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October 14, 2013

Cosplay has become much more of a household word in the wake of San Diego Comic Con becoming a mainstream media event and shows like “Heroes of Cosplay” and “Fangasm” airing on SyFy. Now, like the shows, hate the shows, think they’re destroying fandom; no matter what your opinion you can’t really deny that cosplay is more well known. It’s not longer something your embarrassing second cousin does at a Star Trek convention. There are even stores that sell items for casual or everyday cosplay. (I have a Darth Vader dress. I love it so hard!) If you’re interested in cosplay at all, I HIGHLY recommend this documentary – Cosplay: Crafting a Secret Identity by Georgia Public Television. It’s not as shiny as “Heroes of Cosplay,” but I think it’s a more honest look into the cosplay community.
There are professional cosplayers, and people who make replica props from movies and video games. There’s an entire (awesome) website dedicated to the art and craft of replica prop making.
For obvious reasons, most cosplay and prop making is centered around visual media; comics, movies and tv, and anime. But, I wanted to talk about cosplay from books. Cosplaying a character from a book can present unique challenges, but it also provides you with a great deal of freedom. The author describes the character, but the interpretation of that description is much more


DragonCon 2011

open. Even the description of a specific outfit can be open to many different pattern variations. Hence, you can have something like the picture to the left. Both of these ladies are cosplaying Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. (The parasols make the outfits, don’t you think?) But they’ve taken very different approaches.

ivyI am, among other things, an actress, so I suppose it’s natural for me to look at my favorite characters in books and see them as roles I might someday step into. I actually once wrote a short story around that concept, so it’s not a stretch for me to go from reading a book to trying to live it, at least for a weekend at a convention. To date, I’ve only done one cosplay from a book. For two years at DragonCon I dressed as Miss Ivy Hisslepenny from the Parasol Protectorate books.
Gail Carriger describes several of Ivy’s dresses in her books and there’s even (now) a manga that has illustrations, but I didn’t have enough faith in my sewing abilities at the time to make up a particular gown. So, I started from the other direction. Ivy’s most defining characteristic is that she has atrocious taste in hats, so that’s where I started. I made the most absurd confection of a hat that I could think of (I even added a teacup to it for goodness sake!), and then I built the costume around the hat.

I’m currently planning a costume from Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories. It was amazing to actually get to talk to Mary when she was here and discuss ideas for the costume. She helped me think of ways to actually mimic the affects of glamour with practical effects so I could add that to my costume. We’ll see if my fabrication skills are up to the challenge…

The wonderful thing about cosplay is that no matter what your source material, you can connect with a story you love on a new level. You can put yourself inside the skin of a character and really feel like them. And, typically, at a convention or fan gathering, everyone goes with you. I get called by my character’s name more often than I hear “great costume.” I am Ivy or the Baroness, or Princess Leia for a little while and it’s epic!

Are there any costumes you want to make? Are there any props from a story that you’d love to have in your house? Tell me all about them in the comments!

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