Cosplay and Body Image -- When Gaining Weight Isn't the Only Reason Why a Costume Might Not Fit
I had planned on 2014 being a highly motivated year for myself, in terms of cosplay; Most of my friends have heard me talk about this ad nauseum by now, but the fact of the matter is that I spent the last 3 - 4 years collecting materials for mostly-solo projects that inevitably got pushed back or shelved completely because when you're part of a very active cosplay group, and a slow sewer, the group always ends up as the first priority. Last year, I stopped making commitments past Fanime, Took some time to re-evaluate my life, and gear up for making 2014 the Year of the Fabric Stockpile. Since I got back from KatsuCon though, that goal took a bit of a back seat as I came to a startling conclusion: I was really unhappy with my body. Now, I'm not saying I think I'm 'fat', because I don't, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't gotten kind of soft and squishy since I moved out on my own a few years ago. But I've also become very reliant on my new favorite foundation garment: corsets. So, while my waistline 'maintained', my face and throat got fluffier, my arms weaker, and my posture atrocious. The kicker was just before KatsuCon, when I took 2 progress pictures of my Mikasa costume -- one while wearing a corset, and one without. In the corset test photo, I looked like I had instantly dropped about 10 pounds. Those costumes are definitely not the most flattering to begin with, but anyone who has been in the cosplay community for a while can tell you that even as much as we try to uplift each other, there are still plenty of people out there who will judge and comment on your physique, and that gets in your head after a while - We can be our own worst critics, and I knew I was heavier than I had ever been. For me personally, I knew I needed to take control of my life again -- I wanted to be stronger, more fit, and I knew that that was something I had to focus on. I haven't written in this blog in over two months, because I've been too busy focusing on changing my lifestyle and habits; cosplay took a little bit of a back seat. With Anime Central coming up this weekend, Rynn and I had decided to wear our WCS Championship costumes together one last time. I haven't worn Mytho since February of 2012, and while I figured it would probably still fit, I knew the smart idea would be to try it on, just in case. The end result was, for just a moment, near devastating -- I could no longer get into my costume without fear that I was going to rip it apart.The most frustrating part, as Rynn put it when I vented my frustration to her, was that "It's annoying, because this isn't a pair of pant you bought; this is a piece specifically tailored to your body, and you have photographic proof that it fit once." A lot can change in 4 years. I say 4 years, because I made this costume in the summer of 2010, when I was 24-years-old. At the time, it was the most complex piece I had ever made, and my first highly-tailored piece. I wore it that August, the following April of 2011, and then again in February of 2012. The greatest challenge I faced during my dismal failure of a try-on last week, was a sewing oversight -- The tunic had always been a bit difficult to get over my shoulders, but I chalked that up to the fault of being a highly tailor garment. What I see now, is that I should have had a longer zipper in the back. This would have allowed me to open the garment further, and slip the more narrow bits (like the waist) over my broader features (like my shoulders or hips). As is, I used to get into it by binding my chest, exhaling, and thinking skinny thoughts as I gently wiggled into it. The ironic thing is, once I got it over my shoulders, and as I struggled to get it back OFF over my shoulders, I couldn't help noticing that it still fit around my ribs and waistline, without aid of a corset. Looking back on the photos I have while wearing this costume, I can see differences in the 3 times I wore it. They're subtle, but they're there -- it never quite fit the same with each wear. I'll be turning 29 this year, and It's recently been brought to my attention by several people, that women's bodies (including their skeletal structure) continue to grow and change until their 30's. Since 2012, I've also begun doing light resistance training with my arms and back, which could also have contributed to a broadening of my shoulders, back, and arms. At the very least, it would re-shape them, changing how a rigid garment (especially once so specifically tailored) would fit. As women, we're basically taught from a young age, through media and other subconscious examples, that a great deal of our value is invested in our looks. Until I stopped to think about the logic of it all (that not fitting into a costume anymore didn't automatically mean I was fat) I had been mentally assaulted with two horrible thoughts -- I had gained weight, and was somehow 'less' because of it, and also the horrible dread of knowing that I would never be able to wear this gorgeous piece -- a project I'm still proud of to this day -- ever again. But even if I lost 20 pounds, and got back down to the lightest I have ever been, this costume would never fit me the same again -- My very structure has changed, and I am re-shaping it daily. So, I'm taking a little bit of a step back from sewing again. I know that there is change ahead of me, and the thought that I might make a costume that will not fit me right in only a few short months, seems like a massive waste of time to me. There are a few costumes I know that I can work on, and the changes could make very little difference, so I won't be stopping completely... just re-arranging my priorities. I also have a fluffy princess ballgown to make for my cousin's daughter this summer, which I am actually really looking forward to. Just one more way to stretch my creative muscles. :) No more looking back at what I was -- only forward at what I will be.