Being up at 3am on the morning of the convention still gluing things to your costume is basically a cosplayer’s rite of passage, but even last minute costumes don’t have to be that painful.
Top image by Steamkittens
This time last year I was in that position myself — I had just started playing League of Legends, and all my new friends and teammates in the game were planning their League cosplays for PAX. Aussie cosplay video legends Deerstalker Pictures were being sent down to Melbourne by Riot to exclusively film LoL cosplays. I had to be a part of it. The only problem was, I had wasted the better part of a month spending all my time just playing the game, and I only had three weeks left to make the costume. Oh and I chose one of the most heavily and impractically armoured champions in the game, Shyvana.
Somehow, somehow it came together in the end, but it also made two out of four days of my PAX 2014 experience a hell of last minute gluing, poorly thought out armour placement and wearing the only costume that has actually bruised me after a day at the convention. I’ve experienced all this so that you don’t have to — fellow last minute costumers, heed my words!
The best way to approach last minute costumes is to go into it with the knowledge that you will most likely not finish this costume. The important thing is to know instead what parts you have to finish, and what parts are optional. Make a list, from most important to least important, and imagine that the last third of the list is not going to get completed. Is the costume still worth wearing at that point?
Usually props are one of the lowest things on the list — a costume is a costume, after all, and any weapons or accessories tend to be secondary. Some props can be strategic cover for a half finished costume, however — a large shield for example, which is usually quite quick to make, and can be held in photos to hide any rushed parts of the costume underneath.
You can never really know with last minute cosplays — you may end up getting everything done and end up with time left to spare, but prioritising guarantees you will at least get the most important pieces finished. After all it’s no use having the most detailed armoured pauldrons ever if you have nothing to wear underneath them.
There is a purist centre of the cosplay community that looks down on those who choose to buy pieces for their costumes — but the rest of us tend to ignore those guys most of the time. It’s no big deal if you buy bits for your costumes (I’ve done it myself, plenty of times) and if you’re making a costume with a time limit, it even comes highly recommended. No one has time to mess around with patterns for pants or shirts or dresses that you could realistically buy in your closest Target, so don’t sweat it. No one’s going to confiscate your cosplayer badge for buying a pair of pants.
Photo by What A Big Camera
Well, mostly beg and borrow because stealing is bad, but the point still stands that your friends and the local cosplay community is going to be one of your best resources for last minute supplies. Wigs are cheap and plentiful online, but when you’re buying them from the USA or Hong Kong it can often be impossible to get them shipped to you within a few weeks. Chances are you know someone with a similar or even identical wig to the one you need, which you should be able to either buy off them or borrow it for the duration of the convention. A roll of Worbla may take a few weeks to be shipped to your house, but one of your friends might have extra stashed away that they’d be willing to sell onto you. Even if you don’t have many friends who cosplay, you can always hit up your local cosplay Facebook group — I mentioned a few of the bigger ones here, and I’ve found the people in them are always happy to help.
This tip doesn’t really make much sense until we go back to that overly ambitious Shyvana cosplay that I built last year, in the space of three weeks. It was the day before my flight down to Melbourne and everything was looking great. I had all these perfect, shiny armour pieces — the paint was dry, the Worbla was smooth, but there was only one problem. I had no way of actually attaching them to me. Given Shyvana’s armour is one of those irritating fantasy designs that seems to float on the character with no actual points of attachment, I really should have thought about this earlier. I did manage to rig up a system of Velcro and leather ties that kind of held together for the day, but I still wish I had put more thought into it earlier — a lot more thought.
Photo by League of Legends Oceania
While it would be ideal to take as much time with each costume as you needed to finish it properly, the sad fact is that cosplay rarely works that way. Cosplay’s lifeblood is the last-minute rush, the pre-con all-nighters and furiously hand sewing in your hotel room. So if you want to get the true cosplay experience before PAX Aus, why rush? There’s still three whole weeks.
This post originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.