My first cosplay: Ursula the Sea Witch

This past weekend I attended the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2016 and debuted my first cosplay ever: Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  It was a big hit!  Attending a con in cosplay was definitely a different experience, and I’ll be addressing that in a separate post.

Ursula has been several months in the making, but I’ve been too shy to post about it while it was still in progress.  To be honest, I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t be a total flop.  While I’ve done costumes with character in the past, this was my first costume of a specific character.  (For myself, at least – I’ve created a tonberry and Kate Bishop for my kid in the past.)  And I didn’t exactly have much of a plan – more like a rough outline where I made up the details along the way.

From the very beginning, I considered this cosplay to have two key elements: the costume and the makeup.

The Costume

The main part of the costume is a strapless black dress made from costume satin with tentacles added to the skirt and layers of tulle under the tentacles.  The tentacles themselves are black on top and purple on the underside.  The tulle underskirt consists of layers of cool colors to represent the both the ocean waters and the dark purple underside of Ursula’s tentacles.

I started with a dress pattern from McCall’s, which I adjusted to fit my sizeable midsection.  Since I’m not very experienced with adjusting patterns, the resulting dress bodice did not fit very well.  Rather than trying to become an expert dressmaker to fix this, I decided to use a reversible corset from my wardrobe – a piece which had been custom made for me a couple of years ago (by Corseted by Generations of Art).  I hadn’t actually used the all-black side before.  The other side is black & purple, so the lacing string is dark purple – perfect for this cosplay!

0125162140 - CopyThe tentacles are all my creation – and they’re all contructed a little differently because I kept changing my mind along the way.  Each tentacle is approximately 5-6′ long. The curly ends (on front and side tentacles) were cut in a spiral shape; once sewn and stuffed, they had a life of their own!  I had sewn in 1″ sleeves along the seams of the tentacles, and inserted wire armature down the length.  This way, I could shape and pose each tentacle to some extent.

For the practical purpose of walking around I made each tentacle into a bustle – with a strategically placed button and a loop.  This way, the tentacles could be folded up and wouldn’t drag on the floor while I walked.  Yet they could still be extended (to pose for pictures, for example).

To give the tentacles a bit of life, I acquired some fingerless gloves and used fishing line to attached the tips of some tentacles to the gloves.  This way as I move my arms and hands, the tentacles would move as well.

For the final touch, I managed to find the perfect seashell for Ursula’s necklace.  I painted it a translucent yellow so that you could still see the shell’s natural shape and patterns.  This was followed by a layer of gold glitter nail polish.  A dremel tool was used to drill holes into the shell for the cord to make the necklace.


Ever since I started planning this Ursula cosplay, I have considered the makeup to be at least equally as important as the costume.  I have a little experience with basic stage makeup, but this is my first go at such a dramatic character makeup.

Ursula make-up trial #1
My first attempt at Ursula makeup.

My personal experience with stage makeup has been exclusively creme makeups – essentially oil based.  While I could probably get a great look with these, I didn’t think this would work well for the body makeup needed here.  It would smudge and leave stains on everything I touched.  After some internet research, I decided on using Mehron Paradise AQ body paint for the base and Ben Nye Lumiere Grand colors for the contouring.

I had a couple of practice runs for the makeup, with some notes for improvement each time. You can see in the picture from my first try that the overall effect is there, but it lacks subtlety. I was probably too preoccupied how the cartoon character looks and transposing that look to my face.  Between this and the final makeup, I managed to make the the look have less of a cartoon feel and more beauty.

The overall approach to my final makeup look:

  • Seal eyebrows so they could be painted / made up over.
  • Cover entire face, neck, chest, arms, upper back, and ears with base of body paint (purple mixed with white).
  • Add some highlights to face with body paint in a lighter tone – cheeks, eyes, chin, nose.
  • Countour with highlights and shadows using white and purple-ish powder makeups.  Mostly Ben Nye Lumiere Grand; some general store bought eyeshadows.
  • Eyes: Draw eyebrows with black liquid eyeliner marker.  Apply lightest lid colors to entire area.  Add darker colors for shading & effect.  Use eyeliner marker to line top and bottom lids and to draw in eyelid fold.  Apply awesome false eyelashes.
  • Lips:  Use black lipliner and bright red lipstick.  Blend to create effect.
  • Draw in beauty mark using black eyeliner.
  • Hair:  I used hair glue to style a generic white anime-style wig.

Here is the final look:

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Room for Improvement

While I am extremely pleased with how this cosplay turned out, there are a few things I would consider doing differently before bringing this out again:

  • Add more tulle to the underskirt.
  • Earrings.  I actually painted some seashells purple for earrings, but didn’t have time (or know-how) to make them.
  • Add a widow’s peak to the hair / wig.  Perhaps also add dark streaks on the sides.
  • Stuff the top of the dress, which fit me rather loosely, to make a fuller bust.
  • Figure out how to seal the makeup so that it would not fade so much during the day – especially on my hands.  Any tips would be greatly appreaciated!


My cosplay was definitely a hit at C2E2, based on the reaction I received.  To be honest, I barely saw any of the con that day because I was constantly being stopped for photographs.  As mentioned earlier, I wasn’t certain this wouldn’t be a complete bust, so I was thrilled to receive such a great reception for my first cosplay.

Please let me know if you have any comments, questions, or tips for me!

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