Fitting in When You Usually Don't

by NanciArvizu

Comicon gives those who aren't usually in the spot light a chance to shine.

If you've never been to a Comic Convention, or Comicon for short, you're missing out. And it might be something you'd fit right in with.

Geek, nerd, jock, wallflower, social butterfly, it doesn't matter who you are in real life. At Comicon, you can be anyone you want to be. And strangers will love you for it.

Getting Your Geek On

Let your inner ninja turtle out.

Think of Cosplay as Halloween on steroids. Any time of the year. 

Started in 2002 as a 6-hour Comic Book event that drew in less than 500 people, Phoenix Comicon 2015 filled three floors of the Phoenix Convention Center and several surrounding hotel meeting rooms. Over 80,000 people attended this years event. 

The economic culture surrounding Cosplay has exploded. People who learned how to use all kinds of materials to make pieces of costumes no one had ever seen before have developed businesses. It's those businesses that now fill the rows of tables in the vendor halls making everything from iron swords, quilted bustiers, pirate hats and animatronics. Many vendors are able to take on commissioned projects, creating anything you can dream. One cosplayer had a digitally printed sword.  Let me say that again: A Digitally Printed Sword. How cool is that?

But the biggest draw are the Cosplayers themselves. Decked out in their best costumes on Saturday, you'll see everything from Darth Vader and Marvin the Martian, to Scooby and Shaggy. Ask Cosplayers for a photo and they'll strike their "pose"  - but remember to ask first! Cosplay is not Consent!

Phoenix Comicon 2015

Best one yet.

Cosplay is More Than a Hobby

Creating costumes takes skill

When my daughter started her first Cosplay costume, I thought, "how hard could this be?" We'd find a pattern, we'd figure out the fabric. Sure, we could do this!

Was I wrong. There are no patters for video game character outfits because most of them defy the laws of physics. Pieces stand up on their own in animation, but it real life it takes some real "figuring-out" juice.

Knowing the basics of sewing would have been helpful. But instead of teaching my daughter to sew, I'd taught her how to play catch. Instead of teaching her a skill, like design or stitching, I taught her how to run bases and be dirty. And while I don't necessarily regret all the time and money (and hours spent at ball parks during Arizona summers.... don't get me started) spent on travel team Softball, I realize now that Cosplay would have been more fun, less time away from home and we would have learned a real, could possibly make a living with this, skill. Throwing a ball - for girls - is a hard way to make money.

We plowed forward, ignorance be damned. Google and Youtube are incredible knowledge banks, if you know what you're searching for. Well, if you know what everyone else calls/tags/describes what you're looking for. Getting the lingo down is a good place to start.

We made a hat. Not just a regular bedazzled baseball hat, but a mad hatter type of hat. It came out really good. We were so proud of it. It was so easy, we thought, we could actually do this! I laugh at our innocence and ignorance now. 

The next piece to make was a bustier that was striped. We made our fabric, cutting strips of different colored fabric to sew together to make one bigger piece of fabric. Like quilt making, only nothing like quilt making according to my mother who is a quilt maker. Whatever, I had my little fun pretending I was making a quilt. 

Problems arose quickly. Our stripes were not even. I had to rip out stitching and do it again. And again. Then came fastening. Lace it? Put in a zipper? Snaps? We opted for the zipper, but then discovered that wouldn't work because the bustier needed to be super tight. Which split the zipper. We switched to lacing it up, but that all had to be hidden because our characters bustier did not lace up. 

One thing after another, we googled and youtube'd our way through. We must have visited Joanns Fabric store 100 times for that one costume and bought things we may never use thinking they were the answer to our dilemma of the moment.

While we worked on figuring out how to create and attach a collar that defied gravity, there were boots to buy, makeup, undergarments (and things like "ckicklets" and duck tape) and a wig to style. I learned you can tone down a wig with fabric softener, who knew? I also learned that rubber cement leaves a permanent stain on concrete. And spray paint really does float on air and stick to the side of the house.

Maybe that's another niche industry of cosplay - cleaning up?

In the end, the costume turned out great. And the experience of creating it, even greater. It was one of those, yeah-the-costume-took-this-much-time-and-money-but-the-result-is-priceless, kind of moments.

First Cosplay Costume

It's not as easy as it looks, especially for a newbie!
First Cosplay
First Cosplay
Nanci Arvizu

People of Cosplay ROCK

Costumes give confidence, drop judgements

It's amazing what a wig and eyelashes can do for a persons self esteem. Wallflowers come alive dressed as someone or something else. They smile. They pose for the camera. And they talk. To other people. They even laugh.

As a spectator, one can't help but smile at the cosplayers and ooh and ahh over their costumes. It's easy to ask for a photo, or get them to talk about their costumes. It's easy to talk to Groot about the twigs and bark on his costume. So much easier than finding a seat in the lunchroom.

The players become animated. Their smiles bigger as people stop to take photos once the opportunity presents itself. Big kids invite similarly dressed little kids to join in the photo. The happiness of the moment, the absolute unencumbered joy you know that little boy is feeling as he stands shoulder to hip with his fellow Storm Troopers is contagious. And sometimes, as you look back at the crowd behind their cameras and smartphones, you can see that joy in the watery eyes of the parents, knowing how this moment will be talked about for days and weeks; a really, really great memory.

For a moment, we all fit in.

Props for Cosplay

It's a serious business

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Updated: 06/12/2015, NanciArvizu
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NanciArvizu on 09/22/2016

Comicon is awesome! So many creative people who are creating without boundaries. Never know what the holds!

DerdriuMarriner on 09/22/2016

NanciArvizu, Very nice costume! Reading the headlines about Nike's HyperAdapt sneakers -- predicted by power-laced shoes in 'Back to the Future II' -- and then your article about your daughter's and your experiences with futuristic, gravity-defying costumes for Comicon is like spookily nice foreshadowing.

NanciArvizu on 06/28/2015

Thank you!

NanciArvizu on 06/03/2015

Thanks Mira and Candy - I believe my daughter is going the route of doing something within the industry. She loves the creation part. And she loves the dressing up part even more!

Mira on 06/03/2015

I enjoyed your comments on how you made the costume, and it looks great!:) I agree Comicon must be great fun :)

candy47 on 06/03/2015

The costume looks great! Now that you and your daughter both have the skill, is there a custom cosplay costume business in the future?

NanciArvizu on 06/02/2015

You are welcome. I recommend giving it a try. Go for one day!

CruiseReady on 06/02/2015

Well, I had heard of Comicon, but had no earthly idea it was so big. Or that it could be so meaningful to an otherwise why individual. Thanks for this introduction. It was a bit of an eye opener.

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