No matter what time of year it is, there always seems to be a convention quickly approaching. Going to cons is supposed to be enjoyable, like a vacation. For cosplayers, however, it can also be a huge source of stress. Wait too long to start on your costume, and suddenly you’re pouring every waking moment into trying to find the perfect piece for your costume. For that matter, regardless of how early you start planning, there is never “enough time” before a con.
“There is now less than X week(s) until x Con!” Panicking yet? We feel that! Each year on the last day of Dragon Con (in September), we promise ourselves that we are going to start working on our costumes for the next year. Without fail, though, July arrives, and we realize that Dragon Con is right around the corner and we haven’t even officially settled on which costumes we’re going to do. The next two months are spent scrambling, scrounging, stretching, gluing, and, most importantly, stressing more than we stress about anything else.
While we can’t help you with most of that list, we can give you some advice on how to cut down the stress of pre-con panic.
1. Lists, lists, and more lists! Make a “to-do” list of everything you have to get done and what it will take to get each thing done: Write down which costumes you’re doing, and write down every last thing you have to do to make each costume a success, as well as how important each item is. We use a 1-5 ranking scale, with 1 being the most important and 5 being the least important – the item that if you don’t quite get to, it’s okay. Itemize so it looks something like this, crossing through each item as you acquire it:
And don’t forget the “to pack” list, which may or may not be a replication of your “to do” list! A good old fashion check list is more valuable than you might realize… until it’s too late! There isn’t much worse than spending all of your time, money, and life force on an epic costume, and ultimately finding yourself unable to debut it because you forgot a key piece!
2. Do one thing at a time. Determine to find everything you need for Captain America’s shield before you start stressing about Buffy’s perfect slayer scythe. Mark each item off the list as you acquire it (See above).
3. Find a friend or relative to be your stress support/accountability partner, someone to make sure you’re getting stuff done (crossing items off your list), but also someone with whom to stress. Sometimes it really does help to know that you’re not the only one in the “so much to do, so little time” boat. If you’re married, you may already have this person built into your everyday life. We’ve even found that this can bring you closer together (or drive you apart, so determine to be support to each other and not an added source of stress)!
4. Trim the fat. We’re not talking about losing weight here, although that may be one of the things on your “to do” list. What we’re saying is this: Don’t make things harder than they have to be. Sometimes you have to eliminate the non-essentials. Ask yourself, “Will Captain America still be AWESOME if I don’t make the life-size Peggy Carter?” Focus on the core of each costume, and once those are done you can go back to work on accessories. The best replica Han Solo blaster in the world doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have the pants and vest. Your ranking system (see above) can even help cut the non-essentials!
5. K.I.S.S. You may be familiar with the phrase, “Keep it simple, stupid.” If you’re not, depending on how much time you have left before the con, you may need to get familiar with it! Like with “Trim the Fat” (above), don’t make things more difficult than necessary. Maybe you really don’t need to make that Peggy Carter from scratch… Maybe you can just order a used and slightly less accurate one off the internet? As costumers, we know that this is sometimes regarded as somehow less awesome than creating something from nothing, but sometimes you just don’t have time for anything else. You may have to make the call: Is it better to have a less accurate or store-bought costume (which, honestly, there should be no shame in), or to not costume at all? OR is it better to have one stellar Captain America costume or three other shoddily constructed ones? We know from experience: It’s better to be in on the fun with one slightly less awesome something than it is to have nothing at all.
6. Remind yourself WHY you go to cons. If it’s only for the sake of having the best 1983417 costumes of the convention, then by all means… stress away! But if it’s for any other reason (vacation, meeting and hanging with other geeks, buying nerdelicious toys and comics, meeting and hearing from the stars of your favorite television shows, movies, etc…), then dwell on those things! This way, if you’re lucky enough that your costume(s) fall together just perfectly in the nick of time, it’s a bonus!
Conventions should be fun. They exist to bring fandoms and stars together. Sure, costuming is fun, but pre-con stress shouldn’t ruin the experience. Hopefully with the above list you can avoid most of that stress and get your favorite cosplay(s) finished with time to spare.
Have something to add? A bit of advice on how you do (or should) cut down on the stress of a con quickly approaching? Let us know in the comments!