What I’m Learning: Cosplay

This is the start of a new series on What I’m Learning. Interest-driven learning is both my key area of research interest and how most of my hobbies get picked up. I consider myself an expert learner. And I firmly believe that there’s value in sharing the process of the things in which we are experts, in providing models for other people. So I’m going to let you in on the ground floor and give you a perspective on what I’m learning. And we’ll start with something that I’m feeling extra inspired to take up right now: cosplay.

What is cosplay? It’s dressing up in costume as a specific character from media or history. You see it most often at fan conventions. It’s distinct from, though has a lot in common with, any other time you might wear a costume — for Halloween or to perform in a theatrical or dance production, for example.

Why am I getting into cosplay? I have an extensive background of being into costuming. It’s essentially an extension of playing pretend, which is one of my favorite things. My first cosplay (specific media character as opposed to generic idea like “magician”) was my Halloween costume when I was 3 or 4: the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. My mom is an incredible seamstress, so I often had very detailed costumes growing up.

In a detailed replica of Christine’s Phantom of the Opera wedding dress, with my then-boyfriend now-husband, 1999.

I’ve always loved dressing up and, while I don’t care to wear make-up for day to day life, I also really enjoy special effects make-up and hair/wig styling.

With my sister (right), brother (bottom), and a friend (left) as Cassandra, Rumpleteazer, Skimbleshanks, and Jellylorum from Cats, 1999.

As a dramatic art major in college, I had to work in the costume shop for a semester. I learned more about make-up and drafting patterns. I also did some sewing and ended up creating a custom-fitted dress that was so detailed in terms of fit that the director the costume shop said I could get into couture.

But you know, life.

Life is crazy and I’m easily overwhelmed, so I haven’t pursued much making my own costumes and accessories or doing hair and make-up. I’ve done some closet cosplay and crocheted accessories, but besides using the hashtag #cosplaygoals to note things I’d be excited to dress up as, I haven’t really engaged.

Dressed as a lady from the Fruity Oaty Bars commercial in Serenity. Sitting beside the best cat.

There’s a whole community around cosplay, but I have only briefly looked into it, admiring others’ work. But it’s time.

Why now? Honestly? Because this article popped across my Twitter feed, and because I’ve been at loose ends waiting for my next hobby to find me. I need something that I can do at home, in small chunks of time, but will eventually have a big payoff. Cosplay fits the bill.

What next? Here are my steps:

  1. Get inspired. The most inspiring cosplay I’ve ever seen is this cosplay of Maui from Moana. Not only does it beautifully address issues of representation in terms of both race and body type, it’s an example of many different skills that come into play: materials selection, inking, wig styling, jewelry creation, prop creation, programming, wiring. This quote kind of sums it all up:
  • “Cosplay is a blend of science and art, and being able to develop my craftsmanship skills and partner them with my performance abilities creates a magical experience. I thrive in these little pockets of shared sunshine where we can step outside of our ordinary lives and create the world we’ve imagined.
  1. Start reading. My earliest step when learning anything new is to research it pretty deeply. The SLJ article I linked above provides a few good places to start, so I’m starting with those, beginning with The Hero’s Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming. If reading isn’t how you like to learn things, the post includes some great videos. You can also seek out expert cosplayers and find out what they have to share. The names of several are mentioned in the SLJ article.
  2. Attend an event. I’m very lucky that Cosplay America is happening this weekend essentially in my backyard. With a toddler in tow and my husband out of town, I can’t really swing a full three-day convention, but I’ll be going on Sunday.
  3. Recruit a partner-in-crime. This kind of thing is always more fun when it’s social. I think I’ve gotten both of my siblings on board with digging deeper into cosplay, though I’ll be taking the lead. My brother will be joining me at Cosplay America.
  1. My brother as Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove.
  2. Make a plan. I don’t have a lot of great costumes on hand right now, so I’ll be closet cosplaying as Wednesday Addams at Cosplay America. If I can find suitable clothing for the toddler, he’ll be going as Pubert.
  1. Notes in my Bullet Journal about my Wednesday closet Cosplay Plans.

So that’s where I’m starting. Stay tuned for updates!

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