Cosplay isn’t all about contests and prints and fame; sometimes it’s as simple as showing your love of a particular character or genre. Dancing Adrift shows her love of Firefly, Star Trek, and others by putting together cosplays that are both cute and cost-conscious. It doesn’t take hundreds of dollars of fabric and supplies or the sewing skills of a master seamstress to make a cosplay that is both fun and creative.
How did you first learn about cosplay?
“Oh gosh. [tries to remember a time when she didn’t know about it…] I suppose I probably first learned about it back in high school when I was really into the Stargate fandom, but I suppose it wasn’t something I would have actively recognized as cosplay until college probably? It’s always just been a general part of the nerd-world, and the more active I became in that, the more aware of cosplay I became. Though, when I first ‘cosplayed’, I probably wouldn’t have called it that. I went as Kaylee (from Firefly) to a Joss Whedon event, and I just considered it, well, a costume, dressing up. Which I suppose isn’t really that different than cosplay? To me, as what I guess you would call a casual/beginner cosplayer, cosplaying is just dressing up as fictional characters, and trying to make it look legit.”
Yeah, it’s all about the dressing up and having fun! How do you get your cosplays? Do you hit the thrift stores, sew, buy? All of the above?
“Pretty much whatever it takes, yeah! For Kaylee I hit up an old military surplus store (for the peridot jumpsuit), for Donna I ordered online from an actual uniform supplier (thankfully it was pretty affordable). They didn’t like it when I tried ordering a badge too–wanted my sheriff credentials and stuff (which I definitely don’t have) *laughs*. Mainly I just have a very clear idea in my head, and then I go on a very focused search to find what I need. I put together a River Tam cosplay for my sister once; I tend to go for general color, shape, corner-of-the-eye impressions rather than incredible accuracy of detail, because I usually don’t have the proper time or money. (For Sheriff Donna, I actually looked into having replica patches made, but *damn* those fuckers are A: expensive and B: not available in small enough batches, that I could see.) I did a Tasha Yar ‘cosplay’ once that I enlisted the help of a very talented seamstress friend for, a college roommate who has helped me with many a nerdy sewing project, including a plush creeper (from Minecraft) for my boyfriend.”
Very resourceful! Do you find it hard on the budget to do your cosplays, or are you able to get good bargains for what you’re looking for?
“Basically, if it costs too much, I find a different way. I’m not so invested in my cosplays (as far as accuracy goes) that I’m willing to break the bank on them. Plus, when I do cosplays, I usually pick costumes that are A: close to my natural appearance, and B: not overly complicated in the first place. So far, I’ve, in my opinion, had pretty darn good luck with putting together outfits for relatively cheap. I think the most I ever spent on one cosplay-piece was the $40 (*maybe* $60?) for the combat-style boots I got for my sister’s River Tam costume.”
Thrifty. Have you ever had to make or find a prop (like Kaylee’s umbrella)?
“Well, I don’t have a Kaylee umbrella, so that in itself should tell you something. I don’t usually do props, because, usually when I cosplay, it’s at a convention or some other event where I’ve already got enough stuff to carry (my purse, my convention pack, loot, what have you). I did attempt, really cheaply, to make a nametag for Donna, but it fell apart in my luggage (on my way to where I first wore it, at PhxCon), so I just went without it. I’m a pretty laid back cosplayer, lol. I think the closest I’ve come to having props was when I handed out donuts as Sheriff Donna at MinnCon this last year. For those, I just went to the Target near the convention center and prayed they’d have some. They did, and I bought them, and they were a lovely success. Given enough time (which I rarely give myself), and, as long as money is not an issue, I have no qualms putting in the effort to make a prop myself, but I usually save that energy for getting the basic costume completed instead.”
Do you have any new cosplays planned in the near future?
“*laughs* I mentioned that I tend to go with what I sort of already have, yeah? (Like, going as Tasha Yar when my hair was cut SO short, or sticking with characters that have similar hair color/style as me.) Well, my fiance just happens to already have a Hawaiian shirt (that he wore as Wash, lol) VERY similar to the one Jensen wore in a recent SPN episode (the one he directed, I believe) when he was TaxiDriver! Dean, so I’m thinking I might try to do something with that for the next con I go to (MinnCon in August). Beyond that, no, I don’t have any new cosplays planned. I usually only plan them as opportunities (read: cons or other nerdy events) present themselves, and I don’t have very many planned for this year on account of also planning/preparing for my wedding in the fall.”
“Aw, thanks. I’m lucky I get to go to MinnCon *laughs*. Cons and weddings are both stupidly expensive; it’s tough to do both.”
No doubt. What would be your dream cosplay? No skill/material/money constraints.
“Oh gosh. Lol. I’ve never really thought about it before, but, since you ask…I’d probably cosplay as Padme Amidala from Star Wars Episode II just so I could have her pastel gradient dress.”
Do you have any advice for a cosplayer just starting out?
“Hmm, advice? A) Figure out how into it you want to get. Decide 1) how accurate you want to be, and 2) how far you’re willing to change your personal appearance (will you cut/dye your hair? wear heavy makeup? etc) to get the desired effect. Also, recognize any budget constraints, and how much money you think you can afford to spend to get the look you want. B) Choose a character that you’ll feel comfortable being dressed as, and find an outfit that you think you can realistically put together with the time/budget/other constraints you have. C) Have fun assembling your outfit! Try to be smart about where you start looking, like military surplus for a military cosplay, but don’t rule out any store. I’ve found perfect cosplay pieces on the clearance racks of really current/high fashion places, so don’t be afraid to look everywhere! Also, online shopping is your friend. It’s amazing what you can find online. D) When it’s time to finally wear your costume, embrace it! It’s all about having fun – and the more fun you’re having, the more likely other people will enjoy your costume too! Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, even if you see someone else as the same character who you think did a better job. Don’t let that get you down. In fact, I say, embrace that, too! There’s always room in the world for a happy photo op of a flock of Kaylees or a group of people wearing Jayne hats. Nerds, in my experience, are generally pretty awesome, passionate, kind people; if you’re cosplaying amongst nerds (which, chances are, you probably are), you’re cosplaying amongst friends.”
Name three items that you feel are essential to a cosplayer’s closet. A certain clothing staple, a tool or machine, paint, glue, whatever you think goes hand-in-hand with cosplay.
“1) Needle and thread, and a sewing machine (and someone who knows how to use all three). Every costume I’ve done so far has required some degree of sewing, whether it be hemming, patching, or putting together an entire piece. 2) Safety pins. Great for any quick fixes you may need when sewing isn’t an option. 3) If you can stand it, super glue. I hate the stuff and avoid using it whenever possible, but I have found myself in a couple cosplay-malfunction scenarios in which it would have been awfully handy to have some around.”