5 Essential Cosplay Tips for Beginners

Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver at Batma'am at San Diego Comic-Con 2011
Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver at Batma'am at San Diego Comic-Con 2011
Shannon Cottrell

See also:

*"Kit Quinn and Tallest Silver: The Great Pretenders"

*"14 Essential Items to Bring to Every Fan Convention"

Every once in a while, I think I might try my hand at cosplay. I'll read a comic book or watch an old TV show and get an idea for a great costume. Sometimes, I'll message one of my friends that we really need to get together a group to re-create Bewitched or Wacky Races or whatever other retro show I'm obsessing over at the moment. For a few days, I'm ready to face the challenge of making a costume so ridiculous that it can't be bought.

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But then I start to think about how much time this project will take and how much of a pain it will be to have to transform myself into someone else before hitting the convention floor. And, let's face it, there's a certain level of awkwardness that comes from interviewing people while dressed as Cousin Serena or Penelope Pitstop.

Regardless, there's always a thought that, maybe someday, I'll show up somewhere in costume. With that in mind, I turned to some cosplayers I know for advice. Here's what they told me.

Adventure Time cosplayers at WonderCon.
Adventure Time cosplayers at WonderCon.
Liz Ohanesian

5. Don't be intimidated.

When you look through photos of cosplayers posted on sites like Deviant Art and Cosplay.com, it's easy to get intimidated. There are people who have turned cosplay into a serious art form, complete with detailed costumes, elaborate hair and makeup and gorgeous, posed photos. But not everyone has pursued the hobby with this level of intensity.

If you go to a convention, you'll see a lot of different types of costumes, from store-bought to homemade, from simple to complex. Some people aim to look as much like the character they're portraying as possible. Others don't. It's all a matter of personal choice.

"The key to not being intimidated by cosplay is to remember, it's just for fun," says Kit Quinn, who was featured in this year's L.A. Weekly People Issue along with pal Tallest Silver.  "This is a hobby by geeks, for geeks, and enjoyed with geeks.  We're not doing this for anyone else."

4. Use lightweight material for your props.

There are times when a costume isn't complete without props. Conventions typically have guidelines for any kind of prop that could be perceived as a weapon (always check the convention website before you attend) and real weapons aren't allowed on-site. But, what I've often wondered is how people get around all weekend hauling massive pieces of equipment.

"When traveling with props, the biggest help you can give yourself, is making the material light," says Ashphord "Ashi-Chan" Jacoway of the group Chocolate Covered Cosplay. Jacoway says materials such as foam and lightweight plastics and woods are a lot easier to transport. "Plus foam is great for not hurting the people who are walking in the crowd," she adds.

 

Ashphord "Ashi-Chan" Jacoway shows off her superhero powers at San Diego Comic-Con.
Ashphord "Ashi-Chan" Jacoway shows off her superhero powers at San Diego Comic-Con.
Shannon Cottrell

3. Pack efficiently.

You've spent months of time and way too much money working on a costume that is now pretty close to perfect. How do you get that costume to the convention without ruining it?

"If you have large pieces, try to make them so that they can break down for easy packing," says my pal Bailey Dukes, who has been cosplaying for 12 years.

"Be good at Tetris," Quinn advises. "If you're driving to a con, you're probably doing it with a bunch of people, so learn to utilize the small pockets in your car or the area above seat backs, but leave room for the driver to see."

Planes create a whole other world of potential problems, given the rules for carry-on luggage and the extra expense for checked suitcases. "I haven't yet encountered anything that I can't check onto a plane, but it's highly possible that they might open your bag, so make sure to pack everything carefully with bubble wrap if needed," Dukes says. "If it's odd or large, you may want to invest in shipping it to your hotel ahead of time."

Both Quinn and Dukes suggest making a list of everything you will pack for the convention, whether or not it pertains your costume.

2. Don't forget the extras.

If you're going to wear a costume, you need to be prepared for any potential costume-related disaster. In my previous post on convention essentials, cosplayer Ginger Burton of Chocolate Covered Cosplay recommends bringing a sewing kit, just in case something rips.

As for keeping your costume clean during the convention, Dukes recommends inserting sweat guards to keep the funk at bay and also suggests using Febreze to freshen up the costume.

Also, Dukes reminds cosplayers to make sure you have the right undergarments for your costume. If a hanging bra strap is going to ruin your look, take care to make sure that doesn't happen.

 

San Diego Comic-Con 2011
San Diego Comic-Con 2011
Shannon Cottrell

1. Never mind the critics and creepers.

Wearing a great costume at a convention will make you stand out from the crowd, even if the crowd is also dressed in their geekiest finery. Sometimes the attention is good, like when people want to pose for photos with you. Sometimes the attention is not so good, like when that photo ends up the butt of some bad joke that travels across the Internet.

"You are going to get comments, stares, etc., and some of them may be uncomfortable or hurtful," Dukes says. "My best advice is to learn to ignore it, grow a thick skin. Don't feed into any taunting, because that's what they want."

"I try to remember, they're not one of us," says Quinn of naysayers, "and if there's anything we know about humanity, it's that they fear what is different."

Sometimes, though, those nasty comments can come from people within the fan communities. "If it comes from someone in the community, it's sad," Quinn says. "I've come to realize that those people are in this hobby for the wrong reasons and aren't worth my effort."

On the other hand, some people are a little too interested in cosplayers. Convention attendees have often, and loudly, complained about people covertly photographing girls from behind and making lewd comments. If someone says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, speak up about it.

"If someone is being a creeper, tell them to back off and get to a public area if you're not in one," Dukes says. "Never be afraid to call security if you need to. They're there to help you."

Follow Liz Ohanesian on Twitter and Facebook. Also follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter and like us on Facebook.


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