Comic conventions have always been a sanctuary for nerds and geeks alike; a place where anyone, be they comic enthusiast or movie expert, can go and expect to be accepted. These conventions (often referred to as a “Comicon”) are places where local vendors can hock their wares and where the everyday “Joe” can meet celebrities without having to wade through a crowd of curious (and excitable) onlookers. It is therefore no surprise that, since the early 2000’s, U.S. comicons have slowly become hubs for a new generation of costume enthusiasts: Cosplayers. Cosplay is derived from the meshing of two words: “costume” and “play”. The allure of cosplay is simple: be who you want to be. It is the very height of honoring a comic book, game or television character.
Phoenix Comicon 2014. Image photographed by Pixel Party: http://pixelpartyblog.com/?p=565#more-565
Many cosplayers dress up for fun or do it as a social activity (as shown in the image above) however; there is a competitive side to cosplay. In recent years comic conventions have offered masquerade, fashion and costume contests where entrants can compete for cash prizes or contest sponsor gift certificates. Competing cosplayers spend weeks, months and even years on costumes which turn them into the very person, place or thing (yes, some people dress up as props) that has given them joy. So how does one get started in cosplay? Easy: fall in love with a character and become them!
Now I bet you are saying: “Fangirl Nation lady, HOW do I MAKE my costume?” Well, while getting started in cosplay only takes courage creating cosplay requires a bit of crafting knowledge. Most people know what a sewing needle and thread are but not everyone can wield them; just like most everyone has heard of leather or thermo plastics yet very few can manipulate these materials.
If you CAN manipulate these materials and you’re familiar with sewing then cosplay should be pretty simple for you: just visit your local fabric stores, grab some patterns that match what you are trying to portray (or create the patterns yourself if you know how), buy some fabric and use your imagination! For those focusing on fabric crafting check out How To wikis or take a city sewing workshop. For those interested in pursuing armor crafting I would suggest Worbla, it’s a type of thermoplastic that is easier to manipulate than leather and cheaper too. You can purchase Worbla and its counterpart, WonderFlex, here: www.cosplaysupplies.com. There are multiple YouTube videos that walk beginners through thermo plastic crafting. I like to sketch everything out first or, if I am trying to match every detail in a costume, I obtain a figurine/3D turnaround of the character and break the costume up into sections (this helps keeps cost down by avoiding mistakes).
This is a Worbla and Fabric crafted cosplay by Kamui Cosplay: https://www.facebook.com/KamuiCos.
Alright, alright, I promise I haven’t forgotten about those of you who are looking to purchase rather than create a cosplay costume. There are a number of ways to create your costume without doing much, if any, crafting. ..
Option #1: Create your plan of attack by analyzing what your character is wearing and seeing if you can scavenge pieces from pre-made costumes. This method can get pretty expensive as it will require purchasing multiple costumes; I would suggest visiting Savers or a Costume Warehouse and asking if you can just purchase sections of the costume at a discount. The benefit of this method is that you can try on the costumes as you purchase them, ensuring a proper fit.
Option #2: Purchase a pre-made character costume on EBay, Etsy, and Amazon or through a commercial costuming site. While this is probably one of the least expensive ways to obtain a costume it also comes with the most risk. Many costumes on EBay, while inexpensive, are made from cheap materials. This means they don’t survive wear and tear very well. Commercial costume sites/shops tend to hold up better but their fit is limited to the typical American standard of Small, Medium and Large. Make sure to read reviews carefully and try to purchase from companies that offer size comparison charts.
Option #3: Commission a professional cosplay crafter. This is one of the most expensive options but it offers the greatest benefit: accuracy. Commissioned outfits are custom fit so have a professional seamstress or suit fitter measure you. There is certainly risk with commissioning a cosplay crafter so be sure to read reviews, look through their portfolio and always ask for a receipt of purchase.
All rules aside, cosplay is one thing: fun. It can be a source of instant fame and social acclaim but most of all; it is a labor of love. So get out there my costume savants and make your dreams come true!
Phoenix Comicon 2014. Demon Huntress crafted by ThermoCosplay: https://www.facebook.com/ThermoCosplay.