We’ve all been there, you have this huge list of cosplays and no idea which to do next. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting into cosplay, or you’ve been cosplaying for years, there are always more cosplays on your list than what you’re able to do. I know I have about thirty cosplays on my dream list, and every year more and more are added before I even get finished with the ones already there. So how do you go about picking which cosplay to do next? I know that for myself, it can simply come down to cost and the required prep time. In a perfect world I would love to be able to do a couple new cosplays at each convention I go to, but usually I have to limit myself to one or two new cosplays total per year. So, with this in mind, let me give you a little insight into my process of picking a cosplay and going about making it.
I don’t know that there is necessarily a precise method I use to pick which cosplay I want to do next. It has a lot to do with what fandom I’m really fangirling about at the time. There are so many cosplays on my to do list; the idea for a cosplay can come from anywhere. Usually, while at a convention, I will think of several new cosplays to do before I even leave the con. However, these cosplays are usually inspired by other cosplays and fandoms I see at the convention, and when I get home the urge to make them dwindles as they are not from fandoms I am currently really excited about. For example, one year I saw this spectacular Demona cosplay from Gargoyles and it really inspired me to do my own version of Demona or Puck, both of whom are characters I really love from the show. But while I love Gargoyles, it is not a show I have actively watched for several years. So although I did add the cosplay to my future cosplay list, it got pushed to the back in favor of fandoms I am currently obsessing over. Also, often my friends and I will think of groups we would like to do such as a Final Fantasy XIV group with each of our character’s main class, a Zelda group, a Harvest Moon group, and an old men group (which consisted of random old guys from different animes or games such as Bugenhagen from Final Fantasy VII and Master Roshi from Dragon Ball Z). Now, as amazing as these cosplay group ideas are, a lot of the time these groups seem to get lost in the list of cosplays simply because certain cosplays in that group would take a lot more work than others. Therefore it would be difficult to organize when we could all have them done at the same time. And again, they are influenced by what we see at the con, so when we get home the urge to actually do them dwindles.
So, how do you go about picking one cosplay from a list of thirty possibilities? Well, a lot of the time a certain cosplay will just suddenly resonate with me and I am overcome with a desire to make it. This year, that cosplay is Edna Mode from The Incredibles. I’m not sure when the idea first came to me, but ever since it popped into my mind it has been all I can think about cosplay-wise. I think the idea partly came because so many of my friends have started making superhero cosplays to wear to our volunteer events, and I couldn’t really think of a superhero I would want to cosplay myself. However, the idea of running around after my friends yelling at them for wearing capes was too good to pass up. And thus, my Edna Mode cosplay journey began!
My first step in making this cosplay was deciding what pieces I would need to buy and what I could make myself. I always try to make things myself as much as possible. There’s just something extra in the joy and pride I get knowing I made it myself. However, I unfortunately cannot sew. So if a cosplay requires something I cannot crochet or piece together from other things, I have to commission it. I do intend to eventually learn how to sew as it would be nice to be able to make all my own cosplays from scratch. However, I am afraid of needles, so learning that skill keeps being pushed down on my to-do list. Also, there is no shame is commissioning someone to make your cosplay, props, or anything in between. It doesn’t matter if your cosplay is handmade by you, pieced together from other articles clothing, or commissioned. As long as you’re happy with the cosplay, that’s all that matters.
With that said, if you do find yourself needing to get a cosplay commissioned, there are a few things to keep in mind. If the cosplay is something that will be made to order, remember to give yourself at least three months’ time for it to get to you. Take a good look at the seller’s estimated shipping time frame and how far the item will have to travel. There’s nothing worse than missing out on wearing a cosplay because it didn’t arrive in time. Also, measurements, measurements, measurements! Whenever possible, try and give as many measurements as possible to ensure your item fits properly. For example, I am 5’1” and so often I have to emphasize my height on my measurement sheet because if I don’t, I end up with a dress that pools on the floor that I have to then go get altered again so I don’t fall and kill myself. Everyone is shaped differently, so keep in mind (especially if ordering from another country) the seller cannot actually see you and therefore the more measurements you have, the better idea they have to go off of. I would also recommend that you never try and do your own measurements. There are just too many factors to try and do it yourself, so ask a friend to help you. It is also a good idea to check reviews thoroughly before you commission something from a seller for the first time.
Ask any cosplayer, and they can tell you a horror story about commissioning something that ends up arriving looking nothing like what was described. For me, it was when I ordered my Elsa cosplay. It was right after the release of the movie and while there were a few ice dresses listed on websites, I could only find one coronation dress listing. There were no pictures listed, which I led to believe meant mine would be the first dress they were making. I sent my measurements as usual, but when the dress arrived, I had serious questions whether they had even looked at my measurements. The dress was made out of a satin like material that wasn’t remotely accurate, but that didn’t bother me as much as the fact that it seemed to be three sizes too large. The dress literally fell off of me. The black shirt to go under the dress was not a full shirt and barely covered my chest. This meant every time I raised my arms, the shirt would come out from under the dress. The first time I wore it, we literally pinned the shirt to the dress. The only saving grace was the embroidery on the dress and cape. I absolutely loved the intricate stitching and it is the only reason I kept the cosplay. Well, that and the fact that the seller wasn’t willing to pay for the return shipping. After considerable alterations, my Elsa dress now fits very well. I bought a new shirt to wear with it, and the seamstress I took it to was able to hem it from the waist which prevented me from losing the intricate stitching I loved so much.
Anyway, to get back on topic, there wasn’t too much for my Edna Mode cosplay that I had to buy. Basically everything for the outfit except for the sleeves could be pieced together from clothes/shoes I already had, and I had already decided to crochet the sleeves myself. That only left the wig and the glasses. When searching for items online, my two best friends are Amazon and Etsy. I sometimes get things from Ebay, but I have found that the quality of products on Etsy is much better and often nearly the same prices. And as far as Amazon goes, that two day free Prime shipping is always a good thing when it comes crunch time before a con. When searching for a wig, a lot of the same rules apply as for commissions. Take a close look at the pictures of the wig in question, make sure that the wig is going to be thick enough to hide your hair underneath. Also look at reviews for the seller, and if possible the wig in question. Make sure the wig is of a high enough quality you’ll be able to maintain it. It doesn’t matter how pretty the wig looks if the material gets overly tangled with the slightest movement. Also, don’t feel you have to spend an arm and a leg to get a decent wig. A nice rule of thumb for wigs is $30 - $50. Unless you’re purchasing a highly specific wig that requires lots of styling or is excessively long, $50 is plenty to get a nice wig that you can wear over and over again with proper maintenance. If you’re not sure, ask your fellow cosplayers! Everyone has a favorite shop or store they like to get their wigs from and most cosplayers are more than happy to share where they find the best deals. For this particular cosplay, I found my wig on Etsy for $40. My glasses came from Amazon.
The last piece of the cosplay I needed were the sleeves. In the movie, Edna Mode appears to be wearing a vinyl dress with scale-like diamond patterned sleeves. I debated for a while on how best to achieve this look. Several of my fellow cosplayers recommended I cut the diamonds from foam and glue them onto a shirt. And while this option would probably be the most accurate, I also wanted something that would be comfortable and easy to maneuver in. Then I started thinking about how I could crochet something to look like that and the answer came to me: crocodile stitching. I had to alter the stitch just a bit to get the points for the diamonds, but all in all I was extremely pleased with the result. You can click here to see a tutorial I made for this stitch. To attach the sleeves to my cosplay, my original thought was to crochet them onto a tank top. However, we soon discovered the sleeves were just too heavy to attach in that manner. So this left me with a bit of a problem. I didn’t want to have to crochet an entire dress as I had never undertaken a project that extensive, but it looked like that was exactly what I would have to do. Also, as I had already made the sleeves, it would be difficult to follow a pattern and have everything match up. I ended up freehand crocheting the front and back pieces, holding them up to me every so often to ensure it would fit, and sewing them together afterwards. I added a back loops only row every so often to get the ribbed look and then crocheted the sleeves on at the end. When I was finished, I was extremely pleased with the result. Not only had I conquered a new skill, but I had succeeded in making something that was both comfortable and accurate – something every cosplayer struggles with.
Once all the pieces were aligned, the only thing left was to figure out how to do my makeup to complete the look. Edna has a natural look, so I chose eyeshadow and lip colors that would hold up well during the course of the day and accentuate my eyes – which are my favorite feature of my face – without being too overwhelming or exuberant. Whenever I go to conventions, I always carry a small pouch with lip color, eyeshadow, and powder just in case I need to touch anything up during the day. Remember that most cosplays can get pretty warm, so your makeup will sweat off if you’re not careful. It is also always a good idea to carry a water bottle with you. Most conventions are pretty good about having water stations around to help keep everyone hydrated, but trust me when I say you do not want to risk getting heat exhaustion. Having to be torn from your cosplay because you got too hot sort of ruins things for everyone, and I speak from experience on that. You’ll also probably want to carry around some simple things to fix your cosplay should you have any malfunctions. I usually have super glue, safety pins, and band aids on me, however there is also usually a booth for cosplay repair and first aid if you do not have an easy way to carry these things around with you or if you need a more serious repair.
Last but not least, I always like to get into the mindset of the character I will be cosplaying as. Not only does this help you with thinking of poses for pictures, knowing their mannerisms and speech patterns will set you apart from other cosplayers, and will make the experience one to remember for a lifetime – especially when children are involved. To a child, you are not a cosplayer portraying a character, you are that character. So if you choose to cosplay someone that children identify with such as a Disney Princess, always remember to act as that character would act. And trust me when I say, there is nothing like talking to a child in cosplay. Seeing their favorite character makes their entire world and you’ll feel honored to have brought them that joy.
With all that said, when it came time to actually wear my cosplay, I didn’t take into consideration just how many people would be at the convention. When I was planning things out I knew it would be warm, but I thought the holes in the sleeves between the crocodile stitching would provide enough of a breeze to keep me from overheating too much. I was wrong. I underestimated the fact that inside the dealer’s room and the packed halls of the convention center, there was no room for air to get to me. Therefore, I had no breeze. I wore my cosplay a grand total of three hours before I gave up. It was just too hot. As I said, I have learned from experience what it feels like to have to be torn from your cosplay and I really didn’t want to get heat exhaustion again. I was fine once we got outside into the open air, so I’m thinking this cosplay will have to be limited to outdoor events only.
And that, I suppose, is my last tip. Make sure you know your limits. Cosplay is meant to be fun. Trust me when I say you do not want to be that person who spends hours working on their cosplay only to wake up to someone cutting it off of them because they passed out after getting too hot. It’s not worth it. Also keep in mind that there is no walking like con walking. Be sure you wear shoes that are going to be comfortable as you will most likely be on your feet for hours, especially if your cosplay prevents you from easily sitting down. You can always bring different shoes for photoshoots if you need to. Don’t be afraid to wear your cosplay the way you want to. The nice thing about cosplay is there are basically no rules except have fun and be respectful of others. So get out there and experiment! Find out what works for you and show what your cosplay character means to you! Join cosplay groups and social media pages! I have made so many friends within the cosplay community and I can say without a doubt, seeing them is my favorite part of going to a convention. So have fun! And don’t be afraid to share your progress with others! You might be surprised with how quickly you find your place!