A Beautiful Betrayal: The Crazy Work Behind Cosplaying Persona 5’s Milady
Cosplayers have a reputation for nailing character details that the rest of us never even noticed. But when a cosplayer tries to make a massively complicated outfit like Persona 5’s Milady, that feat becomes even more impressive.
I met Miri (aka Millimetric Cosplay) a year ago, and since then, I’ve been amazed by her precise cosplay construction and attention to every little character detail. When she told me she wanted to make the cosplay of a lifetime by bringing Haru’s pink, masked Persona to life, I was floored. How could any single person make that outfit?
Not only did Miri make a dead ringer of Milady, she wore the enormous gown at DragonCon’s famous Masquerade in Atlanta (Milady de Winter would be proud).
I sat down with Miri to find out why and how she made the dress, which weighed 30 pounds and required handlers to help move Miri around the con floor.
Elizabeth Ballou: Why choose Milady’s gown?
Millimetric Cosplay: Ballgowns have always been my thing as a costumer. I’ve done probably 40 or 50 different costumes between stuff for me, stuff for friends, RenFest. In middle and early high school, I thought, “If you’re girly, you can’t be smart, and I’m a smart person, which means I can’t be a girly person.” Costumes were my way out of that.
I was itching for a technical challenge, something huge and frilly that would, frankly, make me the center of attention. Because some people say [when it comes to cosplay], “You’re just doing it for attention.” And I wanted to be like, “Yeah! Feast your eyes!”
EB: What about the character herself?
MC: Milady isn’t really a character. She’s a metaphysical dress monster who doesn’t exist in the physical reality of the game. But she’s the thing that comes out of this restrained, sweet, smart, duty-bound, feminine character. An explosion of pink and knives and betrayal!
I first wanted Persona 5 because I saw this dress was in it. The style in this game is crazy, and the Milady dress is so clearly over-the-top, it shouldn’t exist.
EB: How long has it taken you to make this cosplay?
MC: I first cut fabric for the hoop skirt in May. The first pattern pieces I drew and cut were June third. It all took about three months, but planning and gathering materials started as early as last November.
EB: You made your Milady cosplay pattern yourself, right?
MC: Yes. Most production sewing patterns, which I learned on—one of the best ways to learn sewing is to get a pattern and just make something from it—are hard to alter into the cosplay pattern you need.
This drafting process was a lot of measuring myself and then knowing how much flexibility the fabric needed. My advice is draw it out on paper to scale. I use that white paper they use in exam rooms. Getting the curves between points is kind of an art. It’s something I’ve built up over a decade.
EB: What was the hardest piece to make?
MC: The collar was tricky to get the pattern for. It has this huge, double-scallop pattern and careful satin stitching.
The bustle tips were also tricky, because I had to model and 3D-print them. The dagger at the front, which I also 3D-printed, is my favorite mesh. It is, millimeter by millimeter, accurate to the measurements of the dagger in the art book.
EB: You have a full-time job. How did you manage this?
MC: It was six weeks of head down work. For those weeks, my schedule looked like this: Come home from work. Craft room. Come out for dinner. Craft room. Go to bed. I estimated how many hours it took, and it’s somewhere between 300 and 350.
EB: That’s 14.5 entire days.
EB: Is that the normal amount of time that goes into making a cosplay?
MC: No. This is the most intense cosplay I’ve ever made.
There’s been some discourse in the cosplay community about how easy ballgowns are. That they just have a lot of fabric and that’s it. I thought to myself, “Ballgowns are easy, huh? Let me make a literally face-consuming, dress-that-wears-you ballgown.
Pieces of fabric that are physically that large require more work. Everything takes longer. Take ironing. My pink skirt piece with the gold applique covers my queen-sized bed. It took me about an hour just to iron it before I cut it.
Oh, and if I could give one piece of advice to new cosplayers, it would be to iron everything all the time. You just sewed a seam? Iron it. You just cut a piece out? Iron it. Wrinkles propagate.
EB: How many skirts were you wearing, total?
MC: The hoop skirt on the bottom, three tulle petticoats, the pink skirt, and what I call the “octobustle,” or the eight curtain-looking drapes with scalloped fringe and pendants. Then a pink, heart-shaped bustle on top of all that. Underneath it all was the white, spandex bodysuit with the collar.
EB: How did you transport the cosplay to the con?
MC: She fits in a suitcase! The hoops all come out of the hoopskirt and fold up, and the rest of the fabric elements compact down nicely (all the tulle petticoats compress into a large vacuum bag). I’d like to thank Southwest Airlines for allowing me to check two bags, which I definitely took advantage of.
EB: What was the process of putting on Milady?
MC: First, there was an hour of ironing. The overskirt wrinkles if you look at it funny.
The white face-covering collar was the first piece to go on. Then padded bra, white undersuit, and red tights (I once noticed in game that Milady has red legs and heels, and it’s a detail I brought into the costume even though you never see it) and shoes.
Then the hoops went on. Next, I added petticoats one at a time, then the pink skirt, the octobustle, and the corset over all of that. Finally, I put the pink ruffled bustle on top.
The sleeves are a separate piece, and they went on like a bolero, with the arms of the gloves tacked on to help them stay up. The gloves went on last, after I fastened the blue collar around the layers on my neck.
EB: Describe the Costuming Contest! How did it feel to show off all your hard work?
MC: Before the contest, I had a few minutes to run through what I made with the judges and answer a couple of questions. That was a whirlwind, but the stage presentation was a ton of fun.
I have a lot of friends in Atlanta, and so many of them came out to support me. It was amazing to be surrounded by people who support me and love my work.
EB: How was moving around the rest of the con floor in The Dress?
MC: I was surprised by how able I was to move. Maybe it’s my familiarity with DragonCon, but I didn’t struggle to navigate.
I also always had at least one handler—either my incredibly supportive fiance or another friend—who warned me about obstacles, floofed up my dress, and brought my coffee while I stood still and looked pretty. The handlers are the real MVPs here.
I only ever went between the hotel I was staying in and the hotel the competition was in, which are connected by a skybridge.
EB: Where will you be wearing Milady next?
MC: I’ll be wearing Milady to MAGfest, one of my favorite cons of the year. As a video game-centric show, she’ll find a great reception there, and there’s always a large and well attended Persona 5 photoshoot that’d be perfect for her.
And then I’m planning to compete again at KatsuCon, a more anime-and-costuming-focused con in February that has a reputation for intense craftsmanship.
Now you know where to go if you want to catch Miri as Milady in person. Persona 5 has a crazy talented cosplay community, so be on the lookout for cosplayers bringing their Megami Tensei A-game at your next con visit!