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Meet Sarcasm-hime, Champion at NYCC's Cosplay Central Crown Championships

Find out more about what the judges saw behind the scenes to pick the winners in this incredible competition!

Image credit: Cody Jabroni

Cosplay Competitions are always one of the highlights of any convention. If you’ve ever been sat in the audience, or watching a stream at home, and have been confused by the winners that are announced, there’s a good chance you’ve been watching a craftsmanship competition!

Craftsmanship competitions, like ReedPop’s Cosplay Central Crown Championships, don’t focus on the biggest, flashiest and most popular costumes, but instead focus on the fine skills, quality of finish, variety of techniques and ingenuity of the costume maker. The judges have always inspected these costumes closely before the cosplayers walk the stage in pre-judging interviews where they get to question the cosplayer and learn all their secret techniques, flip seams and inspect the inside of those outwardly impressive foam builds and glorious ballgowns. They get to see all those details it’s impossible to see from way back in the audience! Everyone always has their personal favourite, but it’s important to understand the kind of competition you are watching, especially to appreciate why a more outwardly ‘simple’ costume beat something with a bigger wow factor on stage.

In the USA regional rounds, the Cosplay Central Crown Championships selects a winner specialised in each major costume category - Needlework, Armor and FX - and an overall top 3. The top 3 costumes in master level competitions like this will regularly cross over the categories, having a combination of several sewing, armor and FX techniques and all done to an exceptionally high standard. To give more insight into the details that the judges get to see we’re sharing a series of interviews with the six winners from New York Comic Con’s Cosplay Central Crown Championships Qualifier.

NYCC Champion: Sarcasm-hime

Featuring exquisite embroidery throughout the costume, Sarcasm-hime’s creation of The Queen from Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran’s graphic novel 'Snow Glass Apples' is a master class in costume creation. The judges had no doubt that she should be the NYCC Champion this year.

Popverse: Congratulations on your victory at NYCC! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself as a cosplayer?
Sarcasm-hime: I started out back in the days before social media, and we didn't have much in the way of options if you wanted to cosplay; you had no choice but to make your own costume. That said, right from the start I loved the challenge of taking a 2D design and bringing it to life. Dressing up is fun, but the making is a huge part of the fun for me, and since some of my projects can take a long time, I'd better enjoy the process!

These days I really enjoy designing my own interpretations of fandom characters, like my 1910s Erté Hela or my fantasy ballgown Ghidorah; I find it's a great balance where I get to flex my creative muscles and make something that really suits me while also making it easy for other people to connect with the design.

The inspiration for the costume

What inspired you to make this design?
Snow, Glass, Apples has been a bucket list costume for me for several years. Like 'ok but what if ALL of that detail were embroidery?' I have loved Colleen Doran's art for decades, and the graphic impact of all that pale blue and black detail with a shock of red was just irresistible.

I had already been working on it for quite a while before I even knew where I was going to compete. After spending so much time and money on it, I figured I might as well try to enter a big championship.

Image credit: Cody Jabroni

How did you bring the costume to life?
I've done a lot of embroidery for costumes before, but this was probably the most embroidery-heavy thing I've ever done. All of the embellishments on the dress and cape are done entirely by hand. I really enjoy fiddly needlework so I just kept plugging away for 2 years, and didn't really give myself a firm deadline until I could see the finish line, as it's such slow going.

I draped my own patterns and drew out the embellishment motifs so I could plan their placement. The motifs on the cape and skirt are satin which I cut into appliqués, basted to the base velvet, and then embroidered on top. I have a very big embroidery frame, but I still had to work in sections for pieces this large. Some of the motifs on the bodice are tambour embroidered and applied to the bodice, while other elements were embroidered in place on the finished bodice. For the collar, since I wanted it to curve, I had to embroider on it after it was constructed.

The headdress is made from Fosshape (a felt-like fabric that hardens when it's heated). I made a paper pattern, cut out my piece, pressed the points using an iron and then steamed the head area into shape on my wig block. Because the Fosshape is like felt, I could then stitch through it to embroider the headdress to match the dress.

For my glowing heart I sculpted it out of Monster Clay, made a silicone mold, and then cast it in resin. I cut it in half so I could put lights inside, adding a strip of Worbla's TranspArt inside so the top half could stay secure on the bottom half. I then drilled holes in the bottom for my strands of sparkly 'blood' to hang.

What are your favorite parts of the costume? And Why?
I am particularly proud of the heart just because it was out of my usual skillset. I hadn't roto-cast something to be hollow before, so that was a learning experience! It's pretty harrowing when you're working with expensive materials that you aren't super confident with, but it worked out and I'm very happy with it.

I'm also really happy with a few areas of the embroidery like the ombré chipwork scales, the basketweave goldwork, the layered organza with shaded embroidery overtop, and the 3D roses on the sleeves. I hadn't done any of those specific embroidery techniques before and this project was an opportunity to experiment with various materials and techniques so that there was a lot of texture and visual interest. I didn't want it to be one big blob of undifferentiated embroidery.

Embroidery Details

Are there any other details or features you would like to highlight?
I did some pretty time-consuming goldwork on the back of the collar, where it's hidden by the wig, because I'm a dummy. Nobody but me is probably ever going to see it.

One of my favourite things to use for embellishment is actually inexpensive iridescent or metallic craft cord. When couched to the surface of fabric, it can add a lot of interest and dimension and I love to edge appliqués with it. For a lot of my details I'd run a couple lines of sparkly cord next to a row of rhinestones, and then maybe some beads alongside that. You can achieve a lot of lavish detail with materials that aren't super pricy, it just takes time!

Any advice for anyone thinking about entering a competition like this?
I honestly had no idea what to expect going into Crown; I've been competing for 20 years but this was a whole new experience.

At any level of competition, it's almost like you're actually competing against yourself, as the only factor you have control over is what you bring to the competition. Everything else is out of your hands and what happens on the day can completely depend on who else shows up, who the judges are, unforeseen circumstances etc. You can do your absolute utmost, but everyone else there is also going to be bringing their A game. Someone might have done one thing extra, or the judges might just like what they did a tiny bit better. Having judged high-level competitions before, it can really come down to the tiniest of nitpicks. All you can do is try to maximize your chances by showing a breadth of skills, and executing all of the skills you choose to demonstrate cleanly and well. It's critical to make sure all elements of the costume are at an equivalent level of quality and finishing. Additionally, one of my favourite things about competing is seeing so many amazing costumes up close backstage, and swapping construction tips.

USA Cosplayers still have time to qualify for the 2024 competition with one last regional winner to be selected at C2E2, Chicago in April. We look forward to seeing Sarcasm-hime on stage again in the National Final at alongside the other Regional winners from ReedPop's US shows!

Missed the competition on stage? You can check out all the entries right here on Popverse in our VOD of the NYCC livestream!