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How to Cosplay like a Pro

guitar superhero cosplay by Kevin Dooley

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Costume play, or “cosplaying”, has evolved into an important part of what many gamers consider the convention hall experience. At events like PAX and Comic-Con, individuals have the liberty to dress like their favorite characters without the social stigma normally associated with emulating a giant bear that molests children. But there are important things to remember when cosplaying to ensure that you get the most out of your efforts, and so that you don’t end up on some hack blogger’s top ten worst dressed list. Below are some essential tips that will help separate the cos-playas from the cos-posers.

Match the Tone of the Event
Most do this automatically, but not everyone truly captures the spirit of the event they’re attending. Going as a Klingon to E3 or Comic-Con is certainly acceptable, but Star Trek was not borne of the mediums that either of those events were intended to endorse. It would be more appropriate to go as characters within those IP’s but created for mediums that respect your convention, like Force Unleashed’s Starkiller. Additionally some events cater to younger audiences, so consider that before slipping on that g-string/gun-holster combo.

Wear it Before You Wear it
It’s common to regret putting your outfit on for the first time just before the big event. Who knows what will be uncomfortable, break off, or just not look right when you finally get all that chainmail locked in place? Put on your entire costume a few days beforehand, sit down in it, and maybe even jog a little; make sure your labors will hold up to the test you’re about to put them through. You may also want to bring backup equipment for items that are likely to break or additional clothing on the off-chance that something tears in an inappropriate way.

Size Doesn’t Matter, but that Doesn’t Mean Ignore It
No one has a perfect body except for me; you have to earn love handles like this and few people have that kind of dedication. So don’t worry that you’re not fit or top-heavy enough to pull off your outfit. It doesn’t matter if you look exactly like your inspiration or not, only that you try and have fun while doing it. But with that said, you really shouldn’t squeeze into a size 4 when you’re a size 10 without adjusting your outfit to fit the best that it can. Inversely scrawny folks should add a few sets of push-ups to their daily routine if they are trying to pull off something like Kratos from God of War. Otherwise you have to tear the head off a kraken for authenticity and I believe they’re all extinct now.

Learn the Mannerisms
Great, now you look the part, but can you play it? The difference between the Commander Shepard standing alone and the one who’s surrounded by photographers isn’t the accuracy of their foam core armor, it’s probably that one’s muggin’ like a captain should. Watch your character in action, note their most iconic movements (Cloud’s victory sword spin, for instance), and then pantomime them when appropriate, which is pretty much anytime someone makes eye contact with you for more than a few seconds. Try not to hurt anyone in the process though.

For the Love of Your Feet, Wear Comfortable Shoes
Do not underestimate how much misery can come from having to wear poorly considered footwear for even half an hour. A warm convention hall is uncomfortable, a packed one is inconvenient, smelly and loud ones are off-putting, but none of that will stop you from enjoying yourself. Injuring your feet however absolutely can and probably will, and the pain doesn’t always go away within an acceptable amount of time, especially if you were stubborn before you gave in. There is the option of removing your footwear in most convention halls, but no one wants to smell your sweaty toe-jam or slip in your blister juice should you be forced to do that.

Most Importantly, Remember You’re Better than Everyone Else
As a cosplayer you’re more important than everyone else at the event that isn’t cosplaying as well. You’re dedicated, you truly respect the spirit of the hobby, and you’re part of the spectacle. Cosplayers are on par with the exhibitors attendees typically pay to go see in the first place. Ignore the snooty looks from people who caught their partners sneaking a peek and enjoy yourself. You, more than anyone else attending these cons, have earned it.

Now that you can cosplay like a pro, you won’t make some of the mistakes I did one Halloween so many years back. French-maid outfits were not made for guys with love handles as sick as these puppies.

Tune in next week for my list of the top ten worst dressed cosplayers!

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