One week from today, I’ll be standing in line to get my badge for DragonCon 2015. The annual sci-fi/fantasy convention is like Christmas for my family, and I start planning and working on my costumes a year in advance. Over on EPBOT.com, Jen Yates has a wonderful list of DragonCon Survival Tips. But for those of you who wear costumes, I thought I would offer up this list of tips for putting your best (costumed) foot forward.
-Make a checklist for every costume you’ll be wearing.
Start a checklist well in advance of the con, because writing down every piece you need for a costume will help you think of anything you’ve forgotten. By not waiting until the last minute, you’ll have time to make or buy what you need.
The list should include absolutely everything you need for a costume, including any required undergarments (corset, a strapless bra, etc.). If you’re wearing a wig, do you also need a wig cap, hairpins, and wig tape? If your costume has a lot of elements, you can put on the whole thing, then write down each item as you take it off and pack it away.
As you’re loading up for the con, go through the checklist to make sure you have everything. Then, before you head out in the costume, look at the list one more time.
-Don’t be afraid of the iron.
If your costume should look smooth and pretty, then hang it up in a steaming shower, iron it, or throw it in the dryer with a damp washcloth for a few minutes…whatever you need to do to make it look presentable. If you’ve spent a lot of time or money on a costume, why would you want to step out of your door looking anything but perfect? Even if your costume has been smashed into a suitcase and you’re staying in a hotel, your room probably has an iron and an ironing board.
-Ditch the purse.
This has become a pet peeve of mine. I’ll see someone in a stunning costume, then get totally ripped out of the fantasy that yes, that really IS Cinderella because of the giant, bulky, modern purse on her arm.
I realize that this is a conundrum. We all need to tote some things with us, but the trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t detract from your costume. If you’re staying on site at the con, it’s a lot easier because you can leave your car keys and the rest in your room, and just take a few necessary items with you (I.D., cash, credit card, cell phone, and lipstick are my musts). If you’re driving in to the con, it’s a little tougher because you’ll have car keys, more make-up, emergency repair supplies, or whatever else you might need during the day.
If you make your own costumes, try to work in pockets whenever possible. I have pockets on my Imperial Officer trousers, but they’re hidden by the bottom of my tunic. You can also make a purse or bag that matches your costume so it’s less obvious. For my Lydia Deetz, I made a simple drawstring purse out of the same material I used for her red wedding dress. I’ve also seen really creative costumers whose props doubled as purses. I once chose a simpler route, shoving a few items inside my Bert the Farting Hippo puppet while wearing my Abby Sciuto costume.
-Have a dress rehearsal and practice your pose.
I know it sounds silly, but a dress rehearsal at home lets you find any glitches in your costume – pieces that don’t fit right, potential trip hazards, and other things you don’t want surprising you at the con. Stand, walk, and sit in your costume, and practice different poses in the mirror to find out what will look best when someone asks for your picture. Trust me, that Legolas didn’t walk out of his hotel room with an innate knowledge of how to hold his bow.
I can’t stress this one enough. If your face is going to be covered by a mask or helmet, you’ll be sweating a lot. If your face is showing, your skin will look healthier when you’re hydrated. You’ll feel better, last longer and have a lot more fun if your body is healthy. Don’t forget to eat, too. Your belly will be happy, and so will those con-goers who are tickled at the sight of a fictional character enjoying their lunch.
-Love your costume.
Don’t choose a costume just so you’ll get attention. If you put on a costume, do it because you want to be that character. If you get a lot of compliments or requests for pictures, then that’s just a bonus. Be who you want to be, and revel in it.
-Don’t take it too seriously.
It’s easy to get caught up in costuming and realize that you’re taking it too seriously. Relax; this is supposed to be fun! That costume element that you’re agonizing over? No one is going to notice if it’s not exactly perfect. Stressing because you’re worried about running into another She-Ra every 50 feet? Just be the best She-Ra you can be, and enjoy seeing how other people interpret the same character. And for the honor of Grayskull, go have FUN!