Costume play, or cosplay for short, is not something completely unknown to most people. For a quick refresher, it simply means dressing up as a fictional character, but with more effort than just donning a standard store-bought Halloween costume.
By Marielle Almario
Cosplay was always just an activity that many assumed only people would be involved in and not animals. But guess again, because thanks to some lovely cosplayers, it is possible to dress up your pet as anything you can think of (within the realm of possibility, of course).
There are some dos and don’ts and just some simple things one has to know before starting on even dressing your pet in an elaborate costume and that’s why we’re here: to share some quick tips and pointers on how to let your pet cosplay, with the help of some cosplayer friends and their cosplaying pets.
• Start by trying out small things. It’s easy to get swept up in imagination and wanting to make the biggest and best outfit for your furry, or non-furry, friend. But starting from something as simple as a normal everyday outfit made out of old clothes can help. Doesn’t hurt that it counts as practice and can help you figure out more intricate and elaborate outfits down the line.
•Familiar outfits and suits are as good as any to start with. Sometimes attempting to make original outfits for your pet is hard (just like making original outfits for us humans), and that’s why it’s all right if you decide to dress your pet as say, Doug from Up. )Given, of course, that your pet is fine with being put in “The Cone of Shame”!) Or even going above and beyond to say, maybe, a Marvel or DC superhero like Iron Man or Batman. It’s okay if you have no original ideas at the beginning; at least mainstream media is a thing and cosplaying as popular characters really is fun.
• Speaking of that, it’s obviously impractical to wear spandex suits (especially in the climate of this country). Even more so for your furry friend who could possibly have a thick layer of fur. Hence, cosplayers go for materials like Eva foam, craft foam, or rubber sheets for hero suits (or even wings, in some cases). It’s lightweight and durable so that if your pet were to move around or break off into a run, the costume wouldn’t fall apart. In other words, consider the material you’re going to use in terms of your pet’s comfort before putting it on them.
• Tip for armor: it’s recommended to have an undergarment for your pet, so as to avoid any irritations between the foam and their skin or fur. But, it’s not recommended for a dog to wear any foam armor for long periods of time as the heat will make it hard for them.
• Being pet friendly with materials is important. It pays to know which materials may or may not harm your pet in some way. Proper preparation and execution in making a costume for your pet is incredibly important. Making sure things like glue and paint dry correctly, or getting the proper weight of foam for your pet are crucial things to take into consideration. Ordinary things like spray paint and Elmer’s glue or Mighty Bond glue are actually safe for materials, so don’t worry about trying to find a completely non-toxic and pet-friendly glue or paint. Just make sure they dry properly to avoid any unwanted hairy (furry?) incidents.
• Don’t be afraid to try the unfamiliar. It can, of course, be intimidating at the start, being bombarded with all sorts of things from material weight to what counts as pet-safe paint and glue, but once you get the gist of it, it isn’t that hard (usually, anyway). It doesn’t hurt to fail at making armor or wings for your pet — maybe it’ll bruise your ego at first but that’s okay. Try and try until you succeed, they say.
• One very important tip there has to be this: to make sure your pet is actually comfortable doing cosplay. It’ll be easy to tell, of course, if your pet isn’t all too fond of dressing up. It’ll take time to ease them in, if you want, but above all make sure your pet is all right with it and, for one, can move around and is comfortable wearing whatever it is you’ve made for them.
• The most important tip? Just have fun. It’ll be of no use if you, and your pet, aren’t actually enjoying playing dress up. Cosplay should be fun—it’s in the name “costume play”—and being able to use your imagination and enjoy dressing up is the entire appeal to it. At the end of the day, it’s really just to have fun, so without that, it’s not much. Don’t worry; it’s okay to not take things too seriously.
We’re right in the middle of the costume competitions and events. So what can you expect from them? Here’s veteran Adrian’s advice:
• Be ready to have to dress your pet in line with a theme, and to conform to the theme strictly.
• Scout out the criteria for the contest if you’ve got your eyes on the prize. Knowing what the judges will be looking for will give you an advantage.
• Find out what your pet will be expected to do. “Check if dogs are required to walk [in costume] and if the contest is a pet and owner tandem—meaning, owners will be expected to dress up as fabulously as their pets,” Adrian cautions.
Preparation is key. Come armed not only with contest outfits but with all the pet necessities like food and water, poop bags, tissues, and anything else you may need.
• This can’t be stressed enough: enjoy yourself! When the smoke clears, let’s be practical; no one outside the industry cares who won or who lost. Enjoy making friends with other pet owners
(Do note that it is different for every person and pet and that the information here was taken from interviews and anecdotes from conversations with cosplayers.)
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s December 2017 issue.