I had a really awesome thing happen back in August (that I totally forgot to post about). On a whim, I entered that photo up there (of me as Maya, taken by Photo Tsumi) into the Wizard World Comic Con Chicago Cosplay Photo Contest. Immediately after entering, I regretted it; by the end of the first day, I was so far behind behind in votes that I knew I couldn’t win without some sort of miracle. But I have some pretty awesome friends, and they shared my entry constantly, spread it around, and successfully kept me in the top ten for the duration of the contest.

With about a week left, the contest organizers announced that there would be two winners – the first by popular vote, and a second that the judges would pick from the top fifty vote-getters. Turns out they liked my costume enough to pick me.

Well fucking alright!

That was one of the most exciting things to happen to me in quite some time. It was totally unexpected, and not only did it send me to WW for free, but it also gave me the chance to meet Stan Lee! How awesome is that?

The day that I got the email telling me I won, I made the mistake of going to the WW Facebook page, and I saw this little gem:

So lame. The winners of the costume contest didn’t even make their own costumes.

Well then.

This comment eventually spurred a discussion that escalated from my nice, calm response, to some ignorant comments by him implying not so subtly that both Heather (maker of my bodysuit) and Mike (photographer) both deserved to win more than I did, to a less calm response from me, him deleting the thread, and finally a message from him apologizing for insulting me.

You might consider that a win, but I just…couldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that he apologized. I hope some of what I said to him actually got through, and he wasn’t doing that just to appease me. But there seems to be this overwhelming attitude – particularly, I’ve found, among those that don’t even actively participate in costuming – that that fact that you commissioned a part of your costume immediately diminishes the effect of it, and matters more than all the other work you’ve put in. It somehow means you cheated, and that it’s not yours anymore.

This whole idea that you don’t deserve credit or the costume’s not yours or you’re not a “real cosplayer” (whatever the fuck that means) unless you made 100% of the costume is bullshit.

I can understand perhaps being more impressed if one person does make every part of a costume themselves; I know I’m always astounded when someone can make professional quality props AND is an incredible seamstress AND can apply sculpt, cast, and mold custom prosthetics AND do their own makeup…but that’s not everyone. And not every person involved in costuming should be expected to do that.

Look, I take pride in the work I do. I know I’m not the best out there, but the time and effort I put into my projects, the crazy obsessive behavior, the scrutinization of every reference image until I see those characters in my dreams…I do enjoy it. And when I have a product in my hands that’s actually a fantasy item come to life, it feels pretty damn good.

Liliana Vess headdressBut as you can imagine, it’s a painfully long process to get there. I pour hours into research. I spend days making blueprints. And a single item like Liliana’s headdress that I figure will only take me maybe three days of work suddenly turns into a week and a half because it’s just. not. good enough.

But at the end of those ten days, I have a really badass headdress that I made myself. And that excites me.

I do not have that sense of excitement about sewing. I do it, but I don’t look forward to it, and I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like spending a lot of time on it because it’s, quite simply, something I’m not exceptionally good at. Don’t get me wrong, I know my way around a machine, and I’ll sew because I have to. But nothing about that process is enjoyable to me. So when I have a costume I’d like to make and I’m really looking forward to fabricating all the parts except for this one super complicated clothing item that I just don’t want to deal with…hell yes I’ll ask someone to do it for me. Someone who’s talented, enjoys what they’re doing, and deserves to be paid for being masters of their craft.

Why should I feel bad about that? By knowing my limits – both in terms of skill and interest – I get a bit of relief knowing that part of the costume will be done (and done well!) and I can subsequently focus my attention on the parts I truly love. Why should I not be able to call the costume mine in the end…just because I commissioned a single part? What about the cosplayers that commission their props? It’s like there’s this assumption that every costumer should excel at sewing, but it’s ok if they’re not into the whole molding/casting/resin/fiberglass nonsense that prop-makers are familiar with.

Why the hell am I being judged so harshly just because I don’t like to sew?

For fuck’s sake, this was a photo contest, not a craftsmanship contest – I’d have never entered if it was. But somehow, despite making my shoes from scratch, assembling every belt by hand, meticulously sewing each and every pouch, purse, and pocket, and having a really killer photo of my costume, all the work I did was negated in some people’s eyes…because of one piece. I should be disqualified for commissioning one thing.

But what if I had found the perfect pants at Target? Or if I don’t hand-weave my own wig? Shit, I didn’t make my contacts either… What am I allowed to buy to still be able to say I made the costume? I honestly can’t keep up with all the rules imposed by shit-talking trolls on the internet.

And really, I don’t want to. I don’t want to hear it. I said it in my interview with Geek Girls, I’ll say it again, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. There is nothing wrong with commissioning or otherwise purchasing a part or all of your costume. (There IS however, something very wrong with claiming you made something you didn’t or otherwise stealing credit from someone that busted their ass on something…but that’s a rant for another day.)

It comes down to priorities. I do this because I like making things – it’s not about competing in craftsmanship contests, it’s not about being the character. It’s about wanting to spend my time making the things I want to make, and then sharing them with people – friends, fans, other creators…whoever. I give credit where credit’s due, and go on my merry way, ready to make more stuff.

If doing things that way means I don’t meet all of your requirements for being a real cosplayer, so be it.
When you come up with the official rules, let me know so I can promptly ignore them all.