Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplay Comfort

We’ve all been there. You pour hours and hours of work into making your dream costume, but 2 hours into wearing it, you want nothing more than to take it off and never wear it again.  Whether it’s too hot, it pinches and squeezes your limbs, or you want to scratch your head off, cosplay costumes can be super uncomfortable and frustrating to be in for long periods of time.  Luckily, there are many ways to help make your costumes more comfortable and easy to wear, like a good pair of shorts ;).

  1. Choosing a costume for the season:
    Wearing a costume with multiple layers of foam and fabric, to a convention in Florida in August isn’t the greatest plan. Likewise, wearing a spandex bodysuit and nothing else here in Calgary in January, won’t be the most enjoyable experience.  Many characters have different variations to their outfits to fit the different seasons, so try and plan your costumes around when you will be wearing them and have ways to warm them up and cool them down, either by removing or adding a layer, or changing up the fabrics and trims.
  2. Think about mobility:
    Yes, the 14 foot wings you’ve made look stunning, but how on earth are you going to go to the bathroom?  Make sure that you can remove, collapse, or even hide away bulkier parts of your costume so you can not only enjoy the convention offerings, but can still perform normal human functions!
  3. Wigs and head-wear:
    This can fall into multiple categories, including being way too hot, as well as being awkward and large, but head-wear and wigs can also be difficult to wear for hours on end.  Make sure you take time before the convention to wear your wig around the house for a bit , to become comfortable wearing it. Use a good wig cap, and, if you have long hair, braid or tie it up neatly instead of just shoving it under the cap.  Another fantastic tip I learned recently, is to carry around a little can of dry shampoo, so if your head does get hot and itchy, you can head to the bathroom (or cosplay green room), take the wig off, and give your hair a spritz.  It works wonders!! If your head-wear or wig is heavy, make sure it’s not so heavy that you strain your neck and back.  Take breaks, and try and make any head accessories out of light materials.
  4. Wear a comfortable base layer:
    Yes, this can add to the “too hot” situation, but make sure that you are wearing good, sweat-wicking clothing under your costume, like a tank top, fitted shorts or leggings, as well as good socks inside your shoes.  This layer should stay out of sight, but in the case of accidents, or if you do have to take a break in the bathroom or green room, you can remove layers, easily.  Also, make sure you are wearing appropriate undergarments, such as a dance belt or brassiere if you are wearing a tight fitting outfit. Not only will it be more comfortable for you, it makes the costume look more complete and professional without any unintended lumps and bumps.
  5. Range of Motion in the costume: 
    You never realize how hard it is to do things with your arms bound to your sides. When patterning out your shirts and tops, make sure you leave enough room in the shoulders for a range of arm movement.  This also goes for pants as well. Leave enough space in the inseam so that you aren’t waddling like a penguin down the hall, and you can comfortably bend down, or squat.  This will make sure that nothing is too tight to comfortably do anything needed, like snapping a quick selfie, or doing a in-character pose!
  6. Storage and pockets:
    Not everyone is blessed enough to have a cosplay assistant or a group of friends who are willing to carry your stuff around for you while in costume.  A couple of super easy ways to help with this, is to put a hidden pocket or two into your costume or take some extra fabric from the costume and fashion a quick bag with a strap.  Both are really easy solutions and can help you keep those most important things close by, like your phone and wallet, and make sure you have a place to carry that impulse buy from the Vendors Hall.
  7. Self Care:
    Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and make sure you eat.  Your costume will only be seen and appreciated if you are healthy enough to be wearing it! And don’t forget, the better you feel, the more fun you are going to have, which is the most important part!

Cosplay shouldn’t be uncomfortable and just taking an extra bit of time in creating your costume in comfortable ways, as well as being mindful of your body during the convention, can make cosplaying a most enjoyable hobby.  The outward appearance of the costume may be super important to you, but we don’t call it cos”play” for nothing. Your happiness and comfort inside the costume also lends to the authenticity of the character, and adds to your experience and good memories!

Happy cosplaying and we will see you next month!

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplaying with Contact Lenses

Every October and before every convention I always see at least one of the following posts on social media:


“Does anyone know where I can get cheap contact lenses for my costume?”


This makes me cringe every time, because, other than working for Otafest, for my “day job” I work in the Ophthalmology clinic at the Rockyview Hospital. For those who don’t speak medicine (and trust me, some days, I can barely pronounce the word myself), that means I work with a bunch of specialized eye doctors. We see a big range of patients, from those who just come by for routine eye testing (like visual field tests), to those with complex eye diseases like glaucoma and retinopathy. Just as importantly, we see people who are having eye emergencies. If there’s one thing I have learned working in ophthalmology, it’s that you are given exactly one set of eyes and that’s all you get. Your eyes aren’t like most other parts of your body that can regenerate or be replaced if something serious happens, and it only takes the smallest thing to cause huge problems with your eyes. The absolute worst thing you can do is treat them poorly and that’s my advice for this month: if you are going to wear contact lenses with a cosplay costume, DO IT RIGHT! That means following these super simple but very important steps:

  1. Make sure your eyes are healthy enough to wear contact lenses. This means booking an appointment with your optometrist and asking them about your intent to wear contact lenses. They will do some simple checks for you, such as checking you for dry eye symptoms and possibly recommending eye drops, they will check the curvature of your eye which can determine the size of lenses you may need to order, and they can give you your contact lens prescription (if you are ordering corrective lenses) because it isn’t the same as a glasses prescription!
  2. Have eye drops on hand. Even if you aren’t diagnosed specifically with dry eye, we live in Calgary, a notoriously dry city. Wearing contact lenses disrupts your natural tear film which will almost always cause dry eyes during and after wearing contact lenses. Make sure your eye drops are branded as “artificial tears” and use preservative free drops where possible. Again, ask your optometrist for suggestions, they often have samples of various brands for you to try as well!
  3. Know how to safely handle, insert, remove, and store contact lenses. Many optometrist offices offer appointments designed to teach you all about wearing contact lenses. Always make sure you wash your hands before touching your eyes or anything going into your eyes, make sure your lenses are sterile when you get them and handle them with care, and make sure you know what kind of lenses you are getting and how to store or dispose of them.
  4. Make sure you are purchasing good quality lenses. As of July 2016, contact lenses of any kind (including costume lenses) can only be sold by companies who have been licensed by Health Canada. Most places online that offer “cheap lenses” aren’t licensed and keep their lenses “cheap” by cutting corners, like using materials and packaging that may be hazardous for your eyes or sometimes selling lenses that aren’t sized or shaped properly. Like I mentioned above, you only get one set of eyes, you shouldn’t sacrifice their safety and your health to save some money. Ask your optometrist where they recommend purchasing lenses from , if they don’t sell them right there (which most do) or check with the company you plan on purchasing from what licenses they possess that allows them to sell contact lenses (especially if shopping from overseas). Also remember to pay attention to contact lenses expiry dates, because, unfortunately, they do expire! Keeping them around longer than their lifespan can also be very dangerous.
  5. Know what to do if something does go wrong. Even if you follow all the right steps and do everything right, your eyes are super sensitive to changes and may still get irritated from wearing contact lenses. If you suspect anything is wrong, don’t delay. Make an appointment with your optometrist right away, see your family doctor, or go to your nearest emergency department. If you can’t do any of these right away, try calling 811 (in Alberta) for free health advice from a registered nurse. It’s better to not wait around and see if it gets better on its own, with eyes, chances are if it gets worse, you could be in bigger trouble than if you catch a problem when it’s first developing. Things like very dry, gritty eyes, redness of the sclera (white part of the eye), blurred vision, pain of any kind, or things like flashing lights or floaters in your vision are all things that should be looked at right away.

A good pair of contact lenses can give a cosplay costume just the right finishing touch, but as a cosplayer and former judge myself, you definitely won’t lose points for not having the exact same eye colour as the character, and preserving your vision is 1000% more important! As much as I love you all, I don’t want to see you when I’m at work! ;)

Happy Cosplaying and Happy Halloween!

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Choosing Adhesives

Nothing is worse than having your hard work fall apart on you, especially right in the middle of the convention!  Choosing the right way to attach your creation together, right from the start, is crucial to make sure accidents don’t happen.

First off, decide whether or not you should be physically connecting the two pieces in question together.  Consider if you should be sewing or otherwise using a physical binder (like nails, screws, staples, etc) to keep your pieces together, or if an adhesive is would be appropriate.  If you are connecting two pieces of fabric, sewing is going to always be a better option as you have more stress you can put on the joining area, but two pieces of plastic should be connected using adhesives. Adhesives are also preferable, if you are connecting two things that aren’t made of the same material, like plastic onto fabric.

Secondly, make sure you select the correct adhesive for the job.  A polyurethane glue may be amazing at connecting two hard, non porous materials, it won’t work so good with foams or fabrics.  Make sure you read the labels of the adhesives, so you can make sure it’s the right stuff for the job at hand. There are many many different adhesives out there, so I’m sure you will find something that fits what you need it for perfectly.

Third, read the instructions!!!  Some glues are toxic, some require additional time and conditions such as heat to fully bind together, and others may damage the materials you are working with and require a test usage first. You wouldn’t want a small avoidable mistake to ruin dozens of hours of work just because you didn’t read the instructions first.  This is where the scraps and bits left over from crafting your costume and prop pieces, can come in handy. Grab a small piece of what you are adhering and try it out first before putting it on the final cosplay. Some adhesives work really well ONLY if you follow the instructions very carefully (such as contact cement), so as tempting as it is to jump right in, glue in hand, testers are really important.

Finally, if the worst does happen and your costume or prop does come apart at Otafest, make sure to come by the Cosplay Repair Station.  We make sure that we have all sorts of adhesives and other materials on hand for you to use to help save your cosplay!

Cosplay 101: The Art of EVA Foam

By: Kendra K.

Hello everyone, I am here to talk about a now-common material that many cosplayers use: EVA Foam!

EVA foam is a light-weight, durable, and cheap foam material, which can serve as a great alternative to other materials, such as Worbla (a thermoplastic used often for props and armor). Foam can be used for armor pieces, props, and more: the possibilities are as endless as your creativity! If you make sure to work carefully during the building process and cast a careful eye to painting, you can achieve really clean finishes, mimicking the look of metal or other interesting textures. EVA foam comes in a variety of sizes and styles, so make sure you do a bit of research before you dive in!

There are three main different types of EVA Foam:

  • High Density
  • Floor Mats (diamond or cross pattern)
  • Craft foam

A variety of thicknesses in high-density foam.

For the following build, I am using a high-density foam which comes in a variety of thicknesses. Floor mat style foam and craft foam, generally are available in limited sizes, but can serve their own purposes. Just keep in mind that floor mat foam is thicker and sturdy, while craft foam is thin and great for detailing.

I find the best way to tackle a new project is by drafting up patterns. Paper patterns can help you come up with a shape, and when you cut it and lay it flat, you will find that foam is flexible to creative a huge variety of different shapes to suit your needs.

An example of my paper patterns.

I just mocked up two patterns where you can see the use of darts and odd shapes. Another advantage of  using patterns is that it allows you to map out where you want to cut in order to save material for future use.

Tracing the pattern in an optimized fashion.

The easiest way to go about cutting the foam is using a sharp X-Acto blade. The foam is relatively easy to cut through by hand, but the blade can dull quickly. Regularly switching to a new blade may be needed to make your life easily and ensure your foam has a clean cut.

Use an X-Acto knife! Make sure it’s a new blade!

Alternatively, if you have access to power tools,  you will find foam is very quick and easy to slice through. I personally use a band-saw when I need multiple pieces to be identical, as I pin several layers together. Just remember to get supervision if you are new to power tools!

Pinning together layers of foam for cutting identical shapes.

See below for the different results of different tools and blades:

The edge on the left is an example of using a dull blade, creating a “sawing” motion.

The results of the bandsaw.

For further shaping, you can cut the edges on an angle in order for pieces to lay fatter against each surface. This can also help you achieve a desired shape and appearance.

Shaping the edges of the foam.

For the next step: glue. While many cosplayers would consider the hot-glue gun to be the best friend of the craft (and it is), you’ll get the best results with EVA foam by using contact cement. Contact cement helps create a permanent bond that is still flexible and is relatively fast drying. You can pick this glue up at most hardware stores.

Something like this would work great. Notice the applicator!

When working with contact cement, you will need to make sure you are protecting yourself properly. Make sure you are using a quality respirator and working in a space with good air flow, as the fumes from contact cement are toxic.

I’d recommend a respirator like this!

To apply the glue, you will want to brush on a thin & even layer that covers the surfaces you wish to attach and wait 5-10 minutes for it to dry (read the instructions on your bottle of contact cement!). When the surface is no longer tacky, that is the ideal time to press the glued edges together. If you don’t wait long enough, the glue will still tacky and that can prevent the edges from sticking.

Make sure you use a thin even layer on ALL edges, as contact cement needs to adhere to contact cement.

Keep in mind that contact cement is not forgiving, so there is little room for error once both surfaces have dried sufficiently and are touching. You will need to be extra careful at this step.

I’ve attached all 3 pieces together carefully.

To finish off, the last important tip I can give, is to remind you to carve the foam to smooth out your desired shape. This can take some practice to get the hang of it, so feel free to practice on scrap pieces. The simplest way to carve your piece is going back to your trusty X-Acto blade and cut the foam in small pieces, building towards the end result.

You can really clean up your shape!

The foam can be sanded as well, which will reduce any bumps or rough areas that need to be fixed. You can sand by hand or by using a dremel (I highly recommend a dremel, as it saves a lot of time, protects you from pesky hand cramps and gives a great result).

Sanded and smooth!

Once you have your desired look, you will finish off this part of the project by heat sealing the foam. To do so, you will need a heat gun or another high temperature source. This closes the cells in the foam that you may have created through the cutting and sanding process. Heat-sealing foam is important as it adds the final step of smoothing the surface, which is key if you continue to seal and paint the foam.

Notice how it becomes shinier?

Many cosplayers prefer this material over other types, as it is lightweight and relatively inexpensive, but each technique has their own advantages. I hope you feel you better understand EVA foam and feel equip with a few techniques to help you get started, armed with this bit of insight on EVA foam.

Good Luck and Happy Cosplaying!

An example of a prop dagger I made from EVA foam.