CosDown 2: Attending Your First Convention

12:00 pm HelenLJohnson 0 Comments

MCM London Comic Con May 2013
MCM London 2016 is fast approaching and cosplayers new and experienced are working hard on their costumes in these final, precious days. I attended my first convention in 2013, travelling down to London with my Lara Croft Reborn costume. I was so excited I didn’t sleep for odd nights the week before MCM London, staying up all night watching Sneaky Zebra videos and Lara Croft make up tutorials on YouTube. I fondly remember one night, creeping downstairs, grabbing a bag of HulaHoops and a glass of Ribena, before sneaking back up again to watch an extended Dragon*Con cosplay music video!

However I was also extremely nervous. Despite doing dance and drama for a good chunk of my life, the years previous were a cyclone of books and academia. I hadn’t explicitly put myself out, with an aim to stand out, within a public sphere for a good few years. I had seen that people liked to take photos, but I had shied away from anyone taking a photo since my late teens. What if my costume broke? What if people don’t appreciate the new version of Lara instead of the old? Most of these worries ended up just as pre-con nerves, so here are seven tips to help your first con go as best as it can.

Remember to eat and drink.
This is so important, however I have seen so many cosplayers skip meals because they are busy or don’t want to spill food on their costume. Conventions are strenuous times so make an effort to take a ‘lunch hour’. Convention food is expensive and not the best, so see what is around the radius of the convention centre. Trust me, you will not be the only one in costume! You can also take a picnic or small snack food in a tote bag and sit in the designated areas. These are also fantastic times to people watch and look at people’s costumes as they walk past. In the evening, if you are short on money, there are many meals you can rustle up with just a kettle. Yes, they may not be the best nutritionally, but for a night or a weekend, you’ll be okay. Remember you can always buy a bag of spinach or tinned sweetcorn for veg and tins of tuna are great for protein that can heat up with water from a kettle. Pots of instant noodles are a godsend!

Your costume always has the potential to break.
The unfortunate truth is that every cosplayer will have a costume break on them. I had just walked into the convention hall of my first con and the leg strap on my holster pinged off. Don’t rely on the convention having a repair station, a few do not, and those that do may not have what you need. Pack yourself a little repair kit - superglue, thread and needle, duct tape, hot glue gun and anything costume specific that you can keep at the hotel and/or a mini version to put in your bag. The main thing is, don’t let it bring you down. This happens, it is okay! Don’t let it ruin your day.

You will have your photograph taken.
By attending the event, you are consenting to being part of press documentation as you are within the public domain, even if you are not stopped by a photographer. If this bothers you, do not attend. Being in cosplay, automatically makes you more visible to photographers, in particular if you are cosplaying a popular or recent iteration of a character. The best thing to do, is practise a few poses at home, to see what works best and what you are most comfortable with. Then, when you are at the convention it is one thing less to worry about. However you are also within your rights to refuse or stop any photography if you feel uncomfortable. In particular, people should not be taking photos while you are eating or resting.

Sorry I don't know who the other cosplayer is :( (MCM London May 2013) - Spot the broken holster!

 Not everything great needs to be booked and/or ticketed.
Conventions are now more than just the main event, there are fringe meet ups, discos, shows and screenings to name a few. Many of these have a ticket fee, however do not feel pressured into attending these to get the ‘full convention experience’, often, the unschedule and random events are the moments that make a convention. A good example, for over 18s, is the Fox at the Excel in London. A small pub on the convention grounds that has become the go-to place for cosplayers. Nothing happens as such, but the memories of Superman, Wonder Woman and Commander Shepard eating burgers and nachos while slowly piling up discarded pieces of costumes will last a last time. A good rule of thumb is if there is something you specifically want to go to, do it! But don’t feel like you need to go.

Talk to other cosplayers.
If you think someone’s costume looks great or want to know how they made it? Ask them! It means the world when someone gets complimented on their hard work, you’ll find out how it feels when someone says it to you; so keep those good vibes flowing!

Be prepared to queue and wait.

We don’t call them queue cons for nothing. For the popular, larger conventions you can spend a great deal of time standing, waiting. If you know that the costume you will cause you pain or extreme discomfort. Perhaps leave it for another time. It will only make you miserable and tire a lot quicker. Otherwise, popular things to bring along is a 3DS, Cards Against Humanity or a simple good conversation to pass time. If you can, and going for the weekend, go the day, towards closing time, and you should be able to walk straight up to get your band. This is great for those who are working the Friday and may mean not having to book as much time off.

Bring a bag and/or bag buddy.
We’ve all done it. We don’t want a bag to ruin the look of our costume as we sashay into the convention hall. Then end up with phones, cameras and empty wrappers in a carrier bag alongside that plushie you just bought. Tote bags are fantastic for this, and you can often get them in geeky designs or even to match your costume. They will hold all your food, water, repair kit, top-up make up etc. Just throw to the side when you are having your photo took. Another idea is to build pockets  and storage into costumes; I had most of my stuff in my quiver and just some money to hand in my trouser pocket. If you are super lucky, you might have a bag buddy. Often the poor sods who tag along but don’t cosplay are honoured this role! If they are willing, then feel free, however never expect them to just carry your stuff and make sure to show your gratitude at the end of the day/weekend.

And finally, just have fun! Conventions are playgrounds for all things geeky. Don’t take them too seriously, enjoy yourself and time with friends and your first convention will go absolutely fine :)

If you have any first convention questions or worries, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me @lady_scion and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.