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Awesome Mom Makes Awesome Chocobo Costume, Is Generally Awesome

We talk to Calley MacLeod, who took Special Prize in Square Enix's first EU FFXIV: ARR Cosplay Contest 2013, about making great costumes for cheap.

By Cassandra Khaw. Published 7 months ago

It might be canon but Calley MacLeod isn't about ready to make her daughter a Chocolina outfit. "Imagine my reaction when my 10 year old asked me to make her that outfit when her original tail had started looking similar to Chocolina's - Nope!"

MacLeod's daughter has since moved on to requesting an Easter costume made in the image of Final Fantasy XII's Fran, yet another thing the craft-happy mom has vetoed. "Especially given that I mostly make outfits for my daughter, I'm really not interested in making the outfits into anything sexual. Not even an outfit for myself, in truth, since my self confidence is pretty low and I'd not have the guts to wear such a thing, hahaha. Not to mention, I'd just be too cold!"

No matter how you cut it, though, the facts are clear: Calley MacLeod is kind of awesome. Especially for a mom. Not too long ago, she and her daughter both took part in Square Enix's first EU FFXIV:ARR Cosplay Contest; MacLeod made the suit, her daughter the uncannily life-like bird. The pair did well though not well enough to win the competition. A fantastically-well dressed Miqo'te swept imaginations and first place. However, that doesn't stop MacLeod's underdog(bird?) story from being a fine example of cost-effectiveness and parenting done right.

A lifelong fan of the franchise, MacLeod is a newcomer to the cosplay scene. "I've thrown a few little outfits together for my daughters school events and such but never really done serious cosplay before this contest."

"A year or two ago, I watched Gackt's Diabolos tour. I ended up loving his red and black coat so much that I decided to try to make it and it turned out OK. A few months later, we were going to Distant Worlds in London and having found out that Genesis Rhapsodos (also Gackt) wore the same coat in his first role in Dirge of Cerberus, kiddo suggested I that should wear it to the Distant Worlds concert...which I did! She also had just bought a little Chocobo hat from Ebay with her pocket money since she loves Chocobos and asked me to help her make some wings from some fluffy fabric that she had spare. This was her first appearance as the Chocobo which people loved so much that we started off a mass photo session outside the Royal Albert hall with other cosplayers."

It escalated from there. "Following on from that, she wanted a better Chocobo outfit and the first full suit was made for her. We won tickets to an exclusive event for the next Distant Worlds show (2012) and we got to meet Nobuo Uematsu and Arnie Roth who also loved the outfit! She was a huge hit for the whole day and I thought that the Chocobo outfit would be my best work ever. A Square Enix representative told us about a FFXIV ARR contest that they had running and suggested the Chocobo should enter. After looking at the contest I could see that whilst she was a Chocobo, she was not an FFXIV Chocobo, they looked completely different. As the grand prize was a trip to Japan (which we're desperately trying to visit! still saving up!), I definitely wanted to enter!! So I got to work."

Like so many amateur cosplayers, MacLeod didn't have much of a budget to toy with. As a result, she found herself working with what was available around the house. To make the head, MacLeod used a cardboard skullcap cobbled together from cereal box strips, masking tape, paint, felt and 'superdough' clay for detailing.

The body, according to this wonder mother, is a 'shirt' made out of yellow cotton and hand-made felt feathers, the tail a corrugated triangular cardboard made out of even more felt feathers, bamboo cane, fencing wire and copious amounts of hot glue. As for the rest of it, Macleod says it's hacked apart sofa cushions, slathered in liquid latex, for the feet, fencing wire-lined cereal boxes for the armor and foam for the saddles with detail provided by paper mache and paint.

Unsurprisingly, the finished product only cost a pittance; MacLeod says it set her back somewhere between £50 to £60.

"I was honestly stunned at how much people spend on getting their cosplays to look exactly like the character they are portraying. I'd seen a lot of people using Worbla or Wonderflex, or other various expensive materials for their outfits. I saw an armor set that the creator said cost her $1200 to make, having used resins and Wonderflex and other materials that aren't readily available. " MacLeod says.

The real challenge for MacLeod, however, wasn't so much the financial constraints but the amount of time required to complete the project. It was a lot of sleepless nights, MacLeod confesses. Between managing a household and mollifying with the family's pet bird ("Time to make the outfit was not an acceptable excuse for him. Any attempts to make parts of the outfit were met with tool stealing and standing in the middle of me trying to work with a determined look on his face!"), the intrepid costume designer had her work cut out for her.

"After going mental in March to get it finished in time, I then tried to submit my entry only to find they had extended the contest by another 3 months! After screaming like a Rayman Raving Rabbid (Daaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!), I decided to try for the saddle. I wasn't sure it would work given the anatomical differences between a bird and a human but I'd managed to catch my daughter in just the right pose in one of the photos and I could see that it just might work! I also re-made the face plate since I'd managed to get a source image that was bigger than 3 inch square and could see it looked different so I started that again. I now had plenty of time to put in stupid amounts of detail!"

Which she did, obviously.

Now that the costume is completed and the Internet is cognizant of her skills, what's next? MacLeod says she already has a new project in the wings (pun completely intended). "I'm pretty excited and hoping that this project will work out as well as the first. I'm hooked for sure! My husband keeps suggesting I make outfits to sell, but to be fair it takes more time and stress than it is worth in the money I'd possibly get. Not to mention the Chocobo was made for my daughter and she loves it so much, she'd be really upset with me if I sold it. I've had lots of offers for her outfit. I do this for fun and for my daughter to have fun with and she now wants to wear her chocobo outfits to Expos. We'll hopefully be attending our first event in October in London."

With Halloween slowly closing in, would-be Chocobo cosplayers may be interested to know that Macleod has detailed production notes available online.

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