Lessons learned or extrapolated while putting together a fairly simple cosplay for a major summer convention. This isn’t hard advice about how to make things or what to do or what to cosplay as, but things to think about when you’re planning that cosplay or starting to put it together.
Pick A Character That Is Meaningful To Someone (You, Maybe)
By this we mean pick something not because it’s cool or because you think it’s neat (although that’s still valid), but because it says something either about you or to you. That can be something as simple as loving the character or the episode of the show/movie/anime the character is from. It could be something little more subtle about how you like or identify with or feel about the character itself or some statement the character makes or represents.
When my son and I chose to play Loki and Bele for fan Expo 2014, it worked for me on several levels. First, because we wanted something we can do together. Second, because it’s classic Star Trek and not only did I grow up on TOS, I feel like it’s under represented these days. Third, because the statement about how racism is stupid and shortsighted is still a good one.
The meaning for you can be something as simple as because it’s fun, and that’s perfectly all right.
Make It Something Appropriate
And by that we absolutely are not talking about the matching your physique to the character. If it speaks to you, then I don’t care if you’re a 45 pound Klingon, or a 6’9″ hobbit. It doesn’t matter.
Appropriate means that it’s something you’ll be comfortable playing. If you’re very introverted, and the character your cosplaying is extremely extroverted, you can see this is either an opportunity to be someone different than you are, which is part of what cosplay is all about, or you might see it as a source of stress. Measure against your own expectations, and be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Just because your cosplaying a wisecracking superhero, doesn’t mean that you have to run around the convention making jokes and snide remarks. People don’t necessarily expect that, so don’t expect to yourself. But if the idea of it makes you uncomfortable, consider something else.
Ask Yourself If The Cosplay Is Seasonally Appropriate
Heavy armor or many layers of clothing may not work very well for you in the middle of summer. Likewise, something that leaves a lot of skin bare may not be the best choice for your comfort in a late January con. Too much sweat and you’re risking con funk. Too little fabric and you might be up for pneumonia.
In our case, Fan Expo is held in late August, and we were fairly sweaty by the time we walked the three blocks from my hotel on. With a layer underneath, it might be okay for a dead of winter convention, but is probably better for mid-to-late spring or fall.
Do A Little Bit Of Research
See what other people have tried and failed (or succeeded) for similar, or the same, cosplays. Sometimes that awesome idea you have isn’t going to work at all and sometimes it will be spectacular. Don’t be afraid to branch out, but don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
Think About The Size Of The Convention
Not so much physical size, but think about the number of expected attendees confined in that physical size. If the con is going to be big in terms of number of people present and clouded, and your potential cosplay has a lot of attachments or parts to a lug around, be aware of that and give it some serious thought ahead of time. You’re going to be putting yourself in this costume all day, possibly for several days, and maybe you’re going to have your picture taken every few steps. Think of it how much harder it’s going to be to get anywhere inside the con, and how much damage your hard work could suffer due to overcrowding.
Try not to leave gathering all of your equipment and accessories until the last minute. Even if you enjoy that frantic rush to get everything prepped and ready, you’ll wind up spending more money. Yes it can be fun to throw a cosplay together in the last moments before the con, but that also makes it a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be. There’s also the likelihood that you don’t do your best work under that kind of time pressure. As long as you’re happy with the result, that’s what really counts, but you’ll usually increase your chances of being happy if you have the time to put things together exactly how you want them.
Another consideration: all that money you’re spending in the last days before the con is money you won’t have available to spend at the con, and you certainly don’t want to find your self short of cash on the convention floor.
If your cosplay requires facepaint, and Lokai and Bele certainly does, make sure that you don’t since cheap out. Yes try to find the smaller packages. Don’t be forced into the giant packs that will allow you do do your whole face several hundred times (unless you’re planning to do a lot of similar color bases over the next several years at multiple conventions). But get the good stuff. It works better, lasts longer, and washes off without taking a lot of skin with it.
And I can’t stress this enough: don’t get your face paint and make up from the dollar store or in the aftermath of Halloween at Walmart. What you’re getting will not last an entire day, is harder to apply in the first place, and is made with the cheapest ingredients to be found. Can you say skin irritation, boys and girls?
The better quality water-based stuff looks better, lasts longer, and you’ll have to do far fewer touch ups. Plus, it comes off reasonably easily with a little bit of soap and warm water. Or, if you wear as much as we did, a nice hot shower and a lot of soap. Just be sure to wipe down the tub while it’s still wet.
For reference, we used Snazaroo and were really happy with the ease of application and staying power, but your mileage may vary, and it depends on what you want to do. Spend a little google time in research.
Maybe this step should probably go a lot earlier in the process, and we’ve covered bits and pieces anyway, but I’m thinking more about having a coherent cosplay plan. I don’t mean you have to be completely anal and plan every second of your time in shopping, creating, crafting, and wearing. But you should have a firm idea of what will take, and the ability to break things into lists. Here’s my list of needed supplies. Here’s my list of make up. Here’s my list of transportation requirements. Here are the basic steps I need to put it all together. Take your time. Figure things out.
Are you sure you want to wear those giant wings and carry that 8-foot foam sword on the subway? While wearing armor you spent six months building in the basement? Sure, the looks you get from the regular passengers will almost make it worth, but then you have to go home after the con ends of the day. Think about what it will take to get you where you’re going, how much of the pain it’s going to cause to get from from your front door to the convention floor.
Are you going to wear this cosplay more than once? How difficult is it to get in and out of if you have to go to the bathroom? After a full day on the convention floor, how much work will be to return to normal existence? Can you wear the cosplay to another con? How important these questions are dependent great deal on you. Fun? Are you serious? Do you want to become a competitive cosplayer? And what about the masquerade?
Like I said at the front of this post, all learned or extrapolated when putting together the rather simple cosplay pictured above. But, I’ll be honest, most of them didn’t enter our minds until it was already too late. My son and I thought about this cosplay six months ago. Cool, fun, we liked the idea, and it didn’t look hard. Easy to put together quickly, right? Well, we did have fun, and wasn’t that hard, but the costumes could been much better with a little planning and thought ahead of time, particularly reckoning with Toronto in late August.
Next year, we have Anime North, Ottawa Comic Con, and potentially Montréal Comic Con as well. We’re giving Fan Expo a miss for reasons I’m not going to dive into here, but we do still have three major conventions in the year. And maybe a couple of little ones too. Definitely something to think about.
Be well, everyone.