Features about health are very important to Nerd Caliber and we try every once in a while to publish an article that we hope to enlighten you to the benefits of exercise and eating right. However, whether you are underweight, overweight and any weight in between you are still wonderful. If you are plus-sized or overweight you should not be made fun of for it. Yet we live in a world where there is so much pressure, especially toward women, that in order to be beautiful by society’s standards they must also be thin. Adele, who won six Grammy Awards in one night was not immune from from being called out about her weight. Hillary Clinton, one of the most powerful political figures in the world was criticized by some writer about her role as a leader because of her appearance. In our society, the penalty of being “fat” is to be made fun of by family, friends, enemies and the media. Such predicaments are especially found in cosplay, an art form where we try to emulate (mostly) fictional characters. Sadly, female characters in anime and comic books (our most common inspirations) tend to be impossibly thin.
Despite the negative comments towards plus-sized cosplayers from elitists and non-cosplayers, there has been attempts by many to encourage them to continue with their craft. One such cosplayer is Lady Ari. Lady Ari recently put together a panel at Ichibancon about plus-sized cosplay where she shared some personal inflection, advice and laughs. She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about plus-sized cosplay.
How did you first get involved in cosplay?
I think I always had a love for cosplay even before I knew it existed. Halloween was my favorite holiday, in part, because I could dress up and be someone totally different and it would mostly be accepted. Renaissance fairs satisfied my love of this as well. I was actually in my 20’s before I found out about anime. I had devoured all things animated on tv since my first childhood memories but someone, I dont recall who, recommended I watch Sailor Moon, Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D. And that was it. I was hooked. My love for animation had a whole new world to explore.
Eventually I discovered cosplay, conventions, AMVs, pocky, J-rock; the usual Otaku stuff. I didn’t have the ‘net or cable as a kid so I think I would’ve gotten into this a lot sooner if I’d had the access I do now. It was quite some time later before I’d finally make it to a con. And I got my first wig for con #2 (I now have 13 lols). I’m now learning to sew just for the sake of cosplay.
I was quite nervous to cosplay at first. I was new to the scene and self conscious about my weight. But after going to cons and seeing the comraderie and acceptance…and sheer joy of it all..then I said to heck with fear and dived in. My friends were a HUGE part of my getting my feet wet. We really encourage each other to go for it! And I couldn’t do it without them. We’ve even formed a casual cosplay group since we do everything at con together.
Once I did it though, I realized there were so many more people who felt just like I did. I started speaking with them at con or online and it just inspired me to want to make more of those connections. And the idea for the panel was born!
What issues do plus-sized cosplayers have to deal with?
Finding things that are available for plus size cosplayers is just..ugh. There’s very little out there unless you commission. The main thing with cosplay, imho, is to choose something that will work for your body type; regardless of your size or weight. I think it’s doubly important if you are plus size. I hate seeing a cosplayer wearing something that really just doesn’t work on them, but they probably chose it because it’s pretty or because they love the character.
This was a major point that we focused on during the panel. A plus size girl can wear the same cosplay a more slender girl can, so long as it FITS and it suits your general shape. I feel like just because this is a costume for a special event, that you shouldn’t throw your common sense out of the window. It’s an outfit you will be spending a lot of time in (and on if you are making it) so it needs to be something you are confident rocking out in public. If it fits properly, you will feel good wearing it; and that’s half the battle won.
Tell me more about the panel. What issues were brought out specifically?
Well since this was the first time I’d done the panel, I really approached it from a basic, sort of a beginner’s, point of view. We discussed basic knowledge, things we’d learned along the way and shared some tips and ideas. We tried to keep it very positive and encouraging. I didn’t use random photos of “good or bad” cosplayers because I feel that is just finger pointing and not necessarily constructive. But we did go over things we felt you shouldn’t do as well.
Fabric choice is a key component of any cosplay but I feel is an especially important one when you are plus size. As is choosing a character you truly identify with. If you can relate to the character, you will pull it off that much more successfully
We had visuals but were unable to use them due to tech issues. Still, I felt the panel went well, for a first try, and the attendees were very interactive with us; asking questions and sharing their own points. Several stuck around after and others approached us later to talk about it. That was my favorite part! I was really nervous to do it so it felt great to know that others related to it and enjoyed it. Several have kept in touch 🙂
I really look forward to expanding the panel as I learn more about being a plus size cosplayer and sharing my experiences with others.
Any memorable moments in the panel?
I think for me the most memorable part during the panel was the amount of participation we got from attendees. And how they were really listening to what we had to say. It was awesome to hear the more experienced offer up tips or even ask questions or opinions of us. It was such a great feeling!
And we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just ladies in attendance. Plus size guys face the same challenges girls do and are exposed to the same criticisms. Since there’s only one male in our group, this was a subject we had less info on. So it was super cool to be able to talk to the guys about their experiences.
What difficulties,if any did you have putting this panel together, during the panel and afterward?
This wasn’t difficult to put together in the sense of material; there’s plenty out there aside from my own experiences. The hard part for me was knowing which bits to use! I really wanted it to appeal to those who were already doing it and to those who were new. It’s such a personal topic really, so I think that added to the challenge as well. And of course we have ideas for improving it next time. Feedback from the people attending can really help you know what they’d like to see or discuss next time. Talk to them!
I’ve found cosplayers who’ve agreed to interviews with me about their experiences and are allowing me to use their photos, which I’m super excited about for our next time doing this panel. There are some amazing plus size cosplayers out there, and I look forward to learning from them and sharing this with others.From looking up other panels online, and reading lots of blogs on the subject, I think one challenge will be to approach this objectively. While we try to do this in a positive way, it’s not a cheerleading session. We feel like sharing our experiences will help those just starting out get a good idea how to begin or just get the confidence to try; so maybe they don’t make some common mistakes most newcomers are apt to make (including us). And maybe we have some fresh takes on things that the more experienced might not have thought of yet; we certainly want to learn from them!Personally I feel it’s one of those panels that you go to every year at con, so that you can reconnect with people you met at the last one. See how you’ve both grown in skill and pose for pics lol. That’s my hope for it anyway.
If you like more information, you can watch the video of the panel below and contact the panelists through this link!
(Photo Credits: First, third, fourth and sixth pictures belong to Alex Robinson. The rest are the property of Lady Ari)