The Pembroke Cosplay Tea Parties were created by cosplayers Lolita and SakiB, who wanted to host a themed cosplay social gathering outside of conventions. The tea parties feature elegant food, decorations, and of course costumes which correspond to each year's theme determined by the hosts.
For the fourth annual Pembroke Cosplay Teaparty, Lolita decided that the theme should be Steampunk, a popular fashion genre based upon Victorian-era science fiction. Several attendees, including the host herself, decided to recreate Steampunk versions of their Alice in Wonderland characters from the original tea party in 2006. The idea caught on until almost everyone had selected a costume from the Lewis Carroll universe, creatively altered to fit into the Steampunk genre. The party was originally supposed to be held at Herring Run Park as it had been in the past, but the weather forecasts predicted severe thunderstorms and it was decided the event would be better held at Lolita’s house, providing an indoor option for the event should the storms occur. Christa Newman once again volunteered to photograph the event, researching original Wonderland illustrations for inspiration. The party was an absolute blast, and resulted in the best and most complex photoshoot in tea party history.
Months before the tea party’s theme was announced, I had found the perfect fabric for a Cheshire Cat costume and had purchased it as I wanted to remake my old Cheshire Cat outfit. The original EGL version I had worn in 2006 had been thrown together at the last minute and I wanted to make something better. When Lolita decided upon her Steampunk theme, it was easy to incorporate those aspects and it gave me the perfect motivation to get going on my remake. I was thrilled to roll out the new design the day of the party. That morning I whipped together some marble squares, which I felt were in-line with a Wonderland themed tea, to bring as a dessert. When I arrived, an entire Mad Tea Party set had been recreated, with a table set up adorned with teacups and teapots of all shapes and sizes, cakes and treats stacked one on top of the other, and an oversize seat at the center of the table for Alice herself. Characters covered almost the entire main cast of the books, with Caitlin and Mark as a mischievous Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and Courtney as an adorable White Rabbit. Jon and Ash served up drinks as the The Mad Hatter and The March Hare and abetted by Gale as The Doormouse. Crazy Flower, ever one to tackle a complex outfit, was fantastic as the Queen of Hearts, and Iceman stood sentry as the Ace of Spades. Stardust took on a very Victorian version of The Caterpillar, and several others wore appropriately Steampunk-esque outfits. Of course, Lolita portrayed the most curious Alice herself.
Despite the dire weather predictions and several ominous booms in the distance, the sun held out for the entire afternoon. Games of badminton, croquet, and Red Light, Green Light (using red and green parasols as the lights) took place around the lawn as cosplayers chatted and snacked between photoshoots. Unlike previous parties, however, in which the party was the main event with attendees occasionally being borrowed by photographers for individual shoots, this year the photography was the main event. With so many related characters, the majority of the guests were involved in various shoots, which took place all around the property. We set up shots in a wooded clearing, a nearby fence, and of course, the Mad Tea Party set. Christa was the main photographer, who set up various and complex shots with help from Lolita, who had her illustrated version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on hand for inspiration. Sketch, Lauren, and ChibiRinoa also took photos, and set up their own mini-shoots when Christa was preoccupied with another group. Everyone had plenty of fantastic ideas, and as a result, we re-created countless scenes from the classic story.
The only downside to this aspect was that the party was not as social as it had been in the past, and was somewhat divided between those involved in the shoots and those who were not. Also, many more people attended the event than in the past, many of whom were new to the group and the lack of social time made the new and old attendees hang out mostly among themselves rather than integrate and make new connections. As the evening approached, most of us changed out of our costumes to hang out inside, although it resulted in the groups chatting again among themselves rather than communal game playing like last year. On the whole, the event was a lot of fun, though for different reasons than it had been in the past. Although we had an amazing photoshoot, it felt like something else was lost as a result which I hope can be regained in the future.