Cosplay Friday: WindoftheStars Blows Us Away [Full]
From sultry siren to Sailor Scout, Mel Hoppe has done it all.
When we first encountered WindoftheStars (a.k.a. Mel Hoppe), she was painted white and rocking a glowing backpack as as Ame-Comi Duela Dent, a costume which won her top honors in Just Cos' San Diego Comic-Con costume contest. The next time we met, she was Borderlands badass Lilith and, to be honest, we didn't even recognize her as the same person! Mel's ability to blend perfectly into any character she portrays is an enviable trait that most cosplayers strive to perfect. Whether you're a comic book fiend or a gamer, Mel's sure to have a costume that'll knock your socks off, like some of the ones featured in our weekly Cosplay Friday round-up!
TOKYOPOP: How did you get started cosplaying?
Mel Hoppe: I had heard about cosplay briefly in high school and middle school while I would spend hours looking for new anime or Sailor Moon stuff on the internet. The Sailor Jamboree girls and photos from San Diego Comic-Con and Anime Expo still stand out as my first real introduction to cosplay. When I saw these beautiful outfits, a part of me really wanted to part take in that. However, at the time I had no idea that anyone could do it! I thought all of them were professional people hired by the company to represent the characters. When I started college, I wanted to meet new people that liked anime/manga so I joined the university's anime club. Every year they did an event around Halloween, in which cosplay was highly encouraged. By then I had learned a bunch more about the hobby, so naturally I took a stab at it. My first costume was Cassandra Alexandra from Soul Calibur II. Between my mother and I, we made everything. She made the main part of the dress, but she left the rest to me. I had so much fun making and wearing the costume I wanted to do it again. I had my mom show me how to use her machine and from there I self taught myself how to sew. Before I knew it I found myself making new costumes and going to conventions. From there it just has snowballed into this very rewarding creative outlet.
TP: What’s your favorite costume to wear and why?
MH: Oh man, I have to say this changes year-to-year based on what I make. This year I have found wearing Lilith from Borderlands to be especially fun and rewarding. I've been a big fan of the game since not too long after it came out and Lilith had been on the "to-do" list since then. But when I spend those tedious hours painting on those Siren tattoos and get to carry around a really big cool gun, the feeling of being even 10% as cool as Lilith is such a gratifying sensation. Plus the support of fellow Borderlands fans has been nothing but amazing. The first time I wore Lilith I bet my boyfriend that no one would know the character I was cosplaying. I'll just say I lost that bet by a long shot. However, while Lilith is my current favorite, doing anything Sailor Moon will always be a favorite of mine. Sailor Moon was my first anime and manga I ever saw/read and helped me through some rough times in my life. And much like Lilith, putting my hair up in odangos and putting on that fuku is immensely rewarding. Plus having little girls running up to you yelling, "SAILOR MOON!" just makes your heart melt and makes all the construction struggles so worth it!
TP: You have a real talent for prop building - like your Cassandra shield and sword. How did you get started in it?
MH: I have to be honest and say that most of credit for my current Cassandra sword and shield set goes to my boyfriend Zak (IceManProps). While I did do all the mold-making and casting, and we brained stormed a lot of it together, the hours of sanding, cutting and painting were all him. Those were his babies and I'm very lucky to have him and his talents. However, before he was around I did make all my own props. Back then I used a lot of unconventional methods and materials like cardboard, baking pans, craft foam, water bottles, pipes, etc. Just like sewing, it was all trial and error. Finding pieces that looked close and that could be modified to fit my needs. Also a lot of research goes into props before either myself or Zak jumps into a heavy project. I still do all the casting for our costumes and I got a lot of my info from reading online and talking to workers at the plastics store. Of course nothing beats the hands on learning from making mistakes, but doing your homework is a great place to start.
TP: What's been your biggest construction challenge so far?
MH: The Cassandra sword and shield have so far been the biggest challenges. Like I said, Zak did do most of the work, in the end 4 different shields were made and three different blades for the sword were made before getting the final products. We used a lot of new materials and techniques on those weapons, but in the end the perseverance paid off. Solely for me, the Cassandra armor was a huge task as well. Every step of that armor had it's own unique problem that arose. To the master cracking, to the mold material reacting to the primer, to the mother mold breaking, to learning a new casting technique, to painting it, all of it was one giant headache after another. But hey that's how we all learn right?
TP: How much did you know about sewing/crafting before you got involved in cosplay?
MH: I've always been an artsy and crafty person, but nothing to the degree that cosplay requires you to be. When I started I knew nothing about sewing. I didn't even learn about craft foam until a couple years after I started cosplaying. I took a few months to learn how to sew by making skirts and shirts from patterns. I also read a lot of costume construction notes from other cosplayers, tutorials, ect. online to learn how to do things and then tried my own take on it. Like I have mentioned before, a lot of trial and error. I know it sucks when you make a mistake, especially a really bad one, but you will always learn valuable information from it. Sometimes it will also shed some new light on the problem you are trying to solve. Now when I look at my older costumes I cringe, but hey everyone needs to start somewhere.
TP: What do you look for in a potential costume?
MH: Usually, first I'll want to cosplay from a game, manga, comic, anime or movie that I'm very into. Then the personality of the character also plays a big role on my decision on what costume to make. Granted there are times where I see a beautiful outfit and I end up playing/reading/watching the source material, but most of the time it's the other way around. I never really gravitate to one type, style or elements of costumes, it's generally always based on the character. However, every year I pick one character that has a challenging costume. I like to try to push my abilities and learn new things by going out of my comfort zone.
TP: If you had unlimited time and money, what would be your dream costume to make?
MH: This list could seriously go on forever there so many. Right now at the top of the list are Sizer from Violinist of Hamelin, Morrigan from Darkstalkers, Christine's masquerade dress from Phantom of the Opera and Padmé's lake dress from Star Wars: Episode II. I'm sure there are a few others that I'm missing.
TP: What's you favorite experience you've had in costume?
MH: I've been very fortunate to have a lot of great experiences in my costumes from meeting the creators, voice actors, winning awards, or just in general having a great time while in it. It's hard to pinpoint just one of these moments as the best, because each is so unique and amazing that they are hard to compare side by side. If had to pick one from just 2012 alone, getting to meet the makers of the film The Devil's Carnival, Terrance Zdunich and Darren Lynn Bousman, and receive a compliment on my costume work is at the very top. Those two men are so very inspirational to me on so many different levels.
TP: Any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
MH: It's that time of the year where I'm starting to plan and get cooking on projects for 2013. Currently I'm working on some stuff from Borderlands 2 and new Sailor Moon costumes. Other than that, nothing else is set in stone. Most of it is, "Oh I want to do that! Oh and that! AND THAT!" but who knows what actually will be made. Around February/March I'll have a better idea for my costume plans for the rest of the year.
Keep up with Mel's many costumed exploits on her website and be sure to check out our gallery of her work and the best cosplay this week at Nerdist.com!