We had the chance to meet pro cosplayer Jillian Ryan at the recent Tidewater Comicon in Virginia Beach, where we witnessed some truly impressive displays of costuming talent all weekend (see our photo gallery here), and Jillian discussed the undeniable link between cosplay and video games, and the positively embracing nature of the community in general.
Read on for our interview with Jillian Ryan!
What’s the appeal of cosplay, of getting dressed up?
“Because a lot of us work like 9 to 5, we work retail, we have desk jobs, and sometimes you want to do something a little bit more fun.
“I think it’s a great way to test the limits of your creativity too. A lot of these costumes from these video games are not meant to be worn by actual humans, so it’s lot of fun. It’s almost like puzzle solving.
“And it’s great way to take your brain off the monotony of everyday and try something fun and creative and just interesting. For me, just bringing something to life that was on screen is like so exciting.”
Sometimes it’s video games or comic related, sometimes it’s movies or TV characters. Do you have a preference for one genre or the other?
“Oh video games, because I love video games. Comics are cool, anime is cool, but video games are my lifeblood. And I think that video games have the most intricate and interesting designs because they’re all really different. So yeah, it’s always the video games.”
And like you said, so many of the games are not designed with cosplay in mind, so to see how people bring it to life is pretty amazing sometimes.
“Yeah I just like the fact that it’s not designed to wear them, but it’s so cool when you can make it work.”
How long ago did you get into cosplay?
“It’s been about 10 years. I just love video games. I like the stories. The characters and everything weave a beautiful story. And I’ve always been an art kid. I was Vice President of Art Club in school, you know all kinds of stuff like that. And fashion design is cool, but I’m not into actual fashion. So I was taking my love for video games and my love for creating just cool looking things, and before I knew it, I was building outfits and stuff. That’s how I started it.”
How many costumes do you think you’ve built?
“My thing is that I usually do these (comic convention) events pro bono and I usually don’t ask to get paid because I do the charity for them, so everything for my costumes comes out of pocket. So I only build maybe three or four a year. I go to more events than that, but like Link I’ve worn like six times. So I’ve made maybe 15 or 16 in 10 years. A lot of costumers do like 7 or 8 a year, but I’ve got pets, I can’t do it.”
How did you learn how to build your costumes?
“I wing it. I can’t use patterns properly very well, so I actually make my own patterns for the most part, except for corsets. But yeah, I wing it. And that’s what I always encourage people to do.
“I encourage people to mess up, try something they’ve never tried before. It’s going to fall apart, it’s going to break, things are going to happen, but as you learn to tweak it, you’re going to love it more because you put so much into it.
“Do it because you love it. Make a character that you love, not just because it’s popular. You’re going to love it more if you put it on and you feel good. So I tell people to just do what you love.
“It’s not about which one is cooler. It’s about which one makes you feel good when you wear it.”
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