Let me tell you a story about… the explosion of cosplay.
A young Calamity, 17 and severely self-conscious, walked into the local Fabricland. Under one arm was a sketchbook that held a design she made for her art show in a couple months and she was determined to sew it in time.
The Fabricland was pretty quiet. There were some mothers looking for fabrics to make new dresses for daughters, a family looking at fabric for saree and the quilter grandmother types.
Then there was me, holding out a drawing to the salesperson and asking if they had four-way stretch velour for the dance costume I’d designed. There were no patterns for leggings that they carried and no tutorials that I knew of about how to sew stretch fabric. I spoke with my dance teachers at the time to learn how to put on rhinestones that wouldn’t pop off when the fabric stretched and the glue did not.
Skip ahead a couple months to after my art show: I’m at my first Convention, still 17. It’s in Toronto, and I’m sitting there with my mom and a friend, listening to a panel of voice actors from a show I don’t watch (Dragon Ball Z) talk. Mostly though, I’m looking around wide-eyed at the costumes around me. They’re sporadic, homemade, and cobbled together from bits and pieces of other clothing. I didn’t know that there was a name for this yet. All I knew was that I wished I was brave enough to wear a costume like that in public.
Two years later I’m attending Anime North with Melting Mirror, wearing a bodysuit I’d made out of two-way stretch poly sateen. Because that was the only fabric that came in that colour of grey. If I sat in it too long I risked the circulation in my legs. I had looked for a bodysuit pattern, but there was none to be found. I had sewn a wig with yarn that I tried to iron flat because it was late May and impossible to find a purple wig.
It’s 2012, and Ottawa Comic Con’s opened for the first time. The crowd was huge for the first year, and I run into Melting Mirror on the Sunday. Cosplay has exploded and I’m blown away with how good and how MANY people are dressed up. Adults, kids, teens. You can buy wigs online now that aren’t from Halloween party shops or drag supply sites.
I tag along, for… the next two years. Even since then, Cosplay’s market has grown and gone from ‘those people who dress up at conventions’ to what I would guess is a multi-million dollar industry. This is factoring supplies like fabric, wigs, thermoplastics, con fees and hotel rooms and travel. There’s been two TV shows and popular cosplayers can have millions of followers on social media.
Tap dat (emerging) Market
Cosplay and its related activities have grown into a significant market, and one that’s probably going to be around for a while if the proliferation of geek media as mainstream media gives us any indication.
So: large and growing market that’s young, looking for specific kinds of products and not able to find them. ( I mean, we get creative and use yoga mats and learned how to pattern things ourselves, but saving time by BUYING a pattern is wonderful.)
Stands to reason that existing companies that are related to the production of costumes would look at this market and start clapping excitedly while gibbering about new potential customers. I mean, I would.
The Big four pattern companies have taken notice of us weird nerds and are starting to cater to our wants and needs. McCall’s came out with a collaboration with Yaya Han, which basically is like Gibson Guitars collaborating with Taylor Swift on a line affordably priced cat-shaped guitars marketed to girls wanting to learn how to play. (Which uh, I’ll happily market as an idea, Gibson and Taylor. Just hit me up. The Bass could be a Maine Coon.)
Why does ‘young’ matter?
Because we’ll be buying things for longer if they hook us as loyal customers.
Let’s break down how as a market we’re different than the existing ones held by the pattern companies. This is, of course, largely anecdotal data as I have yet to put out my cosplay Census. 😐 I like Data okay. And I’m curious to find out more about the cosplay community as a whole.
Cosplayers want weird fabrics and patterns of stuff like body suits and weird coats and hats and gloves and big poufy dresses but also bathing suits.
McCalls vs Simplicity
The two main contenders in the Patterns for Cosplayers market are McCalls and Simplicity. Full disclosure here, McCalls has sent me awesome pretty patterns to try out. Simplicity has equal opportunity <.< just saying, they haven’t taken advantage of
me the opportunity yet.
Ball is in your court Simplicity.
Whether or not this was planned, I find it interesting that McCalls and Simplicity are approaching the market from different angles. McCalls is creating a full brand for Cosplay, focusing on components of costumes that are more complicated to make but also highly customizable to fit whichever costume they’re made for.
Simplicity, a little later to the game, appears to be focusing on presenting patterns for full costumes, folding the cosplay patterns into its existing costume catalogue. As its name suggests, Simplicity is focusing on less advanced patterns that are more accessible to beginner and moderate sewers than running full-tilt at us
masochists Master level cosplayers.
It’s too early to really dig into Simplicity’s marketing scheme, so I’ll be talking a bit about how McCalls has done its homework and scored major points with the considerations they’ve made in approaching the cosplay market.
Things McCalls did Good
Info Item 1: Cosplayers can be known for many different things: being sexy, being amazing at craftsmanship, having a broad appeal
McCall’s: Yaya Han is one of the best known North American Cosplayers. But she also focuses on the quality of her sewing and creates beautiful garmets. She knows the community much better than we do. Let’s work with her.
Cosplayers: OH MY GOD THERE’S A BODY SUIT PATTERN. AND A MEN’S ONE. AND FOR PLUS SIZE.
Info Item 2: Cosplayers are largely younger women
McCall’s: Put a half-naked tattooed lumberjack on our first pattern.
Cosplayers: YAH OKAY. *shares it everywhere with friends because hot tattooed guy. Also it’s a pattern for WINGS*
Info Item 3: Cosplayers are notoriously social media friendly and tech-native
McCall’s: We should have a cosplay specific site so they don’t have to click three times to get to the costume page. We can also have an Instagram account to show upcoming products and interact with our customers.
Cosplayers: Everything’s all here. All in one place. Ooohhh that corset pattern is a nice break from Instagram pics of soup.
Whereas Simplicity’s had a bit of a stumble with…
Let’s use COMIC SANS on our pattern. Comic Sans is fun, right?
It’s okay Simplicity, you can recover. Just don’t let me catch you using Papyrus. Big points to getting American Duchess on the Outlander costume though.
I appreciate the cross stitch pattern of wolves no longer show up in ‘Costumes’ but the kid’s pattern’s still… there. Children: Now costumes.
Regardless of font choices though, each company has it’s pros and cons and as always, it’s not ‘which company is better’. It’s ‘Which is better for you?’
So I made a thing to help you figure that out for yourself:
Hope this article helped!