I've been to New York Anime Fest before, but this is my first Otakon. One immediate difference between the two conventions is the sheer amount of cosplay going on: At NYAF, the crowd is peppered with enthusiastic cosplayers. At Otakon, the crowd *is* enthusiastic cosplayers, peppered with a few people in video game t-shirts, who may or may not look vaguely out of place depending on where you are.
Appropriately, there's plenty of cosplay panels and events to be had. Two panels, "Cosplay Solutions" and "The Origins and Lifestyle of Cosplay Subculture," had tips and advice that will probably be useful to Sailor Moon cosplayers, and aspiring cosplayers- a group in which I include myself.
At "Cosplay Solutions", run by cosplayers Arras Wiedorn and Meghan Powers, the topic was ostensibly how to cosplay on a budget, but it turned into more of a "Cosplay 101" for newbies like myself. Wiedorn recommended starting with simpler designs for your first cosplay, such as a sailor uniform, making the Senshi school uniforms a good choice.
As far as the Senshi's battle fuku are concerned, she warned to be cautious of those notoriously short skirts: "Those skirts are really, really impossibly short- it is not possible to wear a skirt that short without flashing someone," Wiedorn said. She recommends wearing a small pair of shorts under the skirt as "modesty shorts," or going to a dance store and getting a pair of what they call "booty shorts." She also suggested just wearing really nice underwear for flashing purposes, but I think I'll go with the modesty shorts, thanks.
Other useful tidbits included the fact that Aquanet hairspray makes the best cosplay hairspray (the ones that make your hair feel soft to the touch just don't hold that well, apparently), resin is a good material for making jewels on costumes, and paint foam is a good material for making props and weapons.)
The second panel, run by Anne Marie Chua Lee (known as "Red Pikachu" in cosplay circles), co-owner of redstarcostumes.com, went more into depth about both the origins of cosplay and the public perception of it. Did you know that the first cosplay on record was done by a man named Forrest J. Ackerman at the First World Sci Fi Convention in 1939? I had no idea; I thought it was a creation of '80s anime fandom. Lee also noted that the first use of the word "cosplay" in Japanese was in My Anime magazine in 1983. Depressing thought of the day; I am slightly older than the word cosplay.
During the Q&A session, one audience member asked if you should cosplay a character even if you don't have the right body type. Lee says yes: "Even if you don't fit the body type, you know what, it's okay-cosplay it anyway." She went on to say that if you truly love the character, that love will show in the costume and will make it worthwhile, something she learned when she cosplayed as Chun-Li from Street Fighter. I agree; life is too short to say "But I'm not tall enough to be Sailor Jupiter!" Besides, if only people who have bodies like anime characters were allowed to cosplay, there would be like...three cosplayers. You need more than that for a Sailor Team.
Lee recommends hitting cheap stores like Payless and Target for shoes, which are often a very expensive element in any given costume. She also recommends wearing decent underwear in case of "costume malfunctions." I'm noticing a theme of underwear as an important concern in the cosplay world.
You know, attending these panels and observing passing cosplayers has led me to observe something; Sailor Mars is pretty much the perfect cosplay. You can get a pair of red high heels at Payless, plenty of brunettes (like yours truly) can easily get away without wearing a wig, there are few accessories to worry about, and uh...well, okay, that's about it as far as advantages are concerned, but still! You get to be Sailor Mars for the day, how much more motivation do you need?
For your cosplaying pleasure, here are some cosplay sites that were recommended by one or more of the panelists:
Electrique Boutique (underwear and shoes)
Folkwear (period costumes)
All panelists also recommended utilizing the dealer's room at conventions for assembling costume pieces; just from the amount of wig and contact lens booths present in the dealer's room at Otakon this year, I would have to agree.
Above image shows Anne Marie Chua Lee (RedPikachu) dressed as Momohime from Demon Blade Muramasa; Photo by Fristle. This seasoned cosplayer doesn't have ONE Sailor Moon cosplay in her gallery at Red Star Costumes, but I think we can forgive her...for now. Stay tuned for a sampling of some of the many dedicated Sailor Moon cosplayers to be found at Otakon 2010.