Tempest’s Con Survival Guide — Packing A Cosplay

Posted on Feb 17 2013

Tempest's Downpour - Packing A Cosplay

Cosplayers set new goals after each convention, sometimes seven times in a year. The greatest challenge: actually getting the costume to a convention in one piece.

Cosplays start with picking the right fabric. You’ll want to go with fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily, but you want to keep the weather conditions in mind. For cold months, feel free to use nylon, polyester, and lycra. For summer months, you want something that breathes: cotton blends and denim. Wool is good for any time of the year, though it tends to be a bit more expensive. Avoid satin at all costs.

Basic care includes dry cleaning your costume if there are any stains or spills on it. Frequently use an odor-eliminating spray that is safe on fabric (like Febreze) or Kana will kill you.

To prevent wrinkling during travel, buy a travel suit bag at the local dollar store. You take your clothes, still on the hanger, and zip the bag around them. Don’t let them scrunch up on: fold everything in half gently after zipping or keep it unfolded.

If the fabric you chose doesn’t wrinkle easily or if you look forward to ironing for hours, you can opt for carrying it in a suitcase, with shoes on the bottom so dirt doesn’t get on your costume.

Special note: please don’t bring half-finished costumes to the convention. You will spend the entire con cooped up in your room with a sewing machine that you lugged up seven flights of stairs. You’re at a con to have fun.

Synthetic hair tangles incredibly easily and it is impossible to comb out without destroying the fibers. If knots occur, douse them with synthetic-safe detangler and comb the knot out with your fingers or a wide-pick comb.

Whether a wig is made of real or synthetic hair, it should be washed every few times it is worn. Gently wet the wig, but don’t soak it, use a gentle shampoo and rinse it carefully. Pat it dry and let it sit on a bottle of hair spray or something small that won’t stretch the elastic. Use the detangler mentioned above.

How To Put On A Wig

  • Put your real hair up in a ponytail and, if it is long, wrap it around your head.
  • Pull a wig cap or nylon stocking on over it. (Note: the nylon is way too tight for my big head so I always opt for a wig cap.)
  • Take the wig with one hand on the back and one on the front. Align the back of the wig with the back of your head, by your neck.
  • Carefully stretch the front of the wig to a little past your hairline.
  • Align the sides with your hairline. Use bobbypins to make it stay.
  • Add more bobbypins as needed to hold it to your head.
  • Style without using heat — no hair curlers or straighteners. Glue washes out, while hair spray actually melts synthetic hair for a more permanent stay.

Wigs can be expensive, however they can be styled and colored much more easily than real hair. Using a colored marker can darken roots or add highlights to the hair. Trust me: after spending years trying to change my hair color and style to match my cosplays, I wound up with a bathtub dyed purple and darker, scraggly hair. The online wig stores I recommend are The Five Wits for character-specific items, eBay and Amazon.

Packing a wig for travel should be its own Olympic sport. First, it depends on whether or not the wig is styled. If it is styled, buy a foam wig head at a local cosmetic store or online. Pin the wig to the wig head. Then balance it, along with your suitcase, all the way to the convention and pray you don’t drop it.

If the wig is exactly the style you need straight out of the bag, KEEP THE BAG. Normally, a wig comes with some crumpled tissue paper and a net to keep the shape. Keep those items. Fold long hair carefully into the netting – you can double-wrap it with the wig cap as well – and then slide it into the bag. Try not to let the bag move around too much: keep it in a zipped pocket of your suitcase if you can. Store it in its original bag or another similar bag when it is not in use.

No cosplay is really complete without make-up. It’s impossible to achieve flawless anime perfection, but at least you can make yourself look a bit unrealistic by smearing make-up all over your face.

Basic care for makeup means throwing out open cosmetics every two years or so. Don’t share your makeup with other people. Don’t use items on your mouth and then on your eyes or vice-versa. If you’re sick when you use make-up, you should probably throw it out afterwards.

With make-up, less is always more. Don’t smear a ton of foundation on your face – use just enough to get rid of any uneven skin tones. If you have no idea how to use make-up, the helpful people at the Macy’s make-up counters will give you a free lesson. As always, there are online tutorials as well.

For cosplays that include thicker make-up, like grey skin paint, set your finished work with some cornstarch-based baby powder – talcum powder is dangerous to breathe. Then spray some finishing spray (or hair spray) into the air in front of you and walk through the cloud. You don’t want to get this stuff in your eyes, so avoid doing that.

When traveling with make-up, you don’t want to mix everything together. You can employ the use of a make-up case if you think you can get a good run out of it. If not, separate your make-up into several small ziplock bags, divided into parts of face and specific cosplays. Then put all those little bags into a big bag so you don’t have to root through your suitcase for a half hour. Wrap a tissue around any leaking items.

Huge props and specialized wigs require a lot of TLC. Always bring rescue items with you to conventions like duct tape and glue. Prepare for the worst and, as always, have a good time.

Cosplaying at a convention is a great way to embrace your interests, meet people, and to show off your handiwork. Take pride in what you do and just try to get everything safely to the con.

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  • Kayarath February 17, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Cosplay sounds complicated. If I ever do it, it’ll be as a creeper. All you need is cardboard and paint!

  • Cheflelouch February 18, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    well I have 3 cosplays and well they are not hard to pull of but if I were to go a hard-Cored cosplayer then I would be like that or even more

  • MakiMaki February 20, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Nice article Tempest! I don’t think I’ll ever get into cosplay beyond basic costuming though. I dunno how the hardcore cosplayers deal with the summer heat at cons!

    On a completely other note: Probably one of the most adorable banners I’ve seen yet!! <3

  • Raiji Magiwind February 25, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    A lot of good basic tips for new cosplayers. Also when it comes to wigs, if you have a local beauty supply, it can be your friend for finding things that are designed for wigs, like wig shampoo and conditioner plus other things you can use on a wig safely. Also a good tip for long wigs is to before you gather it into the cap is if your plan to store it for a while…braid it. It can help keep the long wig from tangling easily.

    Also remember to shower, eat, sleep and HYDRATE (IE: WATER)!!! It will make your cosplay and your con experience much more pleasant.

    @MakiMaki – Veterans tend to remember the concept of layers (in warm or cold), but also make sure to hydrate heavily with water or other nutrition. We also will take time away from the con to go back to one’s room once in a while to layer down or ‘cool down’, especially Fursuiters. Or even just find a spot to plop down in a cool building and remove some layers.

    In fact if any person sees a person in cosplay and wants pictures, but they are sitting down with a wig off or pieces draped over them, please give them some respect and do not bug them repeatedly for a picture. You can ask of course, when they may be ready to pose for the cameras again though. Many will happily tell you that they will be ready in a short while.
    In any situation though, if you notice a cosplayer, or even especially a Fursuiter who seems out of it, lethargic or just off like they might be sickly or pale, then don’t hesitate to ask, if they are alright. Heck, offer to help them to a nearby chair or even help them to a staffer or the con’s first aid station. You might just save a life.

  • moonhawk81 March 3, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    One of the few perks of my job: I don’t need a costume, I just show up!

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