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The animated clip flashes by and for a few seconds she rises, facing a creature several times her size that she has no chance of defeating. But still she stands. Something about her position tells the viewer that, despite her fear, she will win. It is then that I not only imagine being her, but also decide that I will become her. This is the art of cosplay, adopting the physical appearance and immaterial mannerisms of a character to construct a costume that will allow the story to continue beyond where the author left it.
My knowledge of my chosen character, Peregrine, is meager because her official story ends in the course of a few animated scenes. The details I found on her clothing are obscured by the heavy winds and sandy dunes of her setting. Yet these scenes of her surroundings are enough for me to recall history lessons of the unique ways each culture adapted to its environment. Fashions are rooted in practicality: the quilted dresses and heavy fabrics of northern countries contrasted starkly with the layered robes and flowing, airy fabrics of desert climates. I decided that Peregrine, as a desert dweller, wore the latter. I wanted to incorporate her culture back into the clothing, so I learned to copy designs from the architecture of her city in embroidery thread. I clumsily stitched and restitched until Peregrine’s costume was perfect.
Although the costume presents its own difficulties, I enjoy taking it apart and then, once again, piecing it together until it is finished. Cosplay is about more than a costume, however. I need to be ‘in character.’ The personality and actions of a character cannot merely be cut and sewn: they must be faithfully represented. Peregrine, physically, is based loosely on the structure of an insect and has an anatomy supported by an exoskeleton. The idea of an insectoid body reminds me of the ninth grade biology classes that I spent learning about the ways animals communicated; ants speak through scent, and crickets through chirps. But for me, there is no way to communicate through odors and musical notes. Instead, I research and memorize the alphabet of American sign language. I combine it with simple charades to imitate the expressive and easily understood body language of an animated character. The finished outfit does not feel like a Halloween costume or a second skin — it feels like my skin and my clothes.
The costume is a testament to my love for the craft, the time and effort I have dedicated to becoming Peregrine. I combined my knowledge and her history to design an experience that is entirely unique. I did not accomplish this alone, but rather as a first step towards creating shared memories with other cosplay enthusiasts. I add a chapter to a story that was hers and is now ours.
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