Rachel Maksy is a woman out of a time machine.
The soft curls in her hair take inspiration from the 1950s; her wardrobe is a mix of corsets, homemade vests, tea-length skirts and vintage shoes; and she does all of the crafting projects that rocketed her to internet stardom in a small, 1800s-era shed in her back yard.
With more than a million subscribers on YouTube and almost half that on Instagram, the Kingston native is more reserved than you’d expect from a woman whose weekly videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people and whose talents recently caught the eye of Amazon Studios. Maksy was one of 50 online influencers from around the country recently chosen by the studio to create sponsored content promoting a series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
Over the last six years, Maksy captured the hearts of fantasy and fiction fans online through cosplay, a term used for when people dress as characters from a favorite book, movie or TV show. Through her own elaborate costume making and staging – and videos showing how the magic comes to life – she’s cultivated her own fans who follow for inspiration, sewing tips and the scene-setting photos she sets up to showcase her costumes.
Cosplay was always a hobby of Maksy’s – she said she used to make her high school friends don their own fictionally-inspired outfits and make videos with her – but she didn’t start creating her own looks until she fell in love with costuming as a film student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
“There is just so much expression in (costuming), and it led me to dressing in vintage clothes and historical pieces, and from there to making my own,” Maksy, 30, said. “The older I get, I’d say the ‘weirder’ my style gets. The older I get the more I want to explore older fashions and mix and match eras. I just care less what other people think of me.”
She picked up sewing shortly after college, and launched a YouTube channel six years ago, where she’s chronicled her triumphs, failures and progress. She said she looks back at her early works and surprises even herself with how far she’s come, and she never edits mistakes out of her videos.
“It documented the chaos of trying something new,” she said of her early years on YouTube. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s really refreshing to see mistakes and the stress of a project in my videos. I try to keep a realistic expectation that not everything you make is going to be the best thing you make.”
She has dressed up as her favorite characters from the 1999 film “The Mummy,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” and says dressing as a character helps embody their spirit, “especially if it’s a superhero or a badass woman.”
She had made an elaborate costume of the character Arwen in the past, and posted pictures from a photoshoot with a friend dressed as the character Galadriel earlier this year.
The Arwen costume, a full-length dress with a medieval collar and flowing sleeves, is a unique example of what Maksy said she hopes to show her followers: practice makes (almost) perfect. She originally made the dress almost five years ago, and was proud to pose in it then. More recently, she updated the sleeves, wove detailed embroidery into the arms and added a dramatic belt.
“One of my favorite things to do is to revisit an old costume, to see if I’ve improved and add new elements,” she said.
For her partnership with Amazon Studios, Maksy created an intricate golden crown of leaves worn by one of the show’s new characters, a young Galadriel, and posed for photos waist-deep in water in a Middleboro pond. The partnership is a special one for her, Maksy said this week, and she called the original trilogy an “essential part of (her) identity” in a July Instagram post.
“I think you just click with some things, and for me, it was ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ” she said. “It’s something you can get lost in. Tolkien and director Peter Jackson did such an amazing job with world building, the characters, the species, the places. The more you watch it, the more you see.”
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.