Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cosplay Experiences: I am a Fat Cosplayer

Yep, that title's a doozey.

I'm starting a new sort of blog feature where I will specifically blog/rant/tell about my experiences as a cosplayer over the many many years I've been cosplaying and decided - hey if I'm going to do this, I may as well get this out of the way.

Me, today

Hey everyone, I'm a fat cosplayer.  And no, before you rush to that comment button, I'm not putting myself down.  I could ramble on and on about how fat is beautiful and women are empowered and all of that - but honestly there are many other blogs out there who have already done that and do it better and I love them.  Instead this is more of a personal piece on myself and what I've learned as a fat cosplayer - take from it what you will.  I hope there's a thread of confidence there for people, something they can build off of.  Or at least an interesting bit about where I might be coming from.

My journey as a fat and/or plus sized cosplayer doesn't have a big special coming out or explosion of hate online.  In fact, most of it has actually been experienced vicariously through my partner Brichibi Cosplays, who has experienced a world of hate for her size, race and cosplay.  What I tend to experience is more of a lack of being noticed and being ignored by the cosplay community as a whole until recently.

In most cases I am fine with being invisible.  I don't mind stepping back and letting others take the spot light and leave me alone.  I'm not especially out going - unless you know me well - and I'm not much for giant groups of people.  This isn't a bad thing, it's just me.  And really, I'm pretty happy here, I don't mind being in the background, but I also like people talking to me, so it does tend to clash with life from time to time.  (This is certainly not a blog post telling people not to talk to me, you're all totally welcome to do that.  Again, exploring personal journey and thoughts and things.)

I am not the most confident person - I'm working on that.  I've had self esteem issues for a long time. I have days where I hate my weight, I hate my face and I hate my large stomach.  Everyone has those and it took me a while to realize that doesn't mean I have no self confidence, it just means that some times I get a little distracted - or a lot. ^__^;;;;

First and foremost, my experience as an overweight person played into my desire to wear costumes and pretend to be someone else for a day.  Cosplaying and dressing up is a way to pretend and let people in on this little secret.  Beyond Halloween and parties, it's fun at anime cons because it makes you feel like a part of this giant crowd, even if you're not so good at interacting with them.  By dressing up you already have a foot in the door belonging wise, so the rest isn't nearly as hard.  Plus, I learned that if I put myself in a black shirt and flattened my breasts to look more like a guy, my weight would become secondary to this creative shield I'd encased myself in.  I used that for several years, dressing up as more manly looking characters to hide my fatness.

Rosanna as Kaiba, Myself as Duke Devlin from Yu-Gi-Oh

The problem was that I've always loved dresses and in every day life I essentially don't wear jeans anymore.  I am a skirts and dresses person, because I feel the most comfortable in those new age style outfits with crafty necklaces, long flowing skirts and simple shirts.  So wearing drag or crossplaying at cons really didn't completely fit me - especially when most of my favorite characters are female and have amazing dresses to go with them.

I wasn't happy with these costumes.  I wanted to wear more.  I wanted to dress as the female characters who meant so much to me in anime and other media and I wanted to do them justice.  More then that I wanted to feel like a girl, I wanted to feel 'beautiful' for once.  Internally I knew I was never going to be thin and leggy and beautiful, but that didn't mean that I didn't want to try and experience it, in my own way.

So instead, I took a leap and made a huge fancy dress.  I bought an especially complicated Vogue pattern for a dress and spent months sewing it together and painstakingly hand painting the design on the dress, putting all my skills at the time into this one piece.  I know I had a fleeting feeling that if I was right on all the details, no one would care if I was fat, they'd be too busy looking at the dress and everything else.  Plus, making the dress myself meant I could do my best to make it so it hid the parts about myself I hated and I could fully live in the illusion.

Myself as the Countess G from Gankutsuou

My cosplay work changed that day and I distinctly remember feeling beautiful and stunning for one of the first times in my life, in a way that I never thought I could.  People talked to me, people whom I'd never approached and looked up to stopped and talked to me!  From there, honestly, there was no turning back.  That single day taught me that I could feel beautiful, and I could wear stunning dresses like that, so damnit I was going to.

I taunt myself how to make plus sized dresses - because my size doesn't exist in commercial patterns. Neither does my wife's.  So I bought hundreds of McCalls and Simplicity and New Look and even Vogue patterns and through trial and error developed my own techniques to make them fit me and her.  Now I can do it without a second thought and really the pattern is just a time saver for me, so I don't have to guess on shapes.

Today, nearly 14 years after some of my first attempts at cosplay, ballgowns and fancy dresses are my favorite things to make and wear.  I can confidently call them my specialty and I can make them for people of any size, man or woman or anywhere in between.  And even when I make smaller pinup style dresses, I can't resist adding an extra panel to that skirt for just a little more volume and flair.

I am a fat cosplayer and through cosplay I gained the ability to love myself and my style.  It was a long process and mostly internal, battlefields warring in my head while I sat in front of a sewing machine pushing through fabric.  A lot of my friends probably didn't even realize it was happening and I still get distracted, but this is me.  Standing here now, just a step behind my lovely wife, I'm learning to take that next step forward and stand up for more then myself.  Instead of facing my own inner demons, I'm channeling them for other people, which feels even better.

Me, as Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast

This is new for me and I'm not as confident as I may sound, but that's ok.  I'm not perfect and sometimes I still think that my face is too fat and my stomach is too big.  But, thanks to cosplay, some of that confidence from wearing a costume now leaks into my every day life and I'm not as shy anymore.  I am confident in my powers as a seamstress and I know that I can make dresses and costumes that make myself and other people feel beautiful.  I have successfully given other people that first feeling I caught when I tried that first dress - and that is the most important thing to me.

So yes, I am a fat cosplayer.  But you know what?  I own my body and I know how to make myself love it and make it look stunning.  And I want to give that to other cosplayers.  Holding that knowledge forefront in my mind really makes the trolls and misunderstanding people out there mean little to nothing to me.  Which is exactly how it should be.


  1. I've seen you and your wife at cons. You're both beautiful. Keep on doing what you're doing! <3

  2. ( I could relate to much of what you said. In 2010 I decided to undergo a costume project of epic proportions, for Halloween. I made 3 World of Warcraft themed costumes. I'm not as talented in the sewing department as you are. I usually order dresses and alter them to make them look more like what I need them for. My costume however was not as simple. I wanted to be a Tauren Druid ( Cow Creature). It was the hardest I ever worked on a costume. I loved the character for its huskiness , strength and height. I felt that No one could tell me I was too fat to be a cow and I was gonna own it! I was so proud of the costume and all the work I put into it. Making the mask form the inside out. I entered a costume contest and competed against the usual. The thin, half naked and pretty. I got allot of compliments. But from those hell bent on winning for the simple fact that, they were nearly naked, I would have been dead 10 times over, if looks could kill. Well I won, and they lost to a cow...A COW! 1 up for the big girls! That night something clicked inside me....looks only get you so far, but if you work hard and make something awesome, they will see you and appreciate you. I felt awesome that night, even after some of the sore loser's boyfriends booed as loud as they could, when they announced me winner. So now when I make a costume I work to make it awesome. Ursula is another one of my epic costumes, and its what I wore when I met you and your wife at Anime Iowa.This year for Halloween I am working on a Woodland Faun. I told myself that I wouldn't got crazy....too late :D LOL

    1. I remember you! That picture you sent is awesome and such a great story to go with it. There's something so liberating about the moment you decide to just own yourself ^__^ I can't wait to see your Woodland Faun, you have definite skill and I'm sure it'll only keep getting better!

  3. Hi Jessica,

    You have such a wonderful, important message here! It takes a lot of bravery to cosplay, I think many people forget that. And it takes a lot of self confidence. I think your voice adds a nice touch to the efforts of others trying to create a better place in the cosplay community.

    I reblogged your post here:

    If you are interested, we would be happy to have you as a guest blogger at CSC ^_^

    Have a great day!

    1. Thanks so much for the comment, the share and the flattering offer. I will certainly keep it in mind as I brainstorm on more of my experiences to share in the future ^__^