Vanessa VanCleef cosplayer shares experience balancing big cosplay projects

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|11.03.11

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Vanessa VanCleef cosplayer shares experience balancing big cosplay projects
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Vanessa VanCleef is something of a fan favorite at WoW Insider. Appearing in not one but two seasons of Two Bosses Enter, Vanessa managed to trick her way up the brackets for a shot at winning it all. Needless to say, I was hoping to see at least one Vanessa cosplayer at BlizzCon this year, and I was not disappointed. Meet Kristie, otherwise known as KittyCatChi on Kristie's been doing cosplay of various anime and comic book characters for years, but this year, she decided to devote her time to creating two costumes for BlizzCon -- Vanessa VanCleef for herself and a very nice Harrison Jones costume for her boyfriend Wren.

Given Kristie's background, it's no wonder the final product turned out to be accurate, detailed, and gorgeous! Take a look at the gallery for some of the process behind creating the Vanessa costume, and follow us after the break for more from Kristie.


World of WarCrafts: Hi, Kristie! Can you tell us about your background in gaming? How did you get involved with WoW?

Kristie: I've been a gamer since I was as big as a Gnome! I grew up a bit of a tomboy so gaming came along naturally with that. I started off playing tons of Mario games on Nintendo64 (I used to dominate in Mario Kart and Mario Party!) Then I made my way through Gameboy, PS1, PS2 and those other beloved consoles. Some of my favorites are the Devil May Cry series, Legend of Dragoon, Sword of Etheria, and a few Final Fantasy games, amongst many others.

My Warcraft addiction didn't start until I hit college, to be honest. Some of my friends had been disappearing for months at a time on the internet (I learned the hard way what it meant to "lose a friend to WoW") until I found out they had been playing World of Warcraft. I was wary of online gaming because I was so used to playing the good old RPG or shooter by myself. It wasn't until I met my boyfriend that I was pulled into this new world of MMO over two years ago. He started me out slow since I was working on getting my degree at college, so I mostly played over the summer and winter breaks until my last semester when I couldn't stay away and have been playing consistently ever since.

I love doing all of the holiday events in the game (witch hat/broom stick cat pet!) and working through the new quest lines. I've been chasing achievements lately and looking for more artifacts to finish off my archaeology. I love running around with the moonkin pet my boyfriend bought me for a present, and I think it's probably my favorite pet I have so far! I haven't tinkered much with raiding yet, honestly, but we do run 5-man dungeons together. My boyfriend jokes that I can just watch him suffer three hours of raiding three nights a week instead of having to do it myself, but I'll probably start doing it eventually.

It looks like you've been doing cosplay for quite some time. What got you into it?

I've been cosplaying since ... 2004ish? I got my first sewing machine in 2006, though, so I feel that was when I really leveled up as a costumer. I was always a creative kid, so making costumes was a no-brainer. My grandmother took care of sick children, so she used to always do the craft projects with me that she did with them. That snowballed over time, and I started trying out new crafts and things on my own. My dad dreaded taking me back to the craft store because he knew I wouldn't leave without a new thing to try out.

When I got older, I started to get into anime and saw these magazines that featured pictures from conventions. They showed lots of costumes from series I loved, so I wanted to try too, and it stuck ever since. From there I got into making game, comic book, movie, and now Warcraft costumes. I love being able to challenge myself with each new costume project, and some of it I even get to apply to personal side projects or gifts for friends!

How do you go about deciding who you'd like to cosplay? What made you pick Vanessa for BlizzCon?

I'm very very picky about who I choose to make a costume for. I only do characters I like or find amusing in some quirky way. I used to crossplay a lot when I was younger, but these days I stick more with the femme fatale ladies because I relate to them better, especially those that like to walk on the darker side of the story. I've never cared if the character/series was popular or not. I think at least a fourth or more of my costumes are from series next to no one has heard of! My second criteria for a costume is to look for something visually interesting. If they usually wear something boring, then I'll end up making the outfit that might appear in only one chapter/episode because it would be more fun to make.

I originally didn't even think about Vanessa until later in the year. At first, I was thinking about making one of my toons in some random gear or even a Draenei. After going through Vanessa's dungeon I added her to my list of possibilities because I liked her attitude and storyline a lot, so when it came time to choose, a lot of my friends said she would be the best because there was so much personality and visually interesting costume pieces to work with. I couldn't turn down making big shoulder pieces that looked like nasty little gargoyles -- who could pass that up?!?

How do you come up with ideas for cosplay and put the costumes together?

I always choose a costume well in advance. I'll sketch out certain sections of the costume to get a feel for its shape, weight, and overall presentation. When I know how much of materials I need to buy, then we head off to the fabric stores to find exactly what yardage I want within a certain budget in mind. Then, over the next few weeks/months, I gradually start building the inner structure of the costume (Do I need to make a corset? Does it need to be lined? etc.) and work my way out to the little details. If a certain area is more difficult, then I try to get mostly everything else done first, so that hard area can have my complete focus. I try to prep on each stage before anything else, so if something goes wrong, then I always have a back-up plan in mind.

The Vanessa costume was just lovely. How long did it take to make? Are you planning on doing one for next year, too?

Vanessa was one of the more complicated costumes I've made in a while, so she took me about three months off and on. We had some very high-heat temperatures this summer, so some days it was too hot to work on her if I need an iron or other hot tool. A lot of my delay was because I underestimated the amount of fabric/supplies, and I even went back and remade a couple of pieces to fit better.

Crazy enough, I already started talking about next year's costumes with friends at BlizzCon this year! My next WoW-related costume is going to be the Embersilk dress that I like wearing on my character when I'm just goofing off around Azeroth. I wanted to have it for this year, but Vanessa was being needy and took too much of my time! We've been discussing the fun idea of possibly making Edwin Vancleef for my boyfriend so we can start a giant group of Defias Brotherhood followers, but if I say more I'll have to bring out the Nightmare Elixir ...

There are a few other bigger ideas being thrown out on the table, but I'm without a job right now, so it all depends on when I get one and how much money we can save up in time. My boyfriend definitely wants to get ambitious next year, but we'll see what happens ... It's definitely his turn for something complicated to wear. We only had time to make him Harrison Jones this year, sans a few details, but he still had fun and was happy that people recognized him!

Do you have any advice for those that would like to try their hand at cosplay?

Start small and ask for help if you need it, but don't take advantage of that help, and learn what you can. I've seen way too many people over the years say their first costume is going to be something insanely complicated, and either they don't finish or it comes out looking like a hot mess. Many people have tutorials up for how to make things these days, so it doesn't hurt to save up a folder of them for future reference. I always do this and also have huge folders full of character references. A lot of my experience grew from taking costume classes in college and summer volunteer work at a theater.

Another huge piece of advice is to always start early. I had a big problem with this, and the quality of my costumes paid the price. When I got tired of it, I just started getting my butt in gear months before, and the results on my work were much better. It makes a big difference from working on a costume piece three months in advance than trying to cram it all in one week.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Cosplay is a great way to express yourself and develop new and interesting skills. I've found a tight group of friends through the hobby and the love of my life. I don't see myself as some kind of celebrity and I never will, because it's just a hobby with some very talented people making cool things. I always value my privacy, but it's also nice to get out there and hang out with completely new people that like what you do. As fun as it is, you have to remember to maintain balance in your life and not devote every penny to it. Personally, I'm waiting until I get my job before I work on my next costume, so instead I've been planning small craft projects from all of my scrap fabrics ... Maybe they'll be WoW-related? We'll have to see!

Well if they are, please do send them in. We'd love to see them! Thanks for taking the time to chat, Kristie, and good luck on your future projects!

If you'd like to see more of Kristie's work, you can check out her page on DeviantART, or take a look at her page on Are you a cosplayer? Did you hit the halls of BlizzCon? Send us a link and you could be featured, too!

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including arts and crafts, fan art, WoW-themed recipes, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by emailing with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.
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