After making your costume, debuting it at a convention is a wonderful experience as you let people know who you are, how you did it, and generally meet friends and make new ones through your costume. Normally the people you meet at a convention have similar interests like you, and it’s a great way to be your true self.
But what is the general know-how and rules of the convention scene? How should a new attendee to a convention behave? And how should a new cosplayer be ready for the event ahead of them?
Picking A Convention
Something that sounds easy but the reality shows that if you’re running on a budget, or if you have never attended a convention before, you really want to get the right convention to go to first time round. And yes there are many different types of conventions to attend. Ranging from anime, comics, TV, movies, steampunk, lolita and gaming conventions, to specific fandom conventions such as Harry Potter, Star Trek, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, and Doctor Who.
If you’re a first timer, you might want to try a local smaller convention, one with less crowds that can give you a general idea and feel of what to expect from a bigger event. Going head first into a convention such as MCM Comic Con, you can become very overwhelmed. So take your time, do some research, and pick a convention for you. Check out ComicConventions.co.uk for an updated list of events within the UK throughout the year, with all the websites and details you need.
Cramped Hotel Rooms
Hotels and accommodations on site of conventions can get very pricey. With the concept and means to split the costs by sharing room space, you can knock the price you pay down to one that’s really reasonable. But stuffing your room full of people you either know well (or have only spoken to online), along with everyone’s costumes and sleeping arrangements… it can lead to arguments. Sharing a family room which is fit for three people, with three people, is perfectly fine. Keeping the sharing parties to close friends will make your stay a lot smoother.
Staying on site at a convention is sometimes not the best way to go. Sure you’re closer to the action, there’s less distance to walk or travel, and a percentage of nightlife revolves around the onsite hotels and accommodations. But the nightlife might not be exactly what you was hoping for. The noise can stop you from having a good night’s sleep (which is always recommended for a long convention day ahead), and staff at these hotels can sometimes be super busy. Problems with the odd one or two overly excitable cosplayers who have had a little too much to drink can occur. Also, some of the mess that is left behind by cosplayers can be very aggravating for the staff.
Another great thing about off site accommodation is that 90% of the time it’s cheaper than staying on site, with some great deals being available. Transport can be an issue, but this is something you will need to research before you make your commitment. What would work best for you? Do you want to be close to the action with less distance to travel? Or would you prefer a quiet night’s sleep, which may mean having to stump a little more cash to travel to the event?
Making That Packing List
You will thank me for this later, as I have learnt from my own mistakes. Without a packing list you are guaranteed to forget crucial items you need. Be it something for your cosplay, or for your stay during the convention. This isn’t just a one-off thing. There are a plethora of con goers out there who have attended events all around the world and realised they have left something of importance on their table back home. If you’re taking multiple costumes, be sure to make a list of every piece of each costume; from your base outfits, props, straps, belts, shoes, armour, or special accessories. This way you can tick them off as you pack your bags.
It’s also good to list any regular clothing, bathroom, hygiene necessities and any medication you want to take. Your costumes are important, but so is your health and your comfort for travelling to and from the event. It’s also good to list any paperwork you need to take and keep these in plastic folders, be it tickets to the convention and hotel reservations. There is nothing worse than turning up to the event only to panic when you realise you’ve left your tickets back home.
Food & Snacks
A lot of places on site can be really expensive to eat at, and take-out can be a little bit awkward or take too long to arrive. Having food and snacks at hand in your room is great. Basic snacks like health and energy bars, cup noodles (because most accommodation will have a kettle), fruit, and non-refrigerated foods can be a great way to give you a little boost. Having food that’s small and lightweight is also great for putting in your bag or special pouches of your costume (yes, those exist).
One great tip that I learned from other cosplayers. If your hotel doesn’t have a fridge, take bottles of drink and before you leave the hotel room, fill up the bath or sink with cold water and place your cartons or bottles inside. When you come back from the convention (or even throughout the night), your drinks will be kept nice and cold. All you need to do is grab a towel and wipe the water off.
The Long Weekend Plan
Planing what you want to achieve and do over the convention weekend can lessen your stress and also remind you of what events, panels and photoshoots are happening. Going through a convention’s schedule is always recommended. Pick the events that are most important to you, then plan the rest of your weekend around them. Sometimes you will get caught up in the moment and you will miss something, but don’t worry. There’s always a chance you’ll catch it on YouTube, or you can ask the event pages for coverage.
Keep The Dealers Hanging
One key rule, which is easily overruled once you get hit with the excitement and the breathtaking environment of the dealers room; you really shouldn’t go splashing your cash as soon as you enter the convention or dealers room. Make a budget for your time during the convention (for each day if it really helps), and any left over cash from the day can go towards the next day. On the last day of a convention, a few dealers can sometimes reduce their prices a few hours before closing. You can get items cheaper if you’re willing to haggle. Be bold and brave and ask the dealers if they will drop their prices a little bit. The same item you’re willing to pay £20 for might also be on another dealers stall for £10. And trust me, you will kick yourself for buying straight away.
Also keep in mind that the items you are buying will need to be carried around with you, so the bigger and bulkier the item, the more cumbersome it will be for you (especially if you’re in cosplay). It’s worth asking the dealers if you can leave your items behind their table, but do remember where you bought your items from, and be sure to collect them before the end of the day. Keeping on budget will allow for a much smoother stress free convention, but will also make you reconsider what items you truly desire.
Have you seen those travel sewing kits? If you’re in cosplay, then this will be your best friend. Taking the relevant spares in materials, threads, needles, pins, hot glue, hot glue gun, and small tubs of paint will help you to calm down when something goes wrong with your costume. Your costume may look and feel indestructible, but in the heat, hustle and bustle of the convention halls, as well as compromising positions needed for those epic photoshoots, your costume is prone to getting some damage.
Most conventions will have a repair area and a changing room, so it’s a good idea to locate them at the convention as a meeting point, or (in the worst case scenario) for a quick fix-me-up. And make sure to be a good sport – if you see someone distressed holding a broken prop, then be sure to lend a helping hand and offer your repair kit if you’re not using it. I have made some great friends through helping to repair someone else’s costume, and I can vouch for the great feeling when you see the person walking around the convention the following day, flaunting their newly repaired costume.
Hydration Is Key
Drinking plenty of water is vital. From previous experience, walking around in a large, heavy and complicated costume, where I didn’t drink or eat much, I ended up fainting. Keeping hydrated is key to having a fun and safe convention. During the summer, even the smallest of costumes can become hard work to wear. Although you don’t feel it, you will be using up your energy and stamina pretty fast. Keeping water bottles, energy drinks or powders with you can truly help relieve the stress your body will go through.
If you are in a large costume or a fursuit, I highly recommend installing fans or at least having them at hand. Take regular breaks to sit down and have a drink, or just to cool down a bit. Falling down in front of people because of dehydration can be embarrassing, dangerous and can also damage your costume and the hard work you have put into it. It can also ruin your convention weekend as you will ache, and feel lethargic for hours or even days after being effected by dehydration.
Personal Hygiene Is A Problem
I may sound like a broken record, and you might have heard this from your parents time and time again, but seriously, your personal hygiene affects not just you, but everyone else in the convention hall. If you are wearing a costume that will make you hot, you will sweat. You will possibly pick up items off tables, brush past others in costumes, be covered in paint or fake blood – the list is endless. Here are the key things to remember:
- Wash your hands regularly – Germs can pass so fast through your hands. Keeping a hand sanitizer on you is always a bonus.
- Cover you mouth if you sneeze or cough – Again germs will pass around the convention hall extremely fast. Although the “Con-Flu” is a long time running joke, it seriously can happen, so just be thoughtful of others.
- Deodoriser or body spray – Deodorant is the best weapon of choice for those smelly pits, and when doubled with a body spray, a close encounter photo with a friend or fan can go pleasantly well. As for someone who hasn’t bothered, it’s a complete nightmare. These items are very cheap and can range from 50p – £3, so there is no excuse!
- Shower time – What you do in your own time away from the event is up to you, but when you are attending a cosplaying event, please take into consideration that your body will sweat profusely, you will be surrounded by strangers, and you will secrete some of the deepest most embedded bits of dirt held in your skin’s pores. Showering is not time consuming, and can be done anytime. It’s a great way to end your day, relax your muscles, and a great way to wake up and be fresh and ready for a long day ahead.
It may seem a bit over the top, but there is nothing more unsettling than walking into a crowded hall with thousands of people only to be cornered by one person’s bodily odor, with no quick escape out of the hall.
Code Of Conduct
This should come naturally, but unfortunately there are some people out there who want to see the world burn. Treating people with the utmost respect is possibly one of the most important life lessons anyone can learn, and the same rules apply in the cosplay scene. “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself” does apply and the idea of personal space is still paramount. Tackling, glomping, or running at each other to embrace in a hug is not only over dramatic and annoying, but it is dangerous to the people involved and those around. It is even worse doing this to someone unexpectedly and to those in expensive, oversized costumes which have hardly any visibility. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, and you are invading someone’s personal space.
Photography is another big issue in the cosplay and convention scene. It takes just two seconds to ask, “Can I have a photo please?” Nine times out of ten the response will be, “Yes,” with the cosplayer being willing to move or pose how you want. Shoving your camera in their face (especially if they’re already posing for other photographers), or even worse, when they are clearly busy, either resting or eating, is pushing the boundaries of personal space. You will also end up with some of the worst photos of a cosplayer who spent an enormous amount of time and effort in perfecting their costume. Politeness can go a very long way, and not just with cosplayers, but with the dealers and organisers too.
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Conventions and cosplaying events can be some of the best days of your life. Using your common sense and stretching your arm to help others can not only feel gratifying, but can also create some of the best friendships you will ever have. The most important thing though is to have fun. You’re all there for something similar, and if you’re having fun, so will the people around you.
As always, if you have any questions or tips and tricks of your own that you would like answered or shared, then please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it might be featured in a future article.