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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Geek.kon This Weekend!!

Are you going to be in Wisconsin this weekend?  Head on over to Geek.kon in Madison to see us!

We'll have a table in Artist Alley (check out the map below) with our books, crafts and costumes!  Brichibi will also be helping out on the Love Your Cosplay Body panel on Saturday as well!

Here's a map for where you can find us in the Dealer's Room:

See you there!

**Want to see us at your local convention?  You can always suggest us as guests, or message us and we'll see if it's one we can add to our list!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review: Daredevil the tv series

My history with comic book franchises centers mostly around the animated DC properties and the recently released string of Marvel movies.  So stepping into the Daredevil series, I knew bits and pieces of the character (from a failed Ben Affleck movie) and what I could glean from Wikipedia.  Knowing he was very similar to Batman in the almost lack of super powers and being the gritty crime fighter, I knew he'd be right up my alley.

And damn was I right.

This series is near perfect.  Atmosphere, well written characters and an overall tone that sucks you in almost instantly.  The lighting is used perfectly to simulate how dark the world is to the main character making the watcher almost blind, but it's done in an almost masterful way that you really don't feel like you're losing anything.  That and how they illustrate what he sees is so well done, you know exactly what his power is and you never lose sight of the fact that he's blind (ha ha) which is incredibly important to the show's premise and to representation as a whole.

And yes, while the series did have a few stumbles in representation (such as not having a hearing impaired audio track when it was first released) that has since been corrected and it comes as a great package.  I honestly see nothing horrible about the series and am eagerly anticipating the next installment of this and the other series Marvel has with Netflix.  If they are even half as good as this first presentation, I will be beyond happy.

I also want to take a moment to touch on the language of the show.  Not so much how the characters speak, but literally the languages.  Being a city full of colorful and interesting characters with a lot of power, this show isn't scared to have them speak in their own native languages and have the watcher read subtitles for a good portion.  They don't even take the cop-out of having the characters speak in their language for a bit then switch to English, assuming we know their still speaking another language.  Instead this show unabashedly has Russian, Spanish, Chinese and probably others as part of the normal landscape - and it adds to the show.  Yes, you have to read subtitles (which I know some people hate) but in leaving it all there naturally it adds to the authentic feeling of the show and it's even used as effective intimidation between some of the characters.  Its something we rarely see in shows and it comes as a welcome new piece.

I recognize that Marvel and Netflix are experimenting a lot with this series and the other Marvel ones to come.  From the harshly realistic fight scenes, to the audio canvas of the show, to the lighting and the well written characters.  Taking the whole package into account I love it, and I'm very eager to see how this show and the other upcoming ones play out.

Now for the fun part and looking a bit deeper at the well written characters.  There may be general spoilers below the picture, just a heads up. 

While all the characters are well written, the image of Wilson Fisk is the most striking.  I'm familiar with the Kingpin character from the Spiderman animated series of the 90's, and the Daredevil movie mentioned before.  In each of those he was a large and tall man, who spoke with authority and commanded the room around him.  This series introduces you to someone very different in Vincent D'onofrio.  His trademarked stuttering on words and stumbling over sentences from Law and Order is present and used masterfully to create a man who seems quiet and unsure of himself, but completely sure of his path and where he deserves to be, no matter what the cost.  All of this combined creates the sense that this character is a walking time bomb where the counter has stopped displaying.  You know he's going to explode, but you don't know when.  And you have no idea how big the wake zone will be.  It makes every scene with him nail-biting, because you're just waiting for the inevitable to occur in the worst way possible.  And when it does happen, you can't help but sit back from the screen to try and stay out of the range of his murderous rage.

As his story unfolded, I actually found myself rooting for him in a strange way.  No, I don't approve of his methods or the lengths he goes to, but I would have to be blind if I said I didn't see the similarities between him and Matt Murdock laid out so plainly to see.  I won't tell the details, but when Fisk's full backing for his actions was laid out, I felt for him.  He's the bad guy dammit, and I didn't want him to win, but damn was his character ever written well.  It's writing like this that will bring me back to this series and will always win me over.  It takes a lot to make me like a complete bastard of a man, and this show knew exactly what cords to hit.

If I ever wanted to point someone to such a perfect display of amazingly well written characters, Daredevil will now pop forefront in my mind.

All in all, like I said, I love the series.  I'm sorry it took me so long to watch it, but I don't regret watching it at all.  I can't wait for the next installment - Jessica Jones - when it comes out.  You got me Netflix and Marvel.  Now don't lose your stride, keep me here.  Please.