Dragon-Con 2011: Anatomy Of A Cosplayer

By Jon Waterhouse

It’s a steady rumble of conversation and laughter in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, one of the hotel hubs of DragonCon. It’s a time of geeky revelry, but in a certain room on the fifth floor, it’s all business.

A group of cosplayers are busy getting their outfits together in time to show off their wares at the convention.

Mandy Akins has her sewing kit spread out across her bed. She’s busy adding some steam punk bling to a belt for a costume she describes as “heiress meets mercenary.”

“There’s no back story to this character,” she says. “The best part about steam punk is it gives you creative license.”

And Akins is taking that fact to heart. For her original character, she grabbed a Renaissance dress and built a bustle for it. She’ll crown herself with a wig with a giant feathered hairpiece in the back. Her weaponry are refashioned Nerf and Super Soaker guns. Both boast cool features, but on closer examination it’s just a couple of air caps off of a pair of tires and some fuses. But it works.

Cosplayer Mandy Akins fashioned Nerf and Super Soaker guns into steam punk cosplay props.

Photo credit: Jon Waterhouse

“I’ve been doing cosplay at DragonCon since 2002,” says Akins. “It’s kind of an instant gratification kind of thing. I love to sew and have been sewing since I was 10. And it’s great to get the satisfaction of finishing a costume and then showing it off.”

Cosplaying couple Miracole and Chris Burns prepare a crash kit to repair their costumes on the fly during DragonCon.

Photo credit: Jon Waterhouse

To make sure everything stays in good shape to show off at DragonCon, Miracole Burns and her husband Chris are sitting nearby packing what they call a crash kit. It’s basically a portable fix-it shop for cosplayers. All that posing for the geek paparazzi can take a toll on a costume. So it helps to have some sewing needles, velcro, glue and other help at your disposal.

“Costuming at DragonCon is the experience for me,” says Miracole Burns. “There are no words that I can accurately use to describe it. But it’s definitely one of the few things that I would recommend to do at least once in your life.”

For Miracole cosplay isn’t about comfort, but accuracy. “You make it as accurate as you can and as real as you want to make it. You don’t think about comfort. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

Keep an eye out for cosplayer Miracole Burns as Rogue at DragonCon 2011

This year Miracole can be found on the DragonCon floor donning a variety of costumes. She’ll be wearing one each day: Ms. Marvel, Madame Hydra and two versions of Rogue.

In order to do Madame Hydra justice, Miracole enlisted her husband to dress as one henchman. Then the couple recruited their friend Christian Sanchez, a first-time cosplayer, to be the other one.

“It’s a little unnerving at first,” Sanchez says about cosplaying for the first time. “You feel naked half the time running around in spandex. Once you get out there and feel comfortable, it’s great.”

With every bit of make-up and stitch in place, this particular cosplay troupe is ready to hit the floor.

Cosplayer Miracole Burns, who also works as a figure model for comic books, dresses as Ms. Marvel for DragonCon 2011.

“DragonCon is the best convention for cosplay, because its a fan-driven convention,” Miracole says. “You know if you go to DragonCon, you will not only see the most costumers you have ever seen at one convention, but some of the funniest, wittiest, obscure and unbelievable costumes that have ever been thought up by the human mind.”

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