So, you want to start a cosplay group? Let’s take a look at a few things you might want think about first…
#1 Teamup, teamup, teamup!
First time I’ve ever worn a sci-fi costume in public was in 2007. First time I’ve ever cosplayed as a part of a cosplay group (personal definition – more than two people, since that would be couples cosplay, at least the was it’s most often done in Croatia) was in 2015. The trouble is – once you do group cosplay right, it gets addictive. I’ve done one solo cosplay in the whole of 2017, and have none planned for 2018. It’s just… the more the merrier, at least when your primary focus is fun.
#2 Encourage new cosplayers to join
Group cosplays are great to start cosplaying, since you’re in direct contact with experienced cosplayers – or, at the very least, you can literally hide in the group and thus evade the “all eyes on me” feeling, especially if that’s an issue for you. You’re all in it together! (And the mutual excitement is contagious.)
#3 Know your cosplay buddies
You don’t necessarily have to be who you hang the most with (to borrow the saying of old), but it pays to know who the people you’re teaming up with for something seemingly impossible are. Do they share your appreciation (or ignorance) for detail? How much (time and other resources) are they willing to spend on the costumes and props? Would they dress up as something another co-cosplayer came up with? What’s their attention span (see below, regarding patience)? You can team up with best friends and complete strangers alike, but take a few minutes to get to know them, first – it’ll make things easier.
What we did, when planning the Eldritch Horror boardgame investigators group for Rikon 2017, was to make sure every member of the group participated in at least one Eldritch boardgame session before cosplaying it – it was a question of pride, after all, since it’s a rare thing to cosplay, and one of the things that came naturally to us was the idea to promote the game at least a little bit at the convention. Boardgames, prop workshops etc. are a great teambuilding exercise, and they only take a couple of hours, most often indoors, which makes them easy to organize. If you have a wild card among yourselves – someone you can’t really count on, or someone prone to random bursts of negative emotion – it’s worth knowing it in advance, since while in costume and in public it might be harder to manage it if it catches you unawares.
#4 Fandom is all
If you’re just starting out as a group (and especially if you have a lot of beginners in the group – we had 8 in a group of 12) you need to find a common theme which is fun enough for all of you. It doesn’t have to be that important to everyone, but they need to at least like it. My first cosplay group ever grew around one idea – we are not things, from Mad Max: Fury Road. I really wanted to cosplay Toast (and planned to do it alone), but once I started telling my friends about it, three of them wanted to join basically of their own volition, because they had liked the movie (and its womens’ empowerment message) as much as I did. Thus, a group was born.
Sure, in time, you might join cosplay groups just for the sake of the group, or play with fandoms outside your regular interest area a bit, but when you’re starting out, make sure it’s something everybody likes. No, it might not be easy. But it will be well worth the effort!
#5 Involve everyone in the crafting process
If you’re the most experienced cosplayer in your respective group, you might be tempted to speed things along or do the most of the work yourself – but the idea is to get others hooked on cosplaying, not to do it for them. People will be way, way more into it if they get to do at least a little bit of the prep. Getting everyone together might take a bit of work – especially if you cosplay with people living 130 miles apart, which I’ve been doing for two years now – but ti will be worth it.
Cosplay tends to let people grow their crafting skills, their organizing skills, sometimes even learn something completely new. Every single member of your group will have something to add to the skillpool – we had one decidedly non-craftsy cosplayer do most of our logistics and grow the group in numbers due to her addictive passion for Eldritch Horror – and most of our members went above and beyond anything they’d previously thought themselves capable of. Cherry on top – most of them are looking forward to their next cosplay adventure!
#6 Don’t be afraid to wait
The group od 12 people took a full year (actually, a year and one month) to plan and bring together, due to us choosing the perfect convention for that particular cosplay. It started with cca 6 of us, but it grew organically, with friends and partners joining in – as good things have a habit of doing. The day after the convention ended, five of us agreed on a cosplay for a convention ten months away from that exact date.
Sometimes the best cosplays appear mere weeks after their original content came out, or even in advance (due to great promo pictures) – sometimes, though, they take time. Individual cosplays, too, can take up to a better part of a year to prepare – and it’s up to you to decide whether you can wait that long, or if you’re one of those (majority of) people who have to have it now. I’m just saying – delayed gratification has quite a few advantages.
#7 Have at least a general idea of the convention schedule for your group members
I’ve cosplayed alongside gamer geeks, social butterflies, frightened introverts, people in charge of sound & lighting, panel attendees, panelists… It’s easier to gather the group for an impromptu photo session with a great photographer who happens to approach you – or even for the scheduled cosplay fashion show – if you have at least a general idea where to find your co-cosplayers! If your group consists of people who are not a regular convention squad, have a quick Q&A regarding what their plans are beforehand and find out how available they will be when one or more of you get the inevitable “There’s how many of you?”
Another thing to consider is the fact that you’re not one person anymore – you (yes, you!) are a group. Cosplay groups tend to travel in pack, and we’ve had more than one occasion when an event at a convention basically filled up because our cosplay buddies showed up. Yay!
#8 Get a group photo while you’re all still sober
…or at least more than 50%. Cosplaying takes a bit more effort than just attending a convention, and it pays off to leave the hard partying altogether for after you take the costumes off. Your costumes (and other con attendees) will be grateful!
#9 Be sure who’s in charge of costumes and props
There are a few ways to approach this, but, whether one person is the designated costume department (and costume transport), or every person is responsible for their own costume and prop parts before and during the event, make sure everyone knows that! If it’s one person, they need to be reliable (and a willing victim for the greater good). I do suggest taking the other road – having every cosplayer responsible for themselves. Sure, that way, somebody will forget one thing or another – but the shared responsibility is not only more legit, but sometimes it’s the only way to go.
Also, it seems that there is no way to make sure everyone comes to the venue at the same time (unless you happen to have a minivan or a bus), so discuss meeting times for photos and the fashion show in advance.
#10 Things will go boom
It’s what things have a pesky habit of doing. And you know what? It’s not your fault. Or your cosplay buddy’s. Or the organizers’. Or anyone’s, for that matter – it’s just the way life goes. Relax, take a step back, grab a drink, gulp some water or (sometimes even more important) some fresh air, fix that damn wig one more time, straighten up your back, and march ever onward.
#11 Do it again!
… trust me, if you do it right, it will be nearly impossible not to.
What are you waiting for?
Cover photo by Danijel Štriga, 2017.