Advice for Cosplaying a convention

So here’s a follow up for my last post,  advice for cosplaying a convention. This is (as I would hope the title indicates) advice for cosplaying a convention. Just to be clear, this isn’t any sort of guide to cosplaying. This is simply some suggestions about how to survive a convention if you choose to wear a costume. It is also not a definitive guide, just some of my personal preferences and tips.

And same disclaimer as last time, I wrote this with Fan Expo Canada in mind, but this advice can be applied to any convention.

Test out EVERYTHING before hand.

Wear your costume around the house, for at least a day. Bend, stretch, sit, pose. Trust me, you want to make sure that costume is solid. Break in your shoes. Try and optimize every part of your costume for as much comfort as possible. One year, while dressing up as Princess Leia in her gold slave bikini, I hadn’t taken the time to test out my costume. Big mistake. One of the elastics on the skirt around my hips snapped out. Luckily I have super ninja reflexes and grabbed my skirt before a serious wardrobe malfunction. But it happened on my way to the EP/Reviews on the Run panel, and I had to sit at the back holding my skirt closed. I didn’t get to ask any questions. It was devastating. Thankfully, I wasn’t completely screwed because of this next piece of advice.

Bring an emergency kit.

Think of everything that could possible be useful and bring it! Safety pins, elastic, needle and thread, bandaids, makeup, bobby pins, hair spray, tissues, stain remover pen, marker or paint, contact case, face wipes, hand sanitizer, krazy glue and comfortable shoes. It will ultimately depend on what your costume is constructed out of. But there will be malfunctions, so be prepared for everything. And bring reusable bags for all the swag you’ll be acquiring.

Practice walking, posing and possibly even being in character.

You’ll be asked for a lot of pictures, so instead of posing awkwardly, do a little research ahead of time and come prepared to pose. Look up pictures of your character and how they pose, or look through photo albums from other conventions for inspiration. Practice posing in front of the mirror of your camera and come up with 2 or 3 preferred poses so you’ll never be caught off guard. I know it will feel silly, or even vain, but when you get some amazing shots, you’ll be glad you did. Same thing goes for acting in character. Now there are a variety of opinions about cosplaying and acting in character, and I’m not going to get into that. But if you do plan on acting in character, rehearse a bit. If you don’t plan on acting in character, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of signature phrases or at least the voice down pat. It does add to the fun.

Be gracious.

Unfortunately, I have encountered cosplayers who act like talking to you or posing for pictures is a chore. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that it can be tiring or repetitive but the fact of the matter is, if you choose to dress up, people will want to take your picture and ask you questions. It’s a compliment! Enjoy it! And if you can’t manage, then respectfully tell people you can’t, but maybe later. Even better, if you want a little peace and quiet, bring something to cover you up or change into. I usually stash a big tshirt or a cloak in my bag and wear it on top of my costume when I don’t want to be bothered. Personally, I don’t believe it’s fair to turn people down when they want to chat or ask for a picture, just because they caught me at the wrong time.

Don’t cosplay the entire time.

I know how tempting it is to wear your costume (or costumes) for the entire time. You only get 3 or 4 days a year for this! But it’s exhausting, it slows you down and you can miss out on a lot. I love the hell out of cosplaying, so I’m not trying to suggest against it all together. But save yourself a bit of time to wear your civvies. If you’re at a hotel right at the convention centre, you can go and have a nap in the afternoon, or change out of your costume halfway through the day. If you’re coming from further, I suggest wearing civvies on the last day. That’s when you’ll be most tired, and probably also when you’ll be doing the most shopping and last minute rushing around, so it will be nice to have a bit of freedom.

Don’t forget the pictures.

In every sense. Before the convention, take some pictures of yourself in full costume. It’s a great idea to do a full test run a few days before hand, in complete costume and makeup. That way, you can see how everything looks on camera, practice your poses, get some great pictures of your costume (that don’t have crowds of people in the background) and it gives you enough time to make last minute adjustments. But it also gets so overwhelming during the convention, with so many people getting your picture, it can be easy to forget to take your own pictures. But if there is any one regret you’ll have after, it definitely wouldn’t be taking too many pictures, it would be not taking enough. So photograph everything! (But always ask before you take other cosplayers pictures!)

Choose your friends wisely

If you plan on cosplaying, it will be incredibly helpful to bring a friend along, or to go with a group. You might have an amazing friend (or in my case, an incredible significant other) who will hold your bag, take your picture and fix your wig. If you do, you’re incredibly lucky. Or you might go as a group of friends, which is especially fun if you do a group cosplay. Or perhaps you find some friends online (be safe kids) or at the convention. Either way, you’ll probably need someone there who can tell you when your makeup is smudged, help you if your costume breaks or who will save your seat in line because it takes you a solid 15 minutes to walk from one side of the hall to the other. 

Research gatherings and photoshoots.

For most major fandoms, there will be a scheduled photoshoot where everyone can get together in costume, get some great pictures and have a lot of fun. This is a great opportunity to make friends and take great pictures. So do a bit of research, look through forums, facebook and twitter and I’m sure you’ll find a group to meet up with.

Try to incorporate the schedule into your cosplaying plans.

What I mean by this is if you’re going to be cosplaying as Captain Picard, and you also plan on getting your picture taken with Patrick Stewart on a Friday, then it’s definitely a good idea to wear your costume on Friday. This advice mainly pertains to people with uncomfortable costumes, or multiple cosplays. Consider that Saturday is usually the longest, busiest, most chaotic day, so try and wear your most comfortable costume then. But if you have a really kickass costume, sometimes it’s worth sacrificing comfort.


There are so many things that can be easily overlooked, so sit down and plan out everything before hand.  Give yourself extra time in the morning to get into costume and still make it to the convention on time. Consider what food you’ll be eating. If you have a full face of Harley Quinn makeup, a double cheeseburger might not be the best idea for lunch. Same thing goes for if you’re wearing, say perhaps a pearly white Emma Frost costume, try to avoid dips, sauces or anything spilly. And I completely advocate staying hydrated, but if your costume is hard to get on and off, try to save most of your drinking for the end of the day. Otherwise you’ll be like me, running to the bathroom constantly and have an elaborate costume that ensures you take at least 10 minutes to pee. Also think about how you’re getting to and from a convention. Sometimes walking or taking public transit can be uncomfortable and awkward. I found that out while riding the bus in my Elektra costume. Got a lot of weird stares from little old ladies. Is it possible to bring your costume and change into it at the convention? When I’d dress up in Leia’s bikini, I lived about a 20 minute walk from the convention centre, so I’d do my hair and makup at home, put on the bikini top (because that was a two person job) and wear shorts, flip flops and a tshirt until I got into the convention and changed. I may have looked a little strange, but it was less strange and definitely more comfortable. Now, all this stuff that I’ve suggested you bring (cause I know you’re going to take my excellent advice and come prepared), where is it all going to go? You’ll need some sort of bag, unless you have your own personal R2 unit that will carry around your drinks and lightsabre for you.. In which case, good for you. You’re awesome. But if you don’t, try to incorporate something into your costume. Maybe it’s a big fluffy skirt with hidden pockets, maybe you lucked out and have a character with cargo pants. Or maybe you’re just wearing a whole lot of superhero spandex and have no where to hide stuff. If you are carrying around a bag, try and make it something organic to your character. I sometimes alter my costumes slightly for practicality purposes, by adding an extra pouch or pocket. No one seems to mind and it makes my life a lot easier. Oh and don’t forget to check your conventions weapons policy. Don’t forget the details. Will you be wearing nail polish? Do you have the right colour socks? What about undergarments? Make sure you have the right ones, and that they don’t show through your costume (unless they’re supposed to, oooo la la!)

Have Fun!!!

Things will go wrong. So many things will go wrong. Your costume will break, you’ll get stuck in long lineups, spill food, forget that special edition disk you wanted signed, get horrible seats for your favourite panel. Just accept it, and let it go. You can only attend so many conventions a year, so enjoy it while it lasts. The weekend will fly by, so don’t spend it being grumpy. There are a million things to bitch about, but I can give you a million reasons not to bitch. So suck it up, have fun and this will be your best weekend all year.

Thanks for reading!

End Transmission

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