Cosplay Feature – Mary West

We’ve attended a number of comic cons and we’ve always been struck by how awesome the cosplayers are.  Not just in how they look, but have an admiration or their time and commitment, not to mention the endless posing for photographers and still smiling through it all.  The cosplay community seems to be generally supportive of one another although there is a small minority who maybe don’t quite fit into the category, but it is a very very small percentage.

So in recognition of their being so damned awesome,we’ve taken it upon ourselves to run features on them too!

The first in our series is with Mary West, who’s Catwoman Cosplay was pretty epic.  She doesn’t consider herself to be a professional Cosplayer as such, but her costumes certainly look the professional article

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a Chicago girl, born and raised. For now, I cosplay just for fun but love working to enhance my craft in many different fields. When I’m not moonlighting as Catwoman I’m actually an architecture student! The fast paced/intense work of studio has been really helpful in balancing creativity and time management to get the results I want, costumes and buildings alike. I also like to work on small zoological projects. I have three cats (who were very helpful in making my Selina Kyle cosplay lol) but I also design terrariums for smaller pets like my Cuban tree frog and all the fish within my two large aquariums. Basically, I like to make things.

What or who inspired you to Cosplay?

I think my motivation to start cosplaying was the tragic fact that Halloween is only once a year. Once I discovered this amazing opportunity to be any character you want for a day, my inner child took it and ran with it. There’s nothing more exciting than a new costume design. I love the process of bringing a concept to reality. Working on my artistic abilities, especially drawing/painting the human form, is helpful while sketching out ideas. To me cosplay is another creative outlet or art medium that brings a three dimensional challenge. The work of art has to fit you and move with you without failing, there is an infinite amount of ways to do this. It’s about finding what’s right for the character. The other great part is meeting like-minded people and being immersed in an ever-growing collection of art genres that are present at a con.

Are there specific types of character that you particularly gravitate towards and why?

My favorites come from memories of my childhood. I am a Batman fan first and foremost. I loved the animated series growing up and now as an adult I appreciate the artwork even more. I also have some favorite video games, old and new, that have influenced my costume choices. I must have played as Catwoman in Arkam City for days without breaks. I found the fight style of the character so fluid and addictive. It may not have been the most challenging game to pros, but I am still very proud to say I have all three medals for ALL of the Riddlers Revenge challenges as Catwoman. Bragging aside, the costumes I have made so far are Supergirl, Poison Ivy, Warrior Princess Peach and of course, Catwoman.

What for you have been the most challenging characters that you’ve cosplayed as, and which have been the most enjoyable?

Poison Ivy and all those leaves was a serious debacle, I was still very caught up in trying to make a costume that looked exactly like my reference. I am starting to see the value in making your own interpretation based on your own style and materials available to you. Catwoman is hands down the hardest but also the most fun and rewarding. I wanted to get better acquainted with my sewing machine and so the catsuit was a good place to start. There were also many parts that required hand sewing a stretch stitch. It was challenging but it was just enough of a push to learn something new. It’s a fun costume for now, but I can’t wait to make it even better.

Could you take us through a little on how you made your outfits?

Everything starts with a sketch and reference photos. My early costumes were made with virtually no budget and therefore a lot of it was trying to combine what I already had in my craft arsenal. A lot of hot glue, duct tape, paint and scrap fabric later… I saw the light. I still like being resourceful, but I try to plan ahead and search for the best materials ahead of time. For my Catwoman suit I started with an oversized black catsuit and drastically altered it. The zipper was easy enough to swap but all of the top panels and piping were quite a challenge! I took breaks from sewing by working on the whip, which I made from scratch. It’s a quick beginners one and I learned how to actually crack it which was really fun. I plan on making a better one soon so I can learn more stunts and try some action photos!


Which Conventions have been the most enjoyable for you to attend and why?

I have yet to travel to cons out of state but so far I have been to Wizard World once and this was my fourth time at C2E2. It would be hard to top the experience of my first time at C2E2 but this year was wonderful too. I think the McCormick Convention Center is a beautiful building and that’s part of what makes it such a great con. The interstitial space between the show rooms has so much natural light pouring into it. It’s like a playground for cosplayers and each year I see someone get creative and find a new way to interact with the building. I especially love the fountains on the main floor… which is why I snuck into one of them to take some pictures. It was worth the wet boots!

Have there been any memorable reactions to your costumes, and if so, what were they?

This year as Catwoman, I had a little girl approach me and ask for a picture. She was shy at first but we got some pictures and she starting asking me questions as if I was actually Catwoman which is just the best thing in the world. If I child’s imagination is on the line, then darn it you must be that character in that moment. So when she asked me where I got my giant diamond prop, natural, I told her I stole it. She gasped in shock and asked me if I was a good guy or a bad guy. To be honest, I was stumped! I just kinda shrugged my shoulders in an indecisive manor and she thought that was hilarious. Her family thanked me for the pictures and they walked off into the crowd with smiles on their faces. That was definitely a great feeling.

A question about photographers. Obviously cosplayers are a dream come true for photographers, great outfits and poses, does it ever get a bit tiring having to pose endlessly for them, and how do you prefer to be approached by a photographer?

This was the first year where I really tried to network and connect with photographers after the con. Even though I’m not a professional and I cosplay for fun, it’s nice to keep in touch and be able to see all the pictures roll out after editing. Having so many professional and aspiring photographers at conventions with their equipment is such a wonderful opportunity for both parties. Trying different poses, lighting and parts of the building to work with is really cool. It was kind of a mutual learning experience. Working like that before and after the show floor hours is great. However, sometimes trying to walk through a crowded show floor and having someone ask for a picture can be tricky. Posing in a mosh pit numerous times is always an adventure… especially while trying to sip a beer and buy stuff!

What impact has cosplaying had on your life?

Cosplay for me has been so empowering. Sometimes I can be shy and quiet and if I’m not careful that leads to missed opportunities. When you’re out there in public all decked out, you can’t shy away anymore. It helps me stay excited about my passions and eager to share them with others. It helps me have the courage to make new friends and be a little more outgoing. I think it also helps me embrace my body and appearance. Making a costume that is unique to your dimensions helps you embrace your shape. Having the freedom to make a custom garment that fits you perfectly is so much better than trying to work with a standard off of the shelf.

Do you have any advice for anybody thinking of cosplaying?

If times up and your costume isn’t totally ready in time for a con, just do the best you can because it’s all about having fun. Enjoy being that character for a day and own it like it’s your spirit animal. Don’t worry if your costume isn’t perfect or if you don’t look exactly like that character. If you’re having fun and you’re confident, that energy will influence your posture, your movement, and the rest will follow through. That positive vibe will transfer to others around you and make it a better experience for everyone… it also makes for better pictures! Also pro tip for good pictures – if you think you have enough makeup on, try some test photos in good lighting. Cameras eat up everyday makeup and naturally pretty faces like it’s nobodies business so you gotta go into full stage makeup mode, fellas too!

Thank you for the questions!

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