Continued from Part I
How do you feel about the cosplay culture and community?
It’s changed a lot, for the better and well, for the worse in some cases. I think it’s adaptable so there isn’t a massive issue with trying to keep it like an older tradition or style. Cosplay to me was a form of icebreaker at conventions so people could initiate a conversation and become friends and so on. It’s taken a different approach now because conventions are indeed more commercial and based on popularity, so the attitudes may not necessarily be always as friendly or open. I think having a social hierarchy in cosplay is a bit too much honestly, as since this revolution there’s so many questions raised such as, is it bad to buy your costume? Or, what are the limitations of race in cosplay, or even just knowing what makes a great cosplayer and cosplay – money and photographs, or techniques. I don’t think half of these were as much of an issue before because coplay goods and materials were less varied growing up, and then the way people got into anime was a bit more like entering a real subculture, going on websites, using computers and collecting videos in the back section of a comic book store. It wasn’t a huge thing, so it was a bit more secluded. But honestly, with the availability now to easily stream anime and get into new anime immediately straight from Japan opposed to waiting a year or two for a two-episode video or DVD is priceless. It’s really up to each cosplaying individual to determine what true fandom is. Some people think it’s all about collecting all the goods, others think it’s achieving costume accuracy, and others think it’s either a blend of all or simply trying your best to show your love for it. It’s up to you and your attitude to adapt and retain your qualities as the culture changes.
How do you feel about the buying cosplays versus making cosplays argument?
I’m a bit biased because I primarily sew nearly all of my items, but it’s hard to deny someone’s ability to cosplay a character well just because they didn’t make it. The idea of cosplaying wasn’t strictly enforced to be “sew-only” even way back when. It was just more practical to sew because most stores didn’t carry the cosplay you were looking for among other practical reasons. Nowadays, you have plenty of stores that carry decently made cosplays. Not everyone can sew or will like to sew and that’s okay. They can make it up with enjoying the make-up portion or have amazing wig styling skills. I hold a little bias where if someone is simply being a model, I think you can only praise the beauty and ability to pull off the character in a superficial way, unfortunately. It is just praising their beauty, which I am unsure of is a skill but rather a quality about them that you can appreciate. Those who make their items, whether costume, props, wigs, and more, are showing a crafting talent when they make great work. It’s appreciating the person beyond the vanity portion and accepting that they have the hands and skills to produce something that shows a great deal of time and effort. The good thing is that in way, you can judge cosplays based on whether it is a great demonstration of skill or a lovely depiction of a beautiful model in character. I know some people have issue with this, because it can potentially delude people into giving all their attention solely to vanity cosplays, but I think as long as they’re a real fan, they are working to share that love as they can within their skills range. I think just as a given however, I will usually praise and hold to high regard a cosplayer who successfully has taken the time to do the hard work themselves. Hobbies are rarely ever profitable, it comes out of a person’s time and money, so that is their product to show and it deserves recognition.
Do you have anyone who inspires me to cosplay? If so, who?
I have a huge list of cosplayers from around the world that continue to inspire me, and then I also have my regular group of friends whom I collaborate ideas with. When I was younger, I kept a folder filled with pictures of their work and watched their skits on a regular basis. It’s crazy amazing to know now that I have gained some skills to be able to make my own creations come to life.
In what ways has cosplay changed your life?
It has! It’s a major part of my life now, and it helped me make certain career choices happen. I had a lot of social anxiety issues growing up, and anime and manga was a common group to make friends with through school. I got a number of my friends into cosplaying after going to a convention and enjoying the atmosphere. I think it's also helped me learn and improve on qualities about myself that helped me feel better about who I was. I think sometimes you can get caught up pretending to be another character or settling too much with the escapism, but I think in the long run, I've seen it help me refocus on who I really am and how it's valuable for me to value that within myself. Strangely enough, there’s no pressure to be anyone else other than yourself in a unique way now– a fan with all power levels ignited. Ironically, those power levels are shown through cosplay. Taking up sewing is a great way to pass the time, and cosplay helped me figure out who I really was – an artist. I went to college initially for fashion design because I loved cosplay, then costume, but then it helped me find my way to my new major. I think the ability to use costumes and see them as a creative sanctuary is special to me, and it’s helped me have the courage to face some of life’s toughest moments and see the beauty of art and creativity born from it. My friends and I feel like we’re convention storm chasers, always seeking out the next cosplay opportunity and filling our free time with sewing, talking about cosplay, and just being genuinely and freely creative.
How many masquerades have you participated in?
I did two random masquerade experiences years back. One was in 2007, and the other was in 2008. I wasn’t really big into them back then except by just watching them. Then however in 2011 I got really into them again and now regularly participate. I think it also stemmed from having cosplayed for so long but now wanting a real experience to take the cosplay to another level incorporating music, acting, etc. And just having a great skit with friends.
What is your pet peeve about cosplaying?
It’s probably terrible but I really don’t like cosplayers who believe that they are the best character or version of that character, or people who just regularly make it seem like they are a hot commodity cosplay when they aren’t. I feel like the internet did that a bit to them…I’m not fond of give-a-ways and pandering for “likes”. I can see where having fans is great, I’m a fan of my friend’s work and they are of mine, but it can get superficial really quick and so much potential for drama. I feel like some people treat cosplay like it’s their only glimpse of celebrity life, and for some it actually is but it’s super rare. I also just don’t like it when people exaggerate their “hard level of technique and effort” when they bought a costume. I don’t mind if you buy a costume, but just give credit and don’t make a big fuss of claiming to have “worked so much on the cosplay” when clearly the main portion of it wasn’t made by you.
When deciding on how you want your cosplay to look , what goes through your mind. (ex. Does the fabric/material have to look like the picture)
First thought: Unless it strictly calls for it, lay off of the shiny fabric. I think it’s an ongoing gag in my head, not because I’m tempted to do it but because there’s a nostalgic quality to it. I usually think of what is not only affordable, but comfortable, and still look accurate. Most of my cosplays use matte fabrics to avoid odd glares or looking unfortunately cheaper than the budget and effort really was. I also see what silhouettes I am familiar with in the costume versus what I will need to learn how to pull off. My friends and I call it MacGuyvering, because we end up finding a combination between standard sewing techniques and some we just make up on the spot with the time and materials we’ve got. Somehow, it all comes together! I also try hard to stay on a budget, but it’s silly that I had less control over the years till more recently. The costumes I spent a ton on were worn very little, or I invested in cheaper fabric, which was a bad learning experience. As for wig, I am a little picky, but I am addicted to online shopping so I really go for what’s most accurate and flattering to my face. That also includes me picking sometimes a specific blond color that won’t look odd since I have a warmer complexion.
Are there any cosplays that you wish you could pull off? What are some you won’t do?
I joke about this one all the time, but I really don’t think I can pull off the dominant, busty girls. It’s hysterical, because I simply can’t. I can cosplay characters with dominant or eve villainous qualities, but if they have a sexy factor, I just spaghetti all over it. I haven’t had a character I really like in that category though, so I don’t think I won’t be doing that for a while or ever. I also just won’t do next-to-nude skimpy cosplays. Some people say it’s for the “art” but unfortunately there’s just some social quirks that have really unfortunate deliveries. If someone ever does cosplaying scantily clad for the “art”, you will know. I guarantee it.
Do you believe that a person has to have certain qualities to pull off a cosplay?
Not really, I think I approach cosplay as it being a fan hobby. Anyone can do it as long as they have a good attitude. I’d think the only restriction I’ve seen is that there are some people who have a particular body shape where a very skimpy outfit would not work out for social reasons. I also think there’s plenty of examples of dressing and cosplaying for your size, whatever it is, and there’s no hindrance on the amount of hard work and effort you should put into it. I’ve also seen several examples of cosplays with a specific race being tastefully done. There shouldn’t be much issue about it.
My plans or my most recently done? My most recently done was Belldandy, which I mentioned about before. I really love the character and the final product, although there’s so much that needs to be redone. I’m remaking all of the jewelry soon and styling the wig – I didn’t have much time at all! – and then fixing some construction parts here and there. I also want to drape a better white underdress, I will feel better when I get that done. Then for most recently planned, I have Kinomoto Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura. I picked a design from one of the illustration books I really like, and I already am so excited about it. I wanted to go with her classical outfit, but something drew me to this design. I love whimsical and magical details!
What tips will you share for beginners?
Don’t freak out about being popular. Don’t try too hard, be yourself, and remember that cosplay is about being able to share the love of a hobby. Not everyone’s going to love you, not everyone’s going to hate you, but it’s up to you to have a good attitude entering the world of cosplay and making the best of it. Be open to learning and using all these awesome resources – Youtube and Google are my friends – and learn from other cosplayers and be open to sharing techniques and learning from their work too. Cosplay should be a fun learning experience with friends. Be honest with yourself too, I feel like I learned that a lot through my experiences socially in the cosplay world, and it’s a really valuable message.
Why do you cosplay?
I cosplay because it is a form of art to me that is tangible and fully experienced when doing all of the steps. Like I said before, you go through all the emotions in a short rush of time – pain, suffering, tension, impatience, while working hard and yes, you will enjoy the process too, but there’s so many emotions at that one brief moment in time. Suddenly, it all goes away once you’re done, and all I want to do is drink an iced coffee and stare at my work on the dress form. Being a former design student, it was unfortunate that my time there was short for many circumstances, yet I feel like it was cosplay that helped motivate me to never stop learning even if I wasn’t going to stay in that industry for a long time. I still love to sew and design, so this is my way to channel those skills. Anime and manga helped me feel like I had a place to go growing up, and it’s a wonderful feeling to go to conventions and share that love and combine it with all that you love and know. There’s too many positive experiences to count that have propelled me to bigger and better things, and cosplay is still a regular part of my creative life. It’s the ultimate form of expression to me, and to literally transform yourself into a character that emotes who you want to be for that moment, and what you creatively stand for. Truly, it’s also an outlet that helped me find out who I am and where I stand socially with people. I’ve significantly improved and see cosplay as a process that helps me look into what I am able to do and what skills I have, as well as recognize the things I want to improve on ad make life long goals towards.