I’ll be honest: I’ve long enjoyed cosplay and costuming.
I was often loathe to admit it, downplaying my interest as “not really my thing” but secretly harboring a desire to dress up like my favorite characters at any opportunity. In my mind, cosplay was something weird and obsessive people did at conventions. I was too cool for that stuff. I liked nerdy stuff, I just didn’t want to act too much like a nerd… Thus, Halloween was my only option for going full on. (One costume of which I was particularly proud was Seishirou Sakurazuka from Tokyo Babylon.)
Now, that didn’t stop me from creating outfits “inspired” by characters I liked. On numerous occasions, I showed up to school wearing pink Chucks with rainbow shoelaces (an homage to Laine from Lost Souls) or some coordinated outfit subtly designed to reference Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing or Haruka Tenoh from Sailor Moon. I was subtle in my nerdiness, damn it, and I thought I was hot stuff.
Cut to a few years later. I was at university and hanging out with folks who enjoy costuming as much as I did, but they were actually talented enough to make their stuff from scratch (rather than trolling the aisles of local thrift stores looking for something that resembles what I wanted/needed). Sometimes they would say, “Panda, you should do a group costume with us.” But, of course, I had to downplay my interest—I still had delusions of coolness, after all. “I’m down for that,” I would reply, “if you guys will create the outfit with me.” (I lacked the talent to create anything on my own, anyway, so it was a good way to get a decent costume.) I took a few turns as L from Death Note and Hiromasa from Onmyouji, and thoroughly enjoyed myself (as much as I feigned boredom).
And then I moved to Japan, the cosplay capital of the world. I went to a summer Comiket and took ungodly amounts of pictures, blown away by the sheer talent of the costumers. They were so skilled with sewing, their bodies were perfectly suited to the characters… I was intimidated, to the point that I told myself I would never cosplay a character unless A) I was completely satisfied with the result, and B) the outfit was on par with the costumes I had seen at Comiket. Suffice to say, I was deterred from ever cosplaying again.
Seriously, how is this level of skill even fair?!
Luckily, a couple of friends introduced me to the world of Lolita fashion, along with other Japanese street fashion, which helped satisfy my need to wear remarkable outfits at random times. We would head into Tokyo every so often to shop at Laforet or Takeshita Douri in Harajuku, our favorite stop being Closet Child (the ones in Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Ikebukuro—there are more, though). I would expand my Lolita closet there, favoring the Gothic and Dark styles. I might have felt a bit lacking in skill, compared to my more talented friends, but at least I looked the part well enough.
When I came back to the United States for graduate school, I brought most of the fashionable items I had acquired back with me. I wore them around, usually at small local conventions. I had since relinquished my deathgrip on the idea that I might be cooler than the “average nerd.” And I started feeling inspired to create costumes from scratch—a dream which never quite left my head, as I had yet to learn the sewing craft. My first foray was for Phoenix ComiCon 2012, when I decided to cosplay a feminized version of Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. I made the freeze ray (with a lot of help from my father) from parts gathered at home improvement stores, and gathered the other necessary items from thrift stores (which I altered for my purposes). The costume turned out passable, and it met the first part of my previous criteria: I was satisfied with the result.
And now, as I quickly approach the delightful age of thirty, I find myself wanting to cosplay more and more. It gets worse, the more shows I watch with characters I adore. I know I’ll have to start small, but by god I will cosplay! And I will do it well!
Clearly, I am the coolest person I know.