Top left – Tohya Miho, GenCon 2006.
Top right – International Camarilla Convention (White Wolf) 2008.
Middle right – GLaRE (Great Lakes Regional Convention, Camarilla Club, 2010.
Bottom right – Steampunk, InConjunction 2010.
Bottom left – Harley Quinn, Inconjunction 2008.
Halloween is around the corner and I don’t really care all that much. I’ve never been big on Halloween. I was too shy to knock on even neighbors doors and say, “Trick or treat!” I do, however, love to dress up. We adults call it costume play or cosplay.
I guess I technically started cosplaying in 2004. My first official cosplay was for an end-of-the-year costume party in college. I went as Tohya Miho from Megatokyo. I had been working for a year on how to do the ribbons in my hair, though I didn’t perfect them until my first GenCon Indy in 2006. I enjoy cosplay; it’s a chance for me to be creative, to pull together a brand-new costume (because the only sewing I have EVER done for a costume is the lace for straps on that Miho costume). I love the creative process of cosplay and I love doing things on the cheap and still looking great. The most expensive piece in those pictures is the sari from ICC, but that was a 25th birthday gift from my mother. Cosplay lets me slip into another character’s skin and leave my own behind for a little while. It’s one of the few times that I don’t want to fade into the background and watch the world go by. It is honestly one of very few times that I like being front and center, and I’m even more pleased when people recognize and acknowledge a particular spin that I’ve given to a character in my costuming.
There have been so many arguments in the geek and mainstream communities lately on the authenticity of girls (and guys) who cosplay. Are they “true” geeks or are they just doing it for the attention? I hate this accusation and the resulting breakdown of just what makes someone a “true” geek. Hobbyists come in all shapes and styles and colors and fandoms. And each and every deserve respect as a person. If a woman doesn’t know the difference between the Frank Miller (Batman Year One) and Geoff Johns (Batman Earth One) origin stories for the Dark Knight doesn’t discount her as a comic book fan. She may just be in other comics. It doesn’t mean that she can’t cosplay as Batgirl or Poison Ivy or Catwoman. Just because a man has never read any of the burgeoning LGBT comics that are bursting onto the scene lately doesn’t make him sexist. No one has the authority to judge anyone else’s authenticity. We should welcome the fact that people want to have fun and be creative.
Women have been called out on wearing certain outfits, told that they are cosplaying just so they go around in skimpy or revealing costumes. Gee, I wonder where they got the ideas for those outfits? Oh yeah, from the comics, video games, and card games that depict their female characters in said skimpy outfits. Women who cosplay have been told that if they don’t want to get groped or their picture snapped for someone’s spank bank, that they shouldn’t go dressed as Wonder Woman or Miss Marvel. I have a wonderful friend who makes FABULOUS cosplay outfits and I have seen her get in the face of people who would snap her picture without permission. It’s just a courtesy thing; most cosplayers are happy to stop and pose for you, if you’re nice enough to ask. This hasn’t stopped me from cosplaying, and it is especially fun when I would see the same people from con to con. Having debuted my Harley Quinn at InConjunction, a small local fantasy and science fiction con, I was told by author Ben Avery, “You’re so creepy, but I can’t look away!” That was the best compliment I could have received on a first-time costume, especially my beloved Harley. At GenCon, with a revised version of the outfit, I likewise scared off a bunch of blood priests (from a game that I do not remember) crying down damnation on convention goers (these guys were all out, pretty awesome). In a fit of inspiration, I bounced up to the biggest one, stood on my tiptoes, and asked him, “Wanna know how my boyfriend gave me these scars?” while pointing to my painted-on Glasgow smile and grinning fit to split. He actually backed away, telling me no, it was OK; he didn’t need to know. It was hilarious! I told him that it was a really good story but he still wasn’t interested so I flounced off, much to my friends’ enjoyment.
Cosplay is, at the heart of it, something that I find intensely fun. I love dressing up. I love seeing other people dressed up. I love the creative process, even if the result only lasts a few hours. So while I may not like Halloween all that much, I don’t know if I will ever declare myself too old to play dress-up.