#ThrowbackThursday: Red Sonja

April 2, 2015 in blog posts

In honor of Anima’s upcoming spot as a Costume Guest of Honor at Marcon 50, we’re taking a look back at some of her science fiction conventions and cosplay highlights for #throwbackthursday!

This is a picture from New York Comic Con 1974/1975, where I am wearing the first-ever convention version of Red Sonja. Angelique Trouvere appears here in the first Satana costume. Angelique was one of the notable Red Sonja cosplayers in the 1970s, along with Wendy Pini and Linda Burhle. She and the others did a show with the artist Frank Thorne that went on for several years.

My version was based on the original black-and-white stories from the Conan the Barbarian magazines that had only been out for a few months at the time. I was hanging out with the artists, as I was a regular at Neal Adams’ First Fridays soirees at his studio, and so was aware of the latest costumes for the characters. At that point, fans were always looking for up-and-coming female characters with more interesting costumes than the older sci-fi characters. (I mean – the original X-Men costumes? Nobody looks good in those yellow and blue monstrosities!) Because of the fact I was basing my costume off of a black-and-white drawing, I used all silver for my boots and gloves. When the character was later published in color, the accent colors were changed to brown.

My “chain mail bikini” was actually entirely made of mirrors! (Remember, it was the disco era!) The reasoning behind this was a) that I wanted the most shimmer as possible, and b) someone had given me the mirrors for free, which was an important selling point for a freshman at the School of Visual Arts. I was worried about the mirrors breaking and cutting me or not holding up, especially when I sat down!

My solution for attaching the mirrors to have them move and not fall off actually made it much more hardy than I had expected. In fact, I actually wore this on and off for several years in a burlesque act I used to do. Its inspiration came when Angelique and I had gone to see the original Broadway production of Rocky Horror Picture Show. During the show, when Tim Curry swung on a rope down onto the stage from the balcony, we kept saying to each other, “is he staring at us?” Our question was answered when we went backstage to visit a friend in the cast, and Tim greeted us with, “oh my god, you look amazing!” (My outfit was amazing, by the way! I was wearing a vintage black silk tophat, thigh-high black boots attached to a garter belt, and a high-cut skirt to show those off, not to mention a waist-length blonde wig.)

I had been impressed with the music from the show, so I used the opening song “Science Fiction” as my burlesque tribute to 50’s sci-fi with this costume. Using this method, my costume made of glass held up for two years of use before I retired it!

Here’s how to copy the method:

  • Cut out circles of leather or a firm upholstery fabric.
  • Using a waterproof polyvinyl glue, such as Tight Bond II wood glue, glue the eyes from hook and eye sets on the backs of the mirrors near the center top. I have used both kinds of eyes for this technique in the past. Use plenty of glue, spreading it out in a small pool, making sure not to obstruct the eye parts.
  • After it dries, place the circle of fabric on the back and slit or cut a hole where the eye is going to stick out and not be covered.
  • Glue the circles on the backs of the mirrors, smoothing out any bubbles. I also run a line of glue around the edge of where the circle joins the mirror as extra protection for the edges. Make sure you also glue down the fabric on top of where the eyes attach to the mirrors, as a second defense against coming apart (but again, be careful not to obstruct the eye).
  • Sew the mirror onto the fabric of your outfit using the eye. I prefer to use a single eye, as opposed to the temptation to put stronger attachment. This is because a single attachment can swing free if the fabric it is attached to has to be bent and movable. Two attachment points means you might break a mirror more easily. At any rate, this method means a lot of motion, which means a lot of glimmer in the lights.
  • Depending on your backing material, you could have less or more clanking going on. I cut up a thrift shop coat of soft leather that really dulled any sound, and I had no fraying problems. When you use leather, make sure you glue the suede side to the mirror for more firm attachment.