NYCC ’17: Learning The Basics At The Cosplay Armor & Props Panel

by James Ferguson

I will admit that I didn’t originally intend to cover the Cosplay Armor & Props panel at this year’s New York Comic Con. I wanted to make sure that I got into the next panel in the room cover Power Rangers comics. That being said, I was provided a quick Cosplay 101 course and my eyes were really opened to the time and dedication people put into this.

Attending the panel were cosplayers Spectra, Becka Noel, Lua Suicide, Joanna Mari, and Hooked on Phoenix. Dhareza Cosplayza moderated the third annual discussion. This was designed for anyone interested in cosplay to learn how to start, as well as some tips and tricks.
The panel began with…well…the beginning. Before you begin work on your cosplay, it’s best to create something to work with, so you’re not building the pieces on yourself. There are two methods for this. The first is to create a duct tape dummy by wrapping your body in saran wrap and then going over it in duct tape. Don’t cover your head and/or face! If you’re planning on wearing anything under your cosplay (e.g. bra, t-shirt), make sure you’ve got that on too. Once that’s all set, have a friend carefully cut you out of it. Now you’ve got a mannequin that’s built to your specifications.
The other method is to trace out pieces on card stock. This seems to be better for helmets while the duct tape dummy is better for the main body pieces. When asked which method he used, Spectra said he went with the card stock. “My roommates are very incompetent and I don’t trust them with scissors and duct tape around me.”

The main materials for building cosplay are foam and Warbla. The former is cheaper and more flexible, but doesn’t last as long while the latter is pricier, but very sturdy. Warbla is basically plastic with a little adhesive in it. Unlike foam, you can re-purpose scraps by melting them with a heat gun and molding it. A brief video was shown displaying how to create Elektra’s sais out of Warbla scraps which was pretty impressive. You use the same basic tools for both materials. Make sure you put down something to protect your floors or tables when using the heat gun!
Once your mold is complete, you’ll move on to priming and painting. The panel suggested Plati-Dip and Mod Podge for priming. It’s good to prime Warbla before painting to ensure a nice smooth surface.
To hold pieces like shoulder pads or arm guards, the panel suggested elastic straps and buckles. You could glue them to your cosplay, but that can’t get rather messy so be careful. Chicago screws are also helpful in securing the straps in place.

One of the most important tips is to try it on first. Don’t wait until you get to the convention before putting on your cosplay for the first time. Make sure it’s comfortable too! This is something you’re going to be wearing for awhile.
The panel was then opened to a Q&A. An audience member asked where to go for supplies. TNT Cosplay Supplies, Amazon, and local hardware stores were suggested. Fans local to New York can also check out Manhattan Wardrobe Supply which now features a cosplay section. They also have a booth at NYCC at #844.
A fan who has previously attended NYCC dressed in an impressive Voltron costume asked about how the panelists transport their cosplay for conventions. They suggested hard shell suitcases with the pieces wrapped in bubble wrap. Ideally, the cosplay will be broken down into smaller pieces. Cosplayza said he builds his cosplay so that everything will fit into the chest piece when transporting it. Another tip is to write a nice letter to the TSA explaining what’s in the suitcase and maybe include a picture of it and/or yourself wearing it.
For other tips as to how to get started, the panelists suggested YouTube as there are a ton of great cosplay channels. It’s also helpful to do it as a group as that’s how they got started. They all learned together over the past five or so years.

A fan asked about the best way to outfit his wheelchair into a Gundam cockpit. This was met with excitement and awe from the panelists. The Voltron fan suggested to build a PVC skeleton around the wheelchair and build on top of it. Foam comes in large sheets and is pretty light and flexible.
Another fan asked about how to get a battle worn look on armor. You can use a sautering iron or a hot knife to cut into the armor, then paint it a dark brown or black. Also, if you mess up while creating something, you could just turn it into battle damage.
This wasn’t a panel originally on my radar, but I’m glad I was able to check it out. It was super informative and pretty fun. The cosplay community is very inclusive and welcoming to anyone interested in taking part. These are fans that are so into something that they want to share that love by dressing up as their favorite characters. That’s not something that can be said for an average fan.

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