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If you were to give some advice to a cosplayer first starting out, what would you tell them? Looking back to when you first started, in what ways have you grown & what mistakes have you learned from along the way? Lastly, do you think your mentality/outlook on cosplay has changed since you first started out? -Mirai
If you were to give some advice to a cosplayer first starting out, what would you tell them?
Don’t be intimidated. I started cosplaying in 2003. There was no strong online community until Cosplay.com, and cosplay was still relatively new outside of Japan. Essentially, there was no bar set outside of what occasional photos we would see from convention coverage in comic magazines like Wizard and Animerica. It was easier to be “the best”. Looking at how fast the hobby has grown the past 10 years, it’s almost unbelievable. Most costumes that used to win Best In Show in 2000 wouldn’t even place in today’s standards. So I can see to a beginner who isn’t skilled, it can look scary as hell. On the plus side, there are so many more readily available materials today. Better wigs, better fabrics, better shoes. Heck, even the pre-made costumes were impossible to come by a decade ago. Because the community is so connected online, it’s easier to find tutorials and support groups. Use these outlets to your advantage – whether you want to find cosplay buddies, or become a construction master!
Looking back to when you first started, in what ways have you grown & what mistakes have you learned from along the way?
The best lesson I learned is that it takes a crap load of mistakes to look effortless and polished. I used to think I was bad at sewing because I had to rip a seam. ONE seam. I thought I wasn’t cut out for sewing. Then I learned that ripping seams is just part of construction. Even today I probably rip more seams than are actually sewn into the costumes I make. I learned a different mindset. Making costumes isn’t a flawless performance from beginning to end. It’s do-over after do-over and a trial of patience.
Lastly, do you think your mentality/outlook on cosplay has changed since you first started out?
I used to be puzzled why someone would spend such effort to look like something that a tiny percentage of the population would “get”. I wondered, why not spend the same amount of time and be a generic fairy or something popular like a Disney character and at least be appreciated? I didn’t understand the appeal. I actually pitied cosplayers for that, and felt sorry that they would never be accepted in the mainstream. (Pft, like they wanted my pity.)
I remember wanting a Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) costume for Halloween in 6th grade, but nixing it before even bringing it up to my parents because I knew none of the kids at school would know the character and therefore it was futile. You just had to be recognized or else it was a failure.
Years later I was asked to go to a convention, and I knew there were nerds out there who might know who Rydia was. (In 2003, Rydia was an almost non-existent cosplay. There were only 2 Rydia cosplayers in the U.S. that I could find at the time, after a lot of digging. And niether were Amano artbook versions, which is what I decided to do.) It seemed exciting that I could go somewhere and finally wear that Rydia costume I always wanted and maybe have people even recognize it. Maybe. So I made it. I would have been happy if even a single person recognized it. That game was so dear to me and it would be so cool if a stranger came up to me in public and talked to me about Final Fantasy. So I wore that Rydia costume for my first day of cosplay, and not just one but dozens of people recognized it! The 6th grader in me rejoiced that people finally “got it”, after years of telling myself that no one ever would. That was the moment I realized why people cosplayed. :)
I wish I could ignore all the drama/negativity but it still gets to me sometimes. What are your tips for dealing with it?
Tip 1: Don’t have a livejournal, facebook, or twitter. I know if I exposed myself to those circles, I would never escape the horrors. So, limit your interaction with sites that drama monger. Um, I know no one but myself is *this* far removed, so that’s a tall order. That’s right, I abstain from social networking sites yet I am talking about myself right now on my own website. The irony is not lost.
Tip 2: Keep your side of the street clean. Know that no matter what anyone else says, regardless of whether it’s true or false, there is a dignified and honorable way to act and react. Hold yourself to a high internal standard and then what you see and hear and read suddenly becomes incredibly petty. And this is key: it becomes so petty that it doesn’t even deserve your attention, or even a response.
Tip 3: Don’t let others define your experience. I’m not in this hobby to cater to anyone. If someone doesn’t like my costume and wants to tell the internets about it, that’s their right. Guess what? I think they’re an ass, and that’s my right. A costume piece is more easily fixable than the personality flaw of only feeling empowered through cheap thrills of cowardly e-douchery. SNAP! Oh wait, I just violated Tip 2.
Well, you said making the most out of my FAVORITE con. So that’s different than just any con! Things that I try to do to it special for me:
No volunteering, no running panels, no judging, nothing that makes it feel like a duty. Fun only.
Cosplay, duh. And get one nice photoshoot.
Genuinely compliment as many costumes as I can.
Buy a stranger a drink.
Go out to eat with a group of friends – somewhere that’s not the hotel room.
Hey you know what’s not on this list? Anything *actually* convention related! It’s not about the events to me, it’s about meeting people, chilling out, and cosplaying. :)
Are you happy that you started cosplaying at the age that you did? What were some of the pros & cons (e.g. didn't have to worry about parents/chaperones)?
There is no way I would have been able to go to a convention in highschool. NO WAY. Throughout grade school AND high school, my curfew on the weekdays was sundown. It was rigidly enforced to my embarrassment, in the form of my parents driving around the neighborhood and picking me up on the side of the street if they saw me walking, and calling my friend’s houses to track me down. On the weekends my curfew was extended – to 10pm. T_T There was no way I would have been allowed to go to a convention, so I never researched or even asked because I knew I was only in for mega disappointment. So I never cosplayed at that “ideal age” of being a teen.
However, I believe this is a merit in disguise in my case. If I would have cosplayed in high school, I don’t doubt that my costumes would have been, relatively speaking, sub-par pieces of crap. Actually, I know they were, because when the first Pokemon movie came out, I made a make-shift Misty costume. The yellow shirt had racing stripes up the sides, and I just scraped my semi-tinted, thin red hair into a side pony-tail and didn’t even bother with the shoes. It sucked hard core, but luckily I don’t have any embarrassing pictures to haunt me. And that is a Good Thing. If my parents had let me go to conventions, I’m positive that pictures of that SNAFU would be haunting the internets to this day. Even though I had a great time and made a lot of kids happy at halloween handing out candy, I still feel like the internets wouldn’t have been so kind to my fond memories. :/
There was also the whole “dressing my age” thing, enforced by my parents. Makeup had to be tasteful or else it got confiscated, and definitely no miniskirts and the like. Kind of puts a cramp in many cosplays. And I’m not even touching on the whole money and travel situation. Wow, cosplay for a teen must really be challenging. I throw ribbons and trophies at any teenage cosplayer out there, for you have achieved what was impossible for me. So in a great way, I’m glad I waited until I was older to hone my skills, and be rid of the parental guidance before going the full-blown cosplay route.
I can’t discount my parents’ wisdom and life lessons in my outlook on cosplay. In high school I was just as insecure about my body as anyone else. Luckily, I was raised by totally awesome parents who never put any value on my appearance whatsoever. My baggy skater wardrobe was a choice. Why should appearance matter? Why should I be revealing? I didn’t care. And I’m glad I spent my formative years worrying about friendships and school projects and art rather than what I looked like. My parents really did me a world of good by not putting any emphasis on my looks at all.
By the time I got into college, I already possessed the strength of not needing anyone’s physical approval, and began to experiment with more girly styles. (MINISKIRTS FINALLY! …with combat boots.) I never felt a need to be overtly sexy or revealing to get attention. But cosplay allowed an avenue to experiment with so many different looks, in a setting that was more forgiving than school. At cons, I was never going to see these people again, and they’d never recognize me, so it was a relief and fun and very freeing to be able to experiment with so many different styles of dress in a positive environment with no authority figures lording over me.
So while I missed out on being the “ideal age” for cosplay, I think I started at the “ideal maturity” to cosplay in a positive, fun way for me. I already had a firm grasp on who I am, my comfort levels, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be coerced into any pervy situations. I was strong enough to know my own boundaries, and mature enough to feel comfortable in my own skin. I could experiment with my looks in a way that was exhilerating instead of traumatizing or embarrassing, and that is a true mark of maturity and knowing yourself and when it is okay to push your own boundaries in a safe way.
Yeah, there are times that I wish I had started out earlier. But when I think about the built-up fantasy that GUYS have about young cosplayers (i.e. underage, hot, and gullible) vs. the reality *I* felt as a teen (insecurity, zero budget, sub-par costumes, parental policing), I’m definitely glad that I waited until I was more mature, comfortable, and skilled to start cosplaying.
Less shower time. Less prep time. I’ve literally and figuratively shaved off 30 minutes of doing my hair every day. It is awesome.
No roots problem and/or re-dying my hair, ever.
No worrying about my bangs in my face or my hair looking whack.
Less wig prep time.
Staves off unwanted advances effectively. But just to add, I’ve met several dudes who have found the buzz look quite cute, so don’t think there’s no one out there who doesn’t admire it.
If I dress in grey/black/white, I look like a chic awesome dominatrix chica, or a fashion-forward hipster, with significantly less effort. As vain and superficial as it sounds, it’s a relief to not try so hard to look so darn cool.
No sweaty oily necks in summer. Very helpful when one lives in Vegas.
If you wear a crapton of makeup, old ladies will think you are a model.
Delousing takes a fraction of the time it used to.
People think you’re cancerous, a Nazi sympathizer, and/or lesbian. (Though depending on the situation, each of those could be a Pro.)
Some outfits look dumb with no hair. (But I work for a wig company, so… problem solved?) This is subjective.
Unless you are a strong girl, you will cry a lot and be miserable until your hair grows back. Luckily, I don’t give a crap, so I’m perfectly happy with this choice.
Have to weather the Sinead O’Connor, Britney Spears, Amber Rose, and V for Vendetta comparisons. Gets old.
What are your thoughts on altering a costume, whether they be minor or major changes from the original design?
A quick look at my costumes will tell you I don’t mind changing designs around to a point. Occasionally, I will take artistic licenses like with both my Rydia costumes or Belldandy. When there are many variations to a character, I personally feel that combining or embellishing on a few source materials is keeping the spirit of the character.
Then, there are designs that I alter to fit my body better, like Shayla, Asuka, and the Puma Twins, which I added heels to. I just don’t have the great legs these characters have, and the heels make me feel more accurate to spirit of the character, if not to the costume exactly. If I’m going to be having my photo taken by strangers, what’s important is that I feel confident. Accuracy comes second to that. If that means covering up more modestly, or giving your character a more flattering hairstyle, or changing the color of clothing to a more flattering shade for you, I say do it. Ultimately, it’s not worth it to be accurate at the expense of your confidence while cosplaying. Disclaimer: if you choose to be comfortable in your own skin rather than being accurate, you gotta let the smack talk roll off your back. I’ve been called out on my inaccuracies, but I stand by my reasoning and don’t let it bother me. :B