A guest post from Marian – a British model and cos-player who uses geekdom to overcome mental and physical health issues. Read how cosplay changed her life. Instagram: mantovani_cosplay
Many take the opportunity to discover a multitude of ways a person can transform themselves into their favourite characters, whilst remaining within a strict budget. Do-it-yourself crafting and creating becomes the pinnacle of this artform, spinning off a plethora of You Tube videos dedicated to the transformation of regular, every-day objects, into the intricate and impressive details displayed on the costumes.
Cosplay is a creative outlet to allow individual expression and interpretation on costumes worn by favourite characters from film, television, videogaming, books and any other platform someone may feel passionate about. The main premise is to create costumes that represent a character you wish to dress up as. Cosplay originated from Japan, through Japanese Manga and anime, but has since taken the world by storm and expanded to all of the genres we see today.
The beauty about cosplay is that anyone can do it. The number of doctors, lawyers, teachers and people in serious professions, who I have met doing cosplay, is unlimited. It’s a place of freedom and expression. I would recommend that everyone should experience it at least once in their life. To me, it has allowed me to access a world that makes me feel unafraid to be the person I want to be, but also it has helped me feel more positive during times of deep depression and anxiety due to major health complications over the last several years, as well as the loss of my father. The support and love is amazing.
My first taste of cosplay was in 2012, where I was approached by a lovely producer of a local comic con. He needed a Catwoman to compliment the Batman section of the con, so he wondered if I would be interested. I have a long history of theatre experience, so dressing up wasn’t new to me, although the idea of getting myself into a catsuit made me a little anxious. I started looking into the character. There are many variations of Catwoman, but I knew I was going to be the Catwoman from the film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, so I was researching specific details for that particular costume. It was a little tougher because the movie had just been released at the cinema, so there wasn’t that much source material out there to purchase. I did manage to find a screen-accurate replica of the mask, and the catsuit I bought from a Japanese company online. I already had boots, so my main concern was her belt, which is a unique piece and something I definitely couldn’t find to buy. Luckily, the producer of the convention was also a fantastic graphic designer, so he put together a blue-print of the belt and sent it off to be created. It is still one of my favourite pieces of costume today.
The day came and I was so nervous. I knew no one. I was shown to a make-shift dressing area at the venue and was sandwiched into a room with a Princess Leia, Chewbacca, a Jack Sparrow, Bane and several other sci-fi characters. They made me feel so welcome (I am still friends with them to this day). Once I was suited up, I followed Bane down to where we were to stand and I met up with the Batman there too. Then, something crazy happened…
The crowd… I have never felt so popular in all my life. All of a sudden, I had a multitude of people asking if they could take my photo, or even have their photo taken with me. I had tens of hundreds of children waving at me, shouting “Catwoman!” and approaching me, smiling from ear-to-ear, because they had met their favourite character. There were little girls dressed in little cat outfits, who wanted to be in the picture with me because they saw me as the ‘real thing’. My heart was so full, especially for the children who had clear disabilities – those were the special moments, making them smile. I imagined that this was what working at Disney World must be like.
I recall not being sure of where to look because all I could see was a milieu of phones and cameras pointing at me. It was incredible. I remember thinking that this was what fame must feel like in some way. It was such a buzz. I could hardly move without someone wanting photos. And I loved it. It’s something I will never forget, and it’s one of the main reasons I continued to cosplay. The day went perfectly. I felt fulfilled and superb.
After that day I continued to cosplay at various events, each one different and each one I felt an increasing confidence. I began improving my costume with little details – I upgraded my boots to more screen-accurate versions; I bought false hair extensions to have longer hair like the actress in the film, etc.
The energy it takes to consistently pose all day is exhausting – but you don’t know it until you are on your way home, because the adrenaline just pushes you through. The thrill of the day and the satisfaction of making others happy is definitely the thing that makes you feel whole, as well as the utter feeling of belonging which exudes from the other people at the convention. No one looks out of place. No one is alone. No one is too geeky or nerdy or an outcast. It is just one huge family where everyone can be who they want to be.
I still cosplay Catwoman, but since 2012 I have created multiple costumes. One of my favourite pieces is Rey from Star Wars. I am not someone who cosplays full-time. Many do it for a living, especially now with Tik Tok, where people can share their creations and interact with others to get millions of followers. I prefer to just stay old-school and attend conventions as and when I can. It’s a fantastic release from the real world, and I am thankful for my cosplay community, without who I don’t think I could have managed with life over the past few years.