Cosplaying While Fat – GeekGirlCon ’14 panel recap

A packed panel room greeted panelists for the Cosplaying While Fat.

Panelists Jo Jo Stiletto, Wolfcat, and Mickey Schulz. Image from the GeekGirlCon Flickr

Panelists Jo Jo Stiletto, Wolfcat, and Mickey Schulz. Image from the GeekGirlCon Flickr

 

Cosplaying While Fat occurred on Saturday afternoon, with the description: “Cosplaying when you’re plus-sized presents some unique challenges. Putting together an awesome costume you’ll be comfortable in can be a real challenge for a number of reasons, including how people treat you and a general lack of ‘off the rack’ options. Come hear our panelists talk about coping with the trash talk as well as how to make what you wear look great and feel comfortable.”

The panel started with brief introductions of each panelist. Jo Jo Stilletto is a Seattle burlesque performer, known as the professor of burlesque, the leading authority on all things nerdy and burlesque, recently elected the mayor of Seattle burlesque, and has been cosplaying for about 10 years; Wolfcat has been involved in fandom and coplaying since the ‘70s; and Mickey Schulz runs GeekGirlsRule.net, has been cosplaying since she was 19 years old, and is fat.

Off the bat, they tackled the point that it’s kind of hard to cosplay while fat. It’s hard to find ready made costumes that will fit, and you’re told to play “size appropriate” characters. The panel set out two goals to illustrate: 1. The importance of foundation garments and 2. Making your own cosplay. Making your own cosplay can be sewing things from scratch or taking everyday clothing with some paint or pins, bias tape, or hot glue, and altering them to work. Learn a craft. Can’t sew? Learn to knit.

What about foundation garments? Get a professional bra fitting. Going to a location such as Nordstroms is better than other locations. You won’t be required to purchase a bra there, but you’ll know your correct sizing. Most of us purchase our bras when we are one size, then wear them until they fall apart, and the elastic has been destroyed. When we go to buy a new bra, we have no idea why the same size no longer fits. Mickey says, “Seriously, get fit! Your back will thank you, so will most of your clothing and costumes.”

In terms of underwear, consider, and get used to, wearing G-strings and thongs. As Mickey said, “It’s going to ride up, so you might as well wear garments built to go there.”

Be sure to get the right size girdles and corsets. You have to sit in them all day, and too small can be painful, and in some cases, dangerous. Spanx comes in bigger sizes. Or try bony corsets and a layer or two of tights to hold stuff in.

Mickey Schulz. Image from the GeekGirlCon Flickr

Mickey Schulz. Image from the GeekGirlCon Flickr

And, you might want to consider the best way to wear latex. Latex will hold you together, but you’ll need baby powder or cornstarch, taking into account allergies you may have. Tips include wearing hose or tights underneath to help get it on and off, watch your fingernails, and roll it on and off.

There are many solutions to prevent chub rub, the chafing that occurs when inner thighs rub together. Jo Jo says she considers chub rub when planning any costume, “Will my inner thighs be bleeding by the end of the night?” She gets ice skater dance tights, which come in a surprising array of sizes. You can hike them way up, as well. Local stores that cater to roller derby are good sources of hose, fish nets, and tights in larger sizes. She wears one or two pair, which is a drag queen trick. It hides (extra hair) and shapes your legs. Mickey suggested We Love Colors for an online source for tights. There is a large selection of sizes and the fish nets are good quality. She has pairs she’s been able to wear more than once. Tip: wear socks. Or layer, wear ice skating dance tights with fish nets over them. Finding the right color tones can be a challenge.

In terms of a good thigh high look, Jo Jo suggested taking a pair of ice dance fish nets, cutting them in half, and rolling them. They then come up high enough to prevent chub rub, and create great upper butt cleavage. For those who want to do sexy cosplay, this creates a look that is hot.

To create a great cosplay, it is a matter of proportions. “It doesn’t matter what size you are or if you have the curves or not,” says Wolfcat.

Garments not staying? Spirit gum is your friend. Use carpet tape or toupee tape works really well to hold garments up or on, even if you are someone who sweats a lot. Regular eyelash adhesive is good for adhering acrylic gems to your body.

Make sure your costume fits you. Don’t stretch it. Get the next size up. If it’s pinching, it’s no good. Knowing your clothing will not be falling down or askew will keep you comfortable, and your comfort will show.

Attitude and accessories are key to pulling off cosplay. Jo Jo added, “What works for you is what works.” It’s all about attitude. “If you feel it looks amazing, then it is amazing,” she says.

“The good cosplay for any size is the one made with love.”

If you’re looking for accessories, Seattle stores Display & Costume and Pacific Northwest Costume have good selection of latex. Every major city has a store for theatrical productions. You’ll find make-up, spirit gums, things for appendages, a lot of fake blood, and stuff like that.

Wolfcat. Image from GeekGirlCon flickr.

Wolfcat. Image from GeekGirlCon flickr.

 

Make-up is usually key to cosplay success. Buy your make-up from the store for theatrical productions, not Halloween make-up. The lighting store for theatrical productions will likely have a make-up section that is well-suited for cosplay needs, better than regular or Halloween make-up. It may be more expensive, but it should last a long time.

Wolfcat went on to caution about body paint. Many cosplay places recommend watering down acrylic paint and using it as body paint. Don’t do that, she says. Why not? 1. It will clog your pores more, so it is less healthy for you. 2. It will streak. 3. It will rub off even easier on other people. If you rub up against another cosplayer, who spent hundreds of hours on their costume,  and smear it with something nearly impossible to get off, they won’t be happy.

Mehron and other theatrical costumers have body make-up that comes off with rubbing alcohol, which means it won’t smear with your sweat, it won’t rub off as easily. Kryolan is a professional clowning make-up that once set with cornstarch, you can swim in it. But, you have to buy a special cleaner or you will never get it off.

Along the same lines as bumping up against people, cosplay can give you difficulties moving around or navigating. Wigs can make you feel as though you are walking in a cave. If you have a particularly large cosplay, it’s okay to acknowledge that taking up extra room with your body and the costume. Have spotters. Spotters can help you navigate crowds, cram into elevators, prep you for photos, crowd control at photos, and other things. It helps you be a considerate con-goer. Even if you are wearing things that are normal, but make you feel like you are taking up extra space, it’s okay.

Accessories are important. Look to drag queens for tips. They are taking a body of one shape and changing it to a body of another shape. They’ll compliment broad shoulders with bustles, built-ins, and poofs at the hips to give the illusion of a waist. They’ll also do unique things with shape that is not the hourglass. We don’t all have to be the hourglass. Do weird stuff to freak out the Muggles. “Why not accentuate your butt and make that political statement in cosplay?” asks Jo Jo. Why not do a pregnant Wonder Woman? Take the stuff you already have there and give it more. Make a really bizarre, unusual, beautiful shape out of  your cosplay.

Use your assets. Extremely pale legs? Giant knockers? Incorporate that!

Don’t have to take characters we love and play them exactly as we love them. Make interesting shapes and art of the cosplay.

Again, drag queens and theatrical make-up are helpful resources. Drag queens have wonderful wigs. If you can find one to help you develop those skills, you’ll end up with fabulous wigs. If you don’t know any drag queens, just go online. On Capitol Hill in Seattle, Atomic Cosmetics (“They don’t test on animals, they test on drag queens.”) will sell you amazing lipsticks and foundations when you describe what it is you want to do. Dr. Jen is amazing. Jo Jo has a foundation called Optimus Primer, gotten from Atomic Cosmetics, that allows the make-up to just slide off without it bleeding into your skin. Drag queen and theatrical make-up can withstand so much sweat. It covers beard scruff, tattoos, and other things that you don’t want to show with your specific costume.

GGC14 Panel: Cosplaying While Fat

There is also “stealth cosplay” wherein you wear the colors of your favorite character in appropriate places, but you aren’t wearing their uniform. You’re wearing your own every day clothing.

You will destroy some clothing when doing cosplay. Use cheap clothing. Old Navy (may need to go online for plus sizes) and thrift stores can be good sources. Hot glue stuff to every day clothings. Buy stuff that is a little too big and put in a few hand stitches to make it fit better or make it take the shape that you want it to. Etsy shops sell things to work with stealth, everyday, and comfy cosplay.

Very common to see nowadays is to do comfy cosplay. That is, you want to be comfortable wearing your cosplay all day. If your cosplay cannot meet those specifications, be sure to do self-care the next day.

Don’t not play a character because its not your body shape.

Try to be comfortable, confident, and safe.

The panel turned it over to a Q&A.

  • Are there communities for larger cosplayers? Fuckyeahfatcosplay
  • How to encourage friends to cosplay?

Mickey Shulz wrote up a recap of the panel over at GeekGirlsRule.net.

GeekGirlCon loves cosplay! Be sure to be at GeekGirlCon ‘15 to see more fantastic cosplay inspired by these panels or suggest your own when programming calls open in the spring. Buy your passes now!

 

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Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

Adrienne Roehrich

Former GeekGirlCon Manager of Editorial Services, current Guest Contributor.

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