Costume Con

I had no idea what to expect of Costume-Con, held April 25-28 at the San Jose Doubletree. Although I very much enjoy dressing up and wearing costumes, I don’t actually know how to sew, so I mostly assemble stuff from thrift store finds. Last year I decided to make a better effort at wearing costumes during the evenings at conventions, since I think it adds to the connish vibe, so I’ve expanded my skill set a bit. But in a fandom that just locally includes PEERS, BAERS, the SCA and the GBACG, with some incredibly talented folk, I was frankly a little concerned that my creations would not pass muster. Additionally I had heard stories of some historical costumers being a little snooty towards science fiction costumers and cosplayers and those of us who don’t know a farthingale from a busk.

However, a convention at the Doubletree run by the League of Evil Geniuses was too good to miss, and I figured I would at the very least enjoy seeing all the other lovely creations and hanging out with the gang and plotting for BayCon.

I spent the weeks before the con working on costuming so that by Thursday pre-con my room was a mess of feathers and ribbon and ecstatic cats. Friday I packed one suitcase of clothes, one of shoes, and a bag of random things that I didn’t want crushed and piled them into Tadao’s car and we hit the road, stopping at a BevMo to pick up a bottle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which I had been hearing lots of good things about.

We arrived at the Doubletree at around three in the afternoon having mostly missed the commute, but absolutely famished. The check-in cookies helped a little but after dropping off the suitcases the first order of business was definitely getting some grub. I arrived at the Coffee Garden and ran into Mette Hedin and Bryan Little who were just wrapping up their meal. I got my own table and Tadao arrived shortly, followed by Chris Garcia, Baronlaw, The Lovely and Talented Linda and Joe Price in a rotation schedule that kept the table full throughout the next hour or so. While we sat I was able to observe the passing costumes, which were already varied and impressive, considering that the convention had barely started. Commenting on this, I found out that for some folks the convention had started the previous day, with a rocking party the night before.

I got my badge, hit the Dealer’s Room, and then headed to my room to get ready for the Friday Night Victorian Underwear Social. I had repurposed bits and pieces of a previous steampunk ensemble and added a kimono and a petticoat into something that ended up being more 1920s than Victorian, but was pretty successful nonetheless. As I tried to decide whether to nap first, I got a call saying I was missing an SF/SF staff meeting. I scurried down to the bar and found myself disappointed — this meeting was actually in the Coffee Garden. Regardless, I had a nice glass of wine with the crew, we took some pictures and plotted a little before going our separate ways to prepare for the evening.

I had fully intended to make it down early for a change, since there was a performance scheduled by the Twilight Vixen Revue, who are just great. Of course I ended up getting done by around 10 p.m., which is still relatively early by my standards. The halls were filled with gorgeous costumes including a lot of themed ones with all sorts of ruffled undergarments and bare crinolines in evidence, as well as boxer shorts, slips and other variations. Naturally the percentage of attendees in costume was significantly higher than at any other convention I’ve attended, and the effect was just spectacular. Some of the costumes were just fun or whimsical whereas others were amazing creations that quite clearly took a high degree of expertise to create.

I wandered over to the ballroom area and found Tadao, who was wrapping up his house manager duties, as well as Baronlaw. The hall was not yet set up for dancing but outside the photography areas were jumping. Jade Falcon was snapping away while dressed in a lovely red corset over white flowing undergarments and was kind enough to take a few photos of my costume, joined shortly afterwards by Richard Man. Both of them seemed to enjoy bossing me around; however, they’re both very good at it and the results are invariably excellent.

Leaving Richard and Jade to their work, we trouped over to the party floor where the Pretty Pretty Princess Party was in full swing. After a little socializing we ended up in Chris and Linda’s room drinking Baronlaw’s very fine whiskey and singing some rather random tunes. Alas, I cannot carry a tune in a bucket, but I do enjoy dancing, so we headed back down to check out the dance. It was sparsely populated but had the DJ I had so enjoyed from SiliCon, so we caroused for a while and then wandered over to check on Richard who was still plugging away in the photography area. He was printing up nifty little photobadges so I got myself one and hung out for a bit.

Eventually I got hungry and Baronlaw and I went to see if the Coffee Garden was open. It was not, so I asked if I could get room service for take-out. After brief confusion and a wait while the sandwiches were made I escaped with food back to the photography area. We ate, and the boys tried to teach me some basic Tai Chi which was almost entirely unsuccessful until someone pointed out that removing my waist-cinching bustier might help with my breathing exercises. Eventually we abandoned Richard to his work when we found out there was a small gathering in Kevin and Andy’s palatial 10th floor digs. Up we went to find a pleasant gathering of folks. There was sake and some frighteningly delicious Japanese cheesy-poufs as well as lively conversation for the next hour or so as people wandered in and out. Eventually, around two or three a.m., we called it a night.

Saturday I awoke hung over, as is always the case when I drink whiskey. I made it in time for the buffet, which is key for a full convention experience. Compared to Friday’s madness it was a pretty chill day. I wandered the Dealer’s Room to get last minute costuming bits, and took a nap. Eventually I got into the latest version of my Spacegirl costume, figuring it was the appropriate one for the evening, and headed down to the SF&F Masquerade. I was earlier than on the previous evening, arriving at around 9ish as the last few entries wrapped up. I hung out with Baronlaw and JP and we watched Chris and Tadao do their thing onstage while the judges did theirs backstage. Eventually the results came in and I was able to see some of the entries I missed, including Mette Hedin and Bryan Little with a World of Warcraft entry, a truly amazing Orc and Warg team called “We Lost,” and of course the fan favorite “Space Girls” (now available on YouTube).

The parties were more crowded on Saturday, with the Black Hole full of rowdy Klingons and Merv hosting his Daleks Take Manhattan party. At some point Baronlaw mentioned pizza, so we called for delivery to my room. His roommate Dorothy pointed out she had a cooler full of snacks and Tadao mentioned he knew how to cook using the hotel room coffee maker, so eventually we were joined by Leigh Ann, Jean Martin and at least one other person whose name I don’t know, if I ever knew, and had a veritable banquet of pizza, prosciutto, cheese, olives, bagels, osembe and ochazuke.

Revitalized, I headed back to the Daleks in Manhattan party where I had some lovely absinthe as well as my dear old friend the Mandarine Napoleon liqueur. At some point Karisu asked if anyone was willing to take her husband Richard some champagne since he was still (!) over at the photo area. I volunteered and ended up spending most of the next few hours until around 5 a.m. shooting the breeze and looking at the amazing photographs of the entries I had missed. I badgered him unsuccessfully to wrap it up and get some sleep, until he finally took pity on me realizing I wouldn’t make it to sleep either unless he packed it in. We closed up shop and headed over the outside walkway to the elevators, passing the consuite where a tipsy crew that included Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Andy Trembley was still going strong.

Sunday I woke up feeling fine, or possibly still drunk, and once again made the buffet my friend. I hit the Dealer’s Room for another wander and then headed for the Future Fashion Folio which had just started. The entries were varied and it was really neat to see the designs brought to life. The two audience pleasers were Baronlaw’s Future Airline Security which came pretty close to the “No Costume is No Costume” rule while still remaining hilarious, and the Fae Warrior which was a lovely costume and a great stage presence combined. The clown entries kinda creeped me out, but even I will admit that they were extremely creative.

I wandered through the consuite to find JP in absolute heaven at finding himself in the middle of a 1950s tea party, with many ladies in hats enjoying vintage tunes, tea and cookies. I hung out a little enjoying the scene but had agreed to cover a couple of hours at the Mad Science Fair exhibit room so I made my excuses. However, when I arrived the doors were locked, and a note stated that the exhibit was temporarily closed. I was informed that it had been that way for quite some time, but since I was about fifteen minutes early I figured I’d wait.

Jean Martin and Dr. Noe had just finished their Time Travel Demonstration in an adjacent room, which I was very sorry to have missed, so I hung out for about half an hour or so chatting. Eventually I decided to head to the volunteer desk to see what I should do, but they had a sign saying the volunteer desk was temporarily up in ConOps. I went up to ConOps and was told that it had moved back downstairs. I went downstairs, removed the now-obsolete signs, and asked about the Mad Science Fair. No one knew anything. By now it was 4:30 and I was cranky, so I walked by the Fair one more time, hung out for a few minutes and then gave up and decided to take a nap instead.

I felt a little guilty going to sleep but much better once I woke up. I put on a very casual steampunk outfit and grabbed some food, took a stroll through the “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” exhibit which had some astonishing costumes on display, and finally went to change for the evening. I added a veil to the hat I’d been working on, which was a $5 wool thing I’d found at Goodwill and mangled into a sorta-riding hat with ribbons and feathers and other doodahs. I had some trouble with the not-really-a-corset, which will hopefully get fixed at BayCon by the addition of boning, but that was mostly hidden by the jacket anyway so I left it at that and went down to the Historical Masquerade, arriving once more in time for the last handful of entries. The final entry was an amazing Midsummer Night’s Dream group that started out “Oh, cute fairies” but ended up stunning.

I hung out and watched the awards being given out to see what I had missed, and was duly impressed. Baronlaw, Erik and Dorothy won an award for their “CSI Fallriver” group. Other standouts included a Loie Fuller Serpentine Dance recreation, the “Cotton Club,” and the “Evil Satin Worshippers.” Best in Show deservedly went to the “Empress Eugenie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting” painting recreation.

Tadao got released from his house manager duties and we headed up to the party floor, first hanging in the consuite for a while chatting with Johanna who was on bartending duty, and afterwards back to the Dalek’s party which was truly hopping by now. Sara Bruce and friends were dressed as Winelords and having a ball, Colleen Crosby was Giant Alice in Wonderland, house and all, and the puns flowed freely. Mette and Bryan and their friend Beth helped us take over one corner of the room and pretty soon I had the chance to sink another knife into poor innocent Baronlaw’s back, this time with accomplices. Feeling quite accomplished I decided to go ditch the less comfy bits of costuming and naturally I never made it back downstairs.

Monday Baronlaw called at 9:08 precisely. I know this because he made a point of mentioning it when I made pathetic gurgling noises into the phone. I admit I had agreed that we would need to be up by nine if we wanted to make the buffet before it shut down, I just forgot who I was talking to. Ironically I ended up getting a lox bagel instead of the buffet, but it was probably worth it anyway.

We had called for a 1:30 check out, and needed every minute of it, having packed twice as much stuff as I actually wore. I was glad to have the options, though. Eventually every last feather and sequin was packed up and shoved in the car.

The Dealer’s Room was still open so we wandered through that saying goodbye to folks who were taking off. I was in no particular rush, and Tadao was also interested in staying for Dead Dog, so we took a little nap by the pool enjoying the sunshine. Once it started to get a little chilly we decided that non-Coffee Garden food of some sort was in order and checked with the concierge for nearby places. He recommended a family run restaurant a block down Skyport called Vito’s Trattoria which was really quite nice despite having the music turned up a bit loud for my taste. I had some Fusili alla Fungi that was very tasty, and the veal was good too.

We returned to the hotel to a flurry of activity as the remaining attendees and staff took over the sushi bar to create entries for the Mousekerade. The surrounding businessmen looked a little horrified at the proceedings, probably due at least in part to Leigh Ann’s needle placement on that poor, poor innocent pony. Not having any plush toys to abuse, I helped Richard and Karisu finish clearing out their gear from the photography room and arrived back just in time for the start of the show. Tadao and Sandra Childress were managing the main bar closer to the stage and the room was packed, so in my infinite altruism I squeezed in and started to tend the second bar which also happened to be the only clear space in the room.

I don’t know what I expected from the Mousekerade, but it ended up with 23 entries most of which were hilarious and a few of which were disturbing (I’m looking at you again, Leigh Ann), and a judging process that encouraged bribery.

Much fun was had by all and there were a few speeches and congratulations, membership totals were announced, and when Johanna came back dressed in her infamous latex fanboy service costume a very lively photoshoot ensued. At close to one a.m. I remembered that I had to work the next day and we took off into the night, leaving the stalwart CC26 crew still at it.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #65, May 7, 2008