Ladies of the Rings
I love an unusual or unexpected twist to just about anything. When my editor told me about a chance to speak with a team of female cosplayers doing the entire Fellowship of the Ring, I jumped at the chance. Sadly due to technical issues, we missed our scheduled interview time. Fortunately, I ran into three of the Ladies by chance at Sean Astin’s signing booth. We took a few minutes to sit and talk about their work. Now to get something cleared up, because I got it wrong at first, these ladies are not crossplaying as the male characters. In fact they are cosplaying female versions of those characters, which I believe is called genderbending.
Katie, as “Aragorn” has always wanted to do a Fellowship cosplay group, but it’s hard to get enough people together who want to do a high end cosplay. The amount of time involved is daunting. Last year she decided to try it anyway for this year. Everyone involved ended up picking the character Katie thought would best suit them. It all fell into place. The ‘dream cast’ I said, and we all laughed.
What was it about the characters that drew everyone in? Katie said that since it was her idea, and she was the ring leader, she decided she “wanted to be king”. Funnily enough, she told me she almost picked Pippin. Karen, as our female version of Pippin, said that character was always a favorite of hers. His story arc – beginning as “flaky, spacey, unreliable, disastrous, and then at the end he’s responsible, capable and almost heroic, how much he develops in the story” is not unlike her own experiences growing from child to adult. Though I doubt there was nearly as much sword swinging in her childhood. The third Fellowship member, Maribeth, brings us a female version of Gimli, complete with Dwarven beard. After all, what Dwarven Lady would have a smooth chin? Maribeth loves her Scottish heritage and sees its influence in Tolkien Dwarven culture. In her own words, being red-headed, stout and Scottish, she was perfect for Gimli’s female doppleganger, plus she already had the axe.
Each member of the Fellowship made their own props. Maribeth/Gimli’s helmet is based around a baseball helmet with craft foam and tape. For extra detailing she braided some twine and glued it along the sides of the helm’s ridges. She did buy fake chain mail, which I have to admit, I barely noticed because of the amazing work on the helm. Her beard is actually a wig worn on her chin. She pulled it off and showed me how it worked. Genius! I love it when people think outside the box. Karen/Pippin bought the surcote to save time and to make the hairy feet, she actually saved clippings from her last hair cut and glued it to a pair of jelly’s. Not only was this cheaper, it was also safer. Most hobbit feet are large floppy shoe like contraptions, which require lots of practice before attending a convention or result in lots of tripping, injury and damage to property. Bonus, the hair color on her feet matched the hair on her head. She saved time and money rather than trying to find a match online. The belt she wore was purchased because it had an Elven feel to it. Katie/Aragorn made most of her ensemble. The dress was a $5 purchase from a thrift store. The over coat was made from synthetic leather, and the crown was a combination of craft foam and worbla. Katie said she spent too much time on the crown and not as much as she would have liked on the rest of the ensemble. She also ordered fake chain mail, but unfortunately she had an allergic reaction to the paint. So she had to skip it for the rest of the con. She plans to find a way to fix that issue.
Their future plans involve hoping for better organization. They all agreed that “for most people, cosplay stands for continuous improvement”. They hope to make this a recurring event for their group.
As we were talking, I had a funny thought. Since they are a female cast playing female versions of the male characters, I had to ask…”Do you think at some point down the road you’d be willing to let guys in your group doing male versions of the female characters”? After the group laughter died down, Karen/Pippin told me one guy they know actually talked about playing Eowyn, but unfortunately he was joking. “I think it would be phenomenal” Karen told me. “It would be a lot of fun too”. They all agreed that as long as the person joining their group got into character, they don’t care”. While I can see it would be nice to keep the flipped theme, ultimately it is more about the love of the character’s personality.
Some of my own favorite characters are female. I don’t think that should ever be an issue. If someone bonds with a character…”it’s character first, gender second” – spoke Karen. “We would really love to see more men playing female characters – gender swapped, so they don’t have to be cross dressing. That can be amusing, but taking it as a serious role is better. It’s okay for a girl to act tomboyish, to be buff, tough, and strong, but to have a guy playing a feminine role…”. I jumped in with, “society still frowns on that”. Karen continued with “That’s really unfortunate. Men are more restricted in how it’s acceptable to be”. We digressed into the differences between American and European culture and what possibly makes it so difficult for men to express a less than rugged side. Then we got back on track when they asked about my Elrond cosplay which I was wearing. I’ll save the details about Elrond for another article.
One thing the Ladies of the Fellowship and I had in common, was “having to learn how to accept compliments – no one sees the flaws unless you point it out.” So very true. Katie told me about her difficulties working with the sword. It was made from pvc pipe, and spray paint didn’t work. She had seen Adam from Myth Busters use aluminum tape to create a sword. His was flawless, no doubt to lots of practice, and some Hollywood magic. So she bought some of the tape. To her dismay there were many imperfections. She plans to keep it though, and find a way to re work the piece. Gimli pointed out a chip in her helm that caused her a lot of stress. It happened the first day of the con too! A friend helped calm her down and said if the chip hadn’t been point out, it would have been assumed to be battle damage. So with paint in hand she covered it, and all was well with the cosplay world. I myself had huge problems with my cosplay. In the end it takes several deep breaths, walking away for a bit, and sometimes, asking a friend to take a look.
Thanks again to Karen, Katie, and Maribeth for taking time to chat with me. I look forward to seeing what these Ladies of the Rings have planned for the future.