My First Cosplay
I have always loved dressing up. I loved acting growing up because I could dress up and become someone I wasn’t, I loved Halloween because I got to pick a new costume every year. Sure, I picked the same costume three years in a row, but that’s beside the point. I have always loved costumes, so when I started watching anime and discovering anime culture, cosplay jumped out at me as the coolest thing ever.
Let’s talk about what cosplay is for a minute. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a fictional character. It can be from literature, comics, movies, shows, video games or any other medium you can think of; if a character is beloved there are people who will cosplay them. This is a very popular practice for those who attend conventions. Conventions are a great place to show off a well constructed costume. The costumes often home or custom made. While at a convention, it’s common for con-goers to take pictures of cosplays they particularly like, whether because they’re fans of the character, the costume is unique, or it’s particularly well made. Group cosplays are particularly popular with picture takers.
I’ve wanted to cosplay since I was in high school. My first anime convention was a very small one and much too short notice for us to do anything for, but after seeing all the different costumes, I wanted so badly to join in. My friends and I had talked about doing an Ouran High School Host Club group cosplay at some point, but it never came to be. I would totally cut my hair to be Haruhi, though, so maybe someday.
Here’s the thing about cosplay; it can be expensive. You can buy costumes online for the more mainstream anime, but they’re super pricey, usually, and pretty cheaply made often times. To pull together something unique for a more obscure character requires a lot of time and effort on top of the cost of materials. Ever since I started regularly attending Tekko every year, I’ve been looking for an easy character to cosplay that wouldn’t be super expensive or complicated to put together. Last year, that character fell into my lap.
Rika, from Digimon Tamers is my all time favorite Digimon character. Tamers is my favorite season of Digimon and I always felt the biggest attachment to Rika, even though she struggled to make friends and connect with the other kids and her digimon partner. I loved her character development and watching her grow as a person and a tamer through the series. Last year my friend Goose told me he was going to put together a Henry costume, another main character from Tamers. I don’t know why it took me so long the think of Rika, but that it wasn’t until then that she came to mind as the perfect intro to cosplay.
I am a human who needs accountability to accomplish most things. For this, Goose was my accountability. As he sent me pictures of things he’d found for his costume and talked about what he was doing and needed and looking for I was reminded and convicted that I should be looking and working on mine too. The costume is simple enough, just a shirt and jeans with a few accessories to go with it, essentially. The hard part was going to be the heart on her shirt. I could find a baseball tee in roughly the right color, probably, but I would have to add the heart myself.
My quest began where all quests begin; at a thrift store. I managed to find the perfect pair of jeans over the summer with the cuffs and two buttons and everything. I also discovered the belt there; two parts down. The shirt was more of a challenge. You will notice that her shirt is a teal, short-sleeved baseball tee. I tried so hard to find teal and ended up with Kelly Green that looked teal in the pictures online. I knew it wouldn’t be the color I wanted, but it was the most reasonably priced shirt I had found yet, so I went with it. For the shoes I ordered a pair of red canvas sneakers that I meant to modify, but never got to. I ended up stealing a pair of my brother’s socks to get that early 2000s look.
I’ll be honest, I forgot about the two leg belts and the yellow neck piece until the very end. I couldn’t figure out if the neck thing was a scarf or a turtle neck. It could go either way, really. The shirt I found was thin, though, so I was unsure about putting a bright yellow turtleneck under it. The answer came to me as I started pulling my summer clothes out, oddly enough. I pulled a yellow t-shirt out from the back of my drawer on day and looked at the color. It matched what I needed and if folded properly, you would never know it was a t-shirt. With a little body tape and proper tucking, it worked perfectly for the neck thing-a-majig. I have yet to figure out the belt things.
I was going to dye my hair for the part, but the week before the convention Goose decided it was best if he didn’t go this year. He had a paper to present that Friday in State College, two hours away and paying full con price to go one day was not worth it, so we discussed and came to the conclusion that it was best for him to skip out. This left me with a mostly finished cosplay but no partner in crime. I debated on not wearing it and saving the whole thing for next year or whenever we can find a place to wear them, but then, you never know what might happen in the next year. I decided to go for it, on my own, even though it wouldn’t make as much sense to people with just me. By that point, though, I’d passed the point of hair dye.
So here’s the finished product, after a day at the convention. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it until we got back. I went with a fabric marker for the heart, which was a little crude, but turned out pretty well, I think. I decided to use the whole heart instead of the broken one you see in the picture above. Rika has a rough relationship with her mother in the series, who is a model and works a lot to support them. As the series nears the final battle, Rika and her mother mend their relationship and Rika’s mother gives her a new shirt with a whole heart to replace the broken one. This is one of the things I love most about Rika, how much she grows and changes as a person through the series. That’s why I went with the whole heart instead of the broken one.
I’m actually pretty pleased with how the whole thing turned out. I didn’t expect to be recognized, but to my delight several people did know me. It wasn’t until the second half of the convention that I was actually acknowledged, but it felt really good to be recognized. We went to a Digimon v Pokemon v Yu-Gi-Oh panel and a person dressed as Tai from Digimon Adventures who was on the panel waved and called “Hi Rika! It’s great to see another Digimon cosplay!” It took me a minute to realize they were talking to me, by once I figured it out I was chuffed. Two more people commented on my costume in the RPG room while we waited for a new game to start and one more person actually asked for my picture! As I said before, it’s common for con-goers to get pictures of favored cosplays, so to be asked for a picture of my cosplay was a huge deal.
This is the great thing about cosplay; it breaks down walls. For people like me, interacting with strangers is terrifying and awkward, but we still want to meet new people and converse about our favorite fandoms. Cosplay is an open invitation. It’s putting out there who and what you like and invites others to discuss those things. If you go to a convention where people are cosplaying and you see something you appreciate, tell them. I promise it will make there day.
I’m already trying to think of ideas for next year. I’m going to keep the Rika costume, of course, and probably improve on it for next year, but I’d like to do a new one as well. I would love to do Nora from RWBY, because she’s beautiful and I love her. It’d be super cool if I could get a group to cosplay with, but I’m not sure I could organize that sort of thing. At least I know I have one successful cosplay under my belt and hopefully I can add more in the years to come.