A Personal History, My Cosplay Years

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Cosplay (コスプレ kosupurei), short for “costume play”,[1] is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.

Fortune Cookie is our resident Cosplay Expert on Defective Geeks but I’ve certainly dabbled with it in the past…just a little. Anime Expo, the biggest west-coast anime convention in North America, is coming up this 4th of July weekend. Fortune Cookie will be attending (and hopefully blogging about it for us) but this is the first time in many years that I won’t be there myself. I started to get nostalgic a little and dug up a bunch of my old photos. As a homage to this upcoming event I thought I’d share with all of you my cosplay evolution throughout the years.

What Cosplay Meant to Me

It was fun- a lot of fun! Cosplay helped me develop my confidence during my awkward, nerdy, young years. Not to get all cheesecakey but it did help me become the person I am today. Honestly, after running about as anime characters for years, a part of me have certainly become fearless. I learned to not care what other people thought of me. I am not afraid to try a lot of things or take risks with the way I look or with the actions I take. Or at least I am not afraid to get incredibly silly in public!

My first “official” Anime Expo cosplay happened in 2002 (this might be wrong, my brain doesn’t work well with calendar events) and I wore my “female-Vash” (Trigun) costume that Pilbeam made for me. This is seriously how we became friends. I commissioned her to make my costumes and she was lovely enough to say yes to my weird request.

Can you imagine having a slightly dorky Asian girl in high school randomly approaching you to make an anime costume? It must have been a little scary. Nevertheless, we like each other now. Whew!

I still love this photo. Yes, that's me in the middle. Was I cute or what?

Early Years…

In the beginning, I loved to dress up as bad-ass male characters from anime (the term ‘crossplay’ was coined later in the cosplay world).

I’m going to skip a few years ahead here and skipping over the more shameful cosplay projects of 2003. You’re not missing out on much, I promise. I present to you the first costume I created from scratch all by myself. Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist – worn prominently at Anime Expo 2004.

Note that I haven’t learned the art of wigs yet. I chose characters based on hairstyles and if I can find a way to just utilize my own hair. I was a poor high school student and didn’t want to invest the money on wigs, after all! At this point, Pilbeam had thought me to turn on my sewing machine and helped me sew my first pair of shorts from a Pirate costume pattern for kids. Literally a couple of weeks afterwards, I made this full costume based on my little knowledge. Ta-da! It was like magic! It all escalated from this point on.

Nana Oosaki

Funny enough, my more popular cosplay was my simplest: Nana Oosaki from Ai Yazawa’s manga series NANA. I began dressing up like her back when no one in the U.S.A. have read the series yet and up until it became popular. I looked a lot like Nana Oosaki back then and I was known for it. Although 4chan said I was “too dark” to be Nana. Ha!

(L) First EVER NANA Cosplay Group, AniMagic 2006 (R) I do own that coveted red dress by Sexy Dynamite London

Short Girls and Little Boys

Eventually, I did find more female characters I wanted to cosplay. I was a part of the first BLEACH cosplay group at Anime Expo 2005. I actually auditioned for a male character but I had a height disadvantage compared to the rest of the group. I was relegated to be Rukia. Good thing she was one of my favorite BLEACH girls and I was excited to be a part of this photo shoot!

That's me in the middle!

This was also when I met one of my BFFs, Christy L., and she and I began planning more costumes together. I have to say that our cosplay together were some of the best costumes I made in my career. Since she was taller than me, I was usually either her ‘Little Girl’ or ‘Little Boy’!

Christy and I - Zombie Powder, Anime Expo 2007

Me as Chrome from Reborn, Anime Expo 2008

Golden Demon from Mononoke, private photoshoot

I have stopped cosplaying as much as I did because my interests have veered in different directions and I knew I couldn’t support the hobby without messing myself up financially. Plus, I actually do seriously suck at sewing and as my standards got higher, I couldn’t deal with my own amateur skills. I can’t say that I’ve given it up completely though. I may or may not have a few things up my sleeve for the future.

If you’d like to check out more of my costumes, go to my Cosplay.com gallery or my ACParadise.com gallery.

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  • http://juliacnguyen.tumblr.com/ Julia Gulia

    Yay! LIKE! Oh wait, this isn’t facebook… I wish I had encounters with you at Anime Expo during the time I went, 2001-2004, by 2004 I was done… LOL Let’s plan a year for a bunch of us oldies to go and revisit memories, though I have a feeling being there might remind us why we’re not going anymore. None the less, it’d be fun if we’re TOGETHER! Awww <3s! I've only cosplayed once. I don't have pictures of it anywhere as it should be. Hahaha! Also, I remember trying to help you with the Reborn and Hiyori wig. I was such an amateur! Good thing you had better help at the con. But it was fun, blue hair every where!

    • http://www.defectivegeeks.com Space Pirate Queen

      Oh my god, after last year’s Anime Expo, nothing will make me go back any time soon lol I can’t do it anymore! Maybe in a few years when I’ve forgotten the pain… though it might be fun if the oldies get together and go again. Or we might just end up saying fuck-it! and leave anyways! Haha!

      The Hiyori wig was hard to figure out, man, but that Chrome wig was all you! We didn’t touch it afterwards! Christy was impressed with it.

  • http://www.glassofwin.com Rachael

    I get a little nostalgic around this time of year, too, especially when people (who clearly don’t know me and my AX history) ask if I’m going to attend. I loved cosplaying but I have zero talent so I was always crap cosplaying or being stuffed into costumes my friends made me – either out of pity or necessity (which was often a male character…despite me having the biggest rack of them all. Hm. Go fig.) The two cosplay outfits I did well that I miss are my hide cosplay and my Queen Beryl manga style, which my mom made me for 2003. Those are the only cosplay pictures I would share online :P
    You always made a fantastic NaNa, Dianne!

    • http://www.defectivegeeks.com Space Pirate Queen

      I remember your hide cosplay XD I was just going through photos from that lolita/jrock masquerade from AX one year. It was seriously just all of our friends. So funny lol

  • http://allaboutmanga.net Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

    Love that Vash cross-play! I’m kind of jealous that you have that Sexy Dynamite London dress too.

    I only did a few full-out costumes, mostly for masquerade skits. Those were the best, and if my group got back together, I’d totally start cosplaying then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXutJ5Z3yrI <I'm in the black dress in the back row.