One of the biggest decisions a beginning cosplayer makes is their first costume. At first blush it makes sense. You pick something that you love. Something that would impress. Something amazing! BUT! You also have to pick something you can actually make. I had been thinking of doing a costume for some time and only recently decided to jump in with both feet. Once I decided to make a costume I started thinking about what costume I was going to make.
Since this is my first I want to be one of those people that make a huge splash from the moment they appear. You know those people like Stacy Rebecca who don one costume and suddenly they’re all over the internet? THAT is who I wanted to be. I wanted a big, amazing, impressive cosplay and so I looked for big, amazing, impressive subjects. What I settled on was Songbird from Bioshock Infinite.
Tell me that wouldn’t be fucking badass! You want to make an entrance, there it is!
And then I started looking for images to work from. The more I found the more excited I got about the idea. And then I started looking for materials and techniques I would need to use. That’s where it all fell down. First of all, leather is fucking expensive. I don’t know why, it’s just dead cow. Given how much beef we eat and waste in this country, there should be a leather surplus. They should be giving you your Big Mac in a leather bag. To paraphrase the comedian Bill Kirchenbauer;
They’re not even that hard to kill. They run around in a pen. Moo, moo, oh moo. BANG! You’re a hat.
But it is. It’s also a huge pain in the ass to work with. That’s the real reason that leather products are so expensive. Just looking at what was going to be required in terms of the amount of leather, special tools to cut, sew and mold the leather, I was already getting frustrated. Not to mention rethinking the notion of even doing a cosplay.
Another thing to keep in mind when making the decision on what to create is your own skill level. For example, I learned to sew in middle school so I’ve got at least a little experience in sewing. Unfortunately middle school was about 30 fucking years ago so that little experience is probably more of a liability because I can delude myself into thinking I can do anything because I already know how to sew. Yeah, right. Realize that some of the things you will have to do to create this costume is going to require learning new skills and just like any skill, when you start things are going to look like shit. Practice and things will get better. All of the established cosplayers have been honing their skills for years and it shows in the quality of the work they produce. There is only one way to get 25 years of experience. Keep working on it and you’ll get there as well, just don’t expect it to happen over night. With that in mind pick early costumes that will cater to the skills you have and minimize the skills you need to improve. Another example is the fact that I have settled on a costume that has minimal props. Some of the cosplays you see are heavy on props like armor and weapons. While I am incredibly imaginative, my dexterity is not even a distant second skill wise. I know that props are going to take incredibly time, effort and patience for me. So I am starting out accordingly. My first costume is sewing intensive but prop light. Giving me the opportunity to revive a skill I already have, improve it and create something that will keep me interested in cosplaying in the future.
As I mentioned previously, this is not the kind of thing you see on the Big Wigs pages because they’ve moved past all of this. If you get the chance to talk to them, undoubtedly, this is the kind of advice they’ll give. But on their pages the have the skill sets and experience to take any suggestion and make it reality. We’ll get to that point but for now lets work on what we can do and worry about what we’ll eventually do later.
Be honest with yourself and your skill sets when making the decision on what to cosplay first. If you’re one hell of a painter then perhaps a prop heavy costume will very little sewing is a good idea. If you’re in amazing shape, something with less fabric might be in order, just try not to be the guy who picks a cosplay just so that he can show off his physique. Sewing is a skill I actually have so I am working on a cosplay that requires more than a little sewing. Play to your strengths and keep your enthusiasm alive. This is supposed to be about having fun.