Cosplay - Essential Tips For The Noob Attending Their First Convention


Whenever I see my kids rummage through the green toy box and pull out the Spider-man, Optimus Prime or dinosaur costumes I muse to myself that I should try my hand at cosplay. I've already got the oversized foam Incredible Hulk Hands, I've got black hair, my face looks naturally angry enough. I just need to get lots of green body paint and purple pants. Then I realise my abs are more suited to King Pin than Hulk... there's always someday. For those who have managed to retain their child-like pretend playfulness, here are some sage words from Jedi Master Yoda and experienced cosplayers (featured in L.A. Weekly People Issue ) for noobs making their convention debut:

Cosplay The Incredible Hulk
Cosplay The Incredible Hulk

Fear Is The Path To The Dark Side. Intimidated Be Not.

If you search your favourite social media site (particularly Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram) you'll find cosplayers that have taken costumes to an art form. The attention to detail given to costumes, makeup, their pose and persona can overwhelm your initial excitement to cosplay. Similarly, the photos that stand out on sites like Stars of Cosplay or  Deviant Art, are appropriately awesome and deserve your admiration. Rest assured that when you attend a convention, you will see costumes that range from just everyday clothes to off-the-store-rack outfits (like at Cosplay Go! Goggi) to the bespoke homemade. Whether you keep it cheap and simple or go for broke and imitate art, it's all a matter of choice when choosing your second self. Work with what you've got!

Padawan tip:
"The key to not being intimidated by cosplay is to remember, it's just for fun," -
Kit Quinn
"This is a hobby by geeks, for geeks, and enjoyed with geeks.  We're not doing this for anyone else." - Tallest Silver

But Beware Of The Dark Side. Strangers Will Touch. Prepare You Must.

If you've put together a brilliant cosplay people will want to interact with you. You will be photographed, asked to pose, asked to role play even when you're having a break, eating or in the restrooms! Fans may touch your outfit, bang on your armour or swing a broad sword at you forgetting that you're not really an immortal Scottish Highlander swordsman from sixteenth century Scotland. Even the meekest looking geek doesn't always treat cosplayers nicely.

You will be touched.

For female cosplayers being touched or asked to strike an awkward pose can quickly become overwhelming. Remember if anyone is taking photos of you in a lewd way, whether they are a professional photographer or not, if a fan/spectator, official or another cosplayer intimidates you or makes you feel uncomfortable, your first option is to use your characters exit lines.

If you're Jessica Rabbit try "I'm going home to bake a carrot cake for my Roger." For Harley Quinn cosplayers how about " Eww! Fish stinkeroony!" (rehearse them at home) and walk off.If they don't take "no" for an answer speak up loudly and move to a public place or look for people you trust. If they persist, talk to event security immediately. They are there to help.

Cosplay Robin (female)
Cosplay Robin (female)
If you have a child in cosplay, Never let them out of your sight or leave them unattended. If they look anxious at any point, since you know them best you can pick up on their unspoken queues, take them to a quiet area to rest. If necessary change them out of their costume or take them home if they are overwhelmed by the attention and excitement.

Padawan tip:
"People start to forget that we're human beings" - Yaya Han
"If someone is being a creeper, tell them to back off and get to a public area if you're not in one... never be afraid to call security if you need to. They're there to help you." - Bailey Dukes

Judge Will Some. Overcome With The Mind You Must

A great cosplay will get you attention, both good (lots of photos and lots of fun interactions) and bad. Photos can end up on the internet and go viral as the butt of everyone's meme. When the comments are from non-cosplayers it usually revolves around comments like "freaks", weirdos", "childish" or "fetishes." Although hurtful, this you can understand. But when the remarks are from within the cosplay community it's just sad and it shows that they are there for the wrong reasons.

Ignore the haters, and build camaraderie from cosplayers who are there for the right reasons. If the comments are on social media or blogs,...delete, ban, and move on. If they are on a cosplay site, report the comment, insist it be removed or moderated and move on to planning your next cosplay.

Padawan tip:
"[They] might be jealous because they don't have the courage to cosplay." - Yaya Han
"You are going to get comments, stares, etc., and some of them may be uncomfortable or hurtful... 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."  - Bailey Dukes
"I try to remember, they're not one of us... and if there's anything we know about humanity, it's that they fear what is different... If it comes from someone in the community, it's sad... I've come to realize that those people are in this hobby for the wrong reasons and aren't worth my effort." - Kit Quinn

Size Matters Not. Look At Me. Judge Me By My Size, Do You?

On the flip side, don't judge other cosplayers. When you go a convention you will see costumers ranging from simple to complex. Some people spent months and money on their outfits, other may have just grabbed whatever was in their wardrobe at the last minute just to have some fun.
Others may have had a "wardrobe malfunction" on the way to the convention centre because they couldn't afford a taxi fare. Don't be judgmental or jealous behind their back or even on social media.

Padawan tip:
"You don't know what that person went through." - Yaya Han

You Will Find Only What You Bring In. Lightweight Props You Must Bear.

Most costumes require props. If your character sports anything that that looks like a weapon, check the guidelines for the Conventions on their website before you get too far into the character. If you're going as Optimus Prime or Bumblebee use lightweight materials, like sponge, foam, balsam wood etc, Make sure you have a plan for hauling your trunk to the convention and around the event.

Cosplay God of Thunder: Thor
Cosplay God of Thunder: Thor
When considering your outfit, as mumma always says, don't forget your (clean) underwear! Think about what you can wear underneath to avoid chaffing, unsightly sweat marks or revealing unnecessary too much of your body. Conversely, what shouldn't you wear? The wrong colour underwear or a bra strap peeking through may ruin the look of your costume.

Padawan tip
"When traveling with props, the biggest help you can give yourself, is making the material light... plus foam is great for not hurting the people who are walking in the crowd" - Ashphord Jacoway

Train Yourself To Let Go Of Everything You Fear To Lose. Efficiently You Must Pack

Now that you've got your costume together. The convention is a couple of weeks away. How are you and your costume going to get there in one piece? Start by making a list of everything you need to take. Not just what pertains to your costume but your personal effects as well.

If you're going by car, driving yourself or getting a lift, make sure there is enough room. Sometimes you will hitch a ride with other friends going to the convention. Is there enough room in the Suzuki Swift to accommodate the Incredible Hulk, Godzilla and Optimus Prime?

Public transport adds another level of complexity as you will have stares, comments and random people wanting to touch, prod and take photos with you. Allow for extra time and perhaps take a "civilian" buddy to keep a watchful eye on the curious crowd so that you make it there intact.

Planes create another dimension of potential problems. Check with the airline on the cost and rules for carry-on and check-in luggage. Another option would be to courier some of the props to your hotel.

Don't forget to put together a costume repair kit to handle any costume-related disasters and malfunctions.

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Padawan tip:
"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...if it's odd or large, you may want to invest in shipping it to your hotel ahead of time."  - Bailey Dukes
"If you have large pieces, try to make them so that they can break down for easy packing"   - Bailey Dukes
"Be good at Tetris, ff 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." - Kit Quinn

Once You Start. Forever It Will Dominate Your Destiny. Goals Must You Set.

Unless you are buying from a fully kitted out costume from a store, start simple and as you "level up" with each convention you can challenge yourself with more complicated costumes. You have a life outside of your alter ego, don't sacrifice time with family and friends to put together an outfit that is well beyond you level of expertise. If you need some tips go to my other post on choosing your costume.
Padawan tip:
"Don't choose Optimus Prime as your first costume"- Yaya Han

Cosplay Darth Vader
Cosplay Darth Vader

Do Deodorant Or Do Not. There Is No Dry

Wear deodorant. Enough said... maybe also bring some body wipes too.

To Answer Power With Power, The Jedi Way This Is Not. Compete Not, Kudos Give.

What happens if someone turns up in the same costume as you? Give them a high-five and get a photo with them! The only person you compete with in cosplay is your "second self." Don't try to figure out who looks better but enjoy that someone else loves the same character as you. Find out about their journey to build the outfit. They will offer you a different understanding and perspective to the character you chose.

As I wrote in a previous cosplay blog "the whole purpose of cosplay is about having fun, making costumes and dressing up… and, for a brief time, be child-like, escape reality and become larger than life."

Cosplay Lion Suit
Cosplay Lion Suit

Are you now ready for your cosplay debut? Did this blog help put aside fears or concerns you had about your first convention?


About the Author: TuiSiong Hie

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