Making Your Cosplay Convention-Ready

by Transmute Jun

Every day now, we are hearing new announcements and news about San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) 2017, to be held July 20-23. Or maybe you’re going to another convention this summer or fall, and you’re gearing up to attend. But in all of the excitement about panels and offsites and guests and exclusives, your cosplay might start to slip in your mind. Perhaps you have finished your cosplay and now you want to focus on other things, or your costume only needs the finishing touches. Yet now is the time to make sure your cosplay is complete! If there is any sewing or crafting left to do, or if there are any components left to buy, then get that done as soon as possible! It’s important to reach this stage at least 3-4 weeks before the con, because even once you think your cosplay is ‘finished’, there are still a few crucial tests you need to perform.

Yes, even when you think your costume is complete,  you need to do a few more things to make yourself convention-ready. Once you are done creating your cosplay, you need to try on your finished costume. Not just a piece of it, not with ‘this will be altered’ in mind, but what you think is the complete, finished version. Stand in front of a full-length mirror, and preferably have a friend/family member assist you. Look at the costume from all angles. Are there any strange holes or bulges? Does it stretch too tightly in any location on your body? Now move around. Walk across the room, raise your arms above your head, then pull them tightly across your body. Sit down, both in a chair and on the floor, and then stand up again. Is anything coming loose, poking you in a sensitive area, pulling too tightly or gaping in a weird way? These are the things that need to be fixed before you can wear your costume to a convention.    

If you have any kind of accessory that will be worn with the costume, such as jewelry, a bag, a belt, a holster, a bandolier, a helmet, etc., put it on and go through the same routine. Is the accessory sitting right on your body and not snagging on your costume? Is it light enough to not cause you discomfort throughout the day?

For wigs, make sure that they can stay on securely. Many wigs will need to be adjusted in the middle of a convention day, but they should stay put for a few hours at least. Shake your head in ‘yes’ and ‘no’ movements, then bend down and look up, making sure your wig remains in place.

 If you are using your natural hair, sit down and experiment with the hairstyle you are going to use. Practice creating the hairstyle a number of times, until you feel comfortable getting it together, and gather all of the accessories that you will need (bobby pins, barrettes, ponytail holders, hairspray, gel, mousse, temporary color, etc.).

Does your cosplay call for elaborate makeup or prosthetics to be attached to your skin? You’ll want to test this out as well. Just as with a hairstyle, you will need to put it on a few times to get used to it. Gather any makeup, prosthetics, glue, etc. that you will need.

Once you have done all of this, you have your costume! Now it’s time for the test run. Put on your costume (including wig, hair, prosthetics and makeup) and wear it around the house for an entire day. Yes, I said around the house, and for an entire day. You don’t truly know how comfortable or sturdy a costume is until you have worn it for hours at a time, under normal conditions. If something chafes, if your makeup rubs off, if your wig slips, or if you have difficulty using the bathroom, you will need to know these things. You don’t want to find this out in San Diego when you are in the middle of a crowd. If you’re still at home, you can make adjustments and alterations that are much more difficult to do on the road.

 Once you’ve made those adjustments, you need to wear your costume again for another day. Make sure that everything is now to your liking.

Now you need to concentrate on footwear. Around the house, while you might be moving and sitting and eating, you are probably not on your feet too much. You need to test out your footwear in convention-like conditions. Whatever shoes or boots you will be wearing, wear them out of the house. Walk in them. Stand in them. A lot. San Diego Comic Con puts miles on your feet every day, and even standing in one place posing for pictures can be tiring. Be very sensitive to any strange rubbing or chafing, as that is where you will probably develop blisters during the con. Get yourself some moleskin or high quality sweat-proof bandaids, and cut out pieces to stick to your feet in those places. This will save your skin from pain and damage; you will be thankful later! Investing in gel insoles is never a bad idea either. If you’re wearing boots, then you can add in some thickly-padded hiking socks. Your feet are the most important part of your body at a convention, and the part that will suffer the most abuse. Make sure your footwear can live up to that rigor.

Soft-sided bags and ziploc bags are great for packing costumes.

Once you are confident that you have everything together, that it’s not going to fall apart and that it’s going to be as comfortable as possible, you need to think about packing. Whether you are flying or driving to SDCC, you will need to pack your cosplays in a way that doesn’t damage them and keeps all important items together. I like to use gallon-size Ziploc bags for small items, including makeup, hair accessories and wigs, and soft cloth-like bags (such as the big yellow ones Dark Horse gives out every year) to transport bulkier items (such as helmets, boots, props, etc.). Soft-sided garment bags are great for the main body of your costume. Pack everything up and make sure it fits. If you have breakable items, ensure that they are secured and cushioned properly.

Now you need to make sure that all of these bags will fit in your car trunk (if driving) or your suitcases (if flying). If you can’t fit all of it in, consider shipping your cosplay items to your San Diego hotel. For example, FedEx has a service that will ship to another FedEx location, and this may be more convenient for you than dragging everything along yourself.

Cosplay repair tools, in case of emergency!

If you’re the kind of person who likes to be prepared for any eventuality, then this would be the time to pack an ‘emergency cosplay kit’. This might include extra costume pieces (such as gloves, belts, socks or wigs), a glue gun, Velcro, a sewing kit, etc.: anything you think you might need to fix an emergency cosplay problem at the con.

Once you have gone through all of these steps, you are ready to head to San Diego. When you arrive, unpack your cosplay carefully, ensuring that it weathered the journey well and making repairs if necessary. You are ready to join the ranks of cosplayers from across the world who head to San Diego each July for SDCC. Strike a pose!

Click here to join the cosplay conversation on the FoCC forum. 

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.