If you’ve ever gone to a convention related to geek culture in some way, or just been in the area of one, chances are you’ve seen them. Brightly colored wigs, strange fashion sense, over proportioned weapons, fake ears, an array of contact colors, and makeup galore. These zany, fun loving, and all together crazy group of people are known as “cosplayers”. Don’t let the fangs fool you. We don’t generally bite and it is okay to ask for our picture.
So, what is “cosplay”? Cosplay is just the abbreviated form of the two words “costume” and “play”. Honestly, the only other way I could describe it is imagine Halloween, but someone continuously paying for that holiday to happen all year round. It’s the bridge that brings “fashion” and “fandom” together. It’s also probably the only place you’ll find Batman conversing with a humanoid My Little Pony. Trust me when I tell you that you will see your favorite characters doing out of character things that may just make you question your love for them in the first place.
If you’re still not afraid after those visions danced in your head, then I commend you. The reason for this article is to give those of you who may be interested in becoming a cosplayer a little bit more information. More or less, it’s kind of an advice column from someone who has cosplayed for three years now and figures she knows a thing or two that might just help.
1. Money/Time - Understand that cosplay is not a cheap hobby and may take away from your social life a bit. The first cosplay I had that was completely made from head to toe was Big Sister from BioShock 2. She cost me around $700-$800 and took two months with sixteen hour days. That was with four people consistently working on her.
2. Choose Something Obtainable - What I mean by this is don’t do what I did. Don’t let your first cosplay be a custom deep-sea diving suit with leg braces. Not unless you have the skills to pull it off, know someone who does, or have the space to work in.
3. Know Your Character - If you’re going to be cosplaying a character from an anime, cartoon, comic book, or video game, please take the time to read, watch, or play it. You will be torn apart by fandoms if you’re just dressed up as a character because you think they look cool.
4. Know Your Body Type - I don’t mean this negatively. Take, for instance, when I cosplayed Harley Quinn. I knew my body shape wouldn’t have looked good in a black and red spandex outfit, nor would I have been comfortable in it. I came up with my own design by piecing together different items and creating my own makeup scheme.
5. Don’t Use Fan Art - Unless you’re recreating someone’s adaptation of a character, don’t use fan art in your research as references. To get the most accurate depiction of your character, buy comic books, licensed action figures, or find concept art directly from the publishers. Even screen shots of the series do great!
6. Ask Family, Friends, and the Community - Like I said with Big Sister, it took a team of four people to construct her. That was including myself. When we were all perplexed on a certain aspect of the design, I turned to the online community and other girls who had cosplayed her for advice.
7. Trial and Error - When constructing an outfit, you will run into problems. Whether it’s a sewing issue or if you used the wrong ratios when mixing the resin for your fiberglass, something will happen. Before my helmet for Big Sister was a success, there were two failed attempts.
8. Research the Convention Rules - Most conventions I have been to have the same rules, but different variations. Be sure that before you completely figure out your cosplay, you know what the rules are. For example, hotels will not let you wear masks in their lobbies. If you’re planning on cosplaying either DeadPool or Spawn, make sure you take this into consideration. Also, every con has different rules on what weapons are okay and which are not. Research it!
9. Medkits - As every gamer knows, medkits are essential. Same at conventions! Most of the time you won’t be able to find what you need to fix your cosplay at a store next to the convention hall. Be sure to have a prepared medkit before leaving home base!
10. Pre-Register - Pre-pay and register for your badge. Not only does this save you money, but you won’t be stuck in a line for two hours.
11. Rooms/Carpooling - To save even more bottle caps, be sure to have multiple people in a hotel room instead of just you. Get some friends together to help pay for that and gas when driving to the con.
12. Food and Bathing - Both are easily forgotten at a con and both are extremely vital. Please don’t pass out or make other people want to at the convention.
13. Hugs and Pictures - I found that hugs usually only happen at anime conventions, but you may be asked for one at others. You have the right to say ‘no’. Any time I was in Big Sister, for safety reasons, I had to decline. Same with pictures. You can say ‘no’, but take it as a compliment. You did something note worthy that this person wants to remember.
14. Be in Character - If someone asks to take a picture of you, make sure you know a couple poses your character would do. Unless it’s a silly picture. Then fuck logic.
15. The Golden Rule and the Internet - “Treat others as you would want to be treated” and the Internet don’t always see eye-to-eye. Know that when you look for yourself later on the net, you might also find some backlash. Let me be the first to say that they can go fuck themselves. People like to be dicks just to be dicks. Don’t feed the trolls and don’t let it stop you.
After all of this, all I can say is have fun. Conventions are a blast and something you will always remember. Look over the convention schedule before hand for activity ideas, read the forums to see when group meet ups are for your cosplays, and make friends! Seriously, this is the time to be as geeky as you want to be without people judging you! Just know, it’s never a one-and-done with conventions or cosplays.