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WonderCon Panel Recap: Cosplay 101

There are many cool things about cosplay, but the best part might be that anyone can do it. The Cosplay 101 panel at WonderCon emphasized that fact, and panelists offered plenty of tips on materials and how to get started. Johnny Wickham of the Nerdist Channel moderated a panel that included our own Chloe Dykstra (Just Cos, Heroes of Cosplay), Jessie Pridemore (RuffleButt Cosplay), Kai Norman (Kommissar Props), Frank Ippolito (Face Off), and our own Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan (Try This at Home!, Heroes of Cosplay). They were there to help the audience with any cosplay questions they had, so they opened the floor to questions immediately.

They talked about their first costumes, and as Wickham said, “There’s no such thing as bad cosplay.” Conrad started dressing up as characters from Super Mario Bros. at a young age. She even strapped a pillow to her back and said she was a Koopa. Merizan said she started cosplaying (though she didn’t know what it was called) by modifying a costume she wore in a play to take to the Renaissance Faire.

Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan

Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan

On how to start, Dykstra said her first cosplay was put together from clothes she found at thrift stores. It’s completely okay to modify existing items, she noted; It’s an easy way to begin and continue. Also, don’t worry if you’re scared of a sewing machine, she said; You can work around a lack of a sewing machine with hot glue, fabric glue, and sew by hand. It takes more time, but it gets the job done.

Other tips from panelists included:

  • Use hot glue for everything. It was the answer to every question, and even if they were joking, it can solve several problems.
  • Making a helmet? Dykstra suggests fiberglass, and Norman sculpts them from clay and makes a mold to cast the helmet from. He recommended checking out the Smooth-On YouTube channel for tutorials. To make a cheap helmet, use a cardboard box.
  • If you need to carry stuff with you while you cosplay and don’t have someone to hold your bag, find a purse that matches the costume or make a simple drawstring bag to compliment your ensemble.
  • Styling a wig is tricky, but the panelists recommended using products such as Crystal Clear, Motion Oil Sheen spray, and Olive Oil spray. Those will help as long as you purchase a high quality wig.
  • If you need to build a wig with huge volume, use foam or chicken wire as a base. Pridemore recommended using a tutorial from Ryoko-demon for guidance.
  • One way to mimic metal armor is to glue super shiny spandex over craft foam sheets. Pridemore has a tutorial showing how it’s done.
Jessie Pridemore, screen caps from video by Dustin Young

Jessie Pridemore, screen caps from video by Dustin Young

Though everyone offered specific tips, the biggest takeaway from the panel is that cosplayers are more than happy to share their knowledge and help others. There are exceptions, but for the most part, if you ask a cosplayer for assistance, they’ll take the time to give you advice.

Top photo by An Idiot’s Array.

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