Zombie Sei

Zombie Sei

I loved the idea of a beautiful Heian courtesan experiencing the grotesque decay of a zombie. Also, I really wanted to make a traditional Heian Junihitoe (12-layer gown) after reading The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagan.

Inspiration

Sei started as an original costume. I loved the idea of a beautiful Heian courtesan experiencing the grotesque decay of a zombie. Also, I really wanted to make a traditional Heian Junihitoe (12-layer gown) after reading The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagan.

As I was designing her, I became increasingly enraptured with her, and began playing around in my head with panels and plot lines for her back story as I was sewing. Eventually I decided to write some of it down.

I've got more written in my head than I have time to draw, but I'm slowly whittling away at it - and soon the comic will get to the point where Sei actually looks like my costumed version of her. 

This page is exclusively for the costume, go here to read what I've completed of the comic so far. Quick summary for you:

Sei was a lady-in-waiting to a courtesan in  Japan in 1154 AD, just before the Shogun takeover. She must find a way to survive after being bitten by a zombie. 

Production

I set a very intense deadline for myself for this costume - I wanted to finish it about a month in advance of my actual deadline.  Sei was to be my 2014 Halloween costume (I could think of nothing else to top the Zombie Queen to take to the Ottawa Zombie Walk).

However, on top of wearing her at Halloween, I wanted to take Sei to Montreal ComicCon's masquerade. This was to be the testing ground as to how the costume wore and behaved - and based on what I learnt, I would adjust it before the Zombie Walk.

I barely finished the costume in time - and in fact had to cut a whole bunch of elements. I was unable to finish one of my kimono, so I was wearing six instead of seven. As well, I had originally planned to decorate all seven kimono - I had designed different patterns of skulls, zombies, and gore that I planned to paint across each one. I didn't even have time to paint the top kimono.

That said, I was quite happy with my finished product - it had the feel I was going for, even without the decoration.

At this point I'm going to go on a tangent to offer huge, huge thanks to my friend Alenka Kyslik for being my Montreal host and handler that day - she is the best handler EVER. (I've got dibs, just so y'all know - don't bother trying to steal her.) 

Application

The costume was completed was so last-minute that I didn't have time to do a makeup trial. I literally ironed and packed up all the costume clothes and jumped on the train to Montreal.

I applied a bald cap for the first time ever on the Saturday morning of the Masquerade, and did the makeup from my references, hoping it would turn out all right.  

It took me about an hour to get the bald cap on that first time, and I didn't do a great job.

The makeup for this costume (including bald cap) takes approximately 3 - 4 hours and is entirely freehand. After the cap is on, and using my references, I sketch the outline of the bones on to my face, neck, and chest. I fill in all the bones with white and the background with black. Then, I go over all the edges and bones again, adding shading, wear/decay detail, and lastly, I clean up all the edges. The back of the skull and my back are painted solid white and black respectively. To set the makeup, I use baby powder, but I go back over all the black areas with black eyeshadow, as the baby powder can make it look grey instead of dark black.

Once the makeup is on, I put on the costume - I do this last so I don't get any makeup or powder on it.

Needless to say, I was very surprised to win two awards for this costume in the masquerade - one for Best Original Design, and one for Most Fabulous Presentation (that might've had something to do with my choice of Avicii's Wake Me Up as my presentation music).