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How to Cosplay

Wednesday 3rd June 2015

Amber Lawrence on the top ten ways to perfect cosplay without ending up on a snark site. Pics by Paul Jacques.

The most important thing anyone needs to know about cosplay is that it’s all about putting on a silly costume for a day, hanging out with your fellow geeks and revelling in geekish joy. But if you combine the increasing numbers of people getting into cosplay and the speedy and anonymous nature of the internet, you end up with a lot of websites out there dedicated to showcasing “Cosplay Fail”. So, if you want to have some costumed fun for the weekend but are worried about faceless internet critics nitpicking at your efforts afterwards, here are our survival tips…

1. DON’T cosplay as someone you know nothing about

How to Cosplay
They've got it right, unless they think they are Jordan and Peter.

It’s really nobody’s business which character you choose to cosplay as, but it’s one of those weird things that net critics like to jump on.  You don’t have to sit through every episode of Bleach before you cosplay as Ichigo or Rukia (let’s face it, you’d be there a while), but it’s a good idea to know a bit about a character you want to cosplay as anyway. Not only will it give the critics less to moan about, but it’ll also help you figure out cool poses for photos (and give you something to talk about if you meet other fans of your character).

2. DON’T try to run before you can walk

Maybe you’ve seen the photos of last year’s Eurocosplay winners and been inspired to get into the hobby, and it’s understandable that you’d want a costume that’s just as impressive as theirs. But if you don’t have much experience, you may want to think a little smaller for your first cosplay. The cosplayers with the most impressive costumes usually have years of experience, and they all started small too. You’ll always feel happier about a simple, well-made costume than one that’s over-complicated and inexpertly made. And on that note…

3. DON’T cut corners with your costume

How to Cosplay
It wouldn't be the same if she was painted pink.

Everyone has real-life commitments like work, school or family, and it’s normal to feel stressed as events loom. But don’t feel tempted to cut corners just to be finished in time. There are a few things you can get away with – messy seams on the inside of your costume, a fancy dress prop that looks the part – but unfinished hems, unpainted props and cheap party wigs will ruin the overall look of your costume. If it’s not coming together in time then don’t rush – there’ll always be other events.

4. DON’T ignore your body type

Everyone knows that anime characters don’t have realistic body proportions, so we’re not saying that you shouldn’t cosplay if you don’t match up. But there are certain characters with distinctive physical attributes and may look odd on a cosplayer without them – a petite woman cosplaying as Matsumoto from Bleach or Tsunade from Naruto, for example, or a not-entirely-musclebound man taking on Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. Don’t despair, as there are always ways around these problems, whether it’s as simple as adjusting the cut of your costume or as extensive as building a muscle suit. But it all starts with you being aware of these problems in the first place.

5. DON’T forget your makeup

This is one that can go two ways. No-one has completely clear skin, and cameras can be extremely unforgiving when it comes to an uneven skin tone, so even if your character doesn’t seem to wear makeup, it’s a good idea if you do. A well-applied makeup scheme can do a lot, from disguising blemishes to seemingly changing the shape of your eyes or mouth. Be careful not to overdo it, too (unless you want to look clownish). Practice makes perfect with this, so experiment with your makeup before the event.

6. DON’T use your own hair

How to Cosplay
This would not be improved by an afro wig. Or would it...?

There are exceptions here. If you’re cosplaying as that most unusual of things, an anime character with a normal hair colour, and it happens to match yours, then you can probably get away with it. But don’t be tempted to think that you can save money on a good wig by trying to dye your hair a crazy colour. It never, ever looks right.

7. DON’T forget about your footwear

Ironically, it’s the characters with nondescript shoes that can trip you up. You may think that people will be too interested in your Alucard coat and hat to notice that you’re wearing an old pair of trainers, but internet critics always pick up on inappropriate shoes. You may not have any completely accurate footwear, but at least make sure your shoes match the rest of the costume.

8. DON’T lie about your costume

Not everyone has enough time, money or skill to make their dream costumes, so commissioning one made to your measurements is a reasonable alternative. No-one will look down on you for doing it… as long as you don’t try to pass it off as being your own work. Don’t enter craftsmanship competitions, don’t make up stories about the construction process, and if anyone asks, tell them the truth about where your costume came from. Lying about your costume is the cardinal sin of cosplay, and while internet critics will eventually forget about dodgy seams or a bad wig, they’ll never forget a person who claimed they made something when they didn’t (and won’t let you forget either).

9. DON’T take it too seriously

How to Cosplay
It's all good fun until someone tries dropkicking a passer-by...

Remember what we said right at the beginning about how cosplay is about geekish fun? Never lose sight of that. In internet terms, haters gonna hate, and if someone wants to snark about someone they’ll find some excuse or another for doing it regardless of all of the above. Feel free to disregard everything we’ve said here and cosplay as whoever you want, don’t visit snarky websites, and have fun with your hobby. That really is the best advice we can give you, with the possible exception of…

10. DON’T cosplay as L

Just don’t. No-one ever does it right.


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