10 Practical Cosplay Tips From the Amateurs

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Great cosplay doesn’t have to mean perfect and professional. Sometimes the best looks can come from homegrown ideas. All photos by Rick Tate.

Cosplay is becoming more and more recognized as an art form. It’s even a viable occupation for the growing number of people who now make the convention rounds, with some gaining celebrity status as “professional cosplayers.”

I applaud those who have brought this pastime into the spotlight. However, some part-time and beginning cosplayers may feel a little out of their league among these living, breathing photo opportunities—some of whom have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours in the gym perfecting their look.

To those afraid of how they will size up compared to the pros: Never underestimate the passion and creative mind of an amateur.

I recently spoke with several cosplayers at the Las Cruces Anime Days convention held every winter at New Mexico State University. The five-year-old event attracts a bevy of anime, manga, and gaming fans, many of whom arrive in full cosplay splendor to take part in manga costume contests, “pose-offs,” karaoke and dance competitions, a masquerade ball and dance, and cosplay, prop-making, and makeup workshops.

Some of the cosplayers have shared 10 of their own costuming tips, based on their own interests and experience, from saving money to keeping comfortable:

1. Stance is as important as wardrobe. “Look up different poses from the character and know your posture,” says Lorenzo P.

2. Don’t worry about perfectly matching every last detail. “Look at the ‘image’ of the character [not just how it looks exactly on page or screen],” says Julian F. “As long as you get the overall image, that’s what counts.”

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Experimenting with looks, using light-safe materials for props, and keeping it simple are just a few of the tips fellow cosplayers have to offer. Photo: Rick Tate.

3. Don’t go crazy with body makeup. “Less is best with makeup,” says Sonya G. “If you layer it too much, it will crack.”

4. Materials make the difference in prop-building. “To really get a good metal look, PVC pipe and silver paint works fine. I prefer PVC, because some conventions don’t allow certain types of metal,” says Adrianna B. “I’ve also learned bakeable clay is you best friend [in making props].”

5. Don’t try to always go too skintight. “Always buy pants one size larger than you actually wear,” says Ashlyn V. “Otherwise, it will be too tight and uncomfortable.”

6. Experiment. “Have fun and play around with your look,” says Katherine G. “I do my own makeup and make my hair [wigs]. Some things we make and some I buy.”

7. Don’t let details take the enjoyment out of dressing up. “Never be too nit-picky,” says Melissa D. “As long as you feel confident in yourself and what you’re wearing, that’s what matters.”

8. Expensive, commercial costumes aren’t always best. Look for places you can find items for less money. “If you don’t know where to start, go simple with singular pieces of clothing,” says Derek B. “I’ve even found some things for my costume at places like Goodwill.”

9. Take advantage of online resources. “Find your favorite character and see what you can find online,” says Joaquinn P. “YouTube helps a lot, and just look at different images—a lot of different images.”

10. Above all, you’re supposed to be having a good time. “The main thing is having fun,” says Jennifer B. “Find something you like and go for it.”

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Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site ihogeek.com and maintains her own blogsite at lisathegeekmom.wordpress.com. She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.