Going to a convention, especially if it is your first, can be daunting. Whether it be a big or small con, one of the first things you will notice at a convention is the cosplayers.The people in costume that fill convention halls during that weekend. They are a part of nearly any convention, be it sci-fi, cartoon, or Japanese anime. Cosplay is just as much a part of the experience as the staff themselves. Getting dressed up is a fun way to add to your convention experience.For someone starting out though, how you approach getting into the hobby may be a big factor in how the experience plays out for you. To get the most out of your experience, it helps to look at the reasons why you are getting into it.
You want to be part of the crowd:
Great! Nothing makes you feel more like a part of the con experience than dressing up. If this is your motivation then the only limits are what your imagination and skill level can come up with. My first convention costume consisted of the jeans and tie-dye shirt I was wearing with a long pink wig and a banzai headband. Nothing amazing, but it made me feel more like I belonged at the con and even got the attention of a few people in the process. You don’t have to be an expert craftsman to get into the spirit of the convention. Even just a clever hat or T-shirt is all you need to enhance your experience.
You want to be the center of attention:
For some of us, it’s not so much important to be part of the crowd, but to get the attention of the crowd. If your goal is to get eyes turning in your direction, the best thing to keep in mind is to be realistic. If you are at a convention of 200 people, your cosplay will attract people’s attention more so than a convention of 35,000 people. Even the flashiest outfits by the experienced expert cosplayers can get lost in the crowd. Also keep in mind that some cosplayers who attract a lot of attention at cons are attracting attention because of who they are, not what they’re wearing. It’s a part of the convention most don’t like to mention, but the cutest man or woman in the skimpiest costume gets a lot of attention from the congoers as well. This kind of attention, however, tends to bring a lot of its own issues. People making lewd comments or inappropriate behavior towards those in costume are just some of the problems that may arise. Some cons have rules governing skimpy or suggestive costumes and outside the con you may run into problems with the local authorities as well.
You want to be creative:
Creativity is the spice of life! If showing off your creativity is your goal then don’t let yourself be limited to just dressing up as a character. Give it a twist! Taking a character and portraying them as the opposite sex (genderbending) or changing the costume to appear as if the character has been reanimated from the dead (zombifying) are great ways to give your costume a unique twist. Another way to get creative is to invent your own character or outfit and truly be original. Let your imagination soar!
You want to show off your costume making skills:
Crafting an entire cosplay outfit from scratch can be a lot of hard work, but getting admiration from your peers can be well worth it. Most conventions that run cosplay contests will have an award for craftsmanship. The competitions will often separate the entries based on experience (novice, intermediate, and master) so the playing field is level for every one who wants to show off the fruits of their labors. The best thing to keep in mind is that you won’t become an expert craftsman overnight. It takes work and dedication to become an expert in any field.
You just love the character:
Nothing shows your devotion to a character like cosplay. If this is what drives you, and you aren’t confident in your crafting abilities, than a pre-made costume may be your answer. For more popular characters, costumes or parts of costumes are mass produced and available online. There are also cosplayers willing to do commissions for you if you have some money to spend. You wouldn’t be able to enter any of the cosplay contests, but you will still be able to show your love for a character and have a fun time.
You want to win all kinds of awards:
If it’s accolades and awards you are after, then you will need to work hard. Start small with a smaller local convention and do not get discouraged if you do not win the first few times. Like any craft competition, it takes time and experience to be successful. If you take the time to perfect your craft, then the accolades and awards will come to you.
You want to make a living off of cosplay:
A very lofty goal. Despite what Heroes of Cosplay would tell you, there are actually not a whole lot of people who make their living off of cosplay itself. It can be risky. Making money off of someone else’s intellectual property violates copyright law and you can get into a lot of legal hot water for doing so. The truth is that professional cosplayers are really just models who make their own clothes. Cosplaying is only a part of what they do, often taking modeling and boothbabe jobs to support themselves on top of selling pictures or calendars of themselves dressed up as characters. Even the models for more adult cosplay websites make most of their money through other avenues. It’s not wrong what they do, but the idea of the professional cosplayer is very misleading and often times disappointing.
Whatever your motivation for getting into the hobby, remember that, above all, it’s supposed to be fun! The purpose of going to conventions and dressing up is to get enjoyment out of the experience. Enjoying yourself should be the goal and end result. So go out there, get dressed up, and have fun!