Welcome to an expensive world of crazy stuff and fools!
This page is half FAQ, and half advice. Most of it was written after coming home from the MCM Comic Con 2016 in Manchester where I played Skull Kid from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It's a collection of thoughts and rants that went through my head while sitting in a hotel room by myself, or wandering around the con.
It's up to you what happens here. It's just making costumes, you know! Except when it isn't, because some folks like to perform instead. It's a lot of things. I might as well try to tell you what the exciting world of painting is like. You'll figure it out! If you're passionate and resourceful and -persistent- enough, you'll get anything done eventually.
This isn't a list of rules, and it barely counts as advice. I simply hope it makes you chuckle, and that you'll take some of it to heart and come out the other side a better cosplayer.
So let's start.
Nothing in life is a simple list of 'do's and 'don't's. Pretty much every piece of advice you'll get will have an exact opposite which in a lot of cases can be just as valid. You'll have to use your head and figure out the best response in every situation.
This is the best advice I can give anyone who wants to cosplay.
No, actually it isn't. I'll come back to that one.
Instead, the best advice is...
THIS is the best advice I can give anyone who wants to cosplay.
If you want to be there, wearing that stuff, seeing your friends in their costumes, getting all the attention together, and seeing yourselves in pictures months from now, you have to start somewhere.
You have to start, and keep going. And why not start today? You don't even have to start working on an actual physical costume today. And as well you shouldn't because before you get into physical labour, there's a lot to be done first.
Okay! More practically speaking, these ones are 99% as important.
What kind of costume do you want? What do you want to do in it? Will it even be you who's wearing it?
Are you just interesting in hanging out with folks? In that case, a simpler costume - one you can wear around, walk to places easily in, and most importantly -clean- would be best.
Or are you looking forward to simply modelling it? You don't care that it takes a team of five to strap you into your amazing dragon outfit, and that your face will be completely encased in stifling, choking acrylic paint and vanish fumes for hours on end.
Or are you interested in the technical challenge? Do you like the idea of spending relaxing evenings hand-embroidering complex designs onto the back of a trenchcoat?
You might not know what you want right now, and you might not even want to go to a con! But figuring out what you want to do and what you'd like to try will be the very first thing any cosplayer does.
Circumstances and opportunities change! Just because you had a flash of inspiration on Monday to make yourself into a magnificent summoned Ifrit for your Final Fantasy group cosplay, doesn't mean that if you find the perfect wig, coat material and machine gun prop you can't put ol' Freety on hold while you make a much more modest yet practical Laguna Loire costume.
But, y'know, you're not going to get anything done unless you stick at it. Making small props and simple pieces can be done within a week. More complicated things will require a time commitment.
Nobody's born into the world knowing things, you learn by seeing things for yourself, touching, making assumptions, trying things out. There's no shame in seeing what other people have done. And there's nothing wrong with looking at how real clothes are put together. What's the difference between real clothes, theatrical costumes and your cosplay anyway? Nothing, except their original purpose. If you find some cheap old item in a shop somewhere that you like the look of, you're curious about how it's constructed, figure it out.
You'll have the best results if you think things over. Constantly think ahead. If I buy this, where does it go? How much does it cost? How do I put it together? How do I wear it? Is it safe? How long does this take to dry? How do I put the extra things on after it's dried? Wouldn't it be easier if I did X first?
Everything is possible on paper, in idea form. You can come up with anything you want, have as many attempts as you like, go forwards and backwards in time as you see fit. Write down all the ideas that come to you, sketch them out, over and over.
Make lists of materials, stages, threads you'll need. When you're mid-way through making some part of your costume and are interrupted for any length of time, your notes will tell you what you've got left to do and how to do it.
Take pictures constantly, every angle. This is never a mistake, and it'll always pay off. Everybody will want to see them! You'll want to see them!
If you see a nice picture on DeviantART, or some video on YouTube that perfectly expresses the mood or colours or designs you want to create, save it immediately. Nail it, grab it, copy it a million times and LOCK IT THE HECK DOWN. You never know whether or not something will still be online the next day.
And when you save it, put the artist name and or url in the filename in big letters. You don't want to lose that either. And when you make your website you can help folks find the original artists!
Heaven's above! Yes, by all means WEAR PANTS. This is what I mean by 'pantser':
There's an international novel writing challenge called 'NaNoWriMo' that describes two approaches to novel writing: the 'planner' and the 'pantser'.
The 'planner' plots out their story on paper first, scribbling notes constantly on index cards with arrows flying all over the place.
The 'pantser' flies by the seat of their pants, writing whatever comes to mind at any given points, hammering the keys on their keyboard until it's a smoking pile of debris.
Don't be a cosplay pantser! Be smart. Be a planner!
It's alright to be a novelist pantser or a computer programming pantser or any kind of creative pantser as long as it doesn't cost anything to make a move and mistakes are reversible. With costuming that isn't the case. Pants all you like, but don't come running to me when all you have to show for your efforts is tangled rags!
This is my own personal bias since I don't consider myself an artist in any capacity, but I don't think about my cosplay projects as art. Mostly because art is hard. Engineering on the other hand? That's just numbers and lines; techniques that can be -taught- as rote, researched in books and -learned by anyone-.
In those terms, making even the most complicated costume is now a simple case of reducing it into smaller and smaller parts and processes that you can make one by one and then combine into the final product.
Sure, now it seems less magical and more like hard work. That's 'cause it is. The trick is not to let on to other people though. But really...
Show 'em how it's done!
Sewing patterns are self-contained instruction kits for making clothing items. It goes without saying that being able to understand these instructions is a great idea!
The very first commercial pattern I ever used was McCalls M6106 Animal Costumes, since it was given to me as a birthday present by my awesome sister. It's not perfect, and it seems really redundant in places, but it's really easy to make and to adjust.
Learn the lingo! Real clothes come from patterns, but I bet your Gran doesn't need such things. Learn the rules, then wing it all over the place!
Even better, get patterns for things that are similar to things you want to make, and then adjust them to be perfect. Your character wears a fitted suit jacket that has unusual tails or an emblem on the back? You can get suit jacket patterns all over the place.
Sure, you've got a fancy sewing machine and you're ready to make all kinds of massive things that would take forever to hand-stitch. It's designed so any idiot could use it, so who needs to read the manual, right?
You've got an intricate, expertly designed machine at your command, refined over decades to provide hundreds of different possible stitching combinations. That little book will save your bacon, read it twice before you even start.
For example, if you've never used a sewing machine before, you might not know you have to use the reverse button to take a few steps in the back direction at the start and end of a stitch series to lock it in place. Or, you might not know how to make the bottom thread emerge by tugging the end of the threaded top thread gently while advancing the handwheel to make it catch on the thread below.
Stitch selection. Different stitches look different, have different uses.
Tension adjusting. There'll be a top stitch tension and a bobbin tension (never touch this though, it scares me).
Jam resolution. Sometimes you'll just get a big spider of threads sucked into the plate. You'll have to figure out how to fish that out without breaking everything. Be aware that some machines come with big capital letter warnings about the fatal consequences of turning the handwheel in the incorrect direction.
Machine cleaning, oiling. Yep, you're going to have take off a panel at some point and put some -sewing machine oil only- in the correct place. My machine needs a couple of drops right in the middle of the shiny bobbin holder underneath the metal panel behind the accessory compartment.
Needle changing, buying.
Bobbin changing, loading, maintenance. Get a whole load of spare bobbins of the -exact- type for your machine. If they're a different shape or material, don't even try it. Get exact duplicates only.
Sure, you've got a fancy sewing machine and you're making all kinds of massive things that'll take forever to hand-stitch, so who needs to know all that granny nonsense, right?
There's absolutely nothing clever about deliberately avoiding knowing how to do something simple, essential and useful.
Locking your stitches. I either knot, or backstitch.
Backstitch. This is a secure stitch that appears as an unbroken series of stitches running into one another. If you want to sew a backstitch left to right, sew your top stitches backwards and your bottom stitches forwards. Do a short backwards stitch right to left, then a double length stitch underneath left to right to advance. Use this at the start and end of any other kind of stitch to keep it in place.
Running stitch. This is a simple up and down stitch. Use this for basting (a.k.a tacking, a.k.a. holding stuff together temporarily). You don't have to lock this, but you could make it wider instead.
Ladder stitch. This makes a lovely neat seam between two different materials. It looks like a machine stitch when you do it right. Use it for attaching toy heads to bodies, limbs to bodies, fursuit necks to heads and so on. Start with a locking stitch, then go through your two layers like you're doing a running stitch, down through 'em, up through 'em. Don't pull everything tight, only gradually increase the tension as you go to pull the layers together. Then when you're done, pull it all tight and lock.
Whatever you're doing, whether it's cutting, sewing or painting, can benefit from trying things out on scraps.
You'll have a miserable time sewing if you don't get into the habit of running off-cuts of material through your sewing machine to test the tension is correct.
Certain paints and sprays and varnishes don't react well with certain materials. They'll melt, discolour, distort or explode. Find the combinations that don't.
Pretty much every process you'll perform in the act of creating a costume will have parts where you simply can do no more and you'll have to wait for things to cool down, dry, set or settle. Don't even think of rushing these.
Sometimes I think that a piece of material I'm working on has a certain amount of 'work' it can take in any given day before further edits will cause it to go horribly wrong. It could just be, y'know, fatigue, but this is more a romantic concept.
Whatever you're doing, you're probably supposed to use thin coats. And there's probably a very good reason for this.
If you try to apply it thickly, it'll go wrong. But you're allowed to break this rule if you've tested it thoroughly first! (And don't come to me afterwards!)
You'll be needing to buy materials, tools, accessories, and certain pre-made costume components. Wander around your local town and see what you can find easily. Simple tools, almost certainly. Material from the roll? Possibly. Upholstery foam for fursuit work? Possibly. XPS foam for props? Maybe you live near a school uniform shop that can embroider items for you.
Being able to get something the same day is a great boon, though my local Abakhan shops have been getting steadily worse over the last decade, so you'll need to figure out what you can get online. You might need it in bulk, or in a specific colour. Ask about shops!
Money makes the world go around, and the cosplay world is no different. Materials, tools, paint, finishing, transport, storage: everything has a cost, and it's going to get completely out of hand if you don't think it through.
You can't do anything without money. You could, but would it be as good? Skimping shows. But really, who cares? You're not entering a competition are you? Or are you?
Be rich. You'll be unhappy if you're not.
So you don't have the money, you don't have the talent, experience, tools, space, materials or free time to make what you want.
What are you going to do about it?
Physical costumes have allowances for reality, because that's where we all live. I originally hadn't written 'physical costumes', but then I realised that a lot of the costumes that I'm curious about, like the modern Power Rangers suits and the Black Panther's suit are highly CGIed. Certain costumes won't be possible without concessions.
Something you're going to walk around in for hours will probably be made out of different materials than what's implied on screen. And you'll probably not be able to afford the real thing anyway.
Unless you're going for one-thousand-percent accuracy, you'll need some way to put on and take your costume off. You might even need help.
So, say you want to make something ambitious and dramatic. You want to make a full fursuit, or you're a big fan of Mass Effect and you know your friends would die if they saw you as a six-foot-five Krogan Battlemaster stomping around in futuristic armor (complete with silly tiny gun). Great!
Now you're going to think it through. And while thinking it through, you're going to realise that you never see anybody putting on or taking off armor in the Mass Effect series. In fact, you have absolutely no idea how they'd do it! Are they going to slide down a chute, Thunderbirds-style, and slip into it? Or is it built around them like an assembly line?
Unfortunately for you, you live in reality and you've only got one pair of hands (and they're going to be covered soon) and maybe a very patient friend or two!
But because you've observed and thought ahead and made concessions for reality, you're gonna come up with a cool tricky scheme, aren't you?
Read all your notes out loud. If your final costume involves you somehow putting on a wig -after- you've put on your helmet, you might want to re-think it.
Seriously. You're a five-foot-ten person dressed in twenty pounds of foam and rubber made to look like a dinosaur! How are you going to walk? Did you think of that?
Whatever it is, it's going to be miles easier if you can roll it rather than drag or carry it. I made a big fancy box for my Majora's Mask, but I still need a trolley to carry it. If I was smart, I'd have put wheels on it... but I wasn't smart enough to do it safely and correctly, so I'm settling for the safe alternative of borrowing trolleys whenever I can see them. (By 'trolley', I mean the kind of tilting cart that you might use to carry heavy luggage or boxes around.)
You're going to get pretty attached to your ideas and solutions over time. You're not going to be objective. And you probably haven't got any idea whether or not the thing you're planning is going to work. Ask folks! They'd love to see it! Plus, on a more manipulative level, you'll keep up the heat on yourself, you vain bast'.
'cause it's cool.
I don't have any reason other than that.
I had this one as big capital letters on my Twitter (@SkullKidUK) for a few months while I was preparing for Manchester.
The first try at doing Majora's Mask in modroc didn't turn out too well. It was floppy. I'd made a mistake by texturing it. I'd make a mistake by fixing it to the damned table, so the edges were a wreck!
When something goes wrong, you've got two main choices: fix it and use it, don't use it. Either way, don't throw it out. Keep the ones that don't work.
Things that don't work are good dummy pieces to test out paints, glues, tools and techniques on, due to either being the correct shape or correct material as what you're trying to build.
This is why you need money. Preferably three times as much as you think you'll need.
Having somebody knowledgeable about costumes, with cool stuff you can borrow and use, who is willing to hold the camera and take picture for you, willing to tell you that your ideas are crap, and help you out with lifts in a big pinch? Everybody needs a sister.
Nothing lasts forever. If you sit down, your cosplay butt is going to get a little bit dirty. If you walk around your super-kickass custom boots or fluffy paws are going to get grubby or torn.
You might have to repair things, or remake them entirely. If you've thought ahead, maybe you could make things so that they're detachable, resurfaceable, refabricable. Or maybe you've got spares, or you know where you can get more.
If you've thought ahead, you'll have thought about using hardwearing materials if you can and how to wash and maintain your cosplay items.
If you're going to take making a costume seriously, you should treat your materials properly. Determine the best way to wash and iron your fabrics before you even begin to mark or cut them.
If you don't, you'll end up with big unpredictable creases in your final items. Maybe you don't care!
So you want to go to the convention as Deadpool. But you're not going to wear the full suit. And you don't have the right materials, so you're going to make it out of what's available. It's your first costume, so it's not perfect.
It'll be great! But if you expect to win competitions and the world to freeze and gawp at your awesome costume, they won't. You're not allowed to get mad.
Lying won't get you anywhere. Or it could be that I've not really been very good at it. Seriously though, no.
If somebody asks where you got your costume from and you bought it, don't say you made it. You'll be as transparent as the ghosts in Pac-Man (-after- they've been eaten).
My 'Hotshot The Overlynx' Interpose cosplay was almost all bought - pleather jacket, jeans, boots, self-designed but professionally-shop-made embroidered unit patch.
A major super victory though, 'cause I made the head and gloves and gun! Everybody wanted a piece of the strange sci-fi kitty!
You're surrounded by people of all kinds, whether you choose to believe it or not. People with stories, experiences, advice and skills as well as more tangible things like tools, materials, and the almighty car. You're doing a pretty unusual thing, making a costume. People will be interested. They'll want to be involved.
Ask for help, accept it. To paraphrase the old TV advert for the original Legend of Zelda, "Your parents can help you set it up!"
I worked on my Skull Kid costume over a period of one-and-a-half years. It began as a drawing on my desk, became a pile of simple clothes, and then a mask that's lived in several rooms of the house (sometimes simultaneously), innumerable attempts at pairs of boots.
If somebody'd knocked something of mine off a table, I'd go spare. Don't let yourself be put into uncomfortable situations. Keep your stuff safe and establish specific limits early and often.
Don't get too carried away. If you keep working and working on something, you'll go beyond determined and enter Psycho Mode and you'll make mistakes. Small mistakes at first, and then irrevocable mistakes.
You need to rest!
But sometimes... Psycho Mode is the only way. You need to be able to tell when you're going to make mistakes.
If you're looking for advice on the best airbrush, the best sewing machine, the best table, the best knives and the best materials, I can't help you. I'm a natural cheapskate. I don't have any of these fancy things that all-a-y'all cosplay Americans seem to have in your tutorials. I've only used cheap, replaceable tools. But cheap and disposable is good!
Don't re-use tools that you've used for other purposes: keep your woodworking stuff away from your foam stuff, and keep that away from your fabric stuff. That plaster powder will get absolutely everywhere if you let it. Hell, I can't even stop the sewing machine oil from climbing out of its little bottle despite triple wrapping it in bags and sealing the lid on.
Pencils. I love mechanical (a.k.a. propelling) pencils. I have dozens of them. If you're an arty type, you might have a bunch of grades available. I use this for sketching, designing, patterning, everything.
Tailors chalk. You'll need chalk if you want to make impermanent marks on fabric. You can just use ordinary chalk and whittle it into a finer point with a knife or you can get the stuff that's packaged like a pencil. Up to you!
Permanent marker. I use this for marking foam, vinyl, all sorts. Just be sure that you want to mark what you're marking. You might be able to get this erased with a dab of lighter fluid (or a scribble with dry-wipe marker on top), or you might just end up making your work flammable.
Fineline markers. Darker than pencils.
Disposable latex gloves. Or nitrile if you like. Always have hundreds of these ready. There's never a reason not to wear gloves.
Thicker dishwashing gloves.
Nail files, emery boards.
Sandpaper. Wrap them around a chunk of shaped XPS and you can sand in any shape. Have lots of grits at your disposal, and prepare to go through this stuff like toilet paper. But don't get the two mixed up.
Sanding blocks. I don't have use these much, but I can see their utility.
Metal woodworking files. Don't use the same files for foam and wood unless you're willing to clean them up. XPS is easily marked and bumped by the edges of -sandpaper-, so don't go swinging things like files around.
Disposable grocery bags.
Disposable plastic cutlery.
Disposable glue spatulas.
Washing up sponge scourers.
Scissors. These'll get absolutely messed up.
I didn't know what I needed so I bought two boxes of pound-shop sewing accessories and poured them into a big tub labelled 'Matt's Sewing Stuff'.
Scissors. Don't mix up paper and sewing scissors. Have loads of sizes ready.
Berry pins. These are the long pins with the coloured balls on the end. I use them everywhere and for everything. I don't tend to use the ones without the coloured balls as much, but they're useful too.
Safety pins. I don't use these as much as much as berry pins, but they're what you need if you're planning on test wearing something that you're pinning.
Threader. You know that weird thing that looks like a flattened coin with some wire sticking out of it? That's a threader. Learn how to use one of these!
High quality cotton, poly-cotton and polyester threads. You'll have to learn the uses and limits of these for yourself. Don't expect much out of the little paper rolls you get in the cheapo sets. But, if you're only expecting light use, and they're all you have, the tool you need and have today is better than the tool you need and don't!
Don't be tempted to use real tools as part of your cosplay. Real tools are heavy, expensive, and designed to have a deliberate lasting effect. Costume props are light, durable and designed to look good.
Oh, wait, there is one big-ticket item that I can give you some advice on.
Whatever you do, don't buy a Singer Tradition 1250.
It'll happen to you. Over and over. It's a needy sun'-bitch, and when you try to return it under warranty you'll get bona fide -sass- from the Singer support people.
If your machine is anything other than 100% and it's still under warranty, make 'em pay. Get them to fix it. Don't accept any half measures or over-the-phone prop-ups. You bought a machine with a promise that it'd work under normal use. If it so much as looks at you funny, get them to take it away and get them to fix it.
Regardless of whether you're going to a local con in the next city over (like me travelling from Liverpool to Manchester for MCM Comic Con), or you're travelling to another country entirely, at some point there will a point of no return. If you haven't prepared, you might have forgotten something. A costume piece, a tool, some documents. It happens.
If you're local, you can maybe go back and get things, but don't rely on that. You need to make checklists, especially if your costume is made out of multiple pieces. (See that 'pieces' section above.)
If you get a ticket for a specific train only, you're going to be rushed and make mistakes. If you get a ticket that's applicable for your route but is valid all day AND you're not doing anything important when you reach the other side, it won't matter if you're late!
Where I live, they're replacing the local railway tracks. This means that on Sunday the trains only go to certain stations, and (hilariously) sometimes decide to miss out the one station where it would be really handy for me to not have to call a super expensive cab to take my Skull Kid stuff home.
Be prepared for everything to be really awkward on Sunday, if it's working at all.
Also, if your convention takes place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then the Saturday will be super crowded, Friday will be awfully crowded and Sunday will be acceptably crowded but all the really fun stuff will already have happened and you'll feel a little disappointed with it all. But! Maybe there's something special that's happening on the Sunday!
Travelling to other places can be exhausting, attending conventions can be especially exhausting, particularly if you have an uncomfortable costume (like a fursuit head made of thick foam and covered in shaggy fur) that you've been wearing for hours.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a safe place near to the event where you can store you items, relax, have a cup of tea?
Going to a convention without a decent (doesn't have to be perfect, but perfect helps!) room available leads to all kinds of uncomfortable problems and wasted money.
Whenever I go to a con, I get a set of bottled water, a little box of tea bags, some milk, sugar. Corn flakes too if I can find a little box. Spend a fiver at your local discount supermarket and get comfy. Your hotel is your little home away from home. Eat right, feel great, don't go without because it's fuss.
If you've got a favourite food that keeps and is self-contained and -won't mess up your costume, period-, you can take it to the con! I used to eat fruit breakfast bars by the dozen, these things are great!
(Actually, I've stopped taking sugar and now use sweetener tablets 'cause of my diet. They're even more portable than sugar, which is great for the return trip when I have to tie a little bundle containing stuff like half a box of teabags onto my luggage.)
It's exciting to go places by yourself, but you might end up bored, frustrated at the end of the con day when everything seems to end suddenly. And by -might-, I mean -you will-.
It's comforting to know that there's somebody else with you, but you might end up frustrated with their constant company.
If you want to meet folks, it's best to sort this all out on Facebook first. They will want to meet you!
And speaking of advance, I booked my hotel in advance (Jury's Inn through lastminute.com), which seems (-seems-) to have helped guard against me racking up any charges while I was there because the hotel wouldn't have my billing details. If everything is pre-paid, and I don't break or touch anything, there'll be no awkward charges later and lots of horrible fuss.
It's a bit of folklore around here that I was oncedressed as Shikamaru from Naruto and asked to leave a convention for being 'too lazy'.
Do you want to go or not? Get your ticket!
Think ahead about how things are going to shift around while you travel. Anticipate staircases and no lifts!
Heavy stuff goes on the bottom of wheeled boxes. Flat stuff goes together. Fragile things get padded boxes. Make super awesome custom boxes for very fragile props!
Don't forget 'em. Make sure you have 'em when you arrive. You've got some time after arriving before the end of the first night to buy cheap replacements of things.
Batteries, SD Cards, camera.
If your costume has bits like Skull Kid's rings, bring spare rings. Spare wool. Spare tools.
There were times I could have really used a penknife, like when I sealed up the Majora's Mask box handles with cable ties and didn't have any means of removing them!
Having tons of spare cameras is a great idea. You can get phones with great cameras these days, but do you want to risk it? Do you want to risk your camera? Too much risk! I don't know!
When I got back to my hotel room after the first day, the first thing I wrote down was 'I wish I brought a decent phone so I could tweet and stuff at the con'.
It was only due to a bit of whimmy preparedness that I remembered I'd brought my terrible, completely obsolete, almost completely useless T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) Android phone with me. It's got a battery life measured in -minutes- (no joke), but it saved my life that night.
If you can't communicate, you'll be sitting alone, and that's dangerous.
For the longest time, I hated smartphones. I had a teeny tiny Nokia candybar for the battery life, and that's all. But when the battery life got to the point where it couldn't make a call, I replaced it with a Motorola E 2nd Gen LTE. And -daymn- it's a nifty device.
GPS, offline maps, photos, all the messengers. Everything you could want. I was watching Animorphs on the train to London, wandering around Islington and Camden and having a whale of a time.
Just don't go running around with ordinary carrier Android, will ya? I deliberately sought out this phone since it had a microSD card slot, GPS, was manufacted recently so the battery life would be good, and it's compatible with Lineage OS, so I could get up-to-the-minute Android on it and not have to worry (as much) about security.
And if your laptop dies in your hotel room, like mine DID, then you can still get updates about meets and stuff.
It goes without saying that there's no plausible reason for you to go driving around the internet without an ad blocker. You're slowing down your experience and exposing yourself to all kinds of cat-knows-what code and exploits and badness.
When it comes to your -phone-, that has the tangible effects of reducing your battery life and eating into your mobile data. You could miss out on that one important call, or have untold amounts of charges racking up that you can't explain. It could be life and death, and you don't have to put up with it.
Get Adaway on your Android phone, dang it!
I used one called London Tube Free by Zuti. ( com.visualit.zuti.londonLite ) You can ask it to locate the closest station to you, and plan out multi-stage journeys in advance. Woo!
If you don't have a laptop, you can at least call your friends or your family and let them know how you're doing. Maybe they've seen some pictures of you already!
If you encounter somebody who's interesting, talk to them! It doesn't matter what about. Just keep talking. I don't know how to talk to people, and I don't keep up with recent shows or games... but I try my best!
I do, but unfortunately not as a result of being a good actor or having a firm grasp of what the character's like. I can't really speak in the head so I'd have to express everything with body movements, which is hard when you've got no peripheral vision (and you're a nervous oaf who definitely doesn't want to bump into folks). That jaunty walk I do in the video where I'm wearing the suit is partially due to the lack of forward vision; when I walk I have to move my head side to side constantly otherwise I can't see. Hotshot's got a (different!) slightly exaggerated confident strut as I'm going about the place, but that's about the extent of what I do.
MCM Comic Con events are always super crowded (except on the also-ran Sundays), so for the majority of the time it's all I can do just to try to get pushed along to the stalls that I'd like to see. There's not a lot of room for constant playacting (and you'd get on everybody's nerves). When there's an open space and folks want to take a pic, I'll strike a pose but I haven't got the practice for anything super mobile (as much as I'd like to... He's an action hero so it'd be martial arts and combat rolls if I could. I'm a lanky dude, but I'm about as agile as a lump right now.)
I know a lot of folks who do Cats musical stuff and they're all rolling about like nutballs in their shoots. I die of jealousy -every time-. I think I'd be good at that stuff, but I've never seen the show so making small talk is even harder than usual meeting new cats...
HOWEVER! When I'm Skull Kid, it's honestly hard -not- to do stuff! The old mask was really heavy so I hunched when I wore it and had to focus on not letting it slip off. The new mask is a lot lighter so I can do more acting, but the weight of it is focused on the front of my head, so I still have to move in a certain way. The massive shoes need a special gait too - they're pratically clown shoes, so I naturally fall into a cartoonish stomp when I wear them. I liked acting in the old mask, but I couldn't see reactions or the space around me so it was really difficult to know if I was doing it right. How I did the little flute dance (on the props page) I don't know! With the new mask, I can really turn on the spook and everybody loves it! I honestly dunno how Skull Kid is supposed to move, from what I've played of the game he spends most of his time standing or floating so I just make it up. Slow movements, head twitches, severe painful-looking head tilting, reaching forwards, swaying, that kind of thing. I've read the Majora's Mask manga and I take some of his moves from there too.
At Manchester 2017, I gave one woman the fright of her life as SK by doing -absolutely nothing-. I was just standing still in a queue for a t-shirt stand, and she turned to face me and it must've taken a second or two before she realised what she was looking at but she -screamed-. I wasn't even close. I probably didn't make things better by trying a little apologetic wave...
If you give other furries (rather than me cosplaying as a character with a furry head) a bit of floor space, they seem to know exactly what they wanna do though. Meanwhile, my brain's overheating and overthinking and "What kinda pose... ah... how about 'What the heck am I gonna do with this bunch of fools??' pose."
I think I'd be good at acting and playing about in general but as an unpractised six-foot-tall goober in a not-cute style Hotshot and me wouldn't be able to pull off cute. I need practice, it'd be very easy to be overbearing. I would give it my all if I had an adorable costume, but the characters I'm interested in (or at least interested in making) aren't the kind that do that playing about for the most part.
Also, another difference between Hotshot's cosplay and these guys' furry costumes is that I feel like I'm sort of representing the game, so I definitely don't want to screw up. (Even though I'm not really, but it'd be rude to take a stranger's character, be the only guy who's ever played him, and be a goof, right? If I made my own character up then yeah it's full steam ahead.)
If you hadn't arranged stuff in advance, you'll be upset. Faces will come and go, names will be forgotten. You won't be able to hear one another. You need to do your best! Cosplay cards are a good idea. An even better idea is to stump up for a data plan and get in contact with folks online while -at- the con, that way things won't get annoying, vague or confusing later. Trade tumblrs or what have you.
Don't. I didn't. Blaaahhh.
This sounds like terrible advice, but hear me out.
You're at a convention. It's packed. You've never been there before. You're going to be absolutely desperate for a pee, and you don't know where the toilets are. Oh wait, there they are, at the end of that massive queue. And who's going to hold your stuff?
To avoid this situation, go back in time a few hours and prevent yourself from drinking much before the con. You need to familiarise yourself with your body's responses to food and drink and manipulate yourself into not needing to relieve yourself in the middle of an uncomfortable situation.
One thing that I dwelt on a lot during my visit to MCM was that people seemed interested in my costume, but they didn't want to take a picture. Either they weren't interested (which is fair enough...) or they thought I was in a bad mood.
I do have a very serious frowny face when I'm concentrating, and I'm concentrating all the time. And it's true that I hate being interrupted when I'm concentrating. But not at the con!
So if you want people to take pictures of you, you have to put in a little extra effort to make yourself look like the kind of person who doesn't mind having their pic taken!
Smile! This is where having a team helps!
So you're a vain sort that wants to have a huge haul of pictures of your costume to look back upon. Alright.
Figure out where the best photo locations are at the con in advance. Be there. Stay there. Don't wander off. Talk to folks to see where the best local hangouts are.
You've worn your costume all day and had a great time. Maybe you had layers of foam armor coering you, or you were wearing a bodysuit, or maybe you weren't wearing very much at all.
If you can do it safely, you really ought to wash your costume. Nobody wants to see sweaty stains!
Everybody wants to see pictures of themselves at the event, don't they! Pictures taken by smiling couples, spellbound children, mystified parents. Pictures taken in groups, pictures taken solo, pictures taken right close up, full of detail and candid pictures taken from afar.
But when the event's all done and you're staring at Facebook at 5am feeling lonely and wasted, wondering where it all went wrong, wouldn't you like to know where all those pictures have gotten to?
Nobody wants to feel like they're an insubstantial nothingness, little more than a ghost, so here's my tips to get yourself some wonderful mementos. There's two categories, you can go to the pictures or the pictures can come to you.
The easiest thing to do is to take somebody with you (remember, it's dangerous to go alone), but that's sort of cheating, taking all the pictures yourself. You want to see all the amazing pictures other people have taken! And besides, if you're getting your picture taken by somebody you know, presumably you're getting it taken with somebody you don't know. They're going to want to see the picture you took, too!
Communication! You've got to trade information!
You could say it out loud, but that's hell in a crowded convention. My MCM Manchester experience has been that the con hall has been shoulder-to-shoulder packed. Talking to anybody without them being right in front of you giving you their full attention is impossible. You could write it down, but then you'd need a pen and some paper. Then you're swinging your satchel about in a crowded room. It'd be a mess.
The solution to this problem is the cosplay card!
It's just a simple little business card with your cosplay name, website, Facebook, Twitter printed on it. If somebody stops you for a photo, you can give them one of these as a little cute souvenir. When they find it in the pocket days later, they'll be reminded that they ought to send you any photos they took. If somebody stopped you because they liked your costume, they might want to keep in touch or read more about it! And if all else fails, you could use the blank back for somebody to write -their- name on so you can remember, just don't get this mixed up with the ones you're going to give out! Don't go all out for colour or anything (unless you really want to I guess? It'd be a bit flash and intimidating.), I just printed a couple of these out fifteen to a sheet at home.
But let's say that you're giving out your cosplay card or little handwritten notes left, right and centre, and you're still not getting any pictures back.
You're going to need to enter THE SCENE. Yes, it's as horrifying as it sounds, but at least you can lurk around outside without devoting your life to it. You need to know where to look for maximum productiveness! Facebook, the official FB groups of the event, the UNofficial FB groups of the event, Flickr, Tumblr, think of all the ways that people could refer to the event so you can run searches for it later. Make friends with folks, find out what they do!
Facebook is where it's at. If you hate Facebook, get over it.
Written by Matt Carr! mrdictionary.net nonsense.
Questions? E-mail 'em to me, firstname.lastname@example.org!
Twitter @SkullKidUK - Facebook facebook.com/mask.smith.cosplay