This is me portraying Soolin from Blakes7, the British sci-fi series. I was in charge of the masquerade competition for the Chicago area convention Scorpio 2 in 1984, and I wore this one while serving on the convention committee. It helped that I resembled Glynis Barber, who played Soolin. My hair is actually blonde – for some reason these photos made it look a bit red.
Costume made completely from scratch using photo references. Gun was a Star Wars blaster, painted silver with barrel and sight modified to match Soolin’s.
The costumers in those days were an enthusiastic bunch, but the costumes tended to be pretty basic. There was a lot of papier-mache and spray painted cardboard. There were also always young women who wore as little as possible (I suppose that’s a constant throughout costuming history). I remember one convention published a list of standards that included “No costume is no costume,” and banned outfits made entirely of tin foil!
At Trek cons there were usually just three categories in the costume competition: Star Trek, SF/Fantasy, and Performance. When I took over running the Costume Call at August Party I added a category called “Authentic Re-Creation” where the costumes were judged for their accuracy in reproduction, which was often overlooked in competitions where creativity of design or clever performances would take the top prizes.
Later on I started attending large science fiction conventions, and the costumers there tended to be more experienced. Especially at the annual Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention), many of the Masquerade costumes were incredibly elaborate and very professional looking.
One thing thing that initially baffled me when I started attending more conventions was the crossover between the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval recreationists) and science fiction fandom – I went to my first straight SF con in 1977, DisClave in Washington DC, and I could not understand why there were so many large guys clomping around in fur and armor where I expected to find space pilots like me! I also discovered a real undercurrent of resentment for movie and TV fans versus those who primarily read books.
Even though I was a huge reader of SF, I felt the need to change out of my Star Trek T-shirt because of all the nasty comments. I think today’s conventions are a lot more accepting to fans of different stripes … I haven’t heard of anyone being booed for liking Star Wars in awhile. 🙂
The conventions I attended attracted fans of every age. There were families with small children, old folks who had followed science fiction since the days of First Fandom in the 1930s, and everyone in between. I think the most surprising thing for me when I started going to Star Trek conventions was how much of the fan base was made up of adult and middle-aged women! They were the ones writing the fan fiction, publishing the fanzines, and quite often running the conventions. When I started attending straight SF cons I was taken aback by how much the men outnumbered the women, when in Star Trek fandom it was the exact opposite.
Conventions were entirely a subculture back then, very much under the radar of “normal” people (or “mundanes,” as we called them). It’s not like today where virtually everyone in America knows about the San Diego Comic Con. No one outside of hardcore science fiction fans even knew conventions existed. There were people who read science fiction their whole lives and never encountered a con. I finally got my mother, a lifelong science fiction fan who introduced me to Star Trek, to come to a convention with me when she was in her 60s. She said she finally understood why I was so involved with them – conventions were the only place I could be myself and feel completely welcomed by people just like me!
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