Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cosplay Safety - Planning

This Article is part of the
Cosplay Safety Project
Arguably the most important step in creating a costume, not just in terms of safety, is the planning stage. Here is where you decide how you are going to construct the garment(s) and accessories that will make up the costume, and what (if any) changes need to be made to the design. Now, in a culture where degree of detail and accuracy is so highly praised departing in any way from the original source material may seem counter-intuitive, but it is actually quite common and accepted – when done well and for the right reasons. Two dimensional drawings don't have to adhere to the laws of physics like a three dimensional garment or prop does. Furthermore, not all of us have the same body type as the characters we choose to portray, especially if said character is not human. Really though, there can be any number of right reasons to take “creative license” when creating a fan costume, any of which will be more or less accepted by the greater community. The point is, it's you're costume and you should be able to make it however you please (though I personally argue you should always have a distinct reason for making a change...but I'm getting off topic).

Sometimes design changes must be made for a matter of logistical safety. Most often these are cases of very large aspects that would be difficult to handle at full scale. For example, were someone to create a full scale replica of, say, Sephiroth's wing it would first take a great deal of strength to balance, second not likely fit through doorways, and third cause a hazard for those walking around nearby. That is not to say seeing a full scale wing wouldn't be impressive, but we need to remember that convention halls are not a controlled environment. We have no idea what will be going on around us or how crowded the space will be, though I usually assume the worst case scenario of hyperactive teenagers running around in a densely packed crowd. If you are really dead set on creating a full scale replica of something large, I would suggest using it in a private photoshoot somewhere other than a convention where you have more control of the surroundings, and if you wish to wear the costume at a con simply make a smaller version of the large part that will be easier to manage.

Another area you want to look at, besides large parts of your costume, are the shoes. Some of the more intricate or ornate footwear found in cosplay source material is incredibly impractical. Remember that anything worn on your feet will need to bear not only your weight but that of your costume as well. Take care with any sort of platforms or high heals that the weight is distributed such that you can balance well, or you could run the risk of twisting or even breaking your ankle. You also want to avoid anything that will cause serious blisters, or else add padding to limit irritation. Don't forget to include comfortable soles if at all possible, as this will help against fatigue if you are on your feet the whole day as many of us are apt to be at conventions.

Equally as important as any design choices is your choice of materials. This will be partially informed by the source art, but you also need to consider the environment you will be wearing the costume in and what effect it's comprising materials will have on your body. For things like armor or prop weapons you should should choose based on weight and durability, finding the lightest material you can possibly go with without hindering structural stability. After all, what's the point in having a replica of InuYasha's Tetsusaiga if you can't even lift it? Just remember that any materials layered atop each other in large quantities will increase in weight; consider making things hollow if possible.

You also need to take local temperature into consideration. This comes into play both in terms of what costumes to bring to which events, as well as what materials to make any new costumes of if you have a specific event in mind to debut them at. If you are wearing a costume at, say, Otakon, which is held in Baltimore, MD in the middle of summer, you probably don't want to wear anything made of heavy wool or non-breathable pleather or anything else that will insulate your body heat. Contrastingly, at Katsucon in Washington, DC in February (often nicknamed Katsnocon in the occurrence of snowstorms) you probably wouldn't be too comfortable in a bathing suit or silk dress. Granted most convention venues usually have good temperature control, but you don't always have the luxury of staying inside, particularly when it comes to finding the best photo backdrops.

Once you know what you want your finished product to look like, and what materials you will be using, you need to figure out what methods and tools you will use to put your costume together. There are countless options that differ more or less depending on what materials you use – far more than I can go through here. Whatever you choose to do, however, be sure to research anything new to you and make sure you follow any suggested safety guidelines.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

5 Little Ways Improve Your Cosplay

Every cosplayer is always looking for ways to improve the quality of their costume. You don't always have to make a big change to have a big effect though. Here's five simple, little things you can do to vastly improve your cosplay in both construction and presentation.

1) Iron Your Costume
This goes for both while you're sewing (if you make your own cosplay) and before you wear it. Most hotels in the United States provide an iron and ironing board in each room so you shouldn't have to lug one with you to any event. Even if you don't think the garment needs it you really should try to give it a quick ironing before putting it on. The result will be a much cleaner and “polished” looking costume. Just make sure to use the right setting and test a small or hidden piece of the fabric first to make sure you don't damage anything.

2) Take Care of Your Wig(s)
Like an un-ironed costume, a ratty wig will only make your costume look sloppy. Pick up some wig conditioning spray (note: NOT the same thing as spray conditioner for hair) and a wig brush, and possibly a styrofoam wig head as well. Before you wear your wig pin it to the wig head, spray it with conditioner, and brush the tangles out working from the bottom up. Depending on how well you take care of your wig between conventions will dictate how long and arduous of a task this will be. Speaking of which, between conventions don't just throw your wig haphazardly in a box for storage. Put a hair net around it, and if it's long braid it first, and don't put it in a place where anything too heavy will sit on top. If the style is elaborate, invest in a wig head to store it on and leave it on a shelf out of the way where it can't get damaged.

For a more in-depth discussion on wig care, check out this tutorial by WindoftheStars.

3) Moisturizer + Make-up
Nobody has a naturally even skin tone. Some may have better skin than others, but no one is perfect. Therefore, when cosplaying it is a good idea to wear at least a little make-up. Men can get away with going without easier than women, but those men who choose to touch up their faces should go with foundation and maybe a little carefully placed bronzer and “nude” lip color. Women should consider foundation, bronzer/blush, mascara, eye liner, and lip color. Women dressing as men should ditch the eye liner and mascara for some more “stage make-up” techniques to make their faces look more masculine. Men dressing as women obviously want to add eye liner/mascara and techniques to make their faces look more feminine. Certain other characters will require more specific make-up. Whatever you do, make sure to moisturize your skin before applying your foundation so that everything sits more evenly – you'll be shocked at the difference it makes!

4) False Eyelashes
These aren't necessarily needed for all costumes, but I've found for any characters that are supposed to be particularly glamorous false eyelashes can be especially effective. They really bring out your eyes and while they do require a little practice, they aren't as difficult to use as you may think.

5) Pose In-Character
Some people may think this goes without saying, but I've encountered a lot of cosplayers for whom this thought never crosses their minds. Even if you don't choose to “role-play” them in the halls (I certainly rarely do), understanding who your character is and how they act can inform how you carry yourself and how you pose for photos. A character-driven pose can really help your cosplay come to life and add that little something that gets your work more recognized.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Checking in...oh, and Anime Boston dashboard layout for blogger o_O This will take some getting used to! But I think I like it over all.

ANYWAY, just stopping in to say, no, I haven't forgotten about this blog, or given up on writing, or anything like that. I've just been really busy! With what, you ask? Well...this:

Dead Moon Circus' FFX Aeons at Anime Boston 2012 (Full Size)
Photo by Lionel Lum

Or more specifically, this:

Yojimbo by Gale, worn by Neige
Photo by Lionel Lum

So I really haven't have much time to dedicate to writing for a while. I've also been working a lot on The Cosplay Safety Project panels, which with any luck will translate quickly into articles once I get a little more time on my hands.

Simply put we are getting into the convention "season" both in terms of costuming and (for me) staffing and now panel-prepping as well. In the next few months, on top of making a few new costumes, I'll be running the costume contest at BAMCon in Pittsfield, MA, attending AnimeNEXT in Somerset, NJ, coordinating and liaising for guest relations at ConnectiCon in Hartford, CT, and attending Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA, as well as (with any luck) rehearsing for and acting in a play or two in my non-cosplay/convention life. Point being, I may not be able to write as often as I did in the relative "off-season."

As always, if you have any questions you'd like me to try to write on you can ask via my Facebook or Tumblr (the latter at least of which you should follow!!!). Also, I encourage you to come find me at any of the aforementioned conventions, I'd love to say "Hi!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

EffectiveCos is now on Tumblr!

I've been toying with getting a tumbler companion to this blog for a while. I like the tumbleblog format for sharing others' posts, as well as the built in questions function. I'll still keep posting here for my long form articles--I don't think those sort of posts work as well on tumblr. To ask a question, view short short form advice posts, or see shares of relevant posts by others, check out EffectiveCos on Tumbler!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Congrats to our 2012 World Cosplay Summit US Representatives!

 Huge shout out to Katie & Diana on winning the US preliminaries for a spot to compete on behalf of our whole country at the 2012 World Cosplay Summit!

Katie as Princess Kraehe and Diana as Rue from Princess Tutu

For those unaware, the World Cosplay Summit is an international cosplay competition hosted by Japan's TV Aichi. The event's goal is to promote positive international relations through Japanese pop-culture & cosplay. In the months leading up to the event, the participating countries hold preliminary rounds in order to each select a team of two representatives to compete at the main event in Nagoya, Japan. The US has only one preliminary round, which was this year held at Katsucon. 22 teams presented on stage and were judged by a panel of past WCS representatives.

Even before the judging, many viewing the competition via UStreem picked out Katie and Diana as favorites to win. Their performance was truly exemplary of what it is to create a high caliber cosplay skit, and their craftsmanship was of equally stunning quality. They presented as Rue (Diana) and Princess Kraehe (Katie) from Princess Tutu. I have not read or watched Princess Tutu, but what I know (which is an important element of this skit) is that Kraehe is in fact the alter-ego of Rue, that is to say they are technically the same person.

Diana and Katie on stage at Katsucon

Once announced, the lights came up with Rue standing beside a curtained mirror. As she is looking elsewhere, suddenly a figure appears behind the glass--Princess Kraehe! The two play a game of visual cat and mouse for a time: Kraehe only showing herself when Rue's back is turned, and Rue nervously trying to catch the vision she can't be sure she's seen out of the corner of her eye. Suddenly Kraehe emerges from behind the mirror. She dances about menacing Rue. As Kraehe dances, Rue seems to come under her control, alternating between puppet-like movements and moments of despair, until she collapses in defeat. Triumphant, Kraehe sends Rue into the mirror, and closes the curtain.

The idea of alter-egos competing and locking each other in a mirror is far from new, but done with such care and polished movements it can still be incredibly effective. The scene was underscored with suspenseful music which was well cut and choreographed to in order to highlight each moment in their story. Their set piece was amazing as well. Whatever they used for the mirror was actually reflective enough to see Diana's reflection, but transparent as well so that with only back-lighting Katie could be clearly seen on the other side. Also, as one would hope from a Princess Tutu skit, Katie is clearly a classically trained ballerina (note NEVER go on point for a costume if you are not trained--without the training to build skill and muscle you can REALLY hurt yourself!). Finally, the sharpness of their movements is evidence of lots of practice.

To view this, and other skits from this year's WCS preliminaries, check out ACP's Katsucon Video Page. Those with ACP accounts should be able to view High-Res videos, or for those without Low-Res videos should be available via YouTube in about a week.

Congratulations again to Katie & Diana!!!