ByTarina Duffield, writer at Creators.co

A question I get asked a lot is why Harley Quinn? Why a character that is most widely chosen amongst the convention scene. I think brushing aside the deeper levels her personality appealed to me. Something I saw watching Batman the animated series as a child. It wasn't the dark shadows that hung over her character that I saw, I was a child, she made me laugh, she made me smile. She was warming and loving and as a 8 yr old girl watching Batman on a Saturday morning, she instantly clicked and became a firm favourite with me.

When I attended my first convention I was completely unaware of how big of a thing it was. How amazing the details where in some of the costumes I saw. I had no clue who the Cosplay celebrities where. Or how some people consider this a job rather than a hobby. I was simply the curvy girl in the store bought Harley Quinn costume and a home made hammer in awe at everything I saw. I entered my first mascarade and won best prop, I went away with so many positive feelings it took on from there.

"Me, my brother and his friends at Wigan-con June 2014"

Before this I was a burlesque dancer and model, more a hobbiest than a professional. I performed burlesque all over the UK in various shows and I used this as a way to tackle my weight gain from having children in a more positive light. As the costuming for Harley took over and I was learning new skills constantly I thought why not merge the two. But this was a long way off yet. The Harley Quinn bug had hit me harder than ever and I started to use my creative skills not only with costume but my experience in modelling to make my favourite character come to life, in my own little way.

Credit: My Boudoir

Looking through the evolution of Quinn it was hard to choose a costume to make. To be fair it still is, there's so many I love, there's others I don't love as much but I still love the character in the same way. My sewing skills were basic. So I took refuge in various youtube channels and practiced my skills watching many videos. I finally found something I was learning and improving on each month.

"Credit: Chi-O photography" Arkham Knight Harley Quinn

If I couldn't make it myself I'd find someone who was an expert in that skill to make it for me. There's nothing wrong with wearing store bought costumes for cosplaying. I sometimes wear them too. Just as there's nothing wrong with making them yourselves. There's no right or wrong way to Cosplay. If you're having fun, and celebrating your fandom, creating memories with your friends, you're doing good and keep doing that!

"Credit: Louisa Taylor photography"

As my costume confidence grew so did my confidence infront of the camera. I had died my hair blonde, hit the gym, completely changed my lifestyle in many positive ways. The whole community helped me fall in positive comfort. I was no longer unhappy. I had made so many new friends from all over the country, even in other countries. Life was finally settling down. My confidence had grown so much I decided to try a few different characters and eventually it was time to merge my burlesque with my Cosplay, and it opened a whole new chapter up in my life!

As I said earlier i was an ecdysiast ( the correct name for a burlesque performer) and a model before I started cosplaying. I had always been a dancer, and before I had my family I was a competitive cheerleader. Dance and performance was always something I'd done. Some of my family members are various performers on stage so this was something I was never shy of. I went from a size 8 to a size 18 (UK sizing) after having my mini beastie, it knocked my confidence as a woman so much, my body had changed and I no longer felt attractive or appealing. Burlesque helped me over come that. The reason I'm telling you this is because it changed my mindset on women's bodies, it opened up my eyes and made me understand that not all bodies are perfect, not everyone is happy with their bodies, but if you can love what you have, others will see it too. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and burlesque personally helped me see that. So I went back to the rehersal rooms and developed two new acts. Acts that were new to what I normally perform like. I hit the stage with my new found confidence and although extremely nervous reinventing myself had the most amazing time

Credit: Jason Watkin photography

and of course Harley hit the burlesque stage too.....

Credit: Iain Donald Photography

Even though I had taken the step to wear other characters costumes other than Harley she still very much remained a favourite to wear and make.

She always holds a special place in my heart, the the variations are endless. Even with the current suicide squad movie release next year this only sparks the imagination of other costumiers to go head and create their own take on a popular character. Sure this is not something a lot would agree on. I've noticed it's a common line between a lot of Harley Quinn cosplayers/ fans world wide. A lot of hurtful comments made to others and their choices of styling when it comes to the clown princess of crime but as humans who are we to judge? Creativity should never be judged or ridiculed no matter, skill, experience, preference, age. In my books, you like Harley like I do, that's another friend with common interests I have gained, who cares if you're wearing the cowl or not. Or if you're choice of outfit is more revealing. You like the same thing I do. That's winning all round for me. Whether it's a costume I prefer or not.

Credit: Anstellos designs

so I've rattled and whittled a lot on this blogg. Basically I had no idea what to put really. The brilliant team behind this site suggested I talk about my Harley cosplays. To be honest there's a lot of them I've missed out without it been a total picture fest on here, and I have no plans to stop. Next year I have many more Harley's to showcase, not only at conventions but through my modelling portfolio also. This is something I love to do. Whether it be Harley, Supergirl, black canary elsa etc etc I'm surrounded by people all in the same boat as me, people who love this culture in the same way. There's a forever increasing negativity within the costuming community. I say costuming not Cosplay. Because it's the same with all aspects of performance and not only Cosplay . There will always be someone showcasing it in a negative attitude, what changes the tables is your attitude in response to it. Look at when you started, and where you are now to where you plan to be this time next year. Look back on your memories and smile. Or find the reasons to smile. Just look at how amazing you are, you may not see it yourself but others will ....keep positive and be kind.

Special credit "food and Cosplay" for Christmas Harley image.

So as the end of 2015 approaches I can honestly say it's only onwards and upwards for me. I've been fortunate in taking part in so many awesome projects. There's plenty more fun to be had in the future. I have plenty more in the way of Harley Quinn to make, do, perform and see. As for my burlesque adventures. My next act is a Sarah Sanderson act from Hocus Pocus which I cannot wait to perform.

I'll only stop my costume adventures when it no longer becomes fun. Because at the end of the day I want to be able to tell amazing stories to my grandchildren. I want my family to be proud of me and most importantly I want to have a happy life, and right here right now. My family, Costuming, Cosplay and burlesque is making that happen.

Credits: top left: Lee Gale photography, middle and top right: Ricky Rees photography. Bottom left: James Bisset photography

If you want to keep up to date with all my shenanigans.. come find me on Instagram: Sour.smash

facebook: facebook.com/hullharley

and twitter: @hullharls

much love and respect

Tarina aka Soursmash xxx

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