Amanda Fehlner operates like a one-woman costume and props department.
A veteran of Renaissance fairs and more recently comic conventions, the 29-year-old Fehlner can be seen behind the box office glass at Film Streams' Ruth Sokolof Theater, selling movie tickets and, on occasion, piecing together her latest project.
Fehlner's cosplay creations cover a range of genres, from historical to steampunk to fantasy. This year alone, she's taken her work to Planet Comicon in Kansas City, Chicago Comic Con and the hugely popular DragonCon in Atlanta, where she won awards for Best Novice Costume and “Most Popular Woman.”
The latter designation came, perhaps unsurprisingly, for Fehlner's handcrafted Catwoman suit, inspired by actress Michelle Pfeiffer's look in 1992's “Batman Returns.” She earned the novice prize for the self-designed necromancer outfit — “based solely on the idea of creating armor from bones” — she wore to the event's Masquerade Costume Contest. The appearance landed Fehlner on an episode of “Heroes of Cosplay,” a reality series on the SyFy Channel.
“I had never participated in a masquerade competition of that scale before,” said Fehlner. “It was quite invigorating to be on stage with an audience of over 3,000 people.”
Fehlner's passion for costume-making started early in life. As a kid growing up in Tabor, Iowa, she made some of her own outfits for Halloween (still her favorite holiday, naturally).
“My mom taught me to sew at a young age, and she and I created many of my earliest costumes together,” she said. “In high school, I discovered theater, which gave me another outlet to design and create costumes.”
It also gave her what seems to be an undaunted approach to her art. She once constructed a centaur costume with horse legs that moved with the person wearing it. She's especially proud of an Elizabethan gown made from scratch, wings that illuminate, a leather bodysuit for a superhero costume, and a faerie crown crafted from willow branches.
But Fehlner hesitates in picking a particular favorite.
“All of my creations seem like an extension of myself in some way, so it's difficult to single just one out,” she said. “I enjoy what I do and I'm proud of all my work.”