It’s a lot of fun to put together a costume and cosplay at anime and comic conventions. You get to share your creativity and love for your favorite characters with thousands of other people. But, there is a lot that can go wrong to ruin your fun day of cosplay.
In general, you can avoid cosplay mistakes by keeping yourself healthy and comfortable, keeping your cosplay in good condition, and respecting other people at the convention. If you follow those three basic principles, you are bound to have a good time while cosplaying.
Of course, that advice is pretty abstract. I always find it easier to apply principles when I have some concrete examples to work with. So, I’ve put together a list of mistakes cosplayers make at conventions, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Forgetting part of your costume at home
Forgetting a piece of your cosplay is a more common mistake than you might think. Most costumes have an assortment of different parts that you need to assemble when you wear it. From the wig, to the shoes, gloves, undershirt, special effects makeup, and more, you might accidentally forget a piece of the costume at home.
If you live in commuting distance you might be able to go home and retrieve the part of your costume, but you’ll be losing precious time at the convention. If you don’t live nearby, You’ll have to do without the part of your cosplay, or wait until the next convention to wear it.
The best way to avoid this mistake is by making a list of all your costume pieces and keeping it with the cosplay. I like to make this list as soon as I’m finished making a new costume. That way when it comes time to pack and leave for a convention, I can easily go through the list and check everything off as it goes into the suitcase. You can use it again when you are packing everything up at the end of the convention, so you don’t forget anything in the hotel room.
2. Wearing a messy wig
Your hair frames your face and can seriously enhance the look of your cosplay. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don’t take care of your wig, it could easily end up with stray hairs that detract from the quality of the rest of your costume.
When you wear a wig, make sure you brush it before putting it on. It’s a good idea to spray the wig with a heavy-duty hair spray so that the strands stay in place while you’re wearing it. Use eyelash glue or spirit gum to attach the bangs and sides of the wig to your face so that they don’t get blown out of position.
You can always wash the wig after the convention if you want to use it for a different character. You’ll also want to comb and detangle the wig after you wear it to prevent any impossible knots from forming.
3. Not following costume rules
All conventions will have their own rules about costumes that you can check on the event website. These rules will cover basics, including how much the costume has to cover you, the types of special effects makeup allowed, whether full-face masks are permitted and what to do about dresses and clothing that drag on the floor.
Always make sure to read the rules of the event you are going to. You might not be allowed to create open wounds with makeup, or the rules about body coverage might be stricter than you planned for.
4. Finishing your cosplay the night before the convention
We’ve all been there. You’re in the hotel room the night before the convention frantically finishing your costume so you can wear it tomorrow. You’ll end up staying up late into the morning or even pulling an all-nighter just to get the costume to be wearable. It’s a stressful way to start your convention weekend.
Not only is it super stressful to run up against the convention deadline, but you’re also probably going to be cutting corners. You’ll end up having to safety pin or hot glue pieces to your costume, or you’ll have props and accessories that end up falling apart halfway through the day. Overall, trying to rush will lead to a lower-quality costume.
You can avoid this mistake by planning more time than you think you need to create your costume. If you think it will take you a month to sew your costume and create your props, give yourself two months. This will help you finish your costume before the convention even when life gets in the way and slows down your progress.
5. Offending others by acting in character
While a lot of focus in cosplay goes to the costume itself, there is also an aspect of roleplay. You can have fun acting as your character when you put on the costume. For the most part, this is all well and good. It just adds to the fun of cosplay.
However, it can become a problem if you use your character’s personality to harass others or become a nuisance to convention staff. It’s fine if you’ve agreed to act in character with a group of friends, but to anyone outside of your group, you should behave respectfully.
I remember several years ago when Soul Eater was popular, there were a couple of people cosplaying the character Black Star, who decided to bring his obnoxious, attention-seeking antics to life. They would shout at crowds of people and act entirely inappropriately, giving both the character and the show a bad name even though it was just a handful of people. Don’t be that person!
6. Bringing an inappropriate prop
Just like conventions have rules for costumes, they also have rules for the types of props you can bring with you. Pretty much all conventions will limit any kind of live steel, ruling out any real swords or blades of any kind. However, beyond this, the rules can vary dramatically.
Some conventions will ban anything that could possibly be used as a weapon, including baseball bats, wooden sticks used for staffs, and any trajectory items (even if it’s a kid’s water blaster or rubber-tipped bow and arrow set). Most conventions will fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
To be sure your prop is allowed at the convention, always check the rules on the website. You might also find restrictions for how large your prop can be or information on a prop-checking station that you’ll need to go to so convention staff can ensure it is safe.
7. Wearing uncomfortable shoes
Your costume might look absolutely fantastic with those 5-inch heels, but by the time you walk the three blocks from your hotel to the convention center, you will regret your choice of footwear. This goes for other types of shoes as well. You do a lot of walking at conventions. If your shoes aren’t comfortable, you’ll end up with blisters and sore feet at the end of the day.
If you want to wear the shoes that are more accurate to your costume (even though they are uncomfortable), I recommend packing a pair of flats or tennis shoes in a bag that you carry around with you. When your feet can’t take it anymore, you can switch to your more comfortable pair.
8. Not watching where you’re going
Most cosplay costumes are very different from the clothes we wear on an everyday basis. They are often bulkier, taking up more space around you and making it easier to accidentally get in the way of other con-goers. Wigs also limit your peripheral vision, preventing you from having a good eye on your surroundings.
Because of this, you’ll need to take extra care while you’re walking around the convention, especially in crowded spaces. Stick to the sides of hallways, and try to be aware of your surroundings so you don’t run into anyone. You also want to watch out for any skirts, dresses, sashes, or flowing costume pieces when you are going up and down stairs and escalators.
9. Not ironing your costume
One of the easiest ways to level up your cosplay is to iron it! If you don’t take the time to iron your costume before you put it on, it’s likely to look wrinkled and unfinished. Even if you put a lot of work into the costume, all the wrinkles will keep your cosplay from standing out in the crowd.
While it can seem tedious, I recommend ironing your costume in the hotel room as soon as you unpack it from your suitcase. Then hang it up in the closet until you’re ready to wear it. This will save you a little bit of time later while also keeping your costume looking its best.
10. Forgetting to take care of yourself
As much fun as conventions are, you might occasionally forget to take care of your basic needs. This means you need to remember to eat and shower every day. Partially this is out of respect for others. No one wants to hang out with someone who is smelly and hangry all day. But more importantly, it’s about taking care of your own health.
Make sure you have at least two good meals a day, with small snacks (like granola bars) to help keep you going too. There are usually fast food options in the convention area, but you can also choose to bring your own food if you’re on a budget.
11. Trespassing in prohibited areas
Most of the time, a convention is only renting out the buildings where the actual event is happening. The areas outside the convention center or hotel premises are not part of the event. Despite this, it’s common for cosplayers to take over the area a block or two around the convention center.
If this area is public property, like a public park or pier, then there is nothing wrong with spreading out for photoshoots and fun. However, you need to be careful about any areas that are private property. Just because the garden of a nearby building looks like a great place for photos, doesn’t mean you can trample all over it for cosplay. Be respectful of the homes and businesses in the area.
12. Forgetting about your badge
Your badge is your ticket to get inside the convention doors. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to forget about the badge when you are focusing on putting your costume on. With the recent rise of mailed badges, this could be devastating if you forget your badge at home.
Even if you only forgot the badge in the hotel room, there is still the long trek back just because you forgot a small piece of plastic. Get in the habit of doing a badge check every time you leave the hotel room so that you can avoid forgetting it.
Badges are also inconvenient for cosplay because they are not a part of your costume. If you forget about your badge when someone wants a picture of you, you’ll end up with an ugly plastic necklace in all of your photos.
One way around this is to flip the badge around behind you whenever you’re in a photo. Alternatively, you can attach your badge to a bag, or a belt and keep it tucked away behind you so it won’t ruin your photos.
13. Not preparing poses for your character
Sometimes you’re so excited about getting your cosplay finished and going to the convention that you completely forget to think about posing. When someone comes up and asks for a photo, you suddenly have no idea how to stand or what to do with your hands.
Do yourself a favor and decide on some poses before you get to the convention. Practice them with your costume on in front of the mirror to make sure you and your costume look good and are ready for photos.
If you’re having trouble coming up with good poses for your character, check out my guide for some quick tips.
14. Getting separated from your phone
The problem with many cosplay costumes is that they have no pockets. There is no place to hold your phone or wallet when you’re walking around the convention. In addition, many costumes are quite bulky, so it’s difficult to carry a bag of personal belongings with you. As a result, it’s quite common for cosplayers to give their phone and wallet to a friend to hold onto.
If you do this, you want to make sure you always stay with that friend. It’s happened on more than one occasion that a cosplayer split off from their friend to enjoy different parts of the convention. They realized too late that they no longer have their phone with them, and cannot contact their friend to get it back.
Always pay attention to who has your phone so that you can take it back from them when the two of you split up.
15. Not getting enough sleep
While it is rarely talked about among con-goers, failing to get enough sleep is one of the most common mistakes. Some raves and parties go deep into the night. If you want time to get into your costume the next morning and enjoy the convention, you will end up with a sleep deficit.
Not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult to keep up your energy throughout the convention weekend. You’re more likely to end up cranky by the end of the day, not enjoying the event as much as you want to.
I may sound like the ultimate convention mom saying this, but please make sure you prioritize your rest and get at least seven or eight hours a night. It’s better for your health, and you will have more fun cosplaying.