After a year of brainstorming, planning, and sweating over every stitch of their costumes, this Labor Day weekend, cosplayers from across the country will be heading downtown for Dragon Con. Since its creation in 1987, Dragon Con has become a hub for cosplayers looking to flaunt their skills, with amateur costumers becoming as much of an attraction as the convention’s meticulously planned booths and panels. This year, we spoke to four cosplayers at this year’s convention about their outfits, their creative process, and the community they’ve found through cosplay. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
I do Caitlyn from the Netflix show Esoteric, and I bring older costumes. I made Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. I also bring Tifa from Final Fantasy VII.
I will really only make one costume a year myself, and it will take months. I usually do everything except shoes. I’ll start the planning phase in February, then I’ll probably start buying materials in April, and I’ll start assembling materials and actually physically working on them in June. I buy the costumes that I don’t make and have also ordered costumes from other clients. I really have to feel drawn to a character because making the costume – or even buying it and getting something really high quality – is quite expensive.
I first cosplayed on Halloween when I was 20. A group of friends and I all decided to make Nintendo costumes. I did Midna [from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess] and my partner was Link, and we got a little crazy with that. He was always artistic, and I always get crafty, and we did such a good job that everyone who saw our costumes was like, It’s too much for Halloween, you really should bring it to Dragon Con. We just drove that year and it was so much fun. We felt like celebrities – everywhere we went people wanted our pictures, and there were all these other crazy costumes everywhere.
My favorite part of cosplaying will always be getting external validation, like someone coming in and wanting my picture or wanting to talk about how I did it. I love making that connection when someone really likes what I’ve done or we can talk to each other about what we’ve created.
I intended to bring [costumes of] Yuri from Fire Emblem: Three HousesVanity of Vanitas no KarteTube of To deny: automataand Makoto Yuki from Persona 3. I could bring Royal Guard Link from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m probably also bringing Delsin Rowe from Infamous: second son. They are mostly video game characters. These are all games that I spent a lot of time on, and I really loved their stories, and I really liked the characters and thought they had cool outfits.
The creation of my cosplays can take from two months to six months. The things I’m good at and the things I get the most out of are props, so weapons, items, armor, things like that. Outfits and sewing are less of my forte, but I’m completely self-taught in both areas. I fight the sewing machine every time – it’s not a project until I bleed on it. Every one of my costumes literally has my blood, sweat and tears sewn into the seams.
Technically I’ve been cosplaying since high school, but I started getting really serious about it and putting a lot of time into it around 2016. When I was in high school, it was a lot less involved because I didn’t I didn’t have the resources, the time or the knowledge. I started spending a lot of time, deciding, Alright, I’m gonna spend every night for the next three months working on this thing.
Cosplay is my creative outlet. My biggest fear as a person is being a one-trick pony, and I’ve learned so much from cosplay and costumes that I never have to worry. [becoming that]. I can do many things just because of this hobby.
For Thursday, I’ll like Raven’s Teen Titans. On Friday, I’m doing a character called Power from a manga called Chainsaw Man. Saturday, I’m doing a character called Yor Forger from Spy X Familyand then on Sunday, I’m doing Zero Two from Darling in the Franxx. On Monday, I have a character called Mary Saotome from kakegurui.
I would say between 12 and 60 hours of work can go into creating the cosplays that I have created. I don’t sew, so none of my fabric pieces are handmade. I make accessories; I style wigs; I create small details or add additions and make small changes, but I haven’t reached the point of sewing yet. If you search on Amazon or anywhere on the internet, you can find basic cosplay. Often I start with that, then remove some parts that I think look cheaper or less authentic to the character and replace them with nicer parts.
How long I’ve been cosplaying isn’t long at all, actually. I think my very first cosplay was technically for Halloween 2020 when I did Sailor Moon. But this year, I worked hard. I did a total of 13 characters and photoshoots in nine months, which is a lot of work. I worked hard but it was so much fun.
Cosplay is not a thing or a way to create. If you put something together, you love it, it represents a character for you, it’s art and it’s creative, it’s cosplay.
I have about two cosplays a day for the four or five days. Some of them are foxy’s Five nights at Freddy’sFriendship of The House of the Owl, Sasha from amphibiansPlotter SurveillanceEmpty Esotericand Eddie Munson of Strange things.
I would say that I start preparing for Dragon Con a few months in advance. I tend to make and buy a pretty solid mix of the elements in my cosplays, and the elements that aren’t handmade are usually salvaged or modified after purchase. I’m definitely a makeup artist. I also make wigs, I also make accessories. Sewing is not my forte. I’m lucky to have a lot of talented friends around me, we trade a lot because I have a skill that someone else doesn’t have, and they have skills that I don’t. don’t have. We complement each other’s costumes in this way.
I discovered cosplay when I went to Dragon Con when I was 11 or 12. I’ve been kind of a geek all my life, so to see people who were geeks but also considered cool by other geeks for their costumes, I was like, Wow, those people were attractive and they have talent. I want to do that.
With cosplay, it’s super special to be able to do whatever you want, to be authentically weird in a way. I found myself on the cutting edge of that and found a subculture that for the most part is very welcoming. It’s really cool, and I’ve made some of my best friends through cosplay.
Disclosure: The wood was a Atlanta magazine editorial intern in 2019.