Opening ceremonies at Anime Boston :-D
I just wrapped up my Emeraude cosplay (from Magic Knight Rayearth) and the last thing on my list was to make a chemise to wear under the dress.
What is a chemise?
According to Wikipeda:
The term chemise or shift can refer to the classic smock, or else can refer to certain modern types of women’s undergarments and dresses. In the classical usage it is a simple garment worn next to the skin to protect clothing from sweat and body oils, the precursor to the modern shirts commonly worn in Western nations.
Wearing a chemise, or the modern day equivalent (a slip), will help protect the dress and delay the need to dry clean your handiwork. This is especially important if you plan on wearing the gown in warm temperatures, when you are prone to sweating.
There are tons of tutorials online for how to make chemises. I happened to find this awesome tutorial by Artemisia Moltabocca on her blog Diary of a Renaissance Seamstress. It has a place to plug in measurements and step-by-step instructions.
(and why people should stop trying to make them bad guys)
So once again the charging for cosplay photoshoots debate has come up. I am not at all surprised. It’s actually pretty old, and sprung up not long after charging for shoots - and cosplay photoshoots in general…
At least someone here as some common sense (which is certainly becoming rarer these days), so thank you Not Bad Cosplay.
I completely echo your sentiments.
Photographers who want to charge for their services should be able to as long as they are permitted to do so (i.e. paid appropriate fees/acquired permits/doing so at a venue that allows it), they are explicit in how much they are charging (or if they are charging at all), and that they don’t go so low as to insinuate the only cosplayers who pay are the ones who don’t look like runway models in haute couture.
On the flip side, cosplayers need to be respectful of photographers’ time. Just as we put in hours upon hours making or preparing our cosplays, the photographer spends hours honing their craft. Don’t waste their time and yours.
In general, both parties should act like adults, practice common sense and common decency, and respect each other.
I fully support raising awareness for the inappropriate behavior that is on the rise at conventions (i.e. Cosplay =/= Consent). What concerns me is that it has devolved somewhat into a screaming match between the sexes, where everyone nitpicks what is classified as harassment.
But what is harassment? That varies from person to person, depending on that person’s personality, background, beliefs etc., but the core definition doesn’t change: if a statement or action makes someone feel uncomfortable, then that’s harassment. No exclusions or exceptions.
The fact that some con-goers, members of the press, and media professionals leave tact, respect, and basic common decency at the door is unacceptable. A convention is not an alternate reality where being in costume dictates a whole new set of social norms. Taking unconsenting photographs of someone’s butt is not allowed in public - how does being at a convention suddenly make that okay? Saying crude things to strangers is not tolerated in everyday life - how does being inside the conventional hall grant people the rights to remove those filters?
What can we do?
First, support Cosplay =/= Consent. This is a valuable movement. Help raise awareness of this problem and continue to share your stories. Although it’s hard, we should try to ignore the trolls who tempt us into escalating conversations into insult fights.
Second, be aware.
Cosplayers who dress in clothing that would not be accepted by a standard highschool dress code should be aware that they will probably be a target of unwanted attention.
What I am NOT saying is that these cosplayers are asking for it. The phrase “asking for it” implies that they are cosplaying specifically for the sake of receiving sexualized attention. I doubt that is the goal of any girl who wears a mini skirt or boy who goes topless.
What I AM saying is that cosplayers who choose to wear particular cosplays should be aware that they will be targeted.
I compare this to pickpocketing: when you travel to a foreign country and you stand out as a ‘tourist’, you will probably be targeted by pickpockets. No one wants to think that after all the hard work of planning a vacation that they will be targeted, but it will happen. However, by being aware and preparing ahead of time increases of your chance of coming out of an encounter with better footing.
How can you prepare?
1. Before the con, you can role play with friends and practice speaking up against harassment while in costume. Most of us did this when we were little: we were taught how to say “No” when others made us feel uncomfortable. Practicing will help you speak up when it matters.
2. At the con, familiarize yourself with the uniform of staff and/or volunteer staff in the event that you need to inform someone (or multiple someones if the first someone brushes you off) of harassment.
3. Coordinate with friends so that if you find yourself in a situation, you have someone nearby who can help pull you out. My husband acts as my bodyguard. My single sister travels with a group of trusted friends.
4. Use common sense! Don’t go off with people you don’t know by yourself, don’t accept food or drink from strangers, don’t do anything that your spider senses tell you is wrong or stupid. (YOLO is only for idiots).
Let’s bring back tact, decency, respect, and most of all - COMMON SENSE!
Anime Boston is happy to announce three more Guests of Honor!
Raj Ramayya, David Matranga, and ORIGA!
Raj Ramayya is a singer, composer and lyricist best known for his musical collaborations with famed Japanese composer Yoko Kanno as a member of The Seatbelts.
David Matranga is a voice…
Origa at Anime Boston == Awesome!
Before you get started
By this point you’ll have:
- Picked out characters that speak to you (or at the very least their costume design does) that you would be okay with cosplaying
- Organized your cosplays by some criteria, recommend organizing by traits that can drastically change how you end up executing the cosplay. For me it’s easy, difficult, and competitive.
- The cosplays are prioritized based on characteristics that define what makes that cosplay important to you. For me it’s comfort and how the character fits in in terms of recognition and how likely that cosplay is to be worn by someone else at the same con.
Now you need to figure out WHEN you’re going to work on all these….
Step 1: Figure out what your cosplay needs are for the next year
Why a year?
Because it works for me. I’ve found that if I try to figure out what cosplays I will be wearing in 2 years, 3 years, or as little as 18 months, I always end up switching before I get to making them. Rather than worry about locking myself in to a cosplay that I might not want to do in a year or constantly flip-flopping, I just schedule as I need to.
Also, since any particular con only happens once a year, you can figure out how many and what type of cosplay you’ll need for the conventions.
This does not include costumes that might take multiple years to make. That’s an entirely different box of threads that I’ll write about another time.
So what are cosplay needs?
Figure out which cons you’re going to and what photoshoots or events that you’ll be attending (if they’re scheduled). Then list all of the cosplays you’ll need for those events. For example, let’s take a look at my 2012-2013 needs.
I generally scope my year from spring to spring because the main convention I attend is Anime Boston. These were my cosplay needs for spring 2012 through spring 2013:
- 1 Halloween costume
- 1 competitive outfit for Hall Cosplay
- 1 costume for my husband for the weekend of AB 13
- 1 costume for me for the weekend of AB 13
- 2 costumes for cosplay games at AB 13
You might need multiple costumes for multiple conventions, but the same principles listed below will apply.
Step 2: Refine your cosplay needs with any restrictions
For each costume, determine if there are any restrictions on what the outfit can be. If you’re going as part of a group to an event, make sure to take that into consideration. Also make a note of the time of year your conventions are. If you’re going to a summer con, it may not be the best idea to make that giant ballgown, so keep that in mind.
- Halloween costume - needs to be work appropriate and somewhat resilient to New England fall weather
- Competitive cosplay outfit - this year I’m going as a group, so my costume will need to be from the same series as the rest of the group members, plus it must be a competitive outfit
- Husband AB 13 outfit - this can be difficult or easy, but needs to be solid enough that he can rock it on is own
- My AB 13 outfit - can be easy because I’m already making a competitive outfit for AB 13
- 2 outfits for cosplay games -should try to fit the theme of AB 2013 (“Tales of Youkai”)
Step 3: Figure out what you already have and can reuse
To those of us with little time on our hands to make cosplays, taking an existing outfit and making some minor changes/repairs can save time, money, and sanity. As much as I would love to make a new costume for each outfit I needed, I don’t have that kind of time and money.
In this case, the outfits for the cosplay games can be found in my closet since I’ve already done pair cosplays with my husband of demon characters. I just need to make a note if anything needs to be repaired.
- Cosplay game outfits: Re-use Jin and Touya, but allow time for new wig(s) and minor prop/accessory fixes
Everything else can be new creations!
Step 4: Figure out what you CAN make
Real life can be annoying, but it always takes precedence over cosplay. As much as you might want to make 10 new cosplays, you need to be realistic. Do you have time to do that while working a full time job? Do you have money to make all those outfits if you’re still in school?
Do not put yourself into a position where you do not have money to live your regular life and where you let your enthusiasm for cosplay affect your work or school performance. Only you can determine what your bandwidth is, but be smart about it.
In this case, I generally find that 1 competitive, 1-2 difficult, and 1 easy costume are what I can handle. (Although I am getting faster and getting better work compensation, so those numbers might increase). Luckily, that matches up quite nicely with my cosplay needs (well, not entirely luckily, I do base my cosplay needs somewhat around what my bandwidth is).
If you find yourself without the time or money to make all of the outfits that you as ‘new creations’ in Step 3, you may want to revisit Step 3. See what you have in your closet that you can fix up or even re-purpose. You might be able to wash and re-use a wig. You might have props that can be repainted to look good as new. Leverage what you have to meet your cosplay needs without going broke/insane.
Step 5: Start matching up costumes from your prioritized lists
The first ones that I look at are always the competitive outfits, because those are the easiest to clear out the way (it’s for a single event, it has the most requirements to meet, and tends to be the most expensive because I want to get things right).
So for 2012-2013, I was going to be a part of a Magic Knight Rayearth group (where it had previously been decided that I would do Emeraude if the group ever came to pass). The other girls in the group were hoping to compete and so I agreed to lead the group and compete with them (which I didn’t have to).
This is why I organize my groups separately; when a group decides that it’s actually going to happen, you know what costume you’re doing for the group and so there’s not much to decide.
Next, I looked at potential pair cosplays for me and my husband to wear at AB 13. Generally I pick pair cosplays that feature characters that he loves because I have other opportunities (Halloween, competition) to make characters that I love. Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter happened to be on the top of the ‘easy’ prioritized list, so we decided to go with that. The pairing for that was Machi.
Finally, the last outfit to pick was for Halloween. I had a costume on the top of my list for Hakuouki, but hadn’t decided which Chizuru outfit to make yet. I decided to go with Chizuru, but I would figure out whether to do her Japanese, western, or geisha outfit a bit closer to Halloween.
Step 6: Breaking Ties
If you have two costumes that could work for a particular event, but you’re not sure which one to go with, there are three ways I use to break ties:
- Which one is higher priority on your board? You marked it as a higher priority for a reason, follow your prioritization or take another look at your list to see if you need to re-prioritize.
- Which one is cheaper? Why not save money?
- Imagine yourself walking around the con (or event) in both outfits. Do you get a better reaction for either? That will usually help you figure out where your heart truly lies.
Hopefully this helped you figure out how to wrestle with scheduling from a list of 20+ cosplays. Next time I’ll cover how to start planning a cosplay before you put needle to fabric.
If you’re still not sure, don’t worry about it! As long as you leave yourself enough time and money to make the outfits, you can delay making a decision until you’re a little closer to the event.
In Sorting Future Cosplays for Scheduling, I covered how to organize your future cosplays into loose categories to help you determine what you should work on. This time I’ll divulge the secrets of maintaining a prioritized list of cosplays, which is an important intermediate step before you get to actually scheduling your cosplays.
What does it mean to maintain a prioritized list?
In this case, it means to put the cosplays from each of your loose categories in order of how much you want the cosplay. Then, frequently check back and update the list as necessary.
Why bother putting the cosplays in order?
Because when the time comes to schedule your cosplays, it can drastically reduce the amount of fretting when making a decision.
This is actually a little secret I learned from my job as a product owner for a software product. As a product owner, it is my responsibility to order all feature requests and bug fixes from lowest to highest priority in a giant list called the backlog. I spend multiple hours a day doing investigation and review just to make sure the backlog stays prioritized.
This preparation is crucial to the development team’s process so they can pull in items from the top of the backlog, knowing that it’s the most important thing for them to work on. This preparation can help you with your cosplay decision making.
For example, let’s say that you have two cosplays that you want to make. Either could work for your schedule/budget/event/travel etc. However, now you’re torn between the two. If you keep a prioritized list you can either a) just pick the one that you already deemed was a higher priority or b) question why you made one a higher priority and in the process actually figure out which costume is more important to you.
So how exactly does one figure out what the priority of cosplays are?
I created a list of traits that I look for when making a cosplay. Generally I use slightly different metrics between my Easy, Difficult, and Competitive outfits because the cost of making the outfit and the situation in which I’ll be wearing the outfit varies drastically.
Let’s first take a stab at ordering my Easy cosplay list first.
For my Easy cosplays, I consider several things:
- Comfort level of the costume
- Fandom level of the character
I like my Easy cosplays to be comfortable to wear for long periods of time, since these are generally costumes that I’ll wear to work, outdoor photo shoots, or to conventions when I’m not in a competitive or difficult outfit.
To determine the comfort level of the costume, I try to ask these questions and keep track of “comfort points” as I go:
- Could I walk in the shoes for multiple hours at a time without break? (yes = +2)
- Is the wig particularly long or heavy? (no = +1)
- Does the costume allow for a full range of motion? (yes = +1)
- Is the costume something I could sit in? Without being careful? (sit/ no worries yes = +2, sit yes = +1)
- Do I need to worry about keeping parts of the costume on to avoid exposure? (no = +1)
Since most of these costumes are either solo cosplays for or pair cosplays with my husband, I also take his comfort level into consideration as well.
Most of the costumes that my husband would be wearing received 7/7 points, but that’s because we tend to ignore costumes that would be extremely uncomfortable. For me, there were a few costumes that only scored “2” because they had heels (can’t walk in them for a long time), mini-skirts (requires making sure the hem isn’t riding up and have to be careful when sitting), or other uncomfortable elements.
Here are a few of the example scores:
- Buggy (husband): 7
- Kenshin (me): 6, Sano (husband): 6 (white pants require you to be careful)
- Whitey Bay (me): 4 (wig, mini-skirt), Shanks (husband): 7
- Perona (me): 2 (low neckline, impossible skirt, high heels), Zoro (husband): 7
But comfort is only part of the equation. Next I look at the fandom around the character. This is mostly because my husband and I like to stand out. We try to avoid cosplaying from series while they are in the peak of their popularity, but we also don’t want to pick such obscure characters that no one will recognize us.
This leads me to another set of questions to figure out “fandom points”
- Is the character unique in some way, whether either the character or the outfit is not frequently cosplayed? (yes = +1)
- Is the character is recognizable (i.e. is the character wearing clothing that is specific to them and not just a generic ensemble like a suit?) (yes = +1)
- Is the character well known? (within fans of the show = +1, most people = +2)
- Is the character part of a fandom that is over-cosplayed right now? (no = +1)
- Is there a wow factor that might attract attention from non-cosplayers or people outside of anime/video game fans? (yes = +1)
- How big of a fan is the cosplayer of the outfit? (favorite = +2, likeable = +1, indifferent = +0, distaste = -1)
Again, most of the costumes on the list are going to score well because I generally keep these traits in mind when picking potential cosplays. However, sometimes costumes get on the list because I’m a fan of the series or a particular outfit, regardless of how the character fits in with our cosplay goals.
For example, we wanted to cosplay Zaraki and Yachiru, however, we didn’t want to be included in the BLEACH mob a few years ago when shinigami were all over the place. Now that the fandom has died down a bit, Zaraki and Yachiru are more in tune with our cosplay goals.
Here are my final combined comfort and fandom scores for the characters (now in easily prioritized order!):
- Buggy: 7 + 6 (13)
- Yumichika: 7 + 6 (13)
- Yachiru: 7 + 5 (12), Zaraki: 6 + 6 (12) avg. 12
- Shishiwakamaru: 7 + 5 (12)
- Whitey Bay: 4 +4 (8), Shanks: 7 + 7 (14) avg. 11
- Kenshin: 6 + 5 (11), Sano: 6 + 4 (10) avg. 10.5
- Melfina: 2 + 4 (6), Gene: 7 + 6 (13) avg. 9.5
- Perona: 2 + 6 (8), Zoro: 7 + 6 (8) avg. 8
- Baccano female character: 4 + 3 (7), Baccano male character: 7 + 3 (7) avg. 7
For pair cosplays, I usually go with an average of the scores so that it represents the happiness of the entire group. Exceptions are made for extreme discrepancies, particularly if the lower score is a cosplay for my husband.
What about breaking ties?
You don’t need to worry about breaking ties at this point. The next step is to actually start scheduling cosplays to be worked on. Other factors will come into play, such as your needs as a cosplayer (e.g. do you need a pair cosplay from BLEACH?). It’s during the next stage, when you’re stuck between two potential cosplays that could work and then you can refer to the priorities in the list and pick one that you’ve already realized is more important to you.
What about difficult or competitive cosplays?
I follow the same process and criteria for difficult cosplay, just with a different list of costumes. For competitive cosplay, I use a different set of criteria, which I’ll cover in a separate post.
We’ll cover actually scheduling when you’re going to work on which cosplays! See you next time!
For more tutorials on managing your cosplays, please check out the tutorial section of my website: http://www.ksmurfcostumes.com/tutorials/
Everyone who has done it loves it. Everyone who hasn’t wants to do it. In our community, there is no cuter thing than an actual couple cosplaying as a couple. But it can be hard and stressful, both on your and the relationship. Here’s some tips to try to help you guys make it through without…
I completely agree with this. I have been cosplaying with my husband since we were dating in high school and all of this advice is solid, but I do have a little extra bit to add:
Make sure to communicate with your significant other about their cosplay goals!
When we first started, I was mostly calling the shots and then clearing the choices with my husband. But after a few years, he would quietly mention that he “wouldn’t mind cosplaying” certain characters and even said that for some he would be okay with being in character for cosplay events. Now I constantly ask him for suggestions for possible pair cosplays.
This is also beneficial because my husband knows what he likes to see me wear, so he can also be a good judge of what cosplays will look good on me, even if I might have been hesitant to go for a costume.
I think of all us run into this problem at some point during our time as cosplayers: there are more cosplays that you want to make than you have time for. I’m going to share the technique that I use to help me organize and prioritize my costumes.
Prerequisite- Find a tool for sorting your costumes
Many people maintain a gallery on Facebook, Deviantart, Flickr, etc. where they post all of their future cosplays. While I find this to be a good way of letting everyone else know what you’re doing, it’s not very practical for creating an organized view of your costumes.
My godsend is an online service called Trello. Trello is a free service that allows you to create lists of cards. Cards can contain checklists, comments, descriptions, and file attachments. If you are an obsessive list-maker like me, I would definitely recommend Trello - not just for cosplay purposes.
Anyway, Trello lets me create a card for each costume, add my reference pictures right onto the card, and also add notes for myself pertaining to the costume.
Here is an example of a Trello card for the Bon Clay character from One Piece:
The best part is that they have a mobile app, so if I need the reference pictures in the store, I can grab them on the go.
The rest of this tutorial will use my cosplay Trello board as an example. You don’t need to use Trello - you can keep track of your costume in notebooks, a gallery, what have you. I just prefer Trello.
Sorting tip #1 - Difficulty of the Cosplay
I chose to organize my costumes by relative difficulty. Costumes that are larger and/or more difficult tend to take longer, cost more, and are the ones that I am most likely going to want to compete in. Since money and time are often driving factors in which cosplays I can actually make at a given time, that’s how I chose to sort my cosplays.
I found that most of my cosplays could be broken into two loose categories: Easy and Difficult.
Easy costumes typically don’t require much research into how to make parts of the costume, could be made for under $100, and represent only a couple weeks of work. So basically, it’s fast, easy, and cheap.
Difficult costumes all require at least some research or some new material/technique to be made. They will probably cost a couple hundred dollars at least and will most likely take a couple months. These are costumes that will challenge me, but making them will help me improve as a cosplayer.
Sorting Tip #2 - Purpose or goal of the cosplay
Next, I broke out costumes that I specifically wanted to do for competitions, so I split apart my difficult costumes into ‘difficult’ and ‘difficult competitive’. The main distinction between ‘challenging’ and ‘competitive’ is that a competitive outfit is a cosplay that I would compete in.
For me, competitive outfits are both challenging and also have many qualities that can be showcased in a competition. Simpler costumes, or costumes with only one difficult piece, have fewer ways to demonstrate your skill, so I try to avoid those for competition.
Separating the competitive pieces is important largely because the possible opportunities for wearing a cosplay in a competition are far fewer than the chances of wearing a cosplay in general. It will be potentially more difficult to schedule these costumes than others.
Aside from competitions there are other types of purposes you might want to keep in mind:
- Do you have costumes that are comfortable that you could wear at cons when you are tired of wearing uncomfortable costumes?
- Are there costumes that you would only wear for a photo shoot because you can’t wear them to cons? (Some cons have strict dress codes that can eliminate some cosplays).
- Are there costumes that you would feel comfortable performing in for a Masquerade, cosplay chess match, or other event where the costume could be damaged?
If you find yourself with a group of costumes that meet a particular need, feel free to sort those into a separate list. This will make it easier later when you’re trying to schedule when to do work on all of these costumes.
Sorting Tip #3 - Group Cosplays
Generally the only group cosplays I have done are with my husband and I end up making both costumes. This means I follow the single cosplayer model, but with two people. (This is why many of the cards you see in the screen shots list two costumes).
However, I have done group cosplays and I already learned that group cosplays are their own separate beast. There are dependencies on other cosplayers, their skill level, and most of all, their availability. For this reason, I put them in their own list.
That’s pretty much all I use for sorting my cosplays. The really challenging part comes when you need to figure out when to actually make them, which I’ll cover next time.
Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to cosplay, but you have no idea where to start in terms of picking what cosplay to do! Hopefully this will help you figure out which cosplay you want to tackle.
Note: If you are looking for tips and tricks for organizing several potential cosplays, I’ll be posting something soon on how to sort, schedule, and prioritize future cosplays.
Step 1: Identify several characters that interest you
There are predominantly two schools of thought:
- Cosplaying because of a love of the character or series
- Cosplaying because of an appreciation of the character’s design
Please note that some cosplayers may criticize you for picking a character that you don’t know much about. I believe this stems from die-hard fans feeling that it’s hypocritical for “an outsider” to parading as their favorite characters.
While it can be more fun if you cosplay a character that you like, you don’t necessarily need to be a fan. For example, you might see an exquisite outfit or an intricate prop and have a deep appreciation for the design of the character, without knowing their personality and history. There is no shame in wanting to bring wonderful clothing to life and then have fun wearing it.
That being said, you may want to do a bit of background research before marching out the door. When you are in a cosplay, you will be associated with your character and you may want to be prepared for the consequences. If you picked an unpopular (i.e. hated) character, you will probably receive some snarky commentary from fans of the series. Similarly, if your outfit belongs to a heroic protagonist or a back-stabbing villain, the polar opposites of your character may come up to you and expect you to react accordingly.
Hopefully this hasn’t deterred you and you’re able to pick a few characters or designs that you like t form your starting pool of characters. Huzzah!
Step 2: What are your goals?
Depending on what you want to get out of your cosplay experience, you might need to eliminate choices that aren’t appropriate or align with your goals.
How much of your costume do you want to make? How much do you want to buy?
Before anything else, you need to figure out how much you want to make of your costume. Most cosplays fall somewhere on the spectrum of ‘creating everything from scratch’ to ‘purchasing all the components’. Many people make a lot of the costume from scratch, but might purchase items like a wig (styled or not) or shoes. Some purchase all the items and then assemble the costume together. Others buy the entire costume made by someone else.
If you want to make your costume, you may want consider that making a costume demands time and effort, more so if you are planning a costume that contains elements that you’ve never worked with or on before (e.g. a pleated skirt, a prop, resin, stretchy fabric). You will probably need to do research. You may need to scrap work that you’ve done to do it over (if you’re a perfectionist). That being said, there are millions of tutorials on the internet for pretty much anything, so carpe diem!
As always, larger or more elaborate costumes will require more time, money, and effort. If you’re short on any of those, you may want to buy the costume or look at simpler costumes.
If you want to purchase the costume, the only word of caution I have is to be weary of websites that sell the entire costume already made. I have never purchased a costume from one of those sites myself, but from what I hear, the costumes can be less than satisfactory. This can be attributed to the fact that they need to make the costumes in standard sizes and they need to mass produce the outfits.
Standard sizes means that it probably won’t fit you completely, which you either live with or you make alterations so it does fit you.
Mass producing the outfits means that they can cut corners, which may not be obvious from product photos. For example, Tsunande from Naruto has a shirt that is green and a dark belt around her waist (2 pieces). I have seen pictures of pre-made versions of this costume that make the top only 1 piece, where the belt was interpreted as a different color on the same shirt. This may not be an issue for you, but it is important to be aware of this.
There are also many cosplayers out there who will make partial or entire costumes for commission. If you are worried about buying the costume from a store, you can look for a commissioner who will work with you on a more individual level to make your costume. This will probably be more expensive than buying the ready-to-wear made by the store or making the costume yourself.
Is this cosplay for a particular event (e.g. con, photo shoot, competition)?
There are variety of cons available in the United States (multiple per weekend); some are centralized around a particular fandom, such as anime, video games, live gaming, or comic books, while others touch on multiple fan cultures (e.g. San Diego Comic Con). Generally there are no rules about what sort of costumes you can wear at a particular con: there is nothing to stop a Storm Trooper from going to anime con or a My Little Pony from going to a Doctor Who con. However, you may run into funny looks, or worse, fans that give you a hard time. So you may want to take the theme of your convention into consideration.
Photo shoots / private events
Sometimes a person or a group of people might organize a gathering or a photo shoot that is based on a series or a type of character. You will want to pick a costume that fits within the requirements of the gathering. A Naruto photo shoot is intended for taking pictures of characters from Naruto. A steampunk tea party will probably require that you follow a steampunk dress code.
The rules for competitions vary drastically, but all competitions will list what type of costumes they allow. Check with your competition’s rules to see what is acceptable. Similarly, you can always ask the organizers of the competition if you are uncertain about whether an outfit is qualified.
One other consideration for competitions is that many require you to make most, if not all, of your costume. Make sure you know what your competition requires in terms of craftsmanship. If you are planning on entering a competition that requires your costume to be home made, you will need to factor in the time it will take to make the costume.
How much time do you have to put together the cosplay?
If you only have a short amount of time, you may want to consider doing found cosplay or closet cosplay. That is cosplay that is comprised of items that you already own (e.g. that are in your closet) or items that can readily purchased in stores.
Many characters are featured in ‘every clothes’ in promotional art or chapter/magazine covers. These are easy alternatives to creating some of the more involved outfits. For example, Ichigo from BLEACH has a school uniform and is often shown in casual clothing. If you don’t have time to buy or make the full shinigami outfit, one of his alternate outfits might be easier and faster to pull together.
Larger or more complex cosplays require more time (a couple months), so if you don’t have that time available, you may want to select a simpler outfit.
If you have tons of time, the sky is the limit!
What is the range for your budget?
Cosplay can bring out your thrifty side, but you may not want to compromise quality just to cosplay the character. Yes, you might stay in your budget by making that ball gown out of cheap fabric, but your costume will reflect that.
If you don’t have a lot of money, smaller or more simpler costumes will be less expensive.
STOP! What is a simpler costume?
I make frequent mention to ‘simpler’ costumes in contrast to ‘more elaborate’ or ‘larger’ costumes. But what do I mean by that?
A simpler costume is comprised of fewer pieces, does not require significant fitting, or can be made from found items. Here are a few examples:
- School uniforms - generally a shirt, vest/coat/sweater, a necktie/ribbon, skirt/pants, socks, shoes, and then however the hair is styledExample: Kagome from InuyashaMany of these parts can be purchased in stores for not a lot of money. If making this from scratch, it is fairly easy to find sewing patterns or tutorials for all these components and they generally don’t require a lot of fabric.
- Martial Arts / Ninja / Fighter outfits - characterized by loose-fitting or draped outfits that are typically not overly elaborate or contain a lot of details.These are easy to make because the loose fit doesn’t require a lot of sewing skill. There are sewing patterns available, and if there aren’t patterns, it’s fairly easy to convert items like t-shirts or athletic pants (or to figure out how to make the patterns from geometrical shapes).
What are some examples or larger or more elaborate costumes?
- Ball gowns (think Disney Princesses) - lots of fabric, lots and lots of fabric
- Mech/Gundam or other robot-inspired outfits - large, can require more difficult materials like plastic
- Mascot (Pokemon, Digimon) - require fur, foam, and large
- Full body armor
By this point, you might have been able to narrow down the choices. If not - no fear, there’s more to consider!
Step 3: Taking Design into Consideration
When picking a cosplay, you definitely want to look at the physical characteristics of the character and the costume itself before making a decision.
Let me preface this by saying that I have no issue when a cosplayer doesn’t match the body type or ethnicity of the character. It’s just not logical; no one looks like an anime character naturally. We’re too short/tall, our skin tone isn’t right, our eyes are too small, and no one I knows was born with blue hair.
Why make a fuss? If you look good in the cosplay and you have fun doing it, then good for you!
Unusual skin color or other body art
Some characters has random skin colors like silver, pure white, or blue. They might also have large or ornate tattoos/seals/scars. If you’ve picked a character that fits this description, there is going to be some makeup involved.
Body paint is messy, but unfortunately a necessary evil if you want to change your skin tone. There are ways to workaround having to apply a ton of make-up (like buying tights the same color and wearing those on your arms and legs), but you’ll still need to apply a bunch of messy makeup. If this isn’t what you’re looking for, you may want to consider another costume or just going in your skin.
Tattoos/seals/scars can also be tricky and messy because they need to be re-applied for each time you wear the costume. If you don’t really want to deal with this sort of thing, look for alternate costumes of the character that don’t show these details, or just forgo them entirely.
Here is my spin on revealing costumes:
If you are wearing a costume that reveals an excess of your breasts, butt, mid-drift, or legs, you will get attention. Your experiences will vary between flattering when someone genuinely compliments your outfit to downright insulting when someone tries to snap photos of your butt without your permission. In an ideal world, you’d only get the positive end of that spectrum, but this is the real world. You should be prepared for that sort of attention, or avoid revealing costumes until you feel that you are ready to take that leap.
Keep in mind that most conventions have a minimal dress code. Make sure that your costume is within the regulations for your convention. This also applies to any public location or public transit where you might be seen in your costume.
You can also choose to change the design - maybe lower the hem of the skirt a couple of inches, maybe add a little more coverage to the chest area etc.
Summary and Decision
Hopefully the information above has given you some things to think about when picking a cosplay, but here’s the breakdown of what I think about when I choose a cosplay:
- Do I want to make a costume? Or, am I required to make a costume, in the case of competition?
- If I am making a costume, is it of a size and difficulty that I feel I can complete it to my satisfaction before the deadline without depleting my finances?
- If I am making a costume, am I prepared to put in the time and effort to learn how to do things that I may not have done before?
- Does this costume contain items that I do not want to make? Will I have time and money to acquire these items? (e.g. shoes, wigs)
- Is this costume for a particular event?
- Does this costume need to be from a particular series or fit within a specific theme?
- Does this costume involve messy or unusual body paint or makeup? Do I want to deal with that?
- If I don’t want to handle messy makeup, am I willing to still cosplay the character without the correct skin tone/markings? Is there a way that I could cover up where the color/markings is shown?
- Is this costume revealing? Am I comfortable with wearing the outfit, knowing that I may get unwanted attention?
- If I still love this character, am I willing to make changes to the design to make it fit me and my comfort level, even if it won’t be 100% accurate?