Sunday, February 9, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Cosplay Tips From Angi Viper

{Editor's Note:  Angi and I met on Twitter!  We had been friends and chatted for awhile, then came D23 and we were able to meet in person!  She is such a lovely and kind lady and I am so happy to have the privilege to call her friend.  She will steer you in the right direction for all your cosplay needs!}

The most important piece of advice I can give to any cosplayer is to cosplay a character you love.  I’ve seen a lot of people who are asked to join a group so they can be with their friends but they don’t know or like the series or character, or they’re pressured to cosplay by someone they know or any other of a million reasons and they almost always end up hating it.  Cosplay is about expressing yourself and your love for a character through becoming them and if you can’t connect with the character you’re dressed as, you find yourself wondering what’s the point?  Where’s the fun?  I can give you a thousand tips in this article but ultimately if you aren’t happy with what you’re leaving the house in, no amount of insider information will save your con experience.

Now that you’ve selected your character, the work begins.  There are a ton of vendors out there who offer custom costume commissions and if that’s the route you choose, it’s up to you to look around and find the best commissioner for your look and budget.  Be wary of the super cheap Asia-based vendors as many of them rip off cosplayers’ photos for their listings and will send you an item that looks nothing like what you expected.  However, most cosplayers like to give it a go themselves and for you all, be ready for a research project from hell.  

My process once I select a character is to download every photo I can find of the character.  If they’re from a movie or show, I’ll watch it continuously, sketching and taking screenshots.  If they’re from a comic book, I’ll go through all my issues, tagging their appearances.  I also have fashion design forms ready and sketch the design of the costume, including notes and drawings on specific details and color swatches.  Depending on the character I’ll even delve into period and location styles and fabrics to make the costume look more authentic.
I like to try and use/alter patterns for most of my costumes.  I’ll take a day and go sit in Joann’s and pour through every book until I find the closest match to what I’m making then I’ll alter the pattern to fit myself and the character the way I want.  If you have the patience to look at EVERYTHING available, you’ll be surprised how many patterns you can find that work (close enough) for what you want.

Start construction early.  If it’s February and you’re planning on going to SDCC in July, it’s not too early to start working.  It may seem ridiculous but costumes are expensive and take time to build.  Starting early gives you time to gather materials slowly and save money.  It also allows for a buffer in case you mess something up or want to remake a piece.  Trust me when I tell you that you are in for a miserable con if you wait until the last minute.  I did it once and it was not worth it.  I was exhausted all day and a few pieces of my costume fell apart because they were hastily constructed.  Take your time and don’t be afraid to hold onto a costume for a future con if it isn’t finished when you intended.  Remember, cosplay is supposed to be fun, not stressful.

If this is your first time at a con, be prepared for a culture shock.  Cons are a lot of fun, but it can be overwhelming the first time.  There’s a lot to take in from cosplayers to artists to vendors to panels to photographers to celebrities and everything in-between.  I felt like my head was spinning at the first con I ever attended.  I loved every second, but I missed a lot because I was so unprepared for how much would be going on.  Cons tend to release their panel schedules beforehand on their websites so be sure to check them and figure out beforehand what you want to do and see.  Plan to get to panels early.  Lines form for most panels and the popular ones can be near impossible to get into.  You also have to keep in mind that it can be difficult and time-consuming to maneuver through a convention hall if your costume is large or hinders mobility as well as the constant stopping for photos.
Be cautious of photographers who won’t look you in the eye and the really pushy ones.  You’ll learn pretty quickly the warning signs of unsavory people at cons, but it’s better to be prepared beforehand so you can avoid it altogether.  I cannot stress this point enough: YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ACCEPT EVERY PHOTO AND VIDEO REQUEST.  If someone asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with, say no or just walk away.  Just because you are in a costume doesn’t mean you have to be demeaned, taken advantage of and harassed to get attention and continuing to allow these people to get away with it only makes it ok for others to start.  The best way we can change the way cosplayers are treated at cons is to stand up for ourselves and walk away from uncomfortable situations.

Conventions are a lot more fun with friends, so try to meet up or go with some good buddies.  It also helps to have a handler if you’re in a bulky, vision-impairing or revealing costume.  See if a friend is willing to hang around and hold your things for pictures and keep an eye out for you and offer them something nice in return – dinner, buy their badge, a ride to the con, a piece from Artist Alley, join them at a panel they want to attend, whatever strikes their fancy.  Whether you go with friends or not, don’t be afraid to approach fellow fans.  If you see someone cosplaying something you like, go say hi and, more importantly, if you see a costume you like, don’t be afraid to tell the cosplayer.  It makes a cosplayer’s day when someone expresses appreciation for their hard work and you could wind up making a new friend or getting advice on how to construct your next costume.  I’ve left cons with thousands of new ideas and inspiration just because I took a couple minutes to talk to a cosplayer about their costume.

My final recommendation is to consider attending one day of the convention out of costume.  Being in costume can make it difficult to move around the con floor and you can get stopped a lot for photo requests so if there’s a day with a lot of panels you want to attend or you want to make sure you get to see all of the sales floor, I recommend sacrificing a day for comfort and maneuverability.  Contrary to what people seem to believe, cosplayers do have to buy their own badges to cons and they are not cheap, especially when you go as often as we do.  If you’re going to invest that much into going to the con, wouldn’t you like to get your money’s worth and actually enjoy it?

Most importantly, just have fun.  Do what you want to do and what makes you happy and you’ll have an amazing time.

{Follow Angi Viper on Facebook and Twitter!}


Megan R said...

Great tips! I remember being overwhelmed by the number of people at my first con. That, and getting kicked by a cosplayer posing for a photo on the crowded market floor.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the advice :) I have too many reasons to not cosplay (mostly nerves and a fear that I won't make a good costume) and one of them is not getting to enjoy the convention to the fullest extent! Although I really want to cosplay and I think it would be a worth it experience at least once!

Joie Fatale said...

GREAT advice!
And I think we as ladies at cons should keep an eye out for creepy dudes for each other.
If we see something wrong, say something. My brothers and I have been doing that for a while.

Post a Comment