Cosplay 101

With the rise in comic, film and Scifi conventions has come the rise in costume playing or cosplay for short. If you’ve been to a convention lately you will no doubt have been amazed at the range of cosplayers in attendance and may even be thinking of trying something yourself. Here with some hints and tips on the subject is our resident cosplay expert Mandy “Harley Quinn” Edgar.


I want to start by saying I am not the ‘Queen’ (Or King) of costuming or cosplay. I’m not far off the starting blocks to be completely honest, but the most important thing is – I love it!! 

I attended my first convention in Glasgow in 2010 and since I had no idea what to expect, but always loved fancy dress, I slipped into a catsuit and ears and called myself Catwoman for the day. What I saw when I was there got me hooked. People from all walks of life were showing their appreciation for the characters they loved by getting right into them. Big, small, young, old, fit and not so fit all being their geeky best. The costumes varied from shop bought, to painstakingly made from scratch to just a subtle tip of the hat to their character of choice. But the one thing that emanated from all of them was FUN! They loved it. They were strutting about like they were on their own personal catwalk and the best part of it was when someone stopped them to ask for their picture.

After that first convention I made a list of my dream costumes. Unfortunately, 6 years on, that list is far too big to fit in this article!!!


Choosing My Costume

In order to decide what to start on next I have to research what I’m going to need for it. Can all the parts be easily made, bought, or sourced? Will I need to make any alterations to take into account the fact that I’m not the right size/shape/colour? Is there any part of it which cannot be realistically carried around an event?  Most importantly, Comfort!

I’m not a seamstress and will not pretend to be. My first costumes were fabulously made by the very talented Lyndsey Shillinglaw, but now that we live so far apart, it’s not as easy to nip over for fittings or measurements. So I try to pick simple designs or things that can be bought or altered.

Size/shape/colour – unfortunately I’m not Hollywood or comic book shaped. I’m also not green. So on occasion I may have to consider making things a little longer or higher cut, add a corset or spray myself a funny colour. (Body paint adds a whole new layer of problems!)

Carry rules – this may seem obvious but if your costume requires a weapon of some description – CHECK THE RULES OF THE CONVENTION. Some will allow heavier weapons and replicas, some will not. To avoid any embarrassment or disappointment, just check before you go. In addition – before you build those very impressive 10 foot wide wings, remember that you will be in a very busy place that is likely to have relatively narrow aisles. If you need to have the wings – work out a way to fold them or plan to spend most of your time outside the actual venue!


Getting Started

Armed with my list of needs and wants, a pile of file images and nowhere near enough time, I will get stuck in. Buying, sewing, painting, super gluing and sticky-taping – it’s a veritable minefield of arts and crafts craziness. One of the massive positive points of the costuming community is that if there is something you are struggling with you can pretty much guarantee someone else has had the same problem and will be more than happy to help. So if your internet searches have come up blank, your ray gun looks more like some kind of kitchen implement and there is more glue on the cat than the costume don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people will be more than happy to share their hints and tips, especially if you have already had a bash at it yourself.

Taking the Finished Article on Tour

My biggest piece of advice, regardless of your costume, would be to take a repair kit. Whether that is glue or tape or a needle and thread, take something. While you may have put blood, sweat and tears into your costume, you can pretty much guarantee that if you don’t take an emergency kit you’ll need it.

Another piece of advice would be to be aware of your physical and mental health. It might sound a bit obvious, but that costume that looked and felt fab as you danced in front of the bedroom mirror for 10 minutes may not feel so great after 4 hours in a crowded hall. Make sure you drink plenty and stop if you are in pain or getting antsy or frustrated. It’s amazing how much 10 minutes out of costume and getting some fresh air will help when you are at the end of your tether and wishing your toy gun was real just to scare some folk out your way and stop them standing on your toes/wings/tail.

Be Respectful of Others

Please. You will meet folk from all walks of life. Some have the budget, talent and time to make the most amazing creations. Others don’t. But they are all there for the same reason, to have fun. So no matter how incredible or how basic a costume is – appreciate it. If someone has put their own twist on something rather than being screen accurate – appreciate it. My mum always said – if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything and I feel this is particularly appropriate in this setting.

Being respectful also includes respecting someone’s space. Just because someone is dressed as some semi-naked manga character that I can’t pronounce – that doesn’t give you the right to touch. Don’t grab anyone’s wings/tail/snout/ears and DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING without express permission. Remember the blood, sweat and tears I mentioned above? Imagine breaking something that someone put all that into…..there will probably be more blood, sweat and tears and it will most likely be yours!


Now, I’m about to get started on my next one. Stay tuned for updates on who, why and how!!

Harley out!


Updated: September 8, 2016 — 1:49 pm

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