Salt Lake Comic Con Panel: Cosplay for Beginners


Comic Con Tips - Cosplay for Beginners


Cosplay for Beginners
MC: Jennifer McGrew
Panelists: Megan Golden, Alicia Marie, Aspen Field

How is Utah cosplay different than normal costuming?

Is getting really into the role of the person you’re dressing up. It allows you to do whatever you want. Costuming is more of a Halloween type thing. It also provides the chance to have a costume that’s different than what everyone else is going to have. There’s no such thing as a bad costume. You can be somebody else for a day and have Halloween every day.

Where does the word come from?

An amalgum of the words Costume and Play. In the beginning it was reserved for “freaks and geeks”. On the internet and media, it’s caught a lot of attention.

What are some of the least understood things about cosplay that you have to explain?

Wearing wigs. Aspen’s got some pretty crazy colorful hair under her wigs, but her job is pretty conservative. So she ends up wearing wigs to work and everyone finds it strange that her hair color changes all of the time. They feel like she goes home and plays D&D and builds stuff out of cardboard.

Alicia talked a little about professional cosplay. A lot of the way they earn money is by comissioning and building costumes for other people. Then they cosplay to help promote their business.

If you’re a professional cosplayer do you have a really great dental plan or vision plan?
What are some of the challenges of doing cosplay as a professional or elaborate hobbiest?

Costuming can be very expensive. But as you go, you learn a lot as you go. Buy things and then buy them to be what you need them to be. Like modding an airsoft gun. An airsoft gun by itself looks pretty cool, but when you weather it it’s more like, “oh they’re going to call the police.”

Sewing can be very difficult. Especially if you have to hand stitch the whole thing. It’s hard work, but you learn skills as you go. Then as you redo mistakes, you can have a really great piece at the end.

You can be high end Halloween, or level 5 theatrical costuming. Pulling stuff out of your closet can work if you’re a bit of a packrat. Or raid your parents or your grandparents stash, because they have a lot of stuff.

Tell us a little about people asking who you are? What’s going on in your head?

Sometimes, it’s like, “Thanks, want to take a picture?”. Or sometimes it’s like, “No I’m Jill Valentine”.

I like to do the whole smile and wave. I don’t like to make people feel awkward so I’m like, “yeah, hi.”

Some people will go out as something really obscure, but the people who are familiar with the character get really excited. But the more recognizable costume that you wear the more attention you will get. The more places like blogs that you’ll find yourself later.

Comic books, Sci Fi, Television, Video Games.. you can pull from all sorts of media. There was a guy that dressed up as CatMan, then drank a bunch of shots before the convention. And everyone was like, “Hey did you see the drunk CatMan?”

What are some of the difference you detect between the real community and the online community in regards to etiquette?

Aspen went to Denver Comic Con dressed as Emma Frost. She did a more modest version and got a LOT of comments that were either, “You didn’t do it right and aren’t being true to the character” or “I really love this version.” Don’t insult the person when they’re in their character. If you want to do it online behind anonymity, go for it. But take us for who we are not for who you want us to be.

Megan has had quite a few rude comments. People will come up and wave and smile at you. On the internet, people get really rude and vicious. Dressed as Lara Croft, she’s getting a lot of comments about it quite a few that are negative. But Comic Con is a convention for “freaks and geeks.” Everyone should be safe to dress up at Comic Con. You just can’t care what people say online.

Alicia thinks if you’re dressing up and going a little crazy, you’re preparing yourself for public consumption. You have to kind of not care what people think. Just do you and do your thing.

Aspen apparently lives in her mothers house and wears different color socks.

Tell us some of your war stories regarding charity and fund raisers:

Megan hasn’t done that yet, this is only her second convention, but it’s something she’s very interested in doing in the future.

Alicia wants to be the local superhero. Recently her and a bunch of her friends put together a Cosplay calendar. The funds are going to go towards hurricane survivors. The calendar is all Cosplayers.

Aspen is part of two local charity groups. It’s wonder and fulfills the soul. The children that you help think you are that character. Once time she dressed as Princess Jasmine and there was a little girl who would not let go of her because she thought she WAS Princess Jasmine. These children need you. When you go to see these kids that are dying, you are Batman. That’s one of my horror stories.

What is a taboo context or place that is a place you would never do Cosplay?

Megan thinks she would Cosplay anywhere. Growing up she went to Catholic school. And her parents let her dress herself. She dressed as the Pink Power Ranger and went to school and was sent home.

Jennifer asks about a funeral?

Megan thinks that if it was a person who was really into Cosplay, then it might be appropriate. But that’s one scenario that she didn’t think of.

Alicia knew a guy that dressed up as a character and wore it every time he worked out. Maybe that was his motivation.

Aspen has heard of marriages where the entire audience dresses up. It’s a cool break from the normal. Last year she wore a Poison Ivy costum to the U, and was escorted off campus because it was a little riske.

Alicia mentions that you might get kicked out of a convention if you’re too naked. She’s seen Slave Lea’s get kicked out based on their body types.

Megan suggests that you can find an alternate skin. She’s thinking about doing a Witch Blade costume. She’ll try to find a different way she can wear it or a different version that would make sense to wear it in a place like this.

Alicia brings up weapons. You can’t bring a full machete into the con, it’ll get taken. You just have to have the orange caps on your guns.

What is going on in your head for Cosplayers in 3 words:

Megan: “Self-Expression, Creativity, Interpretation”
Alicia: “Self-Expression, Artistic Interpration, Creativity, Excitement”
Aspen: “Neurotic, Perfectionist, Performers”

Performing is a huge part of cosplay. Don’t be yourself when you’re Cosplaying. Incorporate that into your life for 3 days.

When working on a costume, what do you find as motivation to overcome obstacles?

Megan says that when you unstitch a costume so many times, you just have to decide that it’s going to work. She’s starting to make more completely homemade costumes. Certain parts you don’t know how to make, you just have to think about how happy building it will make you in the end. If this will be terrible, you just have to keep working on it. You can always go back and keep working on it.

Alicia mentions “feature creep”, where you could keep going forever. At some point you’ve got to realize that you’ve got it. She puts pictures up on her wall and uses that to help her visualize.

Aspen feels that you will never feel like there is stuff that you couldn’t fix. She’ll write broken seams off as “battle damage.”

Jennifer points out that you’ve got to watch out for the purists if you deviate from the original character at all. These people are enthusiastic.

How do you become part of the charity groups?

Depends on the group that you join. Some are really strict, if they interact with children or hospitals they are quite strict. There are several groups. It might help to know somebody in the group or do several trial runs to see how you come across as your character. They have a handler so they can stay in character the whole time. Get a referral into the group.

Where do you learn to get started?

Megan suggests just getting started. Just get started sewing and just do it.

Alicia points out that you can google it. There are a lot of online tutorials out there already and there are a lot of people sharing how to do this stuff.

Trevor Nielson
Writer & Photographer at
Trevor began his forray into nerdom as a kid peddling his bike all the way to the local bookstore to purchase comic books. The boring superhero comics weren’t good enough for Trevor, he wanted the real ones. The ones with ducks. Now who's laughing while he’s on his way to cash in all those valuable Ducktales comics. Soon he’ll have his own money bin full to the brim. These days, to fill the time before the money bin construction completes (and begins), Trevor fills his time with photography, movies, television and comic book conventions. You can find his cosplay Meet & Greet mini-shoot and articles on this site as well as prints of his photographs being sold by cosplayers throughout the land.

P.S. Trevor converted to Marvel & DC comics and movies later on, so no heartburn on that one, right?