Saturday, September 28, 2013

How I cosplay

^I thought I'd share how I go about my cosplays, detailing the end to end process, maybe you'd get something useful and you can apply it too.
Please keep in mind that this is NOT a guide/ how-to/ tutorial on how to cosplay.

In this entry, let us work with the assumption that this will be a new cosplay, so the premise is I will be starting from scratch.

Here we go!

Sheryl Nome White Bunny version
photo by Raisa de Pano

Whether I was invited to do a certain cosplay or to a group cosplay or I just fell in love with the character, the first thing I do is (1) add the name of the character in my list of cosplay desires. 
I kinda let it sit and marinate first because sometimes you just feel like you just got to do it but then after thinking it through, you'd realize that it was just something like the heat of the moment. I think the best way to put it simply is "minsan natatakaw tingin ka lang", you know what I mean?

Then I (2) think about it.
I lie down on the floor, sometimes I roll around the bed or curl up on the sofa and just think.
This is one of the most time consuming part of my process.
I think about stuff like:
"can I pull it off?",
"maybe I'm too big... my body isn't the right size as the character..." 
"my personality is really off for the character, the character might end up gay again because of me..."

Even after 4 years of cosplay, I still have doubts in my ability.
I think about my funds and budget, I think about joining a group or making my friends cosplay characters from the same series too.

I tend to over think, one of my many flaws...
And then, I also think about why I liked the character, how much fun it would be even if I do push through with it even without a cosplay group, which eventually leads me to getting all fired up.

Here we have korillakuma to show you how I lie down on the floor and just think

After I get off my lazy ass, I proceed to doing (3) research.
I rewatch the series, read the manga, watch videos, scour the net for reference photos, take screenies, look at cosplays, learn everything I can about the character.
I usually save photos in a folder, cosplays and ref pics, for easy browsing.

I make sure to check cosplay sites for really good cosplays, too.
I do admit that sometimes I get disheartened because of all the beautiful shiny kira kira people but looking at good cosplays (or sometimes the lack of it) can kind of inspire you and can give you an idea on how a costume can be translated in real life.

Current stash of cosplay plans I have
This doesn't include my old stash which were folders and folders when I was in the Philippines XDD

A look at what my cosplay folder has in it.
Ref pics and cosplays

Once I have gathered as much information as I can, I start on (4) planning.
I take my handy-dandy cosplay notebook, take down notes, study the character's poses and expressions and behaviors, even writing down some of their trademark lines.

I make plans on how to go about ordering and styling the wig (if needed), what kind of make up to employ, choose contact lens (choosing lenses is really hard for me because of my very bad eyesight orz), what props I should have, how much fabric I need in what color and what kind, I even think about shoes and underwear XDDD hahahah

I print out reference photos to store in my cosplay notebook and to take with me when I go shopping for fabrics.
I also list down the things that the costume would need like accessories and stuff or what a particular costume includes so that I don't forget anything.
I am a big fan of lists so I enjoy the planning part very much.

A sample of my plans in my cosplay notebook.
Here are some of my notes for my Xing cai cosplay

Lemme go back to why I also make a big deal about shoes and underwear.
Having an awesome set of kicks that goes with the whole costume just makes the costume extra better especially in photos. For example the platform heels not only look great but also add to height which is really useful if you're trying to be more like your chosen character.

On underwear, yeah, no one ain't gonna be seeing 'em BUT it does affect the costume, if you want to look extra sexy, corsets are great. Ordinary panties, are unsightly under spandex body suits and white pants.
I somehow feel that everything should be taken into account, proper underwear can help cheat body proportions and even give you an extra boost of confidence.
Never hurts to have nice ones. /winks

I also try to pick a favorite reference photo and use it as my deskstop wallpaper or phone wallpaper. I do this so I can memorize at least one  pose and take in more of the character's vibe as I'd be seeing it often.

Celestia Ludenberg : My current desktop wall paper
I am just loving Dangan Ronpa XDD
Still contemplating whether to push through or not hehehe

The planning stage, more often is longer for me rather than the actual process to make the costumes. Weird, but true.

More often than not, after the research and planning stage, the fire begins to dim and life gets the best of me again. I end up with lots of plans in my cosplay notebook and lots of character folders in my hard drive.

If after some time passes and the characters still itches at me like an infected scab, I take it as a sign that I should push through with it.
Sometimes I'm on the bus ride going home and I just think, "it'd be really nice if I can be Kurei..." or something like that. heheheh

Before going out and actually starting on the costume, I (5) check my finances and do some calculations and budgeting. 
Cosplay ain't no poor man's hobby, you got to spend and accept the fact that money won't come back when it has gone out. No matter how much you really really really like a character, you can't cosplay if you don't have money.
You can be resourceful and save on expenses by using your wit but ultimately you still have to buy a wig, contact lens, materials and other stuff.

Part of my salary is saved up for cosplay, sometimes I sell stuff. When I was still studying I saved my allowance.
Where ever you pull out the dough, just make sure that you got it honestly, if you borrowed, be sure to pay it back, let us all try to be better human beings, ok?

Oh sorry for lecturing XDDD Where was I?
Oh, yes.

I try to allocate my earnings as wisely as I can. I use envelopes and label them according to where my money needs to go. This photo shows my envelope especially for my cosplays and toys savings

The fire dims but it shines brighter with renewed vigor.
Once I've decided and I've gotten enough funds, (6) I proceed to gathering materials and ordering costume components.

As soon as I get the time, I review my choice wigs and look through the albums of my trusted wig shops.
For me, once I've gotten the wig, there is no longer any going back.
Choosing wigs is one of the parts I have mixed feelings with, I love it yet I find very frustrating because more often than not, I find lots of wigs I like and old cosplays plan get resurrected because I find really nice looking wigs for them.
I have never ordered ONLY ONE wig ever from a shop, my wallet cries all the time. hahahha
Also, I find it really hard to choose wigs because of color. Not being able to get the one with the best color is one of my biggest annoyance.

Then I order contact lenses.
Special shout out to my most trusted lens shop, Alice and Rabbit Shop!

With my list and printed ref pic, I will then proceed to the best place to get anything and everything in the Philippines, DIVISORIA!
Although before going to Divi, I already have my list and fabric choices ready, I still enjoy going round and round the cramped and somehow smelly alleys of Divisoria.

I love hunting for fabrics, matching cloth and laying them side by side to see which has the best color, feeling each one and discovering new fabrics, choosing the buttons, trims and embellishments. Oh the thrill!

How I choose fabrics depends on the character. I like reading the history and profile of the characters.
For example, I go with darker colors for fierce characters, in my assassin cross cosplay, I went with maroon for the scarf rather than red because I felt that red is too bright for a killer from the shadows.
For characters of royalty, I tend to pick grander fabrics or lean towards those with more details and patterns.
For simpler characters, say those wearing seifukus, I use uniform fabrics, too, like katrina or klopman, I see no reason to go grand when it's only a school uniform.

I loveeeeeee nice shoes so most of the time I already have shoes that would go nicely with a costume, but when I don't, ukay-ukays or thrift shops are my go tos. Or I go around divi, find the cheapest but closests looking pair I like then modify it.

I don't think I've ever gone to divi and went home with less than 10 yards or fabrics. My shopping bag is always brimming. hahahaha
A trip to divi always takes me about half a day and I especially love it when I have my buddies with me.
Going to divi is like going on a quest in an RPG game, the vendors are NPCs, the streets are mazes and your buddies are your partymates, I guess imagining divi like that just makes it more fun for me hehehe

Divi is really far from my home so when I go, I make the most out it.

Once the materials are all ready, I (7) review my plans and make revisions based on my gathered materials. Sometimes I buy more than is needed so I have to re-think some things.

Next step is where the magic happens! hahahah
(8) Costume construction time!
I take my blue prints and the fabric to my trusted tailors.
I really suck at sewing and somehow, I get bored doing it.

So far, I've only had 4 people who I can trust with our costumes, special holla to Devian Grey, Atelier Luna and to some local tailors I know: Ate Mercy and Manang Noli.
Having cloth based costumes takes some time and plenty of adjustments from me.
Although I trust my tailors, I usually just have the base parts made and all the detailing done myself and I still do adjustments and alterations to make the costume fit me better. It's fun and cheaper that way. :)

Also, I believe I am an annoying customer. hahaha
I don't just go "hey! here's the fabric and here's the ref pic and here's the payment! thanks!"
I dedicate about 30 minutes to an hour to discuss how I want the end product will be.
We talk about secret pockets, what parts to cheat and stuff like that.
For costume makers, it is relatively easier to discuss, for local tailors, the discussion takes longer because they don't really get cosplay and most of them get intimidated when you say that what you want made is a costume. So I make it simple and make it look like ordinary pieces of clothing with maybe a bit more design. I have to tell them for example, this costume is for a male character so please add shoulder pads or don't put in tucks there because that would make the garment too girly XD
Take time to discuss because it really helps a lot, also, drop by from time to time and check the progress of your costume so that if there is anything wrong, it can be corrected right away.

Apart from providing the character's full body pics from front, sides, back and details of the costume, I also give my tailors a simple drawing of the garments with instructions so they don't forget and I also talk to them in length about how I want the final outcome to be.

While the costume is on process with the tailor, I take the time to work on props, maybe do some wig styling, and just do what ever else I can.
From time to time, I bother my friends and show them my progress and ask for advice when I am unsure, but generally, I hate bothering other people.
Sometimes, things looks ok for you and you don't notice some things, so it is best to reach out and ask for advice. I love that my friends are always ready to give me critique and help out when they have the time. :)

But really, the only reason it takes me very long to finish a cosplay is because I have plenty of slack time in between.
When I get inspired I tend to forget about food, but when I don't feel like it, I really don't feel like it. hahahaha Add to the fact, that I get really obsessed sometimes and I work slow. hahahahah
I am not an expert in anyway and I still don't know a lot of things, so there is a lot of experimentation when I do my craftings.

I always have my reference pics and plans ready, so I can (8) check and review easily if I am still on track.

Only recently have I started the habit of (9) doing make up / costume trials / practice, doing so makes prep time for the cosplay shorter because you have somehow familiarized yourself with the costume and make up method you will be using.

Rock Lee cosplay trial

It feels silly but practicing poses and facial expressions really does wonders.
You'd know that all that time in front of the mirror has paid off when you see how nice your poses and facial expressions are on the photos, so don't skip this part especially if the character has a different personality or body type from you.

Once I am happy, it's (10) time to take the costume out to a convention!
I don't plan my costumes around events, I just have them made and completed when ever.
I feel there is no shortage of events, after all. For me it is more important to get good cosplays.
Sometimes, I even forget that we already have so and so costume ready hahahah
My sister just reminds me. hehehe
I feel that planning costumes based on events just gives you unnecessary pressure, there will always be events...
Quality should always be the priority, I don't like sloppy works or ill prepared things... those just makes all the effort useless and I hate that.

I use conventions as a way to bond with friends and a test run for the costume.
Wearing the costume at home is very different from when you are in a con because there are a lot of uncontrolled factors.
I check the post cons photos, and (11) make adjusts and improvements.
I make as much adjustments and improvements as I feel necessary, sometimes it even takes me years before I redo a cosplay. Sometimes I chuck parts all together and just make new ones, I even go as far as buying a new wig! XD
But once I did what I can, and I have enough nice photos, that is only when I move on from a particular cosplay.

After making adjustments, a (12) photo shoot is an absolute must
I put in so much effort (and money XD) into a costume for love of the fandom, I think it is only proper that I get to keep memories, hence a planned photo shoot.
We do have bad days, too, but when we don't get any good photos, I then do adjustments on the costume again and have another photo shoot, I repeat this until I am satisfied hahahah

Reviewing photos while on shoot XD
z3LL and me as Haruhi Suzumiya in Singapore 2011
photo thanks to Hexlord of Black Rabbit Photography

Again, this is NOT a guide on how to cosplay, but this is MY WAY of cosplaying in a noncompetitive matter.
Now there's an idea, maybe I should make a post about competitive cosplay /scratches chin.

Sometimes my plans only reach until step number 4 and I get stuck with heaps load of folders.
But when I do decide to go through with it, it is easy to pick up where I left off.
Step number 11 and 12 sometimes frustrates me very much, but when I do get the nice photos that I've been wanting, it makes me really happy that I did something for my fandom.

In total, a cosplay takes me an average of a month to three months to prepare and I spend anywhere from about 2,000PHP to 7,000PHP depending on the costume difficulty (provided it is a new costume or I don't have any parts in my possession that I can possibly use for said cosplay).
Though when I do have some things I can re-use, like wigs, shoes, lens and make up, the costs can be as low as 500PHP to 3,000PHP, sometimes I can even produce a costume for a character in one day!
That's only because I have done a lot of cosplays already and I can re-use some things.
Spending on good quality wigs, make up, shoes and lens has benefits. :D

Please do not feel intimidated by how long I prepare and how much I spend on my cosplays, maarte lang ako, that's why the figures are like that. Plus, I do not mind spending if it means I'll get the best quality I can afford.
I am not rich, I just spend my money wisely.

Looking at pictures of your cosplays helps in making improvements. Sometimes you think it looks ok, but things like make up and and wig colors can be better assessed through pictures.
Also, sometimes a photo is ok, composition great and everything but what is really annoying is when you don't have the right facial expression or give off the right feel for the character. OR everything is perfect then you notice that your bangs has been blown off or one of your gloves has fallen down. aurghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
As much as I really like the photo, I am left with no choice but to reshoot and improve again.

Saihate Miku cosplay by me
photo by z3LL

After all the effort though, it really is satisfying when you finally get what you wanted.
I really love that about cosplay :)

Took me a while to make this post because I never really sat down and thought about how I cosplayed, I just did. hahahah
But I hope this helped.
Purely coincidence that this also happens to be my 200th post. LOL

I am sorry for the long post and the lack of photos, too.
I do hope you were able to finish reading this and get what I mean hahahha
Because I honestly got tired reading through the whole thing hahahha

Anyway, there you have it!
A post on how I cosplay!

thanks for reading!
 jaa! visit me again, ne!
     arigatou! (*^3^)/~


  1. Your so geat~! I love the way you share your knowledge and experience or your ideas that may inspired cosplayer wanna be like me~ I really appreciated all your works.. and hope to meet you soon and take down notes some of advice and have a picture with you.. thank you so much~ <3

  2. Thank you so much for this post! "I feel that planning costumes based on events just gives you unnecessary pressure, there will always be events..."

    I'm crying my eyes out since yesterday because my cosplay for tomorrow (Cosplaymania!) isn't ready yet but your post cheered me up! You're right, there will always be cons...and I 'd rather delay my cosplay than do it half-@ssed. I won't be satisfied that way, and I might even get picked on by "elite" otaku for the details I missed LOL

    Anyway, this post is really helpful. I'll go make my lists now, too! LOL

    Thanks! Keep up the good work!