Ever since Meris Mullaley sewed her first Halloween costume in college—a combination of doomed princess Anck Su Namun from 1999’s The Mummy and the Egyptian hieroglyphs she studied in her archaeology courses—she’s been finding ways to wear her geekiness on her sleeve. As a high schooler, Mullaley learned to sew from her mother, but it wasn’t until the Renton resident got into cosplay—dressing as characters from movies, comic books, and video games—that she cultivated the skill. And in October when she shows off her latest creation from the Assassin’s Creed series at Seattle’s celebration of female nerddom, GeekGirlCon, she’ll vie for the unofficial title of Killer Ensemble. We’d say she has that sewn up. —Matthew Halverson
Both of my parents had their own set of the Lord of the Rings series. They did a great job of introducing me to literature and films that we now identify as the geeky genre, but at the time they were just offering them as good examples of literature or cinema: “You need to see The Graduate and you need to see Star Wars.”
The word geek can mean anything from someone who is deeply passionate about a particular topic to someone who is borderline obsessed. And a lot of people—myself included—when they say, “I’m a geek,” they’re embracing that element of geekhood that has always been a little outside the mainstream. But recently in pop culture it has come to mean more genre-based fascinations and fanaticisms. So you have this large group of people who for a long time felt ostracized because we like science and math and Star Wars, and we’re having to come to terms with the fact that that thing we clung to while being bullied is no longer our private world.
For me, being a geek was a bridge to other individuals. It didn’t necessarily give me an upper hand in popularity or my dating life, but it gave me a different type of relationship with the guys in my class. And I had different friends that I might not have had otherwise. I remember being in sophomore health class, geeking out about The Phantom Menace before it came out. We were so young and naïve.
Sewing, like a lot of other crafts, is very dependent on measure five times, cut once. I may measure 10 times, and then hesitate on cutting, and then finally cut because I’m a week away from the convention and haven’t made enough progress.
There’s a moment in the extended features of the Lord of the Rings DVDs when Ian McKellen is showing off one of his Gandalf costumes, and he pulls out the very bottom tunic that you’d never see under all of the other layers. And he says, “Look at this embroidery. Look at all of the detail they put into this garment that nobody will see.” He explained that that level of detail, that level of authenticity made him feel more like Gandalf. That’s something I take to heart when I work on my own costumes, because I want to feel as much like that character as I can. So if it’s a costume where there’s an underdress and a blouse and an overtunic, in theory I could just attach sleeves to the overtunic and attach a lower skirt to it, and it would look fine. But I want to feel each of those garments moving independently of one another.
When I started cosplaying, I suddenly realized the type of geek I was. Like, I’d always been a geek. But when I was able to take that love I had for a character and put it into a costume and then be that character for a few hours one day, I felt more confident about myself. I felt more a part of the geek community.
A lot of people say, “Oh, you’re dressing as the character, therefore you want the attention.” Not always true, but I acknowledge that I’m going to get the attention, whether or not I want it. And it has forced me to become more extroverted, or at least more comfortable in public settings.
I’m not comfortable engaging in costume contests because for me it’s meant to be fun. There is an element in the cosplay community that will look at a person’s costume and say, “That’s a horrible choice of pink” or “You’re not the right size to cosplay Wonder Woman.” I don’t like to feed into that unnecessary comparison.
Every year I say I’m going to keep better track of how much I spend, and then every year I fail to. But I would estimate that I spend at least $100 on a costume. Maybe $200.
You can buy your costume premade from somebody on Etsy, and that’s totally fine. Just don’t go saying you made it.
It’s easy to take for granted how awesome it is to be a geek in Seattle because it’s so easy for us here. I was at GeekGirlCon in line with a woman who had flown out from New York specifically for that convention, and I was just going because I was a girl and a geek and excited to celebrate the other women in geekdom. I just assumed it was something that happened in other corners of the country, but it made me realize I’m really in a good neck of the woods.
I spend so much of my time at the fabric store, figuring out which one of two blues is the right blue.