You’ve researched for weeks, you’ve stayed up late every night finishing it before the upcoming convention, but you have finally done it. You have made your very first costume. It’s time to wear it out to the show and join the costuming and cosplay fun you’ve seen online. What do you do if a piece fails or your glue wasn’t fully dry? How do you deal with a complete costume failure?
In addition to having made several costumes for the 501st Legion, I have made costumes for some of my other fandoms including Ghostbusters, Doctor Who and more. I’ve also more than once been in the awkward situation of having to deal with a complete and utter costume failure. There really isn’t anything more heartbreaking than to pour yourself into something and then to just watch it as it all slowly falls apart in front of you.
No matter how much time you put into a costume, you never fully understand how it all works until you’ve worn it several times. Trying it on at home and wearing it for a few minutes is never quite the same as fully dressing out and wearing it in public for hours at a time. You can never account for everything that is going to happen in the real world.
That is why it’s so important to be prepared for what is going to happen. I store my 501st costumes in a plastic rolling tub, and inside my armor tub, I always have my tool kit. It has snaps, velcro, extra material for straps, a rivet gun, and the most important, a roll of duct tape. Remember the boy scout motto, be prepared.
Early in my time with the Legion we attended a local convention. The convention did not provide any changing space for us and since it was only a few minutes from my house I didn’t bother getting a room at the hotel. This meant that I was forced to change in the parking lot. Not much of a big deal, any sense of modesty is quickly lost when you join the Legion. Unfortunately, it started to snow and it was then that I learned that the glue holding my armor together does not respond well to freezing temperatures. Very quickly I noticed things failing and pieces literally starting to fall off of me. It was then that I learned the importance of duct tape, for the rest of the weekend many of my pieces were being held together by duct tape (thankfully most of it was where you couldn’t see it) and sheer will. Since then I’ve always been more careful about where and how I store my armor in the colder months of the year.
I had played with making costumes prior to joining the 501st in 2008, but those were mostly glorified Halloween costumes, worn only once or twice and never thought of again. Since then I have taken a different approach and really embraced the costuming and cosplay hobby. But, it’s not without heartache. I’ve learned several important things that I never would’ve known and had to adapt quickly to deal with them.
My toolkit also saved me when we were scheduled to make a TV appearance. While changing in the backrooms of the TV station I heard a pop as a rivet holding my belt together broke. With only minutes to spare before a live TV appearance, I was able to redo the rivet and get my armor back together. Without the proper preparation, I would’ve missed out on a fun, high-profile event.
It’s because of these and other similar events that I will never leave my toolkit at home as you never quite know what is going to happen. In fact, I have noticed a new trend at some of the larger conventions there are now groups that specialize in cosplay repair and help for those who encounter similar problems. These people are amazing helpers and proof of the power of a community who works together to help each other. It’s important to work together and help each other. The community is best when we all work together. You can’t stop all of the problems before they happen, but if you plan and prepare accordingly you can catch it and fix it in time to avoid the heartbreak.