Costumes and More From ConCarolinas 2015

Arrow costumes. Photo by Debadeep Sen.
I found fellow Arrow fans to photograph with my Nyssa al Ghul costume! Photo by Debadeep Sen.

This past weekend, ConCarolinas returned to Charlotte, NC, for the 14th year. It’s a great con that I always enjoy, and this year was no different.

It was, however, quite different from last year’s event in two significant ways. Last year’s guest of honor was George R. R. Martin, which was amazing, but it gave the con a significant slant in attendance to Game of Thrones fans. This year was back to a broader audience with far fewer Khaleesi costumes.

The con also moved to an Embassy Suites with a convention center space in nearby Concord from its previous location at the University Hilton. Opinions from long-time con-goers varied on the change. Some felt the new space was a bit too large (and perhaps would have been more useful for last year’s roving bands of Khaleesis). Indeed, some panels that would have felt full in a more size-appropriate space seemed sparsely attended in the expansive rooms available in the new hotel. On the other hand, the layout on a square was quite convenient (keep walking; you’ll find what you’re looking for!). And with the amenities of an Embassy Suites (read: massive, cooked-to-order breakfast and evening drinks both included), not to mention the spacious hotel rooms for con-goers who like to pile in, I found it to be a great space for a con.

Despite a Kids Track, there didn’t seem to be particularly many children in attendance. (This apparently shortage may also be because I left my own children with their grandmother!) The schedule also featured several panels for parents that I attended, including “Getting Your Kids Into Gaming” and “Raising Scientifically Minded Children.” The latter spurred an interesting debate amongst some of the panelists over whether and to what extent we should be pushing all children into science.

Jim Craig, the panel moderator and Planetarium Director at The Schiele Museum of Natural History, commented that science doesn’t have the same cool and exciting portrayal in pop culture that it did in the 1950s and 1960s. He also noted that today, we tend to blame problems on scientists instead of politicians. After the other panelists suggested ways we can change this, such as through encouraging children with competitions and games, author James Maxey said, “The whole concept of how you make it cool is the wrong way to go. Coolness isn’t the problem—science doesn’t have a marketing problem.” He went on to say that a century ago and even more when so many great discoveries were being made, it wasn’t 50 percent of the population who understood science. It wasn’t even 5 percent. “We never needed a majority of people to understand a science in order for it to advance,” Maxey said. “So I don’t know that trying to get everybody engaged is the wisest route.”

Science guest of honor Catherine Asaro rebutted that we’re in a scientific time unmatched in history, where we all take technology for granted. She argued that to keep up with that pace, the population in general needs to be more scientifically aware. Craig replied that that’s why the smart people work to make the technology more idiot-proof, explaining that while he has a broad understanding of his phone, he doesn’t have any idea what makes the earphones work or what the science of the glass in the screen is. “I could devote years of studying to understand it, but would that enhance my life?” he asked.

“We don’t all need to be specialists,” Asaro said. “We just need the awareness that you just demonstrated.”

In far less serious hours of the con, there was a lot to take in. Doctor Who fans gathered with Fourth Doctor scarves, which they laid end-to-end in a Guinness World Record attempt. (No word yet on the outcome.) One of my favorite geek entertainers, Mikey Mason, gave several concerts. Nerd-Vana Burlesque made their ConCarolinas debut, although my favorite part of that show was not the burlesque, but emcee Rich Sigfrit’s readings of 50 Shades of Grey as characters like Ron Swanson and Pinky and the Brain. (You can see a few other of his “50 Shades of Wrong” characters on Nerd-Vana’s YouTube channel.)

If you find yourself looking for a great Southeast con to add to your schedule, you can register for 2016 now for only $30. Next year’s event will be held June 3-5, 2016. Check out the photo gallery below for some of the con’s highlights, including the great costumes.

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Conquer the Convention With the Con*Quest Journal

First page of my Con*Quest Journal. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
First page of my Con*Quest journal. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The Con*Quest journal comes with a sharpie marker and 30 pages for autographs, artist sketches, cosplay photos, panel notes and quotes, favorite vendors, stickers, and comic book style pages to note down all there is a standard convention. In the back of the binder, there’s a spot for business cards, a zipper pouch to hold ticket stubs and other paper swag, and four sleeves for holding comics, art, and photo-ops.

I carried my journal with me on the first and last days of the MegaCon. It was helpful in keeping the business cards for vendors in one place and storing my autograph from Michael Rooker. For the most part though, I put it together at home.

I found that with my comic book shopping, I didn’t necessarily want to take my journal into the convention each day. If I had it to do over, I would have taken just the autograph pages into the convention with me and filled in the rest in my hotel room. I also would have taken my Polaroid camera to print out my pictures and label them while it was all fresh in my brain.

Looking at my finished MegaCon journal, I can see where I have plenty of space to put in another set of pages for another convention. Of course, if I took this to a convention like DragonCon or SDCC, I might have needed two journals.

At the moment, Con*Quest does not sell refill pages, but hopefully that will be an option in the future. If you need more standard blank pages though, you can grab a four pack for $5.

A standard Con*Quest journal costs $40 + shipping. For $5 more, you can get a tote that is perfect for carrying it in. I recommend this because it’s annoying to have to go into your backpack every time you need to pull it out.

If you want to have a little social interaction at the convention, pick up a pack of Con-pliment cards ($3 for a pack of ten). I gave these mostly to children because their faces lit up when someone appreciated their costume.

For those who want something a bit smaller than the regular Con*Quest journal, check out the Con*Panion mini journal. It has some of the same design pages, but in a smaller format.

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GeekMom received a sample of this product for review purposes. 

Star Wars and the Power of Costume Kicks Off 12-City Tour in Seattle

Photo: Kelly Knox
The famous metal bikini. Photo: Kelly Knox.

Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, but you can’t deny that Queen Amidala’s gowns are breathtaking. In fact, from Princess Leia’s white gown to a Jedi’s robes, the costumes of Star Wars are now ingrained in pop culture. They are instantly recognizable and unquestionably memorable. Star Wars and the Power of Costume, an exhibit presented by the Smithsonian, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and Lucasfilm, celebrates the amazing costume achievements of the Star Wars trilogies with almost 60 original, handcrafted costumes from every film.

This exhibit is making its way to 12 cities across the U.S., starting at the extraordinary EMP Museum in Seattle on January 31. This incredible exhibit cements the EMP’s status as a geek mecca. Star Wars and the Power of Costume covers two floors of the museum, with a few costumes displayed elsewhere in the museum.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox.

The moment you enter the exhibit and hear the familiar music play, it’s not hard to imagine you’ve just stepped into Star Wars. (I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open the entire time.) Each costume has been meticulously cared for and in practically perfect condition. It’s always amusing to see just how your favorite characters actually size up, from the small waist of Natalie Portman or how much Chewbacca would tower over you, but the exhibit goes into much, much more interesting detail about each piece.

Every costume has a story. Many are inspired by multiple cultures throughout history, like the headdresses of Mongolian royalty for Queen Amidala’s wide red headpiece and the samurai helmet resting on Darth Vader’s shoulders. Lucas drew from fascist regimes for the look of the Empire, the swagger of a gunslinger for Han Solo, and the humble simplicity of monk robes for Jedi. Each part of the exhibit includes fascinating details about the inspiration and creation of the piece, each a work of art in their own right.

Star Wars and the Power of Costume
The evolution of an emperor. Photo: Kelly Knox.

Costumes inspired the actors and vice-versa; both Ewan McGregor and Samuel Jackson were giddy at the prospect of wearing Jedi robes, while Harrison Ford insisted his shirt look a certain way. Be sure to spend some time listening to the interviews with the actors, designers, and concept artists peppered throughout the exhibit for a truly inside look behind Star Wars.

Young kids may not get much out of Star Wars and the Power of Costume, although seeing Darth Vader, Jedi, Chewbacca, and the droids “in person” should hold their interests. This is a rare opportunity to see the incredible detail of Amidala’s lavish gowns, the worn robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, or the famous metal bikini from Return of the Jedi. In short, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you need to see this exhibit, with or without the kids in tow.

Luminara Undili and Mace Windu take on the Emperor. Photo: Kelly Knox
I was certain the Emperor was going to move. Photo: Kelly Knox.

Star Wars and the Power of Costume is at the EMP Museum in Seattle from January 31 to October 4, 2015. Tickets are timed for entry, so plan ahead by choosing the best time for you and your family online. Tickets to Star Wars and the Power of Costume include access to all other EMP Museum galleries. (General admission gives access to all of the galleries except Star Wars, so double-check that you’re buying the correct one.) Don’t miss Icons of Science Fiction on the bottom floor!

GeekMom attended a promotional press preview.

Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books.

When I first saw Star Wars and the other movies of the original trilogy, I was a young kid. We saw them in the theaters when they were first run. Considering what the actors were wearing in the movies was the least of my thoughts. I was too caught up in the stories, and, yes, fawning over the cute Ewoks. I took the characters as they were, completely lost in the movie, suspending all disbelief, in the way that only children really can. And even though I know quite a lot about clothing construction now, having sewn a great deal, my mind still doesn’t consider movie costumes the way you might think.

Enter Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy. This heavy, coffee table-style book is filled with every wonder from those three movies, at least in terms of what people were wearing. We begin with Leia’s drape-y, white, iconic outfit from A New Hope on the cover, and then forewords from three of the design team start the book off. The rest of the book consists of visiting each of the three movies, one by one. Concept art, behind the scenes photos, prototypes, and plenty of text and quotations explaining what you’re seeing fill this definitive book. We learn about the evolution of the major costumes through the series with plenty of explanation for costumes of all ranks of importance, from Vader’s dark robes and Obi-Wan’s worn rags to Catina costumes and what the AT-ST driver wore. Fold-out pages show more detail on several costumes (yes, including Slave Leia). And up close, a lot of the props look like someone made them in their basement. But we never seem to notice that in the movies themselves.

The Star Wars website shares more information and a trailer for the book:

This book is a cosplayer’s delight. If you or your kids have any interest at all in dressing up like a character from the original Star Wars trilogy, the photos, images, and information in this book will help guide your creations extremely well.

Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy retails for $60, but is currently $37.95 on Amazon. It is a perfect gift for Star Wars fans, cosplayers, and those interested in costume and design; this book is the ultimate resource.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

How to Make a Dancing Baby Groot Costume With Only a Few Failed Attempts

Chef, Honey-Where-Are-My-Pants Guy, Dancing Baby Groot, and Rocket Raccoon.

When my husband and I got married, we were warned that we would fight about money or sex. Not us. We fight about the direction a costume is taking during construction. It has happened every time we have made costumes. After the second design failure on Groot, we just let it go (great, now that song is stuck in my head). Neither of our ideas were working, and we weren’t doing so well.

What you will need for your Dancing Baby Groot costume. Image: Cathe Post

For this Dancing Baby Groot tutorial you will need:

A Flower Pot (Ours was about 14″ in diameter, choose your accordingly)

Leggings (Brown)

Sweatshirt (Brown)

Close-cell foam 1″ thick

Gorilla Glue

Cheap Sunglasses

Cheap Plastic Foliage

Brown Painter’s Paper  Brown Paint

Green Painter’s Paper Green Paint

Brown Gloves?



Old Tennis Shoes

More Gorilla Glue


A sense of humor

Instead of a tutorial, I plan to drink wine. Acceptable? While drinking, I will share what my husband did for the other three members of our household.

Let it be known that gender roles do not apply in my house. Not only does my husband cook, he also busted his butt to sew and paint our costumes in time for GeekGirlCon in mid-October. He is the most awesome guy in the world.

First we tried gluing, then we tried sewing, finally we said a few choice curse words and painted the grain on. All images: Cathe Post

We first tried twisting and crumpling painter’s paper and using Gorilla Glue to adhere it to the sweatshirt. This worked, but was a big mess and hard to keep positioned while the glue dried. There were many colorful metaphors uttered…

Next, the twisted pieces of paper were hand-sewn onto the sweatshirt. This made our daughter look like a brown box instead of a long treeling. Plus the paper was stiff and LOUD. More cursing ensued.

Groot’s pot was constructed by cutting a flower pot in half, adding cardboard, and using copious amounts of Gorilla Glue to attach old sneakers to the bottoms. For grip, a collectible card game playing mat (basically a giant mousepad) was cut and adhered. There was no cursing involved in the making of the flower pot. Now, wearing the flower pot did cause my daughter to utter a few choice phrases (to be fair, that thing had to be a pain in the arse to walk in).

As a finishing touch, I loaded I Want You Back onto my phone and connected the iFrogz Tadpole speaker GeekMom Jenny previously talked about to the inside of the flower pot. When we get around a bunch of people, my daughter could dance like Baby Groot.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot

The Rocket costume went much more smoothly, though my costume had the most materials and items to purchase of our three costumes. Thankfully, with the announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 being a definite, I know I will get future use out of my costume—and have time to make a sweet gun!

“Honey, where are my paaaaaants?”

My son’s costume (only to be worn for our Halloween commitments) went the smoothest of the three costumes, was the cheapest, and took the least amount of time to make. My son, quite specifically, asked to be the guy from “Honey, Were Are My Pants?,” the silly fictional sitcom from The Lego Movie. Honestly, when you are four, isn’t that the best part of the movie? Thanks to having a cardboard supply that multiplies like tribbles, having yellow rain pants (needed in the Pacific Northwest), and a pajama top the same color as the guy’s shirt, we only had to purchase blue spray paint and World Market Cheesy Snowballs (because the container looks like a Lego mini-figure head with a bit of modification). We had a selection of acrylic craft paints and a few different spray paints, so we didn’t even have to purchase those either. My son, needless to say, thinks that the costume is awesome—because, “Everything is awesome!”

Great. Now I have that song stuck in my head…

Thankfully, we got most of our arguing and Vulcan-Death-Match fighting out of the way on Groot’s costume. By the time the Lego guy’s costume was finished, we didn’t care where our pants were.

If you want to tell my husband that he did a geek-tastic job on our costumes, tag @timsmartini on Twitter. After making costumes for everyone else, he was too tired to make one for himself, so we dug out an old chef’s jacket and hat we’d ordered from a uniform supply. Instant costume!

Happy Halloween from Rocket, Groot, Honey-Where-Are-My-Pants guy, and Chef!

ConnectiCon: A Much Needed Break From Reality

Image By Lilianna Angel Maxwell

What a bunch of weirdos.

I can’t say I was in a good frame of mind when I went to ConnectiCon last weekend, but I certainly came home in one.

My family and I travel to Connecticut each year to this multi-genre convention of fandom and fun.  I was dragged there by a friend and enjoyed myself so much that I started dragging my own people with me. In the past ten years, I’ve only missed one. This year I took my two teenagers, plus one of my daughter’s friends. We stayed at the family of a friend’s house, camping in their backyard. (I utilized all the tips I suggested in a previous post to go to a con on the cheap.) At this point, the kids and I meet up with over a dozen people each year we attend—and always meet new friends, too.

So why the negative start? I had just spent a stressful week in the “real” world, and had a lot of work to catch up on. Going away for the weekend seemed like just one more item on my to-do list, and I wasn’t in the mood to cosplay, interview celebrities, or participate in discussions. When I walked into the con, I looked around and had a very negative attitude.

Then I realized that I go to these things all the time. I’m a weirdo!

For a split second I was dismayed. Did other people judge me that way? And then the atmosphere of ConnectiCon started seeping in: the relief of expressing something you love, the joy at seeing friends, the happiness at being yourself in an accepting little universe even if only for the weekend, and the fun of sharing it all with my kids. Who the hell cares if people judge me for being a geek! And I certainly will not start doing it to others. After that, the weekend was a blast. So what did my family and I do at ConnectCon? Lots!

Image By Rebecca Angel

The best part is seeing our fellow geeky friends. I had thought one of my best friends in the world (the same person who brought me that first year) couldn’t make it, but then he did! We watched the FMV Contest (Fan Made Videos) together. I try to pick the ones that really match the music with what’s going on. There was a superb one that used a Bjork song…and I didn’t write it down… and I can’t find a list on the website…

Image By Rebecca Angel

My son played Magic for most of the weekend. Although he had a great time, he felt like he had been at a party and only talked with one person. Next year, he said, he’d try to branch out in his activities more.

Image By Rebecca Angel
Image By Rebecca Angel

My daughter and her friend cosplayed on Saturday: Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games, and Chihiro Ogino from Spirited Away.  

We danced, danced on Friday, but I let my daughter and her friend dance on their own Saturday (my feet hurt by the evening—old lady is me.) They said it was lots of fun. They wanted to go to Tea Time, but were unable to get in. It’s a popular panel! Yay for tea!

Several of us went to see the 18+ Art Fight. This is where two teams of cartoonists are given random words/phrases from a spinning wheel and have to draw on a huge board. The artists (and words) change every five minutes, while a host chats with the audience, and makes comments and jokes about the art being made. Although the format is well-done, the 18+ excuse only led to frat-house humor. One of my group said he had seen their regular show, and with more random words/phrases, there was more creativity and less penis jokes. After fifteen minutes of the extreme sex humor, we got bored and left…

Image By Rebecca Angel

…to find a spot to see the fireworks! ConnectiCon coincided with the River Festival in Hartford, and Saturday night had a great show (complete with a beautiful full moon.) We decided to go outside the con to see them, but quickly returned after the fireworks were over. We missed the happy vibe of geeks, even for just an hour.

Image By Rebecca Angel

I enjoyed walking around the Artist’s Alley, bought some new comics, and chatted with artists, including this young girl and her proud mom:

Image By Rebecca Angel
Image By Rebecca Angel
Image By Rebecca Angel

I met other geeky families attending:

Image By Rebecca Angel

My daughter bought me an adorable Loki t-shirt. Yay! And I played LOTS of games (I’ll make a separate post about my favorites.) We saw the panel with Janet Varney, the voice actress for Legend of Korra. She was very entertaining, and even got some calls from other actors from the series to answer fan questions.

Oh, and the cosplay, the cosplay, the cosplay. I had been debating about this, but the She-Ra costume stayed home—maybe next time. Instead of my lame photos, check out this video by Beat Down Boogie of some of the fantastic work people do on their costumes.

This weirdo can’t wait till ConnectiCon 2015!

Cosplay, Conformity, and Funky Tights

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 8.14.52 PM
Rebecca Angel and nieces with their tights! Image by Rebecca Angel

I recently attended a local con and thought about cosplaying, but ultimately rejected the idea because the attendees were mostly college-age, and I felt…awkward. I’m stepping towards forty. Maybe if my daughter had joined me, but she wasn’t feeling it (despite having an adorable hand-made Totoro costume.)

When I first got into the fandom scene, I was a young mom excited to find a group of people just as geeky as I was, and my kids were happy to go along for the ride. My first time cosplaying was with a Yoruichi outfit my own mother helped me create. I had such a good time posing for pictures and hugging other Bleach characters I met. I was proud of the outfit, I looked good, and was part of something bigger than ordinary life. Even if just for the day.

Something changed as we all got older, and I’m still trying to figure it out. When my kids became teenagers, I tried to balance not embarrassing them with modeling the behavior to always be yourself. Is there an age when cosplay is not appropriate? Or just not visually appealing? Does this have to do with being conscious about getting older in a young fan scene, or about my body not looking like a magazine cover?

I admire the women who couldn’t care less, and let it all hang out, but I’m not one of them. But do I want to be? What cosplay would I feel comfortable with? And what does my “normal” clothing say about me?

Several years ago, a friend of mine got me an interview at her work. She bluntly stated what kind of clothes I should wear, instead of the usual jeans and anime t-shirt. Although I had been planning on dressing “nicer,” I was annoyed that I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Another geek friend advised me to think of it as a costume for a role. That made it more fun. And I got the job.

All of us dress in costume to fit in, or stand out, depending on what role we are playing. Looking at billboards, watching TV, and reading magazines tells us what costume is expected. That’s why I find it ridiculous when regular folks laugh or put down cosplayers. When I really think about it, I’ve always been cosplaying.

Before my late teens, I wore what my mom bought for me because it fit and was usually clean. She liked the “Upper Middle Class Child” look. Then senior year in high school I realized that I didn’t have much time left to exercise my “get out of normal free” card that society gives teenagers. I went somewhat goth since that was the mode of dress at the dance clubs I frequented in the early ’90s. Showing a lot of skin was also acceptable. It wasn’t so much rebellion as conforming to a different group.

Suddenly I was a teen mom, and tried to fit in with other moms by looking like them: mono-tone nursing shirts, flower dresses, sensible shoes. Yet another costume. Amusingly, it was my mom that visited and dragged me shopping to buy a couple of pairs of pants that were form fitting, stating that I was young and pretty and should show it off! I wore them when I started performing at open mics. The “Sexy Musician” role.

A few years after that I attended my first con and felt so BORING. I realized I had some more interesting clothing I could wear, and still be on the tamer side of this crowd. The next con I had fun with weird outfits. The following year was my Yoruichi cosplay. Then a steampunk year. Always something different from my everyday.

Except recently. Maybe I’m having an identity crisis, and if I don’t know what role I’m playing, how do I know what costume to wear? I’m talking about both at cons and in everyday life. For the first time, I want to express who I really am, not dress up just to fit in. But what does that mean?

Looking back over the years of costumes, the only common thread is tights: My favorite part of being goth was the fishnets and lacy stockings I found to wear with skirts and ripped jeans. I fell in love with Hanna Andersson‘s bright striped wool tights while doing the “mom” role (they don’t sell adult tights anymore—darn). I have purchased a dozen or so funky tights from a shop in Penn Station, NYC, that I wear at cons, on stage as a musician, and on happy days. :)

This past Halloween, my older sister decided she wanted to be She-Ra Princess of Power, and our mother created a fantastic costume for her. I am toying with the idea of borrowing it to wear at ConnectiCon over the summer. Am I just conforming again? Only older people who grew up with ’80s cartoons will even recognize me. I like that thought. I’m not trying to fit in with the younger crowd; I’m having fun with childhood memories. Both my kids told me they really don’t care either way. (And my daughter said she might break out her Totoro…)

Or maybe I’ll just wear my favorite funky tights.

Win a Free Costume Up To $75 From Costume Super Center!


Con season is upon us, so it’s time to decide what you’re going to wear, cosplayers! Although some of you may spend countless hours crafting just the right costume, for those of us not so creative, the folks at have got you covered.

They’ve even created some fantastic guides, like this Guide to Star Trek Uniforms, and they have something for every Trekkie (or Trekker, your call) no matter which show or movie is your favorite. You can be a redshirt from The Next Generation, or maybe you’d rather be in command with this Star Trek movie gold shirt.


The choice is yours, and now you have the chance to win the costume of your choice up to $75 value from CostumeSuperCenter! Simply head on over to my TotalFanGirl to enter. Good luck!

Downton Abbey Costumes Coming to Delaware’s Winterthur Museum

Downton Abbey Series 3
The “Costumes of Downton Abbey” will open at Winterthur on March 1, 2014. Image: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film, and Television Limited 2012.

Chances are you never had “go to Delaware” on your bucket list. You may want to bump that up to the top of your places to visit for the New Year. Winterthur Museum, located in the city of Wilmington, is planning to open “Costumes of Downton Abbey this March.

The exhibit will display 40 costumes and accessories that were actually worn in the popular period drama. Each piece is on loan from Cosprop, a costumier out of London.

“The first time I looked at the costumes up close, I was amazed at the incredible detail,” says Maggie Lidz, one of the three co-curators of the exhibition. “They are surprisingly ornate. This is going to be one of the most beautiful exhibitions ever held at Winterthur.”

Image: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2010.

Lidz went to London back in July to choose the pieces that will be on display. The idea behind the exhibit isn’t just to look at the pretty costumes, but also compare the fictional British world of Downton Abbey to the real-life American counterpart Winterthur in the first half of the 20th century. In other words, you can expect to see Lady Sybil’s harem pants, Lady Mary’s engagement dress, and Lady Edith’s wedding dress right next to H. F. du Pont’s Saville Row evening jacket and the du Pont family’s 1874 Tiffany silver tea service.

The exhibit will be organized chronologically, allowing visitors to move through the times of day, both upstairs and downstairs. Winterthur will also host a series of companion lectures, workshops, and events.

If you’ve never been the museum, this is the perfect excuse. Located in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, I can honestly say that Winterthur is a pretty gorgeous place to visit any time of year. Tickets for the museum are priced at $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, and $5 for ages 2–11. Besides the Downtown Abbey exhibit, that ticket will also get you access to the 175-room house as well as the Winterthur Garden and Galleries, special exhibitions, a narrated tram tour (weather permitting), the Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens, and the Enchanted Woods children’s garden.

If you’re planning to make a special trip, know that “Costumes of Downton Abbey” will open at Winterthur on March 1, 2014, and run through January 4, 2015.

How to Geek a 5K

Five K run, Halloween costumes
X-wing pilot and Skywalker-in-Training! Cathy and Steve Greskovic found great 5K costumes. Photo by Fran Wilde

Last weekend, I ran my second 5K. The first time, three years ago, I ran by myself. This time I ran it with one of my best friends, which made the race even better. Know what will make it superb next year? Costumes.

The race I run takes place during Rehoboth Beach’s annual Sea Witch Festival… which may be one of the geekiest beach-Halloween festivals on the East Coast. Seriously: A pitch-perfect handmade Jawa and Gonk droid team (droid made of Rubbermaid bins, no less) won the parade and perhaps the universe, plus many more DIY costumes.

DIY Gonk Droid and Jawa in the parade. The Sea Witch Festival features many DIY costumes, but this little one walked the whole parade route on gonk feet. And looked utterly amazing. photo by Fran Wilde

The race, sponsored by the awesome Seashore Striders, is similarly outfitted, with several of my favorite costumes from this year below. There were pirates too, and skeletons, Vulcans, two great Teenage Mutant Ninjas with DIY shells (turkey roasting pans), superheroes galore, and a Bo Peep from Toy Story who ran in full dress. Batman and Batgirl sprinted past, on their way to victory while we were still headed for the turnaround, which was totally okay.

Here’s hoping next year I get it together to make my own costume, taking major inspiration from the folks below. In the meantime: Woo, we made it to the finish line!

Group costume: DIY Octopus legs! Heather Bevan, Lindsey Gibson, Gwen Rash, Wendi Potter, Becky Brown, Carol Middleton, and Charlene Pagan found their costume inspiration on Pinterest. photo by Fran Wilde
Powerpuff Girls Knee-highs and Tutus! Lyandra Emmanuel, Trish Ingram, Candice Savoy, and Nicole Nicholson. photo by Fran Wilde.


Science Pin-Ups!

Rebecca Angel. Photo taken by First Impressions Pinup Makeovers
Rebecca Angel. Photo taken by First Impressions Pinup Makeovers

So…I, um…got dolled up. I rarely wear make-up, and if clothing styles range from potato to sex kitten, then my closet is on the spud side. But, my friend is getting married and her bachelorette party involved doing vintage pin-up makeovers. We all had a blast, but now I have dozens of photos and what to do with them? How many calendars does my husband really need?

I thought I’d share them with this community, but with a geeky twist. To cover up some skin, I put thought bubbles of science that you know I was thinking while the shots were taken. Right?

Rebecca Angel. Photo taken by First Impressions Pinup Makeovers
Rebecca Angel. Photo taken by First Impressions Pinup Makeovers

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2013

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Back in May, there was some brief concern that the 2013 Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the largest art parade in the United States, would have to be cancelled. Hurricane Sandy had destroyed the performance space that funds the parade’s incidentals—its security, port-a-potties, permits, etc. With the immediate neighborhood cash-strapped in the wake of the disaster, the parade organizers started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise funds to cover a $100,000 budget shortfall.

Well, the Kickstarter campaign was a resounding success, raising more than $117,000, and the 31st Mermaid Parade took place as scheduled last weekend under gorgeous, blue skies. If you were there, leave a link to your pics in the comments section!

(Please note: Mermaid Parade pics live at the cross-section of bodypaint and burlesque and may be considered by unenlightened, seashell-pastie-hating employers as NSFW.)

Indiegogo Campaign: TinySuperheroes


I have to thank my mom for pointing this one out to me. Last summer Robyn Rosenberger made a cape for her two-year-old nephew’s birthday. She was also following the story of a little girl named Brenna, who was fighting a serious skin disease. The idea of the cape met the reality of children battling incredible obstacles, and her organization TinySuperheroes was born.

Since making their first cape in January of 2013, they have made 500 capes for sick and disabled children. This Indiegogo campaign (which ends on June 18th!) will help raise money to make and distribute 1,500 more capes in the next year. Their motto is “Empowering Extraordinary Kids – One Cape at a Time!”


My Daughter the Mermaid

Photo illustration by Marziah Karch
Photo illustration by Marziah Karch

As my kids get older, they just tend to get more interesting. And every once in a while, they prove that they’re total geniuses. The trick is to catch them being good and encourage them to be even better.

Last summer, my then ten-year-old daughter made a mermaid tail. She’s got a bit of an obsession with mermaids. She loved the series H2O Just Add Water (which is surprisingly good for a fantasy kids’ show) and she’d been doing a lot of research on mermaid tails.

She discovered that there’s such a thing as a swimmable mermaid tail, and she really wanted to make one. She not only presented me with instructions, but she’d also researched prices. That’s some serious project initiative for an almost 5th grader. I did set one limitation. She could not make a swimmable mermaid tail. She could only make a costume. I don’t think one-piece swimmable tails are safe for young swimmers (or necessarily that safe for experienced swimmers, for that matter).

Was it the easiest thing to sew? No. I think we all learned to hate Lycra swim fabric a little with this project, but the results were nice. It was a super fun summer project.

If you want to try this yourself, we had her make her pattern on poster board by tracing an outline of the outside of her legs. It’s okay to round down on the measurements instead of up if you’re using Lycra. It stretches. We then had make a pattern for the fin shape. She sewed the fin separately from the body of the tail and attached them afterward.  The fin is stiffened with feather boning and heavyweight sew-in stabilizer, since we were mean parents and wouldn’t let her use a monofin. The stabilizer was inserted after the fin was turned, as was the feather boning, and then the fin was top-stitched to hold it together and emphasize the fin shape.

mermadbaribeThe great thing about projects like this? Not only did she learn sewing skills, she has a launching point for more creative learning. Once she’d made the big tail with parental help, she made her Barbie a tail with no help at all. In fact, she showed us the final product after it was done. (We had a talk about cutting fabric out of the edge of the yardage and not the middle next time.)

She’s also decided that she’s going to make a series of videos about her adventures as a mermaid. I’m skeptical that she’ll get this done, but bring it on. I figure this is her chance to learn about storyboarding, editing, and creative writing. Perhaps even spelling. (She started with “Epsod 1” until I had her sound out the word.)

I loved 5th grade. Time to see what 6th will bring for her. It may involve Minecraft videos. I hope it still involves costumes.

A version of this article originally appeared on GeekMom in the summer of 2012. 

This Week With the GeekMoms

GeekMom News

This week, the GeekMoms are relaxing before a Star Wars weekend, buying new cars, stage managing, and back from vacation!

Dakster Sullivan will be enjoying her last Saturday free before the Star Wars Weekends season. This means resting up, drinking lots of water, and making sure all of her costumes are good to go. She hopes to debut a new costume this year, so stay tuned to see what she has planned.

Rachel Cericola just got herself a new car. Continue reading This Week With the GeekMoms

1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas

1000 Costume and Cosplay Ideas © Quarry
1000 Costume and Cosplay Ideas © Quarry

Many of us GeekMoms are cosplayers. From my casually thrown together thrift store costumes through Mandy’s hand-sewn Kaylee Shindig dress right up to Dakster – our very own 501st Legion member. Although the level to which we each take our cosplay depends on our individual free time, available finances and confidence, we all love sharing photos of amazing cosplays created by others, so when I heard about 1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas – a book part compiled by professional cosplayer Yaya Han— I was excited to have a read.

First of all, the book was not what I was expecting. I had been hoping for a book with detailed looks at some of the costumes, perhaps construction photos or information form the creators about how they put the outfits together with sources and advice on materials. Continue reading 1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas

SuperMe Kids Bags Uncover the Hero Within

SuperME kids backpack complete with mask to keep their secret identities safe.
SuperME kids backpack complete with mask to keep their secret identities safe. Image: SuperME used with permission.

Just in time for National Superhero Day on April 28, SuperMe backpacks and messenger bags are here! It might seem like a really simple idea to put a cape on a backpack, and to make a functional bag with the entire superhero package and make a quality product for a reasonable price is a lot to ask, but SuperMe has done it. Continue reading SuperMe Kids Bags Uncover the Hero Within

Wonder Woman Day: Wonder-ful Crafts

Wonder Woman Crafts © Bake at 350/Pixel Power Designs/Being Geek Chic
Wonder Woman Crafts © Bake at 350/Pixel Power Designs/Being Geek Chic

If all today’s Wonder Woman posts are inspiring you to add a bit more Wonder Woman into your life then maybe a craft project is just what you need. Whether you’re looking for something you could create in an afternoon or a more long-term project there should be something for everyone here.

One of my hobbies is baking cookies and after spotting this spectacular Wonder Woman design over at Bake at 350 (which you should NOT visit if you are on a diet) I might just have to invest in some new cutters and have a go myself. The shape of the cookies was created by using two different cutters (a bikini top and a baby’s onesie) and some ingenuity to stick them together as one. Some bold and bright food dyes later and I’m feeling hungry… Continue reading Wonder Woman Day: Wonder-ful Crafts

Take Back Halloween: Your Costume Name Doesn’t Have To Feature The Word “Sexy”

Last week I was browsing one of those pop-up Halloween stores in what was probably an abandoned Borders with a friend who apparently hasn’t tried to purchase a Halloween costume in some time. Our conversation mirrored the scene in a Duane Reade in the Sex and the City movie:

Miranda: The only two choices for women: witch and sexy kitten.
Carrie : You just said a mouthful there, sister.

It gets worse every year, and the sizes of the Sexy Fill-In-The-Blank costumes are drifting down into the sizes for girls of an age that should never be described as sexy. Although I always make my kids’ costumes, we do like to wander the Halloween stores for inspiration. My son was faced with massive walls of choices: gobs of superhoes, movie heroes and villains, cartoon characters, and more. All my daughter wanted was to see what they offered in Star Wars costumes for girls. The answer? Not one. And not due to lack of selection. Here’s a portion of the wall of Star Wars costumes:

Wall of Star Wars costumes. Not one girl. Photo credit: Ruth Suehle

If you’re an adult woman, it’s worse. In the aforementioned trip with a friend to a different Halloween store, I had a hard time finding any costume for a woman that wasn’t a sexed-up version of the character. If you actually want to look like a character, you can forget it.

But there are two solutions. One, if sexy kitten/policewoman/fairy is your thing, then go right ahead. I decided to be She-Ra this year for our 80s-themed party. She-Ra happens to wear a strapless white dress and knee-high gold boots. Of course, it turns out that even She-Ra can be sexed up–when searching for images to base my pattern on, I kept coming across one that mainly consisted of fishnets, a garter belt, and a bustier.

Plan B: Take Back Halloween. The site’s mission:

We love Halloween. We really love Halloween. We think it’s cool that there’s one day a year when people can dress up as anything they want. What we don’t think is cool is that increasingly women are only supposed to dress up as one thing: “Sexy _____” (fill in the blank).

And their advice:

  • Celebrate your heritage. North America is full of people from every single part of the world. But no matter where we’re from, we all have amazing queens, heroines, and goddesses in our cultural backgrounds.
  • Channel the goddess. It’s a great way to explore the female divine—or just wear an awesome costume. (Use care if you’re stepping outside your own heritage.)
  • Be Queen for a Day. To heck with princesses. Be a queen.
  • Honor your personal heroine. Who inspires you? Who fascinates you?
  • Try on some red carpet glamour. Dressing to the nines is fun. When else do you get to wear elbow length gloves and feather boas? Unless you’re a movie star in real life, Halloween is your chance.

My plan for She-Ra was to have a Dragon*Con costume already ready next year that didn’t involve underwear from another century and ten layers of fabric in the Atlanta heat. But I love the idea of choosing historic figures–particularly a gigantic queen gown. And who doesn’t love a good feather boa?

My kids, for what it’s worth, teamed up and chose Mario and Princess Peach. Regular Princess Peach, in a gown so puffy, it took five yards of fabric to make in the four-year-old size.

GeekGirlCon is This Weekend…See You There?

Be still my heart! There is actually a convention for us girls now! It’s in Seattle, so those of you on the East Coast have a ways to trek it (haha, I made a geek funny), but there is indeed a convention made “just for her” and it’s called GeekGirlCon!

That said, I’m dragging my husband with me this weekend to the maiden-voyage of the event. I was looking forward to the GeekGirlCONcert, but it is on Friday night and we won’t make it into Seattle until Saturday. The rest of the weekend proves to be just as entertaining though, with celebrities like Star Wars crafter Bonnie Burton and TV writer Jane Espenson. (I might have a small geek-out if I meet either of these ladies this weekend.) D&D  blogger and podcaster @SarahDarkMagic will also be there, and I’m crossing my fingers to run into her and meet her in person (since I have been following her on Twitter FOREVER).

There are a slew of workshops and games to play in the gaming room. With names like Steve Jackson and Looney Labs on the playlist and workshops like “How to Paint a Miniature,” I have a feeling a major part of our weekend will be spent here (since our daughter will be attending too).

There is a Masquerade on Saturday that my daughter and I might take part in or at least attend for photos. We will be wearing our matching Pokémon skirts that were a hit at PAX, but whether we make it depends how tired we are by Saturday evening.

My list of vendors to visit is HUGE. I’m quickly becoming a comic book fan as my daughter is interested in them too. There will be several female comic book authors and artists there to visit. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Cute Factory is all about and Geek Stained Glass.

Finally, Sunday I will be moderating the Geeks Raising Geeks panel. Panelists include Nancy HolderBelle HolderCarrie GoldmanKatie GoldmanJenn FujikawaSharon Feliciano, and Stephanie Kaloi.

If you are going to be in Seattle this weekend, I hope to see you there. I will be tweeting (@GamerMom1_0) if I can get reception on my phone. Be sure to say hello!

MCM Expo Hits Manchester

Cosplayers Outside MCM Expo Manchester
Cosplayers Outside MCM Expo Manchester

This weekend saw the first ever MCM Expo held at the Manchester Central convention centre in Manchester, England. The organisers have been running expos across the country for several years but this was the first time the event has ventured into the north of England, filling a surprising void in the sci-fi and fantasy events calendar for the region. Enormous crowds showed up for the show, seemingly far more than the organisers anticipated, causing some organisational flaws to be sadly drawn to the fore, marring what was otherwise a great day out.

Early entry tickets allowed those willing to pay a little extra access from 9.30am however general admission was to be from 11am. I have seen several negative comments from parents regarding the early access tickets. One of the main points made in the advertising for this expo was that children aged 10 and under would be admitted free. However this only applied to general entry tickets, meaning those who were already paying out extra for early entry were forced to pay again for their children at the same price as adults. For a family of four, this could mean the difference between the event costing £10 ($16) for arrival at 11am, to its costing £32 ($53) for arrival a mere 90 minutes earlier – a significant price difference to a family who may well be budgeting carefully given the current financial climate. Naturally no one had to buy these early access tickets but dedicated collectors would certainly be interested in order to get to the stalls before the big crowds and this would be extremely off putting for those wanting to make a family day out of the event.

The Entry Queue
The Entry Queue

By 11am, the queue for entry was stretching well out of the centre and around the building. The vast majority of attendees were buying their tickets on the door and so a bottleneck had formed due to only four ticket booths being open and only one of these accepting card payments – even those with pre-bought tickets were unnecessarily forced into this line. Once through the ticket booths, attendees were herded into a very long line that was winding around the vast area of the convention centre that had been left empty (the expo was crammed into a small space at one end of the hall).  The staff was sending everyone into this queue even though those with pre-bought tickets should have been granted immediate access, as they were not checking tickets. We found ourselves stuck in this non-moving queue for around 45 minutes, until well after the event was supposed to have opened for general admission, and were never given any explanation for the hold up. When my friend and I left the building to get lunch in the city centre at 1.30pm, we were shocked to see that people were still queuing all the way out of the building and across the plaza outside, now two and a half hours after opening.

Inside the main expo room, more organisational flaws were apparent. Popular stalls had been placed right by the only entrance to the room causing huge difficulties to traffic flow and the event had been squeezed into such a small floor space that simply moving around the room was often impossible. Considering the difficulties I faced moving around as an able bodied adult, I felt for anyone attending the event with a disability and have seen several comments regarding the problems faced by wheelchair users from attendees on Twitter. Several celebrities were attending to sign autographs including Warwick Davis and Kenny Baker, but their tables had been placed in the centre of the room on narrow walkways opposite stalls and no handlers were present to organise the lines, causing large obstructions to form. Finally, a small stage area had been erected in one corner but the tiny number of seats was not nearly large enough when any of the special guests took to the stage so many people were simply standing in the walkways to watch. Eventually some staff began making people who were not in the designated area keep moving but this often seemed rather ineffectual.

Some of the Stalls at MCM Expo
Some of the Stalls at MCM Expo

Despite this seemingly inexhaustible list of negatives, MCM Expo Manchester was for me, and the majority of attendees who have since tweeted, a very enjoyable day. The exhibitors were all friendly and happy to spend time discussing their merchandise, helping us to hunt through vast binders of trading cards, giving out contact details if you were searching for an item they did not have with them and advising on getting the best prices. Many comic artists were present drawing on-the-spot sketches for attendees and signing their prints and comics and the celebrities were all full of smiles, they seemed genuinely happy to be there with their fans. Everywhere I looked I saw people in costumes, often posing for photographs wherever they could find a space to stand, everybody smiling, laughing and happy as they made my Dana Scully cosplay (and my companion’s Kate Beckett) look like we had barely put in any effort at all. I came away with my bags heavier and my purse lighter, my only regret being that I missed out on celebrity talks up on the stage due to the lack of a published schedule – well, that and not being able to justify the £50 ($82) asking price for a signed Nathan Fillion Firefly trading card!

Anjili Mohindra Talks to Her Fans
Anjili Mohindra Talks to Her Fans

One of the most popular celebrity guests was Anjili Mohindra, star of Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. Whenever I passed her table, a line was snaking away from it, often comprised of many children with their parents. I found myself near the stage as she came out to answer questions from fans and saw a large crowd of children sat listening and asking questions. Also popular was the “Robot Wars” arena where attendees could bring along their own robots to put them to the test, battling against one another. Less popular by far from what I saw were the tables featuring sports stars; for some reason, the expo had been coupled with a Sports Memorabilia show and a number of local sporting stars from the Manchester United and Manchester City football teams were signing autographs. The tables for this were packed into a quiet corner and had been completely vacated by halfway through the show, I’m not sure there’s much crossover between cosplayers, comic fans and football fans.

There is already talk of next year’s expo and judging by the crowds this weekend, it cannot fail to be a success. The organisers need to take time to listen to the comments made by this year’s attendees, learn from their mistakes and make next year’s show that much better. A few simple changes such as using more of the available space to spread stalls out, adding many more seats to the theatre area and placing signing tables out of the way of main thoroughfares would make all the difference to the feel of the event and make it more appealing to guests, especially those who may struggle with moving through thick crowds such as those in wheelchairs or pushing young children in strollers. There are relatively few of these conventions, especially in the north of England, and if lessons are learned from this weekend, MCM Expo Manchester could well be on many people’s “must-do”.

A ticket to this event was provided free of charge by the organisers.