All Roads Lead to Alice

My friend and Wonderverse collaborator Chad Evett (the Top Hat of Hatters) has returned (alive!) from the land of Con and Cosplay after SDCC 2022. I asked him to pen a quick reflection of why and how Alice so invariably makes her appearance in his kingdom of costumes. True to form, his take is thoughtful and fun. Check it out:

Well, here we are: post San Diego Comic-Con 2022. Did you survive? Are you able to walk again? Did you dodge the con crud?

SDCC is, far and away, one of the greatest if not the grandest pop culture conventions on the planet, taking place every year in San Diego, CA – United States. As an international endeavor, the convention sports indoor and outdoor events, exclusive merchandise, along with a myriad of film and television announcements. Laced throughout the halls packed with comics, fans of every description, posters and costumes; there is one unifying factor: a distinct presence of everything that is currently en vogue.

Stranger Things, Star Trek, Star Wars, nearly every modern and contemporary fad is reflected. But mixed in among them, one finds a few gems from fads past: those few and faithful cosplayers that love what they love and wear it proudly for all to see. And perhaps the strangest things of all are the amount of people showing their love for a Victorian book about a curious little girl who took a tumble down a rabbit hole.

The entertainment industry is one powered by dreamers, those who are incapable of sitting still and not putting pen or brush to paper. In the first chapter of “Alice’s Adventures Underground” (later renamed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,) Alice is bored on the riverbank and takes to daydreaming to entertain herself.  It is notorious that the book was written as pure escapism, so one would naturally assume that Alice would fit in beautifully between the rows and within the halls of the San Diego Convention Center.

The Hustle and Bustle in the Halls of the Convention Center

Nat Lawson, an avid cosplayer and mother of a day dreamer (both of whome were dressed as magnificent French Tweedles) sees the Alice in us all: “I love stories about people who travel to other worlds and embrace new and wild experiences- Alice, Narnia, Oz, Inuyasha, etc.”

When asked if she thought of Alice’s moral, she described the average congoer almost accidentally, but no less accurately: “Live your life as you think you should— do the things you want to do and do not let other’s expectations shackle you into an endless loop of boring offices and minivans and warehouse stores.”

Perhaps the modern equivalent to that Victorian riverbank is indeed the boring office cubicle.

Connor Breen, another participant in the madness of the day, absolutely sees the glory of escaping the mundane: “…I feel like the reason why Alice in Wonderland continues to be so beloved; regardless of rewriting, re-creation, and rebirth of each character, is that the spirit of Wonderland is always true to what it intends to be.

Lewis Carroll created a world that has never been the same the second time you look at it. Familiar characters return in different ways for each new explorer, always there to help them in whatever way is needed regardless of if our hero or heroine knows what exactly what they needed help with in the first place.”

After a pause, Breen continued “No matter how old you are or what version you were first introduced to, every part of it feeling like returning home. Wonderland is always there for us, in that space between dreams and nightmares. It’s not always safe, but it never was dangerous either, it’s the flickering of light as you drift away, always waiting to welcome you back with a friendly smile, a hot cup of tea, and a new adventure with just the turn of a page.”

If Comic-Con is Wonderland, then each of us inhabits a part of Alice when we step onto that familiar cement floor: we explore, we renew, we indulge in a little nonsense—and most importantly, we dream.

Dreams evolve and yet defy definition—Alice’s journey through history is no less of an evolution. The story of a defiant little girl who questioned authority and the adults around her is one that parallels the ages since its publication. The cooky Mad Hatter once an exercise in lunacy has transformed, revealing a hat wielding hero underneath.

Alice absolutely would have been a suffragette—she would have marched for Stonewall, and she would have campaigned for liberty. Cosplay, functioning as a looking glass, reflects this evolution as the character has been reborn.

The League of Hatters

Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars saw Alice (or is it Alyss?) as a character seeking to understand herself and her world through the enlightening power of Wonder and Imagination. 

Tim Burton’s Alice was a lost freedom fighter seeking to define her strength through her journey. A stylistically absurdist version of Wonderland, even by whacky and weird standards, is the perfect landscape of gothic obstacles, & became a box office success.

American McGee took a second glance at the idea of Madness, and the subjective definition. His Alice saw an asylum run by the insane and the topsy-turvy state of reality cast as an adventure game soaked with the blood of those who would force order into Whimsy.

Alice, and the denizens of Wonderland around her, have been reborn and reworked numerous times, and each time it seems to work: the subject matter is unique in its pliability of translation. 

The fans of Alice all flock to her for different reasons. For some, it’s the Disney flair & familiar characters (White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Red Queen, Alice). For others, it’s the idea that one person’s madness is another person’s sanity.

The concept of “Muchness” is introduced in chapter seven of the original book, “a mad tea party,” and is revolutionized in the 2010 Disney film as a metaphor for individuality and personal strength. Pushing back against the societal norms that suffocate the magic out of the young.

Cosplay is possibly the most flamboyant of the modern moves against society’s concept of Normalcy. Since 2010 the League of Hatters, an Alice-themed Cosplay club, has met on the first Thursday of Comic Con. Each member has drawn themselves to the group through their love of what Alice represents. (Yours truly has been lucky enough to be elected Top Hat for three consecutive terms!)

Watching fans of Alice exchange ideas and notes on costume execution and design is one of the hallmarks of a League meetup. Each year, new people see the advertisements of the meetings and join for a day of revelry.

Lorraine Oulette as The Queen of Hearts

Lorraine Oulette, a teacher from Connecticut, has brought her son and husband to league meetings every year since 2013. Her son River actually celebrated his 13th birthday with a HaberDashMitzvah—-a massive party where the entire league converged for tea, specialty cupcakes, music and dancing—all while dressed as characters from Wonderland. “The comradery is wonderful. Seeing all the hatters, queens, rabbits and Alices—it feels like family every time we meet up.”

And who does Lorraine Cosplay? “The Queen of Hearts. Naturally” she says with a wink.

Only in Wonderland.

About The Author

Chad Evett graduated from Santa Fe University of Art and design with a degree in technical theater, with an emphasis on Costumes. He has designed numerous short films, and has worked as a theater director and production designer. His work has been seen on The View, and he has designed shoes for actress Whoopi Goldberg, and Writer/Producer Bryan Fuller.  He lives in Los Angeles and works as a designer and Consulting storyteller.

Chad Evett, Mad Hatter Cosplay Master at SDCC 2022

To all my Wonderland fans enjoying a trip down the rabbit hole of San Diego Comic-Con, be sure to keep an eye out for the cosplay king and Master Hatter (not to mention my friend and Wonderverse collaborator) Chad Evett. My understanding is that he will be dressed as Doctor Strange today.

Chad will be participating as a pro costume designer in several panels on Friday and Saturday at the convention center. However, on the final day I know he will be cutting loose as the Mad Hatter, and will be joined by his glorious gang The League of Hatters. You will all be happy to know our very own Hatter Madigan will be among their ranks—and I absolutely cannot wait for the pictures to start popping up!

To help pass the time—take a look at this conversation I had with Chad about his amazing cosplay craft.

Q: Frank Beddor

What is Cosplay?

A: Chad Evett

Cosplay is a slang term for the phrase ”Costume Play,” which is the art of dressing up in costumes and going out into the world. This can mean you embody the character and act like them, or perhaps you just like dressing up.

There are cosplayers who make their own costumes, but this isn’t necessarily a requirement. It’s all about going out and having fun.

Chad Evett holding the Queen of Clubs’ shoe


How did you get into it?


I had always had a love of dressing up and playing about in costumes, who doesn’t? Originally it was all about Harry Potter, dressing up and going to the movies or the book releases. From there, it sort of spilled over into any movie or event—let’s dress up, it’ll be more fun! (and more work!)

I ended up teaching myself to sew with the help of my mother (an award winning quilter) and the local seamstresses who did costumes for the various theater productions I was involved in. (incidentally, Hi Rebecca! Hi Barbara!)


How did you get into designing? Were you designing for cosplay or were you designing other things first?


It had always been costumes. Most of the plays I directed were original productions, so it was a necessity to imagine and then realize fully formed characters. I have a ton of original designs, but those I tend to keep secret. I’ve had ideas stolen before, so I usually only post my replica work online. (Replicas are a great way to learn new techniques) It was my replica work that got me out to California.  


What’s your background?


My background is predominantly in theater. I have been acting since I was a child, usually in local productions, and then when I got out of high school I started directing. I originally wanted to be a director, and by directing shows and organizing productions, I took on the role of scenic and costume designer.

 I had always been interested in costumes, but I didn’t know how to sew. By doing theater, especially the grandiose fantasy shows I was writing, I was sort of forced to learn this trade because the wonderful, WONDERFUL seamstresses working to build costumes for my shows sort of taught me as we went along. Then one thing led to another and before I knew it I was actively participating in cosplay. Which is a slippery slope!

Chad’s Design Sketches


How did you approach creating Whoopi Goldberg’s character, The Queen of Clubs?


The Queen of Clubs came a little naturally to me—whereas Redd needed to be decadent and a little seedy, Clubs needed to be, in my opinion, classier and regal and refined. I always thought that she would approach her position with dignity, she may not be THE queen, but she is still a queen. So I looked at fabrics that felt royal and regal, but slightly subtle. Also, I felt that Redd would want to Rule the world, but Clubs would want to Explore. So all of her fabrics are eclectic and foreign, the main fabric is a Chinese brocade, that I laired under black crystal organza. Her robe is the same organza, and that ties the look together. —

By using something like organza as well, the shimmery nature of the fabric aided in making the gown look regal. Also, the fabrics I chose catch the sun rather than reflect it, creating a ”glowing” effect. All of the crystals and embroidery on the front were done by hand, and everything glass is actually Swarovski crystal. I did 4 different sketches before deciding on the look we did, simply because all of them didn’t look quite right. She vaguely resembles a chess piece, thereby subconsciously reflecting the power struggle between Clubs and Redd.

My Mother inspired me. A woman who brings a sense of dignity to everything she does, and how, in my mind, that is the ideal queen. Someone with intuition who works from a sense of kindness and the greater good. So using that as a jumping off point I was able to dress the Ideal Matriarch.

The Queen of Clubs, Inspired by Whoopi Goldberg – Costume Created by Chad Evett


Queen Redd was an audience favorite, how did you create the flesh-eating roses?


Those Roses! I found silk roses in downtown LA, and then crafted all of their Maws using a clay that turns slightly transparent when baked. That way the teeth looked natural and the gums looked shiny and fleshy.

Redd, the Red Queen of Wonderland


Hatter Madigan revealed his top hat transformed into blades, was that a magic trick? Or…?


That hat was an antique silk top hat that was collapsible, and we re-skinned it to make it look like the blue caterpillar silk of the books. The Transforming Brim was crafted for us by Mr. Pinski Props, and all of the blades are etched with the various Royal Suits of Wonderland. It may not be a Magic Trick but it is definitely a Hat Trick!

Hatter Madigan standing on the Mad Hatter Statue in New York


Tell us about Warrior Alyss and your costume, Dodge Anders.


Dodge and Alyss need more on them—-they are a prime example of how costumes tend to grow into being. You work on something and tweak it into existence. Alyss was done specifically to look simultaneously hardcore and Mellifluous. All of her fabrics are bridal fabrics, because they have body but can flow. Her color scheme is designed to reflect the ”glow” of wonder: the power of imagination. Her buckles and fittings are gold, reflecting her royal nature.

Dodge is the regal captain of the guard, but we kept him specifically dark. His fittings were all done in silver, keeping him noble but one step below Alyss (Alice) on the hierarchy. Both of them will have more work done to prep them for further events, but I am really proud of how they are coming along!

Queen Alyss visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue in New York City


Lastly, the shoes Whoopi was wearing on the show – those of her character – what is the story behind them?


I knew Whoopi was a fan of shoes, and I knew Whoopi was a fan of the Looking Glass Wars books. So when Frank revealed to me that Whoopi had contributed and become a character in the books, it made sense to combine the two. Her shoes are designed to be something the Queen of Clubs would wear, but realized on fabrics and textures that are regal and royal. They directly match the dress—the same fabrics, colors, and crystals.

I worked with American Duchess in Nevada to create them, they are French court shoes made in black brocade, and they were made specifically For Whoopi. Once I had them I did the handwork and glammed them up, and fitted them with Club shaped Cabochons and crystal work to create something sparkly and immaculate. The soles of the shoes are also stamped with the Looking Glass Wars Logo.

They just sparkle on screen, and I adore them. I want a pair for me! I had so much fun making them for Whoopi, and I hope to do more items for her in the future. The View is such a joyous program, and it makes so many people feel good, that it is an honor and a privilege to do items for those incredible ladies. They ARE royalty!

Queen of Clubs Shoes – Made for Whoopi Goldberg
The Looking Glass Wars Cosplayers on The View — See Whoopi’s Shoes!