Welcome to another week of The Geekiary’s Summer Cosplay Series! Today’s cosplayer, Lauren, is from Chicago and even runs an awesome blog focused on that region. She may have begun cosplaying with anime characters, but she’s spread her wings quite a bit since she first began cosplaying thirteen-ish years ago…
When did you start cosplaying, and what – or who – convinced you to start?
I started cosplaying in 2001, the same time I started going to conventions. Cosplay and cons always seemed to go hand-in-hand, and to this day I feel weird if I’m in the environment and not dressed up!
The first costume I made for myself was Yuna from Final Fantasy X. I really related to her sense of duty. I thought she was beautiful, regal, and sweet, and cosplaying made me feel just like her. Funny thing – now that I’m an experienced seamstress, I just started a new version of Yuna. I’m thrilled to see how she turns out, now that I have the proper tools and expertise.
Did you always make your own costumes and/or props, or is cosplay why/how you learned to sew and/or craft?
My very first costume was made by a high school friend’s mom. She wanted to dress us all up for Anime Central. My character was Aisha ClanClan from Outlaw Star, and it was just horrid. The whole thing was fabric – no armor. There was no wig. I appreciated the woman’s generosity, but was also mortified, because I’m a born perfectionist. After Aisha, I swore to make my own stuff.
Many of my costumes were chosen so that I could learn a new skill. Cheshire = mask-making. Catherine = wig styling. Rinoa = weaponry. I also love collecting screen-accurate, pre-made clothes from Doctor Who and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Those outfits are great for slower days at conventions.
What has been your favorite costume to make/wear?
Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite is probably my most well-made and well-known costume. I got engaged to my husband in that dress. It’s made from real velvet, and I was a stickler for the details. I even cover my pinky with a thimble! As a wedding gift, a friend commissioned a painting of my husband and I in our BioShock gear. I still can’t believe it.
The most fun costume, however, has to be Daenerys Targaryen. I wore her to host a promotional event for Game of Thrones beer. The number of people calling out “Khaleesi” and “Mother of Dragons” was ridiculous. A Song of Ice and Fire is a phenomenon right now, and the fandom is a blast to be a part of.
If you had unlimited time, money, and skill, what would your dream costume be?
Definitely Yuna’s wedding dress from Final Fantasy X. It would be an amazing tribute to my first-ever costume. My vision for the dress is much more elaborate than I’ve ever seen it done – instead of just putting feathers around the border, I’d like to line the entire interior structure with feathers.
Do you do any charity or volunteer work that involves, or revolves around, cosplay or costumes? If so, what is it/how did you get into it/what do you like best about it?
I do, but I’d love to do more! I’ve walked in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade for C2E2, and have made several appearances as Rose Tyler for young Doctor Who fans. My most memorable experience was getting to be Narcissa Malfoy. For the last few Harry Potter book releases the city of Oak Park, Illinois converted its entire downtown area to locations from the stories. The local bank became Gringott’s. The sweet shop became Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I spent a lot of time in Azkaban, a.k.a. the basement of a church. There were Dementors galore, and I was pretty much allowed to torment children freely. But I wasn’t TOO evil, I promise!
Are you involved in fandom in other ways?
I am the voice behind Geek Girl Chicago, the Midwest’s premiere geek culture blog. Through this outlet, I try to give geeks in the area something to do every weekend. I review products, interview celebrities, and cover conventions. My dream is that young female fans will see GGC and feel empowered to be themselves, but really, the blog is for everyone! In fact, if you’re a Chicago cosplayer, I’ve probably shared your photo.
What is or has been your favorite convention to attend?
Oo, this is an easy one. Dragon Con is my LIFE. I usually make 3-5 costumes for it, and it’s basically my annual vacation. Every year at DC is a new adventure. My first time, I got to be Penny in the live Dr. Horrible shadowcast. My last time, I got engaged, and Irrational Games wrote about it on their website! It’s crazy fun.
Do you have any tips/hints/tricks for those who are new to cosplay?
1. A wig can make or break a costume, so make sure you get a quality one. I personally love Arda Wigs and Jenny’s Hair Sense. And don’t forget your wig cap!
2. Keep it simple. Personally, I think a simple costume done well is WAY better than a complicated one with a bunch of cut corners.
3. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t cosplay. Every body type is beautiful, and every skill level is worthwhile. Be excellent to each other.
If you could change one thing about cosplay (as a hobby, a cultural phenomenon, etc.) what would it be?
This is a little dramatic, but I’d like to erase the notion of “cosplay fame.” Shows like Heroes of Cosplay encourage people to build a fan following and get attention. I love cosplay when it’s simply a hobby that brings people together. I don’t want or need fans – I just want to hang out with my friends, meet new people and have fun. It’s FUN. It’s not a contest. Besides, fame on the Internet isn’t the same as mainstream fame 😉
What is your best, funniest, or most meaningful memory involving cosplay?
I’ve already shared a few of my favorites, but let me dig up one more. This is an oldie! I used to have BIG TIME stage fright. At Ohayocon 2006, however, I did an entire skit alone. I hadn’t finished my desired costume, so I threw together a different one – Namine from Kingdom Hearts 2 – and I wrote a stand-up routine filled with video game and anime references in my hotel room at the convention. I got up there and I did it – alone – and I won a “Best in Show” award. Even more rewarding, though, was seeing my friends in the audience laughing their butts off. When people I love, respect, and appreciate my work, that’s huge. It’s the biggest win I can imagine.
Any other thoughts or comments?
The transition from cosplayer to cosplay photographer and journalist has been a rewarding one. My young self was a bullied high school student. Back then, I went to conventions to find acceptance, art, and friendship during a lonely time. Now I’m a grown-up, and I have a geeky husband, friends I adore, my blog, and a full-time job. I’m busy – sometimes too busy to sew – but I still go to every convention I can. Every time I take a cosplayer’s photo and they express gratitude, I just light up inside. I hope I can make cosplayers feel as beautiful and talented as I think they are, and that maybe my participation in the community can empower the new generation of convention attendees.
(Photo Credits: Zatoyoshi Photography, Jess Cwik, and Lionel Lum)
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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