Cosplay on a Budget- Highlights from Salt Lake Comic Con

IMG_1412The “Easy and Simple Cosplay Techniques for a Limited Budget” panel at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX was both fun and informative. The panelists were: Alicia Maria (author of The Booty Bible, co-creator of the 30 Day Buttlift DVD, celebrity fitness expert, sci-fi cosplayer), Megan Golden (actor, cosplayer, model, filmmaker), and Tom Carr (author, director, cosplayer). They spoke to a crowded room of future cosplay superstars about tips and tricks that they use to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Here are just a handful of my favorite tips and moments:

  • Tom Carr was dressed as Badger from Firefly. His version of the costume looked like it could have come off right off the set, but the suit was a random collection of pieces that he had picked up over time. He found the suit, a great looking wool suit, at a thrift store for only $10. The colorful handkerchief was just a piece of fabric from Walmart. The vest looked perfect with the suit, but was actually not a piece of that suit itself but rather something he picked up elsewhere. All of the elements came together perfectly, but Tom noted that he typically “backs into his costumes.” In other words, when he sees items that look interesting, he’ll pick it up not knowing what it could be used for. So the individual pieces come before the idea itself.
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  • Megan Golden was dressed as one of her favorite characters, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. She has a closet full of cosplay gear, and jokingly wondered if she was a hoarder. Rather than throw something away, she looks at it to see what it could be rather than what it is. For example, the brown shorts she was wearing for her costume were just the right color for the outfit and were instantly recognizable to fans of the Tomb Raider series (myself included). But those shorts were originally white. Megan had used a brown black dye over and over until they were just the right color.
  • Alicia Marie is the real deal. I don’t know if the woman ever sleeps with as much energy as she has. She is able to get into most of her costumes on her own, but with some of them (like Storm from X-Men) she has a team of people that help her get ready in her hotel room. The hair, costume, and makeup are of a professional level. But a key part to some of her cosplay is the contacts. Those silvery, milky contacts do a lot do add to the mystery of her cosplay, and frankly, they are intimidating. There are a lot of places out there that offer costume contacts, but Alicia Marie warned about making wise decisions when purchasing them. With most cosplay, you can go often find very inexpensive things and design or decorate them to look like something else. But going for the cheapest contacts may not be the safest for your eyes.
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  • For those interested in makeup or body paint, there is a product called Ben Nye Final Seal that to keep the makeup on and in the right place. Cons are crowded and it can get hot. To protect your look, it’s important to not be worried about bumping into other people and covering them in your makeup. And you don’t want to sweat it off. So sealing the makeup will solve a lot of those problems.
  • Some cosplayers wear pre-made costumes, and that is fine. But the majority of the people that are dressing up for cons are making their costumes themselves. Alicia, Megan, and Tom talked about looking at things in stores like plates or cups or boxes and envisioning what they could be. Maybe that plate could be a shield. Alicia showed us a tricorder that she had made out of a little purse. She had used colored tapes, contact paper, stickers, etc… and made a pretty darn good tricorder that she could wear around.
  • Anyone can get into cosplay regardless of their skill level. The panelists were wearing some things that they purchased, some that were made by friends, and some things that they made themselves. Megan has being doing cosplay for about ten years, and in that time, she’s picked up a few sewing skills, but just does basic things by hand. She’ll probably move on to a sewing machine soon, but everybody starts somewhere. You don’t have to be a seamstress to make a great costume.
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  • As a filmmaker, Tom Carr has had access to some great costumes. He’ll walk into a dressing room and see a treasure trove of potential cosplay ideas. So use your resources. You may have friends or family that have things you could use. You may even have stuff sitting in your own closet. Try to look with a different eye.
  • If you’re going to cosplay, expect to get your picture taken. By dressing up, you’re basically saying, “I want others to see this.” Hopefully, the people who are taking pictures are respectful of you, your privacy, and your time, but you need to plan on stopping often for someone take snap a photo of you (or with you.)
  • There is no reason to be nervous about dressing up for con. It is a safe place to be yourself, even if being yourself means dressing up like somebody else. 🙂 Cosplayers are a very supportive community and nearly everyone attending the cons is interested in checking out all of the cosplayers, even if they don’t intend to ever dress up themselves. People of any size, shape, race or sex can cosplay.
  • All of the panelists agreed that gender-bending can be some of the most exciting cosplay. Seeing a female Loki or Dr. Horrible is great, and there was a male Catwoman walking around the con. One of Alicia’s favorites was a Sailor Moon/Freddie Mercury combo. And the day before the panel, Megan Golden herself was dressed as the best looking Ash Ketchum in the history of Pokemon. That’s just my opinion, but I’m RARELY wrong.

I can’t say that I have ever felt the desire to cosplay at Comic Con. I enjoy dressing up for Halloween, but that’s been the extent of my experience. But I do love cosplay as a spectator. I have great respect for people who are willing to put it all out there to entertain us. Whether you’re the newest n00b or a professional cosplayer who sells photos and calendars, I salute you. And I now love (and am in love with) Megan Golden, Alicia Marie, and even Tom Carr. Are you going to any upcoming Cons? Who are you going to be? Let us know in the comments.


Tim Bennett
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Quite frankly, Tim is a 17-year-old trapped in a 30-something-year-old’s body. He loves good TV – by which he means something with a good serialized storyline – and movies, and spends many of his nights immersed in a gloriously complex video game. He’s a firm believer that Lost was the greatest show ever made, and that includes the ending. Oh, and Tim is a staunch defender of the Ewoks and their place in the Star Wars canon. You can listen to Tim on the Whatever Makes You Weird podcast, check out his opinions about upcoming movies in our Trailerpark Tuesday segments, and find his reporting about cons and all things nerd-ish on Comic Con Tips.