If I had more time, I would have played with the traditional jester neck piece and added cuffs but time was on the essence as I had less than a week to get this all together. No pressure right?! If you want to read a great blog on Harley through the ages, I went here to get some great research and inspiration.
Creating the Look:
I originally intend this bodysuit to be made out of stretchy material so it would be really tight and I wouldn’t have to worry about boning. Unfortunately, every fabric store I went to had nothing within my budget or in the right colour. Back to the drawing board. I’ve never used boning whilst sewing before and I didn’t think 3 days was enough time to learn, get it right and implement it so I decided to Frankenstein a corset and use that as my boning layer to my costume. I used McCalls 7398 pattern to make the bodysuit front in both pink and blue satin. Once I had the front and back pieces sewn together I did the scariest thing I could think of. I cut it up.
Because my design featured the classic colour blocking of Harley’s outfit, I had to cut the pink and blue pieces in half and then sew them together so the top and bottom of the costume would look like Harley’s. I had to have a cup of tea and take several deep breaths before I took a pair of scissors to the costume but eventually, it was all put together. To work with the corset, I took the lacing out, glued the front clasps together and then pinned it to the inner lining whilst trying to keep it as lined up as possible. It proved a bit difficult as obviously the lining and corset were different sizes but eventually I got rid of the biggest warps in the fabric. I attached the corset to the lining leaving space at the top and bottom so I could attach it to the outer side of the bodysuit. Before I sewed them together I attached 8 meters of lace to the neckline and leg holes and voila! It was done to the best of my ability. If I were to go back, I would learn to do boning and make sure the boning layer fit perfectly but with the time and skills I had, it was going to be just fine. I attached a zip, tried it on and noticed that it rode up more than I thought meaning a bit of my booty was hanging out the bottom of the costume… oops! Nothing can be done about it now!
The wig and custom made shoes were sourced by Angie which was a huge help as it saved me a lot of time and glitter all over the house. There is still glitter from my pinup wrench from my last pageant everywhere! The last things I needed were a pair of flesh nets which I already had and tattoos… oh wait! I don’t have tattoos! TO THE INTERNET! I knew that you could get tattoo transfer paper where you printed a design onto one side of the paper, stuck on a film and then used it like a normal temporary tattoo. I’ve always wanted tattoos so I was excited to see how I would look with them on my body. I ordered some tattoo sheets from eBay and lucky the arrived the day before the shoot. I saved some royalties free/open source images from the internet to use as tattoos and I was ready for the shoot.
I had some makeup ideas ready to go but I ended up changing my mind three times until I was happy with what I had done. Originally I have neutral eye makeup but with pink and blue eyeliner but it didn’t feel bold enough. Second, I tried Margot Robbie’s makeup from Suicide Squad but the pink and blue colour around my eyes looked really childish and like I had been attacked by crayons in my sleep. My third and final attempt was a smokey eye in pink and blue with black liner. I was going to split my lips in half with one side pink and the other blue but it looked busy and childish so I stuck to my red. I added three dots underneath the eyeliner and my normal beauty spot I turned into a small black love heart. I was happy I didn’t have to worry about my hair as it was going under a wig so I just tried to flatten it onto the side of my head and pinned it down as best I could.
Now, the tattoos. I had originally allocated about 30 minutes to stick the tattoos onto my body. Thank goodness it was raining cats and dogs when Angie arrived because the tattoos were taking ages! It took three people with wet cloths to get all the tattoos onto my body and we ended up cutting holes in my fleshiest to make the tattoos stand out more. If I were to do this shoot again, I would have printed out the images a lot bigger and bought more paper. But eventually it was all done, I chucked on my boots, wig and leather jacket and it was time to start shooting.
We wanted a run down industrial setting for the shoot to mimic the chaos of Harley and I knew a family friends house had just been gutted and are ready for demolition so we went there. When I swapped into my heels, I kept cracking all the broken glass on the floor which would scare me so I’m sure there are heaps of photos of me freaking out over loud noises. Shooting around the house was great to get started as it was raining quite heavily. We still wanted to go to Freo and decided to take a chance on the rain; we didn’t have time to shoot another day and what’s a little rain anyway? We chose correctly, although it drizzled, the rain added a grungy element to our images. We shot against a graffiti wall much to the amusement of passers-byres. I did get asked several times if I was cold and yes, yes I was, but the photos were too good to stop.
The images from the shoot got turned into promotional material and are getting published. Angie Delarie Pinup Photography had a special offer going at the WA Hot Rod Show offering clients a shoot and then their favourite image turned into an illustration. Her booth had heaps of banners and posters which gave her pink and blue theme a fabulous edge and lots of attention. If you would like to book a shoot with Angie, contact her through her website or Facebook.
We were published in Delicious Dolls Magazine; August Nerd Girl/Cosplay issue available for purchase here.