By Rachel Stewart / notprolificnotprofound
Another Dragon*Con might have come and gone, but cosplay is year-round hobby for many, including myself. It’s not uncommon for me to be working on multiple cosplays at once, or be considering what characters or costumes I want to tackle next.
Tip 1: Research, research, research. As soon as I see a costume I want to cosplay, I search the Internet for screencaps or promotional images. Seeing an outfit’s details from every angle can help you whether you’re planning on tracking down a screen accurate item or buying and altering a similar garment. When using online forums, scan past posts and tags before asking questions. Many times your questions might already be answered if you’re cosplaying a popular character. [For Sherlock fans, Sherlockology has everything covered. Seriously. Everything.] Search for online tutorials to get ideas on how to make things, style your hair or wigs, or apply makeup. If you’re feeling gutsy and have the right information, you might even reach out to actual costume designer to inquire about a hard-to-identify piece. If you do, just be straightforward and polite in your request and thank them for their time. [What information they give you might rely on what they’re allowed to say or based on their memory of working on the project.]
Research is more than just wigs and clothing. It’s also being self aware of yourself and your body. Learn to take your own measurements properly, so when you’re up at 4 a.m. considering clicking Buy It Now on an auction, you’ll know the item in question will fit when it arrives. Knowing how to convert your measurements is also important if someone needs centimeters instead of inches. When possible, consider how you can make the costume custom tailored to you and allow you some comfort (which I know is not always possible). Whether you’re wearing it for a couple hours or a whole day, being comfortable allows you to enjoy your costume more.
Tip 2: Brush up on keywords. No matter if you’re searching for street clothes featured in Doctor Who or constructing a dress from Game of Thrones, learning words associated with types of clothing will help you on your journey. Types of fabric, clothing styles and cuts, and clothing brands are all things I’ve become familiar with in my time cosplaying River Song. Having the right keywords can help you find what you’re looking for quickly.
Tip 3: Keep a well stocked costume closet. I’ve always been a thrift store pack rat, picking up things I like here and there and hiding them away for a rainy day, which comes in handy in a pinch. If you see an item that looks similar to something you might need or think you can convert it into something else, don’t let it pass you by if the price is right. The steampunk movement is a great example of taking second hand items–Nerf guns, goggles, watches, gears, leftover fabric–and turning these items into centerpieces of a costume.
Tip 4: Find a support system. Cosplay can be daunting at times, so it’s good to have people you can bounce ideas off of. It can be your significant other, friends, or members of online forums. [If you’re a Doctor Who cosplayer, I highly recommend the DW_Cosplay community and Prydon Academy.] Show people what you’re working on and ask how they’d make it better. Having an outside voice of reason can help you if you’re getting tunnel vision working on a project.
Tip 5: Recruit extra help. Some people like to craft their own costumes and props. Others prefer to commission. Find the mix that works for you and your budget. I personally like the challenge of seeing what I can come up with on my own. When I’m out of my depth, I use overseas and local vendors. Having something custom made to your measurements or needs can help you feel more confident and enjoy cosplay more.
Rachel Stewart has been obsessed about all things pop culture from an early age, but counts Doctor Who and Jem and the Holograms among her main obsessions. She blogs about her cosplay adventures at conventions, weekly geek-inspired outfits and whatever else takes her fancy at her blog notprolificnotprofound.