Every cosplayer has little things regarding costumes that annoy them. Especially when I’m judging costume competitions, there are certain things that, to me, are the difference between a great cosplay and good costume worn badly. The thing I find so frustrating is that these details are very simple, relatively inexpensive steps some cosplayers skip for reasons I cannot fathom, and they’re the difference between a cosplay that even the most uninitiated person can appreciate and a look that will make people keep their distance because you look like you might stink. In no particular order, here are my top five cosplay annoyances.
1. A bad wig or no wig at all.
Wigs add significantly to the reality of the character you’re trying to create, so it drives me nuts when people skip it. The Princess Leia Bikini from Return of the Jedi without the long braid looks more appropriate for the bedroom than a public setting. Another common offender for this unfinished look is Sailor Moon costumes. Especially, for some reason, when men wear Sailor Moon costumes. Crossplay isn’t supposed to be a freak show, so when I see guys at conventions with the Sailor Scout suit, short dark hair, and five o’clock shadow, that’s not cosplay to me. Again, this has nothing to do with gender identity or slut shaming, and everything to do with a lack of effort.
But don’t buy a cheap piece of crap that looks like you scalped an oversized Barbie Doll and stuck it on your head. You can get away with that on Halloween, but cosplay is a different thing entirely. Expect to pay $40 to $65 for a decent wig. The nice thing is, wigs at this quality level will last forever if you take care of them, so they’re good investments.
If you can see your own hairline while you’re wearing a wig, it’s not on properly! If your wig keeps creeping up your head during the day, it’s probably too small. Wigs do come in different sizes. If the circumference of your head behind your ears from your hairline to the nape of your neck is larger than 22 inches – like mine is — or if you have a lot of hair you’ll have to stuff into a wig, you might have better luck with “large cap” wigs.
2. Lazy Make up
First thing’s first: yes, you need makeup. Cosplay is full body dress up, and that includes your face. Even if it’s little more than a bit of shadow to define your eyes and some powder to control shine, it makes a huge difference. If you change your hair color, your brow color usually has to change accordingly, especially if your wig is darker than your natural hair.
Male cosplayers? You are not excluded from this. Men in TV and film are wearing makeup, so if you want to replicate the look of those characters, those details matter. Cosplaying a video game character? It matters even more. Video game characters usually have exceptionally specific make up these days, and you don’t look badass when you’re sweaty.
Don’t be afraid of powder, guys. It won’t make your testicles fall off. Especially if you’re drawing a symbol on your face, you have to set that symbol. You can’t just draw it on with eyeliner and expect it not to run or smudge. If you don’t want to lose the color saturation of a facial symbol, use a matching eye shadow over your cream, grease, or water based makeup, or use cornstarch instead of make up powder.
Editor’s Note: That’s spandex fiber. It’s the safest-for-work thing I could find to put on this page about boobs and crotches.
3. Nipple slips waiting to happen
Savvy cosplayers know that you can’t actually defy the law of gravity — if some body part can slip out, it will slip out. So if you’re attempting underboob, make sure you have some method of staying in your clothing that isn’t just tape you bought at the drug store. Even with nipple covers, it’s still embarrassing to have your entire breast fall out of your shirt, so if you insist on attempting to turn your boobs into potential slingshots, line your costume with moleskin and use medical grade adhesive. My recommendation: Graftobian’s Pro Adhesive.
4. No tights
There comes a time when every cosplayer realizes that spandex secretly hates humanity and wants to make us look disgusting. The evil spandex is aided in this regard by thoroughly terrible convention center lighting, as well as seats that are made of the least comfortable materials on the planet to press against your skin. Guys and gals, if you legs are bare, no matter how great they are, Wear tights! They complete the look of even the skimpiest costumes, making them look more deliberate and less naked. Some day I’ll do a column on the different types of cosplay naked. It’s a topic in and of itself.
I recommend Capezio Hold & Stretch tights because they don’t run, they’re durable enough to stick fashion tape to them, and they last through numerous washings. The last few pairs I bought have lasted me over three years. If you don’t like the line that tights create at your waist, buy the full body “body tight” style. Both of these items are available online, but any brand without a visible control top will do.
Tights of this kind prevent camel toe, wedgies, and wardrobe malfunctions, hide goosebumps in overly air-conditioned buildings, and maintain the look of your legs later in the day when they get tired. They also prevent blisters on shoes you’d otherwise wear barefoot, and hide if your bikini wax isn’t entirely up-to-date. If your costume calls for fishnets, wear a pair of these tights underneath so the fishnets go on smoother. (Note: the aforementioned metal bikini is one of the rare exceptions to the “always wear tights” rule, since there is no practical way you can hide the waistband in that costume.)
5. No dance belt
This is a special note for male cosplayers: always wear a dance belt! What’s a dance belt? It’s like a heavy duty jockstrap that doesn’t leave lines. No, you cannot just re-purpose the jock strap you use for baseball. It will show under spandex and make you look more like you’re into bondage than superheroes already do.
A dance belt serves both an aesthetic and a practical purpose. What’s that practical purpose you ask? Injury prevention! I’m not just talking pinching or squashing. If you plan to be around kids, an athletic cup may even be in order, because kids seem to have the accuracy of marksmen when it comes to hurtling their head, shoulders and elbows directly into the groins of guys in superhero costumes.
If you absolutely do not want to wear a dance belt then spandex costumes are not for you. Choose something significantly less clingy. Otherwise, expect to get the dance belt talk from that super cute cosplayer you are freaking out with your dangly man bits. The dance belt talk is very real, and it’s really awkward for everyone involved. Consider this your dance belt talk. Internet anonymity can sometimes be a good thing.