Hua Cheng - Tian Guan Ci Fu [original design]

Made In: 2021
Status: active


An original design drawing inspiration from the manhua and various cover designs, but also directly from the text and from Tang-dynasty menswear, because that era had some great looks.


Outer robe (Yuanlingpao)

Made using a Tang-dynasty yuanlingpao pattern from Taobao which needed almost no modification (the collar band on the original was a bit weirdly-shaped). The outer fabric is a silk-rayon blend, also from Taobao - the combo of maple leaves and flowers was too perfect to pass up. It's lined in a combination of thin black silk/cotton blend for most of the body, with panels of black silk charmeuse for the front. Wearing it with the collar folded open like this is actually attested to historically, though the extra embroidery on the 'lapels' and bottom edge are not - those are machine embroidery using butterfly patterns from Embroidery Library.

Diexie (belt)

The portion of this I'm most proud of, honestly. You can buy reproduction diexie on Taobao, but they're largely all brown leather with gold/brass hardware, and fairly generic-looking. I decided to get in far over my head and sculpted all the main elements (strap plates, flower studs, and strap ends) from Monster Clay so I could make molds in heat-resistant silicone and cast copies in pewter (which has a low enough melting point that you can actually hit it on a regular household stove). There was a LOT of trial and error involved, though the nice thing about working with metal is that if you mess up, you can re-melt it and reclaim most of it (you lose a little bit to dross as the surface oxidizes on melting). These were all attached through holes punched and cut in black vegtan leather belt strapping. The buckle is bought, mostly because pewter is a little too soft for handling major loads. Pouches are a thinner oiled garment leather.


The earrings, boot chains, and necklace are largely put together from premade components and a lot of jump rings - I did cut the crescent disks for the earrings out of aluminum sheeting, and the large butterfly element on the necklace is another pewter-cast piece (this time in a sand mold, because I only needed the one copy). I took inspiration from Hmong silverwork designs (as Hua Cheng is implied to be half-Hmong), though it doesn't mimic any really specific designs. I actually couldn't find small enough bells that still actually made noise from any jewelry suppliers, and resorted to cutting them off some old trim (originally marketed for use in Christmas decorations, I believe) I had used on an older costumes.


My absolute nemesis, and thus of course the part of the costume I get the most compliments on. This took about four tries just to come up with a design I liked - many thanks to Andy for drafting out a lot of the elements based on examples of Hmong picture square embroidery designs. They're made of thin cardboard with the raised elements cut out of thin craft foam and glued down, background elements added in with puff paint, and then covered in thermoplastic (which absolutely did not want to fill in small cutouts without a lot of poking with sculpting tools). The outer surface is imitation silver leaf, because it turned out that with all the other silver parts of the costume made of real metal, not using real metal for the bracers was really jarring. I also made the classic mistake of not leaving enough space to account for clothing underneath and thus they like to pop open basically all the time.