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Halloween all year round

Cosplay club celebrates Japanese costume gameplay

By Purbita Saha
On February 27, 2012

  • The Cosplay club poses for a photo during a Halloween party at the Student Union. The club takes inspiration from a Japanese trend, where fans would dress up and impersonate their favorite characters from anime, manga and video games. The club will host a Victorian Masquerade Ball early next month. Photo courtesy of Allison Ziebka

Some people like Halloween a lot. And some people like the holiday so much that they like to experience it all the time.

"At Cosplay we just like to dress up in crazy costumes," said Hogan. "It's like having Halloween more than once a year, but without the candy."

Cosplay is the intersection between the words "costume" and "play." According to Stephanie Martin, a 8th-semester classics and Mediterranean studies major. The dressing game originated in Japan after fans began to impersonate anime, manga and video game characters. Over time cosplay has expanded to become a popular pastime in many different countries.

"You hear so much about sports here and the sciences, but nobody ever really talks about cosplay, anime and video game culture to a great degree," said Allison Ziebka, a 6th-semester English and psychology major.

"But I think there has always been some type of cosplay, whether here or anywhere else. People love to dress up as their favorite characters, it doesn't just have to be Japanese animation (anime) or video games," she said.

Cosplay meetings take place Mondays, 5:30 to 8 p.m. in Student Union room 320. A typical night includes an ice breaker, planning of events and a panel or activity. Some members work on general crafts during the meeting while other work on their personal projects. "Meetings are very casual, and start out very orderly. Later they tend to get silly, and we end up working and laughing the rest of the time away," said Natalie Von Achen, a 2nd-semester chemical engineering major.

"It's a very social atmosphere and even if you don't have anything to work on, it's fun to just come and hang out," said Martin.

A few examples of the specialized workshops that members lead include: creating foam armor, styling wigs, making props, sewing stuffed animals and paper crafting. James Hogan, a sociology graduate student, said that after a month or two of these workshops most individuals develop a full set of skills that can be self-gratifying and even profitable. Cosplayers can use their handiwork for performances, conventions, income and social role play.

Many however, just make them for their own amusement. Hogan said that he likes to create and accomplish something that he can show off to other people. He also said that the club had been commissioned by UCTV in the past for help on makeup and wardrobe.

When putting together cosplays, Martin advises her peers to follow a routine. The first step, she said, should be to get reference images that carry plenty of details. The next one is to buy or draft a pattern for the clothes and props. Then, after purchasing materials like fabric, trim and accessories, it is time to assemble the costume. Martin said that some cosplayers obtain pieces from thrift stores and alter them. Others buy their costumes from commissioners or online stores, but they sacrifice precision and control when purchasing a pre-made outfit, she said.

During the past two years Cosplay has engaged in various events, such as bowling, Harry Potter dinner and a handful of conventions. In the fall Cosplay hosted a Halloween dance that was open to the entire campus. Martin said that the group is also planning on going ice skating and having a picnic or a photo shoot at the end of the semester.

Additionally, the group is hosting a Victorian Masquerade Ball on March 3, from 8 to 11 p.m. in SU 304. Martin said that the event will include snacks, a waltz lesson, parlor games, a costume contest and mask-making. Tickets will be sold at the door for $5 each and formal attire or cosplay is requested.

Martin has been inviting local convention-goers to the ball by posting on local fan web sites.

While the club is not having a convention at Storrs this year, it is trying to get USG funding to go to Anime Boston. Members who attend will take part in a group cosplay modeled after "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Martin said.


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