The Real-Life Ciem Suits of Early 2019 are a Lithobara-themed T-shirt and a Forfica Mk. I-themed suit that were designed for two different gals from November of 2018 - April of 2019, and a milestone in Dozerfleet Labs achievement toward translating Dozerfleet Comics hero suits from game files into real-life costumes.
- The founder's niece, Lizzy, wanted a designer T-shirt kit for Christmas. She was about to get something more.
- Lee Loo La had been posing as Candi for three years, using a modified photo in which a Variega-series suit was spray-painted on her otherwise nude figure. It seemed only right to give her an actual Ciem suit to try on, instead of expecting her to always run around half-naked.
- Lee's 34th birthday was coming up on April 25th of 2019. Therefore, making a version of the suit for her was seen as a way to get a jump on the occasion.
Before the suits were created, a speculative catalog (since outdated) was put together regarding how easy or challenging it would be to adapt various Dozerfleet heroes' costumes from their illustrated / game file formats into real costumes that a cosplayer would actually wear. While all Ciem suits proved by the catalog to be a challenge, it seemed like Candi was a good place to start with adaptation. Ambitions included following this up with the making of Cherinob and Gray Champion outfits - if materials could be found along with suitable models. At the time, there was no volunteer model for John Domeck; and Jessica Truscott lived too far away (and was likely too expensive.)
The initial plan for Lizzy's shirt was to go with a Proto-Ciem design, the version seen at the beginning of Ciem: Inferno, before a random news interview in Yellek results in Emeraldon unwittingly giving Candi's centipede suit the "Ciem" moniker. However, this design was deemed too crude for a child's Christmas gift. Instead, the Lithobara series Ciem top from Sodality was chosen as a designer T-shirt option. Lithobara is the simplest non-Proto Ciem top; and it bears most of the essential elements for the character's appearance.
Lizzy's shirt began as a Gildan-brand white designer T-shirt. A centipede chest insignia stencil of the Jagged Lithobius design was cut out, as well as a septagon shape of paper for tracing outlines in fabric marker. For the back centipede, Forficatus Maximus was used. Black fabric markers were used to etch the entire pattern for her shirt, with fabrics from a Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store making up the under-armming and rib-siding. These fabrics were stitched on after the shirt went through two different dye processes.
The first dye process involved an initial dye kit that came with the shirt. Two of that set were purchased, so Lizzy would still have some designer shirts left blank to make her own designs. Lizzy's Lithobara shirt initial dye kit was drenched in a solution of red and yellow tie dye, which was mixed inside a bucket with hot water, and held in a bathtub to prevent spillage. However, the resulting shirt came out looking a rusty brown similar to a faded Proto top, rather than the hot orange of a proper Lithobara.
A secondary dye job using spray dye from Michael's yielded a proper hot orange shade. Once the shirt was properly dried, Tulip-brand 3D fabric paint was used to apply a gold overtouch to Jagged Lithobius on the chest region. White fabric paint colored in Forficus Maximus. Her centileg pouches were painted on with black 3D fabric paint.
Forfica Mk. I
Originally, it was thought that only the shirt would be made for Lee, just as Lizzy only got a shirt. However, growing ambition to self-challenge led to most of a suit being made instead. This would include a mask, pants, gloves, and a belt. Because the process was late on making the whole suit, a short-sleeve Gildan-brand shirt was used instead of a proper long-sleeve turtleneck. A proper utility belt was skipped in favor of a belt believed to be about Lee's size or a tad smaller, to get the point across but also stay within a budget. The belt could be swapped out with a utility belt later. A Lara Croft-style belt was deemed ideal.
- Shirt design
Initially, the shirt would be Lithobara; as was Lizzy's. However, the desire for more of a challenge led to the shirt being a Forfica Mk. I shirt instead. The shirt was already pre-dyed orange professionally, so that a dye process capable of going horribly wrong could be skipped.
The Jagged Lithobius chest pattern was swapped out with a Vanadium Centipede "Techno Forficatus" pattern. Forficus Maximus was still used for the back centipede pattern. Black fabric marker was swapped out for dark red, and the centileg pouches were made with actual fabric this time. However, painting the golden 3D pattern onto the trace of Techno Forficatus led to an uncooperative 3D paint resembling Jagged Lithobius instead. More 3D fabric paint was used to create a black trapezoidal base for the golden centipede to rest on, increasing contrast between the golden centipede and all the various orange elements of the main shirt. Unlike the simple orange shirt from The Sims 4 used as a base for Lithobara, Forfica's base was modeled after a shirt from the Vampires game pack, and inherited its black trapezoid design from that game. As a frame of reference, Ciem suit bitmaps were even extracted from Sims 4 game files and printed out, to get an idea for a pattern to use. The real-life pattern was not anywhere near as clean as its game counterpart, however.
- Mask production
Lee's mask was made by purchasing some additional orange shirts. Material was cut off from one, following a modified balaclava pattern found online. No mouth or eye holes were worked into the modified pattern. It was stitched together with orange ash thread purchased at the Marketplace Blvd. Wal-Mart store not far from Grand Ledge.
Instead, the mask was put on a styrofoam dummy head. A box cutter was used to make small slits, enlarged only as necessary with a scissors. The slits were made just large enough to fit kid goggles through, and the goggles' frames and other accessories were cut up as necessary to reduce them to eyepieces for the mask. Small holes were poked in the mask near the nostril regions, to prevent lens fogging while the mask is worn.
The eyepieces were aimed to be similar to an Ant-Man or Wasp helmet's eyepieces, in spite the general balaclava face mask being modeled somewhat after a template for a Spider-Man mask. Once in place, the eyepieces were fixed in place first with superglue and then with black 3D fabric paint. Gold fabric paint was used to make the nasal centipede - a first in real-life attempts to make the Nasal Lithobius. Dark red fabric paint and markers were then used to make the weaving patterns.
- Glove production
The gloves for Lee's suit were purchased at a Lowe's store near Grand Ledge, MI. Some green beads were glued on, to serve as the indicator lights for the dart shooters. Research was performed on the best way to replicate dart shooters. However, time constraints (and a lack of soldering and metal sculpting skills) led to Lee's dart shooters being painted on with a mix of metallic black and 3D white fabric paints.
Developing actual pull-lever-activated miniature staple guns with up to 500 staples for ammo each, marinated in centipede venom, was something that would have to wait for the future. Even a close-looking Hollywood-style prop fitted for CGI was still out of the question at the time, as the Dozerfleet founder and his family had neither the skills in that prop-making division nor a sufficient budget for the parts that would have been necessary.
- Pants and belt production
Lee's pants and belt were found at the JC Penney store of the Lansing Mall. After purchase, the pants were woven with dark red 3D fabric paint. The belt was a placeholder, to remind her that the costume has a belt. Any utility belt was deemed acceptable; but a Lara Croft-style belt was deemed most ideal. However, the Dozerfleet founder was running out of time and costume budget to purchase a Lara Croft belt replica from Amazon.
Black parts of the crotch and inner legging region were painted on with black fabric paint, due to issues with getting the actual fabric to cut properly for that region - and time constraints on sewing availability.
While the shirt was supposed to be long-sleeved for a proper Ciem suit, it wound up being a short-sleeved shirt. Gildan designer shirts at Michael's didn't come in long-sleeved format. The suit packaged didn't come with combat boots, as those would have nearly doubled production and shipping costs instantaneously on what was already proving to be a surprisingly expensive costume, after all the costs of fabric paint and markers were tallied.
Prisoner Candi bonus costumes
With so many bits of orange shirt material left over, Candi's severed top to her Houston Women's Prison outfit - which she tore at one point in Sodality: Vindication to make a tourniquet to save a guard's life with - was adapted from a shirt that had been partially cannibalized to research making the mask. A gray base shirt was adapted, and the combined shirts made up Candi's shirt after her internment at Houston Women's near the end of Vindication.
The base shirt went well with other colors, so a blue overshirt was purchased and painted to become Candi's top to her uniform while under internment at SCALLOP Women's Containment Center. Her prisoner number was painted on to match Sims 3 concept art panels. Blue sweatpants and blue crocs would complete the look for this suit, as orange crocs and orange sweatpants (other than the Ciem suit pants) would the Houston outfit.
Since those two Sodality-era Candi prisoner outfits were adapted, a purple-lavender overshirt was also purchased from Michael's to serve as Candi's Madison top. Combined with the gray undershirt, the look could be completed with black tennis shoes and khaki / tan chinos.
A pair of toy handcuffs was packaged with the Prisoner Candi set, to allow for even more credible cosplay.
Main article: Ciem / Anarteq: Kahoopiliana
Production of the costume led to inspiration for the short story Ciem / Anarteq: Kahoopiliana. This story would serve as an origin for explaining how Nancy Hizrah came up with drafts for the first-ever Forfica series Ciem suit. While she yearns to show Candi her designs, and get approval to send them to Imaki, she needs to ensure security is present to oversee the transaction (since the girls of Madison can't "pass notes" per the rules.)
How the heroes first learn of Kaiakahinali 2 being Rappaccini's evil plan is also explained, when Anarteq is forced to visit Kamohoalii in Hawaii to learn the contents on a flash drive, so that the Sodality Church can send someone to intercept Triumvirate meetings and know which plan on the flash drive is next on the Icy Finger's agenda. Izzy must do this, as a condition to get his cousin Jissika out of the prison she was placed in over her antics in Sault Ste. Marie.
On the side, the short story introduces us to ill-fated Phexo security guard Paul "Goatgruff" Driveway, who works at Madison and has befriended Candi during her incarceration there per Darius' being insanely vindictive against her over the Zeran wardrobes existence information leak.
Happening in March of 2016, the short story is not only a tie in to the making of Lee's costume. It's also a prelude to Ciem: Ash Cloud, filling in some plot holes of things happening in-between Inferno and Ash Cloud that aren't covered in Sniperbadger: Fall of the Critter Resistance, Anarteq: Guardian of the Soo, Cherinob, nor in The Gray Champion: Shaken Dust. Upon completion, a free PDF / e-book is set to be released of the short story.
Packaging and shipping
For Lizzy's outfit
After the other fabrics were stitched on, the shirt was ready for packaging. It was packaged with only days to spare before Christmas, along with the tie dye kit. Due to dissatisfaction with the weave pattern's results using black fabric markers, it was decided that future Ciem suits would use a dark red fabric marker.
For Lee's outfit
A lot of Reynolds plastic wrap was used to cover the costumes, which had to be elaborately folded to minimize packaging space. A lot of Scotch tape was used to hold the improvised bagging in place; and the Ciem suit in the package was furthermore taped with metallic gold tape along its sides to make it fancier. Specialized labeling was put on the packaging for both the Ciem suit and Prisoner Candi suit packages. In addition, Lee's box of accessories included a custom-hand-written letter, a low-res comic strip of some scenes from Kahoopiliana, some hand-drawn concept art for different Ciem suit designs, a copy of the Lithobara Sims 4 file bitmap extracted as a PNG file and then printed out, links to the Dozerfleet Database, and more. The mask was sanitized after test model Karina wore it, and was packaged in a sandwich bag for extra preservation.
The UPS Store of Lansing near the Lansing Mall was used as a shipping point of origin. However, they deferred the package to USPS Priority Mail due to Lee's address for receiving "business" content from others being a PO Box in Mesa, AZ. Without a clearly-designated home address, UPS couldn't ship to her directly.
Initial estimates were that it would cost about $12.17 to ship the Prisoner Candi set separately in a $4.35 box, and that this would be repeated for the Ciem suit. The result, initially tallied, would be that the packages could be shipped individually for a total of around $34. If combined in a single 12" x 12" x 6" box, however, then the total cost was estimated at $20.72 for shipping plus $4.40 for the box, or a total of $25.12 plus sales tax, yielding a grand total of $26.62 to mail the entire package. However, this total nearly doubled to almost $45 in the final tally, as the 2-day mail option proved to be the only option available for a combined package.
When the costs of shipping and costs of production are added together, the entire project is estimated to have cost around $350 for the total five months of its production, or roughly costing $60 a month, or about $15 a week average for production. The pants and belt cost about $35 of the total budget alone, with each shirt costing about $4. With 6 shirts used in the creation of Lee's set, that's a total of $24 worth of the total supply budget. The pool goggles were relatively cheap, around $4. Gloves were around $14-20. Fabric from Jo-Ann's cost about $40 total. Superglue cost about $6. This meant that the remaining $164 or so of budget on the project was spent entirely on purchasing sufficient fabric paint and markers. It's estimated that accurate boots would have cost an additional $120.
Lizzy's reaction to her suit was one of astonishment and confusion. She enjoyed the design, and the athletic ambitions bestowed by it when combined with her skate padding gifts. However, her lack of familiarity with Gerosha mythos had her unaware of Centhuen Prototypes nor of Candi's place in things. Deciding that the Jagged Lithobius centipede on her chest looked "close enough" to a spider, she started calling it her "Orange Spider-Girl" outfit by mistake. Unable to relate to Candi, she instead fancied herself to be more like a young Gwen Stacy.
In spite a busy schedule and website redesigns, Lee found time to examine and try on the outfits upon their arrival. She was overjoyed, even writing a handwritten thank-you letter when she got the free time and promising to take pictures of herself trying the outfits on. She even claimed she can't wait to read the e-books once they're ready for publication. Her letter took a month to arrive in the mail; but was a very warmly-received bit of feedback all the same.