My Life in Costumes and Cosplay

When David and I saw Logan last weekend I did something I’ve never done – I dressed up for the premiere.  For years David has asked me to embrace mutton chops for the opening night of an X-Men movie but I never did either because I wasn’t feeling it or I didn’t remember soon enough to grow them in all their glory.  However, to honor Hugh Jackman’s final performance, as well as the seventeen years he spent playing Wolverine, I did it.  I went full on Wolverine!  There were no claws of course; I didn’t need to make things awkward for the theatre staff as they understandably ask for no toy weapons at these things.  But I did my best to capture the rest of his look.  And it was a lot of fun!

I’ve always been impressed by the commitment and creativity of people who dress up for the opening night of movies.  Not only are the professing their love in a fantastic way, but they are making our night more enjoyable too.  The best David and I have ever seen had to be this fantastic Nagini made up of seven people who moved as one, in serpentine patterns, the entire night of Deathly Hallows Part 1.  They even made sure to go to the bathroom together!  It was soooo cool!!!!  The earliest I remember seeing costumes at the movies would be the 1997 release of the Star Wars Special Editions.  Of course Revenge Of The Sith in 2005 was epic, as people really committed for what we all believed would be the final Star Wars film.  And now costumes have become par for the course for everything from superhero movies to The Hunger Games (I particularly liked the costumes from The Hunger Games as they were derived almost exclusively from the book with the movie just coming out).  I’m proud to say, with David’s urging and to honor Logan as best I could, I’ve now joined the ranks of costume-clad moviegoers.

All the credit for the actual production of this hairstyle goes to Erica, who cuts my hair.  I took care of the beard work myself but then I went in, the afternoon of the movie, with a handful of pictures of Hugh Jackman from the X-Men films and she did the rest.  How great is this?!?  I can’t even begin to remember the mix of products she used to make certain it stayed like that but it didn’t move all night and it was a HUGE hit at the theatre!  There was this one guy in particular who was there with a group of eleven people.  He exclaimed, “NICE CHOPS!” when he saw me and urged each of his friends to, “Check out this guy’s chops!!” as they sat down.  Another fan told me, “You are my favorite person in the world!”  So yeah, it was a success.  While the hair deservedly got the most attention, as David pointed out, the rest of the outfit subconsciously added to people’s overall reaction.  Would the hair have been as impressive if I was just wearing a Wolverine t-shirt?  Maybe.  But I think the whole thing worked together.

It’s worth noting that Erica is the perfect facilitator for my wild ideas.  Each time I go in to the salon with some odd request she gets excited and then does a beyond-brilliant job of pulling it off.  She worked for about half an hour to get my Logan hair right!  She’s also the one responsible for the Rebel Alliance symbol I wore in my hair for the premiere of The Force Awakens and the Iron Man that declared my devotion to Tony Stark for the opening night of Captain America: Civil War.  My head has been captured on a lot of random people’s phones because of her work.  I keep going in with crazier ideas and she keeps pulling it off!!  Naturally this means my mind keeps thinking of grander plans.  I have no idea what I’ll come up with next but I’m 100% positive she’ll make it look even better than I imagine it in my head.  I have to say the full-on Logan costume did make opening night more fun too!  I see why people do this.

Opening night for a new movie has always been a tradition David and I share.  My earliest memory for an opening night extravaganza is 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  We were HUGE Turtles fans growing up and Mom and Dad made sure to take us to see it as soon as we could possible go.  I remember coming home every day after school and David and I would cross off another day on the calendar as we counted down until opening night.  Then the night finally came and we got to see the Turtles on the big screen.  It.  Was.  AMAZING.  I will never forget that feeling – the anticipation, the excitement, the wonder of seeing how what was produced met up with my expectations.  It was unlike any other movie experience I’d had.  These were our Turtles but on the big screen.  And in real life!!  Ahhh, it was something…

There’s just something special about opening night you know?  I know we live in a culture of streaming but I’ll take the movie theatre over my couch any chance I get.  There’s an energy in the air.  Dad often comments of the surreal experience of watching Star Wars films on opening night.  “Everyone is swinging lightsabers and quoting lines,” he says, “and it’s wild.  But then, as soon as the movie begins, it’s absolutely silent.  No one says a word.  No one wants to miss anything!  There’s bursts of applause and cheering but no one’s talking during the movie.”  I love that reverential tone.  I like seeing the movie as soon as I can too.  I’m not exclusively an opening night person but if it’s something I’m excited for, something I’ve been waiting for, then I have to go.  I’m still proud of the fact that I bought the very first tickets for The Force Awakens sold in Erie.

Costume 6

David and I rocking it out as Leo and Raph respectively.

In addition to being my first vivid memory of a film’s opening night, you can also trace the inspiration for the first creative, hand-crafted costume I ever wore to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  As I said, when we were kids we loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  In that spirit, Grandma (who passed away in 2002) made Ninja Turtle costumes for David, myself, and our cousins.  I am not a good enough writer to adequately describe how epic they were but you can see for yourself.  WE WERE SO COOL.  The bandana/belt sets were from the store but she made the green suits and shells.  I mean, I’m impressed by them now but can you imagine what it felt like to be able to strut around in these when we were six or seven??  The shells weren’t attached to the green suits either so we’d often just play with the shells and bandanas on if it was too hot for the whole costume.  It was truly the stuff of legend.

It’s weird, especially given the nature of this post, but I’ve never considered myself a costume guy.  I never get dressed up for Halloween as an adult.  At least, I don’t just for the sake of getting dressed up.  I was a Youth Minister for six years before I started teaching Theology full-time.  My Youth Group was comprised of a middle school group and a high school group but I worked a lot with elementary kids too.  Every year the kids – especially the younger ones – would ask what I was dressing up as for Halloween.  I never wanted to but I didn’t want to let the kids down.  When you combine that mentality with the fact that I’m a if-you’re-gonna-do-it-do-it-right kind of person (who also likes to one-up himself) I ended up putting together a few impressive costumes over the years.

Costume 11This Jedi one was a personal favorite.  I mean I look like a freaking Jedi Knight.  How could I not love it?!?  The outer robe was sewn by the same Grandma who did the Ninja Turtles garb for us.  She made it for me when I was in eighth grade for a presentation I did on movie special effects.  Since she wisely (and accurately!) made the robe big and flowy, I was able to reuse it as an adult.  The tunic and everything under the outer robe was sewn by Aunt Judy when I got the idea to be a for-real Jedi as a Youth Minister.  She looked up so many different patterns to do it right!  The boots were “official” Star Wars products but she did everything else by hand.  It was a big hit.  I was able to reuse the whole costume back in November when Hannah and I started teaching our Star Wars and Contemporary Myth-Making course.  Because, if you have a Jedi costume why wouldn’t you wear it on the first day of a class like that??  Honestly, I would question my ability to teach the course if I didn’t wear this.  So I donned my Jedi robes and Hannah put on her Darth Vader dress and we kicked off the class in a fashion befitting Lucas’ brilliance.

However, I wouldn’t  say my Obi-Wan inspired robes were the height of my adult costuming adventures.  No, that would come in 2010.  On the heels of Tim Burton’s trippy Alice in Wonderland, I’d decided to embrace my inner Mad Hatter.  I committed.  I was going all out.  If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right!  I started working on this two months before Halloween.  The hat, wig, and fake eyebrows were all official Disney-licensed products.  You can’t fake the hat and the hair you know?

The rest of the costume was either created or cobbled together from what we could find.  I say “we” because this was truly a team effort.  I like to credit this look to the work of “my team of costume designers.”  David scoured thrift stores and the mall with me.  Aunt Judy once again brought her magic to bear creating the gloves and flowing cuffs of the ensemble.  My friend Kelly patiently sewed the bobbin sash for me, tying together dozens of individual bobbins.  And Mom?  Mom gets total credit for the make-up design.  I bought all the make-up and gave her about eight pictures of Johnny Depp from different angles.  She then spent an hour and a half that morning before work painting my face to resemble to Hatter.  For real!  It took me two hours to get dressed for work that morning and an hour and a half was spent in make-up.  But it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Honestly, I was relieved when I got the job at Mercyhurst the following summer.  Of course I was so excited to finally enter the classroom fulltime for so many reasons…but I also had no idea how I was going to top the Mad Hatter!!!  Where do you go from there?  When I interviewed at Mercyhurst for the teaching job and we came to the point where they asked if I had any questions I didn’t ask about pay or vacation days.  Instead I said, “Yes, uh, do you dress up for Halloween here?”  I was so happy when they said no!  As I said above, I’m the type of person who likes to top himself but I didn’t know how to do that after 2010.  The Mad Hatter was able to serve as my flamboyant finale, my official retirement from costuming.  And I was going out on top!

Well, I was retired until Logan that is.  I don’t know if this will be a one-and-done situation or if I’ve let some sort of genie back out of the bottle.  I also don’t know if maybe I need to revise my opinion of myself.  Maybe I am a costume guy after all.  Also, does this mean I do cosplay?  It wasn’t a thing before but it sure is now.  Do I do it?  I guess I do.  Anyway, special thanks needs to go to David, Erica, Aunt Judy, Grandma, Kelly, and Mom for all their help in inspiring these wild ideas and then helping bring them to life through the years.

I also have to thank Kalie…for going out in public with me.  She endured the Rebel Alliance logo.  She endured the Iron Man face.  And, while she wasn’t back in town when David and I saw Logan on opening night, she was back in town after we got out of the theatre and legitimately went out in public with me to Coffee Culture looking like this.  It’s also worth noting, I’m still wearing the mutton chops!  I kind of think the look works for me.  To Kalie’s credit, she’s signed off on them as well.  When my hair was no longer up in Logan-fashion she said, “You know, with your hair down and wavy like that you sort of look like a character from a Bronte novel.”  When your significant other approves of ridiculous facial hair like this, you have to run with it!  Now I can see how long the mutton chops last until I get some other wild idea!

Costume 3

Actual, literal photographic proof that Kalie was willing to go out in public with me looking like this.  Which, really, is something she should feel special about too.  C’mon, I look GOOD dressed up as Logan!

19 thoughts on “My Life in Costumes and Cosplay

  1. That Mad Hatter costume is outstanding! Such dedication! With more Star Wars movies coming up, you have some more opportunities to wear your Jedi outfit 😉

    At my library, I am the only staff member who will wear a costume. My Bride of Dracula outfit that I wore during a preschool storytime, nabbed me a picture on our library/park district catalog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks! Yeah, I was particularly proud of that one too. And you’re right, thanks to Disney my Jedi robes will be en vogue for the foreseeable future. Yay!

      Also, WAY TO GO for being the coolest person on your library’s staff. I don’t know if I can say that officially (not having met everyone else) but if you are the only one willing to dress up AND your costumes are getting featured in magazines I think it’s a pretty safe assumption you are.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this.
    It also reminds of how until you put up that Jedi picture, my only knowledge of what you looked like was Iron Man on the back of your head. It was nice to finally be able to put a face to the name! Although I still think you were on the wrong side of that there Civil War…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, yeah, I guess you’re right! Well now you know what the front of my head looks like too. I’m happy to help!

      As to Iron Man and Cap, if you’re talking about the COMIC Civil War, I’m 100% with you. Tony was a huge jerk and completely in the wrong. The film though? Cap is incorruptible. Of course he doesn’t need supervision. His character, by definition, is beyond reproach. But everyone else? It’s dangerous to let anyone with superpowers do whatever they feel is right. That’s why I have to side with Tony. Is Thunderbolt Ross the one to head the Accords? Of course not. But maybe with people like T’Challa and Natasha at the head? That could work! Anyway, I’m still tirelessly championing Tony’s cause even if two out of three people I know agree with you :).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the problem though; I agree with the broad strokes of the act in both mediums.
        The problem is, as you say, in the comics Tony goes about it all wrong. In the film however, as Cap says “These things are run by people with agendas, and agendas change” (I’m just going off the top of my head so that may be a tad wrong) and so far, the agendas at the head of this thing include the man who built Ultron, the man who built Abomination and various others who were most likely friendly with undercover Hydra agents before TWS outed them.
        As for T’Challa and Natasha, in Civil War both played pretty loosely with the rules and so we have no way of knowing they wouldn’t do so again, if a personal crisis came up.
        I’d argue one of the only people who could actually head this thing would be Cap himself (if the whole Bucky mess was sorted).


  3. DUDE, that is BY FAR th best Logan cosplay Brad will ever see – good? Positively groovy, baby!
    What reactions did u get in th cinema queue to your Mad Hatter?! Again, an amazing look
    Somewhere online has to be a pic of Brad in his Assassins Creed garb – I shall despatch my minions to hunt it down for u pronto!
    Btw, th Turtles r adorable (but if u ‘ad a satang for evrytime somebody said that, eh…?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you sir! And, okay…I need to see the picture of an Assain’s Creed style Brad. I hope your minions are successful. It sounds epic!

      Sadly, I didn’t wear the Mad Hatter to the theatre but I did wear it to work and everyone was blown away. The best was this little Kindergartner who was dressed as Alice. She said, “Who are you?” I said, “We met at the Mad Tea Party.” She said, “Uh…what?” And I said, “You should do a more thorough character history.” Ah, I miss working with elementary kids sometimes :).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fantastic story!
        Altho it never ceases to amaze me th depths to which younglings’ education have gone!
        As for that Boy N Da Hood, he is proving elusive…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I kind of have to agree with you. How are you saying you are not a costume guy when you have so many epic costumes??? Also clearly I need better friends because no one ever wants to dress up with me for stuff like this. Not that I go to many opening night movies, but there’s no law about not dressing up for the movie three weeks after its release, right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would argue it’s even cooler to dress up after opening night. Because who expects it then?? I’ve also always had the desire to dress up for a movie…but for the wrong movie – like, go to a Star Wars movie as a Ghostbuster or something. And yes, I think your friends should not only be encouraging this sort of frivolity and/or madness but actively joining in the fun!


  5. Wow, those are some impressive costumes! I’m also a bit conflicted when it comes to costumes, the times I’ve really gone with it it has been great but more often I’ve been too self-conscious to do it properly. But I think costumes in general are less of a thing here.

    However, in Norway I can wear a traditional folk costume without looking weird (assuming I choose an appropriate day). Those are of course Very Serious and Important Traditions and so on but the feeling of awesomeness is the same 😉


  6. Awesome post, Michael! I love learning about the creative process for costuming and cosplay. I want to be more invested than I am– I don’t see pictures in my head, so it’s challenging for me to visualize how one thing could become another if they aren’t identical. You did an AWESOME job here!

    I don’t think costuming is really a one-and-done sort of thing, but you need to have the right inspiration and motivation to get into it. It’s easy to make an average costume for something. But to truly re-create something? That takes passion. I don’t think you need to define yourself as a “costume guy” or not. Just do what you are inspired to do!

    Great post! I found this through The Sunday Exchange at Pages Unbound.


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