Here are 9 expert cosplay tips to dress up Salt Lake Comic Con

First Published Sep 01 2014 02:37PM      Last Updated Sep 03 2014 01:20 pm

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apparel at McGrew Studios, a custom costume shop in Salt Lake City, Tuesday August 26, 2014. Jen McGrew is the Cosplay Competition Director for Salt Lake Comic Con.

At Salt Lake Comic Con, you’ll see Han Solo in carbonite, the TARDIS from "Doctor Who," Lou Ferrigno, Stan Lee and authentic statues from "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings."

But mostly, you’ll see regular folks dressed up as their favorite characters during the second annual event running Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 4-6. (Visit saltlakecomiccon.com for details.)

It’s a tradition called cosplay, and Brooke Wilkins describes it as Halloween for the rest of the year. She can usually be found at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, managing the daily operations of renting costumes to film producers and theater acts. But on her favorite days of the year, she can be spotted in a Star Trek outfit at a convention. She calls herself a trekkie, but she has also played the Queen of Hearts, Peter Pan and, during Fantasy Con in July, a witch.

Jen McGrew, owner of the custom costume design studio McGrew Studios on Pierpont Avenue in Salt Lake City, prefers to stay behind the scenes. She spends most of her time making elaborate outfits for film sets, theater productions, devoted cosplayers and musicians. She’s also the director of the Salt Lake Comic Con Cosplay Contest for the second time.

Wilkins and McGrew offer their tips to the devoted fans at Comic Con:

No matter which character or costume you choose to wear, be yourself.

"Choose something that you love," Wilkins said. "Just go with where your heart is because that’s what it’s about. You’re going to be wearing a little piece of your soul on the outside."

Do not procrastinate.

McGrew says a cosplayer should start months in advance and avoid waiting until the last minute at all costs. "If you wait till the last minute, it’ll be disappointing," she said.

Ask for help if you need it.

McGrew’s studio, among other businesses, offers assistance with tailoring.

Be creative, especially if you want to keep the cost down.

Wilkins recommends shopping secondhand stores to upcycle old objects.

"You can be really creative and repurpose things … taking old things that kind of look right and spray painting them a different color," she said. "Using … kids toys, rip them apart to get at the electronics and the lights."

She said to learn to spot items not for what they are now, but what they could be.

"It takes creativity and an eye to see things … to be able to look at an item of clothing and be able to see ‘Well, that may be a skirt right now, but I can turn it into a cape.’ "

Dress for your level of comfort and modesty.

"Just because a character’s scantily clad in a comic strip, you should dress for the level of your own modesty and your own comfort," McGrew said. "Basically there’s nothing taboo or nothing forbidden, as long as it kind of falls within covering certain parts of your body."



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Comic Con Cosplay Contest

“The whole point of it is to honor the fine art and craft of building costumes,” said contest runner Jen McGrew about the cosplay competition. “And so the participants who enter, they have to build at least 70 to 80 percent of their own costume.”

She said you can make the costume around a found object like a leotard or a pair of shoes — that’s OK. “But the object is that most of it’s made by the person who’s either wearing it or it’s made by someone and then they have a model that’s wearing it.”

There are three categories: beginners, intermediate and masters.

Individuals and groups can enter. Those who wish to participate need to preregister and purchase a Comic Con pass.

The cosplayers will be judged on their costume throughout the day Saturday. The stage event will take place in front of a live crowd at 6 p.m.

Participants will be judged on areas such as interactivity with the crowd and how well they portray their character. After the show, an awards ceremony will announce the winners.

“This is the heart of Comic Con because it’s kind of rewarding people for the act of being fanboys and fangirls,” McGrew said. “If you just adore Wonder Woman and you go through all that effort to build your own costume, the cosplay competition is a place to show that off and to show off your skill.”

Salt Lake Comic Con

The second annual event, drawing together fans of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other genres.

Where » Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City

When » Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 4-6.

Hours » 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; floor opens an hour earlier for Gold and VIP passholders.

Admission » $60 for a basic three-day multipass; $25 for Thursday only; $35 for Friday only; $40 for Saturday only. Gold and VIP packages also available, as well as discounts for buying in advance. Go to saltlakecomiccon.com for details.