Over the years, the cosplay community has achieved record-breaking recognition with some artists partnering with Marvel and others building careers based solely on their competition wins. On the surface, it may seem like fun and games, but every art form has its challenges.
Okay. Stomping onto the con floor in a 7-foot mecha suit isn’t easy. Building that mecha suit out of EVA foam and hot glue, then sanding it and painting it to glowy perfection isn’t either. Sometimes the theatrics outshine the means, completely ignoring all the questions a cosplayer has to answer regarding one of the main factors of construction: budget. In the cosplay community, we have a term called “closet cos”. It refers to the costume someone puts together using the clothes they already have in their closet. In 2012, the majority of con-goers would have done this at least once, probably rocking the spray-dyed hair and layered shirts as their final look. And you know what? That’s still okay.
The 2 AM magic of biting zip ties and painting old Halloween weapons still stands as the main creative factor. So long as there’s passion, figuring out how to morph a thrift store helmet into a souped-up Celty one is precisely the thrill we crave, no matter how our wallets feel about it.
Ahh. Slump. It’s safe to say that “slump” is no stranger to the con community. We feel it for various reasons whether it’s mixed-up plans, mental health, poor planning, or fear. Even if the character is someone you’ve been dying to bring to life, it doesn’t mean slipping out of bed and dragging out the tools gets any simpler. For cosplayers, the thrill of making a costume exists in different stages for different people, and that nuance is all the more reason to see why one stage might halt the process altogether. Still, stepping out in an outfit you spent months (or weeks … or days) making is great, and few things top the high-pitched squeal of your character’s name from across the room. If there’s ever a slump in motivation, remembering the little moments seems to do the trick.
Yes, you’re late. You thought you had all the time in the world and then the con is next week. Actually, no, it’s this week and you still haven’t painted your shield. Sometimes it’s an oversight of timing, or maybe it’s the inaccurate shipment. Whatever it is, the almighty clock doesn’t care if FedEx left your necklace at the warehouse. You have to get it done. Ironically, this is where some of the magic happens. When you don’t have your intended accessory, that spark of creativity really comes through. Maybe we don’t think bedsheets make a great ball gown, but the tick of a clock can sure make it one, and lord knows the low effort/simple ones are some of the funniest cosplay year-round. I’m still getting a kick out of sleeping bag Aizawa.
It’s a lot, and you’ve probably heard it before. She doesn’t look like that. Your hair’s the wrong color. Are you like the Black sailor moon? Would’ve been good if he had the right pants. On the internet and off, others can be a little rude. You would think the fans of a niche hobby wouldn’t eat judgment for breakfast, but actually, it’s a consequence of fame. The big break for cosplay—that is, more people knowing about it—didn’t just put a stressor on our wallets. It tossed us on stage for non-watchers to see. People who otherwise didn’t know about cosplay are now seeing it en masse. The internet isn’t just for cosplayers, so anyone can add their two cents on why your Goku doesn’t look right. Luckily, what really matters is the craft, and we won’t hear them over the sound of our rave music anyway.
Remember the theater kids, strutting down the halls in their crafted costumes, belting out lines with Shakespearean flair? If you were a theater kid and you’re into anime, then you probably know where I’m going with this. Stage fright (even if there is no stage) runs rampant for some cosplayers, and understandably so! Walking through a bustling crowd of fans in a costume often feels like you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve, and not everyone is comfortable with shouting that across the con floor. The good news is that the con is filled with people. That means there’s introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts, and every single one of them is awesome.
We know that cosplay transforms fans into their favorite characters. That means their spirit gets transferred too, and that means you’re cool if you’ve ever tried your hand at cos. That’s just the way it works! I don’t make the rules.
Lauren is a 23-year-old cosplayer and writer from Chicago. Her favorite shows include Wolf’s Rain, Terror in Resonance, and Samurai Champloo. If you can’t reach her for whatever reason, she’s probably reading or figuring out how to turn her kendo skills into functional ones. She’ll be back in a minute.