Written by: Jill Geiger
I love costume play. Always have, always will. Even when it wasn’t Halloween I would run around in my Pink Ranger costume, or White Ranger Ninja costume, while I was younger. However, as I got older and started to go to Con’s, seeing all the intricate (and awesome or not) costumes of beloved characters and heroes, made me miss those days and made me want to do my own ode to someone. The problem was (and is), I don’t have an ounce of sewing or creating from scratch capability in my bones. So, I always avoided it and tried my best to block out the little voice in my head that would taunt me to make something no matter how shitty it was. And unfortunately, for me, I do have a lower self-esteem when it comes to creations, so I stayed away then I wouldn’t get mocked for my horrible rendition of a Power Ranger, or a female superhero or villain.
However, back in 2009 (yes, it took me that long to succumb to the taunting in my head), I saw the new version of Harley Quinn that was debuting for Arkham Asylum and I absolutely loved it, so much, that I wanted to be that for Halloween. As I stated earlier, I can’t sew nor did I have a machine, so I figured I’d go to thrift shops or Walmart to try to piece it together on my own. Unfortunately, I had issues finding the stuff I needed in purple—like the boot covers— so, even though it’s not the original Arkham Asylum Harley, I opted to go for her traditional black and red colors and just swapped the purple for black.
So, what I found at first was:
- At Deb Shop I found a white half soft cardigan that had the poofy shoulders
- At a thrift store I found a white terry cloth skirt and the belt
- At Target they had the 2-in-1 pack for a red and black bra and they actually had the red garter for the fishnets
- At Joann’s Fabrics I found black ribbon for the accents and choker and to wrap around the pig tails.
Since I was missing stuff, I decided alright, I’ll wait for Halloween to come closer (it was about August/September), I’ll be able to buy the gloves and the boots and the fish nets at that point in time, but at least let’s get started with everything else. I wound up hot gluing the black ribbon around the armbands of the cardigan. I also got my grandmother’s friend to hem the skirt immensely since it came down to my knees almost. Then, I realized—shit, I’m going to have to cut and sew! How the hell am I supposed to do the red and black bra!? (I didn’t even realize the gloves yet either) So, I did it. I found a basic stitch pattern and used my roomies little sewing kit (that supplied only red, black, and yellow string, and a few needles) to stitch it together. After a few (understatement) pokes in the finger tips, I had my half red/half black bra and I was damn proud of myself. It was actually sturdy and not crooked! It was perfect.
Once the Halloween stores opened, yes, I went out and bought two pairs of knee-high hooker boots; red and black, just for this purpose and no other use (thigh highs were too expensive and I didn’t know how to make boot covers). I also grabbed the thigh high fishnets to use with the garter; red and black elbow length gloves; and fake blood to splash the skirt with. I then also found while browsing spiked bracelets that were perfect and ALMOST just like her’s, so I grab those too.
Once I got home and laid out each piece on the floor, I realized I was missing the damn corset! THE MAIN INGREDENT TO THE WHOLE THING! It was the end of September, I had no idea how to even go about making a corset…what the hell was I supposed to do? Especially since the corset is a pretty special one. I looked far and wide online and through someone on Amazon.com found a corset almost exactly like her’s. It was a bit longer than what she had, but it was the only thing I could work with. So, I bought it. It cost me a pretty penny, but without it the costume was incomplete and meant nothing. I also had to sew again. Once I cut the elbow length gloves, I noticed that if I didn’t sew the ends it would fray and look atrocious. So, once again I put my sewing skills to the test… it took me a while, but I got through it. It wasn’t perfect or straight, but they were gloves and would serve their purpose and once again I was majorly proud of myself, since besides these pieces for this costume—I’ve never sewn before.
For the mask, I used from my old, sophomore year of college, Robin costume mask and actually glued it to my face using the special effects/actors stuff (not actual glue) that you could easily get at the Halloween store at the time. The make-up, I had lying around from dolling myself up as a zombie. And the nurse’s hat, I had to randomly buy (but when I re-wore the costume about 6-months later for NYCC 2010 I made a hat out of paper). As for my hair, luckily my roomie was an awesome hair stylist. My hair was long, but not long enough, so we went to the local beauty supply shop and bought extensions and she rigged them into the pig tails of my own hair with massive amounts of hairspray and bobby pins. The final product for Halloween 2009:
BAM! Dr. Harleen Quinzel at your service. Here’s more of a close-up, but not a full body shot:
Only a few people knew who I was since the game had only been out about a month or so once Halloween arrived, which is fine… I didn’t expect to be recognized by normal people (we went to the NYC Halloween Parade and a bar in the city) and that wasn’t the purpose of doing this for me. It was the purpose of finally believing in me and believing that I could put something decent together without knowing how to sew and do intricate patterns. I know it’s not perfect. I could point out every flaw, but it was pretty damn good to me and friends who played the game and knew it.
There’s a point to this long post (sorry), a couple months later, on a blog (kind of?) that I posted on and frequented a lot started doing cosplay of the day posts and they were looking for submissions, so I said what the hell and submitted on of the photos (the close-up above actually). Well, it got posted. It was cool to see that they did actually. Of course trolls posted, (where are the boobs, blah blah blah), people defended the trolling, but then people who claimed to cosplay came on and began to rip it to shreds. After I saw the initial “rip it to shreds” post I stopped reading the comments and haven’t gone back to read them since (they’re probably gone anyway cause the site is now defunct).
I didn’t realize costume play was only for elitist. Yeah, so you’ll look like a scrap next to someone who can sew if you can’t, but isn’t the point to pay homage to a character you adored? I’ve been a fan of Harley for YEARS before she blew up with these games. I didn’t realize that I needed to be a professional costume maker or sewer to pay my respects to a character’s whose history I probably know more about than you (not that I knew if those people knew the same amount or less or more, just making a point).
Like I said, about 6 months later in May 2010 NYCC happened and I went. I dressed up as this on the Saturday and there were better Harley’s and more accurate Harley’s at that point (since the game had already almost been out for a year), but no one dissed each other (at least to their face) and I actually got compliments from artists who were familiar with Harley on the costume even though it wasn’t on point.
In my eyes everyone and anyone can costume play (even though I’m harsh on myself for being “too fat” or “not tall enough” to be a certain character). If you can’t sew, do what I did. I still put dedication and time and effort and money into finding the pieces to make sure that they were close enough to the real thing. I may not have made them, but I pieced it together still without buying an outright costume from a Halloween shop (which you can now do: http://www.buycostumes.com/Batman-Arkham-City-Secret-Wishes-Harley-Quinn-Adult-Costume/803286/ProductDetail.aspx and http://www.buycostumes.com/Batman-Arkham-City-Asylum-Harley-Quinn-Adult-Costume/803287/ProductDetail.aspx)
Make the costume yours. It’s your spin. No one should worry about what the “elitist” think or say because in my eyes there aren’t elitist, there are just people who can create a vision better than others, but still paying homage to a character they know and love (or so you hope). So, go out there, don’t be scared to get dressed up and do it. The peoples whose days you make by being that specific character is what’s worth it to me.
P.s.– this was me at NYCC 2010 6-months later: