As kids and now young adults, we would play a video game, watch a film or show and see these elaborate costumes and props. We would go around our houses picking up any old item and hack it together to make the costume without any formal training. As we got older, we would seek out new materials and learn new techniques including leatherworking, resin casting, thermoplastic molding and more from dodgy text-based internet tutorials and hearsay.
Sometimes we would try something out and fail miserably. A new technique wouldn’t work, we didn’t finish something in time, or something broke. But failures weren’t perceived by us or the costuming community as something that that should be criticized. Rather each challenge, each misstep was seen as opportunity to learn or make what we were building even better or more robust, and individuals in the community (even those who we did not know) were very supportive by cheering us on.
After we finished building a costume, we would then join other costumers at comic, video game and Japanese animation conventions at large shows which featured costumers’ creative handicrafts. Though competition was part of it, the intention was to have fun and be excited by each other’s creations. We would talk to other costumers and be inspired by their works.
To us, these events were a way to celebrate creativity as they were often where we would meet new costumers and begin new collaborative relationships. We would exchange ideas and create new costumes to wear together for the next event. To give back to the community on a larger scale, we hosted panels to share the costuming techniques and lessons we learned with others. We all had our individual creativity, but by coming together and doing shows, photoshoots and so on we all participated in a kind of collaborative creativity.
We would work with (or drag friends) into helping us when we did photoshoots. Even if one of us did not know how to do something, another one of us would step in and show the other how. Through collaboration, each of us had the freedom to contribute to what we did as whole.In a way we go beyond ourselves when we make costumes, and even more so when with others. For us, costuming gives us a place to build, create, inspire, learn, share, support and celebrate each other. It’s given us a mindset and confidence that’s spilt over into other parts of our lives.