When we first met Emma Rubini, we were blown away by how she brought a Little Sister to life through Cosplay. Why did she do it? “From the first moment I played BioShock, I fell in love with its atmosphere, story and characters,” Emma explains. Back then, she shared some makeup tips and tricks with us. Today, as part of our BioShock Builds series, we’ve asked her to come back and explain how she made her latest Splicer outfit.
Building a Better Splicer Cosplay
By Emma Rubini
BioShock is probably my favorite game. From the first moment I played it, I fell in love with the atmosphere, the story, and the characters. Little Sister was one of my first cosplays, and BioShock cosplays will always be some of my favorites to make. This Splicer cosplay will be my seventh BioShock cosplay, and I can’t wait to share some of what I’ve learned with you!
Constructing the outfit
One awesome thing about Splicers is that there are so many variations, you have an opportunity to take some artistic liberty and construct your outfit however you want! If you’re not strong at sewing and don’t want to make it from scratch, thrift stores will be your best friend. I based my cosplay on the Baby Jane model. I chose to make mine from scratch – I took the Butterick sewing pattern B6129 and modified it a bit, adding long sleeves, shortening the skirt, and adding trim.
This is the fun part! Now that you’ve constructed your outfit, it’s time to DESTROY IT! There are countless ways to weather cosplays, and countless materials you can use – paint, tea, even glue. For this dress, I used primarily charcoal and acrylic paint.
Here’s what you’ll need for this method of weathering:
- Charcoal and/or conte crayons (compressed, not vine)
- Textile medium (optional)
- Paper towels/rag
Start by cutting some holes! I also slashed the hem of the dress to be asymmetrical, basing it on the cut of the dress from the in-game model. This part is the most stressful, because once you cut a piece off there’s no going back. Sketch out where you want your holes first, so you have an idea how it will look. Here’s my slashed hem, before I started adding more tears:
I usually employ a combination of cutting with scissors and tearing the fabric; tearing looks more ragged, but it’s harder to control. Simply cutting with scissors is a little too clean for Rapture, so once you’ve cut a few holes, rub them with sandpaper to rough them up a bit. This will crumple the surrounding fabric and fray the edges of the holes. I also do the same to the entire hem (but be careful doing this – if your fabric unravels easily, you may want to leave your hem intact for structural purposes).
Once your outfit is sufficiently torn to shreds, you can start getting it dirty! This is probably my favorite part of any cosplay, but BioShock cosplays are extra fun when it comes to weathering because Rapture lends itself so well to it. This is also a part of the process where I feel you can take some artistic liberty! Personally, I prefer to go very dramatic and, I’ll admit, a little over-the-top with my weathering. If you would prefer to make yours more subtle, great! As you’ll see, this method will allow for that.
The main materials I’ll be using for this are charcoal, conte crayons, and wet paper towels. Also, you WILL get dirty, so dress appropriately!
To start, I wet a paper towel or rag, rub the charcoal into it, and sponge it onto the outfit. Start at seams and hems and work outward.
(Note: If you’re going to use this method, you’ll definitely want to hand wash your costume. If you’re looking to machine wash it, I would suggest using fabric or acrylic paint, both of which will work, but it’s a little harder and more time consuming to achieve the same look).
I find it’s best to work in layers, even though it takes longer. Instead of caking on a lot of charcoal at once, dab on a thin layer, let it dry a little, and repeat. It makes it considerably easier to control, especially if you’ve never tried this method of weathering before. Also, if you think the weathering is coming out too dark, don’t worry! It always appears much darker when it’s wet, and it will lighten a bit as it dries.
The colors I’m using for this are black and dark brown.
In some spots, I’ll take wet charcoal and draw directly onto the fabric, which makes a bolder mark. I generally save this method for working along the hem and some seams, such as the waistline. It can also help to dampen the fabric before sponging on charcoal in these spots.
For the skirt of the dress, I go darkest at the waist and hem and work downward and upward, respectively, using both black and brown. I also work in some irregular stains to break up the symmetry.
I use a pretty similar method on the bodice and sleeves. On the bodice, I start at the trim of the neckline and work down, for the most part.
For the sleeves, I start at the neckline as well as the cuffs.
Next up is to add blood stains! There are a couple ways to do this. You could use costume blood, or mix your own fake blood. However, I generally just use acrylic paint. Depending on how much blood you’re planning on adding to your costume, you may want to mix the paint with textile medium, which will make it easier to work with and easier to wash.
I use the paper towel method initially; paint some “blood” onto a wet paper towel, and sponge/smear it onto the costume. However, I will also go in with a paint brush and darken certain spots, such as the center of larger stains. Finally, I will splatter some blood by flicking the brush at the costume (this looks good but is hard to control, so make sure you have a drop cloth down to catch any drippings!) You do want to be careful not to use too much blood – it sounds impossible, but you CAN overdo it on the blood stains. Be strategic and asymmetrical in your placement.
You’re almost done! Since it looks darker when it’s wet, let the costume sit and dry overnight if possible, or at the very least, for a few hours. Once it is dry to the touch, you can better gauge the actual degree of weathering. For example, I let my costume dry overnight, and ended up going back to darken a few spots the next day.
And then you’re done! Bask in your cosplay’s glory!!
You’ll also want to weather any props or accessories you may have! For my Baby Jane, the only other costume piece I have is the thigh-high stockings, which I purchased separately. I put a few runs in them. You could also use some acrylic paint to bring in some stains or water damage if you chose to do so.
This is the final touch to turning yourself into a Splicer! Here’s a step-by-step on how I did my Baby Jane makeup, although you’ll have to modify it a bit if you’re basing your cosplay on a different Splicer model. At some point, I would love to make some wound prosthetics, but for this I just used everyday SFX makeup!
- I’m already a pretty pale person, but I use white makeup for foundation for this look (specifically, a thin layer of cosmetic paint). Although I didn’t do this for this makeup test, I think I would also glue down my eyebrows, using a purple glue stick, which is washable with water!
- For contouring, I use gray, to make myself look washed out and gaunt.
- I add a few scars, using a SFX scarring liquid and filling it in with dar kred stage makeup.
- For the eyes, I go full raccoon with some loose black eye shadow. I also smear it down onto my cheeks, to make it look disheveled.
- I do a base coat on my lips in red makeup (although you could also use lipstick).
- I add some fake blood. Like on the costume, you don’t want to overdo it, so use it sparingly. If you’re putting it around your mouth like I did, you’ll also want to make sure it’s edible, so look for stage blood.
- I’m using type of cosmetic blood, which I really love the look of, but it never truly dries, staying a little tacky. This gives it a realistic look, but it also means I have to be careful that I don’t get it on anything (it won’t stain permanently, but it’s annoying to have to clean up a lot of it). Take that into consideration before you absolutely drench yourself!
- Finally, add some bruising! I mostly do this along my neck and collarbones. I use cosmetic SFX bruise and abrasion pallets for this. I also add a little gangrenous green around my bloodstains.
And now, you’re truly finished! Don’t forget to take lots of selfies and photos!
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Thanks for reading, and good luck in all your cosplay adventures!
Have you crafted some awesome BioShock Cosplay? Did you build your own Big Daddy statue? Whatever you’ve done to show off your love for BioShock, we want to hear all about it. Maybe we’ll feature you in an upcoming BioShock Builds!