Cosplay FAQ

COSPLAY FAQ
I started cosplaying around 2002 and have been an active part in the cosplay community formally since 2006, when I started out dreaming of cosplays from Slayers and Shoujo Kakumei Utena. Thankfully, I have since improved and have participated in various ways, from hosting dance panels to finally competing in the masquerade.

So I filled out this questionnaire to talk about more about why I cosplay, and just more information about what I do what I do!

- What's your name and cosplay name?
I’m Kagura! My real name is Alexandra, but I've gone by Kagura since I was about twelve years old, and it's really just with my circle of  friends and the cosplay community. My cosplay name is Ohtori Kagura.
  
- What got you into cosplay?
I was raised with the belief from my parents that every day can be a dress-up day aside from Halloween. My parents bought me Halloween costumes to use year-round, so it became a natural thing. Not long after, I got into anime and manga, and the idea of wearing a costume from an anime character seemed thrilling and exciting. It only took my first convention trip to really solidify my need to cosplay.

- What is your first cosplay? Why did you choose it? How do you feel about it?
I don’t want to count Halloween, so my first “real” cosplay was Sohma Kagura from Fruits Basket back when I was still in middle school/freshman year of high school. Prior to that around 2002, I had some ghetto attempts at cosplay (does that still count?). I particularly was obsessed with Pokemon costumes and then Angelic Layer, which I had a cosplay of Saitou Kaede that I really was attached to. My Kagura cosplay was made by a family member and I still wear it occasionally for old time’s sake. At the time, she was my favorite character and the one I could identify with the most. It was really well made and extremely comfortable!

- How long have you been cosplaying?
I’ve been cosplaying for actually over ten years now. It’s been a really thrilling experience to see the progress and growth over the years.

- How do you get your costumes?
Aside from some small fraction which are either bought and redone from thrift shop clothing and two purchased ones, all of my other cosplays are made by me. I started making them (and actually have them hang properly) around late high school and really used my college time to make more time for learning to sew. There are a few cosplays I have that I've purchased online through Taobao shops, but I have bought only about three costumes total, maybe one per year? Otherwise, I sew pretty regularly and take more pleasure in making my cosplays since they are like fun puzzles to figure out.

- What materials/tools do you typically use in cosplay?
I have my lovely Pfaff 360 machine named Fappy, which is a gift from a good friend of mine who has witnessed about some six years of me cosplaying nonstop since we both became friends. I also have a Brother 304D serger I love to use for finishing some of my costumes and sewing knits, named Toby. My newest machine is a beautiful Bernina Artista 180 I purchased as a Christmas gift. I also have my older Singer Prelude that I've lent out to my brother and sister for smaller crafts since it much older. I used it  for the first five years or so of my cosplay sewing experiences. I also have several combinations of sewing tools which were bought over time or original supplies from my college sewing classes.

- What's your sewing background? 
When I was younger, I used to sew some basic crafts, mostly for class projects. I didn't really start sewing until my final year off high school for my senior project, which was a fashion show. I started out by modifying clothing and adding trims and reshaping existing clothing. Then at FIDM, I started technical sewing, draping, and pattern draping. After switching majors, I continued sewing while using Youtube, my textbooks, and a close family friend who had an amazing amount of experience and helped me when I was in school. Every project for me has taught me a new skill or refined my sewing technique. I have experience now in sewing, draping, textile science, tailoring, patternmaking, and have recently started to learn handbeading and embroidery techniques.

-  What's your favorite part of making a cosplay? What is your least?
My favorite part is the planning, conception, and actual sewing. I love to sit and plan cosplay ideas with my friends, especially when we're at a fabric shop or at the fabric district. I love looking at fabrics and letting them speak ideas to me. I also am constantly busy, so I switch between different jobs/modes/hobbies at a time. Starting out to sew is the hardest for me, because I have lingering prostratination tendencies, but once I start to sew, the experience is absolutely enjoyable. Needless to say, the least is trying to cram and prune so many cosplay ideas, and sometimes sewing with a horrid fabric. I've been very lucky that I've turned some pretty awful sewing experiences around, but I've learned to be prepared for anything.

- What do you look for in a character you want to cosplay?
I love characters who have a certain quirk to them, whether they are passionate or courageous or very, very girly. A lot of my character choices seem paradoxical at times, I will identify myself with moe characters that I adore to cosplay, but then there is always a cosplay that is either a witch or a really eccentric character that seems strangely away from my personality. But that’s what cosplay is for, ne?

- Is there a pattern in your cosplays?
I look for a creative approach to something new. I love school uniforms and if I had unlimited resources, I would make too many uniforms that my closet would explode. So, I look for uniforms that put a spin on the same old elements. I also love gowns and a lot of details, colors, if they have older romantic silhouettes. I think these are all elements that hide my ulterior motives of secretly wanting to be a princess.

- What do you prefer? Cosplaying in a group or on your own?
I believe a combination of both is really fun. I sometimes choose characters that not everyone I frequently cosplay with are familiar with, and there’s no big deal about doing it on your own. You still love that character! Then there’s just some cosplays that work so well with groups, whether it’s because no one would recognize who you’re cosplaying as without them, but also because there’s a certain authentic dynamic you want to achieve between your character and the other characters within that series. I will really appreciate a great Luffy cosplay, but it’s always amazing to watch a whole Straw Hat Pirates crew walk around the convention together.

- When cosplaying, what do you feel is most important?
I think it has a lot to do with having a positive attitude – it’s infectious, and in cosplay, it’s all about you sharing that love of your character and the series. Other people do take notice and it’s wonderful when it can be a powerful ice breaker that can make your convention experience a memorable one. Secondly, it’s really making the attempt at accuracy. I think being borderline nuts with accuracy isn’t my cup of tea, but really being able to make use of the materials you have available to you and reworking them to match as closely as you can is important. The great thing about the internet too is that there’s a great fountain of reference pictures from the original source or likely previous cosplayers that have shared their techniques to achieving a particular look. They’re great for learning experiences and deciding how to craft the cosplay with the right accuracy.

- How many cosplays have you done?
I keep a rough list and based on it, about 82 cosplays.

- How do you feel about being in character while you cosplay?
I try to stay in character for a fair amount of time at conventions, but there’s just some moments you have to break it or keep it on the down low so you’re open to socializing with different types of people. I also think it works out that I identify personality-wise with a lot of the characters I cosplay as, so it’s not a huge stretch in the “acting” department. In masquerade though, I really strive to capture the essence of the character. The skit, music, costume, and interaction with my fellow partners really enhances the experience.

- What are the top 5 on your list of "Want to Cosplay"?
a. Tenjou Utena (duelist design) – Shoujo Kakumei Utena – Utena is my favorite character and series of all time, and I really want to make a beautiful version of her, complete with the wings and embroidery done on the main tunic. It would be based off of the embellished Animerica Extra cover art.

b. Beatrice the Golden Witch – Umineko no Naku koro ni – I love Umineko, and Beatrice was one of my favorite characters. There is something quirky about her, and the design, I just gasp for.

c.  Alexiel – Angel Sanctuary – Angel Sanctuary is one of my favorite manga of all time, I really love angels and super complicated stories that just fill each page with details and more details. Alexiel and Sara are my two favorite characters, and making her wings is my dream.

d.  Eternal Sailormoon – Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon Sailor Stars – Sailormoon is a classic, and I love so many designs from her and other senshi, but I really want to make her Eternal version. I also am keen on Princess Sailormoon, but Eternal brings out the nostalgia in me.

e.  Mari Makinami Illustrious (plug suit) – Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 -  I have always wanted to make a plug suit, and Mari is my EVA girl. I loved the other girls but I never felt like I could compare with the other characters until Mari came along. I’d make all versions of her if I could!

- What is your favorite cosplay and why?
My current favorite cosplay is Utena from her movie design, which is also one of my most recent. I made her for our Anime LA 2016 skit. I've always been intimidated to make Utena since she is my favorite character, but it turned out to be one of the best sewing experiences to date. I worked mostly on her throughout the evenings and while I have a prone to grow impatient about certain elements, I really focused on my craftsmanship on the jacket and props. I'm really satisfied about the construction in my cosplay, and I don't think that there will ever be a more precious moment than when I finally wore it all together and realized I had actually achieved a personal dream, one that goes beyond cosplay.

- Which is your least favorite?
A way, way long time back (and I dread that there might be a photo lurking still), I had a friend who had a Beyblade group and at the very last minute asked me to cosplay as Hiromi. I scrambled and actually had a fuzzy pink sweater and I stuck a badly drawn scribble on it with tape, and oh facepalms, it was just really, really bad. I didn’t even have a wig, so I tucked my long hair back and hid it...and I just felt ashamed. The others did a great job though!

- Do you think cosplay should be a commercial hobby?
 I do and I don’t…I think I feel this way because I don’t really see myself directly making money out of cosplay. I think cosplay has helped propel me into other commercial hobbies or jobs, but it is based more on the technical aspect than actually being commercially involved by putting on a costume and taking pictures. I don’t think it’s a hobby that should be commercialized by everyone because already, it creates a different impression that it’s a cash cow and all people are in for the money, skimpy costumes, and to be popular. I’d like to think that it could just be a hobby that people will put forth their own money and time as they please to send their message about their love of costumes and anime. I won’t deny the field’s certainly changed, but it’s people’s personal business as to what they see will benefit them in the long run. Even with the community changing, it hasn’t ever directly affected me in a negative way or taken my quality of my work away.

- What is your most memorable cosplay experience? What makes it so memorable?
I made a maid version of Mindauki Yuno from the visual novel, Unity Marriage for Anime Los Angeles a few years back. Not many people knew who she was, but it was just fun to run around in a pink maid outfit! I was getting ready to host a panel in a Cirno cosplay when one of the girls there was chatting with a friend at the time and she mentioned that she was cosplaying from a doujinshi I was familiar with. She was from Japan and visiting the US, and we got to talking and sharing about visual novels and doujin works. I told her about my Yuno cosplay, and she was really happy, and told me how wonderful it was to see someone cosplaying from something different. She continued to tell me, “Please come to Japan and cosplay with us there! They would love your work!” and it meant mountains to me. She later on e-mailed me and told me she had sent some of the pictures we took to a doujin mangaka!

-  What is your favorite part about cosplaying?
My favorite part about cosplaying is enjoying the moment between the success of pulling off your character and forgetting the pain and tears, blood, and sweat that you probably endured through it. It’s completely letting go of all that tension that you, your sewing machine, and your wallet have gone up against. You don’t care once you’re caught up in the moment enjoying friends, the cosplay scene, the amazing goods and panels, and the atmosphere of being the character you wanted to be!

- 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. Some people 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. I absolutely love a number of cosplayers from the late 90's/early 2000's who continue to cosplay and have a presence in this community.

- In what ways has cosplay changed your life?
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 ultra crinkly 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 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. 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.

- What are your cosplay goals? 
I have every intention to keep on cosplaying for life. It'll evolve in its own ways, but this is part of my lifestyle, so I'm sure it will remain always close to me. But in terms of not-as-long goals, I have a lot of plans for masquerades, would like to cosplay in an out-of-state convention or even out of the country. I would absolutely love to cosplay in Europe and Asia, even if just for a convention. I have a list of conventions I'd love to visit, and even some of my abroad plans consist of lining up with dates where a con will be in town. One of my current plans is to also try out for World Cosplay Summit here in the United States.

- 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 and make lifelong goals towards.

Happy Sewing!

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