Per Matt
The first two words that come to mind, whenever Dragon Con is mentioned, are “cosplay” and “party,” and this year will be no different. (Most likely, there will also be a cosplay party happening, as well, at some point.)

Dragon Con, the multi-genre convention taking place in downtown Atlanta, Georgia from September 4th to September 7th will offer plenty of great cosplay creations worn by attendees and special guests throughout the jam-packed four-day event. It will definitely be a party atmosphere that welcomes many a great cosplayer from far and wide. Be on the lookout: These cosplayers are the best of the best!

Costuming Track Director Lee Cox previews Dragon Con, highlights the costuming, makeup, and/or prop building invited guests and gives some costuming tips for attendees who are currently preparing to wear their cosplay creations to the upcoming con.

As the Costuming Track Director, please describe some of your job responsibilities.
– “The short answer is, I herd cats and spend a lot of time doing admin stuff.”

“The longer answer: I basically keep my ear to the ground for trends and determine what fans want to see at Dragon Con. From there, I create programming based on my findings and fan feedback. I then seek out expert costumers, makeup artists, and prop builders that specialize in those subjects. I also cull programming requests from Dragon Con’s approved guests and help shape those to fit the type of experience fans are seeking.”

“Overall, for 2015, I have roughly 45 panels, contests, and shows for which I cull panelists, emcees, models, volunteers (stage hands) and contestants. I also arrange for all the logistical pieces to be in place and make sure nothing or no one falls through the cracks. At an average of four pros per panel, between 25-60 people per contest or show, and nearly 20 full- and part-time volunteers helping make things happen, you can see I work with a lot of folks to make sure the machine is well oiled. I also coordinate with many other Dragon Con directors and coordinators to make sure things like signage, tech, and collaborative efforts are properly handled. It takes a village.”

How would you describe the Costuming track to someone who hasn’t experienced it before?
– “I think our homepage says it best: We are the DIY of Dragon Con. We are also a genre-neutral track. Sure we love all the sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and pop culture movies, TV shows, art, and literature that the con has to offer. However, our programming does not target specific fandoms; after all there are plenty of other tracks that do. Essentially, we show you how to make a better ________ (you fill in the blank.) From there, you can adapt your ________ to fit more genre specific applications.”

How did you initially get involved working at Dragon Con? What led you to the Costuming track?
– “I had been attending Dragon Con for a few years prior to my involvement as a volunteer. In 2004, a lady friend signed up to volunteer for registration and wanted me to volunteer with her, so she would have someone to talk to while on duty. So, I met her at the hotel where they were holding a volunteer meeting to learn more. The track director at the time announced that he had an opening. Naturally, working with costumers appealed to me, so I offered my assistance and the rest, as they say, is history. My friend didn’t necessarily get the conversation buddy that she wanted, but I’ve been in the track since. In 2010, Dragon Con offered the directorship to me and it’s been my privilege to craft the track experience for soon-to-be six shows.”

Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

Do you know an approximate percentage of attendees who wear costumes at Dragon Con? There seem to be many great ones!
– “I do not. I think it would be very difficult to determine how many attendees wear costumes, con wide. I’ve never been one of those people that can accurately ‘guess the number of jelly beans in a jar,’ so I’m sure I would be way off in guessing the number of cosplayers. I will say I’m sure, at minimum, 50 percent of the attendees wear costumes at some point during the weekend. And there are indeed many great ones ranging in skill levels from beginner to ‘holy cow!’ I’ve been costuming for far longer than I care to admit and have seen hundreds of experts share tips and tricks on the craft; yet, every year, I am still amazed at the detail and ingenuity that many of these attendees put into their costumes. Some new piece of ingenuity and/or creativity blows my mind daily at Dragon Con.”

Dragon Con attracts some of the world’s best cosplayers. What is it about this convention that brings the best of the best?
– “Personally, I believe it is the fact that we are one of the largest fan/volunteer ran conventions in the world. Dragon Con is basically a large group of fans producing the type of events and programming that our peers would love to see. This tends to attract the more dedicated fans that, of course, also love to dress as their favorite characters. From there, the infection spreads. Non-costumers attending the con eventually grow to love all the costumed characters, so much that they want to cosplay too, usually as quickly as the following year or two. Of course, the wow factor becomes contagious, as well. After all, who doesn’t like pretending to be someone else and astounding passers-by in the process?”

Do you have any Do’s and Don’ts for Dragon Con attendees planning to wear their favorite costumes?
– “There are a few:
• Dress comfortably and practically. You will need to get on and off elevators and escalators, work through tight crowds, walk distances between hotels, go to the restroom and navigate stairs. You may also need important accouterments such as extra shoes, safety pins, snacks/water, contact lens solution, touch-up makeup, aspirin, etc. Keep all of this in mind when planning the size, weight, and temperature comfort of your costume as well as your bags, pockets, and accessories.

• Do not feel that your costuming or cosplay has to be perfect. Costuming snobbery exists, but only among very few. The point is not to have the perfect replica or the right body type, but to celebrate your favorite characters and have fun. Costume or cosplay in a manner that is fun to you.

• Make sure your costume fits properly, particularly your foot wear and head gear. Nothing ruins your good time faster than costuming components that hurt (or just do not cooperate with) your feet, face or head.

• Avoid sharp objects and edges within your costume. You want to be approachable, rather than accidentally become a walking weapon that threatens everyone’s safety.

• Lastly, if you wear a costume actually WEAR a costume. Public nudity and indecent exposure, in part or in full, is still illegal in Georgia.”

Do you have any advice for beginning cosplayers?
– “Dive in! Seriously, don’t wait for the perfect costume to fall into your lap; start collecting a few pieces at a time.”

“If you make it yourself, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. There are millions of tutorials on the Internet for every available material and its use. If you need to use a chemical (glues, resins, paints, etc.) read up on it, so you know how to keep it from becoming toxic or volatile. If you do your research in advance, plan properly, and exercise caution, there really isn’t much that you can’t do.”

“Find out what materials and techniques other costumers are using. Be creative. Something one person used or did to a Deadpool costume may be just the thing that would make that Princess Leia costume really pop.”

Dracon Con Costuming Track Room Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

Dracon Con Costuming Track Room Photo Courtesy of Dragon Con

What were some of the most-talked about topics for the track last year? What do you expect to be trending this year?
– “For Costuming Track, hot topics include a three-part series on patterning (Frankensteining commercial patterns, draping techniques, and drafting your own), fabric treatments (aging, distressing, dying, etc.) and tech. We’ll also be covering makeup, resins, castings, head gear, creature suits, recycling, upcycling, embellishing, corsets, and leather, to name a few.”

“As far as trends go, I think dystopian (particularly Mad Max style post-apocalyptic) costumes will be huge. We will most likely continue to see a rise in Cross-play (cosplayers portraying their favorite characters that are of the opposite gender from themselves.) I think many of the latest in anime characters will also help dominate the con floors.”

What aspect of the convention are you most looking forward to attending this year?
– “That’s really hard to say. There is a huge part of me injected into all aspects of Costuming Track panels and planned events. If I had to pick just one, then it would be getting to see (and work with) my volunteer team again. Those folks are amazing.”

Who are some of the invited guests who will highlight the track this year?
– “There are so many and it would be hard for me to name just a handful. Search for any one of these folks on the Internet and you will see that they are all at the top of the costuming, makeup, and/or prop building food chain:
– Mary Abreu
– Robert Allsop
– Erin Leigh Bushko
– Lee ‘Fev’ Camara
– Dia Campbell
– Raymond Daniel Carr
– Chance Chancellor
– Freddy Clements
– Pamela Cole
– Leah D’Andrea
– Abby Dark Star
– Chuck Dorsett
– Julia Emerald
– Travis Fessler
– Dustin Fletcher
– Paige Gardner
– RJ Haddy
– Yaya Han
– Jason Hodges
– Keith Hudson
– Frank Ippolito
– Catherine L. Jones
– Andrea Mast Kessel
– Cheralyn Lambeth
– Monika Lee
– Jeff M. Leininger
– Leah Lloyd
– Chip Malinowski
– Sharon McCoy Morgan
– Nancy McCullough
– T. Scott Merrill
– Neon the Glowgobear
– Jennifer May Nickel
– Kathleen O’Shea David
– Sean M. Patton
– Victoria Ruhl
– Stella Sensel
– Pinky Shear
– Steven K. Smith
– Miya Tamlyn
– Stephen F. Taylor
– Laura Tyler
– Rachael Wagner
– Ryan Wells
– Cedric Whitaker
– Crystina Williams
– Roy Wooley
– Mark Zoran
– The entire Lips Down on Dixie cast

Dragon Con Fashion Show Photo Courtesy of Lee Cox

Dragon Con Fashion Show Photo Courtesy of Lee Cox

The Masquerade is always a highlight of Dragon Con. Are you involved with it?
– “The Masquerade is a huge endeavor. So much so, that Dragon Con has an entire team separate from the tracks that are dedicated to that production. Director Marilee Coughlin has been in charge of the Masquerade since it first made the Dragon Con scene.”

How do you normally spend your time at Dragon Con?
– “In Costuming Track panels and events… there is so much work to do, but I love this stuff. Frankly, I would be in the track room all weekend, even if I was not on the team.”

Will you be moderating any panels this year?
– “I will be moderating several of the panels within our track schedule (at the time of this writing, I am still working on moderator assignments) as well as one of the contests: the Makeup Make-Over Challenge. The costuming Track, as a whole, will be hosting over 45 panels and events this year.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
– “Yes please, just a few quick announcements if I may:”

“Dragon Con’s selected charity for 2015 is the Lymphoma Research Foundation. The fight to find treatment for lymphoma and other blood-related cancers is very near to our hearts because it has struck our Dragon Con family, affecting some of our directors, panelists, and their immediate families. On Saturday, September 5 at 2:30 pm in the Hyatt’s Hanover C-E rooms, we are hosting a Cosplay Charity Auction to help Dragon Con raise funds for this worthy cause.”

“There are excellent costumers out there with accessories, props, maker components, whole costumes, etc. that they have in excess, can no longer wear or have moved on to other genres in costuming. Rather than sitting in storage, these pieces will be sold at auction so someone can give those pieces a new life in the con scene. We need new or gently used donations. If you are not a costumer but want to buy amazing, good quality one-of-a-kind components to add to your cosplay, then please support this effort by bidding at the Cosplay Charity Auction.”

“Also, immediately after the Friday Night Costuming Contest (8:30 pm until Sat at noon EST) Dragon Con will be posting pics of the contestants from the professional category to the official con Facebook page, so fans may vote for their favorite, whether they are attending the con or not. I invite all your blog fans to cast their vote that evening (or Saturday morning) when the pics get posted.”

Photo Courtesy of Lee Cox

Photo Courtesy of Lee Cox

For More Information:
Dragon Con Costuming Track Website
Dragon Con Costuming Track Twitter
Dragon Con Costuming Track Facebook
Dragon Con Facebook
Dragon Con Twitter
Dragon Con Website
Dragon Con Google+
Dragon Con Instagram