What Are the Rules of Costuming & Cosplay?

What are the rules of #costuming & #cosplay? If you ask this question to any #costumer or #cosplayer, they’ll likely say that there aren’t any. While this is true in the sense that there is no universal costuming & cosplay group that has established any rules nor would it be possible for such a group (if it existed) to enforce them, there are rules that costumers & cosplayers should follow or face potential consequences for failing to do so, because some have.

What are these rules? Ones that apply to everyone (not just costumers & cosplayers) because they come from established laws or are established by venues, conventions, movie theaters, etc.

Wearing a costume or cosplay (including carrying props) in public does not exempt one from obeying established laws.

The Basic Rules That Apply to Everyone

1. Laws Governing Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure in public or in view of the general public by a person of a portion or portions of his or her body, in circumstances where the exposure is contrary to local moral or other standards of appropriate behavior. Social and community attitudes to the exposing of various body parts and laws covering what is referred to as indecent exposure vary significantly in different countries. It ranges from outright prohibition to prohibition of exposure of certain body parts, such as the genital area, buttocks or breasts.

Local, county, state, provincial & national governments have typically established laws defining indecent exposure that apply to everyone that is within their jurisdictions. If a costumer or cosplayer decides to go out in public wearing a costume or cosplay that violates indecent exposure laws, then there’s a good chance that the costumer or cosplayer is going to be arrested.

So, before wearing a costume or cosplay in public view, be sure that it doesn’t violate any indecent exposure laws that could apply.

2. Laws Governing the Wearing of Masks

Anti-masking laws refer to legislative or penal initiatives that seek to stop individuals from concealing their faces, who often do so to conceal their identities while committing a crime.

Now, while costumers & cosplayers have no criminal intent while wearing a mask (or other face-covering item, such as helmet) as part of a costume, many criminals do wear masks or helmets when committing crimes.

For this reason, if a costumer or cosplayer goes out in public wearing a mask or helmet that completely conceals their identity and it’s not Halloween or the intent of why as mask or helmet is being worn isn’t clear to the general public, then that costumer or cosplayer could find themselves being arrested or getting into trouble. We have reported multiple such instances on our blog & Facebook page. Here are 2 examples:

Here are other articles we’ve shared about people wearing costumes while engaged in criminal activity:

Thus, it is very important to know when it is and is not appropriate to wear a mask in public. 

3. Laws Regarding Civilians Wearing Military Uniforms & “Stolen Valor”

In the United States, federal laws concerning the wearing of United States Military uniforms by people not on active duty are published in the United States Code (USC). Specifically, 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772.

Section 771 states:

Except as otherwise provided by law, no person except a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, as the case may be, may wear –

(1) the uniform, or a distinctive part of the uniform, of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps; or

(2) a uniform any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps

Section 772 lists some exceptions, the most important of which that is applicable to costumers & cosplayers is listed below:

(f) While portraying a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, an actor in a theatrical or motion-picture production may wear the uniform of that armed force if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force.

Now, while on the surface, these laws seem pretty plain, the reality is that no court has ever really defined what a “theatrical production” is. Hence, is Halloween or attending a comic con a “theatrical production”? While this isn’t clear, the only court case where this topic has been addressed had a very liberal determination.

In addition to the laws cited above, there’s also the issue of stolen valor.

“Stolen Valor” is a term applied to the phenomenon of people falsely claiming military awards or badges they did not earn, service they did not perform, Prisoner of War experiences that never happened, and other tales of military derring-do that exist only in their minds.

If you are going to wear a military uniform as a costume or cosplay, leave out any actual medals and don’t pretend that you ever served in the military. Otherwise, you can very quickly be seen as someone stealing valor. The U.S. government passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 to address issues of people attempting to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits by convincing another that he or she received a military award.

4. Laws Regarding the Wearing of Law Enforcement Uniforms, Badges & Insignia

Without going into a lot of detail, it’s generally not a good idea to wear authentic law enforcement uniforms, badges or insignias. To do so could be construed as impersonating a law enforcement officer. If you want to read on this subject further, we recommend starting here: Legal information and links to U.S. Federal & U.S. State Laws and regulations as well as Foreign National Laws governing Badges, Emblems, Uniforms, Insignias and Names.

5. Laws Pertaining to Weapons

As many costumes & cosplays include prop weapons, it’s important to remember that those prop weapons shouldn’t be carelessly taken out into public where they could be misconstrued as being real weapons. Not only could you be potentially arrested, you could imperil your own life should a law enforcement officer decide to fire his/her weapon if the officer feels that he or she (or the general public) is in some way threatened.

For specifics on laws pertaining to types of weapons, the following links are useful:

It also goes without saying that it would be highly unwise to be carrying a prop that looks like an explosive device in this day & age, especially one that looks realistic.

6. Zero-Tolerance Policies at Schools

Most public school districts maintain very strict zero-tolerance policies for weapons & drugs. Even toy weapons (that are often used for costumes & cosplays) fall under this type of policy, as well as masks & helmets.

The bottom line, don’t take any prop weapons or wear masks to or near a public school.

Venue or Convention Specific Rules

Venues and conventions often have specific rules pertaining to costumes & props. As these rules vary widely, it is the responsibility of any costumer or cosplayer planning to attend to understand the specific venue or convention rules ahead of time. While its true that some conventions change rules at the last minute, it’s very important to stay on top of them for that very reason.

Any costumer or cosplayer whose costume or props don’t meet the rules of the venue or convention won’t be allowed to enter, and these rules (especially with regard to prop weapons) have been increased considerably since the unfortunate incident of the armed man who entered Phoenix Comic Con earlier this year. Phoenix Comic Con still has very strict rules. We have written posts regarding venue & convention rules:

Movie Theaters that Ban Masks and/or Costumes

Most movie theaters continue to ban any costumes that conceal the wearer’s face following the unfortunate shooting incidents that have occurred over the past couple of years.

Concluding Remarks

No one likes being told what they can and cannot do when it comes to costumes and cosplays, but applicable laws and rules can impact what individual costumers and cosplayers are planning to do. The most important thing is to be aware of them ahead of time. If the laws & rules are too restrictive for what you were planning to do, consider doing something different. You’ll still have just as much fun without the fear of getting into trouble.

Cosplayers

References

Advertisements

DIY: How to Construct A Metal Helmet (Video Tutorial)

For those #costumers & #cosplayers who like metal, here’s a video tutorial of how to make a metal helmet as presented by David Guyton (who provides templates). This is an advanced type of #costuming that requires experience with metal working technique known as “sinking”:

Sinking, also known as doming, dishing or dapping, is a metalworking technique whereby flat sheet metal is formed into a non-flat object by hammering it into a concave indentation.

LED’s and some knowledge of electronics is also needed.

Attaching Rubber Soles to a Spandex Costume

DIY #costuming tutorial: attaching soles to a spandex #costume. If your #cosplay has spandex feet (like #SpiderMan), you can attach rubber soles to the bottom of the feet to make it easier to walk and protect the spandex costume itself.

Bear in mind that once you attach soles to the bottom of your spandex costume, you won’t be able to remove them without damaging the spandex, so you want to be careful how you do it.

At a minimum, the supplies that you’ll need to attach soles are as follows:

  • A pair of rubber-soled boat shoes.
  • Fabric scissors.
  • Shoe-goo (or similar glue, such as E6000, Super Glue, hot glue, Gorilla Glue)
  • A box cutter or exact-o-knife.

Basic instructions:

  1. Using the fabric scissors, carefully cut the uppers of the boat shoes from the rubber soles.
  2. Save the insoles from the boat shoes: you will need these later.
  3. Using the box cutter or exact-o-knife, carefully cut a number of lines into the top side of the rubber soles (the side that your foot will be on). Be careful not to cut all the way through to the bottom of the sole. The cut lines will help the glue to adhere to sole.
  4. Apply glue to the top side of one of the rubber soles (left or right) and spread it around.
  5. Insert the insole from the boat shoes (that you saved earlier) into the foot of your spandex costume that matches the rubber sole that you applied the glue to.
  6. Insert your feet into the spandex costume legs. Make sure that the insole is where you want it to be and that there aren’t any unwanted wrinkles or folds in the spandex fabric.
  7. Place the rubber sole onto the floor and carefully step onto it with the matching foot that has the insole inside and apply equal pressure to help bond the fabric, insole and rubber sole together. Be careful not to get the glue onto your skin.
  8. After you have waited for a while, you can try to carefully slide your foot out of the spandex costume. Place some wadded up paper into the foot and then press something heavy on top of it, like a sack of rice. You could also wrap some rubber bands around the rubber sole and top of the spandex of the foot. This will permit you to walk around while giving the glue more time to set. We recommend 24 hours.
  9. Go back to step 4 and repeat the process with the other foot. You can try starting the other foot before the 1st one is finished, but this ensures that each one will be done well.

This tutorial video by “asleeplessvision” also shows this process. There are multiple, similar “how-to” videos like this on YouTube that you can also reference:

Why Face Shells Are Important

Any #cosplayer or #costumer who wears a spandex hood or mask will quickly learn the value of wearing a #FaceShell underneath. This is especially true for #SpiderMan & #Deadpool #cosplayers.

But what is a face shell and why is is important? Typically, a face shell is a molded piece of plastic worn between the face and a spandex hood that is worn above it.

Spandex is a very stretchy, form-fitting material. When worn, spandex (or Lycra) very quickly takes on the shape of the what it is covering. Hence, when it is worn over the face, the wearer’s facial features will quickly be visible beneath the spandex hood. When the wearer talks, observers will quickly see the moving lips of the mouth beneath the spandex hood. However, when viewing live-action Spider-Man or Deadpool movies, one thing that’s obvious is that when the actor beneath the costume talks, his moving mouth isn’t visible, nor are his other facial features. In the case of Spider-man, the face is supposed to be very smooth. In the case of Deadpool, a very distinctive facial shape should be present.

Thus, simply wearing a spandex hood or mask over a bare face and head can’t achieve the correct facial shape for the character being depicted. Also, movement from talking distracts from the illusion that the hood or mask is trying to create.

A face shell solves the problems of not having the correct facial shape and hides mouth movement because it causes the spandex hood being worn over it to take on the shape of shell. And, as long as the shell extends to cover the mouth, any movement by the mouth and lips will be hidden beneath the shell and not cause the spandex to move with it. This is illustrated by Spider-Man cosplayer “SonicSpiderman” in a video that he posted to YouTube, and which we have shared here.

There are some important considerations when wearing a face shell that SonicSpiderman doesn’t talk about in the video, but we will share here from our own experiences wearing them.

  1. The face shell should be sized correctly to the size of your face and head. You won’t be able to wear it if it’s too small and if it’s too big, it will leave edges where the spandex moves away from the shell and towards your head underneath. Also, it may become uncomfortable when the spandex is worn over it because the spandex will press the face shell more tightly against the head & face. (We address discomfort issues below.)
  2. The face shell should be well ventilated. The head is one of the human body’s primary means to cool itself. This is why our heads sweat when our bodies begin to head up from exertion and/or when the ambient air is hot. Wearing a mask or hood of any kind can exacerbate the heating of the head and while spandex itself is very good at allowing moisture and heat from escaping the body, a plastic face shell is not. Thus, it is very important for the face shell to be well perforated to permit airflow underneath and a way for heat and moisture to escape. If it’s not well perforated, after a short amount of time (especially in a warm, humid convention hall) not only will you start to feel very warm with the mask on, beads of sweat may collect at the bottom of the face shell and begin to seep out and cause an unsightly wet spot on the bottom of your mask.
  3. The face shell should be completely smooth on both sides. Any sharp edges on the face shell should be smoothed by sanding. Otherwise, it may cause discomfort and potentially damage the spandex material if it stretches over a sharp edge and snags. Snagged spandex can’t be repaired and may be difficult to hide, especially since it would be on the most visible part of the costume: the head & face.
  4. A small amount of foam padding may be needed on the inside of the face shell. If the face shell becomes uncomfortable when the spandex hood is worn over it, a small amount of strategically placed foam padding can alleviate the discomfort. But, it’s very important not to overdo the padding because it will reduce air flow and ventilation. Our advice is it use if sparingly if needed. We’d recommend foam padding that is typically used in pillows: very soft, but not too thick and easy to cut with scissors. For attaching foam padding we recommend Velcro so that it can be removed and re-positioned as needed. Encasing the foam padding in some fabric simplifies adding the Velcro. Sticky Velcro should be sufficient and the fabric can be glued into place over the foam padding.
  5. Make sure magnetized eye covers are secure and not likely to fall off when the mask is worn. If they aren’t sufficiently secure, you should consider adding more rare earth magnets to the face shell and the eye covers.
  6. Keep extra rare earth magnets & glue on hand while you’re in costume. Should a magnetized eye piece fall off and one or more of the rare earth magnets that hold it to the face shell falls off when it hits the floor, you may need to do an on-the-spot repair. If you don’t have any extra rare earth magnets & glue on hand if this happens, then you’re stuck with a mask that isn’t complete when worn and you won’t be happy.