The first finished photo of my Zelda cosplay. 👑
I constructed this costume over the course of about six weeks, but I spent just as long planning and researching the techniques that would go into it. Despite my time crunch to finish it for Katsucon, I am proud of myself for not cutting any corners or sacrificing my commitment to quality to get it done. (I just worked crazy long hours every day for weeks instead, haha)
This is probably the most complex project I’ve tackled to date. Although there are some small improvements I would still like to make, I’m really pleased with how it came out overall. Get ready to see lots more photos of this one!
Photo by @josephchilin
Costume made and worn by me
Legolas and Tauriel costumes, leather work and most props by me. Wigs by me. Tauriel wig was hand made from scratch and measures approx. 45-46 inches from widows peak to end curl. Legolas wig was purchased and the hairline was hand ventilated by me. Tauriel’s bow by Weta Workshop Contacts by FourEyez.com Photography and editing by me
Here’s the process I used to weather my Abyss Watcher jacket. I bought budget upholstery leather from ebay, which was close to the right color, but unfortunately turned out to be more glossy than I wanted. This process got rid of the glossy coat, darkened the color a bit, and also gave it a more worn appearance. I’ll show the final result later this week!
I recommend either doing this outside or wearing a respirator, as some of the chemicals release fumes that probably aren’t healthy to be breathing in. Nitrile gloves are also a plus. Rubbing alcohol and acetone in particular severely dry out skin (that’s why they work well for weathering leather :-P).
1) Apply isopropyl alcohol (IPA, aka rubbing alcohol) to remove the gloss coat. I squirted it on liberally and then rubbed it off with a paper towel. You’ll need to rub the leather quite a bit to remove the gloss coating, adding more IPA as necessary. If you want a more harsh effect, you could use acetone (found in nail polish remover) instead of IPA. Acetone tends to leave a residue, so you’ll probably need to use IPA afterward. The leather should have a dull, matte finish after this step.
2) Use shoe polish to both darken the leather and to simulate dirt and grime. Shoe polish comes in a variety of colors. I used black, but what color you use depends on the leather. Again, I rubbed this on with a paper towel. I focused more around seams and areas that might accumulate dirt with use. I also made random speckles and streaks. Be careful not to buff the leather too much, since this will make it shiny again.
3) Lastly, apply a leather conditioner. I used Pecard’s leather dressing, but there are a variety of different types out there. This serves three purposes. It moisturizes the leather again, since IPA/acetone dry it out, extending the lifetime. It tends to darken the color slightly, and it also keeps the shoe polish from rubbing off. Wipe on a thin coat, being careful not to buff too much if you don’t want a shiny finish. It takes a while for the conditioner to dry, maybe an hour or two. If, after that, it’s still feels kind of oily, you can wipe off the excess conditioner with a rag or paper towel.
4) Update (optional step not pictured) - After making this tutorial, I also applied some fake black dirt (Ben Nye character powder, Charcoal), which helped remove even more of the shine, darkened the leather a bit, and gave it a more grimy texture. This powder comes in three different colors, ash (white), prairie dust (brown), and charcoal (black), so there are a lot of options for getting different effects. It washes off with water, so if you apply too much or get it on your clothing, it’s not permanent. This also means that it does rub off a bit. I haven’t tested this yet, but it seems like it should be fine for a day’s wear, but you might need to reapply if you’re wearing for multiple days at a convention.
And you’re done! You may want to repeat some of the above steps if you’re not completely satisfied, or it’s still too shiny. I’ve also heard of people using sandpaper to scratch up the surface, but this damages the leather and didn’t quite give the appearance I wanted for my project.
Since it’s been Christmas and I don’t have to keep John’s present a secret anymore, I can officially show you all what I’ve been up to! John wears an almost full set of armour to Swordcraft, rain or shine, and the only thing he’s been missing is a backplate. Since he wears a converted version of my old etched breastplate, he’s only been wearing the front steel plate, and as long as he’s been wearing it, he’s been wanting a fancy leather backplate (in the rules system we use, a 5mm leather back plate gives the same amount of HP as a 1.2mm steel backplate). So I made one!
I started with a raw sheet of veg-tan leather. Creating the pattern for the shape to match the front plate was fairly easy coming from a sewing background. I cut the shape, cleaned up the edges and measured out and embossed the diamonds by pressing the side of my edging tool hard into the leather. There’s also the four straps to go into the existing buckles on the front plate.
Since I’ve had very little experience with leather dying, I used the neck hole cut out as a practice piece (you’ll see what I did with that later). It was looking pretty good so I went for it. I used tape to section off the diamonds like I would have if I were painting. But it turns out it was both similar and extremely different to your garden variety acrylic paint…
There was a fair amount of bleeding, and the tape upset the leather, but there was no stopping now…. Here are some progress photos.
I dyed the rough, inner side of the leather purple and slathered the whole thing in a leather conditioner and rubbed it in really well to give it a nicer finish…. and ta-da!
I purposely left the straps un-attached to I could adjust the size to John perfectly. But the end result would look something like this:
I found the blue dye tricker to work with than the purple dye, and in the light it’s still fairly streaky. But on the whole, and considering it was my first attempt at something like this, I’m super duper happy. And John was over the moon too, of course!
It adds so much more colour and individuality to his kit, it honestly makes me slightly jealous of how good he looks on field. I see many more projects like this in the future!