"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." - Abraham Lincoln.
What's in choosing a character for a cosplay?
The question is as ambiguous as the question "What is art?" I'm asking this because of the trends I've observed when people have chosen cosplay. On my Facebook account, which I use to network and help like other cosplayers pages from around the globe, I've seen people choose because a character is currently relevant or a constant favorite. I've seen others choose a character because their inhibition in exhibition, some like a genre a character can follow (such as the current staple of the genre of Steampunk). Of course, then you have people, like myself, who like to choose characters you can relate to in someway so you can easily attribute an act or attitude to a costume to even elaborate upon the suspension of disbelief3 and add to the whole cosplay experience of "becoming someone else".
Below I'll list all the characters i've ever cosplayed (Or try to remember) and then list why (on a few) I chose them and what attitude I was able to tap into with each.
-Rinoa Heartilly - Final Fantasy VIII
-Lenneth Valkyrie - Valkyrie Profile
-Lenneth Valkyrie (Wedding Dress) - Valkyrie Profile
-Platina (Adult) - Valkyrie Profile
-The Return Card - Cardcaptors
-Organic Angel Alexiel - Angel Sanctuary
-Unicorn cloth armor - Aion
-Amalthea - The Last Unicorn
-Almira - Over Zenith / Sword of Etheria
-Morrigan Aensland - Darkstalkers
- High Priestess Pharangesie - The Heroic Legend of Arislan / Arslan Senki
-Pharangesie - Amano Version
-Splicer - Bioshock
-Ichigo Kurosaki - Bleach
-Sialeeds Falenas - Suikoden V
-Tifa Lockheart - Advent Children
-Mono - Shadow of the Colossus
-Chun-li - Street Fighter
-B-ko Daitokuji - Project A-ko
-Priss Asagiri - Bubblegum Crisis 2040
-Poison Ivy - Batman
-Barbarella - Barbarella : Queen of the Galaxy
-White Rabbit - Alice in Wonderland
-Alice - Alice in Wonderland (No Flutter's Design)
-Akasha - Queen of the Damned
-Black Canary - D.C. Comics
-Rapunzel - Rapunzel
-Lyanna Stark - A Song of Fire and Ice
-Shiera Seastar - A Song of Fire and Ice
-Galadriel - Lord of the Rings
-Isabeau d'Anjou - Ladyhawke
-The Childlike Empress - The Neverending Story
-Sarah Williams - Labyrinth
-Sarah Williams - Ballgown - Labyrinth
-Arwen (Wedding Dress) - Lord of the Rings the Return of the King
-Beetlejuice (Female version) - Beetlejuice
-Ravenclaw student - Harry Potter
-Briar Rose - Disney's Sleeping Beauty
-Loki Ballgown - Avengers
-Princess Jasmine - Disney's Aladdin
-Azkadelia - Tin Man
-03 - ENDLESS
-Roller Skating outfits
-Koi Fish Mermaid
-Asian Infanta Dramaturig
-Pilot Pinup girl
-Pisces Wedding Guest
-Rocky Horror alien
-Elvis Bieber - Bad Prom Run
COMMISSIONS OR GIFTS
- Crown - Queen Arshtat - Suikoden V
-Georg's armor - Suikoden V
-Kyle's armor - Suikoden V
-Lezard Valeth - Valkyrie Profile
-Cheshire Cat - Alice in Wonderland
-Gieve - The Heroic Legend of Arislan / Arslan Senki
I don't think that is all of them, those are all the ones I can remember and/or if forgotten I at least had a photo to remind me.
I'm going to choose my first cosplay, my favorite character to dress as and the one that surprised me the most to have fun dressing as (was outside of what I was used to).
Technically Rinoa would have been my first cosplay (12 years old) but, I don't usually count it because I didn't know how to sew and I just hand sewed two pieces of curtain together and it didn't look very good. So I usually go to Organic Angel Alexiel because I actually had a machine, I went out and bought pleather and pvc pipe and wings, etc. as my first.
I chose Organic Angel Alexiel because, at the time I had recently turned 17 and life questions such as "What do you believe in?" were very prominent in my life at the time. Organic Angel Alexiel was a creation of God's and God's favorite, created only to worship and love her creator. Alexiel was banished and later her physical body was incarcerated in a crystal, her soul, damned to reincarnate (over and over) into different suffering human beings for not returning God's love the way he wanted. [More info : HERE]
In my own life I had been a devout Apostolic Pentecostal girl, I had for a small time been Christian home schooled and had returned to public school for several months. The world was not at all what I was taught it to be and I began to question what I was observing. This was also around the time when I started getting into anime and came across the manga series Angel Sanctuary. I knew some of the material wasn't "suitable" for reading for someone in my religion, but I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and religious tones of the story. I favored the character Organic Angel Alexiel in particular for her strength and stoic attitude that protected her kind heart. At school, I tried preaching at my peers, some cried, some got angry, some tried to follow what I said. It was strange trying to change people and I began realizing that I may be the one who was wrong. As I continued to doubt and question my church "family", who had always made me feel like I was constantly on the long road to hell (even when I was strictly devout) turned on me, more physically aggressively and not just verbally.
Some actions against me included, My cross from this cosplay was broken. I was rebuked and prayed over and sent to many groups to be "diagnosed" for spirits that were oppressing me and making me turn into a bad person. I was surrounded and pressured to take my Angel Sanctuary book and rip each page out and burn it in a terracotta pot in my backyard, at the time I thought I was going to vomit at the though of ripping a book.
Not exactly your fairy-tale feeling you should get from your first cosplay, but there were lots of very important lessons learned from this. The most imporant is it didn't stop me from doing what I so very much love to do, which is making and dressing up in the costumes of characters I love.
My sister, who witnessed all of this go down and hated it, has asked me for years to revisit this costume. It's taken me a bit to get over the negativity associated with it but, I do feel like I will be planning on remaking this in the near future and when I do I want my story to be published with my achievement and overcoming and to spread that message to others to not give up on what you love.
Lenneth Valkyrie, another ethereal being and the one character that has traveled with me through the years and still remains closest to my heart. I saw Lenneth, years before I ever encountered Alexiel. I was maybe 11 or 12 and a free issue of Silicon Magazine sat the counter of Game X Change with an advertisement for a new game coming to the PSX called Valkyrie Profile. It was love at first sight when I saw Lenneth. I hid the magazine from my medling mother who thought all videogames were "boy stuff" and I cut out the picture of Lenneth and taped her to the wall next to my bed.
It wasn't till a year later when I was able to purchase the game for $20 on clearance. I still have that copy to this day. As I played the game I loved Lenneth more and more, she was everything I wanted to be when I grew into a woman. Strong, beautiful, a leader and didn't need any man to save her...*spoiler* Eventually becoming creator of the universe (in the good ending).
As I grew older, I gained more skills in cosplay and finally created her armor with help in 2007. I cannot begin to explain what it was like to walk around Anime Central in Rosemont, Illinois in that armor with several people running up and screaming out to me "Valkyrie!" "Lady Valkyrie!" Some wanted photos or video, some wanted to chat and others ran up to me and gave me hugs. Thinking of it now moistens the eyes a bit. All I can say is that it was incredible, the presence this costume brings into a room -with it's tall feathered helmet and gilded skirt. It's modest but, still has so much POW! to it, more women should wear armor. Also, at the time I was not a Pentecostal but, still a Christian at the time and associated wearing the armor with wearing the armor of God and added that emotion to costume when I wore it. I don't always add religion to the equation when I do my costumes, these past two just happen to be during a time when it was a larger issue in my life.
I've collected merchandise and all kinds of art of Valkyrie Profile, I will even be getting a V.P. tattoo sometime in the future. <3
Gosh, I feel like this entry is super long...
Lastly, is something I never embarked on before but, after doing it -unexpectedly had a lot of silly fun and would probably do more. Welcome to the world of cross-play and gender-bending!
I never thought I'd be any good at either since I have such a feminine figure and looks, however I felt game when a friend asked me to "Prom", Bad Prom Run that is. I started looking up ugly prom dresses until he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was getting him a corsage. It then clicked that he wanted me to dress as a man for the run. I didn't even question it, the idea was so bizarre for me and yet exciting to try out. The idea that someone thought I could pull off a guy character was encouraging. I went straight to every thrift store I could and came up with this character.
That night everyone laughed ourselves sick, I put on the character of a brutish, rude and flirtatious prom date and he was a giggly, naive and moody. We were complete caricatures of the opposite gender, it was ridiculous, it was inappropriate and hilarious. Don't limit yourself in cosplay to just characters you are comfortable with, go outside your comfort zone and sometimes you'll surprise yourself.
Have any cosplay stories of your own? Why do you cosplay? Feel free to share below.
Love x Peace,
A twenty-something, fabric hoarding, geek loving, freelance artist who is young at heart and has a sense of adventure.