Friday, July 16, 2021

A Guide to Film and TV Cosplay


A Guide to Film and TV Cosplay is a style guide to cosplay by Holly Swinyard. Due out in Oct 2021 from Pen & Sword on their White Owl imprint, it's 128 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is not just a manual full of specific information to produce well imagined and constructed cosplays; it's also one of the best histories of cosplay I've ever read. It's not a huge book, but it does a comprehensive job of relaying the background and motivations of more than a century of cosplayers. I loved the sense of community and continuity the author achieves in the introduction and background. The intro and history take up about 30% of the content and are well worth a read. I learnt quite a lot and enjoyed seeing the new and old pictures and props.  I love the inclusive nature of the history. The author talks about drag, steampunk, LARPing, and more. The pictures of different characters are truly impressive and inclusive. The models are diverse. Representation is important! I remember being a nerdy girl in a *very* male dominated gaming, comics, and SF fandom and being told that I didn't belong. I gave up a million times, discouraged. Honestly it was the stories which always dragged me back (and finding a solid group of friends who stopped noticing I was female). I -wanted- Starfleet and the Federation to be true... I -needed- them to be true. Fandom is where we get to make the dreams true for just a little while. That's important and this author clearly "gets it".

The following chapters take cosplayers through choosing a cosplay (or more than one) to put together and gives some concrete advice beyond "pick your favourite character". There's quite a lot to think about and the author does a good job of being encouraging and thorough. I really liked that they took the time to specifically say that cosplayers don't need to feel locked into a particular character because they might have similar physical characteristics to that character - it's ok to love the costume, to relate to the character for other emotional reasons, to get outside one's own skin (hint: that's why we *do* this). 

The third section gets into the details of crafting and customising: tools & supplies, fabrics, sewing, thermoplastics, foams, finding/commissioning/and modifying, and a lot of other details and tips for getting from idea to con-ready gear. As the cherry on top of the sundae, there are practical and important discussions here about self-care, avoiding last minute stress and performance anxiety (con-crunch) and some encouraging and affirming mental health self-check tips. 

Note that this book is about cosplay. It covers the process more or less from beginning to end but it does *not* include templates or tutorials for specific builds. It does include good chapter notes and references for further reading. This would make a superlative selection for library acquisition, maker's groups, theatre/recreation/SCA use and similar. 

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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