Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cosplay: Choosing a Character

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is "How do you pick what to cosplay?" If you've never worn a costume before you may have asked this question yourself. It's a great first step to becoming a cosplayer! A lot of people will answer "Just wear whatever you want!" I definitely agree with this, but with thousands of characters to choose from you still have to narrow it down somehow. 

Reasons for choosing a character will vary for everyone. It's actually quite a personal commitment to undertake, but nonetheless I wanted to give some insight to my OWN procedure for choosing a cosplay! This method may not work for all, but I hope it gives some ideas for deciding what criteria will be important to you.

Princess Zelda and Thor photos by Alan Tijerina
Choose a Genre
Pick something you love. It's that simple! If you love video games then I am sure you have a special character you enjoy playing. Or maybe you've admired a certain superhero from Marvel or DC Comics. Some people even dress up as their favorite TV hero or heroine. I saw a Scully from X-Files cosplay once and totally fangirled! Cosplay isn't limited to one genre over another. You can go with classic 80's movies, childhood cartoons, or even an original character from a manga you might be developing. There's a lot of creative freedom with cosplay, and the first step in choosing a character is deciding what you are passionate about. For myself, I love fantasy genres. So I'm really drawn towards characters with a medieval or magical feel to them. Once you find a genre you like the characters will speak to you, and you will enjoy your cosplay more.

Overall Look
This is the most important decision for me when I choose a character. I personally look for long sleeves, really cool hair or makeup, an interesting prop, and materials I'll be comfortable in. These details help me decide if I'm going to enjoy wearing the costume or not. I prefer to cover my tattoos so that the focus is on the cosplay, and I love to wear long wigs. The props and materials are important to consider because convention hours can be long. A heavy sword, large wings or intricate armor may not be fun to wear after the 5th hour mark. I've also learned I am not a fan of wearing tight fitting bodysuits. So I am more likely to choose a character wearing a dress or skirt. These are just some things *I* look for in an overall look. So think about what makes *you* confident and the happiest in to have the best time in your costume.

My first comic con and cosplay!
Skill Level
No matter what your skill level is you CAN cosplay. You don't even have to make it all yourself. A lot of people commission costumes. If you just want to have fun walking around a convention then do not worry about what others will think of your craftsmanship. However, if you plan to enter a competition there might be some rules to follow so be sure to read those beforehand. When cosplaying for the first time, I recommend wearing something simple. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Try doing a "closet cosplay" where you find items you already own that you can turn into a character. I did a closet cosplay of Ramona Flowers for my first con. It helped me get my feet wet and motivated me to put on something more detailed for the next event. Start talking to other cosplayers for advice and google tutorials (or check out mine here!) for sewing and armor making tips. Then you'll be ready to pick a character with a more difficult design for the next time.

Sewing my Fiona from Shrek costume after long hours of making the props.
Budget and Time
Some costumes are going to take a lot of work. When you look at a character's armor, body paint, or prop be sure to make a list of all the materials you think you'll need. Trips to the hobby or hardware store can become expensive. Plan out how much money you want to spend on a costume. If the character seems like it may be out of your budget then you may want to choose a different design. A lot of characters have more than one outfit, too. So if you don't have the supplies to make an entire Batman suit from The Dark Knight maybe you can make Adam West's version instead! Also, be sure to look at your calendar. When are you planing to wear this? Is one week enough time to sew all of Cinderella's dress? Will my wig arrive by then? Do all your research as soon as possible to make sure you'll have all your pieces ready before you plan to wear it.

Convention Specifics
If you will be attending an anime convention then you might want to wear an anime cosplay. Or a comic book character to a comic convention. Now remember: This isn't a rule at all! I actually see a wide variety of cosplays at every convention I've been to. But one thing you might want to consider is the type of guests that might be at the con you are going to. When I met Billy Boyd (Pippin) from The Lord of The Rings I chose to wear an Arwen cosplay. Or when I met Tom Felton I wore Luna Lovegood. By choosing a character specific to the convention theme and guests, you're more likely to run into other characters from that genre, too. This makes taking group photos especially fun! I also recommend looking at the weather. If you're going to a convention in the summer, then you may want to choose a character that isn't in full armor or heavy body makeup. If it's in the winter you might not be warm enough in that Slave Leia costume.

Lord of The Rings cosplayers I met while at Sci Fi Expo 2013
The most important thing to remember when choosing a character to cosplay is you can be anything you want! Gender, height, weight, race and age - none of that should matter when you cosplay. Your options are limitless. Pick a character you love and have fun!


So these were just a few of the things I personally consider when I choose a character.
What specifics do you look for?
If you haven't cosplayed before, but want to, which character would you like to make?


  1. great post!! i want to cosplay so bad! i havent done it before!
    also.. you met Billy Boyd!? AWESOME!

  2. Great tips! Comfort is definitely important when choosing a costume! I worked really hard on my first cosplay, Harley Quinn, only to discover when I put it on around other people that I was REALLY self-conscious about wearing something so tight. Even though the costume turned out great, the fact that I felt uncomfortable in it kind of ruined it for me. I definitely think it's best to start out with a closet cosplay...just to dip your toes in the water, so to speak! :) I decided to take a step back and now I'm making a "casual Harley Quinn" to wear until I feel more comfortable in the community, haha!

  3. I've never cosplayed before but I really want to! I'd want to go as Sailor Jupiter or Kairi. :)

  4. What a great post! Thanks for the suggestions!

    PS: Adam West is still the greatest Batman ever, and The Dark Knight is horribly overrated. :)

  5. I love this post! There are so many great characters out there that there really is someone for everyone to cosplay!

  6. "Gender, height, weight, race and age - none of that should matter when you cosplay. Your options are limitless. Pick a character you love and have fun!"
    That's what I'm screaming!

    Your cosplays are always so fun, and REALLY good!
    My DREAM cosplays are Sailor Saturn and Sailor Iron Mouse both from Sailor Moon.

    But at SDCC this year I'm going to be Dany Targaryen from School of Thrones (a GoT parody), and I have a semi-secret cosplay planned!

  7. I really wish I could meet someone that would be like that awesome older sister who would take me cosplaying and show me the ropes since I've never been. Thought about online, but it's hard finding someone who's not actually as guy.... Any suggestions? I just want to cosplay so bad that it physically hurts, but sadly I have no idea how to go about it and I don't live anywhere near any conventions...that I know of

  8. I totally have a picture of you from sci fi expo and never knew it was you until I read this blog post HAHA

  9. I totally have a picture of you from sci fi expo and never knew it was you until I read this blog post HAHA

  10. Awkward Anon:
    I want to cosplay badly but I'm waiting till I stop growing so quickly because some of the characters I want to go as have props that are as tall as them and clothes that hit and drag on the floor. ugh being human sucks xD


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