Days 1142 & 1143

So I forgot to add something to the bottom half of my Ho-Oh cosplay before I proclaimed it "finished"; these totally awesome jingly coin things!
I wanted to be able to make jingly noises when I walked, and this is the proper way to do it (they're actually intended for use in belly dance). The original artwork that I'm basing this on had things around the belt that matched chains that went across the wings. I decided to forgo the wing chains when I changed the wing design from a scarf to Isis wings, so following the original design for the belt would no longer make sense, since the matching part is gone. The only way the coin belt would be even more perfect is if the coins had something Pokemon-related on them, but since it's a real bellydancing belt (as opposed to something I made), the coins have faces on them instead.

The belt was given to me by my mom, who had it for a Halloween costume. I took a lot of time untangling it, and actually had to move some of the chains around since they were spaced unevenly. Then I hand-sewed the entire thing on, since I had forgotten about it and couldn't use the machine because the belt was in the way. The entire thing is pretty heavy now (the chain holding the coins up is metal), but I rather like it. Before, the belt would ride up on my waist and sit oddly if I moved too much. Now the weight of the coins keeps everything resting properly.

I also began work on the shirt piece, since I ran out of ribbon to finish the collar. I patterned everything out, loosely based on a simple shirt pattern that I own, and added sleeves from a different shirt pattern. No pictures so far, but it did turn out better than expected. My only problem with it now is that in comparison to everything else I have, it looks so plain, just solid red. I'm trying not to worry too much about it though, since I think all of the pieces of this costume started that way. Over time, each piece naturally grew more and more detail until it looked finished. So I'm not going to force detail onto the top, I'm going to wait for inspiration to strike me the way it did with the other pieces and let it grow on it's own. If everything else gets finished and the top still looks out of place, I'll worry about it then. For now, I'm just focusing on getting the construction done.

Progress Photos (Days 1132 - 1141)

Don't worry, this looks a lot worse than it actually is.
I've been working on Ho-Oh some, and I'm surprised at how quickly I've been making progress. I'v finished the bottom half of the cosplay (the skirt-thing, finished everything except the embroidery, which I'm saving for last), and I've moved on to the top. I'm starting with the neck piece, but I ran out of gold ribbon, so I can't finish! Not sure what to do now.

Favorite features so far: The wings and the fact that I sewed on hooks and eyes so that I could pin up the back and it won't drag everywhere, but it can be let down for photoshoots.

I'm a pro at sewing on snaps.

I got so excited when I got the bottom half finished, I put on all the pieces I had and pranced around in them. The top is just a stand-in, of clearly. The wig is the one I'll be using though.

Progress on the neck piece.
This is what the back looks like when it's pinned up.
(Not really pinned though, hooked up, just easier to say "pinned.")

Everything with the back pinned up.
Everything with the back down.

Cosplay, Social Media, and "Fame"

I started writing this post a long time ago, but I couldn't decide what direction I wanted to take it in until recently, thanks in part to Chaka Cumberbatch's article on Nerd Caliber titled "The Pursuit of Cosplay Fame". Cumberbatch writes about the positive and negative effects that today's modern, easy-to-use social media has effected the cosplay community and the way we see each-other. She points out how social media has both brought cosplayers together and also unfortunately spearheaded it into a beauty contest.

It could be argued though, that cosplay was always a beauty contest, it just wasn't as in-your-face. After all, cosplay is a visual media, with the common goal being to represent a character, who usually has a pre-determined look. While that look might not always be, and usually isn't, conventionally beautiful, the closer someone gets to that look, the more appealing it is to fellow fans. How has social media influenced this?

First and foremost, social media is intensely in-your-face, and it's constant. An article on on ways to become cosplay-famous raises an interesting point, "3. Persistence - ...This also applies to online presence as well, especially if your internet name is firmly connected to your cosplay costumes or any cosplay related activities." Social media makes it easier to cosplayers to promote themselves, as opposed to before the mass outbreak of social media, when a cosplayer had to be remembered by only being seen for a day or two at a convention. Now a cosplayer can make a cosplay-specific fan page on facebook or a cosplay-specific tumblr or twitter, and you can follow them without invading their privacy the way you would if you had to follow their personal social media site or if you could only contact them via e-mail.

Personally, I love cosplay fan pages on facebook, even though I don't have one myself. I enjoy seeing other people's updates without having to see their personal updates. I also like the fact that I can 'like' pages of cosplayers across the spectrum of skill and experience. If only spectacular cosplayers were socially allowed to have fan pages, I would only see those who have skills vastly superior to my own, and while inspiring, it can also be discouraging. Sometimes, seeing cosplayers who are far beyond my skill range makes me think, "I'll never be that good, why do I even try?" Luckily, I can also see cosplayers who have around the same amount of experience and talent as myself, and even a few cosplayers who are just starting out. Sometimes the newer cosplayers are even my favorite, because I can watch them grow, but it raises the question of why someone just starting out would make a fan page (or similar social media account) for themselves if they haven't really done much for people to be fans of.

Besides the obvious reasons, like wanting to keep their personal social media accounts separate for family and job security, I think that the basic reason comes down to validation. I hesitate to use the words "validation" or "praise" because they're usually used in a derogatory way, but I can't think of any better words. We all enjoy praise for our work, we like our efforts to be recognized, whether it's in cosplay or in everyday life, it's nice to get recognition. Normally with cosplay, we get that praise from our friends, family, and occasionally a random convention-goer or two. If you compete, you'll get praise from the judges and probably a few more people who watched you compete. For the most humble of people, that's more than enough, but where's the harm in getting a little bit more recognition?

With the help of social media, a cosplayer can get compliments from strangers on any random day. For me, it's nice to log on to the computer and find a comment here on this blog or on, it encourages me to continue cosplaying (and writing about cosplaying). It's not that we need the attention, but it's encouraging. In addition to compliments, with a fan page or other public profile, you can easily ask people for help on something you're stuck on, and you'll get many more responses than if you were limited to only asking people you know. Similarly, if you're stuck and look up how to do something on the internet, you can find other cosplayers' public profiles where maybe they've already posted how to do whatever it if you're trying to do, or at the very least you'll find a method of contacting them to ask. The perceived "problem" here is that people can become cosplay-famous (pseudo-famous, or e-famous) largely in part to their social networking, and some people don't like that.

Personally, I think that most of the hate toward famous cosplayers is jealousy. Of course there's a good amount of exceptions to this generalization, but it's as good of a place as any to start. The most common complaints I see and hear about e-famous cosplayers are things along the lines of, "He doesn't deserve the attention, he's not that good," or "She didn't work that hard on her costume, why is she receiving so much praise?" The underlying context here is clearly, "I can do better," or "This other person has done better." It's hard not to get frustrated when we work so hard on a cosplay and someone else gets more attention, not because they're cosplay was more work or looks better, but because they're better at social networking.

There's really not much to be said on this. People who are, for whatever reason, better at social networking and meeting new people will always know more people. For some people it comes naturally, and for others it takes a bit of work and effort. Some people don't have time to devote to social network, with making their cosplay, a job to fund cosplay, personal life, sometimes school as well, there aren't enough hours in a day. It's safe to assume the most avid of cosplay social networkers, arguably the most well-known cosplayers, make time to do social networking, presumably by cutting out one of the previously listed activities. Some are lucky enough to get well-known enough that their cosplay funds itself. Isn't that something we'd all really love? So couldn't it be rationalized that hatred toward that is mostly jealousy? (It should be noted that professional cosplaying will not make you enough money to support yourself, at most you could support your hobby, you'd need another job to afford living expenses.)

So ultimately, is internet social networking a positive or negative thing when it comes to cosplay? I stand by my previous implications that it's positive. We can communicate with other cosplayers, and even get non-cosplayers interested in the hobby. We can share construction techniques or buying information freely, and we can keep up with each-other's cosplay lives without intruding on personal lives or having our personal lives intruded on. Yes, there are drawbacks to posting all of your cosplay business on the internet, it makes it easier for people hiding behind a screen to insult you, and when cosplayers get e-famous, we see them on multiple social networks whether we like them or not. In the end though, it comes down to eat of communication, which in my opinion, is definitely a good thing.

Conventions as a "Safe Space"

Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the cosplay community about "Cosplay is not Consent", the idea that just because someone is in cosplay (revealing or otherwise), that does not mean that it's okay to sexually harass them. While I'd really like to write more about this and add in my two-cents, it's being talked to death already. I'd like to bring up a related note instead. Why do people feel that it's okay to harass others at conventions (aside from being jerks in the first place)? It seemsrare to hear about someone going out of their way to harass someone else in everyday life, but we hear about it constantly happening at conventions and cosplay events, and we're always surprised by it.

We generally think of conventions as "safe spaces". We're all brought there by a common interest, be it anime, video games, comic books, or what have you, so it seems reasonable to assume that we're all like-minded people. We can think, "I like anime and am a generally good person, so these people who also like anime are generally good people too." Most of the time, this works out, we meet awesome people, and make good friends. However, this thinking works in reverse too, "I like anime and don't mind when strangers touch me inappropriately. These people also like anime and must not mind when strangers touch them inappropriately!" The "safe space" way of thinking can be pretty dangerous. It lets us think that we can do whatever we like, and people will be okay with it. (Which is also how you get people running around blasting music ans screaming memes, by the way.)

This is clearly more common with younger convention-goers (and people in general), and aligns with the thinking of, "That'll never happen to me!" We hear all the time about lewd comments others receive and people who get too close for comfort, but it's easy to think, "Well I've been cosplaying/going to conventions for [X-amount of time], and it hasn't happened! It'll never happen!" along with, "People aren't that bad, it was a one-time incident!" Whether or not it'll happen has nothing to do with probability, it's all about where you're at, who you're with, and whether we like it or not, what you're wearing.

Before I get into this, here's my disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form saying that those who dress in less clothing are "asking for it", I'm not saying that people who dress scantily should "know what they're getting into", or any variation of that nonsense. What I am saying is that it's easier for people to sexually harass someone who is wearing less clothes. They're an easier target, and they catch more attention. I'm using the term "they" here, but I do include myself in the instances where it applies (Yoko from Gurren Lagann, as an easy example). Harassment offenders always use the argument (in addition to "she was asking for it"), "I'm only human, I have eyes and urges, I can't help myself." Yep, you're human, which means that in addition to human "urges", you have the capability of forethought, and you can stop yourself from behaving inappropriately. I'm getting way off track here, but that about sums up my disclaimer, back to the matter at hand.

We often think that we can wear whatever we like in a convention/cosplay setting because of this "safe space" way of thinking. It's generally accepted to dress in out-of-the-norm ways at conventions and push the limits of cosplay and fashion. We wear bizarre clothes that would be vastly inappropriate in everyday situations, so it seems reasonable to assume that varying the amount of clothing would be accepted too, and it more or less is. Of course, this comes with the idiots who take that as an invitation. The ones who think, "This is a safe space, if I showed my body, I would want someone to comment on it or touch it. Let's do that to these strangers that we just met!" This goes beyond staring or even objectifying, we're parading around in costume for goodness' sake, of course people are going to look, and it's "easy" to forget that there's people behind the costumes at first glance, but the thing that makes us human is our ability to take a second before opening our mouths or reaching out our hands and think, "Wait a minute, this is another person, and this might make them uncomfortable."

So as normal human being who don't go around grabbing at each-other just because we feel like it, what can we do? Internet public service announcements and blog posts are only going to get us so far, and there's only so many ways to tell people, "quit being a jerk, you're making us afraid for our safety," but it's certainly a start. Hopefully some day soon we can change other people's way of thinking so that sexual harassment at conventions (and harassment in general) are no longer an issue, and conventions could truley be safe spaces, but that seems like such a long, long way off, and may not even be an entirely achievable goal. In the mean time, stay safe. Convention and cosplay events are still public events that anyone can participate in, even unsavory types. Keep yours wits about you and speak up if someone is making you feel uncomfortable. It's much easier to stay quiet because you don't want to cause a scene or because you're scared, but it does much more good than writing about it online or talking to your friends afterward. Don't think "Maybe I'm being unreasonable. Maybe I'm just being socially awkward. Maybe this is really okay." That's how things escalate, nip it in the bud. If it's making you uncomfortable, it's not okay.
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