Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

by Lillie Forteau /
Lillie Forteau's picture
Apr 30, 2018 / 0 comments

On Thursday, April 26th, 2018, I spoke at one of my favorite places, talking about one of my favorite things, in my favorite thing. It was truly amazing - I cannot say that enough. I thank the good amount of sugar in my bloodstream that day for helping me get through it, thank you Canada dry ginger ale. 

Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

I spoke at PechaKucha Kalamazoo, volume 4, with 10 other amazing presenters:

PechaKucha Kalamazoo vol. 4 presenters. From Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

Here's my PechaKucha presentation on Cosplay Culture:

I loved Halloween (still do). Every year, while walking home from a night full of candy and compliments on my homemade costumes (most of which was followed by the inevitable “who are you dressed as?”), I was thinking about the following years costume. Maybe Miss Piggy, or a werewolf (but a good one, like Remus Lupin). Of course, I always changed my mind a few hundred times before the next Halloween, but it didn’t matter.

One year, I wanted TWO costumes, and I would switch out mid way through the night, to reveal my even more amazing second costume...which I do not remember, sadly for you and me.

Most years, I took from history or from books. Here, I was Athena, then Mary Poppins. As a kid, I waited a full year so I could wear one costume on one day, even though i thought about it year round. 

Years later, I found out about Cosplay and Cosplayers. People who wear costumes not on Halloween - they wear them year round, they have three, four five, maybe MORE costumes.

Just like that, I was in it for the long run.

Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo
What is cosplay?

Cosplay is a magical form of transformation that only fairies can do. Not actually. It seems like it, though, with the incredible things that come from it.

Cosplay stands for Costume Play, and anyone can do it. It can be something as simple as grabbing items from your closet to cosplay Inspector Gadget or Wesley from Princess Bride, or as complicated as Kylo Ren, a ghostbuster, or a Disney Princess. 

A lot of cosplayers go to cons - conventions - to show off their hard work and have fun. There are so many things to do at conventions besides cosplaying. There are artists showing off their own work, there are authors, there are celebrities and special guests, and, most importantly to me, costume contests. 

What goes into the costume?

But for the complicated ones? Builder, engineer, seamstress, electrician - you have to be ALL of these things, or at least know about them, to make a cosplay. It’s harder than expected. It can be thought out for days - and it takes weeks, months, and, in some cases, years to make a costume. 

Watersofglass is making a screen-accurate Kylo Ren cosplay. She said that it took 5 hours to pleat each sleeve! Let me remind you that Kylo has 7 layers in the film; the sleeves are part of one.

Phil Galad, one of my favorite cosplay creators, noted, “For me, costuming was first the fulfillment of a childhood dream simply to wear stormtrooper armor, from Star Wars. I realized that dream just after high school and it took me a year to build the relatively simple kit because I was intimidated by the project and had never done anything like it before.” 

I didn’t design Boba Fett, but I first pioneered the practice of using magnets to mount the chest armor, which is a standard option now among costumers. I found that, for me, the joy is in figuring out the best way to make something look weathered, or to rig it for comfortable wearing. It’s not unusual to find me wandering the aisles of Home Depot inspecting everything from plumbing connectors to door insulation thinking about whether it would suit my purposes in a new costume.” Now everyone - including in movies! - uses his technique.    

It took me around 45+ straight hours to make this Mad Hatter costume, which is a mix of bought items and hand-crafted. My Black Panther costume took 15 hours (all handmade). I’ve been thinking about my Godric Gryffindor costume on and off for much over a year, and the expected time will take 60+ hours.  

It’s also getting the act down. How they talk and walk, which is hard for non-actors. You have to inhabit the character - acting like the hatter, or perfecting your accent! I’m going to be cosplaying Black Panther at Fanfare’s Free Comic Book Day next week, and I’m working on my Wakanda accent. Come get your free comic book - and photos with me, of course.

Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

Why is it worth it?

You might be thinking right about now, “Lillie, these people! You spend hours and hours on these costumes, you cry, you burn yourself on a hot glue gun leaving a mark on your leg that lasts longer than expected...why is it worth all of that?”

Because finishing a costume is the definition of relief.

Because when you wear it out, other people, kind people, they fan themselves, or have a huge smile on their face, and they ask if they could take a picture with you. 

Other people in costume may come up to you and talk about your costume, how accurate it is, how beautifully it’s sewn/crafted. 

The Collected Mutineer told me, “There are a lot of things I love about cosplay, but one of the coolest aspects is when people stop to talk to me about things that are meaningful to them, or what certain characters represent for them. If I can make a personal connection with someone because of what I’m wearing or what I’ve crafted, that’s really special.”

I will always remember this past fall at Grand Rapids Comic Con. We were in line for the costume contest - and the five people surrounding me, we talked for the whole hour and a half-two hour wait. A few more of us talked after, the extra two hours of the contest. In normal situations, you wouldn’t talk to the strangers you’re standing by. 

Many cosplayers form groups - such as Star Wars characters, or Ghostbusters - I’m sure you’ve seen our beloved Kalamazoo Ghostbusters around town. Groups are incredible - they are like family.

It’s everything I wanted and waiting for on Halloween. And now it’s every single day of my life. And I love it.

Why it’s for everyone

Though what I just said is very intimidating, it is for everyone. Everyone who wants to express themselves, to try a new hobby, to geek out and talk to others about your favorite characters, meet new people, make new friends. 

Chicagoprincesslauren said, "Cosplay has given me the opportunity to express myself in ways I never could without it. It brings me confident and strength to live a better life and to inspire others.”

Kalamazoo cosplayers in attendance. From Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

Lillie Cosplays: Sharing Cosplay Culture at PechaKucha Kalamazoo

Learn more:

Thanks to the following cosplayers who so generously shared their cosplay photos for the PK slideshow:

5. Chicagoprincesslauren 
7. Crossfit_disney_princess 
8. Phalafelcosplays 
9. Watersofglass 
10. Philgalad 
11. Sannes_cosplay 
12. Jajacosplay 
13. Corinnacosplays 
14. Ladybirdcosplay 
15. Teamemeraldcos 
16. Thecollectedmutineer 
17. Enaylacosplay 

Other awesome cosplayers that were not featured: 

Lillie is a charismatic creator, writer, musician, watercolorist, potter, and cosplayer, but really is a hibernator who emerges from her fandom den (covered in posters, fabric scraps, and paint) for things she loves. She founded Kalamazoo Cosplayers, and has spoken at and judged at cosplay events for years. 

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators, except PK speakers group and PK audience photos, courtesy and copyright Pechakucha Kalamazoo