Rodeo Harley Quinn

I can't believe I haven't posted this before now. This is a costume I planned for quite a while and  a costume that I really am proud of. I’m not really sure how you can manage an original design and not plan for a while, but that’s another story. This one goes like this:

I love Harley Quinn. Always have. I loved her growing up on the Animated Batman Series, and I’ve loved her pretty much in everything else. Her story resonates with me deeply. The unrequited love, the tinge of the crazies, the struggle to keep it all together somehow… Let’s leave it that there are parallels. 

So I, of course, wanted to do a cosplay of her. But, true to form, I didn’t want to blend in. Harley is beloved by many a fan, and at every convention I’ve ever gone to, I’ve found there to be at least 2, if not 20 Harley Quinns floating around. She’s been ‘done.’ So many times, in fact, that I just couldn’t make myself make just one more Arkham Harley or what have you. I also haven't been gone on the art direction her costumes have been taking, with her slowly losing more and more clothes to the point where I'd be uncomfortable wearing it. I started thinking about other things, about the character, about my own past, and the possibility of doing my own design. 

I started wondering, where did her clown makeup come from exactly? I haven’t read all the comics, and maybe this is answered somewhere, but for me it was an enlightening train of thought. There’s plenty about her past that we don’t know. What did she do growing up? What if the makeup came from something else in her past and wasn’t just a way of avoiding being recognised or an homage to her beloved Joker? What if it came from an old day job she had before she managed to get qualified as a psychologist? 

While she puts on some of the airs of "don’t care," I’ve never really thought of Harley as a clown, and who else wears major facepaint? And then it hit me- rodeo clowns. Rodeo clowns are folks I have utmost respect for. They work hard, do dangerous jobs, and entertain the crowd while trying not to get killed. I could see a young, impressionable Harley paying her way through college by working at a rodeo. Failing the clown itself, she certainly could have been a rodeo Queen. It was perfect for what I was looking for- a blending of Harley and my own past.*

And thus, Rodeo Quinn was born.

Photo by Ricardo Silva
I could have made more of this, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. I didn’t want boots, belt or hat that were “costume-y,” but ones that she would have worn to muck out stalls in. I wanted her Rodeo persona to be one she could take off and go about her “normal” life, so jeans and a top were an obvious choice. I found a cheap cowboy hat, and when I tried adding details, it just didn’t feel right, so I left it simple. I would have liked a more "proper" one but I just don't have the finances to pay for that right now.

What she did need was her “costume” and I knew that had to involve chaps. I spent a lot of time looking at chaps online, looking at patterns and decided to draft my own. I wanted ones that fit fairly well, so I used an old pair of jeans as a pattern and worked from there.

A vest to match worked perfectly. Rather than start from scratch, I already had a New Look 6914 pattern that had options close to what I was going for, so I based it on that. I made a mockup with lining material and adjusted a few seams, and the back hemline, and that was that. 

The back was where I wanted all the ‘business’ to be, so I added in details there that felt were appropriate and brought in the Harley theme, like her diamond of diamonds. 
Rodeo Quinn - Photo by Try'n'Fly Photography
All in all, it came together pretty easily. And then I decided to break one of my cardinal rules and added fringe.
Rodeo Quinn - Photo by Try'n'Fly Photography
Fringe and I have never entirely seen eye to eye. I love it and hate it at the same time, but find it always looks just too… southwest. Yes, its where I'm from, but for goodness sake unless you're a cowboy or in a damn rodeo, it tends to look OTT. But it was perfect for this costume. So I made fringe. Throughout the entirety of the movie Independence Day, I made fringe. 

Thankfully, this was easier than it could have been by the fact that I own a rotary cutter and quilting ruler for those pesky slant cuts. For those who haven’t dealt with fringe before, allow me to explain. 

If you are using something that is not string (like pleather, or leather, or even fabric), fringe will fall in the direction its cut. If you try to put fringe cut on the 90 degree angle on something that should hang slanted, it will look funny. It looks funny, because the fringe will stick straight out, and then fold over.

So to avoid this, you need to cut it on an angle. I did this two ways for this costume. For the back of the vest, which I wanted a deep V on, I cut pleather that was seam allowance + length of fringe in a V that matched the rest of the pattern. Then, as I wanted the fringe to hang straight down, I cut up to the seam allowance on an angle that would make the fringe hang straight down. My lines ran at 30 degrees from the seam allowance. 

The fringe for the chaps were similarly angled, but I didn’t have a V to work from. I had to mostly guesstimate the angle, but I based it off the idea that this fringe should look good when seated on a horse. After all, these are rodeo chaps, and so it had to reflect what they do there. Rodeo queens regularly have fringe, and it always looks like its hanging straight down when they are astride their glorious beasts. 
Leg fringe. Photo by Try'n'Fly Photography
So I had to guesstimate what that was. It ended up being close enough that I went with 30 degree angle again, but I did it in long strips, one for each side. 

Then it was cutting. ALL THE CUTTING. I went with the easy 1/4” width for the fringe, as I figured that would be solid enough to not fall apart but thin enough not to look silly. The quilting ruler worked incredibly well for this as it not only gave me an accurate angle, but I could easily space out the 1/4” cuts on the ruler. My rotary cutter and quilting ruler and definitely my MVPs of this costume. 

And for all I wasn't sure, the fringe sure looks good in action.
Rodeo Quinn - Photo by Try'n'Fly Photography
The only other tricky part was how I was going to attach the chaps. Typically, they close in the back, so I wanted to do that. In the end, I cannibalised an old belt and added its closure, and part of the belt to the back, which gave me the perfect buckling chaps closure. 

Photo by Hygow Lial at Arcadecon 2015
I test-wore it out to Arcadecon, and had an absolute blast. In doing makeup tests, I realised that you basically can’t tell that its me when I’m in this, which has a certain amount of freedom to it. There were a few things I wanted to change afterwards, like the cut of the chaps at the bottom, and there were details that hadn’t materialised due to time constraints, so I updated her look for Dublin Comic Con. 

Photo by Karl Ffrench at DCC 2015
Finally got to wear her as originally envisaged with the longer sleeves at Eirtakon and I really prefer that look. Despite me wanting to wear her for rodeo time, she may just have to be a winter costume.
Photo by George Germaine at Eirtakon 2015
And last summer I finally, FINALLY got my wish come true and got the chance to shoot her back home in New Mexico, in the rodeo arena I grew up with. Huge thank you to Try'n'Fly Photography for making a dream come true even if I did have to shoot it with pneumonia.

Photo by Try'n'Fly Photography
I love Harley, and I really feel like what I came up with is a great blending of her and me. Plenty of people called her “Cowboy” or "Cowgirl" Harley, which I’m ok with, but I prefer the name Rodeo Quinn. I like the play of words between “rodeo queen” and "Harley Quinn".

I really love this costume. 

*I may not have been in any rodeos, but I have always loved them. And I always secretly wanted to be in one, which may have been one of the reasons for constantly plaguing my parents about horse-riding lessons. 


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