“Cosplay is like fanfiction. Something you love, but you’ve changed it to be a little bit yours.” – Sara Glassman
There is an art to cosplay. From dreaming up the idea, to creating it and wearing it. The floor at any convention is full of the dreams of its attendees, but DragonCon is unique in that the con doesn’t end. It goes 24 hours a day. From the time people check in Thursday night (some Thursday morning) until late Monday, anytime you walk on the floor you can see the costumes. For many it’s a form of self expression, for some it’s like Halloween five days in a row; some want to share their favorite character with others, and for some it’s an art.
From characters in books, TV shows, movies, video games, or fan versions (think steampunk or gender bend) you can find almost any character and many versions at DragonCon. There are a few types of cosplay. Costuming means building your entire costume from scratch, and sometimes that means creating the character too. Closet cosplay is when you take things you already have and fit them to a character. This can be taking a skirt and top be being Felicity Smoak (like I did) or simply wearing an Avengers tee. Traditional cosplay is generally considered a combination of both—usually taken from a source material and combined to create the pieces with finding or commissioning them to build the perfect look. I spoke to a nine-year veteran of DragonCon who spends her time away from Atlanta planning her next costumes.
Sara Glassman is a bookseller and Etsy shop owner from Birmingham, AL, and she has been to DragonCon every year since 2007. She has dressed in everything from video game characters to Wonder Woman to a zombie librarian, and each costume has a uniqueness that sets it apart from others wearing the same thing. Her Wonder Woman has a full skirt and a chainmail corset. Her zombie librarian wasn’t from a specific story, but she wondered what a librarian might look like after a zombie plague and made it herself.
For many who spend the 11 months until it’s DragonCon time again planning their costumes, the convention itself is a series of photoshoots. Some are planned with others dressed as the same character (or universe) as you. This is a chance for you to hang out with people who like the same story as you, see their interpretation, and a chance to see the detail going into other costumes. The other shoots are with attendees who appreciate the time, effort, and money that went into building your costume.
Sara says ideally she would plan her costumes all year long. In reality it’s usually a flurry of ideas immediately following the con then a time crunch to get everything ready for the five day convention. “Many ideas come from going to the con itself, and seeing what other people wear.”
Sara says she tries to make one new costume every year, then rotates out cosplays from years past each year. Sometimes the costumes need a little updating and sometimes inspiration for a new costume comes from her latest video game obsession.
If you are looking for Sara at DragonCon you might find her at the “Vintage Vogue” fashion show, which combines costuming, history, and alternative histories into a fashion show. Or you might find her at the “Men of 300” costume contest where she performed quality control on the abs. “We [women] have been hoarding all the scraps of fabric. It’s about time the guys got in on the action.” We don’t disagree.
It’s no surprise that consent has been an issue at past conventions. Sara said she’d never experienced this, but she’s had friends who have been grabbed or cat called. This year DragonCon took steps to inform attendees that costumes are not open call to touch or take pictures without consent. Some people seem to think a scantily clad woman in a costume is an invitation to touch, and they’re wrong. Luckily conventions like DragonCon are taking steps to change this. Sara expressed how disheartening it is to have someone take your picture without invitation, such as while you are eating. “You work really hard on these costumes, and that’s how they are going to remember you.”
If you are interested in learning how to cosplay Sara suggests watching “The Anatomy of Cosplay” here.
Cosplay is more than dressing up. It’s time the people who spend their time, money, and effort on it all year long got some recognition. There is an art to imagining and paying homage to a beloved character or creating and building your own. Here are some of our favorite cosplays at DragonCon 2015. If you’ve cosplayed and want to share your costume tweet us @litdarling. You can find some of Sara’s cosplay costumes at past Cons here.