Cosplay Questions: Wigs

roy mustang cosplay

This is me as Roy Mustang.

Okay everybody, here’s an important question: how do you select your wig?

I’m addressing this question under the assumption that you do not want to cut/dye/restyle your hair for every different costume. And if you are doing three costumes a weekend, that’s impossible.

But let’s say getting away with your real hair is a possibility for a costume, do you buy the wig anyway? Well if you have long hair, thick hair, or a big head, then wigs are not going to be your best friend. So if any (or all if you’re me) apply to you, then skip the wig when possible. Continue reading

Cosplay Questions: The Creative Cosplay

There are two ways to do a cosplay. One is to try and be exactly like the character in question and the other is to take a character and do something new with it. This post will be focused on the latter.

Lady Saika and I have done a lot of cosplaying together (her more than me). Usually, we don’t do the same cosplay twice (to the chagrin of our wallets). We’ve always tried to look exactly like our characters. And after a while, there is only so much joy you get from being the exact character, not to mention running out of awesome characters to be. Doing a creative cosplay allows you to flex different mental muscles.

For example, Ladies Saika, Nakura, and I just did a ponies-as-people cosplay at Otakon. It was fairly basic as creative cosplay goes, but we had fun nonetheless. Genderbending (as has been discussed in other places in this blog) is also a part of the creative cosplay.

Creative cosplaying requires you (in a sense) to put yourself in the character’s shoes and requires you ask yourself really tough questions. “Would Pinkie Pie be fashionable or would she just look like a pink mess?” And for a genderbent cosplay, “Would the 9th Doctor wear a black denim skirt or black skinny jeans?”

However, the real fun comes in trying to think out of the box. For example, I’m in the process of convincing Lady Saika that a drag queen Naruto group would be awesome. Because it would be. Just imagine Guy Sensei in a green, sequined jumpsuit with a really deep V-neck. As long as you think out the idea completely, then you can do it. No cosplay ever ends well if it is a half-assed attempt.

Now, I bet you’re wondering whether or not people are going to think a drag queen Naruto group too strange, even by con standards. First off, as Lady Saika wrote in her crossplaying post, a good costume is a good costume and people will love it regardless. Second, there is nothing too strange for conventions.

And that’s about it. If you can come up with an idea and then put a costume together that reflects that idea, then you are all set!

Cosplay Questions: Crossplay and You

Crossplay is a popular term for cosplaying as a character of a different gender than your own (not to be confused with genderbending). It’s beyond common in the world of cosplay for a variety of reasons.

Gender Freedom: Part of the joy of cosplaying is being able to be someone other than your day-to-day self in a safe space. And this certainly extends to crossplay. Anime conventions are a very open and accepting space in my experience, and whether you identify as trans* or just want to be someone else for the day, a con is an excellent place to explore that freedom. Crossplaying is all about performing a different gender than the one you were born with.

Character Preference: I think this is a big one. Let’s face it—sometimes your favorite character’s gender doesn’t match up with your own. This is an especially common problem for female cosplayers, because, let’s face it, anime in general can be pretty lacking when it comes to strong female characters and/or realistic-looking female characters. Sometimes it’s fun to be what I sometimes call a ‘hair-and-boobs’ character (think, Yoko, Erza, Shura, Blue Rose, Mikuru, Patty, etc) but sometimes you just really want to be Kamina or Gajeel or Mephisto or Kotetsu or Kyon or Blackstar.

The reverse is also true, although less common: compared to the number of females cosplaying as dude characters, I’ve only ever seen a handful of guys cosplaying as ladies. I think this is because of a combination of factors: firstly, as I pointed out, there tends to be a dearth of awesome ladies in anime; secondly, guys have to face a lot of weird societal stigmas when they crossplay as girls that girls are less likely to face.

My cosplaying husbando Nakura, whose crossplays wildly outnumber her female cosplays, put it rather eloquently when I asked her her thoughts. She says that crossplay can be a challenge, especially considering the often extreme body types of both male and female anime characters, which can make it harder to cross over. However, she says, “If a crossplay is good, however, it’s not gonna matter if it’s a girl or a boy; people will love it either way. Good costumes are good costumes, no matter which gender it is and which gender is wearing them.”

Are there any cosplayers in our audience? Have you crossplayed, and what was your experience?

Cosplay Questions: Race and Cosplay

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on this series, but I’m back with a vengeance now. Let’s open this can of worms.

There are two major race issues related to cosplay that I’ve noticed: first, the ongoing and loaded discussion of whether Asian or white people cosplay anime characters better, based on how they perceive the race of the anime characters. And secondly, the issue of racebending, or changing the race of the characters in order to cosplay. (This happens both with minority cosplayers dressing as perceived-as-white characters and white cosplayers cosplaying as characters of color.)

The first question is one that brings the covert racism out in a lot of people. Although a majority of anime characters are Japanese or of Japanese descent, their generally large, overexaggerated eyes and non-natural hair colors make a lot of people argue that they don’t look Japanese and that white people cosplay them better. I think this is, frankly, stupid. Most human beings, regardless of race, don’t look like anime characters. Regardless of race, none of us look like CLAMP noodle people, impossibly buff Toriyama characters, or ludicrously booby Gainax women.

The important thing in this case is, rather than judging on a cosplayer’s race, to (if you must judge) judge on the awesomeness of their costume. Perhaps this is just easier for me, as a seamstress and costume creator, but it seems to be the logical way to think about it.

The other race issue that often comes up in cosplay is this: most anime characters are inredibly fair-skinned. Is it right for white characters to cosplay as the few characters with dark skin, and why do some people complain when cosplayers of color dress as perceived-as-white characters? Here’s my take on part one of this sitch (admittedly speaking from a postition of privilege): if cosplaying were a big-budget film (say, The Last Airbender, The Lone Ranger, I could go on) and characters of color were being played by white folks, I’d be livid about whitewashing and racebending and appropriation. But cosplaying is about showing fan appreciation for a particular character. Some people still do this in an offensive way—I don’t condone blackface or any of its variations—but if you’re white and your favorite character is, say, Yoruichi, I’m not gonna bitch you out for cosplaying as her. But white folks then have to extend the same courtesy to cosplayers of color. Don’t walk up to a black Inuyasha and argue with him because Inuyasha isn’t black in the show. Don’t go up to a dark-skinned Ciel Phantomhive and ask them why they didn’t cosplay as Indian prince Soma instead, since a dark-skinned English aristocrat in the 1880s would be unheard of. There are so few options comparatively for black cosplayers that it’s ridiculous and stupid to bitch about them cosplaying as ‘white’ characters. Just, as I said before, live and let cosplay. If you’re going to judge a cosplayer, do it not on the color of their skin but on the strength of their costume and the kindness of their heart.

Cosplay Questions: An Introduction

Hi again, readers! I am apparently a glutton for punishment, and my MLP series is winding down finally, so of course I’m picking up another topic that I’ve been desperately wanting to talk about: Cosplay.

Cosplay is a huge part of my life (it’s even a bit of a profession) and I know all of sorts people who do all sorts of cosplay. I’ve been cosplaying since 2005 (ohgod that’s so long ago) when I made my first costume (Lirin, from Saiyuki).  I’ve grown both as a costume-maker and a cosplayer since then, and this upcoming April I’ll be attending my fifteenth convention. I’ve gone from a lone cosplayer to the fearless leader of a group of loyal cosplay friends/minions with whom I’ve done groups as large as the Ouran Host Club.

In this series I want to look at a number of topics within the realm of cosplay, from why people do it, to cosplay’s connection to sexuality and gender expression, to the problem of objectification in cosplay.  This series is going to be a bit more open-ended than the last – I’m not going to preset any particular number of posts and topics before I begin – so if you have any ideas for a future cosplay post, let me know! I’d love to write about it.