Saturday, May 21, 2016

Combined Cosplay: Elsa, Princess of the Fire Nation!

I've written before about the most complex cosplay I've made to date: a fiery version of Elsa from Frozen. In that post, though, I had not yet finished the costume nor achieved my ultimate goal of combining the Elsa costume with Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This combo translates to a dark-haired Elsa dressed in fire colors, with Zuko's scar and Fire Nation accessories.

I got the idea from a combined cosplay workshop I attended at the Anime Central convention in Chicago last year, in which we were encouraged to design unconventional cosplay ideas that would change up the typical "canon accurate" cosplay formula. Even though Elsa has the grace of a snowy day, while Zuko has a short, fiery temper, I feel these two characters are similar. Both start their stories as heirs to their country's throne, both are older siblings (like me), both feel burdened by their parents' expectations, and both lack confidence and a sense of belonging. In the end, both embrace their powers and inherent worth, both gain the inner strength needed to help defeat the bad guys, and both end up as well-loved monarchs (bonus: fire colors match my own olive complexion better than Elsa's icy pastels!). And as of my last Google image search, no one else appears to have done this costume concept before (or if they have, they haven't put it online), so it's original!

This fanart from zhevickmeister of Zuko "letting it go" is the closest thing I found to an Elsa-Zuko online.

As I reported in the prior post, I wore the costume for the first time at Con-Alt-Delete, where I didn't yet have all the Zuko accoutrements and just went as a Fire Elsa. Since then, I've worn the complete costume at three more cons! Feedback from fellow con-goers has been overwhelmingly positive, though I almost always have to tell people who I'm supposed to be. Here's a picture of my cape/ the back of the costume (i.e., the prettiest part):

Note, also, the scar makeup around my eye, the Fire Nation crown, the Fire Nation symbols in my hair, and the gold-sequined "embroidery" of the Fire Nation symbol on my sleeves!

I was wondering how I would feel wearing this costume, considering that it combines both a male and a female character. Well, firstly, the positive responses from other con-goers made me feel super proud and happy! And the costume itself (as usual) seemed to imbue its own inherent sense of confidence, because I strolled through the halls of Ohayocon in Columbus, OH singing a Zuko-relevant remix I wrote of Elsa's song Let It Go. In public! I never would have had the courage to do that normally! (It also helped that it was so crowded that I don't think anyone heard me besides my friends) But as for the gendered aspects--in this case represented by whether I was acting more like Elsa or more like Zuko--it interestingly depended on a prop.

Ohayocon in January 2016 was the first time I wore the complete Elsa-Zuko getup. I did not have a flame-shaped prop to wear on my hand at that point. I posed for most of my pictures in this manner:

It looks a lot like Elsa's signature pose where she's conjuring a snowflake, right? And that pose was what I felt most comfortable doing at the time, nice and subdued and non-threatening.

However, I wished I had something that looked like a flame to "conjure!" So I set a challenge for myself to add some tech to this cosplay by laser-cutting a flame shape and lighting it up with EL wire. With help from folks at Bloominglabs, our local makerspace, I got the EL wire working and was now able to "firebend"!

Interestingly, I now started posing like this:

Unfortunately the flame was briefly not lighting up at this con. Credit for the professional-quality photo goes to PixieLight Photo!
Note the fierce snarl and aggression in my stance. This is much more Zuko-like than my previous flame-less poses, because firebending in Avatar usually involves flames coming out of a punching fist. This clashes greatly with my usually even-tempered disposition. Like Kylo Ren's mask, this flame prop seemed to make all the difference in giving me the confidence to act differently from my usual self. And it was a lot of fun pretending to punch fire everywhere! At one con, I even played with my friends' young daughters, who were "cosplaying" (in store-bought dress-up dresses) as Elsa and Anna. I would "hurl my fire" at them, and they would "defeat" me, over and over again, with their "powers." I think this speaks to the way cosplay taps into the inner child in all of us, recovering that sense of delight in play that seems to be lost as we grow older.

I'm planning to wear the Fire Elsa dress one more time, this time at a con where all my friends will be dressing up as personifications of websites like Twitter and Youtube. I decided to use this dress to represent the browser Firefox. I will use different props this time, including fox ears and tail, a glowing blue globe like in the Firefox logo, and a red and yellow wig. It will be interesting to see how these different props and group dynamics will inspire me to act!

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