To understand why I love writing tutorials so much we have to take a look back. Waaay back. Some call it the golden age of cosplay, others remember it as the dark ages.
Making it up as you go
When I crashed into the world of cosplay in the mid-2000s, it was already in full swing. The community was small but vibrant and welcoming to people like me who brought some sewing and crafting experience to the game. Cosplayers were eager to shine and go beyond their skill set with each costume, but they were making it up as they went.
My first convention in cosplay: AnimagiC 2005 in Koblenz. I’m Lulu from Final Fantasy X, with Cary as Rikku, Indy as Yuna (both @ animexx.de) and an unknown Lenne cosplayer.
Want to make a suit of armor? Nope, you can’t use worbla or a 3D printer! Walk into the next DIY store, grab whatever odd materials you can appropriate for your build and cover them with paper mâché. Need a pattern? They don’t sell patterns for cosplay, take an old bedcloth and make your own pattern from scratch. Need a wig? Well you better dye your hair odd colors because most wigs are either bright, party city quality or ridiculously expensive imports.
Resources were scarce and no one outside our small community knew what cosplay even was.
We frequently had no idea how to make something, and no one to tell us how it should be done. We would talk to our friends on a forum who might be as clueless as we were. But it didn’t matter. Get creative, put your heart into a build, pop up at a con and people will love your costume, no matter how improvised it is!
We had nothing, and we had everything.
In the mid-2000s in Germany, conventions were only starting to run workshops and other programming geared towards cosplayers. I taught my very first wig workshop at a con in Denmark that I was invited to (J-Popcon 2007). 10 years later, you could spend your whole weekend at a con learning about all aspects of cosplay if you wanted to! Thanks to social media and commercialization, you now have 24/7 access to everything “cosplay”, from live video tutorials and cosplay-specific tools and materials, to ready-made costumes shipped to your door.
This has also raised the bar for beginners and made it harder for them to manage their expectations, I think. With all these possibilities, how would you even know where to start?
I’ve always wanted to empower fellow cosplayers to use new methods, to become more confident in what they’re doing, and to ultimately create their dream costume. I truly enjoyed exchanging cosplay advice on message boards, teaching panels at conventions and posting free tutorials online. Since resources for cosplayers were so scarce, I had long been dreaming of collecting this shared knowledge in a book that novices and journeymen alike could use as a go-to guide for cosplay creation.
In 2014 I was approached by German cosplay store myCostumes to work on their tutorial book, “How to Make myCostumes”. On their editorial team, I was responsible for copy-editing: making sure the instructions were easy to understand, relevant for cosplayers and written in a unique tone that would appeal to a younger audience. I was also the author of the wig tutorial chapter and a couple of other texts, including a brief history of cosplay.
Our team was amazing, it was the first time any of us had been responsible for a publishing project of this scale and we learned so much in the process. The book exceeded all expectations! Thanks to it being sold through bookstores nation-wide, it even reached parents and people who were new to the hobby. It ended up winning a DIY book prize and it helped cosplay get noticed by companies that were catering to creatives.
It’s out of print now, but it certainly was a milestone for me. For more photos of the book, check out Anna’s official website, she was in charge of the design and most of the sewing tutorials!
Today I work a 9-5 job (that has nothing to do with cosplay) and I finally have the financial resources, as well as the creative team, to write the tutorials that I want and self-publish them in the format I want.
Working with Anna on the myCostumes project sparked more ideas for little booklets to accompany our workshops at cons. We wanted something for people to take home, to empower them to create their own costumes from scratch. And so the idea for “Wigs 101” was born.
I often see people struggle with wig styling. I see them shy away from tackling a complex style because they fear that they’ll never make it perfect, so they’d rather not try at all.
That’s why I explain things step by step, make it look as simple as possible and take away your fear. Rather than full character wigs, I like to show you the basic techniques that you can adapt to create your own unique builds. That’s what I demonstrate in my wig panels at cons, too, and the concept has evolved over the years thanks to the feedback and questions I get from my audience.
For my second (and upcoming third) book I was lucky to find wonderful cosplayers who were happy to model the wigs for me, and the result – with Erik’s amazing photography – is as much a coffee table book as it is a how-to!
Everyone I work with shares my vision of creating tutorials that look, read, and feel professional. We want them to be clear, fun, and accessible. We don’t want to waste people’s time or money.
Through my tutorial books, I want to give people something of value, while also encouraging them to get creative and fulfill their own dreams. I give them the tools that they need and the guidance that we didn’t have when we started cosplaying 15 or 20 years ago.
I firmly believe in that mission. So I will keep on styling and writing.