Prepping for Cons! A How-To Guide to Getting it Together for a Convention

Hey, guys! Today I’ll be sharing a post based on something I really love doing-being a nerd and going to conventions!. I’ve been going to conventions for I believe 4 or 5 years now and I started out with just one convention a year, now I’m up to three! That seems like a lot but it’s nothing compared to what professional cosplayers do. Con time can be stressful for a variety of reasons and so it helps to do some major planning to help cut down on the stress. But who am I kidding, cosplay is a one-way ticket to procrastination station and crying, haha!

Now there is no written rule saying that you MUST cosplay for a convention, however, people do cosplay and/or get dressed up because a convention is a special thing. Afterall, they only take place once a year, and so much work goes into planning each convention so putting in a lot of effort and dressing to the nines can be fun. The conventions I go to are usually anime conventions but again there is no rule saying it is 100% anime only. People dress up as video game characters, cartoon characters, tv show characters, movie characters, anything, you name it! If you choose to cosplay pick something you can easily time manage. My first few cosplays were pretty simple and for a three-day con I usually only do 2 cosplays.

Because this is a budget blog, of course, I also cosplay on a budget. This means doing things like “closet cosplay”, where you take ordinary pieces of clothing and throw them together to create a character look. This is where you can also get creative and make different versions of a character. For example: instead of doing an entire sailor scout uniform you can do maybe “hipster Sailor Moon” or “punk Sailor Jupiter” (Which I’ve done). This helps to keep costs low while still having the ability to cosplay. The only con with this is that sometimes people may not recognize your character and what you’re going for. But please remember to do what makes you happy. You shouldn’t feel miserable for doing cosplay.

Thrifting helps a lot as well. One of my first cosplays was Grell from Black Butler.

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As you can see they wear a red long overcoat. This was particularly hard to find because overcoats can be extremely expensive. I had determined if I couldn’t get the coat I wouldn’t do the cosplay. By the grace of the thrift store gods, I was able to find one and I completed my first cosplay! I was truly lucky but it doesn’t help to take a look around. I would much rather spend $8 on a thrift trench coat then say $100.

Once you’ve decided if you’re going to cosplay or not, you can research what your character looks like and do inventory on what you already have on hand. Check your closet and crafting supplies to see what you can already make. This cuts down on what you have to spend money on. There are a few key things that I almost always spend money on for a cosplay and that’s wigs and shoes. I usually cosplay characters with hair that is completely different from mine so I almost always need a wig. If a character I’m doing also has specific shoes I will go out and find something similar at thrift stores or cheaper clothing stores. Other things I spend money on are things I don’t have on hand like perhaps specific colored leggings or a face mask, etc. But like I said you can always find cheaper alternatives.

Now it’s time to craft that cosplay. I would say plan out your characters about 6 months in advance so that way you can 1)change your mind if you find that maybe a character will be more expensive than another or if you want to scrap that idea altogether 2) you can plan when you need to buy things for the cosplays like “I’m going to buy one wig this paycheck and the other with my second paycheck”, 3)you have time to procrastinate. Look up tutorials on how to sew or put together a prop. Sometimes the videos you use can give you a good idea of the materials you will need and the cost. I cosplayed as Scarecrow (Arkham Asylum version) and I created the Fear Toxin Gauntlet entirely out of recycled Pepsi bottles, a few hardware pieces from Home Depot, and beer cozies from Dollar tree. The whole thing cost me about 5 or 6 dollars to make. The mask cost me about 5 dollars to make as well and I thrifted/sewed the hood part and got brown leggings for $3.97 at Wal-mart. I already had the boots in my closet so my cosplay cost me about less than 20 dollars to make!

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When you’ve got your cosplays figured out then you have to turn your attention to more important matters. The cosplay is the fun part but you have to figure out travel, accommodations, and food. If you’re going with a group of friends it can cut down immensely on what you have to pay for a hotel room. You can even stay at inexpensive motels to lower the cost even further. If there is a designated driver(s) to carpool to and from the convention center then you can even get a motel a little bit further away. If it’s further away from the city (most conventions are held in popular cities) then you will also find some cheaper options.

Speaking of carpooling, it can cut down on travel expenses. Carpooling with more people can cut down on gas. Smaller vehicles can fill up on about $20 of gas, so if you’re carpooling with 4 people that’s only $5 per person. ALWAYS plan on gas money in your budget. It’s just common courtesy if someone is driving you a possibly long distance to a convention that you give them gas. After hotel and gas, there’s food. Try and shop at Dollar Tree or cheap supermarkets for snacks and food you don’t have to cook. It’s great to bring things for breakfast like fruit, muffins, or bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese. Most motels will have a mini fridge in the room but not every one will have a microwave to cook food in. So try and keep it to simple snacks that you can take with you to eat at the con.

After budgeting what you’re spending on extra cosplay supplies, you have your hotel/motel reservation and pricing in order, and you’ve figured out how you’re traveling there, it’s time to start saving up spending money. Now you are in control of what you want to spend at a convention. I’ve spent more than $500 at a single convention before (was that a smart financial decision, absolutely not haha) but you can save as little as $200. After going to the same conventions year after year I can tell where I’m going to be spending my money the most. At Ohayocon I spend the most in the dealer’s room as it is GIGANTIC. The dealer’s room has dealer’s that have a variety of things for sale like DVD’s, mangas, games, plushies, kpop stuff, figures, etc. Artist Alley is a separate place to buy things but these are strictly for artists. Artist creations can mean anything from handcrafted goods to prints of their artwork. I usually buy a lot of prints at artist alley and cute things like buttons and stickers. If you find that an artist has prints that are out of your price range then keep moving! It’s okay to discuss with your friends that you thought an artist was too expensive but do not try to haggle or bargain with an artist to lower the price of their work. Remember their art is how they make a living. Instead, see if an artist has deals such as buy 2 prints get one free or buy 4 prints for like $20 or something like that. If they have something like

Artist creations can mean anything from handcrafted goods to prints of their artwork. I usually buy a lot of prints at artist alley and cute things like buttons and stickers. If you find that an artist has prints that are out of your price range then keep moving! It’s okay to discuss with your friends that you thought an artist was too expensive but do not try to haggle or bargain with an artist to lower the price of their work. Remember their art is how they make a living. Instead, see if an artist has deals such as buy 2 prints get one free or buy 4 prints for like $20 or something like that. If they have something like buy three mini prints for a certain price and you see that they have a sticker sheet for the same price you can ask if you can substitute a sticker sheet for a print for example. I’ve done that before. Just be courteous when asking. You can always take a business card and save up some money to buy the print from them later as well.

I always say make a few laps around the dealer’s room and artist alley so you see what everyone has to offer before making a purchase. Then you can ask for prices and figure out what exactly you want more than others. I really love artist prints, pins, buttons, and stickers. Occasionally I will buy a figure, especially if I’m really into a certain anime or game. Smaller figures can be less costly and more space effective so those are the ones I tend to go for. Bigger figures (usually like 10 inches and above) can start being like $130 each. I’ve actually seen a giant figure of my favorite character, Super Sonico, for $1000 (and yes I really want this figure). Pick and choose what you want so you can try and budget carefully. This is really important if this is your first con too. It won’t be your last so just make sure you know exactly what there is before buying.

When the money is all saved and budgeted away it’ll be time to head out for the convention! Packing is pretty key and it all starts with a list. As you’re making your cosplays write down every component of the costume. Start from the top of your head and work your way down. I even write down every makeup product I know I’ll be using especially if I’m going to make a detailed look. For example, I went to a summer convention as a summer-ized version of 707 from the otome game Mystic Messenger. My list went something like this:

  • red wig
  • white eyeshadow pencil
  • red eyeshadow
  • foundation
  • contour powder
  • setting spray
  • glasses
  • cross necklace
  • headphones
  • red tanktop
  • black shorts
  • red flipflops

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I like to bundle my cosplays together so everything is set for when I need to wear it. If you have props and they cant fit in your luggage make sure to put it in another container, like a box and let whoever is driving know ahead of time so they know how much room they will have in their car. If you’re taking a plane or bus maybe get another luggage for just your props. When you get your cosplays squared away make another list for regular items. Always bring some spare changes of regular clothes, your pj’s and basic toiletries that you will need for the weekend. Regular clothes come in handy if you want to change out of your cosplay midday or if you’re not planning to cosplay for one of the days. For the bigger conventions I go to, I usually refrain from cosplaying on Sundays. After spending the past 2 or 3 days going hard I usually don’t want to do anything else so I just wear a comfortable outfit to the convention. Lists save me from forgetting important things so i try to make as many as I can.

Planning your convention time doesnt always have to be hard. Take it one step at a time, even planning it down to the day. Make lists and budget ahead of schedule so there aren’t any unexpected finances. And most importantly always remember to have fun! Conventions are places of creativity and happiness so don’t forget to relax and enjoy your time with friends.

Happy Con-ing!

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