Con season has finally come back! Game conventions, anime conventions, comic conventions – they’re all being put on again (with some concessions to health and safety, of course). And with conventions comes cosplay.
Cosplay, if you aren’t aware, is short for ‘costume play’. It’s a hobby of creating a costume of a specific character, and then wearing the costume to gatherings, posing for photos, and sometimes having fun acting out the character with your friends. Conventions encourage cosplay from their attendees, and often hold competitions and skit contests for people to get involved with.
Cosplay is traditionally done with prewritten media characters. But you can easily do it with any character of your own, too! I often find that my favorite thing to do with extra fabric, craft supplies, or time, is to make a cosplay of a Dungeons and Dragons character. (This can also lead to some fun characters to play in actual campaigns, too!)
Designing (or Redesigning) the Costume
The first thing you do when making a costume is, of course, designing it. If you already have a character designed, you can skip this step. Or you might want to make some changes to the design, with respect for the following questions/considerations:
What Will the Weather be Like When I Plan to Wear this Cosplay?
The environment that a cosplay is for will determine the safety aspects of your design. If you're going to be in a convention hall, you can show a little more skin, wear less practical shoes, or pile on the fur, since you'll be inside. If you want to wear this to an outdoor photoshoot or a renaissance festival, you'll need to account for the ground, standard outdoor problems (like animals, the sun, etc.), and the weather.
Hotter weather will be better suited to more revealing costumes made of lighter fabrics (like cotton), using less makeup, to avoid heatstroke, sweat, and general discomfort. “Sexy” characters are great for warm-weather costumes. Or, if you want to be more modest, loose-fitting designs that allow for air movement are great.
Colder weather is better suited to heavier materials (like leather or wool), and more bundled-up designs. Make sure that you don’t show too much skin, or that you include things like leggings/dance tights to keep yourself warm. Armored characters are perfect for cold-weather conventions, since you won’t have to worry about the heat.
What am I Comfortable Wearing?
The most important aspect of a costume, after the safety of it, is your own comfort.
If you don’t feel okay in a skimpy costume, use layers. You can take inspiration from more real-life medieval cultures, who tended to cover up more than fantasy video-game characters. Historical costuming, SCA garb, and LARP costume designs are a great place to start.
If you think you’d be more comfortable in something a little less ‘realistic’ (for any number of reasons – temperature, judgement from historians, personal preference, etc), you can draw inspiration from any number of fictional sources. Fantasy movies, cartoons, anime, and videogames all have elaborate character designs that make for a great jumping-off point!
What Kind of Character is This?
While this isn’t the most important question for your comfort and safety, it can be super helpful in guiding your design. Consider what your character does, and what kind of clothing would allow them to do it effectively.
Rogues, for instance, might wear light clothing in dark colors, to allow them to sneak fast and unseen through the darkness. Clerics, representing the church, might wear robes and religious symbols, demonstrating the wealth and power given to them by their gods. Bards might wear colorful and eye-catching clothing to draw the attention of their audience.
The personality or physical characteristics of your character might also impact the way that you design them. More outgoing characters might wear more colorful clothing than introverted ones. Characters with wings might need an open back!
Below is a design for a costume I made to wear to Game On Expo next month. I bought a bunch of fake cherry blossoms at various Daiso (a Japanese dollar store), and needed to use them up! Since I started with the materials of the flowers, I decided to go with a druid: That meant light, comfortable clothing without much metal. I then drew inspiration from LARP “rus trader’ pants, a couple of videogame designs, and a dress I’d bought years ago with split sleeves for the jacket. The shepherd’s crook I’m going to make out of PVC!
Some additional things you might want to consider:
- What materials will I have access to use?
- Will aspects of my costume (large wings, tails, etc) get in the way of other convention attendees?
- How long will I be wearing this costume at a time?
- How will I carry my phone, wallet, etc. while wearing this? Are there pockets? A bag?
- Can I incorporate comfortable shoes, underclothing, etc. into this design?
Costume Sellers/Sources of Inspiration
If you’re looking for specific inspiration, a quick google search will bring up hundreds of people’s designs and costumes of their own LARP, fantasy faire, and DnD characters. But here are a few more-direct sources. You can buy a costume wholesale from some of these, or simply take inspiration from them to create your own with a little elbow grease.
Inspiration and Guides
The following are personal-favorite websites and archives for character design and cosplay inspiration:
- Renfaire.com (Introduction and info on Renaissance Faires, including sources and guides for costuming)
- Renfair.com (a similar, specific-fair group similar to the above site)
- RPF Costume and Prop Maker Community (a forum website for cosplayers, with an emphasis on prop making)
- SCA Garb Basics (includes a variety of cultures, time periods, and sources)
- Pastimes of Past Times (the personal blog of a LARPer and costumer who chronicles her sewing projects)
The following are website where you can buy fantasy armor, costumes, garb, and patterns in varying styles and designs:
Have you ever designed a character just so that you could cosplay them? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to tell us all about them!