Tuesday, April 5, 2011

11 Things You Need at Con

So, we've already covered make-up, but what else should you bring to the con? On top of your costumes, clothing, toiletries, etc., here are some critical pieces of equipment to have at hand when you're conning it up.

1. Food and water. This is crucial. If at all possible, get some food and take it with you. Get doggie bags. Even eating out of the hotel snack machine may be cheaper than buying food on the floor at some cons. ::cough::SDCC::cough:: Even more important than food is water, especially if you're in a hot costume. Don't bring your best Nalgene; be advised that your water may be taken at the door at some events, particularly music festivals. If this happens, fork out the four bucks at concessions for a new bottle. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later. If you're not flying, you may also want to bring your own booze; as previously discussed, cons vary a lot on this, but you might bring your flask as well (check local liquor laws first).

2. Bobby pins. These things are amazing. They solve all kinds of hair emergencies (including just general bad hair when you're not in costume), and in a pinch they can be used to repair clothing, especially fallen hems.

3. A sewing kit. If possible, pack your own; don't rely on one of those little prefab kits. Cannibalize the package and the scissors, cause it's hard to find scissors that small. And for the love of god, put it in the bag you carry with you. A good sewing kit should include:
-dressmaker's pins
-bobbins of thread in appropriate colors to match your costume(s)
-small scissors
-needles appropriate to the materials of your costume(s) (if you're running around in a leather catsuit, little bitty needles are going to do you no damn good if you pop a seam)
-safety pins
-extra buttons/snaps/hooks and eyes, as appropriate

If you're not experienced with sewing, have bad eyes, or prick yourself a lot, you may want to add a needle threader and thimble.You may want to bring more than this if you're, for example, going to a con like Dragon*Con with its own sewing circle events, but this is the bare minimum that you need for common repairs.

4. A bag to carry with you. You HAVE to have something to put your cell phone and wallet in. Do NOT rely on someone else to carry your stuff, unless you're in a costume so elaborate that it requires a handler anyway. You WILL get separated, and without your cell phone, how will you find them?

"But Sabine!" I hear you say. "I am cosplaying a naked alien! How will I match a bag to my costume?" Well, make it out of nude-colored spandex. Make it out of fucking banana leaves if you have to. Get creative with that shit! If you're wearing something with a belt, make a little pouch. If you're wearing a corset, hide it amongst the boys (you know what I mean). If you're wearing socks, you can even buy little sock garters with pockets (see Sock Dreams).

5. Double-sided tape. There's no limit to the things you can do with this stuff. Signs, costume emergencies, keeping that one clumsy friend from wandering off.

6. A spare one of everything. If you have a costume piece and you have a spare of it, bring it. I don't advocate carrying around a whole extra copy of your costume in your bag to the panels, but it wouldn't hurt to have it in your suitcase. This is crucial if your costume contains small, easily lost components, like pins or buttons. And if you're anything like me, you'll probably forget the original and pack the spare.

6a: Spare shoes. No matter how hot your shoes are, if you're not wearing flats, you will eventually want to take them off. It's easy to kick them off during a panel, but if you're planning on walking around, there's nothing worse than walking or standing on tired, achy feet. Bring shoes that you can pack; flipflops are an option, but for a better look, collapsible ballet flats are also an option. Dr. Scholl's makes a nice pair of fold-up flats with their own carry-case, but you could just as easily pick up some Isotoners in a color befitting your costume (don't waste your time on cheap knock-offs).

7. Paper and markers. Hear me out on this one. The uses for paper should be self-evident- you might want to get autographs or take notes at a panel or pass out your contact information to people. The markers, however, are for making signs. There are a LOT of people at con. Like, really a lot of them. The best way to find your friends is to have a sign. This is another way to get creative- we've used location devices from fabric banners to life-sized cardboard cutouts of David Duchovny- but a good old fashioned sign will take you far. It's also great for last minute half-assed costumes- all you have to do to be an Inception cosplayer to hold up a sign with an arrow pointing to yourself that reads "Eames" (think about it).

8. First aid. At the bare minimum, you should include bandaids, Neosporin, painkillers, tissues, gauze, and an Ace bandage. Trust me, you'll need them, particularly if you're wearing heels. It's probably fine to have one first aid kit per group, but you may want to stick bandaids and tissues in your bag for the floor.

9. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer. You're going to be touching a lot of people and a lot of stuff a lot of people have touched, and you're not always going to have time to wait out the line for the bathroom. My preference for portable hand wash is Lifelogic No-Rinse Go! Soap, which is available at CVS or REI. It got me through a field season in Guatemala with ease, though if you like antibacterial gel, you can bring that too (just don't get it on your costume!).

10. Cash. Don't rely on your credit card to get you through the dealers' room. Most smaller vendors don't take credit cards, and having cash also helps you track your spending a little better than a credit card. If you're with a larger group, it's also essential for splitting bills at restaurants.

11. A good attitude. Cheesy, I know, but I'm serious. If you don't have your game face on, why even bother going? You also drag everybody else down if you really don't want to be there. Don't be that guy.

Bonus Round:

-Sock Glue. If you're doing anything involving low-cut or super revealing costumes, knee socks or thigh highs, roll-on body adhesive will save your life. Nothing is more annoying than having to constantly readjust your costume, and sometimes all the pins and tape in the world just won't work. It runs $10 on Sock Dreams, and it is worth every penny. If you wear long socks in general, it's a good thing to just have around for daily use too.

-Things you want autographed. Make sure these things are portable or learn to pack around them. Getting David Hewlett to autograph your SGA S1 DVDs is easy; getting James Robinson to autograph your Starman Omnibus editions is a little more difficult. Remember that you can also buy something on the fly, which may be more convenient.

-A collapsible bag. This depends on how much you want to bring back with you, but if you're flying and planning on buying more things than you can get into your suitcase, the best plan is to bring a packable bag. These are relatively inexpensive; I got mine at REI for maybe $15, but they should be available anywhere that sells luggage. Remember that at some cons, you can also mail packages home; check your options.

Got other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

In response to "There is no good Firefly Cosplay"

"There's no such thing as good Firefly cosplay."

This link made the rounds among Whedon fans not too long ago, and I would like to take a moment, if I may, to respectfully refute a few points.

The writer claims that “good” Firefly cosplay is difficult for two reasons. First, he says, the costumes are “somewhat normal clothes” and “ the looks aren’t always that distinctive”. Now, unless you know people who regularly wear coveralls, embroidered silk, and gun belts, I’d argue that there’s really nothing “normal” about the Firefly look.

Like any good cosplay, the key is to find those few iconic elements of the character and make them work for you. If you’re a Firefly fan, you can probably think of a few things, right off the bat: Mal’s coat, Kaylee’s parasol, Jayne’s hat, just to name a few. Besides which, there’s a plus side to doing a costume with “somewhat normal” pieces, and that is that you don’t have to make everything by hand. A quick trip to a good thrift store, a few alterations, and you’ve got the foundation for your costume. As much as we at Frenemy Cosplay encourage the endless labor of costume tailoring, there’s something to be said for the creativity required to assemble a decent, recognizable costume out of stuff you can find.

Second, the writer asserts that, “Fans of Firefly that are devoted enough to dress up in full regalia are on average, dorkier than most” and that, as a result of this, “Firefly cosplay is mainly nerdy looking people dressing in ill-fitting clothes”. Let’s just take a second to unpack these statements, shall we?

I might agree with the first part if we were talking about, say, Harvey Birdman, but Firefly? Being a fan of Firefly and a devoted Whedonite, I’ll admit that I may be a little too close to the source for an accurate assesment, but I have trouble believing that someone who dresses as Mal Reynolds is any dorkier than someone who dresses as The Doctor. The writer acknowledges that cosplayers in general tend to be “dorkier than most”, which is true enough, but he goes on to say that you can usually “find a few male and female hotties to do excellent work on some of the more mainstream characters”. Honestly, there’s so much wrong with this statement, I don’t even know where to start. He seems to be suggesting that “dorkiness” is inversely proportionate to attractiveness, which is an assumption that draws on fifty years of negative stereotyping and simply is not - in any way, shape, or form - true. There is no measurable correlation between fandom and physical appearance, and anyone who claims there is, frankly, is either not a fan or is projecting her or his own insecurities on the rest of fandom. I don’t presume to know which category our writer falls into, and I won’t speculate.

In response to the second part of his point, that “Firefly cosplay is mainly nerdy looking people dressing in ill-fitting clothes”, I would say simply: So? The measure of good cosplay is not how hot you look, or even how recognizable you are. The measure of good cosplay is the costume itself, the quality of the outfit and the work and passion that went into putting it together. The measure of good cosplay is the joy of the fan wearing it and the excitement of other fans at seeing it. Look at the pictures in that post, and tell me that any of those people are not absolutely thrilled to be wearing those clothes. They are paying homage to their big damn heroes, and they are rocking it.

In conclusion, Mr Writer, there is a point to cosplay, and you seem to have missed it. For that, you have my sympathy, but I request that you take your negativity and keep it the hell away from my con.