How I found cosplay (or how cosplay found me)


Since this blog is about going to be about costuming and cosplay, I thought for my first post I could get into the reasons why I started making costumes.

My costuming journey actually began long before I ever attended my first convention or knew what the word “cosplay” meant. Growing up, I always took my Halloween costumes seriously. Really seriously. But it wasn’t till I was 16 years old that my friend and I decided to make costumes for the renaissance faire. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had limited sewing skills and pretty much figured things out as I went along. That first costume was nothing to write home about, but it was a beginning. I went back to the drawing board and starting working on my next costume. I checked out all of the books in the library 16th-elizabethan-doubletpertaining to costume and historical costume. I made a proper set of 16th century stays, a chemise, bum roll, farthingale, and even a set of ruffs. I taught myself how to grade up a pattern out of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, and made an Elizabethan doublet. Of course the sewing work was pretty messy, but I was hooked.

At university, I dabbled in making costumes for our student-led theatrical society, and went on to work on some student short films after graduating, but writing my Art History dissertation in theatrical costume and then later my Master’s thesis on historical fashion led to burnout, and I lost interest in costuming for a time while my passion for vintage clothing and sewing vintage reproduction  took precedence.

It wasn’t until DragonCon 2013 that I realized how much I missed costuming. It was my first DragonCon, and seeing so many elaborate, amazing costumes inspired me. I decided that I would going to make costumes for the following year. I knew that my first cosplay would be from Peter Jackson’s Tolkien universe, but I wasn’t sure which one to do yet. When The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug came out that December, I knew immediately what I was going to make.

Tauriel perhaps is not the most popular character for some, but I loved seeing a female elf portrayed in a way that was feminine yet edgier. Her character design was daunting, but I worked hard for several months leading up to DragonCon, methodically trying to get every detail right. This costume was with me at a very difficult time in my life when I was going through both my own health crisis and as well as my grandmother’s terminal illness. My grandmother was a professional drapist and seamstress, so my sewing projects were a way for me to connect with her. I shared photos of my progress on Tauriel with her, and it was something that we could chat about to take her mind off of her illness.

That year (2014), I also handmade my Lady 5th Doctor costume, my husband’s Thranduil costume, and the 4th Doctor’s scarf. My first DragonCon cosplaying was such an incredible experience. I only wished that I had discovered cosplay sooner. I was addicted.

My Lady 5th Doctor and 1st version of Tauriel

Looking back at the last few years, I have made so many wonderful friends and met so many interesting people through my little cosplay world. When I first started cosplay, I thought that I would never compete. But by chance, I did end up competing, just to try it out and see what it was like. I had so much fun in that first contest (ConNooga, I believe) and met some of the nicest people. When you do a costume contest, you are put in a room (for what can sometimes be hours) with all of the people at the convention who love doing the same thing you do. Star Wars, Trekkies, Whovians, Disney, etc. No matter your fandom, you all come together over the same love for crafting a costume. The camaraderie, for me at least, usually outweighs any competitive weirdness. In fact, the majority of my costuming friends I have met through competitions.

Also, I love that cosplay can make someone’s day. When you are at a convention and someone connects to the character you are cosplaying and genuinely is excited that you are representing a favorite part of their fandom – that is amazing. Kids reactions, especially, are so much fun. My Professor McGonagall costume is not my most elaborate costume, but I absolutely love how excited kids get when they see it. Even though I am over 50 years younger than Maggie Smith and my variant is not screen accurate, they still know the character and are excited to see Professor McGonagall. That is just about the best feeling.

I look forward to continuing my journey in this crazy little cosplay world and growing my skills as well as sharing them. Feel free to chime in below with your own reasons for beginning cosplay!




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