Disclaimer: The views expressed by Rosemarie within this article are hers alone and may not reflect everyone’s experiences with cosplay. Happy reading!
“At my first Fan Expo Canada, cosplay wasn’t really prevalent. It was just an excuse to wear cat ears.” When Rosemarie Sarno (aka Rosie Stormborn) walked into her first Fan Expo seven years ago, she fell in love with cosplaying. She loved the creativity and freedom that came with dressing up as her favourite characters. Rosie now attends as many east coast conventions as she can, with the most recent one being our very own Montreal Comiccon! I chatted with her on what it means to be a cosplayer and how she gets ready.
Where it all began.
Rosemarie began cosplaying in 2010 – she was too shy to participate during her first Fan Expo, but she returned a more confident person the following year. “I didn’t think cosplay was ‘in’ still, but I did want to give it a try. I decided to play it safe and did a genderbent cosplay of Sam and Dean from Supernatural with one of my friends.” After that, dressing up became an essential aspect of conventions for Rosemarie.
But what was it about cosplaying that pulled her into it? “I guess it started with wanting to feel more festive when I went to cons… I started off with more casual cosplays. Casual cosplaying involves dressing up in ‘everyday clothing’, dressing similar to the character you wish to portray, without going all out. So my first few costumes meant picking through my closet and finding things that I felt certain characters would wear – like my Sam and Dean genderbend.” As time went on, Rosemarie realized that participating in cosplay was something she really enjoyed doing. “I noticed that every time I was watching something or playing a game, I would just think to myself: ‘Shit, I could actually make this.’ I became more ambitious and my cosplays reflected that”.
Making sewing great again.
What is the most crucial piece of advice Rosemarie has to give in terms of preparing for cosplaying? “Be prepared to spend a lot of time and money – I would say an average costume, for me, would be a total of 50 hours.” However, some of her friends could spend around three to four months preparing a costume. One of the basic skills that is essential for starting your cosplay is sewing. “I was extremely terrible at sewing – I used to put all my pieces together with tape or velcro! Costumes became easier to make once my aunt taught and helped me sew a bunch of fabrics.”
Welcome to the workshop!
Once that is settled, you can move on to working with other materials, like warbla. For those of you who are cosplay noobs, like I am, you are probably wondering what the hell is warbla? Fret not, for I have learned! Warbla is a thermoplastic that you can warp into basically anything you can imagine by heating it up. Because it is so easy to use, cosplayers can create a multitude of eccentric weapons and armors. After that, you have to be willing to spend a large amount of time painting the warbla, or other plastic parts you’ve created, and die the fabrics you’ve sewed.
“A wig would be something I would worry about later on – unless you have to order it from somewhere far away.” If you’re cosplaying last minute (or doing something more casual), a wig might be a bad idea. “Depending on your costume, a wig could take a large amount of your time, or none at all. Some cosplayers opt to not even use a wig and choose to only cosplay characters that have the same hair colour as they do… So really, it depends on time.”
Watch your wallet: your money might grow wings.
Beginners should be warned that cosplaying and creating costumes can be costly and, unless you have some sort of income related to cosplay, can come out of your pocket. “I dress up in cosplay to show off my creative side – I don’t do this for money at all,” Rosemarie explains. There are ways to make extra cash in order to fund supplies to create your next costume. She suggests selling professionally taken photographs, much like celebrities do at conventions. “But even that, don’t expect too much. Cosplaying should be fun – not a financial burden.”
If you’re not making the big bucks like the better known cosplayers, here are some tips. “Be a crazy bargain hunter – all I do is search for deals,” she says. “I would also suggest reusing other materials from previous costumes and incorporating them into your new costume. I try to not spend a lot of money on my cosplays.” The trick is to spend more time on the little details, that’s what will make your costume look amazing no matter how much money you spent on it.
Pictures are great, but be vigilant.
When at a con, expect to be asked for your photo. “It comes with wearing the costume. Make sure you’re okay with that – but also know when it’s okay to refuse a photo if you’re uncomfortable,” she warns. I had a chance to follow Rosemarie around Montreal Comiccon and realized pretty quickly who has good intentions and who doesn’t. “The majority of the time, two people will ask for photos: credible photographers and fans of your character.”
Be wary of ‘backseat photographers’, people who stand behind your photographer and snag that picture without you or the photographer’s permission or people who get ‘too close and personal’ to you. “Know that when you feel uncomfortable, it’s your right to say no. Even if they appear to be very nice. Sometimes it’s so much as a conversation going on too long.”
The big day is nearly here. Are you ready?
Now that all the big things have been touched upon, how does a cosplayer prepare for the convention a couple of days before? “Usually, I buy a bunch of last minute things. Majority of the time I’m finishing up some last minute details: adjusting feathers, sewing on some beads, figuring out my makeup… I make sure to pack everything I need a couple of days before to really ensure I have everything. I also start planning what events I will be attending, where I will be going, basically stuff that will happen during and after the con!”
In the end, it’s all about having fun!
Any final piece of advice? “If you’re looking into cosplay, the best piece I can give (even though it’s cheesy) is to have the best time you can! My favorite part about cosplaying is having people call you by the character’s name and see the joy in people’s faces when they recognize who you are supposed to be.”