Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Who should I cosplay?"

At this point in my cosplay “career” there is no question that baffles me so much as “who should I cosplay?”--not in terms of how to answer, but why this question is even being asked. If there's one thing that happens over years of cosplaying it is your “to-do” list grows exponentially, so the idea of not knowing what to make is very foreign to me now. That said, I do remember being new to the hobby and asking for myself, “who should I cosplay?” just
Gale's first (mostly) self-made costume
(Thanks to Mom for help!)
as many other newbies do still.

But what is so different about making a to do list at the start of your “career” as opposed to years into it? My best guess is confidence. When you're new to cosplay you are unsure of your abilities and therefore feel limitations. So the question you are asking (whether of yourself or others) is not so specifically “who should I cosplay” as “what am I capable of making?” Now, granted with over nine years of experience I've also gained some confidence in my abilities, and my technique has certainly improved, but I still look back at my younger self and ask “why are you holding yourself back?”

Personally, I have always been a perfectionist. When I was younger and less experienced this led me to severely limit myself in terms of what projects I took on because I couldn't bear the thought of the end result not being up to my own standards. Now I more often just drag my heals on certain projects because I overthink them into huge daunting tasks, but ultimately get them done eventually. Or maybe that last part is just wishful thinking. Either way, I'm a lot more open to challenging myself now than I used to be, and I truly wish I had learned to be that way sooner.

Gale's Kaylee Frye green jumpsuits
made in 2005 and 2011, respectively

The realization I had recently that I think is the most freeing is this: if you love the character enough and are disappointed in how the costume came out you can ALWAYS make the costume again. Maybe you do it immediately using what you learned the first time around for “what not to do” or maybe you wait several years until your skills have improved a bit more, either way there is NOTHING saying you can't re-make a costume. Honestly, when you think of it this is kind of a fun idea. Once you're done with version 2.0 you can look back and show off how much you've improved over the years.

I guess the point of this posting is to say to everyone out there stop holding yourself back and asking permission (of yourself or others) before you settle on what costume to make. Cosplay who you love. Cosplay who you want to be like and represent. Don't worry about your skill level or whether or not you look like a character (unless making yourself look like them causes a moral dilemma) or how popular the series is. Cosplay is about having fun and becoming someone else for a little while. Don't overthink it. Instead of asking yourself “who should I cosplay?” ask yourself “who do I want to cosplay?” then ask “how WILL I make this costume?” and then go research. You might surprise yourself with what you're able to do.

Also see my follow-up post to this: Real Limitations and How to Overcome Them.