by RJ Metcalf
Realm Makers is sixty six days away; you know you want to dress up and cosplay, but you have no idea where to start. Breathe. We can get through this.
This post will go over a few points of cosplay and costuming: Why cosplay, logistics to consider, accessories and creativity.
Why are you who you are?
First, what is your purpose for cosplaying? Are you wanting to dress up as a specific character that you enjoy, or because you know you have the attitude to pull them off? Are you dressing up as a character from your own story, either because you simply love that character or for the purpose of advertising your story? Or are you dressing up because, let’s face it, it’s fun and adults don’t get to walk around town in costumes on a regular basis. Phooey.
My husband and I prefer to dress up as characters whose body types we can pull off. We’re fairly average for our height and weight, so we know we can’t dress up as Sig and Izumi Curtis from Full Metal Alchemist, because Sig is tall and muscular, and Izumi is petite and fit. We don’t look anything remotely like them! But with hair dye, distinctive blue uniforms and a few key accessories to identify us, we can pull off Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye. (which is good, because we love them dearly and they are the perfect couple!)
Decide if you want to pull off a cosplay as accurately as possible–in which case you’ll need to consider details such as body type and physical abilities, or, if you’re dressing up just for the fun of it, think of what important wardrobe pieces you’ll need to blatantly identify yourself.
Cosplay: Logistics Division
Factor in how much time you have to pull your costume together. At this moment in time, I have sixty six days until Realm Makers. In that time, I need to still be a wife, mommy, seamstress and writer. So I really don’t have much time to dedicate to cosplay. Before I was a mommy, I would decide what I wanted to do and would sew together an Amestrian uniform three weeks from con. Now I have significantly more calendar time, but I’m wondering if I have enough time to sew a quick half corset between now and then. How much time can you spare for costuming?
How are you traveling to the convention? Remember that clothes wrinkle, and who knows if we’ll have an iron available to press those out! If you’re traveling by air, you’ll want everything to condense fairly easily, without huge props that need to be packed up somehow.
What threads do you already have?
With these initial questions in mind, spend some time with your closet. What do you already have that could be easily turned into a closet cosplay? Pick a basic article of clothing that you want to use as your foundation: a pair of pants, a snazzy top, a hat or pair of boots, or whatever strikes your fancy.
For example, when my husband and I started dressing up steampunk, his outfit base was a gray vest. From there we built it up with a pair of black pants, a white button up shirt, and black boots. Everything was already in the closet. We made it notably steampunk by accessorizing with a black top hat, a pair of steampunk goggles and a pocket watch. Every year that we dress up, we add something more to it. This year we got cuff links. Next year, maybe a weapon.
Do you have khaki or brown pants? A loose fitting top or robe that could be paired with it? Add a belt and a lightsaber to become a Jedi.
A pair of black slacks with a matching black suit jacket, shiny shoes (or maybe a pair of Chucks) and some sunglasses could turn a person into a spy or an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Let’s kick this up a notch. Suppose you have most the pieces needed for something, but are missing the right pants, or a robe or that perfect belt. Start checking the local thrift stores! Go to Goodwill or a 99 cent store and look for random nick nacks that can be changed into something. I’ve seen folks make some pretty impressive Skyrim cosplays- and they used shagged bathroom rugs for their fur. Be creative!
Sometimes the perfect wizard robe is just waiting for someone to pick it up and declare themselves a Weasley. Or a pair of boots that could become the foundation for a ground personnel working for the Rebel Alliance. Or a pirate hat that can transform those dark pants, loose shirt and vest in the closet into a rascally pirate.
All those shiny bits.
This leads into another important topic to keep in mind with costuming: accessories.
Think of the character you want to dress up as. What sticks out about them? Do they have their hair rolled into two buns on the side of their head? Do they lean on a staff with a crystal on top, have a long gray beard, pointy hat? Do they wear feathers in their hair? Do they wear shiny red slippers? Do they have a red stripe running down the side of their pants? Those little details can be all that’s needed to transform your outfit from something out of the closet to something amazing that you strut in.
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with accessories. I love how they make an outfit pop, how they draw everything together cohesively, how some pieces have fascinating stories from whence they came. I also hate how easy it is for me to misplace them and how finding that one perfect piece is impossible when it’s a week before con.
Some outfits thrive on accessories.
Steampunk, for example, thrives on all the belts, pouches, the fancy weapons, the gloves, the hats, the pocket watches, the goggles, etc. But all Molly Weasley needs is red hair, a wand, and to talk about whatever it is that her children have done this time at Hogwarts. For those that dress more historically, the shoes, the width of the collar and tie, the hemline, the hairstyle and, if applicable, makeup, will be the accessories focused on.
Last year’s gardening jeans are this year’s steampunk skirt!
Re-purpose what you have. If there’s a shirt or a dress that you never wear anymore, but it has some aspects useful for your costume, cut it up! Sew on whatever it needs! Get some iron-on patches, paint, whatever it needs to be transformed into what you’re envisioning.
If you know how to sew and have time for it, design and make what you need for your costume! There is something incredibly satisfying about wearing what you have made; all the more so when people ask where you got it and you get to tell them you created it.
Have fun with it.
Cosplaying is meant to be fun, to be enjoyed. Not something that makes you want to rip your hair out the night before you leave for con. (Unless you forgot that your character needs two swords and now you need to skip sleeping so you can hastily make them. Then some hair ripping may be necessary.)
Hopefully this will get ideas percolating in your brain. If you have questions or comments, feel free to drop a message my way. And in the meantime, as you decide what you’re going to do for the con, may the odds be ever in your favor.