After every nerdy convention, the ever-so-popular “top” lists about women and cosplay get plastered everywhere. Derivative article titles like “Sexiest Cosplay” or “Worst / Ugliest Cosplay” command the Internet to leave a wide variety of opinions. Even though we gotta admit it’s totally awesome to receive high praise for hard work, the flip-side is a crappy neighborhood to end up in. Any one photo of a cosplay you see is mostly being judged in that one moment. There is no possible way a photo can capture all the preparation and energy it took to create.
As scary as it was, I cosplayed at San Diego Comic-Con. I learned that cosplay allows you to explore your personal process, progress and creativity while having a lot of fun. Fun is a big factor.
For those of you new to the art form, “cosplay” means “costume play”. Many of you may ask, “But, Michele, isn’t that what we do on Halloween?” The answer is: sometimes. Cosplay begins with a little more than buying your costume out of a box. With cosplay, you have to find inspiration by embodying and paying homage to a character or concept, in whatever way that personally means to you.
Here are my Top 5 Lessons Learned about women and cosplay:
1. Be Inspired & Have Fun
If you’ve never cosplayed before, ask yourself one question: If you could be a character from any book, comic book, movie or video game — who would you be? You don’t necessarily have to have the same hair color – just be you, or rock a wig. You also don’t have to be the same gender. Maybe your hero is Harry Potter instead of Hermione, or maybe you’d just like to be Captain America. You can:
2. There Are No Rules
Once you’ve found your inspiration, HAVE FUN. My group of friends did a collective cosplay for Comic-Con this year called “The Ladies of the Internet”. Each one of us chose a social media website. I was Pinterest (due to my love for geeky pinning). And in order to keep everyone in the same “world”, we all decided on a theme: burlesque, female versions of “The Internet”. Using a theme and applying it to well-known characters is an awesome way to infuse yourself into your creation. Check out these Steampunk versions of DC’s familiar Harley Quinn, Supergirl and Batgirl, as well as the Playboy Bunnies of Star Trek:
3. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect
I’m crafty, but.. sewing? Not so much. At least not yet. I’m learning! And now that I’ve had my first bigger cosplay experience, I want to learn even more. All in all, I spent about $100 on the base of my costume: white corset, red burlesque hat, red bloomers and white crinoline. Then I spent about another $40 in costume supplies at craft stores. Using a little tile maker, I printed out pins from my personal Pinterest board, Nerd.I.Am, and adhered them to the corset. Using sloppy sewing skills, I attached some DIY felt circlets onto the crinoline. My favorite part was the pin-cushion hat I made with ribbons! Here I am alongside the talented Isabelle Lynn, as Wikipedia (her hat is perfection):
The vision in my head didn’t quite come out exactly the way I wanted, but that’s okay… no one really knows that but me. And now, you guys, Lady Google – Lauren Brooks of The Magic Haberdasher – has some solid advice:
“My advice to people just trying to get into cosplay would be to just go for it. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There will always be people who aren’t fans of what you have created, but then on the opposite end of that spectrum are people who love what you have done. What is important is that you are proud of what you have created because in the end cos’play’ is just that, play. Its supposed to be fun!”
4. Be Brave
Lauren’s advice is dead on, but you still have to be brave. There are legions of people living on the Internet, just waiting – WAITING – to burn you and your creation down to the ground. One of my friends, Chloe Dykstra, just posted a plea on her YouTube channel, “Cool Story, Chlo“. In this episode, Chloe points out a nasty comment someone made about one of her cosplays, and encourages the nerd community to be nicer to each other: *This YouTube video contains vulgar language. Please watch this video with caution if you are at work or around children.
5. Learn From Others
Learning from other people is a positive thing. If you have questions, ask. Start to practice. I saw so many incredible, humorous and accurate cosplays at Comic-Con. It’s inspiring. At one end of the spectrum, you’ll see jaw-dropping inspirational art just walking around you. And on the other end, there’s people who cosplay casual - which is absolutely creative and fashionable. A new show about cosplay actually airs this week on SyFy: ”Heroes of Cosplay“. The show follows a group of cosplayers, reportedly less “reality” and more “docu-follow”, giving us an inside look at the real work that goes into all kinds of cosplay. Featured here are Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan:
As for our Comic-Con “Ladies of the Internet”, I learned a lot and I can’t wait to improve my costume. We’re amassing a larger group of our friends to represent more social media for Comikaze in November. And we shall assemble like Voltron, with a bustle.