Costume makers converge on San Diego for convention of creativity

Nicole Teifer dressed as the Mad Hatter, poses for a portrait at Costume Con in Mission Valley with her husband, Brian Tiefer, who dressed as the White Rabbit. The couple lives in Point Loma,.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

An iron tailor, a dragon and Doctor Who were among the costumes people wore on Sunday during Costume Con, an international event that returned home to San Diego this year after a 35-year absence.

Nearly 500 costume makers and enthusiasts from around the world converged on the DoubleTree Hotel at Hazard Center this weekend for panels on makeup transformations, fun with fosshape, beginner embroidery and ribbon cockades.

Marianne Pease traveled from Maryland as part of her ongoing effort to promote costuming as an art form.

“I try to attend as many Costume Cons as I can,” said Pease, president of the nonprofit International Costumers Guild.

She said this year’s event, which began Thursday night and runs through Monday afternoon, has exceeded expectations in all but one important way.

“I was guaranteed San Diego weather was going to be perfect, and it rained,” Pease said.

The event also attracted locals like Rancho Bernardo resident Bob Mogg, a costume maker who often teaches classes.

Mogg, wearing an iron tailor costume, said he was impressed by the talented array of people he has met at his first Costume Con.

“There are so many creative people,” Mogg said. “I’m learning more from the people here than they’re learning from me, even though I’m on a teaching panel. Everyone brings different talents, and when you start blending them together you get some amazing pieces.”

Costume Con was founded in San Diego in 1982 by Karen Schnaubelt, who also attended this year’s event, but began rotating cities after the 1983 event and hasn’t returned to San Diego until this year.

Other locales have included San Jose, Montreal, Australia and Baltimore.

Rebecca Rowan, organizer of this year’s event, said many people travel to Costume Con each year to prepare for costume competitions.

While learning to make better costumes is a key draw, she said many people come with the goal of showing off their latest creations to people who will appreciate them.

The demographics of Costume Con run the gamut, but the annual event tends to attract an older crowd.

“A lot of the people running it are older because they’ve been doing it for a while, but we’re also trying to draw in the young crowd, too, because we don’t want it to die out,” Rowan said.

One way they do that is with a masqeurade ball each year with a science fiction theme. Rowan said a highlight of this year’s masquerade, which was Saturday night, was a 16-foot dragon manipulated simultaneously by three people.

Each Costume Con also includes something called a Fashion Future Folio, which gets posted online for people around the globe to see.

The goal is designing what people might be wearing in the future, said Sandy Pettinger, a Nebraska resident overseeing this year’s folio.

“It can be work clothes, it could be for performing, it could be wedding wear -- whatever they want,” Pettinger said.

Two women from Montreal donned futuristic clothes on Sunday aiming to make the folio.

Vicky Larouche, who is making her first trip to the United States, said costuming is a fun hobby to go along with her day job in human resources.

Larouche said she’s learned new techniques this weekend and has been impressed by the creativity. She said it’s also fun to see people she’s met at previous Costume Cons.

The event was sponsored by the nonprofit San Diego Speculative Fiction Society. The group’s next events include an anime convention June 1 through 3 at the Sheraton Mission Valley and a Gaslight Steampunk Expo in October in Mission Valley.

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