It probably surprises no one that I am a bit of a perfectionist. I’m an aggressive editor of my image and how people see me. I’m worried about how I’m viewed and making sure things look just right. Which is why my history as a cosplayer is a fraught one. I spent more time making costumes than wearing them and my desire to be comfortable while walking around and moving around on stage all day often overrides my desire to look like a convincing Yuki Eiri (though for my Writing Female Characters panel at A-Kon 28 I DID stay as Bak Chang during the entire panel. You can see the video where I spend 1 hour moving my heavy front fringe from my eyes so I could answer questions and see people.).
So today in the spirit of cosplay, OCD and perfectionism: I wanted to talk about when it’s okay to accept flaws and when your desire to get things just right can hide beauty.
I started fabric dyeing late in my cosplay career. I’ve been able to luck out in finding fabric and pieces that were the color I needed. Recently, I’ve had to dye fabric and it is not fun. On top of the sweater that would not be dyed (no, seriously: I used 4 different bleaches and then any dye that did stick ended up dripping onto the floor leaving a mostly undyed red sweater) I’ve had moderate success going from light to dark. For an upcoming costume, though: I had to go from what was in my mind white to yellow. Sounds easy enough, right? I found the perfect item at Forever 21 for a cheap price, got my dye and settled into going home. Immediately things went well and then I forgot to seal the dye. For those unsure, dye sealant is a product that keeps the dye in the fabric and not on other clothes or on your skin. So I in all of my years of common sense and wisdom decided “I should be able to just spray on the sealant to a piece that was already dried and perfect from last week.”
Dear readership, I was a fool.
The sealant ruined the dye and left splotches all over the piece. Then when I finally tried the piece on, what I thought was a dress was actually a high-low t-shirt. So not only was it ruined, but it was way too short to wear as a dress and with non-opaque tights, it was a mess. So I tried to re-dye the shirt: didn’t work. Tried to get shorts: those are fine but I actually hate yellow so I have no idea what to do with them now. So I swallowed my pride and bought another dress but the dress was grey. So I bleached the dress and dyed it the yellow I needed but I was certain that I had failed. I was certain that I had failed in getting the color right since it’s difficult to go from grey to white/not white to yellow. I was miserable, felt like I had failed and was down on myself for weeks. I dyed, redyed and tried to fix these pieces over and over and over again until I nearly ruined a perfectly good t-shirt and ignored a good dress that I assumed was a failure.
Dear readership, I was wrong.
As I stressed and was anxious over 2 failed pieces, I had forgotten something. The dress that I had dyed the second time around was drying in the back of my closet and had been left for dead. Until I pulled it out while doing laundry only to find it was perfect. For the character I was working on, the yellow it had taken on was perfect. It looked just fine and if anything the splotches of brighter yellow only made the piece look better and feel more homemade and authentic. It looks like work was put into it and dammit with my yellow for days fingers, there was work put into this.
Sometimes, in costume work it’s easy to ignore all the hard work you’ve done when things don’t look just right. It’s easy to do this in life with projects and I am more than empathetic to the need to always look and do your best. But my perfectionism, hastiness and inability to see good in what I can do cost me time, money and moments of my life without yellow-dyed skin.
When working on things, it’s important to be critical but not condescending: to yourself and to others. Be kind to yourself and your work. Things almost always work out in the end.
Happy cosplay, everyone. I’ll be posting some cosplay progress photos and be doing a convention announcement very soon.