The Magic of a Costume
An in-depth look at the craft of cosplaying
Now, if you are anything like me, I am assuming you know who this character is, right? If not, well first this is me, and I am cosplaying as Agent Peggy Carter from the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Yes, I am one of those insane people that sell their soul, blood, sweat, and tears to the costume gods. This journey began in 2015 when my best friend invited me to my very first convention. I had always loved costumes and dressing up, so the idea that masses of people came dressed as characters and interacted nearly blew my mind. After sorting through many ideas, my friend and I settled on going as the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler from the popular BBC show Doctor Who. This event was an incredibly positive experience and I loved how positive everyone was towards each other. Thus began my journey down the rabbit trail of being a cosplayer. Since then, I have crafted many, many cosplays ranging from Star Wars to Marvel to Disney (although those are all now kinda the same thing aren't they...). Anywho, from that convention, I have been hooked on the incredible feeling that bubbled up when I donned my costume. Suddenly, I wasn't myself, but a strong brave heroine or a semi-immortal alien. My introverted tendencies and social anxiety are banished and I am free to interact. Free is a perfect word, especially in cosplays with a helmet, helm, or intense makeup; nobody knows who I am! Nobody knows or cares about my faults or illness, they just care about my craftsmanship and general geekiness. With every character and costume I embody, the more I find my confidence raising. I feel as though a little piece of each character follows me when I reenter my own life. Okay, before y'all freakout, this isn't some new-age thing, and no I am not insane, I just mean that I find myself assimilating the character's most positive traits and their strengths. For instance, when dressed as Agent Carter (like the picture above), I find that I am valuing myself better and channeling her strength and boldness. When back in my life the next day, I know my value and feel strong.
Now, cosplay hasn't only benefited me socially and mentally, but I also have an incredible opportunity to serve others with my craft. Two years ago, I became a member of a charity cosplay group that sets up and aids events, especially children's events. We visit hospitals, Ronald Mcdonald houses, 5k races, and other events in costume. My favorite part is interacting with the children and their parents and seeing the joy cross their previously stressed or depressed faces. The children become so excited seeing their favorite characters and the parents seem to visibly relax and fill with happiness at the glee of their own. About a month ago, I participated in my very first children's hospital visit as Agent Carter. While excited, I had no idea of the outcome this event would bring. The hospital, a university working hospital, was having a big birthday party for all of the kids. Those who were mobile could come down to the lobby for the party and eat cake, open presents, take pictures with characters, and enjoy some live music. A lot of the kids were very shy and nervous at first but shortly began to smile and enjoy their time. Naturally, not all of the children and their families could come down due to quarantine or general mobility issues. In order to make sure as many children would experience the party as possible, my costuming group was invited up into the treatment floors. The hospital presented us with gifts, balloons, books, and stuffed animal lions to deliver to the rooms.
I will be honest and say I was quite uncomfortable at first being in a hospital (after all my medical stuff, hospitals scare me). However, this uncomfortable feeling wore off as I interacted with the kids. A lot of them were beyond excited to see the cosplayers and wanted pictures and to talk to us. Many were so excited to have something to do (the presents were backpacks filled with coloring books and activities). The younger patients loved the stuffed lions and cuddled them. We had a guy who came as Captain America and the kids were enthralled with his replica shield and magnetic reattachment mechanism. Although the joy of the kids melted my heart and kept me going even though my heel-clad feet were screaming, nothing compared to the expressions of gratitude on the parents' faces. Image having your child living in a hospital for an extended time, worrying about their care, and sometimes, if they will survive. You have seen them struggle and become sad, dealing with the reality of their health. Then one day, after many sleepless nights and watching the sadness of your child, you see them smile again. The absolute peace and gratitude that flooded the parents' faces is something I will never forget. Many thanked us uproariously and blessed us for spending our time to come and bless their child. To make a child smile in the midst of hardship and bring them some levity was an incredible experience. To me, this is what cosplay should be about: supporting and bringing joy to others. We as cosplayers have an opportunity to use our skills and passions in an impressive manner. Now, I get that not everybody can do this, or wants to, but if you get the opportunity, take it. I hope to continue perfecting my craft and bringing smiles to people's faces.