Lecturer and alumna Christine Knobel

Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

Costume Quest

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Fall/Winter 2021-22, Office Hours

Design lecturer Christine Knobel’s Wonder Woman costume began its life as kombucha (a form of bacteria) in jugs. Then a UC Davis M.F.A. student, Knobel dyed some parts while painting others before sewing it together and adding zippers.

For Knobel, the challenge is exploring zero waste fashion in combination with her passion for cosplay, or dressing up as a fictional character. This interest has even fueled her research — she’s now focused on increasing sustainability in cosplay and finding methods that can be carried over into the fashion industry.

“I get excited really easily, and I want to do all of the characters. I don’t have enough space to keep storing all of them. I was making so many and not having a good storage solution. That’s what prompted my interest in biodegradability in cosplay,” said Knobel ’16, M.F.A. ’18.

Knobel’s interest in costume design and cosplay began in high school, when she dressed up as Sailor Jupiter from the Japanese animated series “Sailor Moon.” Now, she attends six to eight comic book conventions every year. And as a designer in the fashion and textile industry, she is finding ways to limit waste by using natural dyes and recycling fabrics.

“I love spending the time making [costumes] and deciding how I’m going to achieve different effects,” Knobel said. 

As she’s delved into sustainability, Knobel has crafted other costumes from second-hand materials; her Misty costume from Pokémon, for instance, was completely made out of objects from a thrift store.

Costume design takes Knobel anywhere from two weeks to several months, the latter being the case for her all-time favorite character, Galactus from Marvel Comics. It’s currently living a second life — as a lampshade in her living room.