Introduction: Nora Valkyrie Cosplay Build
For Saboten Con 2016 a group of friends and I decided we wanted to dress as RWBY characters. I often see Ruby, Brooke and Weiss groups however; it was not often that I saw Nora, Penny and Pyrrha groups. As one of my friends already had a Pyrrha in the works and the other located a Penny cosplay for sale in a Facebook post I decided that Nora was the way to go...well, that I am practically a real life version of Nora. Mwahahaha!
Goofiness aside this build was deceptively challenging. It took ALL of my cosplay skills and more to achieve the look I was going for with Nora. Here are a few tools/materials I used while creating this costume:
- Heat Gun
- Sewing Machine
- EVA Foam (2mm, 4mm & 8mm thicknesses)
- Contact Cement
- Hot Glue (high temp)
- Markers (for drafting)
- Spare fabric (for drafting)
- Cotton blends
- Polyester blends
- Bias tape (for hems)
- Invisible zippers (for shirt and skirt)
- Industrial strength double sided velcro (sew on)
- Spray paint
- Acrylic Paint
- Utility Knife
- Cutting Shears
- Fabric Scissors
- Fabric Markers
- Wire (to keep the collar in place)
- Elastic (for the arm bands)
- Wood Screws
- Joining plates
- Cinder blocks (because I do not have a wood working bench)
- ...maybe that's it?
There may be more that I mention in this tutorial which I cannot recall however; the list above is just a brief (yeah, that's minimum) shopping guide for anyone attempting this costume. Without further adieu, let's begin!
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Step 1: Skirt and Accessories
Nora is a BIG project so I decided to start small. I began with her skirt. It's a simple circle skirt so I took some spare blue fabric and made sure it fit me then cut out the pink overlay and white underskirt. If you are unfamiliar with circle skirt patterning you can use this ONLINE CALCULATOR as a reference guide. Once the circle skirt was cut out I created a waist band by taking my waist measurement (L = Length) and using a H = Height of 5 inches. I folded the fabric in half then laid it on the front of the skirt and sewed it to the skirt. From their I flipped it up and my band was complete. You can use THIS GUIDE as a reference for creating a circle skirt band (it's also a simpler circle skirt guide if you did not like the calculator).
One item down I decided to tackle Nora's shoes. I had a pair of knee high, lace up sneakers in an off white. To lighten off white shoes use THIS METHOD. I folded down the top of the shoe until it was half way up my calf (like Nora's boots are) and sewed pink fabric onto the inside of them. From there I took liquid RIT fabric dye in pink and added just a few drops to boiling water. After a few moments I tossed in the white shoes laces and stirred that dye up! I turned off the heat after about a minute (I needed the laces light) and removed them from the dye to air dry. With the shoes complete I was feeling pretty confident so I moved on to the arm bands.
These are actually pretty simple. I took the circumference of my mid-lower arm and mid-upper arm then drew those lines on some white fabric with fabric pens. I then took the length between the two and drew it along one side at a slight diagonal. Once the pattern was drawn I added about a half inch seam allowance then an additional 1.5 inches to the top and bottom. I cut out the pattern twice (one for each arm) and placed elastic on the inside of the bottom and top then folded fabric over. I sewed in the elastic then placed the fabric inside out and had the side seams meet so the full band could be sewn together. Essentially I created a sleeve without a wrist or shoulder if that helps you visualize what I was doing.
Finally I used THIS TUTORIAL to create my bow. Once sewn together I added some velcro to the back of the bow in preparation for its attachment to the body armor.
I skipped the gloves for this cosplay as #1: I DESPISE making gloves and was tight on time ( my hands are small and I struggle with the shape) and #2: I did not have stretchy pink OR white fabric that would work at the time. In the future I will use THIS TUTORIAL to make my gloves for Nora.
Step 2: Top/Shirt/Vest
Nora's shirt was a doozy. I have some pattern experience and as I could not find a pre-made pattern that fit this design I decided to go custom. If you want to know more about drafting your own patterns THIS WEBSITE is a great place to start.
I took my bust, waist, hip, shoulder and torso length measurements. I drew them onto some black fabric with a fabric marker then began to slowly add definition to the pattern. You can see from the images above that the black vest was done in stages. I started making it too large then I put it on me inside out and pinned areas of fabric that needed to be taken in. If you have a dress form that fits your measurements (my torso is longer than my dress form can accommodate) I would suggest tailoring on that instead of yourself but use what is most comfortable to you. Once I had a snug fit on the black vest I took some tailor's chalk and drew the corset cut out for the white portion of Nora's top.
I used a cotton/polyester blend for the black base and a stretch polyester for the white cut out. After removing the black portion of the bust I traced it onto the white fabric, added 1.5 inches of seam allowance, increased the shoulder height and cut two of the pattern so the white would not be see through (take care with how sheer your fabric is). I sewed the white to the black, cut off excess material and did a quick test fit.
Now that I had my white attached it was time for the blue and red detailing. I decided to sew the blue onto the black rather than doing a cut out as I wanted the outfit to have fewer seams. My blue fabric was pretty sheer so I was able to see through it and draw the cut out. If yours is not you can use your hands to follow the seams and draw the design on with fabric markers OR use measurements to create the design. I sewed on the blue then cut two semi circles of red and sewed them onto the blue.
With all pieces aside all I had left was the boob window, the collar and the hem. I started with the hem as the boob window and collar required some thought. I used black bias tape and sewed it onto the bottom of the shirt. I also used it to cap the shoulder sleeves. I also took this time to add a zipper to the side of the shirt so I could keep if form fitted and still get in and out of the top easily. My next task was assembling the collar. I measured the top of the shirt (neck), made sure my head was not bigger (don't forget you have to get into this) then created a rhombus shape and added wire to the inside for stability. I sewed the collar on and tried the fit.
The boob window was a problem for me. I did not anticipate the give that the stretch polyester had and it disfigured my heart shape. Instead, I went circular and added bias tape as a design preference (I am pale so the black tape added contrast) and for stability.
After 20 hours of finessing the top, I took a little breath and began to consider the armor and Nora's back symbol.
Step 3: Body Armor and Symbol
For Nora's body armor I partnered with my cosplay friend and we measured several 1.5 strips of 4mm EVA foam that would fit the following areas:
- My Hips
- My Under-bust
- My Neck & Shoulders
- My torso
We placed the strips on my body and trimmed as needed then slowly used contact cement and glued the pieces together as one of us held the parts in place. With all of the parts in place we cut out the center and added a circle for easy removal AND to match's Nora's design. We added velcro to the hip semi-circle, bust circle, over-bust resting place and to the back of the hip semi-circle. We sprayed the armor silver then added a piece of velcro to the back for the bow. All in all this process took about 3.5 hours.
I unfortunately did not take a picture of Nora's back symbol but I CAN tell you how I made it. I took some paper (thick construction or card stock preferred), printed Nora's symbol on it, cut out the shape, taped the shape to the back of the shirt (make sure the shirt is laying flat AND that you have something on the inside to keep the paint from seeping through) then used a TULIP! Fabric Aerosol Spray in White to create Nora's Magnhild symbol on her shirt.
Step 4: Magnhild
Word of Warning: THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!!!!!!!
Magnhild took about 12 hours to complete. It was built out of EVA foam, plywood, wood screws and contact cement. I downloaded as many images of this weapon as I could get my hands on and studied it for hours before I felt comfortable enough to begin. I used THIS BUILD as reference and moved on to my own methods after I felt comfortable with the break down.
For the cylinders in the hammer/grenade launcher I measured a three inch across circle then drew then followed the circle's circumference for an idea of what length I would need to cut. I made 6" tall tubes out of 4mm EVA foam and glued them together using contact cement. I then placed the 5 tubes in a circle and drew that circle onto 8mm EVA foam twice and cut out two sides.
With the sides cut out I took one cylinder and drew a circle at the top of the grenade cap. I cut out the circle so it would match Nora's grenade launcher tube on the front of her hammer. That was my center point, from there I glued all other cylinders to the launcher's front plate circle with contact cement. Once the glue set I then added the black circular plate to the cylinders with the same adhesive.
I took some 4mm EVA foam and wrapped it around the "Mother Cylinder" aka "Grenade Launcher Mallet" and glued it to the outside so all the small cylinders were covered. From there I mirrored both sides and drew a cut out so you could see just the middle of each side cylinders. At this point I realized there would be an issue with stability for the top so I added a piece of plywood to the back circle plate by cutting a hole in and shoving it down between the attached baby cylinders. I used contact cement to attach it the inside of the front plate and allowed everything to set.
My next course of action was creating the overlays on top of the grenade mallet. I used measuring tape to define the patterns and slowly cut them out then took push pins and pinned the new overlays to the Mother Cylinder. Once I was sure everything would lay right I created registration marks with a sharpie and removed the pins then began to use contact cement to glue everything together.
As the mallet was setting I grabbed my 2x4x6 sheet of plywood and set it atop two cinder blocks. I drew on my pattern using online reference art then took a small, hand held jigsaw and cut the patterns out. NOTE: PLEASE PRACTICE SAFETY! Wear goggles, gloved, a respirator and shoes. With the design cut I used a small sanding block to smooth out all of the edges then brought the wood inside for soldering.
Soldering???!!! Yes, instead of cutting the foam and using heat to expand the crevices OR using sand paper and carvers for the wood I took a soldering iron and carved the designs into the handle and mallet. I then used paint and sharpies to define those lines after everything had a happy helping of silver spray paint.
I used contact cement to adhere the mallet to the handle and took another small piece of plywood to use as a stabilizer between the handle and the piece of wood within the mallet. Other than some small touch ups with acrylic and final lacquer sealant this completed my build of Magnhild.
Step 5: Lessons Learned
Wearing this costume taught me a few things...
- The body armor needed to be covered in silver spandex for stability and because it would shine better than paint.
- Magnhild was HEAVY and while stable, I needed a place to put it down now and again.
- I SHOULD HAVE BROKEN IN MY SHOES IN ADVANCE. lol
- Industrial strength velcro IS MY FRIEND!!!!!
- Boob windows suck.
Overall this costume held up VERY well and was REALLY comfortable. I was able to to jump, run and dance in it. The hammer, while heavy, withstood A LOT of action and the velcro did not release easily at any point in the day. I would go with lighter fabric in the future if attending a summer con in this again but I LOVED being Nora and hope that this tutorial helps you even just a little bit with your build.