Fantasy in reality

Cosplay club helps students design their favorite character's garb and armor


In a small room in O’Brian Hall, business attire is armor and law textbooks are tomes of sorcery and magic.

Cosplay, a popular modern hobby and profession, has taken off as a worldwide trend. People dress up as characters from favorite shows, films, video games, comics or anime series and fill conventions all over the world, ranging from large events like San Diego Comic Con to smaller-scale occasions like UB Con.

Cosplay is not only at UB for the student-run convention, but is also a club devoted to helping students dress up as their favorite characters. UB Cosplay meets every other Friday at 5 p.m. in O’Brian 210.

“We hold these workshops to help people and enhance their skills in the basics of cosplay. For example, tonight we’re working with foam to make armor,” said John Castaneda, a senior biomedical science major and treasurer of UB Cosplay. “Other weeks, we have people come in and bring us their ideas and help them with whatever they want to do.”

He has been cosplaying for two years and has been fabricating replicas since middle school. Although he has only dressed up once, as video game Halo’s Master Chief, Castaneda has built many sets of armor.

The cosplayer does not only makes suits for himself. Self-described as “too nice,” he created a Warhammer 40,000 – a miniature tabletop war game – Space Marine suit and a Mass Effect – a science-fiction video game – Commander Shepard suit for other people.

Armor building was on the club’s agenda last week. The workshop focused around cutting and manipulating foam, similar to thinner craft foam. Castaneda fashioned the foam into gauntlets.

Participants who paid $5 were given the craft foam and the tools needed to forge pieces of armor.

E-Board members gave a short presentation on how these flimsy pieces of foam could be crafted into finished products. If perfected, the self-made costumes could rival what appear on the silver screen.

The process is time consuming and involves a large amount of planning. First, the designer must create a paper stencil, which is then placed over the foam and carefully cut along the lines to create the desired shape.

After the foam is cut out, a heat gun is applied to the cutout, hardening the creation and allowing it to maintain its figure. The costumer must then coat their creation with Elmer’s Glue in preparation for what may be the most important part: painting. Without the coating, the spray paint will eat through the foam and ruin the creation. Finished products are sometimes coated with vinyl to give off a metallic look, as well as add “+2” to the wearer’s charisma skill.

Weapon creation is just one element of a cosplayer’s wardrobe, which is why a cosplayer can spend years trying to perfect their craft in order to complete the costume they want.

“I’ve planned one costume out for roughly five years,” said Devon Marr, a junior history major and president of UB Cosplay. “It’s going to be an incredibly intricate ball gown.”

Intricate is an understatement. If all goes according to plan, then the gown, similar to one Marie Antoinette would wear, will be transparent and glow in the dark. Because of this, it will need a hidden support system.

“It’ll basically look like a giant jellyfish, and I’ll be able to walk about 2 feet at a time with it, but it’ll be wonderful,” Marr said, laughing. “It’s all ideas. I don’t have the skillset yet, but the whole point of cosplay is to eventually build to up to what you really want to make.”

Whether it’s a character’s dress or the armor of a video game protagonist, with time and patience, UB Cosplay will help students design the costumes of their dreams.