Thursday, August 4, 2011

Choosing the Right Cosplay

One of the eternal questions I always seem to see in cosplay forums is the question about choosing the right cosplay. Choosing the right cosplay for you is determined by a variety of factors, including sewing talent, body type compatibility, free time, personality compatibility, desire to be photographed, and many other factors. I can't tell you whether the cosplay you are doing is right for you, the person who is cosplaying is the ultimate judge of that, but I can provide you a framework to make the decision of choosing the right cosplay easier.

Personal Sewing Skill - What is your level of skill in sewing? If you are very proficient and talented in sewing, there really is no boundary in what kind of outfit you can do. You are limited by your imagination. If you don't have any sewing talent (like me), what cosplay you do is determined more by your willingness to spend money to have the right outfit. A person with no sewing talent could save money if they have a family member or close friend who has the talent and is willing to help you make the cosplay.

Body type compatibility - I say this as a somewhat cautionary suggestion because you should be proud of who you are, whether you are fat, skinny, short, tall, or anything else under the sun. Just remember that if you want to accurately convey your character, sometime it may take some more effort to attain that goal. Many anime, manga, and video game characters are thin, so I have seen many cosplayers diet so that they can look like the character they are cosplaying as. I don't have to remind you, but if you want to lose weight, do it in a healthy manner. Losing weight fast is extremely unhealthy and you will hurt your body in the long haul. My suggestion is to do everything with the mindset that it is long-term. Exercise and diet over the course of a year, don't do a crash course 4 weeks before con to lose that stomach.

Money - I mentioned it before, but cosplaying is an extremely expensive hobby. Buying the cosplay or the materials to make the cosplay costs money. It also costs money to buy a good wig that will go with your cosplay. When buying a good wig, don't just buy a cheap $20 wig from a Halloween store, because you are throwing your money away. A good wig goes between $50-$100 based on length, and it costs money to maintain that wig. If that wasn't enough, there are convention costs to consider: transportation, badge, food, and hotel add up pretty quickly. If you are attending a convention for multiple days, I suggest also having multiple cosplay, which does add up in price.

Personality Compatibility - This may seem insignificant, but from my viewpoint as a cosplay photographer I think it is quite important. When you are cosplaying as a character, it is much easier to cosplay as someone who has similar personality traits because cosplay photographers expect the cosplayer to be "in character." It is much harder conveying a character that is hard to relate to or is the complete opposite of your personality. Doing a character with a different personality takes time and practice, a luxury many people don't have.

Desire to be Photographed - One of the ultimate conundrums a cosplayer has is when they want to cosplay as a character from a series they enjoy, but then they realize that the series is not that popular. I have said it before, but I will say it again, a person who gets photographed a lot in conventions have either one or more of these traits:
  1. The cosplayer is genetically gifted
  2. They are wearing a very eyecatching and unique outfit
  3. This person is cosplaying from a super popular series
I don't have to explain it since it is self explanatory, but I will have to point out that some people will get photographed more than others for reasons out of their control. I also have to point out another unfortunate fact, male cosplayers will get photographed less than female cosplayers. Just look behind the camera lens and you will notice that 90% of the people with Digital SLR's are male, so naturally many of them gravitate towards female cosplayers. Cosplaying a a group will increase your chances of getting photographed. There are ways to get attention, but I suggest cosplaying something you enjoy, and be happy when fellow fans take pictures of you.

Free Time - Cosplay takes lots of time, the free time you lose is inversely related to the amount of time you want to spend on your cosplay. Crafting a cosplay from scratch is extremely time consuming. It is also very time consuming to practice poses, personality traits, signature moves, and famous quotes. The work you put in your cosplay is what you get from it.

Image you want to convey -  What image do you want to convey to the other cosplayers, cosplay photographers, and the convention attendees? Cosplay is a visual medium, and like it or not, your cosplay will be judged based on social norms and rules. Wear a cosplay with lots of frills people will think that the outfit is elegant. Wear a cosplay that shows lots of skin, and people will assume that you are proud of your body. Wearing a cosplay will create an image, and what cosplay you choose will determine the image people will have of you. In general, a cosplayer meets lots of people in a convention, but the number of people who go from the convention to part of your social circle is very small. That is why the image you present is very important because it may be the first impression they make of you, and in the fast-paced world of anime conventions, the first impression they have of you may be the only impression they have of you.

This is only scratching the surface, but I hope that I have given some nice tips and tricks to give you a better idea of what to look at when coming up with the right cosplay for you.

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