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Cosplay 101. An introduction to fan costuming. What is “cosplay”?. Cosplay = costume-play Generally, fandom-related costuming. A (Very) Brief History. 1939: At the first World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon), Forrest J Ackerman and friend Myrtle R Jones wore SF costumes

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Cosplay 101

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cosplay 101

Cosplay 101

An introduction to fan costuming

what is cosplay
What is “cosplay”?
  • Cosplay = costume-play
  • Generally, fandom-related costuming
a very brief history
A (Very) Brief History
  • 1939: At the first World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon), Forrest J Ackerman and friend Myrtle R Jones wore SF costumes
  • 1984: Inspired by Worldcon costuming, Japanese journalist Nov Takahashi coined the term “cosplay” and the hobby was adopted by Japanese anime and manga fans
  • 1990’s: popularity of Japanese media rises in North America, and cosplay is re-imported as part of anime fandom
costuming vs cosplay
Costuming vs. Cosplay
  • Historically:
    • Costuming has heavier focus on creativity, making your own costume, detail and embellishment; original creations are encouraged
    • Cosplay has heavier focus on looking exactly like a character, acting and speaking like your character, purchasing/commissioning costumes is OK; recreating costumes of established character designs only
  • Realistically:
    • Same sh*t, different name
the bottom line
The bottom line?
  • Have fun. If you’re not enjoying wearing your costume, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s home made, whether or not it’s accurate, or if your wig even fits on your head; there’s no point.
  • The rest of this presentation will relate to feeling comfortable and looking your best in your costume, but it is not the rules you have to follow to cosplay
so you want to cosplay
So, you want to cosplay?
  • Decide on a character or concept
  • Break-down the costume and plan for what you need
  • Buy and/or make what you need
  • Test-drive your costume before taking it out in public
  • Have fun and show off!
pick your character
Pick your character
  • Usually best to start out with one of your favorites
things to consider
Things to consider
  • Budget
  • Deadline
  • Skill level
  • Modifications
    • Based on the above
    • Based on physical realities (gravity)
    • Based on your comfort level (modesty, body shape)
pick two
Pick Two:




getting started
Getting Started
  • Make sure to bring your reference with you when shopping!
introduction to fabrics


Broadcloth (lining)

Quilting cotton


Satin (dull)



Cotton knits

Not Recommended:

Broadcloth (main)

Satin (shiny, thin)

Lining fabric



Vinyl, PVC

Swimwear spandex

Introduction to fabrics
  • Pattern – self made or commercial
    • Easy to alter: length of sleeves, pants, skirts; fullness
    • Hard to alter: necklines, armholes, crotch
  • Read all instructions before starting
  • Lay out pieces carefully
  • Mark front/back, right/left etc on

your pieces with chalk or

disappearing marker

  • Press (iron) at every step
avoiding surprises
Avoiding Surprises
  • Try it on and make adjustments as you go
    • Wear the underwear you will be wearing with the costume
    • same for layers, binding
  • Don’t just rely on a mirror – take a photo of the back or have an honest friend take a look for problems
  • Wigs > real hair
  • Wear a wig cap
  • Avoid “party” quality wigs
  • Look for “kanekalon” or “heat resitant” fiber
  • Style using hairspray; gel won’t work
  • Colour using alcohol-based colour; hair dye won’t work
good wig resources
Good Wig Resources
  • Basic makeup (foundation, concealer, powder) for everyone – male or female
  • Use darker and lighter shades to shadow and highlight
  • Facepaint/bodypaint – Aquacolor, Snazzaroo
  • Contacts – theatrical and circle


shoes and boots
Shoes and Boots
  • Often very hard to find exactly the right footwear
  • Something close or at least appropriate is better than something way off
  • An alternative is to make a fabric cover for a base shoe aka “boot covers”
    • Can be removable or permanent
    • Check for a simple tutorial
  • Check convention or event rules for their weapons/large prop policy
  • Generally, con-safe materials include wood, foam, plastic; metal weapons are often banned
  • Consider adding a coordinating bag to your costume if it doesn’t have functional pockets
  • Hats, gloves, glasses are all better off purchased and altered than made from scratch
  • Masks – make sure you have clear vision or a friend to be a “handler”
  • Dollar-store toys are great starting points for creating props (just ask a steampunker!)
before going to the con
Before going to the Con
  • Put on all the pieces together
  • Make sure everything fits
  • Make sure you can move
  • Look for strained seams
  • Comfort of footwear, head-wear
  • Possible wardrobe malfunctions

(the “YAY” test)

before going to the con1
Before going to the Con
  • Make a list of all the parts
  • Figure out packing (and long-term storage)
  • Pack an emergency repair kit
  • Practice poses for photos
    • If you have a group costume, practice together
time to show off
Time to Show Off!
  • Get in character!
  • Meet people in the hallway!
  • Enter the costume contest!
  • Do a photo shoot!
  • Do a video interview!
  • Share your creativity with the world!

and get a little more advanced…

Female to Male

Binding breasts

Tensor bandage

Compression vest

Facial shading (makeup) for more masculine features, facial hair

Minimal “fashion” makeup

Pad out waist to create straighter figure from shoulder to hip

Male to Female

Tucking genitalia

False breasts

Stuffed bra

Silicone prosthetics

“fashion” makeup to feminize features (lipstick, eye shadow, false lashes)

Opaque flesh-tone tights

Waist cincher for hourglass figure

working with bodysuits
Working with Bodysuits
  • Spandex is unforgiving
  • Buy a “zentai suit” on eBay, or a unitard from a dancewear shop (Bal Togs)
  • Cheaper to make your own, but takes intermediate to advanced patterning and sewing skills
  • Get the right underwear
  • Think about accessibility (how will you eat? use the bathroom?)
good luck now go and make amazing costumes
Good Luck,Now go and make amazing costumes!

Images used belong to Venture Brothers and Metalocalypse

[adult swim]

Photos belong to Mai Sheri

Jennifer “Mai Sheri” Wynne 2012

For The Rusty Gear