Costume Play – sounds like real fun!
“I usually explain it to people by saying we still play,” says Megan Hodsdon, a local music teacher who is sitting across from me dressed in large, elaborate hoop skirt, scarlet corset and Victorian Ladies hat — her dream outfit she tells me.
Her husband, David, sits beside her in full highland dress, including a tartan bonnet and kilt he made himself out of a world map fabric.
“They tell grownups you've got to stop playing but no, you don’t. So, we are still spending every weekend playing.”
Megan and David are among the growing number of Australian’s who have taken up cosplaying. A portmanteau of ‘costume play,’ cosplay largely grew out of science fiction and comic book convention, where attendees had long enjoyed dressing up as their favourite characters. Once a niche activity, today you’ll find more and more people donning elaborate outfits at festivals and an increasing number of cosplay events and competitions, some quite lucrative.
Megan says her interest probably goes back to when she and David first met each other as young university students.
“We met through Scottish country dancing,” says Megan. “I went to university with the attitude that I’m going to try everything. I took up canoe polo and I took up dancing.”
“And I got to third year in University and realised I was paying $500 a year for clubs and societies and decided that, as I had a Scottish heritage, then I should investigate the Scottish country dancing,” says David, who has since gone on to also explore Highland Dancing, Irish Step Dancing and Ceili dancing.
“I think that was obviously the start of dressing up and going out and doing things,” says Megan.
But although the historic costuming associated with Scottish Country dancing piqued their interest, it wasn’t until five years ago that they began to regularly cosplay at events.
“My first serious event was Iron Fest in Lithgow,” says Megan. “We didn't dress up the first time we went there. My brother had given us tickets for Christmas one year and we went and just went Wow! There’s everything here, every group you can imagine! We straight away went right, let’s start let’s put costumes together. It has really gone from that event.”
These days, Megan says they have to start planning their calendar early in the year as there are events on nearly every weekend they’d like to attend.
“You work out how many you can actually get to and the costumes you need,” she says. “We go to at least 20 a year; at least every second weekend we’re away somewhere.”
Lithgow’s Iron Fest is a regular on the calendar for Megan and David, as are some of the large living history gatherings like the St Ives Medieval Faire and Winterfest.
“We have medieval costumes,” says Megan. “David has a Knights Hospitaller costume which is the black with the cross and everything. The historical groups are interesting as some of them are down to getting it exactly right and some of them are just fun. We tend to go with the ones that are just fun.”
“We’ve been to Goulburn, they have a steampunk festival there, we had the Charleston challenge in the Blue Mountains and I'm going to the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra in April,” says David.
“The Earthly Delights dance group down there, they do historic dances from 1400 up until about 1850 and they actually dress up in all the costumes for that. They are very serious, and a lot of the people there actually make their own costumes, they are absolutely amazing.”
“Every girl reads Jane Austen books, well here is a chance to go and dress up and pretend to be Elizabeth Bennett,” adds Megan.
Such a wide variety of events of course demands a wide variety of outfits.
“Over summer, I packed 16 boxes in my wardrobe of different costumes for different events,” says Megan, who’s entire family have caught the cosplay bug.
“My brother is very into the furries — furries wear animal costumes typically — he has a couple of different furry costumes and my son is getting into that. And my parents have really gotten into dressing up, so mum has a corset and a big dress and has just had a hat made — she'll be at Iron Fest with us this year. Wearing costumes is for any age!”
“It is remembering what you were, what you were excited about when you were 15 and going back to being excited by those things again,” says David.
“Absolutely yeah, I think there is that push back to enjoying your adulthood too though. You don’t have to take everything too seriously, you can get out and just have fun.”
Editor: Am I the only one who thinks there’s a City Festival idea in there somewhere?