When I got my panelist letter for AKon 28 in beautiful North Texas, I was thrilled. I had started my costumes in the Winter and was relieved that having so much work done before hand would mean an easier time getting panels and other more complicated things like props together. Little did I realize that my planning and hubris left me with a striking issue: the costumes I planned on, workshopped and designed in November would be far less comfortable for a convention in June in Texas. So as I continue to alter my own outfits for convention, I’m here to provide a few tips on how to adjust your cosplay to deal with warmer weather.
Be wary of layers.
A chief contributor to cosplayers fainting from heat stroke is the fact that many costumes involve layers. Heavy jackets on top of heavy shirts with usually some sort of binding or padding material underneath and rounded out with thick pants, dark colored fabric and usually boots and some unbelievably heavy and wonderful prop or accessory. If your outfit does have lots of layers, don’t be afraid to take them off. I’m fortunate enough to have a very capable pack-mule, I mean friend, in my co-panelist who is more than happy to carry my jacket if I find that the temperature has risen too high. It’s also great motivation for me to make sure that even my under layers like tank tops, camisoles and shirts look crisp, clean and just as good as my main costume if I’m going to be walking around without a jacket.
Choose lighter fabrics.
Many costumes bases are made with sturdy fabrics like polyester and leather and while those fabrics are great for mostly indoor or winter conventions, during the summer leather can be unbearable. In the summer opt for, when at all possible, lighter fabrics like cotton and linen. If you’re a closet cosplayer like me then that means choosing t-shirt, pant and dress bases that are made of cotton. If you’re a from-scratch cosplayer, then the lightest fabric you can buy that still fits the time period and color scheme you’re working with.
It’s easy to neglect your basic human needs when in costume. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ignored food, drink and the other trappings of being a human to keep my costumes clean, avoid long lines and to stay “in the zone”. Summer in Texas and in other warmer states is no joke. Stay hydrated. Water is your best friend and keeping a bottle or two on hand is a great way to prevent dehydration. Most conventions have watering stations or very eager vendors happy to sell you a Ramune or five.
Consider alternate costumes.
The beauty of cosplaying a comic book, video game, anime or manga character is that they usually come with many alternate costumes: some characters even have Summer variants of outfits that usually involve shorter skirt lengths, shorts or short-sleeved shirts and less formal vests. Alternate costumes may make your character a little less recognizable, but you will certainly feel a lot cooler.
Embrace setting and misting sprays.
An old theater trick for keeping makeup in place was using hairspray as a waterproof barrier to keep your mascara from moving at all. Now, I don’t recommend that anymore but a good setting spray for makeup is fantastic. These sprays can help keep even the most stubborn of face paint or body paint in place rather than as a sweaty puddle around you. If you aren’t wearing a ton of makeup (which is rare for most cosplayers but let’s pretend), misting and coolings sprays seem frivolous but can be a great way to cool down.
Here’s a good place to mention when you simply cannot make any alterations or changes to your costumes in spite of the at times oppressive heat of the summer months. I encourage you to keep hydrated, stand inside if you can and also embrace shade. Try and move as many photoshoots as you can inside and be aware of the signs of dehydration and heat stroke. Those symptoms are not limited to: exhaustion, sweating, feeling thirsty or hungry and flushing of the skin (which can be difficult to spot if you’re wearing layers of makeup or body paint). If you’re with a group of friends or cosplayers, don’t be afraid to ask to stop for a break if you need water or pause a photoshoot if the sun’s too much.
I was lucky enough to have plenty of time to adjust my costume schedule for AKon and I’m excited to be paneling there again this year. Hopefully, the heat won’t be too intense.
I hope you all stay cool this summer!