[Editorial Tuesday] The Pains and Sufferings of Cosplaying

Introduction

Many people often misunderstand cosplayers. Cosplaying is actually a very time-consuming and dedicated hobby. Sure, cosplayers will often be seen as individuals that are simply expressing their creativity. However, this unique hobby is subjected to a lot of public scrutiny as well due to expositions and conventions occurring in public areas. Most of the time, the comments are that cosplayers have too much free time or spend money extravagantly.

Many do not realize that the hobby is extremely difficult and that some people do actually put in a lot of focus and invest a lot of time in it. Cosplay is not simply putting on a costume and walking around in public. Beneath the appearance is a lot of preparation and planning. If you ever cosplayed, you will know some of the common difficulties that cosplayers face. Sometimes, you may not even be a cosplayer to notice these difficulties.

With that said, let’s discuss some of the difficulties that cosplayers face. Try to see how many you can relate to! Join us as we take you through the lives of a cosplayer!

The costume itself

The costume represents the overall exterior appearance of the cosplayer; it is the first thing that others will look. Whether it’s a simple school uniform or an elaborate armor piece, the costume is the one that catches the eye of others. And there are many ways to go about creating the perfect costume.

The first and obvious method is to, well, buy it of course. But wait! Buying a costume is not as easy as you think. If you’re working on a budget, you will have to search through websites after websites to find the cheapest. Once you’ve accomplished that, you will have to see if the quality is acceptable. Such factors include – color scheme, material choice, fine details and size amongst others. Sometimes, the price does not match with the quality which leaves you searching for more sources.

The next is often the most suitable which is to of course make your own costumes. However, it is a very time consuming process but you get to customize the costumes and make it a perfect fit for you alone. Making the costume means having to take up the art of sewing. It helps if you had a sewing machine! You would also have to source for materials such as cloth, accessories and thread. Next comes the tedious process of putting everything to your measurements. The reward is an 100% customized costume. If you have time, you can even make amendments to it such that going to a convention would be more comfortable for you.

Props

Props are complements to your costume. A good prop adds effect and glamour to a cosplay. Certain characters require props such as weapons, wings, wigs or fashion accessories that you will have to include in your costume. Again, you repeat the process of buying the props online or going down to a store and find the closest looking match. If you make your own props, depending on the type of prop, a different skill set will be required.

Wigs for example – requires cutting as they always come longer such that you can trim it down to the appropriate level. Next comes styling the wig. However, you can’t just style it purely based on the character looks! It must also fit your face shape and length amongst other factors. Convention hair wax may not work since wigs are made of synthetic fibers and certain brands of wax/ has elements that only react with natural hair. If you have a long wig, maintaining the wig is also essential as you will have to condition it and untangle it which takes a MASSIVE amount of time.

A little bit of mechanical knowledge is required if you’re making weapons. Most cosplayers will face trouble making a weapon as it will break apart due to weight or be extremely flimsy due to a weak fulcrum. Storing such weapons will also be a hassle as improper handling may cause days of crafting to fall apart. Lastly, to bring it out in public while you’re taking the public transport, you can either be mistaken for a terrorist or an insane person. Who brings a naginata on board a train on a daily basis anyway?

Make-up

Make-up represents the finer and minute details of cosplay. It is how you alter your face to suit a character. Although you will never be an exact match, in most cases, the style and personality of a character can be effected onto your face with makeup. Again, this is a different skillset which encompasses more time and research. Generally though, makeup also gives cosplayers issues.

If it’s summer or you’re cosplaying in a tropical country, it will melt and will make you look like a zombie in extremely bad situations. It will stain your costumes and leave patches on it which can be extremely unsightly if you’re wearing a dark and dull colored costume. During winter or cooler weather, the lack of humidity or the dry air will cause your makeup to freeze and crack. Makeup will leave your skin dehydrated as well.

Next is the trouble for each gender regarding makeup –?

For females, you will have a cosplayer makeup set and a daily make-up set. Due to your cosplay plans, you will often end up with a lot shades for your skin despite not being the shade of your skin. It gets extremely irritable if one of your foundation powders ends up in another set and you have to search through both sets just to find the correct shade! The same can be applied for your eyeliner color and shade.

For males, let’s just explore the topic of using makeup in general. It’s quite weird if a guy uses make-up by society’s standards. Even if you justify that you use makeup for cosplay, people who are not in the otaku culture will still raise their eyebrows. As bad as it already is, you will even have to purchase your own makeup. Just imagine walking into a store that is primarily dominated by females. But that’s okay! The sales assistant will automatically assume you are buying it for your girlfriend/sister. Too bad you will have to test the product there to confirm the shade and match the color such that the excuse will be rendered ineffective. Sometimes, it’s better to just say it’s for yourself…

Make-up is a whole new set of trouble that is diverse to discuss about. Essentially these are the main problems with using makeup for your cosplay without diving into the details of applying it. Make-up is an essential skill for any cosplayer. Unfortunately, it is not easy and is often downplayed or even ignored. Occasionally it may even backfire due to a mismatch between styles and face shape which cause hours of agony to your self-esteem. You may even get chided by others for messing up the character. It’s a big risk.

Preparation

Depending on the individual, preparation for a cosplay can take up to months. If you combine the aforementioned factors, this should come to no surprise to you as there is a lot of work involved if you want to be able to cosplay properly. In addition to preparing the costume, the makeup and the props, different cosplayers will have different methods to connect with the character such as to better portray them in person.

These methods may involve getting reference pictures, re-watching the anime and taking notes, scrolling through other cosplayers of the same character or becoming one with nature. Did the last one sound a bit off to you? Not really, as everybody has their own way to derive their inspiration. The prep work involved may be cumbersome but the process is undoubtedly fun as you are essentially connecting with your favorite character and exploring the limits of your creativity.

After getting the inspiration, it’s time to apply the theory. Most cosplayers won’t appear in public immediately after. Usually, there would be a testing phase. It is basically cosplaying as the character at home numerous times in order to fine tune and perfect the makeup and costume. The first time may not be perfect; therefore instead of facing a risk a cos-test is necessary in order to make it a perfect cosplay. Again, depending on the individual, these tests can take months to prepare. Constant referring to reference pictures or your own inspiration will help along the way. It is a tedious process.

Traveling to the convention

Now it’s the day to finally show off your craft! Unfortunately, it does not come without issues. As mentioned, depending on the location and season, you will have to ensure your whole cosplay stays intact as you will be battling with the humidity, the temperature, the crowd, and your props and make-up. Watch out! As the public’s eyes will be on you too.

Travelling to the convention will be hassle. You will have to don the costume to the convention and if you live far away from the location in a suburban neighborhood for example, you will have to travel the first half of the journey without any cosplayers. With luck, you might find a cosplayer heading to a convention too. If not, well, it gets extremely awkward to have everyone staring at you. It is worse if there are enthusiastic kids asking their parents about your get-up. Then just smile awkwardly or try to find a way to escape back into the 2D world.

At the convention

At the convention, more often than not, you will not come empty handed. You will have your home clothes, spare makeup, wig stands, accessories, and personal belongings amongst many other things. As a solo cosplayer, you will face the issue of lugging this baggage’s with you. It will become cumbersome if you are approached for a photo. Regardless of where you are, you will have to drop everything if you’re polite to accept a shoot request and strike a pose.

Certain costumes also do not come with pockets so you will have to find an alternative way to keep your phone and wallet. Perhaps at the convention, you see a figurine you like? Now you will have to dig through your luggage to find your wallet. That is why you will have to improvise to keep your hands free but at the same time easily accessible. It may be uncomfortable and you may ask, where then do you keep your belongings and what do you mean by improvise? We’d leave that to your imagination!

Post - convention

After a day, time to head home and start de-cosplaying. Removing your wig, costume and makeup is the greatest relief you will ever feel as a cosplayer. When you have been wearing the costume for the whole day with full makeup, it is extremely exhausting! Although you may be exhausted, you will still have to clean up your cosplay, start washing them, ensuring the wig is properly stored to prevent tangling, and wash your costume. The efforts that goes into this is necessary due to a variety of reasons such as: makeup stains will be harder to remove after long, wigs will be more troublesome if they are improperly washed, and makeup will cover up your pores if not removed.

Everything must be handled carefully. This is all the work to do after standing for three quarters of the day and lugging around your luggage. Unfortunately, this is the final hurdle to cross before repeating the cycle for the next convention or event. Post convention is the dread of every cosplayer, but unfortunately, it is a necessary evil that makes the whole process smooth and easier for your next cosplay! There will always be a new cosplay to look forward to!


Conclusion

Cosplay is a dedicated and focused hobby. Perhaps not everybody has the time to do it and perhaps yes, cosplayers have a lot of free time. But that is why a hobby is called a pastime activity. Most people simply assume that cosplaying is dressing up. While they are not wrong, cosplay is more than simply dressing up in a costume. It’s the effort and dedication that one takes to ensure that their cosplay comes out perfect. It is an art. That is the joy of cosplaying.

Perhaps you are a cosplayer yourself, do you agree with the points above? Do let us know what got you to cosplay and if so, do you enjoy it? Do share with us some of your peeves as a cosplay in the comments section below. Maybe you have some input from your own personal experience that you would like to share as well? Let us know what you would like to know and we might just write one. Until then, we will see you next time!

Araragi

Writer

Author: Araragi

Writing from a little island known as Singapore. It is through my articles that I want to show that the world of anime reaches out beyond the boundaries of Japan. From different age groups to individuals coming from different walks of life, everyone and anyone can be a lover of anime. To quote from Kingdom Hearts, 'There are many worlds out there, but they share the same sky.'

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