TUPELO, Miss. — They look store-bought, but they’re not.
Emily Weathers hand-crafts detailed costumes based on specific characters in movies, TV shows and anime. The 26-year-old Tupelo resident is a cosplayer.
Cosplay, or “costume play,” is a growing art form in which fans create detailed costumes to accurately represent their favorite characters in pop culture. It’s become so popular there’s even a reality show based on it, SyFy’s “Heroes of Cosplay.”
“You’re taking the costume and portraying that character,” Weathers said. “You have to pick something that fits yourself. I like happy things, bubbly things, so I choose characters that fit my personality. I could be something depressing, but I don’t think I could frown all day.”
Two of her award-winning costumes include Rapunzel from the Disney film “Tangled” and Madoka from the Japanese anime TV show, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.” She’s also dressed up as Penny from “Inspector Gadget,” Fionna from “Adventure Time” and Runner 5 from the fitness app, “Zombies, Run!”
When Weathers decides to be a character, she draws her ideas.
There’s the task of taking a costume from 2D to 3D, she said, and making sure it fits your body. Anyone can be any character, Weathers said, no matter their gender, race or any other factors.
She buys her cosplay materials from anywhere, from fabric at craft shops to special glues at home improvement stores.
“They’ll ask what it’s for and I’ll say, ‘Well, not plumbing,’” she said.
“Sometimes I’ll say it’s for a play. What are you going to say? ‘I’m making a light saber?’”
When she’s ready to get to work, she creates her own patterns and sews on her sewing machine.
Weathers is a perfectionist. If the character has an action figure or doll, she’ll carry that with her to the fabric store to make sure she buys the right colors.
“You have to ask yourself if you’re OK with it being a shade off,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s your baby.”
Her “Tangled” costume took more than three months to make, and her Madoka costume took more than two months.
The Rapunzel wig itself took three hours to de-tangle, and then even more hours of braiding and placing the flowers. The details are hand-painted onto the fabric.
Even if she buys the wigs, she still has to make sure the color and style are perfect.
What Weathers didn’t already know, she’s learned through cosplay tutorials and websites. She doesn’t count up what she spends on materials.
“The term ‘priceless’ comes to mind,” she said of her creations. “It’s money well spent.”
At sci-fi/fantasy, comic book or anime conventions, people constantly ask for pictures of cosplayers in their best costumes.
“You can’t shy away from it,” she said. “It’s your art.”
Weathers is a part of a group of North Mississippians who are into cosplay, called Ministry of Silly Suits. The group has traveled to cons across the region and competed in cosplay competitions.
Cosplay isn’t just about wearing accurate costumes; it’s about becoming that character, Weathers said.
“You have to watch your posture, your voice. It adds to the experience,” she said. “When I see a group of girls and I’m in my Rapunzel dress, they’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, Rapunzel!’ I am Rapunzel. It’s my responsibility to be that character.”
She invites anyone who’s into pop culture to check out conventions and see what it’s all about.
“You don’t have to be a costumer,” she said. “Seeing a character in a real life setting, that’s your imagination walking right in front of you. It’s magic.