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How to Choose a Cosplay Character

Oldschool cosplayers
Oldschool cosplayers | Source

In a nutshell

  • Chose a character you feel comfortable portraying.
  • Consider costs related to your cosplay.
  • Better likenesses tends to get a larger response.
  • Remember that you will be photographed.
  • Don't try to change your body dramatically to fit a character.
  • Assess your artistic strengths, and pick characters that play to them.


Which Character Is Best for You?

Most of this advice is for new cosplayers.

There are a lot of things you should consider when you chose your cosplay character.

Do I Have What It Takes to Pull This Off?

People frequently ask this question because they're afraid they won't pass for the character they actually want to try.

While it's a great bonus to have some natural similarity to a character you wish to cosplay, it isn't strictly speaking necessary. If you feel comfortable cosplaying your favorite character, you should do it.

Getting back to the resemblance question: if you look like the character you are cosplaying, you will be photographed more often. If you wear glasses, look for a character you like that wears glasses or come up with a way to take your glasses out of the equation safely, such as contact lenses. What makes your appearance unique? Are you particularly tall or short? Do you have an unusual eye color or do you like to dye your hair crazy colors? These appearance factors can help you chose a character you have something in common with. Cosplay someone who looks like you if you want to be photographed heavily. I make a good Velma from Scooby Doo. If you don't see anything obvious, ask your friends for an opinion about who you look like. Otherwise, cosplay a character that makes you happy.

Remember, you look like a character most when you own that character, by which I mean, if you have confidence and really study a character's mannerisms, you can really pull off an interesting, immersive cosplay.

A Big Personality Can Make a Cosplay Pop

Do A Cosplay You Can Feel Lasting Pride In

Remember that pictures will be taken at the event, and make your decisions accordingly. Ask yourself: would I feel comfortable with my family and friends seeing me dressed this way? Inevitably, pictures will end up on the internet and outside of your control. Prepare for that by doing the best cosplay you can. Photo test your outfit before you wear it out. Sometimes material is more sheer seeming when flash is used, for example. A still photograph will give you a more realistic idea of how you will look to others in your costume.

Cosplay Is About Having Fun Making Cool Costumes, Not Changing Who You Are to Please Others

Do not attempt to lose or gain large amounts of weight for cosplay. It is not worth risking your health or feeling down on yourself about. Plus sized cosplayers are amazing. If you do decide to get fit for cosplay, set realistic goals and try to meet them over time. Consult your doctor if you need help.

Cosplay Respectfully

You can play a character of another ethnicity. For example, a person of color can cosplay a character portrayed as white and do an amazing job at it and look terrific. Cosplay respectfully if you are cosplaying a character that is not of your background. For example, never use blackface or other racially insensitive techniques. Respect the culture your character comes from. Do not refer to your character as a "gypsy," for example, as this is an offensive term to the Romani. Research how you can cosplay a character from a real culture respectfully, and if someone from that culture believes you're doing it wrong or that you shouldn't be doing it, listen to them. When in doubt, ask somebody.

Don't be afraid to crossplay if that appeals to you. Cosplay rule 63 characters or even attempt screen accurate versions of characters of the opposite sex. This is very commonly done.

Be Ture to Yourself

Don't put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable with the amount of skin a character shows, alter the costume to suit your needs or select another character. This also applies to high heels and corsets. If you're uncomfortable, you're not dedicating your con time to having fun. Screen accuracy is much less important than whether or not you're having a good time.

Be Aware That Popular Characters Frequently Draw Multiple Cosplayers

Be Mindful of Any Rules the Venue Has About Costumes

One common rule is that no costume is no costume. What this means is that if you're wearing nothing but body paint, you may be asked to leave. There are venues where body paint is appropriate. Find out before you hit the con floor.

Another common rule is that weapons have to be peace tied.

I've heard of cons not allowing realistic prop guns.

Every con is different. Check your local con's rules to make sure you're in the clear.

With All of That Said, You Should Ask Yourself What Is Important to You About Cosplaying.

If you are cosplaying because you feel a deep, personal connection to a character, you should go ahead and cosplay as that character, even if the resemblance isn't strong, so long as you are comfortable. Embrace the love you have for fandom, and celebrate it in the way that comes naturally to you.

If you are cosplaying because you enjoy doing challenging craft projects and showing your skills, look for something challenging you would like to try. Look for detailed, aesthetically pleasing costumes in your favorite media products. Learn to use different tools and materials in innovative ways, and attempt to gain skill. Maybe there's a prop you'd really like to try replicating. See characters in terms of a list of techniques, and you'll quickly find yourself doing projects that reflect who you are as an artist and not just who you are as a fan. Eventually you may find yourself entering your works into costume contests.

If you are cosplaying for a more social congoing experience, more power to you! Pick a popular, well liked character from a commonly known property, and people will likely stop you for pictures or to make conversation.

Perhaps you would like to cosplay a character related to a performer at the con! Look at the guest list for an actor you'd like to flatter and make your selections from there.

Wenzel Tornøe's  Seamstress. Whit Sunday morning.  Bares an eerie resemblance to a cosplayer's last minute preparations for con.
Wenzel Tornøe's Seamstress. Whit Sunday morning. Bares an eerie resemblance to a cosplayer's last minute preparations for con. | Source

Determine How You're Going to Put Your Costume Together

Consider your skill level. Do you want to dedicate hours of your time sewing, gluing, or sculpting your outfit and its props? If not, you may want to select a simpler costume. You may even elect to buy a costume someone else has made. You may find that you want to buy premade costumes online or select a costume that can be pieced together from commonly thriftable separates. Thrifting for costume parts can be very rewarding.

If you have no experience with sewing or any number of other arts and crafts that are required for a costume you would like to try making yourself, do not give up! There are plenty of online tutorials that will supply you with the knowledge you lack.


Budget Your Cosplay Wisely

Cost is a factor. How much money are you willing to spend on an outfit you're going to wear only a few times? Look at a character before you get started and try to estimate the cost of making the costume, and try to reconcile that with your budget. Can you use tools and materials you already own? Will you use tools you buy for this project again later? These questions will help you narrow down your considerations.

Don't Lose Sight of Why You're Doing This

Remember, your emphasis should be on fun and enjoyment. If you don't feel a sense of pride and accomplishment about your finished project, you're probably not on the right track.

3 comments

Sigrid 2 years ago

Nice article:) I liked the openness that people can cosplay what they are capable of and want.:)

I know cosplaying is very important and precious for some people, but personally I think the aim should be fun no matter how u cosplay or how much u look like he/she u cosplay. I am sick of the lists of people who someone thinks have failed with their cosplays.. at least they put a bit of effort in and tried no matter how it went. More effort than not cospalying at all:)


Ashurii 17 months ago

My favourite cosplays are ones I have altered to be more imaginative, like gender bends and cross overs :) being unique gets you more attention too


Ishaan 3 weeks ago

Nicely written article.

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