The Costume Counselor: Wigs 101

Wigs are scary. Well, an actual wig isn’t all that scary. It’s just fake hair after all but if you’ve never worn or styled one before, the prospect of getting your first wig can be terrifying. For the first few years that I cosplayed, I felt the same way and only costumed as characters whose hair matched my own. After a friend finally shoved a wig on my head for a Scarlet Witch costume one year, I finally gave in and bought my very first one in 2011. (It was a medium length purple one for Psylocke.) I still have a tendency to try and mostly do characters whose hair matches mine but I no longer have that phobia. Instead, I now have a box filled with probably two dozen of them. Over the last five years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that just might come in handy for you if you’re new to this whole wig thing.

Always wear a wig cap
I resisted doing this at first and just French braided my hair but wig caps make everything so much easier. You just shove all your hair into one and it keeps everything contained. It’s also a lot easier to shift your hair around so you can avoid any visible lumps or bumps. They take some getting used to but wig caps are honestly a life saver and pretty darn cheap. (Your wig may even come with one!) If you forget a wig cap at a convention, run to the dealer room because you can probably find a wig vendor there who is selling them. Continue reading

The Costume Counselor: Shoes Shoes Shoes

When it comes to shoes for costumes, you will almost definitely have to pick from the following: completely accurate, comfortable, or cheap. Most of the time, you’ll only get two-out-of-three. Getting all of them happens rarely and should be treated as a Christmas miracle any time it does. As always, it is up to you which route you prefer to take and as always, I have my personal preference. (It’s comfort. I always go for comfort.)

IMG_2604But first… Hey you! Yes, you reading this. Do you have new shoes for a costume for an upcoming convention? Go put them on right now. I’ll wait. Look: I even have mine on! The most important thing to do for any pair of shoes you intend to wear for a costume is to make sure that they are broken in well in advance. The absolute last thing you want to do is get to the con with a pair of brand spanking new shoes and get blisters because they rub you the wrong way or find out that you can’t actually walk in them. Put those babies on now and wear them around the house or while running errands. Your feet will thank you in the long run.

Let’s get back to the process of picking those shoes… Continue reading

The Costume Counselor: Making vs Buying

Okay, so you’ve decided to make your costume and you’ve already done your breakdown… what now? Now you have to figure out whether or not you want to make each piece from scratch or if you want to buy something to use for it. We sort of touched on this last time but didn’t really go quite in depth enough.

The first thing do here is a cost-benefit analysis with effort as the currency. Is it worth the time, money, and effort to make something simple that you can buy on Amazon for $10 just so you can say you made all of it? Probably not. And, to be perfectly honest, if you buy something that’s more of a base piece, you’re probably going to save yourself money in the long run along with your very valuable time. Buy it and move on.

Sometimes, you’ll buy a pre-made base piece with the intention of modifying it. When looking at this option, again consider how much effort you’ll have to put into modifying it. There’s a big difference between merely ironing a design on to a t-shirt and hacking up a jacket so you can put it back together again. Continue reading

The Costume Counselor: Breaking it Down

After you pick a costume to work on, the next step is to figure out what exactly you’ll need to make or purchase. This is what I refer to as the break down process and it can either be a moment when you go “Oh, this won’t be so bad” or “This is way more complicated than I expected.” In some cases, the work may have already been done for you. The 501st in particular does a fantastic job of making sure they have incredibly thorough standards pages. They offer breakdowns of exactly what each costume will be comprised of along with pictures of the pieces. I found it to be incredibly helpful when I was working on my Revan. Unfortunately though, not every costume is going to have the benefit of 501st research.

The first step is to gather your reference pictures. Find as many of these as you can. If you’re working on a costume where you can see the front, the back, and the sides, be grateful for reference as this will take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. (Alternatively, you can be like me and base your costume off of a single image that doesn’t even show the entire costume. It’s my specialty.) I’m a fan of printing the pictures out if I’m going to continue to reference them while actually constructing the costume but I do know that a lot of people will maintain reference image folders on their tablets. Do what works for you.  Continue reading

The Costume Counselor: Sewing 101

Sewing is one of those weird things that, like cooking, you may have learned in some sort of home-ec class or from your parents or that you just randomly picked up because you decided you wanted to learn. If you didn’t learn how when you were younger, it can seem intimidating and look like an insurmountable mountain even though it’s not. Like any skill, it will take time and practice so don’t get discouraged if it’s a struggle early on.

If you’re brand new to sewing, you may think that you have to dive right into sewing garments with a machine. Don’t. Well, you can but I strongly recommend that you get comfortable with the basics of hand sewing first. Get acclimated to working with needle and thread by learning how to sew a button back on to a shirt or a cool patch on to your jacket. No matter how good you get with a machine, you’ll inevitably have to do at least some hand sewing for any given project so you might as well get comfortable with it now.  In fact, there are some costumers who only hand sew all of their work (and they have so much of my respect because wow.) Continue reading

The Costume Counselor: An Introduction and Picking a Character

Convention season is creeping up on us and maybe you want to venture into the great wild world of costuming… but you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve been dipping your toe in the costume world but aren’t sure how to take it further. I’ll be honest with you: cosplay can be an incredibly intimidating community to look at from the outside especially if you’ve walked around a convention like Dragon Con where some of the costumes there are literal works of art. The good news though is that anyone can cosplay! Yes, anyone. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is or what you look like or how much effort you want to put into the costume: you can join this world of elaborate dress up too.  Just think of me as your Cosplay Camp Counselor 😉

That’s me!

Let’s pause though because I’m sure that at least some of you are asking yourselves, “Okay so why should I listen to what this woman has to say?” My name is Bria and I’ve been going to conventions and cosplaying since 2008 and was sewing and making costumes for years before I even knew what a convention was. Since then, I dived head first into the cosplay world and have since made… a heck of a lot of costumes including 15+ in 2015 alone. I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years from buy-all-the-pieces to make-it-all-from-scratch to spandex superheroes to easing into the world of armor. I’ve learned a heck of a lot over those seven years and I’m hoping that I can help some of you and maybe save you from the more painful and hard learned lessons.

This series is going to cover essentially… whatever you want to know! I’ve got a list of topics that I’m planning to cover but I’m also happy to take questions from you! We’re going to start with the most basic of all basic characters: how do you pick a character to costume as? Continue reading