Film fan launches designer career

Rose Ivy Wallace dressed up for her first comic convention, Los Angeles’ Comikaze in 2011, as a character from the Zack Snyder action film Sucker Punch. From then on, she was hooked.

Six years later, the Claremont native, 26, was the co-winner of the judge’s award at the Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic Con on July 20. Ms. Wallace stunned the audience with her homemade outfit inspired by the Marvel superhero Doctor Strange.

Ms. Wallace, who works at Cut-Sew-Stitch on Foothill Boulevard, was ecstatic about her win.

“I would say I was definitely caught off guard. There was such a great and strong competition this year,” she said. “I was flabbergasted, honestly.”

Ms. Wallace’s take on Stephen Strange, the hotshot surgeon-turned-sorcerer most recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was borne from watching the film in 2015. Her years of sewing expertise have given her an analytical eye when she watches a film.

“I’m always watching movies for the costumes,” she said. “I’m also here for the plot, but costumes are my number one jam. So when I saw his costume I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, gorgeous.’”

Ms. Wallace entered the Her Universe Fashion Show before, but hadn’t won top prize. The show, created by actress Ashley Eckstein, is a showcase of women who have talent in costume design.

Ms. Wallace had three months to make the costume. She spent that time using natural-colored fabrics, dying them in the colors she wanted and piecing them together. Her costume also featured laser-cut bracelets on both wrists that were used to represent Doctor Strange’s magical spells.

“It was quite a laborious process,” she noted, but she was happy with the final design.

The judges at the fashion show agreed. She was co-winner of the jury prize, along with her friend Lindsay Orndorff—who dressed up as the character San from the classic Japanese anime Princess Mononoke.

While the 2011 Comikaze was the first convention she attended while dressing up, it was next year’s event that fully cemented her love for cosplay. Cosplay, which is shorthand for “costume play,” involves fans creating and wearing costumes of their favorite characters.

In 2012, Ms. Wallace dressed up as the title character from the comic Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez. Lady Mechanika is a prime example of the “Steampunk” genre—an eye-popping blend of Victorian aesthetic, science fiction and fantasy. Think the Will Smith film Wild Wild West, but with a better plot.

“[Lady Mechanika] is a heroine from Victorian London, and she solves supernatural mysteries and stuff like that,” Ms. Wallace said. “She’s gorgeous, and she’s badass.”

Ms. Wallace noted she was the first cosplayer to dress up as Lady Mechanika. She also got to meet Mr. Benitez and won the cosplay contest at the event.

“I was like, this is my second year making stuff, and you thought I was good enough to win!” she exclaimed.

But her favorite character also shares part of her name—the classic Batman villain Poison Ivy. For that costume, Ms. Wallace was covered in green body paint, which took two separate artists five hours to complete.

“I’ve always liked who she is as a character,” Ms. Wallace said. “She’s always portrayed as very beautiful, but she’s a doctor, she’s a PhD, she’s a scientist and she’s a smart lady who cares about the environment. She uses her wits and her sensuality to take care of the planet, sometimes at the expense of men.”

In addition to the accolades, the grand prize for winning the Her Universe Fashion Show is an opportunity to work with Disney and Hot Topic on the Her Universe fashion line, to be sold in Hot Topic stores throughout the country. The theme this year is “Disney princesses.”

Ms. Wallace has been going to meetings at Disney and Hot Topic in the last few weeks to discuss her ideas, about which she has kept mum.

“It’s very intimidating but also very exciting,” she said. “This will be our first meeting, I have some ideas of my own but I want to see where they want to go with everything.”

Her day job at Cut-Sew-Stitch also gives her an opportunity to perfect her creations. She has been working at the Claremont sewing shop for almost three years, teaching classes and designing clothes. The shop is debuting a yoga line this fall.

“There’s this saying about how if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life, and that’s how I feel,” Ms. Wallace said. “I get to sew all day every day. And I get to work on my own stuff after hours, I get to use the space to work on my fashion show stuff and do what I need to do.”

Ms. Wallace is also looking toward the future, debating on what she’s going to wear to the next Comikaze this Halloween (she’s leaning toward her Doctor Strange outfit again) and, hopefully, using her experience with Disney and Hot Topic to launch her own fashion line in the future.

But nothing can compare to the camaraderie she’s experienced as a member of the cosplay community. Ms. Wallace called it the “ultimate experience” to meet someone who knows and loves the character you’re dressed up as—the connection between fans of a comic book, a film or a television show is incomparable.

“It’s all about sharing that love and enthusiasm,” she said. “And that kind of positivity is the best.”

—Matthew Bramlett


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