Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Masquerade at WorldCon, and Crafts

One of my fondest memories from Conspiracy in 1987 was the Masquerade - the costumes were wonderful, and there seemed to be lots of groups taking part - the Elric group which won, and the High Deryni, and Masters of the Universe.
This year there seemed to be more solo masqueraders - though the worthy winner was a group of eight depicting gods of the Silmarillion. The other big group was 1970s Doctor Who monsters, some of whom had to be guided into position by stage staff because they couldn't see out of their masks!
The youngest contestant was eleven, with Elsa's costume from Frozen - she got a prize for Most Beautiful. Another Elsa costume was worn by a ballet dancer who danced on points. It's always good when the beautiful costume is combined with a performance, and there was also a woman who danced with a spear, and a Native American dancing costume, as well as an Ood girl. There were a couple of Game of Thrones costumes - the Harpy of Astrapor and Cousin Tony Stark, and another Doctor Who one - entitled A Glamorous Evening of Galactic Domination, an inventive version of a Dalek.
There were a couple of Steampunk costumes, one in the junior class, a Lady Loki and a drow, and A Message from the Ministry of Magic, which featured that nasty teacher at Hogwarts - simple, but very effective. The most creepy costume award went to the Slender Man, who had been wandering round the Con on stilts during the day.
We were lucky enough to see some of those costumes up close the following day in a Show and Tell session, where we also saw the electronics on the costume of the 1930s dancers (they brought their own neon signboard that said Dine at Joe's), and various head dresses and other accessories were passed round. The lady who had worn the dress depicting the Odyssey was also there - she was wearing a version of a 17thC court dress which looks as if the skirt has swallowed a fence panel, so it's very wide, but narrow fore and aft, and a good shape for applique of Odysseus' ship - with him tied to the mast so he can hear the song of the Sirens. And it had a cloak part which folded back to reveal more panels.
The drow was there, too - he uses the costume for LARPing in Germany, and he was also on the panel of the make-up session, explaining how to get that solid black all over his face. It took him two hours to start with, and he's now got it down to fifteen minutes. He was also on the arms and armour panel.
There was also a slide show showing how they had made another girl on the panel green - there are lots of reasons to be green in fandom, going right back to the Orion slave girl in the very first pilot episode for Star Trek, where she dances for Captain Pike, and right up to date with Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. The makeup they used, which was theatrical makeup, is good even for dark skins.
The panelists said that they had got a lot of good advice from local theatres, who had always been happy to help. The lady who had made most of the Silmarillion costumes said that she had been advised by a local theatre where to get a particular type of material which stretches in three directions, but not at all in the fourth direction, which was useful for portions of the winglike parts of her costumes which spread out and lit up at the end of their stately dance.
It reminded me of a girl who portrayed an Orion slave girl at one of the Star Trek cons I went to in the 1980s - she thought it would be a good idea to get the green skin effect by using food dye. It took two weeks for the dye to wear off - she couldn't wash it off - and she had to go to work like that.
The SCA were in the Fan Village during the day - they did some fighting practice, which we missed, but we did see their weaponry. They use padded foam stuff, which is a bit of a disappointment - re-enactment groups in the UK use blunted steel. Still, the chainmail was nice.
At several of the panels we went to, there were a couple of people knitting, or embroidering as they listened. There was also a good panel on medieval textiles in London, which I went to. It was given by a German lady who also had a stall in the dealers' hall, and the next day I went down and bought one of her hand-spindles, as it's a different design from any of the others I own. She took the yarn making process right the way from carding the wool and putting it on the distaff, through spinning and weaving and a bit about dyeing.
Textiles do not survive well in archaeological contexts, and plant based fibres like linen or nettle are almost impossible to find remnants of, so throughout all Europe in the whole of the middle ages there are only 180 examples of cloth - most of them dirty brown and the size of a postage stamp! Even so, there's something to be learned from them, and we do know quite a bit about different weaving methods, and the Viking art of naalbinding - a sort of knitting with only one needle (there was a whole sock done in naalbinding found at York). One of the good things about the Crossrail excavations across London at the moment is the vast wealth of archaeological material it's bringing to light, including artefacts related to textile production.

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