So, you wanna cosplay?
My name is Holly Conrad; I've been cosplaying for eleven years and I'm here to tell you about the wonderful world of cosplay! If you're reading this article (which you undoubtedly are), you're interested in dressing up, making stuff, and being one of your favorite characters for hours on end at a convention. It's not an easy task, but it's definitely a rewarding one, and that's not just because of all the cool scars and blisters you'll get from making a costume--it's because of the fun you'll have becoming a character, meeting new friends, and being hugely awesome. So, let's get started with my five easy steps to cosplay success!
Step One: Cosplay Whoever You Want
My first rule of cosplay is you can be whoever you want. Regardless of your age, race, gender, size, you can be WHOEVER you want. And if someone tells you otherwise, look them in the eye, strike a sassy pose, and tell them they're wrong (and also totally no fun at all). This is a hobby for you to feel awesome about yourself and to learn new skills and make friends, not be judged or bullied.
Step Two: Obsession Is Your Energy Drink
You'll have a lot of late nights cosplaying. Sometimes those late nights are only fueled by Taco Bell and the love of the character you're cosplaying as. When you drift off to sleep on your garage floor at 5 am surrounded by a pile of cut pieces of foam and glue, you want to know that when you make that pile into armor you're going to feel like the most awesome badass that ever walked this planet. Loving a character, loving your fandom, and wanting to be a part of that at a convention will help you go that extra mile that no energy drink or cheap taco will do.
Step Three: Google-fu
Once you have a character and you know what you want to be, now is your time to take to the Internet. Many cosplayers have released e-books (including Kamui Cosplay and Punished Props on how to make armor. Forums like the Replica Prop Forum can get you in touch with industry professionals who make props for a living, and sites like Tested give you amazing build blogs to look over. YouTube has a plethora of sewing tutorials, casting tutorials, and so many more. The Internet is your friend, and its cornucopia of tutorials will turn into your bathroom reading faster than you can say, "Glue gun burn".
Step Four: Failure Is Your Senpai
Cosplay is about learning; it's about figuring out what works, what absolutely does not work, and what should be buried and forgotten forever. Don't be afraid! My solution to this is to cosplay with friends. Find a group, get your parents to help out, have people around you to laugh jovially when you try to age a cloak and accidentally set it on fire in your driveway. These things are going to happen, and they will be a learning experience (and great bar stories). So never give up, never surrender.
Step Five: The Power Is Yours
Just like Captain Planet says, you have the power to ignore, and educate, haters. Let's say your Wonder Woman costume is done, you're ready to go to a convention, and suddenly, Ethel, your co-worker at the Kwik-e-Mart asks why you're doing something so "nerdy and unordinary." This is when you ask Ethel about that time she went to the Raiders game and painted herself black and white and wore armor with 5 inch spikes on the shoulders. She will say, "Yes, but that's a sports game," and you will respond, "You're a fan of sports, you dress up to show you're a fan. I'm a fan of Wonder Woman, I dress up to show I'm a fan. It's the same thing." You then drop your mic, kick a speaker off the stage, put on deal-with-it sunglasses, and ride out on a raptor breathing fire.
Now, you're ready to cosplay!
Well, I mean you have to make the costume first. But with these five easy steps, it won't be any problem. No matter what, you are going to have a blast. Oh! Here's a few more tips: stay hydrated, put gel inserts in your shoes, bring energy bars, and put a pocket on your costume for a cell phone. You'll need to be able to call Ethel and tell her what an awesome time you're having while you and your deal-with-it raptor ride off into the sunset.
Born from a family of artists and out-of-the-box thinkers, Holly Conrad cites her first cosplay experience at the age of four when she strapped a pillow to her back and called herself a koopa. Mentored by her grandfather, Dorse Lanpher, a pioneer in visual effects animation with Disney and Don Bluth Productions, Holly grew up in Redlands, CA as a gifted illustrator, artist, and self-taught costume designer.
After graduating with a degree in Medieval History (and Sorcery) from University of California, Santa Barbara, Holly switched career paths and began working in special effects shops for clients like Disney, Universal, Machinima, Warner Brothers and productions like Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum, the latter of which won an Emmy for costume design. In 2010, she co-founded a company with her best friend Jessica Merizan called Crabcat Industries. Crabcat focuses on promoting an inclusive teaching community to build costumes, props, and practical special effects as well as new-media entertainment with the brands "Try This At Home", "Commander Holly", and "Jessica Marzipan".
Holly is stationed in Los Angeles and lives with her husband Ross, an animator, and her precocious cats Doctor Orpheus and Mojo. She is currently on the SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay with her partner in crime, Jessica.
Check out more of her awesome work on her website!