Cosplaying seems like a fun activity but the quality of costumes is head-spinning — particularly for those who struggle to repair minor clothing tears. Dani Cosplay spoke to Lifehacker Australia to tell us how she went from a cosplay newbie to meeting Aquaman star Jason Momoa in her Mera costume in less than two years.
Have you ever wanted to break into the world of cosplay? Or maybe you just want a kickass costume for your next themed party? Even if you've never touched a sewing machine before (let alone power tools or thermoplastics) there's still hope! The first step to getting into cosplay is to remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere. Eight years ago, I didn't even know how to backstitch on my Elna Elina 40 — if you're wondering what the hell a 'backstitch' is right now, you're in the right place.
How did you first get involved in cosplaying?
I started cosplaying in 2017. After attending my first convention in 2016, I fell in love with the experience. I met so many other cosplayers that were dressed as some of my favourite superheroes. After my first convention, I researched a lot about it online and learned about sourcing material to construct my costumes. But I also received help from friends I had met who pointed me in the right direction to get started.
What are the reasons behind you wanting to cosplay?
Through cosplaying I have been able to work with a number of charities on a regular basis and it has been an extremely rewarding experience. Turning up to the children’s wards as Wonder Woman and seeing the how excited the kids are is an amazing feeling. It’s so inspiring to see their smiles and to see how brave they are, despite what they are going through. I enjoy getting to talk and spend time with each of them. This would have to be my favourite part about cosplay.
Another reason would be attending conventions with my friends. I have friends who live interstate and it’s hard to see them during the year because we all have busy lives. That is why conventions are great, because we make a fun weekend out of it. We get to cosplay our favourite characters and recreate our favourite movie or comic scenes. At times we do ‘group cosplays’ where we cosplay as characters from the same movie, game or TV show. I have definitely made life-long friends from cosplaying and I couldn’t imagine doing it without them.
How do you find the right costume for your characters?
My first cosplay costume was Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman from the '70s TV show. I grew up watching the show and, for as long as I can remember, all I wanted was to be Wonder Woman. So, I searched high and low on the internet and was lucky enough to find a talented costume maker in America who made a replica of the exact costume I wanted.
Over the years, I have gained more confidence and knowledge about constructing costumes using different materials. My most cherished costume would be my Mera (Aquaman) costume. I spent days searching for the right material to sew the suit from and once I found it, I took it to my tailor to sew a base suit for me (I am not advanced enough in to sew a jumpsuit).
Once it was complete, I spent over 60 hours puffy painting the tiny little hexagons on the suit to try and replicate the one Amber Heard wore in Aquaman. I was even lucky enough to be invited to attend Aquaman's blue carpet premiere in Sydney where I walked along side Jason Momoa on the blue carpet in my Mera costume. It was an incredible experience and he told me I looked ‘phenomenal’ and asked for a photograph with me. Very rewarding!
With each costume I have created, I have picked up new skills and ways of approaching the design and construction of costumes. There are also a number of great stores and websites available to help you make your costume. I have watched a lot of cosplay tutorials on YouTube, which are so incredibly helpful and teach you how to use materials such as foam, thermoplastics, urethane and how to use 3D printing to create props and parts of costumes.
What or who helped you when you were starting out?
I was lucky to meet a group of cosplay friends who did help me a lot but I think a lot of it was hours spent online searching for costumes I liked (when I first started I didn’t have much experience making things from foam or sewing costumes). People in the cosplay community are eager to help and share how they created their costumes. Facebook and YouTube are two great sources to check out when you are first getting into cosplay.
What tips would you give to people who like cosplaying but struggle to craft quality costumes?
The best advice I can give is to experiment with building costumes you love. You can source affordable materials from your local shops such as craft foam. The more experience you gain will allow you to continually build upon your original costumes and apply the new approaches you learn or pick up from others. The second piece of advice would be to talk to other cosplayers and become a member of the different forums (such as pages on Facebook) where people share their ideas and knowledge about designing and constructing costumes. You can ask any query and people will be more than happy to help.
I also have to say to just have fun with it, not every costume has to be a replica or made by yourself. I myself have bought many costumes online and I’ve also had fun cosplaying those characters.
If you're thinking of cosplaying... DO IT! It is such a fun hobby. You get to learn some useful skills and meet so many like-minded people. If you’re shy or worried about fitting in, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people are in the cosplay community.
This article has been updated since its original publication.