It’s the final countdown!
Sorry, I couldn’t use that line and not follow it up with Europe. The time until doors open at PAX East 2014 is now being measured in hours and, though there was an enormous flurry of activity that preceded this moment, we’re now in the period of acceptance. Whatever happens in the next few days will happen and very little will change that. Getting to this point is frequently the most stressful part of cosplaying as the last week or two before a convention is usually chock-full of critical construction, adjustments, and trials. It’s the make-or-break point for most costumes but, keeping a few things in mind, it doesn’t have to be a cavalcade of stress. The following are bits of advice I’ve cobbled together from several years of observational and anecdotal goodness.
Do: Try to have all your active construction done 72 hours before doors open.
Unless you’re one of those people who thrives on last-minute pressure, it’s a good idea to give yourself at least three days of buffer. Obviously, there are plenty of occasions where this just can’t happen, but it’s a good goal to strive for. Not only will doing this give you some wiggle room in case a portion of your costume ends up taking considerably longer than you thought, but you can still feasibly have components and materials delivered to you if you need them. Also, not having to pull all-nighters will almost assuredly make you a happier, more functional cosplayer.
Don’t: Test new cosmetics or prosthetics less than 48 hours before doors open.
If you have a reaction, the odds of it being resolved in time for the convention are slim. The ideal time to try out any makeup or prosthetics is two or more weeks before the con. At that point, your skin can recover from any irritation and, if there are any problems or something doesn’t work or appear as expected, you have plenty of time to find a replacement for the offending product.
Do: A few last-minute stress tests, but keep them small.
Just a few checks to ensure that everything is deploying/lighting up/coming together as it should can help you keep on-task so you can focus your energy on logistics and final preparations. Speaking of which…
Don’t: Forget about day-of logistics.
This seems a bit ridiculous, but it’s incredibly easy to let this less-than-fun facet of the convention experience go unconsidered. How are you getting to the convention? Can all the pieces of your costume can travel with you or do you need to ship them separately? Will you be dressing before you arrive or at the convention center itself? Are you bringing an emergency repair kit and, if so, will that be stored somewhere onsite or toted about? Does the convention's cosplay policies allow for all parts of your costume? There are few more effective ways to kill a cosplaying experience than the realization that your costume can’t actually make the trip with you. Taking a few minutes to mentally walk through the whens and hows of getting dressed and arriving at the convention center can save you numerous headaches in the not-so-distant future.
Do: Believe your Cosplay Lieutenant when they tell you that everything is fine.
We’ve extolled the virtues of having a Cosplay Lieutenant a few times now, and this is just one more reason why having a trusted individual take on this role can be so helpful. There comes a point during costume construction wherein various dour sentiments may try to sneak their way into your subconscious. These are the “This will never get done in time” or the “Ugh, this piece is coming out terribly” type thoughts, and they tend to crop up en masse in the last few weeks as the convention deadline looms large. Having an informed party appraise the situation can help you parse the legit criticisms from personal misgivings. The key to having this work out well is to trust your Lieutenant and actually believe them when they give you their opinion. On a similar, related note:
Don’t: Shy away from making tough calls about your cosplay lineup.
No cosplayer is keen to admit that the project they’ve poured significant resources into isn’t turning out as planned or can’t be completed by the day of the convention, but these things happen. Again, having a trusted second or third (or fourth or fifth) opinion at your disposal can assist with this. It helps to have people on hand who aren’t afraid to ask if you really think you can finish the costume on time. Setting firm, specific checkpoints for yourself when you’re drafting your cosplay lineup can facilitate the decision-making process.
Do: Lay out your costume, badge, and other necessities the night before the convention.
Obviously this isn’t mandatory, but it can be immensely helpful when you’re bustling about just before doors open. This takes a measure of guesswork off the table as well so you’re not trying to parse out whether you’ve forgotten anything in a pre-caffeinated haze. Also, taking this step gives you another chance to go over the costume and the plan for the next day one more time.
Don’t: Get bogged down in the minutia if you have less than a week to go.
This is something I struggle with quite a bit and am only now, years after delving into this hobby, getting comfortable with the notion of “Will anyone really notice this?” When the inclusion of, and attention to, details plays such an enormous role in determining the overall quality of a costume, it can be incredibly easy to let those selfsame details gobble up a disproportionate amount of your time and energy. Once you get within a week of doors opening, taking a discerning look at what construction you have left to complete can go a long way to save your sanity. The distinction between something that would be nice to include (but would likely not be missed) and something that truly needs to be included is often not entirely clear. This is where the opinion of your Cosplay Lieutenant comes in handy if you find yourself at a loss. Otherwise, spend some time away from the costume, review your reference images, then return and ask yourself what parts of construction really remain outstanding.
Above all, keep your ultimate goal for your cosplaying experience in mind. The last few days before a convention can be very hectic and it’s easy to lose sight of why you set out on this sartorial odyssey to begin with. A quick little reminder that, “hey, I wanted to get better at sewing and now I have,” or, “learning to chainmail was so much fun,” or, “the convention tomorrow is going to be awesome” goes a long way in powering through those remaining hours.
I’ll see you guys on the other side of PAX East 2014! Please hit up any of the social pages if you're headed there too!