I was sent the book A Guide to Film and TV Cosplay by Holly Swinyard and Pensword Books to review.Author Biography:
A cosplayer and lover of all things “geek” since they were 15, Holly Rose Swinyard is now a pop culture journalist and editor, running the cosplay magazine, The Cosplay Journal. They have also written on cosplay, pop culture and the need for “escapist play for adults” for national publications and on BBC Radio 4. It would be a shock to find them anywhere but their sewing machine, or scrawling notes for the next exciting project.
Here are my thoughts about what this book had to offer.
I’ll start by saying for me is a 9/10. Its an almost perfect beginners’ book for cosplay. I say almost perfect because I’m a perfectionist and therefore nothing is perfect, but it is pretty close!
The book is very useful for beginners of cosplay starting their journey. Its very easy to read as its in a conversational style of writing so you feel very comfortable, like you’re in the room together having chat. This isn’t a specific how to guide like others out there, this is very much an informative book to start your cosplay journey. It’s an educational book covering the basics of cosplay giving full overview of the hobby and its background. At the same time, it’s filled with advice, ideas and food for thought on various areas of cosplay to help you find your own process get started.
In section one the book covers what is cosplay, the history of cosplay through the ages, different type of costuming.
Its important to learn and understand the background and history of cosplay in order to truly understand what its all about. The old saying, "You can't really know where you are going until you know where you have been", springs to mind. Its important to look back over its early starting point and how its evolved over time. This section gives an overview of cosplays history and how it links and stems from so many other areas.
Cosplay is interwoven with so many other costume-based genres. As I’ve mentioned before from my burlesque show producing days, you can see the links between burlesque and cabaret and cosplay quite clearly. The idea of choosing a character, creating a costume, a persona, an act/routine to perform clearly links into the idea of what cosplay is on a very basic level. The book shows all different types of costuming such as LARP, historical re-enactment, drag, steampunk and alternative fashions. I would have liked to have seen burlesque and cabaret history/costumes and links into the genre of nerdlesque in there myself as well as the theatre/plays/shows as a feature as their roots go back right to the beginning of costuming completely.
In section two it covers character and design, how to choose your characters, research, accuracy vs modification.
This covers everything you need to know about how to choose your character. There’s some real solid advice in there that first timers need to take on board for sure. The one thing missing for me is to choose your cosplay because it’s FUN. Because you can see yourself laughing and having fun with the character. For me sometimes it has nothing to do with the costume at all, nothing to do with the build process journey. It's simply if I see myself having fun, laughing all day, being stupid, doing silly scenes, quotes, sketches as that character to get laughs for myself and others. The fun element can make me choose a character and costume that may not be my favourite, that I may not like, that I have no normal connection to but that I choose basically, for the banter. For example, doing tiny Hargrid/Swagrid was purely for the fun element. Hagrid’s a cool character but I’ve never thought that I love his costume or the character so much I’d love to cosplay as him. It was purely a banter opportunity not to be missed! The same goes for when I went as Donald Trump…say no more! I have more banter cosplays up my sleeve and as a rule I like to have some FUN cosplays amongst the serious ones to break up the pressure of conventions and the builds with something light-hearted with no pressure or worries just purely something to giggle at and look back on with a smile or a cringe but all in a good way. That’s my two cents of advice to add to that section.
Next up is talking about the process of references, finding images, and making your ‘cosplans’ properly. This is great for newbies to read and learn from as it’s got good habits to get in to. I think even as the experienced cosplayer sometimes just reading this information makes you review your current processes and certainly makes you think how you could go ‘back to basics’ and improve your own planning and processes more.
Section three is all about the making, buying, and modifying as well as covering conventions, cosplay is not consent, self-care in cosplay and more. This section provides an overview of different making principles, tools, references for the process to make and create your cosplays. In addition to providing the basic knowledge around some of these key areas it touches on what to remember and how to get the best out of attending conventions, how to take care of yourself, references and further reading. The areas I would have liked to have seen included more in this section are social media and cosplay photography.
Social media pays such an active role in the cosplay community and can be fantastic to share cosplays, offer help and advice, create whole online communities. It can also be very toxic, create competitive environments (not in a good way), can be unsafe, can lead to things becoming all about the number of followers rather than the passion for the hobby. People can get caught up in the popularity of it all forgetting its actually very 'uncool' in the real world to be dressing up. it is after all just dressing up, its a hobby and not to get swept away stressing over numbers of likes and followers. We will do a post on Cosplay and Social Media to help lay out some foundations and safety advice around this.
Cosplay photography is to share and showcase your amazing creations. This gives you content for social media and helps you document your creations. You can have photoshoots done at Comic Cons and over time will learn which cosplay photographers are out there, which events they attend and what they offer. There are unwritten rules with cosplay photography of things you need to know when working with photographers such as....DO NOT edit a photographers photographs....the photographer owns the rights to the image not the model.....always tag your photographer when sharing images....to name but a few. It's such a big topic to cover with finding a photographer, doing your research, the do's and don'ts, sniping, safety etc that we will cover cosplay photography in a full post but for now its something I wanted to highlight as a big area newbies need to learn about when entering this wonderful world.
It was great to see selfcare included in this section. This isn't something talked about much when you think of cosplay but its important to remember to look after your physical and emotional wellbeing over and above making and wearing costumes. After all, they all replaceable, you are not.
I would highly recommend this book to people starting out in cosplay. I would even say for experienced cosplayers that is a great read and it's still something you can learn from. Experienced folks can gain something useful from the book. It’s a great looking book for your bookshelf or coffee table and definitely one of a kind.
If this sounds like the perfect companion to your cosplay journey you can get your copy here!
As always you can expect to see more reviews here soon!
* All images provided by Holly Swinyard
Skye Fawkes Cosplay
Editor In Chief and Head Writer