Serious cosplayers at comic conventions look like they're having a terrific time and for that matter, good cosplayers makes it look easy. The truth is that there's a great deal of hard work and expense involved, even for costumes that aren't terribly elaborate.
Consider this Tweet that model and avid cosplayer Adrianne Curry posted:
Sounds horrific, doesn't it? For very serious cosplayers, though, these are all potential hazards of the hobby.
I am a cosplayer as well. I hope to get better at it. I don't yet have some of the higher level skills in crafts like resin casting or fiberglass. I'm just now trying out thermoplastics (which are, by the way, amazing).
The Mara Jade and Phoenix bodysuits I made for San Diego Comic-Con this year were my first and second sewing projects... ever. (Tip: you might not want to make your first project from unforgiving four-way stretch PVC. There were points at which I was almost in tears and my poor husband came home to a really tense wife on more than one occasion.)
Unwilling to make specialized boot covers from fabric, it took me two attempts to source them from a custom cosplay manufacturer in China. (Most local bootmakers that I inquired with wouldn't consider the project at all and the one who would wanted $850!) They're still not quite right, but at least one pair was close enough that I could wear them.
My husband has a Jedi costume and between his one outfit and my three, we needed an entire extra suitcase. At the airport, we were told that the suitcase we purchased exceeds standard size for the airline, so there's $50 down the drain. We'll be shipping most of our costume stuff back and I expect that will cost us another $35.
And then there was that one time when I fell asleep with my effects contacts in. The following night, I had to leave W00tstock 5.0 halfway through the show because the stage lights amplified the pain and sensitivity.
Sometimes it's enough to make you want to give up and leave it to the professionals. Fortunately, there are experienced cosplayers like Mac Beauvais around to lend some encouraging advice.
"Willingness to fail is a necessary part of the cosplay experience," she wrote. "Even the most talented cosplayers have run up against some kind of mishap. You have to be willing to try again, learn, be flexible, and think on your feet. Sometimes the best pieces come from it not working out right the first time, and many cosplayers revise parts of their costumes many times, even over many years."
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Kimi (last name withheld for privacy) of The Golden Lasso blog works extremely hard on her costumes. Her first one, a screen-worthy Wonder Woman outfit, was crafted of leather and metal--not for the casual dabbler who just wants to play dress-up. Last year, her elaborate Steampunk Batgirl outfit was one of the most popular costumes of SDCC.
Says Kimi, "I try to create realistic, high-quality versions of the characters that look as good up close as they do from across a room. It takes hundreds of hours and often hundreds of dollars for me to create the costumes to that level of quality, but it's an amazing challenge to bring a comic character's design to life with such detail."
With all the cost, inconvenience and physical hazards, why cosplay at all? For the same reasons that anyone engages in hobbies with liabilities: it's a passion. It's not much different from downhill skiing, mountain climbing or any other expensive, physically demanding hobby. It's for the love of the game or, in our cases, of the characters.
Now that you know what it takes to cosplay, check out our slideshow: 25 of the Best Cosplays of SDCC 2013!