Thursday, October 22, 2015

An introduction on how I got into cosplaying

2015 was a great year.

More often than not, years blur together for me. It's always a case of 'Oh my god ________ happened 6 years ago? I felt like it was yesterday!' Stuff like that. I doubt 2015 will get shuffled away in my brain that easily.

The year included traveling far and wide, countless slave labor-like hours (instilled by myself) and a moronic amount of money spent on both. I don't regret a single penny spent. I met and partied with some of my favorite actors and actresses, I shared amazing moments with new friends, old friends and shared them across an array of states. I've become familiar and friends with some people in industries I have a deep interest in. It really has been an amazing year.

Not to mention, 2015 gave (and will give) us Avengers, new Star Wars, Halo and Jurassic World - the last of which my brother had a small role in even.

There is a large part of me that lives in fantasy. Film and Games are huge to me. I love them. I adore the worlds that are created, the intricate characters developed and the epic score to go along with them all. I simply am enamored with good entertainment.

Playing them and watching them inevitably was not going to be enough.

So let's get started

Firstly, I'm a pretty generic 27 year old guy from California. I'm 5'10-5'11, about 180 pounds. About as average as you can be. I work as a creative designer and spent a lot of time at work painting, creating and designing. Don't let any of those words strung together fool you. My talent is pretty much that I like colors and can sometimes put them together to make cool stuff. I have to attribute much of my desire to do this stuff to my family. My brother, whom I share the Starside Armory page you probably found this on with, is an incredible artist and crafter. My mother is a talented painter and encouraged us early to pursue our artistic nature. Truth be told, I'm still puzzled to this day on how it took so long for me to get into this.

To take a step back, in February of 2013, I started looking heavily into making a suit of some kind from a game I loved. At the time, Halo Reach was still very much a huge game interest of mine. The problem was I had no experience, known skills and not a clue on how to go about making such a suit.

Where did I start?

I found a little forum community called the 405th. They're a Halo specific costuming group that is without a doubt some of the most helpful, kind, funny and enjoyable people I have ever met. I have made some lifetime friends and some I talk to every day.

After about a week of research into pepakura, fiberglassing, bondo and the list of little supplies I would need, I gave my friend Jp a call and asked if he was in this thing for real. We settled on costumes too, Mickey for me and Dutch for Jp. Two characters from Halo 3: Odst. The reason being that it was a blend of less complicated costumes (compared to Halo Reach), two characters voiced by some of our favorite actors and finally, for me, a character that actually fit my size a little better. I mean, Spartans are pretty tall...

The next day, with no idea what we were realllly doing, we went to Home Depot and dropped an amount of money that I had hoped would be the end of it.

The first thing I learned about costuming is that - it can get expensive. I will admit I was ignorant at first. Buying small quantities, assuming I wouldn't mess up, guessing wrong on what I needed and how much. To jump the gun, I probably spent $1,000 on my first costume. If I were to do it all again? I guarantee you I could do it for $500. That's just how it goes. You live, you learn, you spend. Will you spend that much? Maybe, maybe not. I will admit, I picked a pretty intricate and expensive costume for a first timer...

Keep in mind, I have no experience in anything not 2d. Really the only thing going for me at this point is I can kind of paint. This isn't meant to be self deprecating, it's meant to show you the scope of possibility in costume making. People have talked to me about the process of making a suit at conventions before only to shrug it off at the end and say to me 'I'm not as good as you are, I don't think I can make a suit like this.' Throw that crap out the door. As corny as it sounds, you never will know until you try.

Here's an attempt at a helmet. With some makeshift size modifications going on.

I failed a lot at first. First I failed at sizing the pepakura files, then I failed at fiberglassing, then at painting - endless mess ups in an overwhelmingly large project that can seem daunting at any time. I admit doing my first costume with a friend was not only motivation, but a really fun activity to share. I've done a few suits by myself now and while it can be relaxing to do things by yourself, I do miss the company.

Getting some traction

After starting in March, it took about halfway through May for things to really start rolling. I had gotten familiar with pepakura forming, fiberglassing and bondoing. The 3 real major steps. Pieces were rolling off of our two man assembly team and by June (With one month to go before our Comic Con goal) we had most of the major pieces assembled. With no experience or idea how to get all this stuff to fit on our body, we did what most people would do - we winged it.

Crude measuring, guessing and checking and a lot of hot glue later, we were starting to see things take shape. With a bit of luck and a bit of reshaping, most things even fit for the most part. Some things, inevitably did not and to the drawing board we went to redesign parts. By redesign, I mean hack at it with a dremel until it fit.

There is nothing more satisfying than putting a piece down that is finished. I am a little OCD about trying to make things perfect. Every time I would finish sanding a piece, I'd find a spot that needed some more bondo, a little more sanding and a little fine tuning. It seemed I would never finish if I kept being so critical of everything.  I eventually learned that perfection to me was not necessary. There's a fine line between 'that will do' and 'this looks 100% perfect'. I land somewhere in the middle. The upshot? Most of the time, it's things that only I would notice.

July, 2013

Comic con is around the corner. I should mention at this point that 3 months is really not enough time for a first time costume. I'll get to that though. With 3 days to go, I have not even put the full costume on yet. With a day before leaving, and having tried lots of parts individually, I finally throw the entire suit on and stand still. Great, it's not exploding. It must be fine.


We pack up our suits, load them into a car, and drive from the Bay Area to San Diego for what I believe to be our 4th straight Comic Con together (I told you these years blur together...). This is the first time I've dressed up for a convention.

The first day of the convention is upon us and the excitement and anticipation is setting in. You never want to think about the possibilities of failure. You just want to think of how awesome your work is and how it's going to be great. Jp and I threw our suits on, gave each other a thumbs up, and waddled down some stairs.

A quick walk would get us on the trolley and down to the convention. The only problem was... we had never properly put our suits on and gone for a stroll to see how walking would be.


Shortly into our walk to the trolley station, straps are popping off, pieces are crushing into each other and the suit is pinching, prodding and poking me in places I didn't know it would because really I had never properly worn the suit. Jp and I turn to each other, admit a brief defeat and retreat back to the house we were staying at. We needed to rethink our suits on the spot.

We were smart enough to bring a small repair kit and quickly realized a few things.

  • Hot glue was not enough to hold all the load bearing straps
  • Our guess and check method of strapping parts on was great, but just fitting on you is not enough, it has to be able to bend and move in a reasonable manner
  • Game models aren't exactly physics friendly
Jp and I spent an hour or so with a dremel, some bondo, straps and velcro and began to work on making the suits more sturdy and usable. After the initial frustrations, we were finally at a point where we could walk. We didn't have time to work out every kink. Every now and again my shoulder strap would fail, my chest piece would sag or my thigh pieces would clunk against my kneepads. We'd perservere.

There are things I wasn't quite ready to make myself yet. I managed to find someone who makes replica pistols from the Halo ODST game and ordered one. I use it to this day and the detail is incredible. I hope to be able to fashion one myself some day, but in the mean time, there is certainly a balance between making your own stuff and reaching out.

The Convention

I was not at all aware of what was to come. We show up at the front of the convention and are immediately swarmed by people. Kids, gamers, people just checking out the convention, anyone and everyone takes a moment to take a peek at a hulking mass of polygonal troopers. The recognition is somewhat flattering. It takes us an hour just to get in through the front doors after all the pictures and small chats with people. After a few hours of cruising the convention floor, we run into some girls dressed in Halo costumes. We revel in the chance to get a group picture of our Halo characters and they ask us "Are you guys going to the Halo photoshoot?" Quizzical looks are exchanged and they explain the 405th does a photoshoot on Saturday.

The 405th

Feeling like a couple of newcomers with inferior costumes, Jp and I arrived at the photoshoot to welcome arms. After a series of seriously cool, goofy and impressive shots, we called it a day and went to change out of our suits. Our first face to face with the 405th group was incredible. We met a few people who to this day, we still meet up with at the conventions, occasionally play games with and generally keep in touch with. 

The convention goes on for its duration, and we soak in the elements that we love. The games, movies, actors/actresses, trinkets, atmosphere and general occasion of it all. There's truly nothing better it seemed.

2014, 2015 and beyond

Our infantile stages of costuming were now over. I went into the new year dedicated to really reshaping my ODST costume into a comfortable (I use that term loosely) costume that I could wear again and again. I redid many of the straps, edges, added some fans and even made a few new little pieces. With no immediate deadline, I could take my time and do everything right.

There was no way I was going to stop at 1 costume. I do, however, absolutely cherish my ODST suit. It is one of the single most significant objects in my life. The literal blood, sweat and tears that went into making it endear it to me some, as well as being able to call it my first of many creations. It introduced me into a world I didn't think was out there. 

It got me into a hobby that I have found to love. It also gave me some life direction. My job is great. I do aspire for more though. The end goal of most people's lives is to love their work, right?

Opportunities have come up ever since we've made our costumes. Last year at Anaheim's 'Wondercon' I got the chance to be a part of a panel that helped be an introduction to costume making.

I've dabbled in numerous other projects since my Halo suit. I started digging into other costume methods, foam, cloth, hybrids, and have recently been trying to delve into 3d printing. I've accrued more tools than I thought I ever would, transformed part of my room into a station dedicated to parts of the costume making I do and have used all of this to make a foam Destiny costume, an Emile from Halo Reach costume and most recently, an almost-finished Star Lord costume.


I still stick to my strengths these days which is painting. I do it for a job and therefore, the experience has thankfully rubbed off on my hobby. I really enjoy the painting process. I've had the joy of working with acrylics, airbrushing, spray painting, dyeing and all sorts of permutations.

Starisde Armory

My brother came to me with an idea one day for a way to share our artistic endeavors. A popular trend for people who either create things for themselves, for other people, or both, was to come up with a representative name, and a page to share their projects on. Starside is a reflection of how we really came into the gaming world at all. There is a little game some of you may know by the name of Marathon, by a little company at the time called Bungie. The sign off from your team mates as they leave an area?

'Seeya Starside'

Needless to say, it stuck, and here we are.

There was a point to all this, right?

Self reflection is great and all, but why should you care? Well here's what I've experienced in my short travels.

When I first started going to conventions, I marveled at some of the costumes I saw. It made my day. When I saw a costume from a favorite tv show or game, it made me smile, point and look, take a picture and enjoy the work someone had put in to share with the world.

I wanted that. I also am aware of the self admiration aspect. I am truly proud of a lot of the things I've made - and in a way that I don't need other people to love it, for me, being proud of my own work is special. More than that though, I want people to act on their own desires. I have come across hundreds of people that ask me how I make my costumes only to end with 'I don't have what it takes to make something like that!'

You do though. How do I know? Because I had zero background in costume making. I had zero experience with any tool that had an on/off switch. No knowledge of where to start, where to look, how to do this, how to do that. I started with nothing.

My journey should be no different than anyone else's. I implore ANYONE who has even remotely thought about making a costume to look into it and try it. The guides, tutorials, active help, communities are out there. All of the resources are out there and it's possible.

Some helpful places to look would be

RPF The role playing forum, a great source of things not Halo related

405th The Halo-centric forum. Where I learned everything about my first costume

Punished PropsA helpful facebook page to look at ran by Bill Doran - who makes wonderful tutorials, especially on foam crafting which is a very popular method of costume making.

Make something, you could really like it. I've learned to love it.

No comments:

Post a Comment