Cosplay: I'm Not That Kind of Doctor

We’re only a few days out from the trek to Indianapolis and the preparations are in full swing. Bags are being packed, wings are being shipped, and dice are itching to be rolled. It’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait in conjunction with periodically reassuring myself that no, there isn’t more work to be done on a costume. It somehow manages to be both anxiety and relief simultaneously. This feeling is also probably due to the fact that, as we've mentioned before, Murphy's Law tends to be on in full force when it comes to cosplay.

The very minute that the GIR and I decided to do a Venture Bros. tribute cosplay there was no doubt in my mind as to which character I’d be dressing as. I’ve always found villainesses to be more interesting and engaging than their female protagonist counterparts. They always seemed to have the best set of powers, were usually smart/ambitious, and exuded confidence. Plus they tended to have minions! Who wouldn’t want minions? Needless to say, more than one adult found my childhood adoration for Maleficent to be a bit off putting. Given that, and my obsession affection for the Venture Bros., Sheila was a shoe-in. Her Dr. Mrs. the Monarch outfit is my personal favorite of the various iterations of Sheila and the thought was that costume would coordinate well with the GIR’s.  
The Dr. Mrs. the Monarch outfit was fun to make but, though it’s pretty straightforward from a construction standpoint, I’ll admit that it was the first costume I underestimated. A large chunk of the difficulties I experienced stemmed directly from my inability to draw. Seriously, I have absolutely zero abilities when it comes to drawing and any related field. The rest of my troubles were derived from certain fabrics and certain paints not wanting to play nicely together, which I didn’t realize until it came time to introduce them to one another. We’ll get to all this in a minute though (so hopefully you can avoid these issues). Despite this, my difficulties were ultimately minor and they definitely shouldn’t scare you off of this project, which is very approachable even for neophyte cosplayers.

Dr. Mrs. the Monarch wears a black leotard with a very distinctive neckline, long yellow gloves, thigh-high yellow boots, a geometric choker style necklace, and a little 4-pronged crown (sometimes 5-pronged depending on the episode). Each of the elements in that list is pretty simple in terms of the execution, minus the painting part (if you’re artistically illiterate like me). Let’s look at each of these components.

Bodysuit

We can’t be 100% sure that the foundation for Dr. Mrs.’ costume is a leotard versus a bodysuit, so you’re probably still within canon if you choose either one of those, as long as you select a garment that is jet black. Black leotards are generally pretty inexpensive and can be found in both sporting goods stores as well as major online retailers like Amazon. Alternatively, you could make a custom leotard/bodysuit using a pattern like this or this (4-way stretch fabric is highly recommended!).

I was operating under the idea that the leotard should have a bit of sheen to it and not just be a standard matte fabric. This isn’t required by any means though, so don’t feel as if you need to limit yourself to PVC or a ‘wet look’ vinyl. After a bit of research, I patterned a bodysuit on this. I really liked the functionality that a bodysuit offered and recommend going that route if you’re planning on being in costume for more than 4-5 hours at a time.

As mentioned above, the neckline on the bodysuit is…unorthodox. It plunges into a deep V in the front (ending a few finger widths above the bellybutton) and dips into a softer, but still substantial scoop in the back (ending just below the bottom of where the band of your bra usually falls). Since you’re almost certainly working with stretchy fabric, you need to work on the bodysuit using the dimensions that it will be when it’s on your body, which are usually quite different than those when it’s lying about. To ensure accurate cuts, I put on the bodysuit and drew the desired termination points in chalk. Chalk shows up beautifully on black fabric, but is easily washed or dabbed away when you don't need it anymore. After that, it was a matter of sketching out the cuts using my t-square and more chalk, then cutting along the lines.
Once the neckline had been shaped, I put the bodysuit on my dress form and applied a stencil I’d made using an exacto knife and a blown up printout of this image of the Monarch logo. Hopefully helpful hint: before the bodysuit, I put a bra on my dress form and padded the bra out so it’d hold the shape of what my curves would look like as I intended them to appear in costume (since the dress form doesn’t have much in that department). Again, this is about making sure that what you cut and paint will look exactly as you intend it to when you’re wearing it.

Here’s where things ended up taking more time than I’d planned; the fabric I used for the bodysuit didn’t take paint very well. The component of the cloth that gave it such a nice, subtle sheen also formed a barrier against paint, so I ended up having to go over the logo several times in order to obtain solid, even color throughout.  I repeated the same basic process with a different fabric for the design on the back. Despite this, I do recommend using fabric paint for the emblems rather than colored tape or fabric. Paint gives you quite a bit more leeway (when compared to tape or fabric) in terms of how it can be shaped on a stretchy surface. Just give yourself a few days of buffer when you start the painting process in case you run into similar difficulties.
The stencil
First pass with the fabric paint (you can see how unevenly it took)
Six coats of paint later and the logo looked solid.
After the designs had been painted, I edged the entire neckline with thin strips of this yellow PVC fabric. The PVC is great in that it tends to stretch well, but can be tricky to work with as it’s prone to curling in on itself. Some patience and a good rotary blade go a long way in taming the PVC.

The only thing remaining at this point were the ‘wings’. Dr. Mrs. the Monarch sports a pair of flowy, transparent orange wings on the back of her bodysuit that drape down her back and trail behind her like a train. To achieve the same look, I folded this chiffon (in ‘flame’) in half and carefully cut long strips that expanded out to an oblong-ish shape at the ends. Since chiffon made from synthetic fabric has a bad habit of fraying, I coated the edges of the wings with clear nail polish. While a French seam would have been a better solution, I found that a second layer of the chiffon added too much weight and opacity, so I kept the wings to a single layer and used the polish.

The wings hang almost on the vertical part of the back portion of the neckline right at the shoulders. First I tacked them to both the bodysuit and the PVC lining with fabric glue, then added a few reinforcing stiches at the corners and the center. Whether the wings actually reach the floor behind you is a personal choice. Canonically, they act like a train so I had them trail a few inches behind me. Of course, there are a number of problems associated with having what is functionally a train at a convention, so you may decide it’s just not worth the potential headache to make the wings quite so long.
Crown/Necklace/Earrings

Both the crown and the choker necklace can be made very easily. I ended up making both from bits of craft foam that had originally been sold as other items: the necklace began its life as a visor and the crown was, at one point, a little pail. While you can definitely use standard sheets of craft foam to make these, I found it to be easier and actually cheaper to re-shape the two items. I removed the head strap from the visor, then trimmed the foam down until it took on that pointy triangular shape that’s depicted in the show. The pail got squished in half, then I traced half-circles at intervals on the foam using the bottom of a coffee mug as a stencil. A few cuts along the traced lines and viola, perfectly symmetrical crown-like tines. I affixed a single 3/8” (0.95cm) round wooden bead to the peaks of each of the tines with some hot glue, then reinforced the tines with some mid-gauge floral wire.
After all that shaping, it was time for some paint. Some standard yellow spray paint left the two accessories a uniform color and a coat of spray varnish lent everything a bit of polish. Finally, I cut out a portion of the bottom of the once-pail-now-crown and added a small lattice made from pieces of floral wire embedded in the foam and reinforced with hot glue (which you can see in the third picture down in the above sequence). The idea behind the lattice was to give bobby pins and other wig/hair clips somewhere to grip on to.

As for the earrings, Dr. Mrs. wears simple round yellow studs in each ear, so I picked up a cheap pair in a hue similar to the spray paint from a local Claire’s.

Boots/Gloves

If I hadn’t come across an amazing sale on these, I would have made both the gloves and the boots (or at least covers approximating the look of boots) from a 4-way stretch fabric. But Milanoo.com was offering their own version of yellow PVC boots for an absurdly low price, so I snapped up a pair of those and a set of matching shoulder-length PVC gloves which the site no longer carries.

If you decide to make your own (which honestly tends to look better since they’ll fit closer to your skin), this is a phenomenal guide for making ‘boots’ and this is a great tutorial for making gloves. Also, Amazon offers these, which work very well for this costume.

Post Construction update: Remember my earlier mention of Murphy's Law? Well, Murphy took the form of some very hot summer days and acted out against my poor PVC gloves. I'd stored them next to the wet look fabric that I'd used for the bodysuit and apparently the heat was enough to fuse the two together, leaving black streaks all over the gloves that not even a Magic Eraser could tackle. I ended up ordering the shiny satin opera gloves from Amazon and painted the PVC boots a lighter shade of yellow to match. In case you go a similar route for whatever reason, PVC takes acrylic paint extremely well!

Wig

Unless you happen to have short black hair, you’re probably going to need a wig to emulate Sheila’s curled bob. I went with this, then shaped it using a comb, this hair wax, and this hair gel. Since the wig was designed to curl at the ends, it was pretty easy to coax it into the canonical hairdo.

Since the length of the wig is quite short, a wig cap is a necessity (check out this post on wigs for more information on caps and why they’re good to use).

Defying Gravity (all the underthings)

Ok, so it’s no secret that one of the most eye-catching features of Dr. Mrs. the Monarch is her prominent, seemingly physics-defying d├ęcolletage. For a non-animated human subjected to things like gravity, it can be very tricky to attain the same look. The angle and extent of the V-shaped neckline precludes the wearing of most standard undergarments (since they’d be readily visible). There are a couple of ways to negotiate this somewhat awkward situation.

Option 1 is to go the route pioneered by professional cosplayer and Heroes of Cosplay alumnus Riki LeCotey and make a custom bodice from plastic or a similarly rigid material. Unless you’re proficient at plastic or resin casting, the easiest way to make this is to purchase a torso mannequin like this one and, using a plastics saw or very sharp utility knife, carefully cut out the desired shape.

If you’d rather not cast a piece or re-shape a mannequin, there’s always Option 2. Option 2 involves stick on lingerie like this. I was going to attempt Option 1, but came across a set of adhesive silicone cups while at a craft store and, with the help of some double-sided fashion tape, found that they performed surprisingly well. As with anything else that goes on your skin, it’s always a good idea to test the adhesives on the cups/tape about two weeks or more before the convention.
And that completes the costume trousseau for Gen Con 2014. Adieu for now guys; see you in a week or so when I’m back from Indy!

Post-Con Breakdown: I'll probably wear this costume again, but will start over with a new leotard as the fabric not only didn't play nicely with the fabric paint, but also didn't like to stay put against my skin. The wings, boots, and props held up extremely well and can be re-used with minimal touch ups.
The finished products for both the GIR and I
 

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