Cosplay expert Yaya Han at the Comikaze Expo in 2011.
1. Be prepared to get touched by strangers.
At her Comic-Con panel Friday on “The Sociology of Cosplay,” designer and longtime cosplayer Yaya Han explained that at crowded conferences, fans don’t always treat cosplayers particularly well. “People start to forget that we’re human beings,” she said. Apparently, those seeking to photograph or otherwise interact with cosplayers often bug them while they’re eating or in the bathroom; touch them without asking; and bang on their armor — which might cause it to break.
This medieval forester bought her armor, but she cured the leather pieces of her costume herself using melted wax.
2. Role play when you tire of the limelight.
One panel attendee said she sometimes gets away from overly persistent photographers by acting in character, saying she’s been “summoned” elsewhere. Han said she’d be trying that the next time someone was bugging her while she was in Wonder Woman costume: “sorry, the Justice League needs me.”
3. Set manageable goals.
Says Han, “don’t choose Optimus Prime as your first costume” — a complicated Transformers robot might not be your best starting point.
This Gryffindor lion may be a more advanced look.
4. Don’t be judgy.
If you’re an experienced cosplayer, you might run into people whose costumes you don’t consider up to par. Maybe they don’t have the right prop, or the right wig. But, says Han, “you don’t know what that person went through” in making that costume. Maybe they ordered a prop or a wig but it didn’t come in time. Maybe they don’t have the money to buy the best materials. Don’t be judgmental, she said, and don’t talk smack about fellow cosplayers online — it just makes everyone look bad.
5. Ignore the haters.
Cosplayers get a lot of criticism, said Han, from non-cosplayers who think they’re freaks, weirdos, or fetishists. But if someone’s being mean, she said, they “might be jealous because they don’t have the courage to cosplay.” Don’t pay attention, and if they’re making mean comments on Facebook or your blog, “Delete, ban, and move on.”
6. Celebrate, don’t compete.
If someone shows up in the same costume as you, said Han, you might experience the “prom dress effect,” where you jealously try to figure out who looks better. But an audience member said she’s happy when she meets someone in the same costume, because they’re offering a different perspective on a character she loves. So for cosplayers who run into another version of themselves, it may be more fun to offer a high-five than a critical eye.
7. “Work with what you’ve got.”
Cosplayer Nicole, dressed as the Mad Hatter, told BuzzFeed Shift that for a successful costume, “you’ve got to take the reference material and make it your own. I’m not Johnny Depp’s body type, but I made it my own and made a costume that worked for me. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.”
Mad Hatter Nicole (right) with friend and fellow cosplayer Annie.
8. Wear deodorant.
Many cosplayers who talked to BuzzFeed Shift at Comic-Con mentioned how hot it gets inside a big costume (which may explain the convention center’s overactive A/C). Olivia, who was dressed as a capybara to represent website Kapibarasan.com said anyone in costume should “wear a lot of deodorant.” And stay hydrated — fainting in costume is no fun for anyone.
Olivia and her capybara pals.
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