Cosplay: Building Your Convention Lineup

The title of this post might seem borderline nuts considering that the convention season is in the process of winding down for 2013, and part of me would whole-heartedly agree with that assessment. Unless you're heading to NYCCC or some similarly late-season con, this point in the year is usually prime downtime for cosplayers. You've toiled away for the past few months, proudly displayed the fruits of your costume-y labors, and are now not-so-secretly reveling in the fact that your fingers will be spared the thermal predations of your hot glue gun for a little while. Taking a little hiatus from the hobby is both understandable and well-deserved BUT this lull in our geeky calendar can also prove valuable when laying out plans for next year.

Yes, reading that last sentence is probably eyeroll-inducing, but bear with me just a minute and I'll lay out why it can be a good idea to get the planning ball rolling when you may be basking in the warm fuzzies your last con, or 6+ months out from a convention if you're considering cosplaying for the first time.

1)      The strengths and weaknesses of your last costume are fresh in your mind.
2)     Your imagination can run wild and draw inspiration free of the pressure of a hard forthcoming deadline.
3)      You can pinpoint any training or practice that might be needed for future costumes.
4)      The holidays aren't monopolizing your time just yet.

Organizational styles ostensibly vary from cosplayer to cosplayer, so, of course, what I'm about to suggest may clash with your personal system of preparation. This isn't meant to be prescriptive, but is merely a collection of things to consider when planning for future conventions.

Step 1: Assess Your Most Recent Cosplaying Experiences.

While this can seem like a bit of a chore, jotting down a few notes in the days immediately following a convention can end up saving you a lot of time and effort during future events. Just little one-off thoughts like "build more back support for wing harness" or "X brand of body paint lasted 12 hours without needing a single touch-up" are things you can note, then forget about until you sit down to start actively planning a new costume. If you're in the habit of using a Cosplay Lieutenant you can ask for their feedback too. Sometimes a semi-objective observer can point out things you wouldn't otherwise have been aware of or had shunted to the back of your mind while giddily romping around a convention. Having this information on hand can drastically cut down the time and energy spent researching or tinkering with an old costume, thus freeing you up to focus your efforts elsewhere.

Step 2: Take a Gander at a Calendar
Awesome use for a puzzle calendar

Whether it's a physical or digital calendar, having the visual breakout of when potential convention outings will fall relative to other events in your life is helpful even if you're not planning to don a costume. Aside from considering basic logistics like travel arrangements and hotel accommodations, taking the entire year into account as a holistic unit can let you start thinking about just how much preparation time you'll have to play with. It's incredibly easy to lure yourself into thinking "I have 6 months; I can totally wait to start the costume." Writing down what conventions you're planning on attending, then contextualizing them will let you know how much of those 6 months can actually be spent on your costume. It seems like plenty of time until you factor in things like the holidays, your cousin's wedding, the 8 weeks will get eaten up by the busy season at your workplace, or the fact that there were be several days during that 6 month period wherein you just won't feel like working on your costume. Some people enjoy working under pressing deadlines but, if you're not one of them, this step can prove fairly helpful.

Step 3: Brainstorm and Research

Now that you know approximately how much time you'll have at your disposal, you can start to give thought to the type and quantity of costumes you'll construct. Some things you may want to consider when brainstorming:

-          Are you attending local conventions or will your costumes need to be transported?
-          Will you need to learn a new skill to finish your costume?
-          Are you planning to attempt one of the Majors*?
-          Are you planning on entering a competition/petitioning to enter a cosplay guild or is this outfit just for fun?
-          Will you be making all of the costume or will you order some of pieces?
-          How accessible are the materials you plan to use in your costume?

The responses to the above can help shape the timeline on the construction process so you can start to get an idea of where your efforts will probably need to go. Realizing "hey, I'm going to need to learn to cast resin for this costume" is noteworthy 6 months out, but gut-wrenching if it dawns on you 6 weeks before you'd planned to walk the halls.

Beginning this process sooner rather than later allows you to reach out at your leisure to a number of different resources in your quest for guidance and reference images. Everyone's motivation wavers, so it's often easier to work with the ebb and flow of your mind rather than cram everything into several all-nighters (or just blowing stuff off in frustration).       

*A Major can be any one of a handful of costume archetypes that are especially challenging to execute well. Opinions as to what types of costumes constitute a Major vary somewhat, but most cosplayers will bestow that label on any of the following: making a full suit of armor (sci-fi, medieval, samurai, etc) from scratch, building functional prosthetics (deployable wings, animatronic tail, etc), cosplaying as something with a body that is less than 50% humanoid, or a costume that involves biometrics/robotics.

Step 4: Start Building/Learning

Now you have the what, the why, the who, the when, and at least some of the how. With this information in hand you can draw up your cosplay lineup, determining which costumes you'll be wearing, when you'll be wearing them, and how they'll come together.  This planning process can be as literal or metaphorical as you'd prefer. Some cosplayers prefer a detailed, thorough itinerary while others just like laying things out in the confines of their own minds. Feel free to experiment with various types of organization to figure out what works best for you.

This isn't the most glamorous or exciting part of making a costume but taking the time to get organized can often save you countless hours of frustration both during the construction process and at the convention itself. Sometimes a little administrative drudgery can result in exponentially more fun down the line.

Best of luck in your costuming adventures! 

1 comment :

  1. It's kind of funny because my housemates and I typically start talking about this stuff on the ride home from the convention. Plus we have a lot of "someday" ideas that we like to kick around. I am glad to know we aren't the only ones who plan ahead.