Dragons and Tigers and Costumes … Oh My!

When Nicole Martin Larson’s daughter wanted to be Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon for Halloween, she knew that a store bought costume just wasn’t going to cut it. So the photographer and all around creative talent took matters into her own capable hands and fabricated a killer costume using something called a Morphsuit as her base. That sparked an idea, and now two years later, the designing mom is vying to become a global superstar in the costume world by offering something different for girls… a way to show how strong they can be.

The Toothless costume Nicole made for Isabelle in 2012 was her first introduction to Morphsuits, which are these wildly popular, all-in-one, spandex costumes that cover the wearer from head to toe. She found that they made the perfect foundation on which to build just about any costume her imaginative daughter could dream up.

So last Halloween, using nothing more than craft foam and another Morphsuit, Nicole magically transformed Isabelle into Braixen, the bipedal, fox-like Pokémon character, complete with battery powered tail flames. This year, she’s already hard at work designing Isabelle’s latest costume request –  Godzilla – and there’s a Morphsuit in her plans, once again.

toothless art_costume

“The material and simplicity of the Morphsuits lend themselves to a number of applications,” Nicole told WYSK. “You just have to be able to visualize what could be created.” She found that the more she played with the suits, the harder her wheels spun, and the more ideas she got. That’s when Nicole noticed a shortcoming with the product line, and saw an opportunity.

She explained, “Morphsuits are fantastic, but they tend to be more male-centric. They need more female appeal.” Nicole added, “There are plenty of girls, like Isabelle, who want to be ‘non-girly’ characters, but they aren’t available in the mainstream costume market. Instead, girls are being inundated with the ‘typical’ girl costumes, many of which are fairly risqué, and can often send the wrong messages to young girls.”

Seeing the growth potential that a conceptual tweak could have in making Morphsuits appeal to a broader customer base, Nicole decided to make a bold move. She would present her strategic business idea to the innovative makers behind the spandex suits she had become a pro at embellishing in the most fantastical ways.

“Creating this White Tiger suit feels like I am giving my daughter and other young girls a way to show how strong they can be, that they can be superheroes too.”

In her initial proposal to Morphsuits (now MorphCostumes as they’ve expanded their line to include more than just their signature, spandex suits), Nicole focused on a “how to” platform, based on her own experience. Her concept involved using actual costume creations, tutorials, and videos to show other customers the endless creative possibilities that Morphsuits offer.

She obviously got their attention because the company sent her a response… and it was positive!

“Morphsuits asked me to create a few sample costumes and videos, which I did,” she shared. The company responded favorably, once again. But, unfortunately, that’s as far as things got. “They were in the middle of expanding their business so everything was put on hold.”

Nicole was disappointed, but undeterred, believing there would be another opportunity for her to make her vision of different costume options for girls a reality.

That moment came just recently, when the company announced its 2014 MorphFamous Halloween costume contest. Nicole jumped at the chance to enter. It was an opportunity to revive her sidelined project, at least in part, and there are big stakes up for grabs: the winning designer gets $10,000 cash, his/her costume gets produced by MorphCostumes, and he/she earns royalty fees (up to $50,000) for every costume sold.

The contest is running now, and Nicole, very proudly, has two entries included: the costume that started this whole adventure, her Toothless in the Best Kids Costume category, and her latest creation (pictured below), White Tiger – a strong girl hero, which she submitted for the Overall Best Costume and Best Superhero Costume categories. It’s the latter of the two costumes that holds the greatest significance for her.

Nicole Martin_White TigerWhite Tiger is a classic Marvel superhero who dates back to the 1970s and has gone through a number of iterations. The current and fifth character to assume the identity of White Tiger is Ava Ayala, a student enrolled in the Avengers Academy and heir to a heroic legacy that began with the Jade Tiger, a long-lost enchanted statue from the fabled kingdom of K’un-Lun. Mystical White Tiger amulets augment Ava’s strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility and reflexes to slightly superhuman levels, and also endow her with formidable martial arts skills.

When we asked Nicole what about White Tiger appeals to her, she told us, “White Tiger is just super cool. She’s athletic, intelligent, capable, and fierce. Overall, a strong character who still leaves a little room for vulnerability.” In regard to what makes her proposed costume design different than most female superhero costumes, she said, “It’s great because it shows off her femininity without being revealing or suggestive.”

While at its surface Nicole’s White Tiger is just a costume, the reason she chose to do a girl hero based design is deeply personal. “Having a daughter who has gravitated towards themes that aren’t typical for girls since she was very young, I wanted to encourage her interests.” She continued, “Creating this White Tiger suit feels like I am giving my daughter and other young girls a way to show how strong they can be, that they can be superheroes too.”

Of the countless costumes fighting for global MorphCostumes’ glory, Nicole’s White Tiger is already ranked #6 of the “Top Rated” entries.

So with victory a solid possibility, we asked the designing mom what winning would mean to her. Aside from promoting the underlying “girl power” message of her mission, Nicole said that this whole process is her way of showing Isabelle not to be afraid to try something off the beaten path.

“I want my daughter to know that you have to take risks sometimes, and put yourself out there in order to achieve your goals.”

Help Nicole Win!

Let’s help Nicole and her White Tiger win this whole shebang… not only for her and for Isabelle, but for girls everywhere!!! You have until October 22nd to vote.

Vote here now.

This story is reprinted with permission from our good friends at Women You Should Know, a leading voice in the women’s empowerment media circles.