Geekheart Guidance: Cosplay after baby

I'm excited to offer another round of Geekheart Guidance, where I answer advice questions for readers. I admit, I have been procrastinating on this particular submission. I was intimidated, for reasons that should soon become clear. S writes:

I'm in my mid-30's. I have had 2 kids, and the stretch marks to show for it. I see a lot of cool costumes that I'd love to cosplay, but a bunch of them are open at the midriff, which I'm not comfortable with anymore.

How would you reconcile maintaining costume accuracy with the desire for more cover-up? I don't want to end up being one of those cosplayers whose picture ends up getting comments like "yuck" or "how disgusting" just because I have a few stretch marks from, y'know, growing a LIFE inside of me. -S

I've been cosplaying for 14 or 15 years. I'm great at cosplay questions. However, I don't have kids. Giving advice to mothers when I've never been one makes me super nervous. I simply lack that life experience. So, I went to GGC readers and a few cosplaying moms in my circle. This response was lovingly assisted by Tara S., Kristy M., Michelle F., Amber Z., Margaret M., Erin H., Cheryl S., Amanda M., aaaaand Priss. Whew!

S, your concerns can be tackled from several different angles- Altering a costume's design, NOT altering a costume's design but altering your body, finding a character's alt look, or saying "Haters gonna hate" and blowing past what people think. I wasn't exactly sure which you were looking for, so I'll explore each.

Altering the costume design - Many of the women I spoke to add modesty to costumes while staying mostly screen-accurate. Necklines can be raised. Skirts and shirts can be lengthened. When it comes to stretch marks (or fierce tiger stripes,) you could add a nondescript underlay of black or complimentary colored fabric where the midriff would normally show. This is an alteration to the design, but one that doesn't draw too much attention.

Altering your body - If you really love a design but are specifically worried about stretch marks, several geek moms recommended Kryolan foundation or Dermablend. Both makeup brands supposedly cover scars and tattoos when properly locked. If makeup isn't for you, try dance garments. Some natural, convincing bodysuits and dance tights are available. I have dance tights that I wear when I'm Envy Adams, simply to keep the boots from cutting into my legs.  These pro supplies are a bit pricey, but worth it if you gain the confidence to make your art. ...You could also make a butt. Ahem.

Character variants - This is a fun one. Maybe Misty's original costume in Pokemon shows too much tummy, while her Advanced Generation or Diamond and Pearl outfits would suit you. True, there's almost always one outfit that is the most iconic/recognizable. However, imagine how pumped true fans will be when they see unique variants! You could also create totally original designs based on a character to see how many people "get it."  I recommend trying this just as a creative exercise. :)

Finally, haters gonna hate. This is definitely the harshest portion of my response. It can also be the most freeing and fun. The cosplay community is giant. It's more or less a mainstream hobby, now. There is no costume you can make that everyone is going to love. People on the Internet can be the worst. They'll post terrible comments about amateur and "famous" cosplayers alike. We will always be too fat, too skinny, too pale, too dark. Our fabric will be too cheap or too flashy. Our wigs will be imperfect to someone, our shoes will be worth mocking on the Internet to someone else.

I had a boyfriend at his very first Dragon Con who put together an incredible Dr. Horrible costume. The very first person who saw him on an elevator said, "You look great! ...but you don't have vents on the sides of your goggles." WHAT. EVER.

If you're aiming for being loved (or even just tolerated) by all, you sadly won't be. None of us are. For unrelated reasons, I'm going through some of the worst venom from the cosplay community of my life. Do I care? Well, it hurts. I won't lie. However, if we let the opinions of literal strangers affect us too much, we'll all just go crazy.

I won't tell you not to care what people think. That's impossible. I will tell you that strangers' opinions should NOT be the #1 thing that decides what your cosplay will be. YOU get to decide what you feel good in, not anyone else. Cosplay is for everyone. Cosplay is also art, meaning interpretations, alterations, and creativity should be encouraged. Hopefully, one of these thoughts inspires you.

No matter what you choose, you are an INCREDIBLE LIONESS for continuing to cosplay. You're powerful and beautiful just for being a mom. As for bringing babies and kids to conventions, well, I'll leave that to Tara at Sincere Mommy. :)

Send YOUR Geekheart Guidance advice questions to geekgirlchicago(at)gmail(dot)com. If you liked this, I'm also on Facebook and Twitter. Don't forget to subscribe! Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

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