If you are a costume enthusiast over the age of five years old, you may experience scrutiny by the judging eyes of society if you decide to make a public appearance in costume on any date other than October 31. However, if you are a Calgarian, the annual Comic and Entertainment Expo allows three additional days where dressing up is not only accepted, but encouraged and rewarded-- provided you are actually at the convention.
The act of donning a costume based on a character from popular culture is known as cosplay, and it is a common sight at conventions. These costumes highlight and celebrate aspects of fandoms both large and small-- from the massive contingent of Star Wars stormtrooper cosplayers known as the 501st, to the guy who dresses as Booster Gold.
The art of cosplay can be a culture of its own, with its own websites and forums allowing people to share and discuss their costumes-in-progress and projects they have already completed. Those who construct costumes themselves rather than simply purchasing them are commended. However, a high-quality, detailed costume can easily take hundreds of hours to finish and definitely requires persistence and determination to see through to the end-- not to mention the money required for costume materials.
The result, however, is a weekend of admiration from other convention-goers. Costumes that go above and beyond often get many requests for photos, sometimes to the point of being unable to freely move about the convention due to being continually accosted.
"We were completely unprepared for the volume of people mesmerized by our costumes," says Christie Melhorn, who along with her friend Bailey Durant constructed their own siren costumes from the 2010 movie Tron: Legacy. "Waiting in line to get into the Calgary Expo, I was asked to pose for cosplay videos, take pictures with six-year old kids and one man even told me it was worth it to wait two hours in line just to see me."
Additionally, the Calgary Expo hosts a costume contest with the chance to win prizes such as free admission to next year's Expo, a $100 cash prize and other special opportunities.
If you are new to the cosplay scene, but want to show your love for your favourite fandom at the next convention-- such as the upcoming Otafest-- don't be daunted by the people who have hand-crafted an entire suit of MJOLNIR armour. Participating in cosplay can be as simple as wearing Captain Hammer's T-shirt, or as complicated as constructing an entire TARDIS shell to wear your Doctor Who suit inside of as you walk around. The important thing is that you enjoy yourself in the process, and know that you are in like-minded company as you strut your stuff.