Halloween Cosplay vs Convention Cosplay - My Experience
Before I started costuming at conventions, I adored Halloween. It was the only time I could flex my creativity costume-style so I latched onto it with both hands and had a ball. Halloween costuming is very different from convention costuming. Both have good and bad aspects.
- Convention cosplay expects a higher degree of accuracy while Halloween cosplay expects no accuracy.
- Conventions are geared towards photoshoots and fangasming while Halloween is less about the fandom and more about the party.
- Hardcore costumers tend to be at conventions while anyone with some ugly clothes in their closet participates in Halloween.
None of these things are bad, or wrong but I found that when I went into Halloween with a cosplay mindset, I would lose my shit because nobody knew what the hell I was, nor did they have any concept of the work that went into making any of my costume. In other words, they didn't appreciate me enough.
For 2 years, I did Halloween as a cosplayer. The first year, I participated in a work costume contest where, dressed as Hellboy, I lost to a man in a dress, a man in his church suit carrying a "Pimp" cup, and a rando who threw on an afro wig for shits and giggles. That night I went to a club party where no one knew who I was and it became 100% clear that the goal was tits and ass, no costume required. Not to mention it was a club thing, so the more "feminine" the better.
The next year I decided to go to parties with fellow convention costumers. I put on my Hellboy costume to find people wearing cat ears, pony ears, and pajamas. After that year, I hated Halloween. HATED. Decided I wasn't going to waste my time on that bullshit. I loudly refused to do anything for a couple of years.
It was during this time that I also started reevaluating why I costumed in the first place. Conventions were growing in popularity and mass-media appeal, geekdom had become more glamorous and was seen as a tool to promote oneself as a brand, photographers were looking to grab pictures with the prettiest, most intense costumers, and people who looked like me were becoming even more marginalized in a arena that previously didn't care more about the fun and less about the glitz and glamour. I saw myself being shut out - but that is another story.
After doing some soul searching, I finally realized that I was letting other people's expectations and approval dictate my choices. This ties in directly with costume contests. When you enter a contest, your goal is to anticipate what you can dress as to win audience favor. I find that nothing makes me less happy than trying to court other people's favor. It's torturous and it causes me to ignore MY voice - the important voice. It's the voice that keeps me sane and grounded. It's the voice I can't afford to ignore.
Once I released that expectation, conventions and Halloween became a different thing. They started being fun again. I stopped worrying about whether people would like my costume and I seriously downgraded the Halloween costume experience. Halloween is for fun, goofy, silly, comfortable, easy costumes that you can dance in and not worry about losing pieces. It's for experimenting with makeup and relaxing with friends. Halloween costuming, like any costuming, is about doing what I want, how I want.