It might just be me, but I tend to treat cosplay as a competitive sport. I don’t mean in a literal sense, you won’t find anything I’ve made in the Eurocosplay finals. But whenever I go to make a new costume, I look at 3 things: “How much do I want to make it?”, “Do I have enough skill to make it?” and “What skills can I learn?” This might be a fools effort, after all I never count how feasible a costume is budget wise,. But those criteria are what inevitably drives me towards the costumes I choose. I treat each one as a chance to improve, better myself and keep on top of the game. Every single costume is a chance for me to challenge myself.
Let me give you an example; the first cosplay I worked on properly was Rinoa from Final Fantasy 8. For that one, I had no experience. I had to just jump in head first and thank my mother profusely for her help. I made a cardboard weapon, which fell apart mid-con. My second cosplay, I set about learning to sew, a task which landed me with more frustration and needle pricks than I could count, but I learned something. Plus, the pictures looked pretty freaking sweet once I was done! I’ve spent all my time with cosplay diving deeper and deeper into the craft. Now, after going back and learning to remake Rinoa’s weapon with worbla and messing around with side projects, I’m finally making my first full armor cosplay.
For those who have never worked with worbla, let me tell you, it’s both easy and extremely difficult all at once. I didn’t just decide I’d learn to make armor, I decided I would learn the proper craft of using worbla to create armor. For this armor, I wouldn’t just mess around with craft foam and my mothers hairdryer. If I was doing this, I was doing it right! I looked up all the tutorials I could, ordered myself a new heat gun and rotary tool and decided I would painstakingly carve every curve and bump necessary into some thick EVA foam. I was set into this costume with the same words of wisdom I had used for each costume before it; “This is the most complicated thing I have made to date”.
The results are… messy so far. I’ve already managed to sand off half my skin and burn my finger tips into oblivion with the heat gun. Not to mention the untold number of blunders caused by my failure to plan before sanding. (Are we noticing a pattern with the not planning stuff?) I don’t even know the results will be anywhere near my expectations. For all I know, all the cuts and scrapes and burns will be nothing more than reminders for the next time I try to dive too deep But the point is that I’m learning and I’m trying. If I don’t make these mistakes now, I’ll spend every costume from now on with no clue what I’m doing. I have to test myself through trial and error and just hope that I don’t lose a finger in the process. The good news is, even if that happens, that’s one less finger to make for my next gauntlet!
For me, cosplay is about challenging myself and seeing what I can really do. While I love seeing other peoples work, I never let myself measure my skills by their costumes. I use other people’s costumes as less of a bench marker and more of a source of inspiration. If I see someone with a huge 6 ft sword or delicate lace patterns, I simply cannot help but be in awe. Seeing their work makes me think “I wanna be that good someday!” For the first time I’m not beating myself up over a lack of skill or inability to produce. I’m simply enjoying my craft and celebrating anyone who does the same, and that is an awesome feeling!