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Streaming Gear: The Best Deals

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, streaming has completely changed the way consumers experience entertainment, and in turn, has totally rocked the entertainment industry. And with the popularity and easy access to the platform (you only need a smartphone to start streaming) and the ridiculous amounts of success it has enabled (Ninja, popular Fortnite streamer, made nearly $10 million in 2018 and advanced in 2019 to a total net worth of $15 million and rising), more and more gaming enthusiasts are hoping to turn their hobby into a stream of income (no pun intended).

While streaming can certainly be as simple as downloading a streaming app to your phone and giving it a go, there are a few pieces of equipment that can take it from home video quality to a stream with crispy graphics, quality sound, and professional transitions. The content, though, is completely up to you!

This post may contain affiliate links to help me pay to keep this blog on the web. For more on that, check here.

Control Deck

A control is essentially a small additional keyboard that you use to program commands for your stream, like playing a sound, starting a screen transition, muting your mic, turning your camera on or off, etc. The possibilities are only limited by what your streaming program can handle and how many buttons your control deck keyboard has.

Many professionals opt for the Elgato Stream Deck. Because it is a popular option, there is a lot on online support and tutorials that show you how you can really maximize your new tool. But for beginning streamers, it might be too much of an investment.

If you want the functionality of the stream deck and don’t mind a bit of DIY, you can easily set up custom commands on any additional keyboard pad like the ones below!

  1. The ELSRA USB keypad can be programmed to do basic shortcuts for your streaming at less than HALF the cost of the Elgato Stream Deck. Bonus: it has clear keys so you print your own button layouts so you can completely customize the way it looks!

2. Use the Touch Portal app with your smartphone or tablet.

While this does require that you already have a tablet or smartphone that you can dedicate during streams to just this function, the app has a free version that let’s you do a lot, and working within the app is simple and easy to understand, even for a novice streamer.

If you don’t have a tablet or you need to have your phone accessible and want some more screen real estate, I highly recommend an ipad. A basic ipad is only twice the price of the Elgato stream deck, and it has many more functions than just being a streaming control deck.

My favorite option is the ipad pro. I absolutely love all the things I can do on it, from composing music, to creating art, it’s a powerhouse of a tablet that makes my workflow so much easier. Surprisingly, amazon actually has the best deal currently (even considering my military discount with Apple). While it is definitely going to be the most expensive thing on the list, for the price, you’re getting every single penny’s worth. I use it to do my merch design, manage my storefronts, social media hubs, and so much more. If you have an artist on your hands, pairing it with the apple pencil turns your ipad into a draw on tablet. Similar products marketed to artists are upwards of three GRAND. Imagine my delight when I found the experience on the ipad pro in ProCreate nearly a seamless transition from pencil on paper drawing. It is SUCH a joy to use!

While that might be too much of an investment for a budding streamer, you could always opt to using your current phone, tablet, or even old smartphone without cell service to host the app to get a feel for it before making a large dollar investment.

Microphone

You can often get away as a streamer without using a camera at all. But you absolutely will not gain followers if listening to your stream is a chore. Most gaming and headset microphones won’t cut it for the competitive world of streaming. But the good news is that getting a quality sound is a lot less expensive these days!

If you’ve seen me in stream, then you have definitely seen this bad boy in the corner. This is my beloved Yeti mic by Blue, aka the Blue Yeti.

The sound from this is so incredibly crispy. It has multiple functions so you can get the balance just right for your streaming location, whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or an office all to yourself. I often get compliments on how clear my mic sounds when I use this while gaming instead of my headset. And since it is USB, you can also use it with a console!

If that’s a little outside of your budget, then be sure to check out it’s little brother, the Snowball!

It runs about half to less than half of the Blue Yeti and is still a massive improvement over a headset mic. And don’t forget to use your Amazon Prime benefits – free shipping and returns! So if it doesn’t work for your set up, you can easily return it. (Psst! If you aren’t sure if Amazon Prime is right for you, click here for a free 30-day trial. It’s a great time of year to give it a go!)

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Aesthetics

Making your stream look good can be very simple or very complicated. From green screens, to overlays, the options are as endless as your imagination and budget. But one easy way to make it look great it to use LED tape. Even something like your bedroom suddenly looks like a high tech gaming center!

This LED tape has a self adhesive 3m backing that makes putting it up really easy. Even if I wasn’t a streamer, I would have wanted this YEARS ago because it’s FREAKING COOL. I mean, can you imagine having your room and door outlined in sweet LEDs? It would have been the coolest thing ever when I was 14 (and I’m not so secretly excited about pimping out my workspace now at 33). And at under $50, it’s going to make a HUGE impression on your ambitious streamer!

Extras

As a digital illustrator, blogger, and streamer, I sit in front of screens a LOT. Combine that with my favorite form of entertainment (video games) that’s a lot time spent looking at screens. I was getting eye fatigue very easily. I got myself a pair of blue light blocking lenses, and it really does help!

Because I also have glasses, I got these fit over style glasses. They look great over my prescription lenses or if I’m wearing contacts. This a great gift for anyone who is a computer most of the day!

Well, there you have it. Some of my favorite bargain accessories for successful streamers and content creators. If you were going to add something to this list, what would it be? Let me know in the comments. Have an awesome day!

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Tampa Bay Comic Con

Tampa Bay Comic Con this year (2019) was so much fun! It is also a bit of a home-base convention for me; in 2014 I went to TBCC for the first time, and in 2015, it was my first troop with the Tampa Bay Squad of the 501st Legion. So it was only fitting to bring it all around and this year, go back to Florida and troop on the home front.

This year, our (the 501st’) presence at TBCC was aimed at raising funds for The Peter Mayhew Foundation.

The Peter Mayhew Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering, and the financial toll brought on by life’s traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, we assist numerous charitable organizations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed.

http://petermayhewfoundation.org/
Me and R2-D2 ready to work for the Legion!

When we show up at larger conventions that allow us space, we love to show you with actual props a bit of what it is we do! You’ve probably seen Stormtroopers walking around and assumed it was us, and you might be right; with over 14,000 active members across the globe, you have probably seen us! But we do more than dress up like plastic spacemen on the weekends. We are a 100% volunteer charity support group. We donate our time, our talents, and money to work on movie replica costumes, props, and even sets. We then use those to educate the public about our organization, visit children and families in the hospital, do birthday parties, weddings – you name it! We never charge for our appearances, and money earned goes right back into the community, either locally or the larger, overarching global community of charities that we support. To learn more about what we do, how we can show up for your event, or how you can be a part of the magic, go here! https://www.501st.com/

My favorite part of working the table is encouraging guests to play in our trash.

When I was not at the 501st table interacting with guests, I was able to be a nerd and fully immerse myself in the amazing art, merch, and cosplays that were all over!

Look at this AMAZING Vanellope!!!
Die, die, die!

Each convention I’ve been to has a little bit of a different flavor, but you can expect to see the usual: an artist alley, where people display and sell their own, unique creations. This year, I bought a mimic keychain a la Dungeons & Dragons, an enamel pin set, a pair of clay polymer lollipop earrings (perfect for Jester!) and an awesome woodblock print of Majora’s mask. There are booths with assorted merch (though I personally tend to stick to purchasing original artist’s wares) and plenty of collectibles. And of course, there are awesome cosplays! Check the events at whatever convention you are attending. You could spend your entire day shopping, but if a giant, geek-themed flea market isn’t your type of a good time, be sure to check out the special guests or go to one of the many events that also take place. Some conventions even have gaming areas, where you can learn a new game or meet some new players for a game you already love. (And yes, board games, card games, video games, role playing games, all of it are included!)

This man looked SO MUCH like Gibbs from NCIS, particularly in profile.
And check out this details!!!
The 90s kid in me was FREAKING OUT.

The food at a convention varies. Check the website if you have certain nutritional needs or food allergies. Most conventions don’t allow you to take in your own food or drinks. BUT! You can take in an empty water bottle, which is what I recommend. With water and a CAN of soda running you a minimum of $4, it makes good sense to bring a bottle that you can confidently fill up at any water fountain for FREE. I recommend this Brita filter bottle for the price, but the LifeStraw bottle is great option for a little more (and the filters are easier to find, I’ve noticed). For TBCC, with so many amazing eateries in walking distance, it just makes sense to go for a nice mid-con walk and get some local cuisine. Just make sure you have an umbrella or poncho just in case! (As I was leaving for the night, the skies opened up!)

And this reminds me of another VERY IMPORTANT tip I have, especially for you art collectors: get yourself a POSTER TUBE. It will keep it from getting bent, which is what will most likely happen at a con if you shove it in a bag. And it will also keep it from getting wet when properly capped. Trust me. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll find something you’ll fall in love with enough to take home (you will), bring the poster tube. Just do it. For under $20, you can ensure your prized piece of art makes it home where you can put it up for everyone to enjoy. And finally, a tip you may not remember until after you need it, but here it is:

And that’s a wrap on what to expect at TBCC and how to enjoy it! Stay tuned for some awesome vendor highlights! Y’all, there are some goodies you will NOT want to miss!!!

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Get Lost, Millennials: Disney Isn’t For You

No magic for you!

If you’re on Facebook at all, then you have probably seen a rather angry article floating around about the evils of childless millennials taking over Disney world. The expletive-laced tirade stated,

“It pisses me off TO NO END!!!!! when I see CHILDLESS COUPLES WITHOUT AT DISNEY WORLD!!!!” as well as the exceptionally articulate, “People without CHILDREN need to be BANNED!!!!! Mothers with children should be allowed to skip ALL THE LINE!!!”

And you know what, sassy no-doubt sunburned mother of an impatient pretzel craving deviant?

I agree with you.

You, dear lady clearly in need of some therapy, have made some fantastic points. Disney and its variety of attractions are most certainly not meant for millennials or couples without children. (By the by, I’m terribly sorry my infertile womb disappointed you. To be fair, it’s been disappointing me for years. And here I was thinking the worst of it was the miscarriage. I’ve since recanted my statement and hereby declare your mouse-shaped pretzel debacle to be the clear winner in heartache.) One good look around Disney will clearly prove this anonymous crier’s point: Look to the expensive Dooney & Burke goods themed with cartoon characters and silhouettes of Minnie. Clearly those $100+ price tags were meant for your seven year old. The variety of food and adult bevies during the ever popular Food & Wine festival are 100% sans liquor, entirely child safe and pitched in such a way that no adult would ever dare crave them.

Maybe I’ve got the idea wrong, here. Maybe what she wanted was a section that was segregated, where parents with small, helpless, and clearly impatient children should be kept safe from the throngs of millennials and childless couples of any ages who paid the exact same amount for their admission as she did. (Personally, I support this idea. Please separate us from the parents with children. PLEASE.)

To be honest, I think that the premise isn’t drastic enough. Disney isn’t not just for “childless millennials,” but it also isn’t for children.

Disney is not for children.

In fact, I have a strong suspicion with a LOT of evidence that says Disney was never intended for humans at all. Everywhere you look there are anthropomorphic and stylized animals! Bears, pigs, tigers . . . Even a BEAST. There are houses for ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and I have personally danced with a fox and a rabbit. And none of this takes into account the sheer HOARDS OF MICE. I mean, THERE ARE MICE EVERYWHERE!!! You can’t go into a single portion of any park and not see something of a mouse. Symbols are even cleverly hidden throughout every park. Whether it was written by a previous civilization warning us of their evils, or some form of alien communication, or some sort of cult, I don’t know. But I do know this: IT IS EVERYWHERE. It is INFESTED, I tell you!

In the linked article above, author Johnny Oleksinski has even more faults to find with millennials: we choose to spend our money on things he doesn’t think are cultured:

“But another oft ignored problem with letting a kids brand control your adult life is the stupidity and culture ignorance it leads to. You’re skipping great films such as “Booksmart” and “The Farewell” to relive second grade. And your annual (or more, God help us) trip to Disney World costs as much — and more in some cases — than a trip to Europe, South America or Canada, where you would meet people different from yourself. People for whom the only color of the wind is see-through. Fanny-pack-less people.”

Yes, this “kids brand” is dangerous, everyone. They are really out to control our lives. And as someone who HAS traveled to 8 different countries, I have clearly let myself be duped, fallen for the wiles of The Mouse. HOW DARE I enjoy an environment where I feel safe to travel to as a woman by myself among well-kept venues and a variety of entertainment? HOW DARE I appreciate the imagination and childlike wonder while simultaneously being a higher educated, well trained, politically informed, worldly traveled, adult? CLEARLY I should have made my entertainment choices solely based on what others would consider “mature.” My error is grave, and I a BEG YOU not to repeat my sin.

IN FACT, I believe it is such an infectious malady that I believe it is necessary to point out these miscreants with a clear label, akin to the crimson “A” that adorned dear Hester in The Scarlet Letter. To that end, I present you with the perfect solution:

And if you, like me, want to warn other so that they do not catch your disease (I admit it is EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS) you can pick yours up here in my shop in sizes XS-3X.

shop.ambertheblog.com

Please, PLEASE be careful out there.

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script

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Charming Charlie to Close ALL Stores

The fashion and accessory retailer has applied for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a move that will affect over 3,000 employees.

Charming Charlie | by JeepersMedia on Fllickr

The reports are out. The accessory and jewelry giant will be permanently closing its doors. Charming Charlie filed Thursday (July 11th 2019) for bankruptcy in Delaware.(1) Liquidation is suspected to take until the end of August, and the retailer cites the failing retail market as a large contributor to the closure. (2)

“The Debtors once again face issues similar to those that precipitated filing the Prior Cases: unsustainable operating expenses, including onerous leases, and constrained liquidity under our loan documents,” Charming Charlie said in its bankruptcy filing. “This lack of liquidity has resulted in reduced inventory, further exacerbating the Debtors’ lack of availability under their asset based loan. These factors combined with the continued decline of the brick-and-mortar retail industry have made it increasingly difficult for the Debtors to support their cost and capital structure.”

The Chron
Charming Charlie | by JeepersMedia on Fllickr

This is the retailer’s second bankruptcy in two years. Their first was filed in 2017.(3) The closure is among a chain of long-standing retailers permanently shutting their doors as consumer preferences demand more e-commerce.

So this begs the question . . .

How do YOU prefer to shop?

With more and more options becoming available online, has this changed the way you prefer to shop? One of the year’s most competitive online shopping events next to Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day, and is quickly approaching. (Psst! You can get $30 to spend and free access to the deals!)

Does what you are shopping for change your preferred method of shopping? I rather enjoy getting to put my hands on things, feel the material of the clothes I buy, and I definitely like trying on shoes. But oftentimes a brand becomes a favorite, and I no longer need to try it on. Myself, I prefer a mix of online and brick and mortar browsing.

However you like to shop, one thing is certain: the market of retail is constantly changing!

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Get $30 to spend for Amazon PRIME DAY

This post may contain affiliate links to help me pay to keep this blog on the web. For more on that, check here

What is Amazon Prime Day, and why should you be FREAKING EXCITED about it?

Amazon Prime Day is the biggest online shopping event next to Black Friday.

This year (2019) it will happen on July 15-16, and you definitely don’t want to miss out.

The good news is, you can sign up NOW for a FREE trial of Amazon Prime – and cancel after the event if Prime isn’t right for you without penalty. Yep, that’s right! You get a 30-day free trial, but if you’re like me, you want to cancel things as soon as possible so you don’t forget about it and get surprised by a fee the next month.

So here’s what you do:

  1. Sign up for your one month free trial of Amazon Prime (or go HERE if you are a student for a SIX month free trial!)
  2. Open the clock/alarm on your phone
  3. Set a reminder for July 18th to cancel your membership (or December 18th if you’re a student)
  4. Get $10 to spend when you download the Amazon app for the first time.
  5. Get another $10 to spend after you make your first in-app purchase!
  6. Set up the Amazon Assistant on desktop to get $10 off your first $50 purchase.
  7. Shop with the benefits of Prime membership on July 15-16th

That gives you a whole week free – just long enough to stick around for the AMAZING deals of Amazon Prime Day. (And students, trust me – you want that Prime. Man, I could have saved so much money getting supplies and quality ramen online, shipped right to my student box.) And while you’re there, be sure to check out things like Prime Videos, Prime Music, and compare all the things you’re buying at the grocery store to what you can get at Prime Pantry. (You’d be surprised how much money you can save by subscribing!)

The kicker is that you cannot participate in Prime Day Deal unless you are already an Amazon Prime Member.

Why be an Amazon Prime Member???

There are a lot of reasons to love Prime, but to be honest, my favorite is the most basic – free shipping. This has saved me so much money, not just on shipping but also on things like gas money.

“How is this possible?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. You know how when you’re going about your day, just doing your thing, and suddenly, you realize you need this thing for a project. Maybe it’s a notebook, a pen, or a special hair clip for this new hairstyle you saw on YouTube you want to try. But you just went to the store yesterday, and you already took your bra off. It would be way too much work to go out now.

So pop open your Amazon app (or browser) and see what your options are! If you can wait to days, you don’t even have to put on your going-into-public outfit to get it. (Bonus!)

Are you at the store and see a deal you just can’t refuse? (This has happened to me on multiple occasions, actually.) I saw a great deal on a TENS unit at TJMaxx. But just to be sure I was getting the best deal, I checked amazon. In this case, it was cheaper for me to get it at the store. But the next time I was there, I saw a hair straightener. I decided to double check. Even on clearance, Amazon won out the day! I just had to wait two days, and I kept the extra $20 in savings. Sweet!

Amazon Prime gets you a lot, including the following:

* Instantly watch thousands of movies and TV episodes
* Borrow Kindle books
* Get unlimited FREE two-day shipping (no minimum order size)

And, of course, access to Prime Day deals which is for members only. Got it? Good!

So if you’re continuing to read this, I’m assuming you’re already signed up for Amazon Prime.

The Good Stuff

Well, that depends on what you’re looking for (psst, it’s a great time to start your Christmas shopping!) but I’ve got some really great ideas below that I think you’ll like.

Psst! Google Chrome hasn't been playing nicely with amazon on desktop. If you don't see pictures of the products and deals below, try switching up your browser!

Tech and Gaming

For all the tech on sale, go here!

A Ring doorbell is definitely on my list. Especially because I can pair it with my Alexa show below and see who is at my door even when I’m upstairs battling it out on Apex Legends or Overwatch. (You even get a free Legendary Item for Overwatch, too.)

And speaking of gaming . . .

This is the gaming chair Cadillac for geeks. Marvel fans, rejoice. This SIDIZ design comes tricked out with Spiderman or Black Panther themes, and it looks great.

Beauty Finds

For the full list of beauty deals, go here!

And if you want to look great when you’re livestreaming, these next few goodies will be a perfect addition to your collection.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love Milani’s product formulas! This is a fantastic palette, perfect for the upcoming season and one that will carry over into the new year. Bonus: it has its own highlight and contour shades! I recommend this for light to medium skin tones.

Thankfully, at this most auspicious decade of my thirties, acne is rare. But because of hormone imbalance and the like, it is also pretty gnarly when I do get one (read: cystic, under-the-skin, painful little buggers). It’s also not great look when I’m trying to get the perfect selfie. The great thing about these patches is that they deliver targeted treatment. You don’t need astringent, medicated ointment all over your face when you only have two or three problem spots. These are also discreet, so if you have to go out in public, you won’t feel like you’ve got a bandaid on your face!

You know I love a good setting spray. While normally I buy matte sprays, I’ve found that in the fall and winter, a dewy spray is just what my skin needs. It also works great for balancing out a matte formula foundation, like Fenty, Milani, or e.l.f. brands tend to be.

Boss Babe Finds

The Rocketbook is definitely one of a kind and something every boss babe, college student, person who uses a notebook needs. Seriously. It saves so much money. You can reuse the same book multiple times! Just wipe clean. It even comes with a pen and microfiber cloth. Although, I suggest getting a bunch of Frixion pens. Not only are the pen needed to get the reuse-ability of the Rocketbook, but they are probably going to become your favorite gel pen – because they are ERASABLE. (You’re welcome.)

There are certainly a lot more deals that will become available (the surprise is half of the fun!) so be sure to log back in starting 12am PDT on July 15th. Deals quantities are limited, so be sure to use your Amazon Assistant to alert you when deals you want go live!

Have fun shopping Amazon Prime Day, and be sure to come back and comment with what your best score was!!!

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Mighty Nein Cosplay: Jester LaVorre

Here are all the details on my Jester LaVorre cosplays, both her canon outfit from the campaign and the modern alternate universe (AU) clothes that I designed.

The Little Sapphire

Jester LaVorre is a little blue Tiefling girl played by the amazing Laura Bailey. Her personality is adorable, and getting to dress up as her is a ton of fun. I don’t usually get into character (unless I’m trooping for the 501st or Rebel Legions) but with Jester, it just happens naturally! (What this means for my own personality I will leave up to your imagination.) But getting to be goofy, girly, and a naughty prankster are just too much fun. (If you leave me a notebook, I will draw something in it.)

Whether Jester is reading poorly written harlequin novels, eating donuts, or battling alongside her friends, she is always genuine and kind. I just love her!

I found a lovely Fjord at Colossalcon East 2019!

This post may contain affiliate links to help me pay to keep this blog on the web. For more on that, check here

Supplies:

Clothing –

While this will get you all the base pieces I used for my cosplay, it won’t be the only thing you will need. I did not use any other material for the chemise except what was already there. I simply hemmed it to the length I wanted and added the extra to the sleeves. That said, if you are much taller than me, you might want to find an alternative – there was not that much to use afterward. (I’m 5’2″.)

I did not have to do any alterations to the corset. It fit great! Just make sure to check your measurements and compare. Mine was a perfect fit.

Makeup –

Whether you’re doing traditional Jessie or modern, the makeup is the same! Though, if you wanted to do a more festival look, with added sequins or crystals, it definitely seems like something our unicorn, candy-loving tiefling would do! So have fun with it!

A bunch of Jesters at Colossalcon East

Materials –

Modern Jester

Supplies:

There is a lot that is going to be added to this post. Tons more photos, tutorials, video tutorials, and so much more. So bookmark it and check back! Even though it isn’t finished, I wanted to get a list started since I had so many questions!


First, I purchased a pair of white Levi’s shorts (I got mine at Walmart on a whim, but you can easily purchase them online at the link, too.) Research the type of material in yours, whether it is a synthetic heavy blend (aka comfy) or mostly cotton, as that will determine which sort of dye you use.

I used Rit liquid dye in Petal Pink. As is a regular habit of mine when treasure hunting for cosplays, I made a trip to Goodwill and found a big ol’ stock pot, perfect for stove top dying projects. (Most dying projects require to maintain heat for a prolonged period, meaning that dying in the tub won’t work.) I followed the directions on the dye, and but first got my shorts soaking wet. Wring them out a bit. Figure out where you’ll want your ombre to stop. Using straightpins where you want to stop dipping is really helpful!

I made one mark where I want the lightest pink to blend to white, and then another mark of pins where I wanted the darkest pink to blend into the light pink. Holding your garment from the lightest section, dip the base to be dyed into the readied dye bath up until your highest set of pins and pull it right back out. This lets the dye just touch that bit of fabric once so it stays nice and light!

Once it was washed well and dried, I moved on to making the flowers. You could draw this on with a fabric marker, like these markers by Sharpie. I decided to embroider them! I recently got into embroidery and found that it is a hobby that I loved. For the flowers, I used DMC 601 6-strand thread. However you decide to do it, you’ll want to add a disappearing ink fabric pen. With that, you can doodle on most fabrics to sketch out your idea BEFORE making it permanent. Then it stays on long enough for you to color it in with sharpie or to embroider it.

The disappearing ink (before it disappeared)

It was really a fun project! I think they are perfect for Jester, but it is also really fun to have a piece of custom clothing that I designed and crafted. If you like this design and make your own Jester-inspired shorts, I’d LOVE to see them!


This post will continue to be updated with information on how I did this cosplay, so be sure to bookmark it for future reference! In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a comment and I will answer you as soon as I can.