Last year at CONvergence I was contemplating cosplay. Specifically, I was contemplating what I personally might or might not get out of cosplay.
Now, I don’t know how you, Gentle Reader, do your cosplay. But to me it seems that cosplay provides two types of experiences. You can cosplay in a way that reveals something about yourself — your desires, your goals, your hopes and fears, your self-image — or you can cosplay in a way that disguises and obfuscates these things. I’ve never been good at acting, so the second option — cosplaying as something I would never be or do or want — is not appealing to me. So what, then, are the aspects of myself that I want to put on display via cosplay?
I love steampunk, I truly do. But so much of it seems to be focused on the adventurer, the lone scientist, the rebel, the explorer. I am not a loner. I am not a rebel. The closest I ever got to being a rebel in my life was being vaguely approving of ACT-UP and Queer Nation, and that was mostly because I could meet women. Yes, yes, I did shave the side of my head and braid resistors and charms into my hair in a Shadowrun-RPG-inspired way, but, honestly, so were a lot of people at the time. If I cosplayed as a swaggering piratical pilot, I would be acting the whole time. And I am pants at acting.
My desire to dress steampunk starts with “oh my, those goggles look AWESOME, I want to wear them!” Yet one really looks a bit foolish wearing a pair of brass-and-leather goggles around one’s neck while shopping for soymilk at Target. I love my fantasy life, I do, but I am not the sort of person who blends my fantasy life and my real life. I segregate, keeping the fiction off to one side. (I understand this is not the way everyone does it, and that’s fine. Not judging, speaking merely for my desires.) So I need some sort of cosplay outfit. Yet I can’t bring myself to just wear the goggles around a convention for no purpose. If I’m going to wear them, I’m going to wear them for a reason.
Finally, it hit me. If there are zeppelins, they must take off and land. And if there are airfields, there are airfield controllers. And airfield controller is EXACTLY the sort of person I am. The quiet person who stays on the ground, thank-you-very-much, helping the endeavors of others, remaining in the background. I could totally cosplay a zeppeling traffic controller.
So what does a ZTC do? What would the costume need? Well, a ZTC would stand on top of a tall tower in the center of the field, scanning the horizon for the signals of incoming airships. Brass spyglass, check. She would flash the signal lights at the incoming ships, giving the coded directions to tell the captain where to land. She would signal the ground crew to get ready. Hand-held signal box and signal flags, check. She would sometimes come down from the tower and help the ground crew pull the ship into position at mooring, or move the egress tower to and from the side of the gondola. Goggles, leather gloves, coil of rope, check.
The ZTC’s clothes would be workman’s clothes — a coverall, to protect the legs and feet from ropes, mud, and debris. Her cap would be soft and practical, shading the eyes but not getting in the way. Under the coveralls she wears a shirt, but not a vest — the coveralls provide decency.
This, this is a cosplay I can do. Stolid, staid, and practical. I look forward to showing it off at CONvergence!