Get your Heat Guns Ready!
Cosplay used to be a textile heavy hobby but now armours are taking up a bigger portion of the cosplay pie.
More blogs in the 10 year Cosplay Retrospective Series:
Week 1 -Wigs | Week 2 - Make-up | Week 3 - Armour | Week 4 - Cosplay Closet Purge | Week 5 -Planning | Week 6 - Inventory | Week 7 - Controlling Cosplay Costs |
Thermoplastics have been around for awhile. Wonderflex and Friendly Plastic were available as early 2005 (or earlier) online but it wasn’t the go-to material for armour making. Why? It was expensive, although this is a matter of perspective. I don’t think the price has changed much from then to now, but people were more frugal with their costumes. Also it had a very rough texture once cooled which deterred people from using it. There was little information about using it online as well.
Armoured costumes were rarity at events – at least from my experience in eastern Canada– I would say about 1 in 20 or less back in 2006-9 as opposed to 1 in 5 today at an event like Anime North in 2014. And the ratio gets smaller if you are looking at masquerade costumes, probably 1 in 4. Armoured costumes were usually made for masquerades instead of wandering around the con.
Fran (Novice 2007) amrour made by sandwiching tube elastic between two layers of pleather and the bow was all craftfoam on a toy bow base; Talim (Artisan 2009) armbands are layered craftfoam and tonfas are wood, insulation paper and clay blades; Rempo's (Artisan 2009) arm cannons are yoga mats and styrene with soda cans for the cylinder details; Styria (Master 2010) has everything including some wonderflex; Aion (2012) armour pieces are craft foam and styrene and a wooden blade with a foam board and paperclay hilt.
Cosplayers who were brave enough to tackle armour would scavenge the internet for tips in forums (like Cosplay.com) then forge their own work over a period of months. There are so many ways to make armour and there was no steadfast rules on how to get it done. Here’s some armour making materials that were more common a few years back: lots of paper maché, lots of plaster, Eva foam, foams (craftfoam, expandable foam, insulation foam), clay (paperclay, sculpey), resin, plastic (non-thermal), styrene, wood, vinyl, in addition to the many ways to paint and finish the product. Pepakura software (printing a pattern on cardstock to transform it into a 3D sculpture) did exist in 2006 but there weren’t many pattern available, mostly Halo armour.
Thermoplastics have exploded in the last 3 years. An armoured project used to be a multi-month ordeal but now you can be churned out in a few days thanks to the many tips and tutorials available online. Worbla has edged out most alternative forms of armour making for better or worse. I do wish more people would consider their options more and diversify. I feel like a little bit of creativity has been lost in the process, in that less people are using new/unique items to make their costumes. All that being said, do whatever works for you. Personally, I love the stuff and I use it pretty often because it is durable and travel-friendly.
Where things get tricky is in the greenroom of the masquerade, where many people are using the same material, the same or similar assembly techniques, similar finishing, and painting techniques; and so you end up with a group of contestants with very similar costumes from a judging standpoint and it becomes difficult to determine who gets an award. In short, it is harder to stand out with armour now because the techniques are standardized and more people are making those types of costumes.
I think we are starting to get to the point where people are pushing themselves to make bigger more elaborate armours. And now that even more thermopalstcis are becoming readily available (such as Sintra), I can only see more awesome cosplays on the horizon.
Thermoplastics has opened up cosplayers to a whole new world of possibilities when chosing a costume. It also allows for less experienced cosplayers to smoothly transition into armour making. It is not as intimidating as it was and that is a good thing.
Q: What are your observations or experiences with the rise of armoured cosplays?
MeltingMirror's Cosplay Blog
Learn more about my experiences in the cosplay world, from conventions to photoshoots and everything in between.