Oaklandstuck: Trolls In Black.

18 July 2014

I happened to be in the Bay Area with Amberite for the Fourth of July this year, and as we are wont to do we got it into our heads to do a little road testing of some costumes we've been talking about for a while, namely the trolls Sollux Captor and Terezi Pyrope from the webcomic Homestuck playing Men In Black.

If you're not interested in our costuming notes feel free to check out the photographs we took of ourselves or not as you like.

We assembled our costumes out of random stuff I had around the house (one of the perils of cosplay is collecting strange odds and ends because "I could use that in a costume someday"), with a few trips to the local thrift store, the dollar store, and Michaels during the previous few days. Historically speaking MIBs wear black (or nearly so) business suits, which aren't difficult to put together. Late last year I ordered a pair of Sollux Captor glasses from Akujinscos on Etsy and was so impressed by them I wear them occasionally as sunglasses. His quality's top notch so I highly recommend buying his custom glasses for whatever costume you're working on. I'd ordered a pair of Terezi Pyrope glasses a few weeks ago but due to their backlog they didn't arrive in time. I resorted to using tiny bits of double-sided cellotape from the dollar store and red Celebrate It cellophane giftwrap from Michaels to turn my glasses into passable replicas of Terezi's. I was able to see more or less normally through them the rest of the day but had some difficulty with fine detail due to the hazing effect caused by the thin non-optical quality plastic layer.

In hindsight we should have made the horns more than a day in advance. We used two packages of white Crayola Model Magic to sculpt horns following this tutorial. One 2.5 ounce cup of white Model Magic was enough to make one pair of Terezi horns or two pairs of Sollux horns (one big pair and one small pair). We embedded loops of floral wire in the bases of each so we could later attach them to our wigs. As it turned out letting them sit overnight wasn't sufficient. Even after using a hair dryer on them for half an hour the next day after giving them all night to harden, the Model Magic had only hardened to the consistency of partially stale marshmallows. Not soft but somewhat firm and distressingly pliable. The horns had sufficiently set that we were able to follow the process in this post (Terezi) and this post (Sollux) to paint them with multiple coats of Modge Podge and acrylic paint, which gave them additional structural integrity but not as much as we'd hoped. I also discovered that, by hanging the Terezi horns upside-down by their mountings to dry, gravity pulled them off of the floral wire time and again which damaged the insides and made them less stable. I think they can be repaired with hot glue (which I don't have any of at the moment) but I think it'd be more worthwhile to make a new set from scratch and use a different mounting technique. Amberite had no trouble with his Sollux horns during construction or at any time that afternoon.

The night before we'd done our nails with Covergirl Outlast Stay Brilliant color 243 (Goldilocks) purchased from Target. One coat of this color and brand of nail polish seemed sufficient to match canon troll nail colors. After drying overnight it stood up to the rest of the costume assembly process. We recommend putting a final coat of clear nail lacquer over it, however, because the makeup we used bonded strongly to the nail polish. We haven't been able to get it off yet, not for love, money, or updates. We don't think it spoiled the effect too much; quite the opposite, in fact.

We used Light Grey Snazaroo Face Paint purchased from Michaels alongside assorted eyeshadow and lip liner as trollpaint. Despite dire warnings from other homestucks we found that it was very easy to work with provided that you carefully powder and seal it. First, shave everything that's going to be trollpainted. Facial hair was summarily removed, and we shaved our hands to the wrist, which is somewhat bizarre looking before and after the fact. We used the makeup process explained here, using dampened disposable makeup sponges and the "hit yourself in the face a lot" technique. When they say that you'll look like you're covered in wet cement they're not kidding. Give the facepaint time to dry, at least so that it's not shiny anymore. Five minutes standing in front of a room fan worked for us. Also, if you have any frown or laugh lines, be sure to exercise them while you're dabbing the makeup on. I found that one base coat of damp Snazaroo, followed by drying, followed by flexing and re-dabbing the worry lines on my forehead and laugh lines on either side of my mouth worked. Next, use lots and lots of powder to set it. A single container of transparent, colorless facial powder was more than sufficient to set the makeup of two people coloring their faces, necks, and hands. After the powder has set for five or six minutes blow the excess powder off so that it doesn't interfere with the sealant layer. To seal Snazaroo (and for the love of all that is good and decent in the universe, please seal it) pump hairspray (don't use aerosol hairspray, it's too hard to control) over top of the powder layer. We used Suave Max Hold and it held up to a couple of hours wandering around First Friday. Hold the bottle eighteen to twenty-four inches away and pump the hairspray so that it forms a fine mist and settles more or less evenly. While this was sufficient to seal the body paint for handling everyday objects, it wasn't enough to fully protect our clothing while getting dressed. There is some dry cleaning in our future unfortunately.

Amberite cut a pair of double Sollux fangs out of a white-ish plastic disposable drinking cup, and he says it worked well enough for his purposes. I passed on a pair of fangs because my teeth are very uneven and would have been problematic.

For the record, while dressed as Terezi I refrained from licking anything or anyone.

Lessons learned: One day's lead time is insufficient to make good horns. Unless you've used a particular construction material before you can't predict how long it'll take to set or how rigid the material will eventually be. Trying something new right before going out incurs a certain risk of costume failure. It's probably best to make several sets of horns well ahead of time so that there are spares on hand should something go awry. Additionally, Snazaroo makeup isn't bad even though it has a bad reputation among Homestuck cosplayers, but you have to go all the way to set it to keep it from smearing onto everything around you. Start putting your makeup on three or four hours ahead of time so you have enough time to seal it. Trust me on this. It's probably best to get as dressed as possible before putting on trollpaint. At the very least everything that might be dragged under a layer of clothing or have to handle articles of clothing should be painted after donning said clothing. Pull or roll sleeves up, put tight layers on first and cover them well with paper towels to protect them from flying powder. Perhaps wearing nitrile gloves to cover one's trollpainted hands while dressing would be a good idea. We'll be sure to try it next time.