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The shape-shifting seamstress of your cosplay dreams

Geek-costume creator Mel Hoppe tells Crave about her passion for transformation and the mini cosplay empire she's building from her base in Nevada.

Costume designer Mel Hoppe as Japanese manga character Sailor Moon.

Comic-Con is just a month away and Mel Hoppe definitely plans to be there. In fact, July is a busy month for the self-described cosplayer, gamer, and geek. Almost immediately after the big show in San Diego, she'll be heading up to Kintoki-Con, the Asian media and culture convention in Sacramento, Calif., where she'll be hanging out in the "Artist's Alley" under her alias, WindoftheStars.

That's because Hoppe isn't just a dedicated cosplayer, she also makes and sells her own costumes from her home base in northern Nevada. I came across the work of WindoftheStars on Google+ a few months ago and was blown away by the beauty, realism, and range of her creations (fortunately, she doesn't go as far as this real-life anime girl).

I reached out to Hoppe to learn a little more about how she got into her craft. She told me a story I'm sure many readers of Crave can relate to. It all started with a Commodore 128 and a joystick at a young age.

"From there I owned several gaming consoles, with Sega Genesis holding some of my fondest childhood memories. 'Star Wars' was always playing at my house too, and some of the friends I grew up with were huge comic (specifically 'X-Men') fans," she told me. "When I was around 11-12 years old I discovered anime... when I got to college, I joined the anime and manga club on campus. They held an annual event in which they encouraged members to cosplay. The idea seemed like a lot of fun so I had my mom help me make my first costume which was Cassandra Alexandra from Soul Calibur II."

Since 2006, Hoppe has been attending anime and comic conventions, and creating costumes for them, while building up a mini-empire selling posters, costumes, and accessories for cosplay fanatics.

"Getting to flex all my creative muscles while making the costume is liberating, but then getting to share my work with others at events or through photos online is very rewarding," Hoppe says.

Naming favorites
Naturally the big question is which characters she most enjoys transforming herself into.

"That's always a tough question to answer, just because I have so many favorites. My favorite character in anime is Sailor Moon. In video games it's Lilith from Borderlands. In comics it's Songbird from Marvel's comic Thunderbolts."

As for the conventions, Hoppe says everyone should experience Comic-Con at least once, but the laid-back atmosphere of Fanimecon in San Jose, Calif., is her favorite.

If you can't make it to San Diego or Sacramento to meet WindoftheStars in person this summer, check out the gallery below to see her model some of her most prized creations.