15 Minutes of Fame: Road to BlizzCon cosplay -- the grind to perfection

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15 Minutes of Fame: Road to BlizzCon cosplay -- the grind to perfection
There's simply something about Amanda. When we first spied her making the rounds with her stunning green-eyed paladin at BlizzCon 2010, we found ourselves captivated. Yet Amanda wasn't a finalist in 2010. She didn't draw crowds by displaying huge swaths of bare skin, parading up and down the promenade in front of the convention center. Not a seamstress, she doesn't even craft all of her costumes' parts and pieces personally by hand.

What Amanda Wisley does is cosplay with heart. The die-hard fan outsources her imagination to create costumes that exemplify the spirit she sees in the game she loves. This WoW lover loves to bring her visions to life, sharing them over long hours walking the convention floor and grounds to visit with other fans. But while this year's BlizzCon will see her buried inside a full fur suit as a pandaren monk, will her hopes of participating in Blizzard's official costume contest get buried as well?

In an upsetting discovery made long after tickets had been purchased and her costume was in progress, Amanda learned early last month that she'd not been lucky enough to snag one of the coveted sign-ups for the costume contest. She's been assured that she's high on the waiting list -- but after months of preparation, a successful race for BlizzCon tickets, booking air travel and accommodations, and of course all the expenses of creating her costume itself, will she get her shot at walking across the BlizzCon stage?

Take a look at the emotional highs and lows of this determined cosplayer's road to BlizzCon 2013 as her costume and itinerary laboriously come together.

October 3 I e-mailed [Blizzard] and I got this response. Not really excited:

... As I'm sure you're well aware, there are hundreds of other contestants who are similarly passionate about cosplay, and who all attempted to sign up as soon as the contest went live. The first round of contestant confirmation emails has indeed gone out, but we're still finalizing the confirmed list come BlizzCon to take into account withdrawals and cancellations. At this time it appears that you will be placed on the wait list, though relatively high on that list (within the top 10). ...

Tickets are already bought and plans are in place. I will probably make a scene and start a rally though if I don't get a spot in the contest though. LOL I'm going to play every card I can, including the fact that my husband got deployed last minute three years ago for the last BlizzCon we were to attend, and this was the first one he could make and it means a lot to us in general. He's always away for training for two months for military and will just be getting back a few days before we leave for California.

October 4 So turns out that [costume seamstress] lady was a scam! Today when I demanded a picture, she sent me something saying she was done the cloth part but [was] still working on the cuff and medallion for the belt. The picture she sent was just an edited version of the one I sent her the reference to on eBay. I'm seriously not that dumb.

I responded right back saying that was just the one from eBay, and then she backed out of the contract saying she couldn't meet my needs in time. I put in a Paypal dispute for the $150 deposit I paid, and she refunded it.

Anyways, being super resourceful and not wanting to fail, I contacted the China Cosplay place that makes this, and they are going to let me pay extra to get a rush order on it to get it in by Halloween. And they were great with getting all my measurements and everything needed, so I don't think I have to worry about that any longer! I checked out their website too, Cosplaytree.com, and they make some very nice cosplay items.
You have to know to always have a back-up plan for things, and now I've learned don't rely on individuals to get stuff done but rather companies that have reputations to uphold. On the brighter side, this clothing portion will only cost me about $200 total after the extra fees, whereas the lady was charging me $350 total.

My husband and I also decided that the snout on the panda head is way too long and that it just won't work. So I'm going to pay an extra $250 for them to restart on the head, since it is something that is fixable. Frustrating for us all, but as I told them, this is something I need to look very accurate, and I would rather fork out some extra money to get it right than make do with something less than perfect.

Because they didn't have a side reference picture, they went by the length of an actual panda's snout. ... They are pretty certain they can get it all done by Halloween, but at the latest, Nov. 5, because our flight departs on the 6th to head to Anaheim.

Still no more word back from Blizzard on the costume entry. I'm just trying to confirm that I can at least show up early when they do the pictures and see if there is a spot.

October 8 So I decided to go all out. I'm having a girl that makes professionally sandals for fur suit feet make me the monk sandals. ... Then, a guy I network with that owns his own superhero business around here and makes his own superhero costumes had agreed to help me with making the belt and cuffs for my costume. ... On top of that, I've gotten in touch with several local seamstresses (all within an hour of me) that are willing to make final adjustments to my monk clothing once it comes in and do a few upgrades (such as adding in a hole in the back for the panda tail).
All in all, I want this baby to be accurate and breathtaking so that Blizzard cannot deny my entry into the contest. I still haven't heard anything back from them after my last email, so I'm still flustered with that. But I will do whatever it takes even if it means making a scene, haha!

October 12 Just wanted to let you know that the actual body of the fur suit and the paws came in and wow, they are amazing! The feet got shipped to the lady adding on the sandals. The fur suit makes me look so tubby, but pandaren are tubby, so haha! The nails on the paws look amazing!

October 23 Also, clothing set came in! It needs some alterations, such as pants are too long, but it is nice and fits great. The cuffs are decent too. The belt sorta sucks, but I am hoping my superhero crafter guy comes through on the upgraded pieces. But if not, I can still make do.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Amada's last-minute preparations.

WoW Insider: It's BlizzCon week! What's still left to do, if anything?

Amanda Wisley: I am supposed to meet up later today (hopefully) with my superhero friend to get the upgraded belt and hopefully cuffs too. Other than that, I just need to sew on the new patches to the monk clothing set. I had sent the clothing set to a seamstress to upgrade, and she did a great job of bringing in the waist of the jacket to give it a more contoured look, and she did a great job making the legs way more contoured and capri-looking. She did a good job adding the tail hole on the back of the vest.

She also did a great job upgrading the buttons that latch in the middle of the vest; however, she used hot glue and paint to make the side parts of the vest raised, and it looked very tacky literally (very uneven/messy texture-wise), so I actually went out and bought gold metallic fabric paint, which goes on a bit smoother and went over that portion she did and it looks quite a bit better but still tacky (in a texture sense). I also bought green metallic fabric paint and put that in the green portion to make it shinier, and that worked pretty well.

Likewise ... what she did with the patches ... is cute, but not what I wanted (nor accurate to the monk set), so here are the patches I made to put over top. I also bought brown yarn to use to sew them on to give it an authentic look (with the big stitching), so all in all, I have now contributed to my costume with the little costume skills I have, hehe!

What aspect of the costume are you most pleased with at this point?

The aspect I am most happy with are the sandals, primarily because they are 100% accurate to the WoW female panda sandals -- like amazingly so. The girl who crafted them for me had to do something completely out of the box than what she was used to and spent a lot of hours perfecting them and making them workable and the results are very apparent.

Also, much respect has to be given to the fur suit company for adding the hair to the WoW panda head. They had to think out of the box for that too, as they've never had to add actual hair that wasn't fur to a fur suit head, and they truly did an amazing job at it.

Is there part of the costume that didn't turn out quite the way you'd hoped?

The hair on the panda head is very fragile, so a pain to deal with. I am having it specially packaged to bring it with me on the plane to ensure less damage to it. I really hope it is not windy during the times I have to wear it!

I do wish the panda suit's fingers were more slim as well; they are a little fat, and the WoW panda fingers are more slim.

The head is about 80% accurate to a WoW panda, which is great, but isn't 100%. But I would still say I was pleased with it for sure. I don't believe it would be possible to make a head 100% accurate because of everything involved with making it, so I wouldn't put it as a fault at all.

Have you seen everything all together yet? If not, when will that happen?

I've seen most of it together, but not every aspect. I won't really be able to until Thursday because the head is being packed at UPS now. I also have to add grey fur to the inside of the ears once I get out to Anaheim as well.

What will you be wearing to the WoW Insider/Wowhead meetup on Thursday night?

To the meetup, I will bring my feet, paws, and probably the head, although it is probably going to get in the way and be a pain, hehe! I also bought a special hoodie, which I am in love with because it is so comfy, by Jinx. It is their monk hoodie. Thought it would go well with the partial costume.

What's the outlook on getting into the contest? Any updates there?

As for getting into the contest, I was invited to the pre-judging and photo shoot; however, that doesn't promise me a spot. I did get send the schedule for when costume registration and the wait list registration is on Friday, so I'm going to show up to all of it!

We'll be following Amanda behind the scenes at BlizzCon 2013 as she dives into cosplay with her finished pandaren monk suit, and we'll be there as she finds out whether she'll get her chance to walk across the stage in the official costume contest.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.
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