Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mailbag: All About COSPLAY

Brandy H. writes:

Hi Jen!

My friend and I are planning to go to a comic con in November and I have some questions about cosplaying. Cosplaying isn't a big thing around here and I'm just wondering what it entails? I've heard of people being outraged at cosplay being compared to dressing up for Halloween. I spend the entire year planning and figuring out what my costumes will be for Halloween (yes multiple costumes :D)...[and] I'm super excited to go and be among other people who love to dress up!

In the meantime, your words of wisdom on cosplaying and cons in general?  I would greatly appreciate it!

Hi Brandy!

If you spend the entire year planning out your Halloween costume, then I can tell you now you're already a cosplayer. It's really just a difference of passion and interactivity; where Halloween costumes are often seen as more of an obligation - you have to wear one to get in to certain parties or score free candy - cosplay is about the joy of the costume itself, and of interacting with others as a certain character.

The word "cosplay" is short for "costume play," and it's the "play" part that I think is key. Cosplay is a labor of love and pure, unadulterated FUN. We don't have to dress up; we do it because we want to!

Some cosplayers really get into the roles of their characters as well, but that's a matter of personal preference and certainly not a requirement. If you're up for it, though, it can be a lot fun to act out your character, from the way you walk and talk to the way you pose for pictures.

 This Hagrid spoke to us in character - with the accent and everything - and it was downright magical. Our friends Chris & Christie play the Joker and Harley perfectly.

I've only started cosplaying recently myself - Lady Vadore was my first real foray - but I've learned a lot from my years of photographing cosplayers at conventions and then in turn being photographed. So here are a few tips:

For cosplayers:

1. Practice your poses

This made a HUGE difference for me, because I arrived prepared for the cameras and knowing what to do with my hands and arms to make my costume look best. Don't just stand there like a lump when someone asks to take your picture; do something! Even just sticking a hip out or cocking your head at a saucy angle can make a world of difference on film.

Cosplaying with a group? Then work out a group pose that makes use of different levels and spacing. These guys snapped into position in 2 seconds flat - and note how each one is doing something different, and also positioned so I can see them all!

Props are also extremely helpful; they give you something to do with your hands:


One thing I didn't anticipate when I was in costume was that I'd also be asked to take pictures with people, so remember to practice a few options for that, too.

2. Travel Light

Don't load yourself down with a ton of bags and cameras and belongings that you'll have to put down every time someone wants your photo - it'll slow everyone down and cause a major traffic jam. Try to consolidate down to a single bag, or better yet, make it themed to your costume so you don't have to set it down!

Snow White hides her bag with her skirt.

Another option is to travel with a non-costumed friend who's willing to hold your things. Having a handler is essential for bulky or hard-to-maneuver costumes, if only so you have someone who can lead you through crowds or fetch you a drink when you can't get away from the cameras.

3. Take Your Costume for a Test Drive 

Do you know if you can eat, sit, and manage a restroom break in your costume? Find out ahead of time! Conventions make for reeeeally long days. And if your costume includes sky-high heels, always pack a back-up pair of flats. Your feet will thank you.

4. Expect delays and interruptions

Have a ton of panels you want to see, friends you want to catch up with, and a lot of serious shopping to do? Then don't wear an awesome costume. You *will* be stopped a lot, and you *will* have to interact with lots of people. If that annoys you, then cosplay may not be for you! Approach the day with an easy-going attitude, and be determined to just enjoy the journey. After all, this is your time to shine, so don't let a too-tight schedule bring you down!

Most of these cosplayers didn't know each other before the day this was taken. They met, formed a group, and spent the day posing for pictures together (and probably made friends along the way!)

For non-cosplayers:


 This is rule #1 in all areas of life, of course, but it's easy to be swept up in the fantasy of cosplay and forget that Superman over there is actually a real person and not the character he's playing.

 Although you'd be forgiven for thinking this is Christopher Reeve.

Female cosplayers get the worst of this, sadly, so I'll spell it out, just to be on the safe side: No touching, no con-creeping (ie following them around), and no inappropriate comments. 


It's easy to treat cosplayers like they're paid professionals at a theme park, but that fact is they're not here solely for your amusement. Odds are they have things they want to see at the con, too, and sometimes they have to eat and take breaks and just hang out with friends. Don't approach a cosplayer who is partially out of costume and sitting down or eating. That's their break time. The same goes for bathrooms and during convention panels (although the times right before and after the panel are fine.)

Sometimes you'll want a photo of a cosplayer who's either mingling with a group or talking one-on-one with someone. As long as the conversation doesn't seem tense (I see a LOT of lovers' spats on the con floor) then here's how to politely interrupt:

1) approach the cosplayer and stop a respectful distance away - at least a few feet
2) have your camera in hand, and wait
3) when the cosplayer looks your way, raise your camera slightly while raising your eyebrows

If the cosplayer doesn't notice you, you may have to get a little closer, or try catching the eye of the person they're with - I've had a lot of luck with that method, particularly for cosplayers in vision-impairing helmets and such. However, read the situation and use common courtesy; sometimes it's best to move on and try to catch them later.

I never advise touching a cosplayer to get their attention - not even a tap on the shoulder. It's too invasive, and too easily misinterpreted, so just don't. If you take a photo with a cosplayer, then wait for him or her to initiate contact. Often times they'll throw an arm around your shoulders or cozy up next to you - but if not, then keep a respectful distance or exercise a judicious bit of hover-hands behind the waist. 

- a quick word on kids: I always like to double-check with the parents before photographing younger kids. It's just the non-creepy, polite thing to do. Then I get down on one knee so I'm more on the kid's level:

If you're curious what she's doing, I explained here.

3. COMMUNICATE  On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's easy to get so intimidated by a great cosplayer that you freeze up and run the risk of seeming rude. I saw this happen pretty often as Lady Vadore: people would stare at me, pointing, even running backwards in front of me grabbing multiple photos, but refusing to speak to me, meet my eyes (granted, not easy in my mask, of course), or acknowledge in any way that I was anything more than a walking statue. I was talked about ten times more than I was talked to.

Again, with my full mask I realize mine was one of the harder costumes to communicate through, but I've seen this phenomena happen with plenty of non-masked cosplayers as well. (I call it the "beautiful people in spandex" effect.) And the solution is so simple! Here's all you have to do:

1) Make eye contact (or with helmets, look in the general direction of their eyes)
2) Smile

That's it! If you want to go the extra mile, give the thumbs up or call out a compliment or "thanks!" if you've taken someone's picture. Just that - just that! - made me feel a million times more appreciated. Don't assume that just because someone has a great costume they've heard it all before; everyone wants to know that their work is valued. I can also guarantee that most cosplayers are only too eager to talk to you about their costume, so don't be afraid to start a conversation from time to time!

Note: My friend Christie just had another good point: every cosplayer would much rather pose than be "photo sniped" when they're not looking or camera ready. So don't be shy: just ask!

If you want more tips on convention-going in general, then you might want to check out my Dragon*Con Survival Tips -  keeping in mind that most conventions aren't nearly so big and overwhelming.

Ok, guys, I'm sure I missed plenty of things, so please share your tips for all things cosplay in the comments! And here's a final giggle to send you off:


  1. I went "eeeeeeeep!" when I saw this blog! I'm the Brandy H. who asked, so thank you very much!! This is great!

    And my friend & I's plans have changed, instead of going to a con in November, we're going to the Denver ComicCon at the end of May. This involves a roadtrip and having one of my best friends who lives there join us! We're freaking out! (Go look at the guest list!) Means I have to find things quicker for my costumes, but that's okay with me. :)

    1. I'm going too! Hubby surprised me with tickets for both of us on Mothers Day. (Best. Present. EVER!) It's my first Con and Cosplay, before this I've been living vicariously through others since we have a whole gaggle of littles. I'll be dressed up as Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite on Saturday. I've got the whole excited/nervous thing going on.

  2. Thanks for this post Jen!
    I'm a photography student (who is major geek btw) that is planning on heading to Armageddon in her town this weekend for the very first time. I'd love to dress up, but I think I left it a bit late... Next year!
    Thank you for your awesome tips, I'll keep them in mind!
    From one of your furthest south fans,
    Aimée Storm, from Dunedin New Zealand :D

  3. I would add that for guys dressing up in tight-crotched outfits, dancer's cups are a MUST. If you don't wear one, people will only see your twig and berries (which makes you a little less approachable)...and that's never a good look either in person or in pictures. I can't tell you how many pictures I have from cons with little extras in them that I'd rather not look at.

  4. I've dressed up a few times in Salem before, but we're tackeling our first con in April! These tips are really helpful, not only are our costumes really cumbersome (King Kandy and Queen Frostine on an epic scale) but my husband's a photographer and he's dying to get great pictures... I love the idea of hiding a bag under a big skirt... I'm pretty sure I can fit a whole studio under mine!! Thanks again for the awesome post!!

  5. That last picture, of the Disney "princess", will never get old. Never.

  6. There is actually a video on photographing cosplayers on YouTube, it's kind of silly, but very helpful.

  7. Last year I went to a con in a steampunk costume with my daughter and was thrilled when people asked for our picture! I have never done something like that before and it was so fun. I didn't think about posing, though, so there are a bunch of pictures on stranger's cameras of me looking like a lump! I will do better this year.

  8. Hi Jen. First of all, I want to say thanks. Thanks for posting about everything that you do. I appreciate reading about you, your life, your struggles, and all the fun stuff you do. I don't have a suggestion for Brandy H. because I've never been to a con. Which brings me to my question. (Sorry to thread jack, but it just seemed like a good tim to ask!) Is there a list of cons across the US? I'd love to go to a con, but as a wife and mother, I really need something close that I could go spend day at. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks again for all you and Jon do!

    1. Hey, Sherri, try this:

      This might help!

    2. The easiest way to find local cons is to Google them. Just use "science fiction convention Kansas", for example. Or "comicon Tulsa" or "comic convention Colorado." There's also several national (maybe international) listings, if you don't specify a state. For example, popped right up. Most major cities have some kind of annual local con, be it general SF or comic oriented, and anime/manga cons are becoming equally common. Most will sell single day memberships as well as weekend/event memberships, and many will actually have a children's programming track.

    3. Hey, I've been wondering the same thing--thanks!

  9. As someone who has been cosplaying for 10+ years, I can say this is excellent advice. I don't know how many times I've gotten comments behind my back or yelled across the room. They are mainly good comments, but it's always nice to have someone say them to your face when you work so hard!

  10. I have never been to a con and will probably never go to one, and I'm sorry if this question seems daft, but why are there generally only pictures of fit/slim people? Surely everyone, no matter what their looks, feels free to dress up and does? I guess it might limit which character you could be, but I do find this odd... maybe I'm missing something?

    1. There aren't just pictures of slim/fit people, but they're the ones that tend to show up the most. At all the cons I've been to, cosplayers of all sizes (and ages) felt comfortable dressing up as whoever their heart desired. But there's a whole long list of reasons why those considered larger either don't cosplay as much or aren't showcased as much,, the list is really long and would be one or more blog posts by itself.

      And despite what some (mean-spirited) people say, you can dress up as anyone. Really and truly. Yes, costumes need to be modified, but I can tell you, all costumes need to be modified to some extent when dealing with 2D art going into real world materials since I have yet to find an artist who understands how real fabrics and/or bodies work. Or they all don't care. :)

    2. One of my friends did a Zoe costume (from Firefly/Serenity). That' her favorite character. My friend is white, and weighed about 300 pounds at the time, but she put together the right elements, so anyone familiar with the show/character could recognize who she was.

      We've joked more than a few times of doing characters after they've reached middle age, and aren't so trim and fit anymore, which would better fit our own ages and body types these days!

  11. I fell into costuming because I linked up with a large cosplay group that followed a specific con track--it gave me a circle of people to share the fun and settle the nerves. It's been five years now and I still enjoy seeing what everyone comes up with each year.

  12. @Sherri - there's no one, all inclusive list, but Locus Online is a good starting place:

    You can also try doing a Google search for conventions near you. Some conventions are focused on specific things, literary SF, horror, Dr. Who, etc. Many, but not all, are welcoming of children. Once you've found a Con in your area, don't be afraid to contact them for more information! Not just times and prices, but how kid-friendly are they, when is the best time to come, whatever.

    I hope you find a convention close to home! I've been attending Cons for 27 years now - I consider my home convention to be my second family!

  13. This is really great! I'm planning on going to my first con this October (SteamCon in Seattle) and am already in the process of creating my costume. I'm definitely going to need to practice posing. I'm a little anxious (and super excited) about it but these tips are really helpful.

  14. I know this isn't on topic but I just saw this video and since you're such a Dizgeek it made me think of you:

    Beauty and the Beat

    Should brighten your day. ;)

  15. I'm going to my first con in April with my toddler, and I've been so inspired by your posts that I'm assembling steampunkery for the whole family. The trick is going to be persuading Hurricane Princess to get into her costume. If it's not penguin pjs, it'll be a tough sell. Steampunk penguin?

    1. Take a look. It's possible. And a quick Google image search leads to plenty of fun pics.

  16. Saying "Thanks!" goes SO far at conventions, both with cosplayers and with vendors. People forget their manners at these events.

    I do the snap and run sometimes in a busy hall, but after reading your stuff, I will try to let the cosplayer's attention first and let them pose in all of their glory. :) It is the shy person in me that doesn't want to bother them. But I love all the costumes!

  17. These are all awesome tips. I only wish any of the people that have taken pictures of me at cons would have given me like their email or website or something so I could see the pictures. I have a pretty awesome Rogue(from X-Men) costume that I never got any good pictures of. I know some of those con people had way better cameras than I and I just NEED a good picture in that costume as I've lost weight and can no longer wear it. *saddness*

  18. These tips were all great. Normally, I shy away from photos, but having someone ask me for a photo when I'm in costume is always such a compliment. My favorite was from D*Con 2011- I was dressed as Amy Pond, and an eleven-or-twelve-year-old girl in an Eleventh Doctor costume saw my friends and me walking down a hallway that had very few people in it and she ran up to me and very excitedly said "I HAVE to get a photo with you!!!!" It was adorable.

  19. Another tip or two for the non-cosplayers:

    If you want more than one picture/pose or more than one combination of people in a group shot, nicely ask if it's okay before you start snapping. When I'm lucky enough to attend a convention, I dress up. I never decline a picture (unless I'm in the bathroom... and yes, I've been asked for a picture as I was literally entering the stall). However, it is beyond frustrating when someone asks you for "a quick picture" and it leads to another few with each of their kids, then all possible combinations of you, the kids, and the photographer's girlfriend who suddenly materialized from the nacho stand with "Uncle Rowdy" who just LOVES whatever-nerd-franchise-you're-rockin'.

    Unless there is someone else waiting for a picture, it doesn't bother me to have an impromptu photo-shoot with someone's entire family. But, We The Costumed generally like to know that you need more of our time before the pictures start. You'll get better photos, I promise!

    The other tip is far more pragmatic. (Sorry if this has been mentioned!) If a cos-player is wearing body paint, don't get close enough to risk brushing their paint with your clothing. The year that my Aayla Secura costume debuted at our local comic convention I got groused at by a guy who went home with blue paint on his shirt. While I can certainly sympathize with anyone who has to walk around with what looks like the remains of a smurf autopsy on their clothing, he picked the pose (and got a lot closer than necessary) all on his own.

    And have I mentioned that I love Epbot? I love Epbot.

  20. Once I get the "good job, Jen, you've covered pretty much everything" part out of the way, can I just start by saying that as much as I dislike the term "geek" (a geek is a DORK; a nerd is a NERD!), I HATE the term "cosplay"? Like The Monarch said, "*I* am NOT into cosPLAY, *I* am into cosBUSINESS!" I have been attending conventions in costumes I've made for over 30 years now; costuming is my form of artistic expression, much like drag is to drag queens. "Cosplay" makes it sound foolish and childish; costumed con-goers get little enough respect as it is (read ANY article about Comic Con; it's chockablock with both photos of costumed folk AND snarky "these people need lives" commentary) without such a silly moniker. [shrug] Sorry, maybe my age is showing, but I don't want to be lumped in with weirdo teenagers in anime outfits they bought online who run around the con SCREAMING. For Bowie's sake, WHY *ALWAYS* WITH THE SCREAMING, ANIME GIRLS?!

    For Anonymous, who asked about costuming for People Of Size; you do run the risk of ridicule (in person and online) if you costume totally outside your weight class. Hard, but true; as much as I'd love to be Wonder Woman or Isis, I simply do not have the figure for it, so I choose to make those outfits for those who do. If you're 250lb and decide to be Slave Girl Leia, then either do it as a gag and roll with the laughs, or work that shit with Imperious Seriousness, and OWN IT. I am 5'8" in sockfeet, vary between a size 12-16, am VERY LOUD, have a high forehead, and used to have snaggleteeth. Weighing my options, it was clear that being Catwoman or an elf was right OUT, so that's how I decided to be a Klingon. OMG SO MUCH FUN, having an excuse to be loud and brassy ("You! Human male! You are not too attractive, but I WILL have you! DRINK WITH ME, NOW!"), and better yet, a reason to smile in photos *with teeth showing*. My old teeth were so embarrassing IRL, but they were just a natural part of being a Klingon (Girl, I had FANGS, upper and lower, and teeth behind teeth like a damn shark, it was a HOT mess in there), that many people thought were as false as the bumpy forehead. People would comment on them, and admire my make-up skill and commitment to The Total Look, and I'd just smile wide and say "Qapla'!" Being K'Lannagh O'Sullivan (half Klingon, half Irish-- twice as good to drink with AND fight with! HA!) was the only time I ever felt beautiful in public. One day, I WILL make it to Atlanta for Dragon*Con, enter the Miss Klingon Homeworld Pageant, and turn some bumpyheaded bitches OUT. BEWARE.

    Find what works for you, inside AND out, OWN it, and work it HARD. If you design your own costume or recreate a beloved character from pop culture, think of the character of the type of person who'd wear it, and how they would act and pose. Nothing is as strangely jarring as someone who's wearing an agressive character (like a Klingon, for instance) and then hardly speaks a word and doesn't carry themselves like who/what they are. Conversely, if you're the loud, funny type, doing a super serious character may not be right for you; my best friend who was my Vulcan Best Man at my Trek wedding is a total Smiley Smiler, and wow, does it look odd to see photos with him in full-on Vulcan robes and make-up, laughing and grinning away like a fool. :D

    And remember what RuPaul says: "What other people think of me is their problem, and it's none of my business". (That, and "You BETTA WORK!")

    Cheers, thanks a lot,


  21. I haven't been able to go to a con yet, despite growing up in Indianapolis, but as an artist and crafter, my tip would be respect the costumes! This goes along with the tip about body paint, so with personal space and common sense manners, don't touch the costumes or props unless the cosplayer invites it... you never know how fragile a part might be (even though jt has to stand up to being in a crowd). This happened to a friend of mine at a con, a little boy got excited over his sword prop and ended up crushing part of the foil blade accidentally. He was a good sport about it, but the prop wasnt the same after that. If you love a costume, the pictures will do as a compliment.

    The same friend also said the first mistake he ever made was he couldnt go the bathroom easily in his costume.... he basically had to get undressed to go and then redo the whole thing in the busy bathroom!

  22. This is all very good advice! A little tip that took me way too long to learn- wear more makeup than you regularly do. At a minimum- foundation, blush / bronzer, mascara and lipstick goes a long way. When your costume and wig are bright your face needs to stand out or you get lost in photos. My daily makeup case is itty-bitty, but my con make-up case is a 3-tiered train case with all sorts of goodies!

    I also try to put hidden pockets in costumes, at least enough for the cell phone, some cash and hotel key, but it's not always possible. If you do have to put your bag down, put it by the photographer's feet, never behind you. Handlers are great, be sure to clear it with them first and thank them appropriately! I have a costume where I cannot use my arms ( and the group was so popular we couldn't go more than a few feet without photo requests. A very nice guy held our bags and tagged along for the ride, it made all the difference.

    Also, nothing is too silly or impossible to cosplay, just give it a try!

  23. For someone planning a costume, I would recommend CHECKING THE RULES FOR COSPLAY for the particular cons you want to go to. You do NOT want to spend 100 hours on your costume and find out you can't wear half of it or can't carry your props around because they break rules. Some cons are extremely lenient, others are very strict. at ACEN in Chicago, you can't have props more than 4 ft long. if you want a giant sword or spear or whatever, it has to break down into pieces four ft or less. You can't have anything that extends away from your body more than 6 inches, that's more strictly enforced as far as wing span goes, more than say a big dress or a plush costume. If you have a mask/faceplate, you have to prove to con security that you can actually SEE out of it, otherwise you are not allowed to wear it while moving. All weapons have to have blue tape affixed to them to prove you got con security to inspect them. Etc. I saw so many cosplayers that didn't bother to research that got their props confiscated, or were forced to only weir their costumes outside because they weren't allowed on con grounds due to rules. Usually the rules are for the safety of everyone involved!

    1. Seconding this. Archon in St. Louis (my home con!) has a very strict weapons policy - swords, guns, even your staff or walking stick will be peace-bonded. Most Cons will have all of this on their web-site and it's always best to check first!

  24. Awesome tips! I'm going to the Steampunk World's Fair in May - not my first Con but it will be my first Cosplay and these tips were extremely helpful! Thanks!

  25. My tips (as a 10+ veteran of cons and cosplaying):

    1) Start walking! If you're not used to walking more than 15 minutes a day at a time, get going!
    2) If you have new shoes for a costume, start breaking them in now! Put 'em on and walk around the house!
    3) Know when to costume as what. No one wants to see your ass cheek at breakfast. O_o.
    4) For the love of all that is spandex...MEN! Buy a freakin' dance belt! Remember kids are eye level with your junk! This will never end up as any family's treasured photo!
    5) One safety pin and one length of ribbon -- zip your back zippers up all by yourself!
    6) Check, then double-check your badge is secure on your costume! Make "Badge-check" your rallying cry before you leave the room! Also, make sure you have a way to tuck it aside for photos - a lot of great pix are less awesome when details are obscured by a hanging badge.
    7) It's always polite to ask if you can take a photo of a costume. If they say yes, MOVE OUT OF TRAFFIC to do it.
    8) Ask before touching - it's not just the creep factor, sometimes our costumes are fragile or have bits that can get tangled. For group shots, let us help you get in the shot so everyone's happy (and not accidentally stabbed, poked, etc)
    9) Cosplayers love to talk about their costumes, so feel free to ask, but be mindful that they may be on the way somewhere and won't have much time to talk.
    10) if you're a photographer, by all means, hand us a card so we can find you later! Personally, I stink at getting photos of my costumes before I leave the room, so knowing I can track one down is great!

    and the most important rule - have fun and let other people have fun (ie - leave the poopy attitudes at home!). Enjoy dressing up for what it is, and if something goes wrong, don't stress about it too much - it just means that you have time to improve on it for the next Con.

  26. I got a picture with a guy dressed as Commander Scott at my first ever Star Trek convention. He LOOKED like the elder Scotty without the costume. First one I saw too, and my jaw just hit the floor. Finally I said, "Can I take your picture?" and he said, "Let's get a picture together!" So my friend, who was also geeking out, snapped our picture, both him and I grinning from ear to ear.

    Thanks for the advice, Jen! and the pictures!

  27. Couple of other tips: First, don’t think you have to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing or building/sewing your own costume. Some of my favorite costumes are ones that are low budget but still creative, like this cardboard C3PO . My daughter wanted to cosplay at her first con, and we spent $60 and threw a bunch of stuff together the night before and still had lots of compliments and pictures taken of it.

    Second, be creative! Yes, you can go straight for the copy of the character, but I love the folks that figure out a clever way to incorporate a costume idea into something new. Like these guys.

  28. This is all such great advise! Thank you for addressing it both from the cosplayer and non-cosplayer perspective. Generally, I've had wonderful experiences while in costume. I think my biggest "thing" while in costumes with low visibility is that people feel the need to grab you to get your attention. At D*Con 2012, my friends and I were the Fruity Oaty Bar Girls and The Snowths. So many people would just grab and tug on our arms to get our attention. Or worse, they would bang on our heads (which actually hurt). If the cosplayer is standing with their head up/off or clearly in-route to another location, just let them be. Chances are their costumes are hot and they need a break before they pass out (so give them a minute). When they're done they'll be happy to pose for you or they'll tell you when/where you can find them again (if they're in-route to another location).

    The best piece of advice I have for non-cosplayers is to remember there's a person in the costume who probably spent many hours creating it. Cosplaying is a labor of love and very often costumes are delicate. You may think it's funny to puff your stinky breath into the only airway of an unsuspecting Muppet, but I assure you, the Muppet is NOT amused.

  29. Oh, this is great! I just went to my first con last summer, and everyone cosplaying looked like they were having so much fun! I've been a bit nervous about trying it myself, though--some of the costumes are so awesome--how could I ever compare? And I wasn't sure if there were any rules... Some of these fandoms I'm just getting into are already REALLY well established, and I don't want to be accused of being a "fake" or of not knowing anything about a fandom if I choose to cosplay as a main character. I've got to say, it's all a bit intimidating, so it's good to hear I'm not the only one a little nervous about it.

  30. Not bad, Jen! There are a couple more things to note.

    At a lot of cons lately, there have been groups of fans that get together to do group photos- like Homestuck fans, Trek fans, etc. They will usually post a notice somewhere and you can go there and do theme photos.

    And, this is from looong time costumer, you might want to think about bringing two types of costumes. One would be a walk-around costume- simple like a uniform, without a big prop. This makes it easier to move about the con. World Cons sometimes even have prizes for hall costumes, as they are called. And maybe a big costume with large or involved props for the Saturday night costume contest.

  31. I don't know why I read here. That's a compliment. I have no interest in so many of the things you write about, but YOU are so warm and sweet and interesting, that I just like reading here.

    And most of your commenters are great too. Storm the Klingon cracked me up - how do you make your voice come through your writing so clearly like that?

  32. One of my friends is not a cosplayer, but he LOVES getting to take pictures with them. His schtick is that he always asks the person to "kill" him in some appropriate fashion.

    If you are the kind of person who takes pictures (even if you're not professional), think about printing off some cards. People are always super thrilled to get a "Thanks for killing Rob!" card, and will often go tag themselves after a convention. He's made a lot of long-standing friends because of it. :)

  33. SUCH a great post. Thank you so much for it.

    I have one tip for cosplayers that you didn't cover and that I didn't even think of until it was too late. CAUTION: if you're cosplaying as a child-friendly character, you will probably end up interacting with children. If you're not comfortable talking to kids as your character, don't dress up as a pony/princess/etc. because you'll need to be at your very, very best every time a tiny person approaches you. Kids scare the ever-loving crap out of me, but I learned to suck it up because I was not going to shatter some poor little one's illusions by not -being- Fluttershy. Fortunately, con parents are the coolest parents around and they're great at wrangling their rugrats before things get out of hand. It's not like I was getting mobbed by sticky-fingered hellions, but I walked away with a lot more respect for face character performers at Disney. Also, if you're like me, you need to be reminded that sometimes kids cry when they're experiencing sensory overload. When a four year-old meets his or her favorite pony, minor freak-outs might happen. Just stay calm and don't take it personally. Again, con parents are generally excellent at doing damage control.

    Happy cosplaying!

  34. I took my daughter and niece to Princess Day put on by the local town royalty today. I dressed up as my favorite princess, Princess Leia. I actually ended up being asked to pose with someone else's kid, and remembering what I read here I shoved my purse behind my dress and posed. So helpful advice even if you don't go to cons.

  35. What great advice - there are so many cons I want to go to! One of the biggest (and may I say, maybe the best?) ComicCon is here in my hometown of San Diego. Will I ever get to go? Not sure, as it almost impossible for a first-timer to get a badge, unless I want to pay a fortune through a "second party". You know how that is. Things have got to change - maybe when our Convention Center is expanded. So much political intrigue involved here.

    But hey, I am willing to think about renting my spare room to anyone who wants to save hotel costs and doesn't mind driving 30 minutes to get downtown....

    I understand we have a great little best-kept secret in our city, too, called the Gaslight Gathering ( That is my next splurge into cosplay - steampunk - can't wait! Do you think, Jen, that you and John will make a trip to the Left Coast and get in a little action?

  36. Excellent point, and well put, Miss K. This also holds true if you're doing the reverse, and wearing something that's scary, or somehow child-unfriendly. I've known Klingons and other people who wear some pretty frightening and/or startling costumes, and many of them seem to delight in messing with kids. I'm childless by choice because I really don't like kids in general, but even *I* am NOT down with that. When I first got into the Klingon fandom thing, I'll admit, I started to chime in with some Klingons that were messing with a kid at a con, growling and carrying on, and I could see that it was actually scaring him. And I realized: You stupid, thoughtless cow. What if this child now goes out into the world and encounters someone who was horribly burned, or deformed in some way? What if he freaks and starts screaming because YOU thought it was funny to mess with his mind?

    So I told them to stop, and knelt down to his level, and told him what I now tell any child that may be startled by my appearance, "I'm really sorry, sweetie. We're just big kids playing dress-up, like Halloween, OK? It's just pretend. You'll see a lot of people here today, dressed in funny outfits and make-up, and they're ALL just playing dress-up. I promise you NO ONE is gonna 'get you', OK?" And thank the Maker, he calmed down and his parents thanked me and went on their way. I turned around and told the now-sheepish Klingons "Dude. I can't take you petaQs ANYWHERE."

    Your Pal,


  37. The last photo of the Disney princesses is absolutely perfect in every way!

  38. Question for Jen: I plan on cosplaying as Velma for PAX East. Does my costume have to be exact or can I play around with the details? For example: instead of wearing an orange turtle neck could I wear an orange shirt? Thanks for your help.

    1. Of course, mix it up! Part of what makes cosplay so fun is seeing the different interpretations people bring to their characters. So long as you have the iconic pieces down so people can tell who you're supposed to say, I say have fun with it!

  39. You don't need to go in full costume either. For the last Blizzcon my husband and I went to, going in a full costume was pretty much out for me (we live in PA and the con is in CA). I did want to dress up but wanted to stay comfortable and didn't want to be the center of attention. My solution: I made myself a Murky (baby Murloc) hoodie. It traveled well, was comfy to be worn through-out the whole convention (and I've worn it since), and while I got some attention with it, I was never over-whelmed. I've seen people make a prop they carry around, or a hat (Gnomish mind control hat is awesome!).

    My husband even got into it a tiny bit by making a t-shirt with iron on letters that simply said "OOM".

    So, if you have to travel and can't ship a costume, or aren't sure how much attention you want, think partial costumes as well.

  40. I have to say I was extremely lucky at Star Wars Celebration last year in a Slave Leia costume and I didn't get any hands-y people. I did get a few questions about the costume - totally home made with hand bent copper, and all kinds of other fun stuff. It was really cold at SWCVI and then really warm at ComicCon in RI in November. So if you have layers you can play with adding/removing depending on temperature, that's the way to go the first day until you get a read on the overall climate of the building you're in.

  41. This makes me really want to try cosplay out. And when my 4 year old son saw the steampunk Vader girl he immediately ran to get his own Darth Vader costume. :)

  42. This post was very timely. I am attending my first convention next month (in costume!) and over the last couple of days I have begun to panic about... well, everything. What if there is barely any other costumes (it's smallish con)? What if my costume isn't good enough? Will the "seasoned" cos-players ridicule me? Certain corners of the internet make cosplay sound like an elite club. If your costume isn't perfect in every detail, you aren't fully in character at all times, and don't have at least X years cosplaying experience you are NOT! DOING! IT! RIGHT! It was nice to come here and be reminded that it is about having FUN and that most of the geeky community are wonderful, friendly, accommodating people. The first tip also makes me feel less embarrassed about practicing throwing poses at random as I go about my chores. A saucy head-cock or sultry smile works fine if you are Catwoman; however posing as a child I have to constantly remind myself to turn off the sexy and amp up the whimsy instead.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences for us "con newbies",

  43. So good to know! I'm going to Wondercon at the end of this month and it will only be my second one. At my first con I basically didn't take any photos at all because I didn't want to be a sniper/creeper but I wasn't really sure if people wanted to be bothered or not (it was a reeeeally quiet con) - and I'm a photographer! I feel much more confident about just asking now. Thank you for all the tips! :)

  44. Thanks for the wonderful tips, Jen. As a convention photographer and videographer for, I've found the best way to get permission to take a picture is to make eye contact, hold up the camera and ask "May I?". In the hundreds of pictures we've taken, I've only been refused a handful of times, usually at the end of the day or when the cosplayer is on their way elsewhere.

    And I always, always remember to say "thank you", either out loud or with a smile.

  45. Hello,

    I'm a girl who cosplays as the Doctor. Just..."the Doctor".
    Well, more of a female version, really, my long hair won't allow for much else. I'm here as a perfectionist cosplayer who doesn't have things quite perfect and I wanted to remind myself that it doesn't have to be perfect to be brilliant.

    Some of you humans don't understand fully the absolute, desperate need to be and/or to have everything to be perfect all the time; you use the term "perfectionist" in a more general sense, like many do with terms you don't fully understand that describe things of the mind and psychology. That's fine, it's not really anyone's fault and I'm not blaming anyone.

    But perfectionism is a cruel way of thinking and on no one is it more torturous than on the perfectionist themselves who have to deal with it every single day. They are defeatist, they think that if they can't do things perfectly then they shouldn't do them at all. They berate themselves for not doing it right and believe no one would like them if they don't or that they won't succeed in life. Also, they might be, if they are a bit less inwardly directed, some, but probably not all, of those elitist bastards who think everyone else has to be perfect too. They think that if nothing is exactly perfect than all is wrong with the world, or, at least, their world.

    Visualize that, if you can: all that pain, the fear, the misery, all because they're human and make mistakes. It breaks my hearts.

    If it helps, imagine a Cyberman. It's not exactly like that but the desire to make everything, including themselves, "perfect" is similar. Think about it: what happens if we're all perfect copies of who we cosplay? Yep, exactly, we will be upgraded to become like them. No creativity, no real emotions, just a shell with a brain, just acting rather than being. I have to tell myself that all the time, lest I start thinking mean thoughts about myself and sometimes even that doesn't work.

    I know I'm not the only one out there with these thoughts. I can't be, not when I see it so often depicted in fiction that I know it must stem from fact. Posts like the one above written by "Jen" help a little.

    We must get the word out there that it's okay, for example, for someone cosplaying a Disney Princess, for example, to not wear a hoop skirt (because we ladies know how cumbersome those things can be and they look like they'll show your undergarments if you sit wrong) or to have flats rather than high heels. It's fine if someone dressing as The Joker or The Riddler can't find or buy the right tie for his version or is too poor to buy or too unskilled to make a suit of the right colour. (Blimey, those titles! Thank goodness they're not Time Lords, I've had enough of my kind gone evil for a hundred regenerations.)

    Because, if we don't use that creative genius we are so blessed to have, - and don't say you're not creative, you just don't use that side of your brain that much nor recognize when you do - we're all doomed to live in a reality where everything is boring and staid and nothing wonderful gets created... except, perhaps, for babies.

    Have fun cosplaying, everyone! (Or, alternately, "Have fun cosplaying everyone!")

    P.S.: Alternate costumes/versions of characters: there should be more people using them.


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