OPINION: When you go to dress-up parties, what's your modus operandi?
Do you show up wearing a funny hat (which you remove after 27 minutes, max), or do you spend weeks preparing the ultimate giant sci-fi ant costume (for example), only to turn up and find the room full of people in the process of removing their funny hats?
If you fall into the latter category, you may well be a cosplayer at heart.
What's a cosplayer? Well, it's a broad definition, but can generally be covered by "someone who dresses up as a favourite character of fiction". (Or, you can read a more in-depth definition here.)
Yes, in my spare time (and sometimes my not-so-spare time), I pore over screencaps from movies and scour Mom & Pop haberdashery providers in order to put together screen accurate costumes, and then I wear them to comic conventions.
Sometimes I wish I had a less expensive, less time-consuming, less and nerve-fraying hobby than the one I have ended up with. Something like crocheting with repurposed shopping bags, or maybe drawing using only air.
Unfortunately, and as I type this moths fly out of my wallet next to the Deep Heat I have been rubbing on my shoulder muscles after a week of sewing and wearing all manner of cumbersome garments, it appears I am a cosplayer for life.
I've lugged 33 feet of cotton velvet through Downtown LA in the boiling sun, I've hung reams of calico and cheesecloth on my Mum's Hills Hoist and left them there for weeks to achieve the appropriate level of aging, I've caught the tram while dressed as a Na'vi from Avatar, and worked out the best way to take myself from 5'10.5" to 7'2" to be a Lord Of The Rings Nazgul (it involved '90s Goth platform boots and an additional polystyrene head on top of my own), and I've been mistaken for a man (ultimate success) by a noted actor while I was dressed as Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie.
There are plenty of other examples and I'm sure they all sound equally ridiculous.
So why do I do it? Apart from keeping my childhood dreams of costume design alive, there's a very simple reason: to make people happy.
And nowhere do people get more happy about costumes - and life in general - than at San Diego Comic-Con International, where this past weekend I rolled an immense suitcase into down and dressed up as Pest from Attack The Block, Ripley from Alien, Dana from Ghostbusters, Cersei from Game Of Thrones, and Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games.
The looks on the faces of young girls as they raced up to me, in my Effie Trinket costume, and picked a ticket out of my Reaping Day bowl (which I had stacked solely with "Primrose Everdeen" tickets to give every young Con-goer a chance at shouting "I VOLUNTEER!") meant that all the effort was worth it: every pin-pricked finger, every dollar outlaid on fabric that turned out to be wrong, and every minute spent yanking heavy fabric through the sewing machine.
SDCC is, effectively, Mecca for nerds: it's the biggest pop cultural expo in the world and hundreds of thousands of people pour through the doors of the San Diego Convention Center over its four-and-a-bit days in order to pay their respects to the pantheon of pop culture, be it comics, film, TV, video games or small press publishing.
What strikes you about SDCC, aside from the sheer sensory overload of the whole thing, is the immensely good vibe it has.
Remember in Ghostbusters 2, when the guys play Howard Huntsberry's cover of Higher And Higher out of Lady Liberty to "get the city's positive energy flowing"? That's what Comic-Con is like. (Minus the slime and the possibility of being crushed by a beloved landmark.)
And it's the people in costumes that really make it, for me at least. My favourites are the families who dress up together.
Nerds and geeks have had a lot of bad press lately, and rightly so in many cases (generally involving sexism), but walking through the doors of SDCC sets the nerd world right again, even if only for that long weekend. The incredible diversity of the crowd makes me weep tears of joy every year, and the collective enthusiasm in the room is infectious.
I always liked to say that costume parties are a great social leveller: everyone turns up looking as silly as each other, and therefore the playing field is evened out. Comic-Con, and many other events like it, are that on a grand scale.
And maybe if we all wore costumes more often, we might make the world a better place.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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