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An Introduction to Cosplay Costuming
The Two-Headed Phoenix
An Introduction to Cosplay CostumingCosplay101
by Amy Waller
Welcome to Cosplay 101! In this column I will be discussing costuming for fantasy/science-fiction/anime conventions, commonly called ďcosplayĒ in the anime convention world. I will be discussing everything from what to think about when choosing a costume to last minute at-con repairs. While I am by no means an expert in all things cosplay, I have been cosplaying for several years now and will pass on the useful information my friends and I wish we had known when we were first starting out.
First, letís define what cosplay is. Cosplay is short for ďcostume playĒ and is defined as dressing up as either a specific character, such as Arwen from Lord of the Rings, or as a general recognizable type of character, such as a Star Wars stormtrooper. While itís perfectly acceptable to buy a cosplay costume, it is more fun to make the costume yourself. Making cosplay costumes is highly rewarding, but it is very different from either making actual clothing or theatrical costuming.
Unlike making actual clothing, cosplay costumes donít have to be perfect. My motto is, if you canít see it on the outside of the costume, it doesnít have to be pretty. You can leave raw edges of fabric, have ugly bunches at underarm seams and other such clothing ďsinsĒ, and as long as no one can see it on the outside of the costume, it doesnít matter. This is also important when picking fabrics for costumes. While the actual costume might be made of leather, vinyl is cheaper and looks much the same. Velour or velvet panne can substitute for actual velvet. You donít have to interface everything the pattern tells you to. Pockets donít have to be functional, and buttons can just be for show as well.
The flip side of this is that cosplay costuming is different than costuming for the theatre. A cosplay costume is going to get much closer scrutiny than a stage costume ever will. A costume for theatre wonít have people looking at it from six inches away. A cosplay costume will, especially if you wish to enter any sort of craftsmanship contest with your costume. Details are essential. A theatrical costume can get away with linking together soda can tags for chain mail because the closest audience member is thirty feet away. You canít do that with a cosplay costume. People will notice and many will comment on it. Remember, however well you know your character/costume, there is one person at any given convention who knows that character/costume at least as well as you, do if not better. This isnít to say you canít fake things on your costume. Just be aware that youíre faking them and make it look as real as possible.
Making a good cosplay costume also takes more time than many people (myself included) realize. Patterns have to be altered, fabric has to be dyed, embroidered, or drawn on. Donít attempt to make a huge, elaborate costume a week before the con. For that matter donít attempt to make any costume a week before the con. Youíll just stress yourself out and annoy the people you live with.
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