Conquering Cosplay is a monthly article written by Cosplay enthusiast Keriann McNamara-McCauliffe. She shares her tips and tricks for Cosplay of various characters in the land of the nerd.
Halloween is here! It’s the best time of year for any Cosplayer, new or novice to try your hand at Cosplay. It’s also the best time to stock up on supplies you might need throughout the year. Halloween is a great opportunity to try new tricks with makeup and fabrication because luckily if you get it wrong most people won’t notice and you’re all the richer for the experience
Follow along with me here to learn some tips and tricks from someone who’s been in your shoes. I’ve been making my own costumes since I was a kid, and I’ve screwed them up pretty royally at times, but I’ve also learned and created great tips and tricks to look awesome last minute while saving money.
If you are anything like me you probably realized that Halloween is on tomorrow and, holy crap, you don’t have a costume. Maybe you got caught up in work, school, or the return of The Walking Dead. Never fear!
First things first, and in my opinion this is the hardest part, you need to select a character. It can be ANYBODY. If you’re a last minute person this year, don’t select anything too ambitious. There simply isn’t time to buy and mold craft foam or anything involving airbrushing. Think simple but still great. For this article’s sake let’s pretend for the ladies you’re creating a do it yourself Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. For all you guys out there, let’s pretend you’re going to be The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon (swoon).
Sally has a lot of little details. Her skin is very white with stitches in it, she wears orange socks, black shoes, and her hair is very red.
For Sally’s skin, don’t use the grease make-up sold at Halloween stores. 1. It will not stay in place and will rub off on you and everyone you hold dear, 2. It’s a pore clogging disaster that is really no fun to get off. Most of them require full on makeup removers which are just more oil. In the past when I’ve needed to change my skin color to look dead or something like that I’ve just gone to my local drug store and bought a cheap foundation and mixed it with color myself. Just look for a shade that will correspond with what you are trying to achieve, typically a lightest ivory white works best. Then, I know this sounds crazy, but look for an eye shadow or blush in the color you’re going for. For Sally, you’ll want a very light purple, white, and maybe some very light greens for accent.
When you’re ready to apply to your skin, or to do a test run, pour some of the foundation on a plastic tray or in a bowl and grind up the eye shadow or blush and start adding it to the foundation. Mix it until you get your desired color and apply to your skin with a makeup sponge or your fingers. This way your skin color will not run when you sweat, it won’t rub off if you touch it, and just regular soap and water will get it off in a jiff. Plus, if you choose a slightly metallic shade it adds a great opaqueness for zombie or dead skin. For the finishing touch of stitches you’ll just need a black eyeliner pencil. You can just draw them on top of your base face color.
For her hair, you have two options: a wig, or hair dye. Many times though, a wig is expensive. One tip I’ve learned in my travels is that food coloring makes a good temporary dye. The application can be very tricky, so I don’t recommend it for all over color, especially with long hair, but if you’re looking for washout streaks food coloring works really well. The easiest way to apply it is with q-tips for very small streaks or a sponge brush for larger pieces or all over color. Food coloring does stain, so take precautions and be careful.
Going to your local costume shop, you can look at the costume that is pre-made for her, and then don’t do that costume… Sally costumes for whatever reason are a solid piece with a print on the front of what looks like sewn together patches, but the back is a solid piece of fabric in bright yellow. For the manufacturer that is cheap and lazy, for someone wanting to do the character just that is a big no-no.
For the Sally costume you can either buy a few garments on the cheap in the right color or pull stuff from your own supply of things you no longer wear. Cut the clothes into large pieces that you will then sew back together. If hand sewing isn’t something you’re totally comfortable with I’d recommend picking up a dress that fits you and then just sewing your costume pieces to it so you don’t have to worry about making something from scratch. As a Cosplayer, you will ALWAYS want to have a hot glue gun and an abundance of glue sticks on hand. If you don’t want to sew anything you can piece what you want together and use glue. For the stitched together look of Sally’s dress you can just glue black yarn in place to give the appearance that your dress was stitched together. Luckily, your stitch job can be as sloppy and lazy as you want and you will only make your outfit look better.
Daryl’s details include his bow and arrows, his angel winged vest and his zombie ear necklace. You can also add some wounds to make yourself look beat up.
For a Daryl costume, you could look for a crossbow and arrows that you can paint. You can also find bags of small body parts that people use for decoration at parties. If you can find a bag of ears you can pick them up to make Daryl’s zombie kill ear necklace.
Also, Halloween stores are a great place for FX makeup essentials like silicone and latex, and the do it yourself wound kits they sell are pretty good. I’d recommend stocking up on liquid latex for the year ahead, and if you see any wound kits that interest you go ahead and pick them up because you’ll never know when you need them or just want to test them out for fun. For the Daryl costume you can just pick up general latex wound kit to give your face a little wear and tear. Red food coloring always makes a great blood substitute, especially when paired with liquid latex. The zombie apocalypse is a scary place, after all.
Your final stop will be to a thrift store or your own closet. Look for various items that you can cut up or piece together to get what you need. Daryl is an easy one in this case, a pair of your own jeans and a black shirt will work. You’ll just want to pick up a leather jacket (because a leather vest is probably a lot harder to find) at a thrift store and cut the sleeves off to make it a vest. For his trademark angel wings on the back you can use a variety of things, you can buy patches from a craft store, paint them on yourself if you like, or fashion some from extra fabric and glue them on.
When you put all these things together, ta-da! You’ll have a pretty spot on version of your favorite character and you will have done it yourself. Don’t fret if it’s not perfect, at least now you’ve gotten your feet wet, and your next attempt you’ll do even better!
The picture of Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon belongs to AMC. The picture of Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas belongs to Touchstone Pictures and Skellington Productions Inc.