My first post (essay?) was mostly centered around the negative aspects in nerd/cosplay culture and the impact that has on our community. But now I’m going to talk about the positive side of cosplay in a series of posts! Cosplay is something I’m very passionate about and I really want people to enjoy it and want to participate in conventions and the fun that cosplay can bring!
As I detailed in my last post, there’s a lot of negative connotation surrounding cosplayers and their choices. I’m writing this because screw that. Cosplay is about FUN. You can cosplay however you want and people can say what they will – As long as YOU are happy with yourself, you’re golden. And if you aren’t, you’re not alone in taking steps towards that goal! Most of this post is going to be centered on learning to love what you wear and create. I have plans to do a series of posts about the different positive points of cosplay and the confidence it takes to step out into the world every day!
Being confident can be difficult. Pouring your time into making a costume, working up a bought costume, styling wigs and more is a hassle. And stepping into a public space wearing that costume takes an incredible amount of bravery – so congratulations! You’re already on your way! Learning to love every part of yourself is one of life’s greatest struggles, and cosplay has helped me a lot to go in that direction. If you can learn to love the skin you’re in and enjoy doing what you do, life is much easier and a lot more fun! I know it’s easy to compare ourselves to everyone else, but at the end of the day there’s 7 billion people in the world and we are all unique in our own ways. No matter what skill level you’re at, just trying something is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
The cosplayers I personally look up to have a remarkable amount of skill. They weave their passion into costumes to produce large, intricate and beautifully detailed costumes. So much so that sometimes I look at their work and feel disheartened by my own accomplishments. But I think about it and realize that at some point they too were making cosplays with limited knowledge and skill. They produced costumes that were the same and worse than what I’m making now and the same goes for you. Time and patience will improve your skills over time and eventually you’ll be at a point where you’re happy with what you make. You’ll be proud to step out and wear it and talk about how you made it. The very first cosplay I made compared to now is a miracle of difference. If you REALLY want to do something; a certain costume for example, and you’re scared that it won’t be good – try. That is the single best thing you can do. Try. If it doesn’t work out the way you planned, try again. Take the time to see the structure of the costume and find out what went wrong and try. The more practice you give yourself, the more you will learn and the more you’ll improve! You don’t need professional training, fancy materials and a lot of space to make a good cosplay. Most cosplayers I know are self-taught and work in very limited space. There’s tutorials for almost everything; dive in to a project and research and TRY.
Sewing and prop making can be overwhelming and scary. The process is different for everyone, and it’s usually frustrating at the beginning. Early on when I started cosplaying, there was a character I fell in love with. Cordelia from Fire Emblem Awakening. An armored, intelligent, red-haired Pegasus Knight. And man did I want to be her. So, I spent 3 months researching her costume and weapon and figuring out what I would need to learn in order to make it happen. Another 3 months later and I had finished her! 6 months of work and I was so proud. She was my first big sewing and foam project. I’d never made anything more than a crappy dress in college and a hat. I broke needles and had to buy more fabric because I messed up and had to re-hem the skirt. But I was so proud. I debuted her and felt so confident for the first time in my life. People wanted photos and I got compliments from fellow Fire Emblem fans. It was an amazing day. A few months later I entered her in a competition! My lance broke during a photoshoot right before we were supposed to line up. And my armor was pancake flat and falling apart (I didn’t know about darting at the time!), but I rocked my costume on stage anyway (and made friends in the process! Rob! Taco’s Treasures! Phee Cosplay! Rory!) A year later I revamped her for A-Kon 28. I made a new lancehead and new armor (Using darts in the foam!) The response was overwhelming. My best friends and I got stopped several times during the day for photos. I was amazed at how much my skills grew within just a year.
I took the time to criticize my original cosplay and research ways to improve those pieces. Cordelia’s strapping was falling apart from Day 1 and I looked like a hot mess trying to put her together while walking around on my own. No cosplay is perfect from the start and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by your craftsmanship. Even now I’m planning to completely re-make her armor and dress based on my new set of skills. Creation in any form is frustrating and it’s difficult, but if give yourself the time to learn and the motivation to complete something, the end result is so worthwhile!
Aside from creating cosplay; just wearing it can make you feel pressured. There are always going to be people who want to be nit-picky about you; people who want to say “I could do better “ or “you should’ve done that this way.” It’s up to you how much you listen and take those words to heart. But at the end of the day, I hope you can learn to brush it off and own your confidence! You’re wearing something you obviously love enough to have. Whether you made it or bought it doesn’t matter. Your height doesn’t matter. Your body type doesn’t matter. Your wig quality doesn’t matter. Your makeup skills don’t matter. YOUR HAPPINESS matters! Depending on what fandoms you focus on for cosplay, chances are you won’t have the perfect proportions for them. Anime characters tend to be petite. Comic characters range from petite to outrageously huge. A lot of characters; both male and female, are sexualized to the point of “perfection” - having impeccable abs or ginormous chests with tiny waists. A lot of people don’t have those proportions - and that is ok! You don’t need to look like them to be them, that is the beauty of cosplay!
My whole point is this: If you love cosplay - do it. If you want to start cosplaying but you’re scared - do it. Find a character you connect with and a costume that makes you feel confident and beautiful or badass. Make it, buy it, thrift it - do whatever you want to do and just try. Shatter the barrier that’s holding you back and let yourself have fun. Lock up the little voice in your head that says you can’t and move forward! It’s not easy, it’s not a switch you can just turn off. But if you let yourself try, if you let yourself become flooded with passion for something - follow it. You are amazing.