There’s a lot of demand for “HQ” costumes in the local cosplay market, with “hq” meaning “high quality”. But what is “high quality”? There are a lot of shops and costume-making services claiming to have “high quality” products, but by what standards can we measure costume quality by? Read on to find out.
Hi everyone! Let me introduce everyone to a new segment that I want to run in this blog–all about the most redundant cosplay questions. These are questions I’ve seen TIME and TIME and TIME AGAIN that you almost get sick of seeing them. ^^;; I hope to run three articles in this set–today we’re concentrating on Fabric questions.
Before I get onto serious business, let me give a short intro on why I felt inclined to write this.
I often see very, very redundant questions asked by newbies that are easily solved by a quick Google search or a walk right out of your house and right into the mall/shopping district. If you can bother to type out a question, how’s that any different from typing some keywords to run a search on Google? This is mostly applicable to cosplayers in my country (Philippines, which is the country with the most social media and cellphone usage in the world) where people are quicker to post a question in Facebook or in a forum before Googling.
I don’t mean to say asking some questions and asking for help is bad. By all means, go and I don’t intend to stop you. But I also wish to say that a little altruism never hurt anyone. There are SOME questions that are better solved by self-studying, Googling, and walking out of your house into the real world.
Some people are “too shy” to ask the people that are supposed to answer their questions irl face-to-face–like being too shy to ask a makeup sales personnel how much the makeup they are interested in is, and so instead rely on people online to tell them how it is when they are in perfect capability to just go to the mall/store and ask. I encourage you to just go for it, don’t be shy. You’re gonna be walking around being seen by other people in a costume, heaven’s sake! No need to be timid.
With that being said my answers to these questions will encourage an altruistic approach instead of spoon-feeding all the answers. I hope these answers help you on your journey to perfecting your cosplay!
“What fabric is good to use for this costume?”
- Take a VERY close look at the costume you want made–some costumes already speak of what fabric they are made of just from the photos itself.
Tifa’s Advent Children costume is obviously some sort of leatherette. I cannot find photos that are HD enough, but if you watch the Advent Children movie, you’ll notice the light reflect off her costume in a way that spandex-leatherette/pleather will reflect light. Do you ever wonder why lots of Tifa cosplayers choose that fabric? That’s because that’s what Tifa’s costume was probably intended to be made out of by the original artists, based on how the fabric reacts to light.
Anna’s capelet is obviously some sort of wool. You can even see the wool fuzz on the details of her capelet here. Since wool is expensive, a lot of cosplayers use fabric that resembles it, like anti-pill fleece or matte-er versions of velvet.
Even if you don’t know what that fabric is called, if you walk into the store and find fabric that LOOKS like your references, then that’s worth a look.
- Check the photos/videos of how the costumes move. In that way you can get an idea of the weight of these fabrics, and keep these in mind when shopping.
Anna’s capelet is stiff and retains its form instead of dropping to the hollow space when she opens her arms out. It does not cling to her own body shape and retains its own shape. Your fabric, if wool, needs to be thick enough to hold its own shape, and if it’s not, you need to look for a supporting material for it to make it stiffer. Obviously I wouldn’t use a flimsy cotton or peach twill to make this.
With these details in mind, you can go to the fabric store with a good idea of what fabric is needed. Touch the fabric. Run your fingers through it. Pull out a section and see how it falls. Is it stiff? Does it move? Will it cling to my body? Will it stay in the shape it’s been tailored in? Is it matte? Shiny? In that way even if you don’t find the optimal fabric the costume is presumably made out of, you can still find a close match.
I don’t go by recommending X type of fabric for X sort of costume on the get-go. I always tend to advise people to go to the fabric stores themselves and feel the fabrics instead of supplying a fabric type. I think this is the best way for a newbie to familiarize him/herself with fabrics.
“How much yardage do I need for this costume?”
This question is easily answered by some knowledge, and some imagination. First off, know how much a yard actually is (36 inches!). And know that fabric is usually sold from 40-inch and 60-inch bolts. With just those two knowledge in mind, and maybe a tape measure, you can safely guess how much yardage you need, and add a half-yard or two for safety purposes.
When all else fails, remember that before the personnel at the fabric store cuts a yard, s/he will always show you how much your yardage is. Feel free to drape it around yourself to see if it will cover what it has to! We have different bodies, so some need more yardage and some less, so don’t expect anyone who hasn’t seen you before to know exactly how much yardage you need.
Remember that details like pleats, which is fabric folded into itself, need more fabric.
If you’re making a skirt, don’t just think if the fabric goes around your waist then it’s okay–consider the widest point of the garment (say, the hemline if you want to make a skirt that’s full on the bottom)
“How do I make a pattern? What’s the pattern for x type of item?”
A pattern is, essentially, the fabric when it’s laid out flat on the floor without any stitching done to it at all… yet. With some imagination, you could get a general picture of what clothing looks like before its tailored into what it is.
For the most part, there are free patterns available online for basic shapes and classic styles of clothing. Read up on some tutorials and you’ll find exactly what you need.
Also feel free to lay out your own clothes (non-stretch ones in particular) and study their general shape and how they were stitched. Study their seams, darts, and tucks. This is how I learned to make patterns for my own clothing.
If you look closely enough at your costume reference photos–especially from newer games/movies/anime, it’s easy to study them and take a look at where the seams are and piece together what this clothing looks like when flat.
Pattern making is half part measurements and geometry, and half part imagination~! xD
With those questions answered, here is a wrap up of my general tips:
- Study your reference photos closely–see how they reflect the light, how stiff/flowy they are, how them move. This helps you get a good idea of what fabric to buy.
- In anime where colors tend to be flat, use your imagination and think of what these clothing items would be made of if they would be reproduced for a real-person counterpart of that character. No actual school uniform is made of shiny costume satin or velvet, for example
unlike what cheap slutty Halloween costumes say so.
- Get yourself off of Facebook/tumblr/wherever and go touch and feel the fabrics in your local fabric store.
- Never be afraid to ask the personnel in the fabric shops what they think and recommend. An intelligent fabric store personnel who has been doing it for years is like a bff for costuming needs. The dude at the fabric store I go to has saved my ass more than once by recommending fabric and knowing what stuff is piled in the end-cut/scrap fabric/bargain pile of the store. He usually asks me what color I’m going for, and what fabric weight and flow. He has helped me save money by recommending fabric in the scrap pile, or saying which fabric is good for sewing what. I may even go so far to say that if the store personnel has no idea what they’re doing and talking about, don’t buy from there. (This may be true for helpers in, say, Divisoria, who have no clue and seem reluctant to assist you; there are a hundred fabric stores along there and if one personnel has no idea what he’s talking about, just hop on to another store.)
- Google is your best friend when it comes to patterning, sewing, looking for fabric stores, and everything else.
- Go out there and have fun! <3
“Why don’t you look like your photos? Why does she look so good in photos but when I met her in person she looked so bad?”
“Why do photographers edit the photos so much the people don’t even look like how they do in person anymore?”
“There’s so much Photoshop and fakery!!”
There’s a lot of editing hate going on around in our local cosplay circle recently, with lots of rants going on about how “s/he looks nothing like his/her photos!” “s/he’s fake and his/her photos are too edited!” and so on. It’s been a common rant in the anonymous confessions section, and while I have my feelings on this, I feel people are too quick to attribute it all to Photoshop.
It’s not just Photoshop that makes a photo look much better than how the person in them looks like face-to-face. From taking photos of other people and my own self, I can tell other things that make a photo instantly look better. So don’t be quick to blame it all on PS.
I don’t think enough people observing the cosplay community know about the power of makeup.
Some of the prettiest cosplayers I know locally actually don’t have perfect skin when I meet them up close. And then, I think, like many others, “Oh, she doesn’t look exactly like her photos” but then I pull out my camera to take a photo of them and voila—their skin, for some reason, looks smooth and gorgeous on my camera.
A great concealer and foundation goes a long way in cosplay make-up, and for cosplay photos. There are makeup that are made exactly FOR photos that give off a blurring, airbrushed look or attract the light in a certain way to make you look much smoother in photos or from a good distance. It’s a powerful tool to utilise and learn about, and a lot of cosplayers invest in finding the ones that work for them.
Remember that scenario I said earlier? Say, I met someone, she looks “different”, then I pull out my camera and she looks just like her photos online?
Another OBVIOUS thing (that isn’t so obvious to others) is my distance to the person. When I meet them for the first time, I am probably up-close face-to-face with them, and I we might even exchange kisses on the cheek as a casual greeting. OF COURSE in such an up-close scenario, I’ll probably notice every little thing on her face if I was looking—under eye circles and that concealer job.
And then, OF COURSE, I am not going to lean in THAT close to take her photo. I will probably take a good step back and include that pretty top she’s wearing or something.
If anyone is also familiar with the “living doll” trend makeup where people line their waterline beyond the normal and attach falsies beyond your actual lash lines, this look totally looks like crazy creepy shiz up-close. This is a look that is meant to be photographed from a good distance. Most cosplay make-up take elements from this makeup trend (since anime characters have big eyes and doll-like as well) so it makes sense that if you saw it in person, you’d probably not get it. (This is why I avoid that look for conventions and only use it for photoshoots.)
Here is a “subtler” take on the living doll make-up without the extreme lower lashes and all. It looks cute in photos and makes your eyes look more “animated” like animu but it looks pretty heavy and odd in person.
YOUR CAMERA’S RESOLUTION
One of the reasons people are so obsessed with “selfies” is because front “selfie” cameras on mobile devices have much lower resolutions than actual cameras, thus blurring your skin out a bit when you snap that photo.
The same principle applies to taking cosplay photos. No matter how fancy-schmancy the camera is, when it takes a good step back, it won’t be able to capture exactly what your eyes see when you are face-to-face with the person. Pair it up with blurring/photo makeup, and that’s instant better skin overall.
For the makeup transformation that I do for fun, I do a little cheat and that is to make sure that there’s enough light hitting my face. I turn on all the lights in the room and then make sure one is hitting me from every angle lelz. There’s so many things that a good light can do to evening out your skintone.
There are so many things bad light can also do, like highlighting your under-eye bags. That’s why good photographers are always asking you to step into the light and know their light source.
Tinted light also does wonders, so now you can stop wondering why people like taking photos so much in hotel rooms where there’s yellow-orange-ish lights.
In photos, I can totally control what angle I am presenting myself to you in. I can find an angle that suits the character I am cosplaying—or maybe the only angle that works for the character, haha.
My face is totally oval-ish and a bit fat-looking up-front. I always try to balance it out by cutting my wig in a shape or style that flatters my face shape, and even using spirit gum to make sure the strands properly frame my face. This means that characters with sharper facial features only work in certain angles of mine.
I wouldn’t do a full-frontal
nude angle when trying to make a transformation into a guy; I stick to angles where the lines on my face look sharper. I could jut my jaw out to make it more prominent, angle my face so my nose looks sharper, etc. I also tend to open my mouth to give the illusion that I have a longer face.
The environment and the circumstances
There’s this big thing that plays into factor for how I can’t look exactly like my photos when we meet face-to-face in conventions. Especially in Philippine conventions. There’s the environment and circumstances we are in.
Most conventions here are held in malls, so that means I will have to do my make-up in a public restroom for around five minutes when I’d really like to take my time at it and take one hour in front of my vanity. Even if I do it at home, there’s the fact I have to travel for hours to the convention center, so my make-up isn’t fresh.
The poor ventilation probably melted off half my makeup, haha.
Most people end up not being able to sleep the day before cons, from excitement or working on a prop that still needed some touch-ups. Even the most popular cosplayers can be seen with under-eye dark circles every now and then.
I’m in the flesh and right there, so I probably don’t and can’t control what lighting or angle you see me in, and how up-close. My face may be sweaty or oily, and I can’t help it.
There are things that I can avoid or control if I was taking photos, say, at home or in a private photoshoot.
This is also why I envy the cosplayers in other countries where they book hotels that they can prepare from that are near the convention centers. Less stress getting things prepared.
Left Photo: This is how I look, edited but it does its best to stick to how I truly look, chubby cheeks and all. Right Photo: This is too much Photoshop and looks nothing like me; I slimmed down the face and gave it big eyes and made it look animu but that is NOT how I look… Oddly tho its my most faved photo of this cosplay. I guess it speaks lots of how people expect their cosplayers to look like lol
I did write down all these factors that make cosplayers or j-fashion enthusiasts look “different” from their photos, but something else I really wanted to appeal to by writing this is people’s expectations or thoughts on another person.
People are quick to label one as “fake” and judge someone for how they look outside their costumes and on simple days where they can’t be bothered to dress up. I don’t think this is healthy.
Some people rant that they no longer want to get to know or be friends with some cosplayers because they met them and they look different from what they expected. That they are “fake”.
Of course there are a lot of people there that really do edit themselves to point of unrecognizable to make themselves appear like some goddess and try to earn fame blahblahblah, but for the most part, people just want to look their best and put their best face forward.
If I was friends with or admired someone over the internet, I wouldn’t want to judge them based on how they looked when we met—rather based on the interaction that we had, and what their personality was.
And if they have amazing makeup skills or some such, I rather admire them and want to learn their techniques and the products they use rather than labeling them as fake… for putting on makeup.
It’s just the same as your graduation photos. A makeup artist puts makeup on you, a photographer takes your photo and touches you up on Photoshop. It looks much different from how you are in person but no one gets flak for it and I have no right to call you “fake” for it.
I wish the factors listed here help you take better photos, cosplay or not, as well as enlighten people over the all the “editing” hate that goes on.
A photographer wants to take photos with you. Yay! That’s a good thing. It means they share your love for the fandom, or they found your costume impressive. But there are some times that there are habits they do that can leave me feeling frustrated and wishing I never stood in front of a DSLR.
I won’t say that it’s fully the photographer’s fault–from my perspective, I really am not the most photograph-able cosplayer there is. I tend to look better in person then on film, and I normally choose costumes that are more fabric-based and not have weaponry/armors (as I make 100% of my costumes often “If you can’t do it yourself, don’t do it” is so me–and I suck making weapons). This means I lack enough props to interact with/pose with, so my pose choices are limited, and we all know in PH cons there isn’t an environment to interact with either. But nevertheless here are things they do that I find frustrating.
I READ RECENT A RANT in a cosplay group by some random person saying “Cosplay is too expensive!” and “Why are all the costumes so expensive can anyone there just let me borrow a costume please? Because I need to cosplay because I am so handsome and hot I look like Cloud Strife”. Needless to say, that got on my nerves. Because this person actually didn’t mean it as a joke.
I easily feel attacked when I read posts like that, because I’m a cosplayer that operates on a real tight budget. When people say “it’s not possible”, I want to tell people that it IS possible. You just need time, effort, and a lot of creativity.
With that being said, let me tell the story of our first cosplay and how we conquered the “Cosplay is Expensive” problem.
LO AND BEHOLD, welcome everyone to my (our) first cosplay evveerrr. Our Final Fantasy VII Group cosplay in the year 2010. You can obviously see a point just from this one photo of how we did what we did. (I’m the Yuffie Kisaragi, by the way) And our group actually won “Best Group Cosplay” in two major cons, Toycon 2010 and AME1UP 2010–which I say not to brag, but to make a point that even with “non-expensive” cosplay, people recognize it and judge it as good enough.
THESE DAYS, Facebook isn’t only an avenue for keeping up in touch with your friends, but is a great platform to buy and sell items as well. There are tons of groups that are dedicated to the buying and selling of products, new and secondhand, from individuals, and even more pages dedicated to businesses and products!
There are many advantages to setting up shop on Facebook: First and foremost is that it’s Free (internet and electricity bills aside!). You can set up a page for your business and upload all your photos and products without paying for a listing unlike dedicated shopping sites, and no deductions on your sales either! That can also mean lower prices. 🙂 That’s why tons of shops and individuals use this as a selling platform, and lots of buyers shop through here.
But of course, since it’s not an actual shopping site unlike Multiply, Amazon, Ebay or Etsy, there is a different approach to buying and selling. I want to give everyone a few tips on how to shop on Facebook.
SHOP THRU A GROUP
There are numerous groups out there that are dedicated for buying and selling of brand new and secondhand items. You can do a search of it or ask your friends if they know any groups. If you found a group you are interested in joining in and looks promising, just click join!
Each group has its own house rules, make sure to abide by them. 🙂 They mostly prohibit spam, violent language, and insulting other members and their products.