So You Want to Cosplay...
A beginner's guide to cosplay by TR Rose
What is cosplay? By strictest definition, it's a combination of the words "costume" and "play", so you can define cosplay as "dressing up as a character for fun". Many anime, game, sci-fi, and fantasy conventions welcome costumed characters, and it can be fun to dress up as a favorite character for an event. Cosplay encompasses not only anime and game-related costuming, but also dressing as characters from Star Wars, Disney movies, sci-fi TV series, popular movies, musicals, and even original designs. The broadest definition for cosplay is "wearing a costume in public".
The way I see it, there are two varieties of cosplay: dressing like a character, and wearing a costume.
Dressing like a character means that you're wearing a specific style of what would be considered "normal" clothes. This is an outfit that you could conceivably wear in public without getting too many weird looks. School uniforms, Hot Topic attire, business suits, sundresses, and casual clothes all fit into this category. These characters are usually the "average" people in anime or games - the school students, the Pokemon trainers, the duelists, the undercover police, etc. If you do a cosplay like this, you will get the best response from convention-goers if you carry props suitable for your character. Also, if the character has different color/style/length of hair than you, be sure to wear a wig.
Wearing a costume is different than dressing like a character. Costumes are attention-getting by nature. They usually involve large props, unusual styles of clothing, non-typical hair styles and colors, armor, wings, and/or heavy makeup. These are not the average characters in anime or games - these are the warriors, princesses, magical girls, gods/goddesses, fairies, angels, demons, mascot characters, pets, superheroes, supervillains, fantasy military characters, etc. Many video game characters fit into the "costume" category rather than the "dressing like a character" category - a 5-foot sword is going to draw attention. Here's a standard I like to use to determine which variety of cosplay you're doing: if you can wear the outfit to McDonalds during the dinner rush
and you don't get a single strange look, then you're not wearing
Making a cosplay yourself is easier than it looks,
provided you start simple. Gather a bunch of reference materials for your
character of choice and take a close look at the outfit you wish to create.
The first step is to break the outfit down into its component parts. Most
costumes can be put together from pieces of normal clothes. Let's start
with Jessie's Team Rocket uniform: you need a white skirt, a white shirt
with an "R" on it, a cropped black undershirt, black boots,
black gloves, green earrings, and red hair.
For a simple costume like this, you should start at a Goodwill
or thrift store. Thrift shops can be treasure troves of costume
pieces, but you should have an idea of what you're looking for before
you start searching. Chances are, you won't be "inspired"
just by looking around.
On a good day, you should be able to find some kind of white skirt
and form-fitting black shirt here. For the white overshirt, look
for a turtleneck about one size bigger than you'd ordinarily wear.
Later, you'll cut the black and white tops shorter and cut the "V"
shape out of the turtleneck. You can finish the raw edges with Fabri-tac
or sew the edges under.
Black boots are fairly easy to find at most shoe stores, and black
gloves can be purchased at a costume shop for a few bucks. I had
these tall boots custom-made from a cosplay website because I knew
I'd be using this costume a lot, but I originally had ordinary black
boots from a shoe store.
Check flea markets and thrift shops for round earrings, which you
can paint green. You can also check ebay for round green earrings,
or ask your grandma if she has any she's willing to part with.
The red "R" can be painted on the turtleneck with regular
fabric paint. Add a long red wig for the hair and you're done! If
you're missing crucial costume pieces, you can either check another
thrift store, go online (ebay is a good choice), or try sewing the
piece yourself (I sewed the simple skirt, only because I couldn't
find a white skirt that looked right for the character that actually
Here's a quick example of my 80's Zelda costume. I'd like
to go back and redo parts of the outfit (like the belt) but this was put
together very quickly and inexpensively. A few trips to the local Goodwill
got me all the components I needed for the costume.
Shirt: Thrift store, $2
Vest (was blue suede, I turned it inside-out): Thrift store, $4
Pants: Thrift store, $3
Belt (already had)
Boots: borrowed from Team Rocket costume
Arm bands: gold wired ribbon held in place with sticky-back Velcro
Earrings: Thrift store, $2
Tiara: beaded headband covered in aluminum foil, wrapped with gray
Tiara point: cardboard shape covered in aluminum foil, acrylic
Ears: elf ear tips from costume shop, held in place with Spirit
The simplest cosplays require no sewing, but more complex
outfits need to be custom-made. Even though an outfit looks daunting at
first, start by breaking the costume into parts. If it's a human character,
what does their outfit look like? Scan through the costume section of
pattern books to see what you might be able to modify from an existing
pattern. Many long dresses, capes, and cloaks can be made from Medieval/Renaissance
costume patterns. Link's tunic might come from a modified Robin Hood costume.
White/Black Mage robes can be made from an angel costume pattern (check
in the back, with the religious play costumes). Remember that you can
shorten or lengthen any pattern for what you need, and you can even split
one piece into several colors, like I did with Princess Peach's dress. Don't limit
yourself to the costume section, either - I've found things in both the
normal clothing and bridal sections that worked great for cosplay.
Maybe you can find part of the costume at a thrift store
- then you'll only need to make the missing parts. For example, I found
a nice white turtleneck for the shirt of my Princess Leia costume, but
the sleeves were wrong. I used a seam-ripper to carefully remove the sleeves
along the original seams. Using these as a pattern, I made wider sleeves
that were open at the bottom. I sewed these to the original shirt, and
the top was complete. The skirt was made using a very simple "normal"
skirt pattern, and I found a belt at the Goodwill.
Need a costume base for a skimpy outfit? Check out a shop or website that specializes
in dancewear. Usually a flesh-tone leotard is a great base for building
pieces onto - especially if the original character shows more skin that
you'd like to. Make sure you get one that matches your own skin color
as closely as possible. Unless you have a perfect body (even the models in magazines are heavily Photoshopped), you'll probably
want some extra support for your body shape - either slimming or with some
padding. Never mind that most anime characters have highly unrealistic body proportions that wouldn't work in real life. A leotard will also give you a smooth surface to work with,
and you won't be in pain trying to remove things you've glued to sensitive
parts of your body. Most cosplayers who show too much skin aren't welcomed
with open arms - except by the drooling, unwashed fanboys. Quite often,
their pictures are posted and mocked on humor websites. I'm just trying
to save you some potential embarrassment.
A good pair of flesh-tone (to match your own flesh tone,
that is) dance tights will last much longer than pantyhose, and you won't
have to worry about runs as much. You can order special leotards, bodysuits, and dance costumes
online, which is what I did for Raichu. Be careful though, as some of
these sites might also sell items of an "adult" nature. I would
recommend against trying to find things like this second-hand - you run
into the "Ick Factor" when you look at used swimsuits, underthings,
and the like. You don't want to know who's owned the items before you.
Since fabric and patterns can get expensive (especially
if you're not sure whether your idea will work or not), wait for sales.
Jo-Ann Fabrics has regular fabric and pattern sales (often one brand of
pattern is reduced to $1.99 or so), and they also offer 40% off coupons.
Costume accoutrements (makeup, gloves, wings, etc) are dirt cheap after
Halloween (although selection will be limited). If you're still playing around with ideas, you should use cheap
bargain fabric (or an old, cut-up bedsheet) to make the test costume. Once you see what works, you
can use what you learned for the real costume.
If you're going to be an animal/critter/mascot character, sketch
out a rough idea of what you want the costume to look like. Do you want
to make a full-body fursuit like Entei, or a cute girly outfit
like Raichu? What are the main details you need to show for the character
to come through? Take Pikachu for example. For a Pika costume, you absolutely
must have yellow ears with black tips, red cheeks, a yellow lightning-bolt
tail, and a yellow base outfit. How you put these details together is
completely up to you. Remember that any non-human character will need
to be stylized or anthropomorphized, since you have to base it around
your own human proportions. Some girls do frilly dresses with the details, others do swimsuits. I've even seen some cosplayers who base the critter around a ballgown. There are lots of options!
Depending on where you plan to wear your costume, you should
pick something that people will recognize. If you're going to an anime/comic
convention, there's a chance that at least one person will recognize
obscure characters. But many people aren't going to know exactly who you're
supposed to be unless they're a hardcore fan of the series. Let's put
it this way: chances are, many people will recognize that you're a Sailor
Scout, but they might not realize that you're specificially "Ultimate
Sailor Jupiter". When I was Raichu, quite a few people called me
Pikachu - they knew the Pokemon part, but that was about it. Everyone
knew who Team Rocket was, just as everyone's going to recognize a well-costumed
Inuyasha or Yu-Gi-Oh or Naruto (but maybe not the minor characters from
the series). Chances are, they'll at least get the series right. Don't
be offended if they completely screw it up, though (I once had someone
think my Radical Edward costume was supposed to be Misty). If you make
a costume well, people will like the craftsmanship even if they don't
know exactly who you're supposed to be.
There are two schools of thought about cosplaying - one group
likes to dress as popular characters because they'll be easily recognized.
The other group prefers obscure or minor characters because their costume
will be unique. There are usually many people cosplaying as the same popular
character (especially if they have an easy-to-make costume) at any given
convention - and many of these are poorly put together. Keep in mind that what's popular now won't be as popular in two years - series tend to fall in and out of favor with the anime community. While there were scores of Inuyasha cosplayers a few years ago, their numbers have dwindled. If you really like a character who's insanely popular now, you may wish to wait on the costume for a few years until the fandom cools a bit if you want your costume to stand out more. In any case, it's okay if you're
not the only one of a certain character, but you'll have to work harder
to make your costume stand out. How do you do this? Accessories and props.
Accessories and props can turn an unremarkable cosplay into an eye-catching one. The difference between an okay costume and a great
one is attention to detail in every aspect - not only the outfit and hair, but also the items that your character carries. People commented that our Team Rocket outfits
were great because James had the rose and Jessie was carrying Meowth.
Any detail you can add to your costume is great, just so long as it fits
the character. Make the details as real as you can - if there's a better
way than using duct tape and cardboard, do it (even if it takes extra
time). It will make your outfit look much better.
When you decide to make a cosplay, don't half-heartedly
make it. Go the extra step and make the costume as close to the character
as possible. It's very easy to go down the path of "it's good enough"
and do sloppy cosplay, but costumes that are thrown together never
look good. While you might have a few basic pieces that you already
had lying around (like a pair of boots or a shirt), you should specifically
get the parts of your costume with the character design in mind. What
I'm saying is, you shouldn't just go through your closet and pull out
clothes that kinda-sorta-not really look like the character and use them
unaltered. You honestly won't look like you're wearing a costume. On a
similar note, your entire costume should not be bought off-the-rack at
One more thing, and I can't stress this enough: excellent
cosplayers dress for their body type! You can dress as anyone you
like, but remember that skimpy outfits don't look good on everyone. However,
anyone can look good in the right style of costume. This may mean altering the original design somewhat (lengthening a micro-mini skirt, altering a character design to cover a bare midriff, raising a plunging neckline, etc). It's better to have a not-100%-accurate cosplay than to wear a costume that is unflattering on you.
As far as crossplaying goes (dressing as a character of the opposite gender), it is more socially acceptable for a girl to dress as a guy than for a guy to dress as a girl. If you're a female cosplaying as a male character, you can do either (1) a girl version of the character (such as a Mario outfit with a skirt rather than pants-overalls, long hair flowing beneath the hat, and no mustache), or (2) the actual male character (such as Mario with the overalls, mustache, hair tucked under the hat, etc.). If you're a male cosplaying as a female character, you can do either (1) as convincing as possible, or (2) a joke cosplay (such as Sailor Bubba or Man-Faye). If you'd like to see what I mean by "joke cosplay", Google for one of those two below:
Girls wanting to do a convincing female-to-male crossplay may need to bind down prominent feminine attributes (depending on how naturally curvy you are). Guys wanting to do an accurate male-to-female cosplay will need to add padding in strategic areas and wear makeup. Cosplay.com's Crossplay board is an excellent resource for these kind of techniques. No matter how good a male-to-female cosplay is, however, there are going to be people who give you dirty looks and make rude comments. Our culture seems to have an issue with, as Arnold would put it, "girly men". Be warned that you may meet with bad vibes, especially if you decide to crossplay at an event attended by lots of children and their parents. If you have any doubts, it's better to try a same-gender cosplay.
Materials and Making Accessories
Sewing Costumes and Putting Outfits Together
- Large sheets/blocks of thick foam can be sculpted into specific costume
pieces like Raichu's ears and tail. Use an electric kitchen knife for
the rough shaping, and smooth with sandpaper blocks. This is best painted
with several coats of spray paint. The foam acts like a sponge to absorb
acrylic paint, which means you'll be painting for a long time to get
the desired result. Acrylic paint used with foam will give
the item a hard, plastic-like surface that gets heavier with each coat of paint. A better technique is to coat the piece with a mixture of glue and water before painting, and mix liquid latex with your acrylic paint to make it more flexible.
- "Fun Foam" sheets in bright colors are great for flexible,
dimensional accessories. Entei's version 2 face was made by hot-gluing these
lightweight pieces to a fur-covered hockey mask. This worked much better
than the thick sculpted foam which couldn't wrap around the face. I used Fun Foam cutouts for the designs on my Hylian Shield as well, and they worked perfectly on the curved surface. Fun Foam comes in several thicknesses and a wide array of colors, which means that it doesn't need to be painted. You can cut the thin sheets with scissors and it's easily hot-glued to most surfaces.
- Sculpey/Fimo is great for making 3-D accessories than you just can't
find anywhere else. I've seen everything from Bakura's Millenium Ring
to Zelda's shoulder armor made with Sculpey. Great for "unique"
jewelry, but be sure to bake the jewelry findings directly into the clay. The baked clay will be heavy when you're finished, and it will break if it falls to the floor. It may also crack over time, and small delicate details may break off.
- Floral wire is a great way to make fabric "stand up". If
you need a sash or bow to stick straight out instead of flopping down,
try sewing a piece of floral wire in between layers of the fabric piece.
It will add some lightweight stability to your accessory. You can braid it together to create a thicker, heavier wire. Interfacing (either fusible - with glue on one side - or non-fusible) will also help certain costume pieces hold a shape. Heavyweight interfacing is great for things like belts and arm bracers, while the lighter weight can be used for more delicate things (like adding rigidity to a maid's apron or a headpiece).
- Take a leisurely walk through a Michael's, Jo-Ann's, Hobby Lobby,
or other craft store with your reference materials. Go through aisles
you'd normally skip, like the floral department. You might be surprised
what kind of ideas pop into your mind for replicating details.
- If you've got the cash, buy a Dremel. Your possibilities for costuming
materials will really open up when you realize that you can cut metal
and plastic more easily. Entei's feet were sculpted out with a Dremel
(where the shoes went). It's also what I used to cut the visor for 'Chu's
- Check out junk jewelry racks at flea markets. You might be able to find nice stones or jewelry bases for only a few bucks. Usually you find
earrings with the backs broken off - no problem if you just wanted the
stone on the front!
- Check ebay for patterns and accessories, especially strange things
like specific shoes that you might not find at your local Wal-mart.
Also a good place to find discontinued costume patterns (you'd be surprised
what kinds of patterns used to be available).
- If you're going to attach anything to your skin (mustaches, elf ears,
etc) go to a costume shop or website and purchase a bottle of Spirit
Gum. It's a very good adhesive designed for use on skin that is excellent
for attaching small prosthetics. Much better than using regular glue or super glue.
- As someone who's done both, wigs are far easier to deal with than
putting colored spray in your hair. Colored spray will rub off your
hair onto your costume, props, and friends. It may not wash out of your
hair right away (after using red spray in my hair, I was orange-headed
for the rest of the week). It takes quite a while to coat your hair,
and no matter how much you use, it won't completely mask your hair color.
Usually spray-in color looks uneven, dull, and it makes the hair limp.
Never mind that it's also smelly and messy, so you need to do all spraying
outdoors. A wig is much easier to put on and remove (especially if you
invest in a $5 wig cap), and it will enable you to switch characters
quickly. Of course, cheap wigs won't look very nice (particularly if
you don't store them well) so paying a little extra is worth it if you
plan to use the costume a lot. If you want an absolutely perfect-looking
wig, there are some cosplayers who can custom-style wigs for you. Keep
in mind, though, that this is very expensive and not necessary for a
good costume. The drawback to wigs is that they can hurt after prolonged
- When you design a prop for a costume, scale the size of the prop to yourself. Take a reference picture of the character holding the prop, and measure how large it is in relation to the character. For example, if the character carries a staff that is one head taller than he is, make the staff one head taller than yourself. If the character's shield is as tall as the distance from his feet to his knees, make that prop shield the same height on yourself.
Who Should I Be?
- If you're sewing a costume yourself, be sure to choose appropriate
fabric for the character. A rugged warrior wouldn't wear crushed velvet,
and a magical girl wouldn't wear broadcloth cotton. If your character
doesn't wear shiny clothes, don't make their outfit out of shiny satin.
Bridal satin (or Jo-Ann Fabrics' Casa Satin) is easier to sew, has better drape, and doesn't have the glare that baroque satin does. A good rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. Pay a
little more for nicer fabric (or better yet, wait for it to be on sale
or use a coupon) rather than "making do" with cheaper fabric
that will shred, wrinkle excessively, or be transparent. Slippery fabric can be very difficult to cut, pin, and sew.
Here are a few examples of what NOT to do (repeat: these are costuming no-nos):
- Royal princess gown out of broadcloth cotton
- Ninja gear out of crushed velvet
- Jedi out of shiny satin
Smaller fabric stores don't carry the same kind of fabrics year-round, so you may have to do your shopping when the correct "season" for your fabric comes around. For example, there are more frilly, delicate bridal satins in the stores in the spring/summer (Prom and bridal season). Halloween-looking fabric arrives in fabric stores around late August. Holiday fabrics (red velvets and trims) are only available around November. It's a good idea to have your costume in mind well before you need it completed, because that "gotta-have-it" fabric just might not be in stores near convention season.
- If you have a fabric that shreds at the edges (most fabrics do), go
over all your cut edges with Fray-Check (which can be found in most
craft stores). Be sure to test it on a scrap piece of fabric first,
because it may leave a stain. I usually Fray-Check all the cut edges
of a costume after I've sewn the seams. This will also cut down on loose
- Hem the edges of your costumes! Unless the edges are supposed to look
tattered (a battle-scarred warrior, a creeping zombie, a necromancer,
etc), you should always hem your costumes. This will give your costumes
a finished look, and keep loose strings from the edges of your outfit.
Even the best costume will start to look scraggly after a while if you
don't have the edges finished. Yes, it does take extra time, but it
will complete the costume and preserve its quality.
- If your costume is white or pastel, make sure you have flesh-toned
underthings. A white bra under a transparent white shirt will look like
it glows in the dark. Even if you can't see anything through your clothes, a camera flash might make your undergarments visible - always take several flash photos of the complete costume before you attend a public event. Anything tan, beige, or even light pink stands a better chance of
disappearing under thin, light colored fabric. Being able to see things
under a costume is just tacky.
- Don't wear sneakers with an elaborate costume! This glaring
mistake has been spotted everywhere from Renaissance Festivals to Anime
Conventions. This is one of the worst things you can do to a costume
- all your hard work will be overlooked because your shoes are completely
wrong. People will notice the incongruity rather than the rest of the
costume. Could you imagine a beautiful bride wearing old running shoes
with her gown? If you can't find anything that looks right for the character,
wearing black dress shoes or boots will almost always look better than
dirty white tennis shoes.
- Know your limitations. I tried and tried to make Jessie's gravity-defying
hairstyle, but it didn't work. Finally I gave up and just wore a red
wig, and you know what? Nobody insulted me for it, nobody gave me a
hard time because I couldn't do the impossible. Then I saw Pokemon
Live!, a stage production with a decent budget, and even they couldn't
make the hairstyle work. Let's face it - no matter how good your costume
is, you will not look exactly like a character. Some body types, hairstyles,
and even outfits are impossible in the real world. Remember that you
can't change the laws of physics for an anime costume. Just do your
- Put effort into costume-making. Try to make your costume look exactly like the reference picture. This will probably involve having a good quality wig, sewing (rather than finding) most of your costume pieces, and spending extra money. Attention to detail separates average cosplays from awesome ones.
- Take a good look at other people's costumes in person. Don't be afraid
to ask how they made certain parts. Photographs usually don't do costumes
justice, and you can't see every angle or how the outfit was constructed.
If you get the chance, attend at least one anime convention to see the
incredible outfits that people come up with - that's worth the price
of admission for someone interested in cosplay.
- Your first attempt at a particular costume doesn't have to be the final product. You can always return to a project you weren't satisfied with and redo parts (or the entire thing) as you learn more costuming techniques.
Most of my Link costume was redone or modified after its initial debut: belt loops were added to the tunic, the white shirt and leggings were replaced with spandex equivalents, the scabbard was repainted, the gloves were redone completely, and new elf ears and earrings were purchased.
Wearing Your Costume
- If you want people to notice you, wearing a costume is going to attract more attention than just dressing like a character. For a convention, it's
usually better to select a character who wears unusual clothes than
one who looks "normal". If you're dressing like a character (rather than wearing a costume), some people might not even notice that you're cosplaying. Let's use "Chobits" as an
example: you will recognize Chi, Freya, or Sumomo (Plum) because of
their unique hair and clothing, but you're not going to notice a Hideki
or other Persocom owner since they look like ordinary people. Unusual outfits stand out.
- Some people try to find characters who look like themselves to cosplay
as. While there's nothing wrong with this, you should also choose a
character that you like. If you see a picture of a character whose costume
you like, do a little research. Watch the anime or play the game that
this character appeared in. Visit a few fan-created websites for the
character to learn more about them.
- It's okay if you look nothing like the character you wish to cosplay
as. That's what they make wigs for.
- It's better to model your costume after an official character rather
than someone from fanfiction.
- Original costumes can be beautifully done, but people may not photograph
you as much as if you did an official anime character. Part of this
might stem from embarrassment - if they don't know your character, they
might be too shy to ask who you are.
- If you're looking to dress as a character that is recognizable but
not overdone, here are a few suggestions:
- Anime is expensive. A lot of people watch the ones that are aired
on TV rather than buying boxed sets. Aside from the obvious Sailor
Moon and Dragon Ball series, people have a better chance to recognize
a series that was (or is) on Adult Swim or Kids' WB/FoxBox (kid
cartoons) lineups. These series include Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop,
Inuyasha, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Card Captors, One Piece, Full Metal Alchemist, Naruto, Bleach, and others.
- Manga is also expensive. People are most likely to recognize either
very popular series (such as Chobits or Death Note) or stories serialized in a
subscription publication like Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat (Naruto,
One Piece, Yu Yu Hakusho, Hikaru no Go, Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh,
- You can also choose a character from a video game. Again, the
most popular series and main characters are the most easily recognized.
What you may wish to do is hunt down a list (I think there was one
on IGN) of the top 100 games of all time according to game fans,
or fan-favorite games, something like that. These are going to be
more recognizable than something really obscure. Characters who
appear in many games are more recognizable than one-shot characters
- the cast from Super Smash Bros. Melee, the Street Fighter series
(and spinoffs like the Capcom vs. games), Final Fantasy characters who also appear in Kingdom Hearts, etc.
- Another idea is to choose a less-common character from a well-known
series. Maybe one of the villains or a sidekick who isn't cosplayed
as much as the heroes. This also might help you get into some photos
with a group of people dressed as the rest of the cast. You will see the main characters cosplayed a lot, so why not select someone less well-known? You can also do an alternate costume for one of the main characters. Again, you'll get a better response if you use something official from the series rather than a fan art interpretation. You might not be as recognizable away from the main characters, however.
- Make sure your costume is moderately comfortable! Maybe those 6"
stiletto heels are great for your costume, but can you walk in them?
If you go to a convention in a nice-looking costume, you will be asked
to pose for lots of pictures. How long can you stand to wear the outfit?
Comfy shoes are a must - many of my costumes have tennis shoes built
into the feet. Make sure you can sit in the costume if you're wearing
it for a lengthy cosplay event (I learned this lesson the hard way).
Is it an ordeal to use the restroom? Be sure you can get to a restroom in time if your costume takes a while to remove. Make sure you can breathe - don't
wear a costume piece that's just a little too tight, because it will
become unbearable after a few hours. Can you move easily in the costume,
or are you constantly banging into people? Make sure you can see while
wearing your costume, or have a "handler" to help you down steps and escalators.
There is nothing wrong with wearing a hard-to-move-in or uncomfortable
costume, but you should only wear it for set amounts of time (like a
masquerade contest) and have something more comfortable for your "traveling
around the con" outfit.
- If you're attending a multi-day convention out of town, make sure you take some time out of costume to enjoy the convention itself. You won't be able to shop and look around freely if you're spending all your time posing for photos. It might be a good idea to set aside one whole day (or parts of several days) to enjoy the con itself without cosplaying. You don't have to be in costume the whole time! "Disguise" yourself in civilian clothes when you want to attend panels or do some shopping. You will completely disappear (like a ninja!).
- Be sure that your costume is ironed before you wear it! Certain fabrics
like cheap satin or 100% cotton will wrinkle horribly if they're stored
or laundered (or even transported from your closet to the con). If you're going to an out-of-town convention, many hotels have small
irons and ironing boards in the rooms. If not, you may ask at the hotel
front desk if they have one to lend you, or bring your own from home.
In any case, you won't look good if you don a wrinkly costume. The night before, prepare what you're going to wear the next day - ironing, wig styling, etc.
- Buy a hot glue gun. These are invaluable for holding just about anything
together. The glue dries quickly and is very durable on most materials.
It also works well for "quick fixes" if something should break
mid-convention. Don't leave home in a costume without it! A hot glue gun should NOT be the primary method of holding your costume together, though - heat will cause the glue to melt, which might leave your costume in pieces before you even get to the con.
- If you wear a costume, especially a nice-looking one, you will be
asked to pose for pictures. Be gracious and pose for photos unless you
have a good reason not to (you're meeting someone, you are late for
an event or panel, you are legitimately busy, you need to use the restroom,
etc). If you must leave, do not be rude about it. You may ask the photographers
to find you at a certain spot later. Remember that people who want to
photograph you are paying you a compliment. If you are really shy and
can't stand getting attention, you would do better to not dress up. If you want to "escape" for a little while, just go back to your hotel room and change into normal clothes.
- Do not be a drama queen. Do not be obnoxious about anyone else's costume
and props - if they're better than yours, if they're not as good as
yours, if you think you could have done a nicer job, whatever. Keep
your comments to yourself, at least until you are out of the cosplayer's
earshot. Do not make a scene if someone else is dressed as the same
character as you. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and
even a poorly-made costume took time, effort, and money to build. Nobody
is born knowing how to make perfect costumes, and most people will improve
over time. Be respectful towards everyone, because acting out is only
going to make you look bad. If you cause a scene or drama, you may find yourself known as "that psycho _____ cosplayer". Remember that dressing up in a costume takes
a certain amount of bravery, and ultimately, everyone looks a little
silly (even those in "perfect" costumes).
- If you are cosplaying and you see someone else dressed as the same character as you, take a look at what they did differently on their costume. Maybe you'll notice a detail you missed or a technique you can try to improve your own costume. Try not to act resentful that they're "stealing your idea" of a costume - just remember that they probably love the same character/series as you.
- Be respectful of others' costumes and props. If you're going to do
a mock battle scene with another cosplayer, treat their costume and
accessories as if they were your own. Do not hit their weapons/accessories
with any strength - just pose to make the "battle" look good for show. Do not touch anything
that is not yours without permission!
- Cosplay means "costume play", and I've always found it to
be more fun if you act like the character you're dressed as when you're posing for photos. When you're being photographed, do facial expressions and poses
that are appropriate for the character. If the character has a bubbly
personality, it would look strange to see them looking angry or sullen.
Likewise, a brooding, evil villain would look silly with a pleasant
grin (although a gloating laugh would look just fine). Be sure to check
promotional posters, game manuals, anime/manga covers, artbooks, and
official artwork of the character you're cosplaying to get some inspiration
for poses. Silly poses are okay, but the truly best photographs from any convention involve cosplayers acting like the characters they're representing - as if the anime or game characters were there in real-life.
- Cross-genre pictures can be fun, especially if everyone is in-character. I've gotten a lot of positive comments about the Princess Peach vs. Sephiroth battle picture from EPAC. No, they'd probably never battle in any game. But what if they did? It can be a fun way to blend series together that would never meet in real life. You can have a lot of fun with this.
- It's possible to lose track of time while you're cosplay at a convention.
Make sure you eat enough real food (Pocky doesn't count) and drink lots and lots of water throughout the day. I learned this the hard way when I nearly had heat stroke during Comic-con. I hadn't eaten much of anything and I didn't drink enough water the day before, and I almost collapsed in the San Diego heat. I missed almost a full day of the con to recover. Don't let this happen to you! Always carry water and some kind of snack with you - granola bars, PowerBars, trail mix - something you can eat on the run. If you begin to feel faint or overheated, sit down and remove your wig and gloves, and get some water to drink (lukewarm water is better than ice cold in a situation like this).
Photographing and Interacting with Cosplayers
- Useful Info for Everyone
- Ask permission before touching a cosplayer. Some people find it creepy
when random strangers give them hugs or prod at their outfit. Some cosplayers
prefer their outfits not be touched, especially if there are fragile
parts like wings or spikes. You may ask for hugs/whatever, but respect the cosplayer's wishes. If they say no, then no touchy.
- Be respectful of anything that is not yours. Ask permission before
holding or touching any prop. Be gentle with accessories as they took
the owner time and money to put together. Do not battle with someone
else's prop sword! It usually ends in tears or swearing.
- Don't insult someone's costume. Don't insult someone's looks (as in, "You're too fat to be Tifa" or "You're not cute enough to be Sakura"). The Golden Rule - "treat others as you would like to be treated" - is very useful here. Maybe you think the cosplayer doesn't look good. So what? Is insulting them going to change anything? You'll only make yourself look like a jerk, and hurt the cosplayer's feelings. If someone specifically asks for a critique (online, for example), remember that constructive criticism is far more effective than meanness and insults.
For example, "The sash should be the same color as the belt, and the hem looks uneven on the left side." is better than "MY EYES!!!!!" or "Did you even LOOK at a reference picture?"
- Cosplay is art. Art is subjective. Everyone has a different opinion of what a good costume is.
- Feel free to ask questions, but realize that some cosplayers don't
enjoy giving interviews. If they brush you off, accept that they might
be tired or busy, and leave them be.
- Request a cosplayer's permission to take their photo. You will probably
get a better pose that way. Also, respect the cosplayer's wishes if
they do not wish to be photographed for any reason. You never know, they may really need a bathroom break or a drink of water. Would you want to deny them that?
- Cosplayers are people too. It can be easy to forget that they are
not paid to dress up, and they do it purely for fun. As a result, they
may not feel like "acting" the character after a long day
of dressing up. Remember that they want to enjoy the convention too.
A convention is not Disneyland.
Useful Websites for Cosplay
The Big 3 Cosplay Sites
- a great site to order unique fabrics. I found the velour for Raichu
in lots of colors, the price was good, and it shipped quickly. They're
adding all kinds of new stuff, plus you can order swatches of fabric
first to make sure you get what you really want. The site is easy to
navigate and gives lots of detail on fabric (including stretch, if any).
They've got fabric here that I've never seen at Jo-Ann's, including
a nice selection of fur.
Inc. - the best site I've found yet for multiple sizes of "flat
marbles" or "glass gems". Lots of colors, shapes, and
sizes. Even though it's a wholesale site, there is no ordering minimum
and the prices are very low. Lots of mosaic supplies that would double
as jewelry accents for costumes. They also have a nice selection of
beads in semi-precious stones like amethyst and turquoise.
- Aradanic Costumes - offers seven different styles of realistic-looking prosthetic elf ears, plus elven jewelry.
- Theatrical Shop Online Store - A good online resource for theatrical makeup in all different colors. The items arrived about a week after ordering.
- Gloves-Online - A great selection for all kinds of costume gloves of varying styles and materials - particularly if you're looking for Full Metal Alchemist military uniform gloves. The prices are reasonable, and the items arrived about a week after ordering.
- list of anime conventions from Cosplay.com - lists the biggest conventions
- list of anime conventions from AC Paradise - includes a lot of smaller
cons as members can upload information for new conventions
- Cosplay.com: the internet's largest cosplay site
- Open to males and females of all ages
- Worldwide membership
- Upload as many photos as you like per costume, including in-progress
photos. Photos aren't screened beforehand, so you may see inappropriate
pictures unless they are reported and removed.
- Large forums and galleries, but it can be difficult to find what
you're looking for - there are a ton of in-progress photos, so finding
good, finished costumes is a bit more difficult. The galleries are
updated almost every minute with new photos.
- Comments available for all photos
- Photos appear as soon as you upload them
- Photos can be sorted into galleries for easier viewing
- Any type of costumes are allowed
- Photos aren't grouped by series or character, so searching for a specific character can be tedious
if pictures are mislabeled or misspelled
- Photos must be 300kb or smaller
- Can also upload 5 non-cosplay photos
- Owns Cosworx, an online cosplay supply store that sells wigs,
boots, ears, shoes, etc.
Rose's Cosplay.com Page
- Cosplay Lab: the internet's second-largest cosplay site
- Open to males and females of all ages
- Photos must be taken in a public setting (photoshoot, convention,
etc) - no bedroom/house pictures allowed. Site defines cosplay as
costumes worn in public
- Most types of costumes are allowed, but there are restrictions
- if it doesn't fit into one of their categories (anime, game, sci-fi,
fantasy, etc), it isn't allowed. Reference pictures are recommended
(and required for certain genres).
- Nothing hentai- or yaoi-related is allowed here
- Photos must be 80kb or smaller, 600px by 450px, in JPG or GIF
- Limit of one photo per costume
- Only costumes updated within the last 30 days will be visible
to the public
- Site offers a Proshop where you can purchase theatrical contact
- Upgraded memberships with extra features are available for $12
- American Cosplay Paradise: the internet's third-largest cosplay site
- Membership available to males and females of all ages, but only
females aged 16 or older may upload photos
- Membership limited to American (Canada, US, Mexico, South America)
- Costumes must be anime- or video game-related
- All photos must be approved by the site admins
- New/updated costumes for the last week are listed on the front
- Photos are sorted by series and character when uploaded, so database is easy to browse
- Comments available for all photos
- Photos can be in JPG format only
- Limit of 3 photos per costume
- "Sandbox" area where you can upload any 3 photos you
like (in-progress, non-cosplay, references, etc)
- Must have two completed costumes before cosplayer page is displayed
- Upgraded memberships with extra features are available for a one-time
donation of $20
Rose's AC Paradise Page
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