Cosplay 101

So you’ve seen those lovely people at the cons dressed as your favorite character. You’ve admired their craftsmanship. You’ve even asked for a photo with them. Then you told yourself that at that next con, you’re totally going to make that Halo/Spider-Man/Thrall costume you’ve always wanted to do.

So now what?

The first piece of advice I can give is this: DO NOT WAIT until the last minute. Try to start planning what you want to do as early as you can, so you don’t end up so worn out from late nights of no sleep that you couldn’t possibly wear that awesome outfit. Also, it ensures that the chances of making any mods due to design or comfort are of good quality when you’re not rushed. Not to mention that if ordering anything made for you, it might be busier during Con season and you don’t want to discover that while you’ve got everything for that costume, you’re stuck with the wrong sword because the replica one you ordered didn’t get to you in time.


Figure out your budget. There’s TONS of websites that offer help in building stuff or ordering a costume. Also keep in mind your crafting abilities and don’t be afraid to ask friends or other cosplay enthusiasts for help. Personally, I can barely sew a straight line, so I usually ask friends for help when doing anything involving a sewing machine. Also look into your local costume/halloween stores. Thrift stores can be a great place to look too!


Not everyone thinks of this, but this is a big one: FIGURE OUT HOW YOU WILL USE THE RESTROOM. If you think you can just ‘hold it’ all day, you will be miserable and risk an accident. There’s already that con stench in the air and you don’t want to add to it. Seriously, figure this out during your planning. It also helps to make sure you can sit/eat/drink in the costume. (Added bonus of figuring out pockets too. There’s many ways to disguise a fanny pack. Armor also can hold a lot of stuff.)


Regardless of your cosplay, comfortable shoes are a MUST. You will be standing all day, for long periods of time. You will also be posing. Your feet will thank you at the end of the day. Some ladies can wear heels all day and be fine. I personally would be crying by the second hour. I usually like to find a pair of sneakers or low-heeled boots to wear and break those in before the con. Blisters and foot pain will put you in a bad mood.


IT’S OKAY if you’re not spot on perfect. We geeks are a pretty accepting bunch. Some folks are insistent on being the total embodiment of whatever character they’re dressed as. I personally like to find a few key poses for whoever I’m dressing up as. I also like to try to take on a few personality traits. Acting like a total goofball might work for Deadpool, but not so much for Superman, y’know?

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BE NICE TO THE KIDS!! Children attend these cons, see their heroes leaping off the page/screen and don’t always know how to act. They get scared, shy, totally excited, or might explode into tears. I always offer hi-fives or hugs to kids. I’ve also been asked for autographs as that character. But if you’re dressing up as Batman, don’t scar that little kid for life by being mean. To them, you *are* that character.


HANDLERS! If your costume is bulky or skimpy, you may want to have a friend with you who is willing to help you out. At the cons I go to, my husband handles this job for me beautifully. He helps direct traffic so those taking pics don’t get in trouble with Con security. He holds my stuff if need be. He has no issue telling folks to hurry up because I need to pee/eat/get to that panel or whatever. A lot of the female cosplayers I know tend to utilize a handler more than the guys, but it’s also a safety thing for the cosplayers.


There’s that whole ‘Cosplay is not consent’ thing that’s been taking all the cons by storm. If you have a photographer asking strange stuff or wanting to do things you don’t want to, you don’t have to say yes. If a fellow congoer is getting grabby with you, ask them to stop. Handlers come in handy for this too. The policies are different for each con, so be sure to check those out.

Weapons? CHECK! If your costume requires some kind of weapon, make sure it follows whatever safety regulations the con has. Don’t bring real guns/swords/proton packs to the con. SAFETY FIRST! If it can be used to actually harm someone, chances are you won’t be allowed to carry it around with you. If you’re not sure if it’s safe, ask any of the cosplay groups out there. If you’re still not sure, leave it at home. No one wants to have their con experience ruined because they got injured because of someone’s weapon.


It’s not a bad idea to carry a small ‘emergency kit’ of stuff you might need. I usually keep safety pins, fashion tape, Powder compact, makeup setting spray, and those teeny toothbrush things with the pick on the end in mine. You can also buy pre-made kits to start and then mod it to your specific needs. Some cons have ‘cosplay emergency’ booths, but not all of them do.

Please remember to FEED YOURSELF and STAY HYDRATED. Yeah, sometimes those drinks can be expensive, but heat stroke or fainting due to not eating is nothing to scoff at. Remember before how I’d suggested finding a way to go to the bathroom in your costume? Don’t forget to eat too, as you will be burning a lot of calories looking awesome. Hunger can also make you cranky. Pack along some granola bars at the very least.


But above all, HAVE FUN! You’re in your costume, comfortable, and now people will be asking YOU for pictures! The biggest problem I run into after a con is I get inspired by other people’s craftsmanship and then I want to start working on other characters. This may happen to you as well. That’s totally okay. You’re also going to meet new people and possibly start networking for either groups to cosplay a theme or else new friends to help you make your next costume.


Do you have any other tips for cosplayers? Any dreams/wishlists of cosplays you want to do? Please share!