There’re people who talk about cosplaying, and then there’re people who actually do it. Many people who don’t understand anime think that all otakus cosplay. Some otakus do cosplay casually. But when I talk about professionals, I mean the ones who really have passion towards their craft, who sacrifice time and even appearance to make the most of this expensive hobby. These are the true cosplayers, and any amateurs who do not put in 100% effort are merely sullying the name.
What elements do you have to consider before embarking on a serious hobby in cosplaying?
1. Your figure
The figure is the most important aspect of a cosplayer. Nobody can take you seriously, I’m sorry to confess, if you’re even the least bit overweight. All cosplayers tend to lie on the underweight side when it comes to cosplaying, especially for the females. Not only do you have to watch your diet, you also have to exercise regularly just in case you’re cosplaying swimsuit girls or shirtless guys. Even if you don’t think you need too much muscle, you have to mind that no anime character ever has flab in any of the wrong places. If you want the perfect height-to-weight, waist-to-hip ratio, you have to make your figure as close to Barbie dolls as possible!
They say the perfect waist-to-hip ratio for men is 90%, and that for women is 75%.
2. Costume and makeup
Costume and makeup is misleadingly classed into one category, when in fact it makes up a large part of a cosplayer’s arsenal. It includes outfit, makeup, props and the wig, which are all great headaches in their own right. It is mostly cheaper to make your own costumes, but it requires a sewing machine and sufficient tailoring skills. Most cosplayers draw a healthy balance and import their accessories from China’s online shopping site (I believe Taobao is their website of choice there), whereas costumes are made by tailor shophouses in the neighbourhood. Of course, buying in bulk is always cheaper.
A wig requires great care, or else it will — like your hair — get split ends and a frizzy mess. Most people use a wig stand, which is made up of wires folded together to be shaped like a head, but a box to put your wig on will do fine too. Wig care requires a unique kind of conditioner when washing, to ensure that the strands do not tangle together. Remember to use only cold water, and dunk the wig entirely in the sink, together with the conditioner. Give it three firm shakes once you take it out, and hang it in the bathroom. Once it’s dry the next day, comb it with special combs with thick gaps.
As for makeup, I was amazed at the amount of makeup one must put on for every cosplay. You need a primer and foundation, before going on with 2 shades of eyeshadow colour, eyeliner, something to make your face look bright (kira kira) enough for photo shoots, and 3 layers of lipstick. Yes, you heard me right! First of all, you need a nude colour to make your lips skin-colour, and then you re-draw the contours of the new lips — which are usually tinier in anime characters — and then you add gloss to prevent them from drying. And then you need something for your nose to make it look more or less erect, depending on your race (as Asians we normally want to make our noses straighter and more visible).
3. Your pose
Looking good is only half the battle won. You still have to look convincing for photo shoots, and cosplayers are not allowed to be photo-shy here! The best cosplayers have striking poses that give them the aura of the character they’re playing. They could be battle poses, or kawaii poses for the suitable characters. This needs some degree of practice in front of the mirror, as well as some self-confidence and acting skills.
4. The community
Being a lone cosplayer has its limitations, the simplest being you can’t cosplay thematically with someone else. After all, a Madoka simply isn’t outstanding without a Homura by her side. In addition, cosplayers need makeup artists, and most importantly photographers to capture their legacy at their desired location (after all, anime conventions can only get you so far in terms of backdrop). Cosplayers are like models, who need assistants for makeup and carrying props, as well as professional photographers to take their best sides.
Not only that, but you also need a community of fellow cosplayers to give advice. I did say that buying cosplay items in bulk lower prices, and what better way to do so than to buy as a group? Having friends to share in your interest always make the activities that much more meaningful in general.
Cosplaying is very much fun, but also a lot of commitment to do well. If you really have a passion for anime, though, there’s no better way to express it than through cosplay!