Con Preparation: The Proper Way To Cosplay

In consideration of this weekend’s C2E2 convention in Chicago, Illinois, I wanted to take a moment to talk to some attendees and discuss the proper way to cosplay.

Now, the first thing that you should know about this collection of suggestions is that I am one of the few that can truly appreciate all forms of cosplay whether it be prepared months to years in advance, down to putting on a Jake hat and just wearing brown. So, don’t think this is article that is meant to condemn anyone for their cosplaying desires. And while I’ve not actually cosplayed at a convention, I celebrate Halloween like it should be celebrated. So, I have some expertise within the social costuming segment of the population. Also, you’ll get a bit of a view from someone that shows appreciation to your effort, while also having to deal with the elaborateness of your chosen costume. So, now that we’ve given the parameters of this guideline, let us move along unto the actual list.

Attention To Detail – If there’s one thing that fellow costumed convention attenders, photojournalists covering the event for websites, as well as your fellow non-costumed genre fan can appreciate, it’s your attention to detail. So, if you want to be the Dick Grayson Batman as presented by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely from Batman and Robin #2, you should make sure you have the gray suit with blackish blue accents and tiny ears. Whereas if you decide to go as Robin, you first need to decide which Robin you want to be. Do you want to be Dick Grayson, Dick Grayson from Young Justice, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Tim Wayne, Stephanie Brown, or Damian Wayne? Then, you need to get your details right, is your Tim Drake honoring the passing of Conner Kent, or is he pre-Infinite Crisis? I’ve seen loads of cosplayers that just barely miss having the perfect get-up by missing out on a small detail like a latex, movie quality domino mask. Sure, you’ll still look awesome, but why not strive for perfection by going all out? Or if you’re a villain, scarring gel is something that can really make you stand out against a sea of Joker (from The Dark Knight) cosplayers. One of the coolest cosplayers I’ve ever seen was Julie Newmar era Catwoman who went so far as to have the same sparkly catsuit and nails, or the Princess Bubblegum photo above by cosplay.com user Devanelle. Note how she’s painted/blushed her skin to the tone of PB’s, but what really sells this costume is the BMO accessory. This is the kind of attention to detail that can make you stand out head and shoulders above all the other con-goers that are dressed as your character of choice.

Obscurity – Think about this, how many Psycho Pirate cosplayers have you seen at a convention? Any Bob The Goons? What about something more indie like Jade from Morning Glories? Many larger comic book conventions feature a lot of cosplayers doing a variety of characters. But the large majority aside from Justice League members are some variations of Catwoman, The Joker, or Harley Quinn. Now, we all know that these characters, while great, are not the end all, be all of genre inspired costumes. I would venture so far as to say that I’d rather see a lower quality Klarion the Witch Boy than a high quality Batman from Arkham City, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Maybe not everybody at the convention will realize that you’re actually dressed as Ragged Robin from The Invisibles or Fionna The Human in her torn formal wear from Adventure Time like PocketGirl here, but those who do will absolutely love you. So if you’re looking for a little bit of admiration, this is the way to go.

Be Elaborate, but Not Too Elaborate – Being elaborate when it comes to costuming can be a great thing. I can’t think of a more memorable moment from 2010’s New York Comic-Con than walking in and seeing an 8-foot tall Chewbacca with a broken-into-pieces C-3PO being carried on his back. Also occupying the foyer was a massive, inflated Incredible Hulk. These are both quite impressive and can serve many people’s digital cameras with several photos to be published on websites and shown to friends. Elaborateness can be a double-edged sword however. And actually, speaking of double-edged swords, please don’t show up to a convention with a seven-foot double-edged sword attached to your back as part of an elaborate costume based on your friend’s Naruto fan fiction. Sure it’s elaborate, sure it’s obscure, and sure you’re paying attention to detail, but you’re also stabbing people in the throat that are waiting in line behind you to get their iPad signed by Jim Lee, which is totally uncool. This goes to anything that’s highly elaborate and more importantly massive. Trigun is really cool as evidenced by this great Nicholas Wolfwood cosplay by Rilu Elind, but a gigantic gross gun being carried around all day is going to get really annoying to other con-goers, so are massive Battlefield: Earth props. So, if you’re going to do this stuff, plan a day to show it off in the lobby, take your props home and then come back. I can’t stress how many angry people you will avoid by following this little tip.

Originality – Retired Mario? Awesome. Realistic Batman/Batman on a budget? Amazing. Modern take on Edgar Allan Poe? Effing love you. Human version of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? You win the convention! Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Originality can get you away with being not being too elaborate, but most of the time, it just comes off really good like this GLaDos make-up test from Elita-1. While it wasn’t very elaborate, one of my favorite cosplayers that I’ve seen over the past few years was simple. It was a woman who was dressed in a lab coat with a Jurassic Park logo, so she’s a scientist from Jurassic Park! How could you not love that? Well, to sell it even more, she even had a dinosaur in an egg hand puppet and she made it attack her. Seriously, that was just brilliant. She’s utilizing originality, obscurity, AND attention to detail! This is a way to truly stand out, make people laugh and have a great time alongside your great sense of humor.

Character – Those in the wrestling business would call this, “kayfabe,” but for the sake of not speaking carny, we’ll call it staying in character. Now, I’ve never actually seen someone do this, but when I get prepped for a convention I always think to myself how cool it would be if cosplayers actually acted like the superheroes they were portraying. Say you’re Tim Drake, I would laugh so hard if I walked by you and saw you check out a Stephanie Brown cosplayer right before you turned around and made googly-eyes with a Superboy cosplayer. Image if a rude con-goer were to push someone out of the way and someone dressed as the socialist Superman from Grant Morrison’s Action Comics comes over in a Superman t-shirt, cape, and jeans and gives the rude person of a piece of their mind? How about Captain Marvel Shazam coming around and helping little kids out with either finding their parents or picking something up from a tall shelf? I mean really, if cosplayers stayed in character while in costume, it would make for a truly magically experience that everyone at the convention could enjoy. Can you imagine what it would be like if the real life Birds of Prey, like these ladies, to swoop in a beat up some dude who’s being a jerk? I can, and it would be awesome.

Now again, these are just a few minor tips that cosplayers can take or not take to make for an even better convention. We all love going to these cons, and we all want to have the best of times. It’s a place for us to all to go to feel like we’re home, so really the most important rule to cosplay, or just con-going in general, is to have fun and respect each other. You’re in an environment where there should be truly no judging on anyone’s behalf. So, in addition to all these cosplay tips, let’s try to make that a trend in future conventions.


  1. […] Geeks of Doom on Con Preparation: The Proper Way To Cosplay. […]

    Pingback by SF Tidbits for 4/14/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog — April 14, 2012 @ 1:07 am

  2. There was a guy at PAX East last weekend in an absolutely perfect Cobra Commander get-up, and he never. Broke. Character. Amazing.

    Also props to the zombie nurse who was an actual amputee—she had some fake blood an viscera on her stump to make it look gnawed off! Way to own it girl!

    Comment by Christian O'Brien — April 17, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

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