Cosplay Closet Essentials: Phoenix Comicon Edition

There were screen-accurates, mashups, gender bends, and crossplays. There were beloved characters and original characters. There were about 100 Harley Quinns and just about as many Deadpools. I’m talking about the cosplay at Phoenix Comicon 2016, which came to a close yesterday. Some were store-bought, some were commissions, and some were homemade. Regardless of how the cosplay came to be, they were a delight to young and old alike.

I had the opportunity to attend a few cosplay panels, and the big theme this year–and the most essential item mentioned for cosplay–was EVA foam.

EVA foam is, basically, the little squares of floor padding that are sold in most hardware stores. They look like giant puzzle pieces because they’re designed to interlock and cover a floor. The cool thing about this stuff? It can be used to make armor, weapons, and more! How does one make armor out from flat pieces of foam? Well, I’d go into it more here, but until I’ve applied and attempted what was taught in the panels I don’t want to be giving any advice that turns out to be wrong. But another cool thing about EVA foam (and cosplay in general) is that the Internet has a wealth of information in the form of articles, tutorials, pictographs, etc.

The second most essential item for cosplay at these panels: safety! Once you have your materials, you shouldn’t get started until you have the safety equipment needed to work with those materials. Again, I haven’t had a chance to try any of the techniques I learned, but basics like respirators and heat-resistant gloves were mentioned at every single panel. Safety is important in cosplay. No cosplay is worth a trip to the emergency room!

Some of the panels were exceptionally helpful. Others, not so much. I’m going to touch briefly on a few of them and my impression of the panelists and the content itself.

The first panel I attended focused on cosplaying on a budget. It was very organized and informational, with slides that listed items to purchase, where to find them, approximately how much they cost, etc. The panelists did a great job of explaining what each item/tool was used for. Now, though each item recommended for cosplay use was relatively inexpensive, if one were to go out and acquire all of them at once it will start adding up…so prepare for your cosplays well in advance if you want to be able to stick to a budget.

The second panel I attended was supposed to be an informational/instructional panel on how to build an entire cosplay out of the EVA foam, head-to-toe. Sadly, this was not one of the better-run panels. The panelists did not make use of the microphones and other sound equipment to make sure that those sitting at the back of the room (as I was) could hear them, and when they did use the microphones they spoke so softly that even the sound equipment couldn’t help. There were no slides or other graphics–the only visual aids used were pieces of a costume that they had made. One costume. One example. And finally, rather than explaining and educating on how to use the materials, the panelists simply said, in a nutshell, “This is what I did to make this one cosplay.” The end. Not very helpful.

Next up was a panel on EVA foam basics. That panel was expertly run, with samples of EVA foam armor, demonstrations, and concise explanations of what the materials were, how to use them, and how to stay safe while using them. The audience was engaged and entertained, all the while learning about ways to make their next cosplay even better than the last.

Lastly, I attended a panel that was on props, prosthetics, and makeups to create non-human cosplays. While the panelists were personable (and frankly, quite hilarious), it seemed as though a lot of the information given was over my head. It felt as though the panelists were trying to be informative, but instead, it came across largely as being targeted towards those who already had some experience in the use of the materials and techniques discussed. For instance, they spoke of contouring in makeup but didn’t really go into what contouring was or how to actually do it. They did, however, go into extensive detail on how to safely apply and remove the makeups mentioned.

Makeup and prosthetics aside, I did manage to learn at least a little something at each panel that I plan on using in future cosplays. Does this mean I will stop sewing altogether? Nope. I have no plans for a head-to-toe armored cosplay, so the fabric and thread and such will still be necessary. As you can see from some of the pictures, there’s no sign of foam or other armor anywhere. While EVA foam is quite versatile for cosplay design, it’s not the only essential item to a great cosplay.

Perhaps the most essential, in my humble opinion? An imagination.

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