Costumes aren’t only for Halloween

Photo courtesy of Samuel Adams
Santa Rosa Junior College stuent Samuel Adams (center) and two friends pose while cosplaying as characters from the popular anime series “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.”

Estefany Gonzalez, Staff Writer

The first time Santa Rosa Junior College student Bridget Wyckoff dressed up as the character Poison Ivy at a convention the experience gave her a much needed self-esteem boost and helped her break out of her shell.

“Cosplay makes me feel beautiful, it helps me have fun and it’s the best thing in the world,” she said. “I love myself when I cosplay.”

Cosplayers are people who enjoy dressing up as their favorite fictional characters from pop culture.

Some costumes are made with pieces found at thrift stores or around the house, while others are handcrafted works that require hundreds of dollars and sometimes just as many hours.

Wyckoff, 18, was instantly attracted to cosplay because it combines her interests in anime and theater.

“I’ve always loved being in theater, so it was another way for me to express my love of costuming and channeling a character,” she said.

Cosplay has recently gained mainstream popularity due to large Facebook communities and social media and reality TV shows like “Heroes of Cosplay” that follow cosplayers as they prepare for events.

This hobby is also widespread among SRJC students who spend their free time creating costumes and attending conventions.

Wyckoff said the environment is always welcoming. “I’ve met some of my best friends in the cosplay community,” she said. “The people are friendly, loving, talented and fun to be around.”

Wyckoff takes great pride in making all of her own costumes by hand, which includes Kim Possible, Miranda from the movie “Brave” and a couple of different X-Men.

“I’ve finished certain costumes in under six hours, [and] I have some costumes that I started one or two years ago and still haven’t finished,” she said.

SRJC student Samuel Adams, 18, started attending conventions in 2007 and loved the cool costumes he saw. “I just started making costumes one day,” Adams said.

His most recent costume of the character Sora from the anime “No Game No Life” was the easiest to make because it consists of simple clothing, he said.

Although Adams has never spent more than $200 on a costume, his average is usually around $100 because even the simplest of costumes can become expensive.

“I spent over $100 for [Sora’s costume], and his is just a t-shirt, jeans, a shirt and a wig,” he said.

Throughout his years of cosplaying, Adams has found that some people make amazing costumes that look more expensive than they actually are.

“I have a friend who made Wu Kong from “League of Legends” for only $40,” he said.

For Adams, the most exciting thing about cosplay is making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. He said it’s easy to start conversations with other cosplayers and make friends at conventions.

He did, however, dislike how shows like “Heroes of Cosplay” dramatize what conventions are actually like, by bashing a heavyset woman who dressed up as Super Woman.

“I hate hearing people say I can’t cosplay this character because I’m not thin enough, I’m not bulky enough,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. Cosplay is supposed to be open and free. You’re supposed to do what you want with cosplay characters that you enjoy and have a connection with.”

SRJC alumnus Cary Escovedo, 24, has attended anime conventions since he turned 16.

Although Escovedo doesn’t consider himself a serious cosplayer, he enjoys going to Fanime Con in San Jose once a year.

“The cosplay that I do is not very elaborate, but I definitely dress up every single year,” he said.

The first few years Escovedo attended the convention he shared a hotel room with seven other people and didn’t dress up. He was inspired by the costumes he saw because they looked like fun.

“Who doesn’t like to play dress-up?” he asked. “I think it’s fun to pretend you’re something else for a little while and it’s very lighthearted.”

He said he enjoys attending Fanime Con also because he can see friends with the same interests.

SRJC alumnus Kyle Rader, 25, started to cosplay in 2009 and has since learned to sew to create his own costumes.

“I had to be creative to find real world objects that could become the ones I saw in the anime,” he said.

Rader is the founding president of the SRJC Anime Club.

His characters tend to be from anime, and he said he likes to choose obscure characters instead of popular, overused ones.

He first started attending conventions because he had a lot of friends who cosplayed. “Cosplay for me felt like an extension to the experience of attending conventions, be it anime, gaming or Comic-Cons,” he said. “So I felt if I wanted to go to a con, I had to cosplay.”

Rader said he enjoys the long list of activities the conventions offer. “There is so much you can do, but my biggest draw is just hanging out with people and walking around in cosplay,” he said. “I’m a sucker for posing in my outfits for photos.”

Though cosplay may not be for everyone, this hobby provides students with a quick escape from reality and an opportunity to meet new friends.