DragonCon cosplay: Chef Thanos
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Credit: Vanessa Armstrong

PHOTOS: A tour inside Dragon Con's incredible cosplay scene

Contributed by
Sep 4, 2018

Atlanta's Dragon Con attracts over 80,000 attendees each year, and pretty much all of them cosplay.

Seriously. You're the weird one if you're not dressed up.

This year's con, which took place over Labor Day, was no exception. For five days and four nights, downtown Atlanta's hotel lobbies overflowed with people decked out in costumes that ranged from amazingly elaborate to cleverly simple. More serious cosplayers also competed in Friday night's Costuming Contest and Sunday night's Masquerade, and the cosplay celebration even took over Atlanta's city streets during the event's 17th annual Saturday morning parade.

With the thousands of costumes on display, certain trends and pop culture properties made bigger waves than others. Here is a sample of just some of the cosplay Dragon Con attendees brought to the party.


Credit: Vanessa Armstrong

Costumes From Recent Popular Culture

Not surprisingly, the con was full of cosplay from the most popular movies, television shows, and video games from the past year. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course, had a strong showing, with several characters from Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War making appearances. Star Wars had a presence as well, including quite a few R2-D2s, BB-8s, and Kylo Rens. Other less well-known properties also had a good showing: Netflix's GLOW, for example, had an unexpectedly strong showing, particularly Alison Brie's Zoya the Destroyer.

Clever Mash-Ups

Another thing cosplayers at Dragon Con do well are mash-ups, where two different properties are combined into one glorious costume. A Darth Vader-Futurama's Bender was making the rounds, as well as an American Gothic-Thanos and Hela mash-up and a BBQ-cooking Thanos. There were a few Ghostbuster mash-ups making the rounds in the hotel lobby, as well, including a Jack Sparrow-Ghostbuster and a Supernatural-Ghostbuster.

DragonCon cosplay: Barbie - Before

Credit: Vanessa Armstrong

Meta and/or Dragon Con-Specific Cosplay

A con so chock full of cosplayers can't help but have some costumes taking a meta stance on cosplay itself. Throughout the weekend, for example, there were brave cosplay medics armed with materials to help cosplay attendees who needed emergency repairs.

"I have four different sets of pliers," Paige, a dedicated Cosplay Medic who described the items in one of her many pouches, told SYFY WIRE. "I also have a spool of thread, needle-nose pliers, Velcro, and clear nail polish."

Another meta-cosplay inspiration included a guy wearing a top hat that gave other attendees cosplay "quests" to accomplish (for example, trying to find another attendee in specific cosplay, such as a man dressed up as Princess Leia). There was also a guy dressed as a fisherman using Dragon Con desirables such as a hotel room reservation (the rooms sell out quickly for the con) as bait.

DragonCon cosplay: Carpet Cape

Credit: Vanessa Armstrong

Homage to the Marriott Carpet

But the most well-known and arguably well-loved meta-cosplay trend at Dragon Con is the Marriott carpet. At Dragon Con, events take place in several downtown Atlanta hotels, including the Marriott Marquis, which for several years had a uniquely patterned carpet that many Dragon Con attendees incorporated into their cosplay.

Sadly, the carpet was replaced in 2016. It lives on, however, in people's hearts as well as in their costuming. This year, in addition to some cosplay-carpet mash-ups, several attendees also wore "regular" clothing such as T-shirts, dresses, and lanyards that carried the carpet design as well.

The Growing Sophistication of 3D Printing

Dragon Con attendees also have the chance to delve deeper into cosplay through the event's costuming track, which held 58 panels, parties, workshops, exhibits, and meetups during the five-day con (sample titles from the track include: Synthetic Cosplay Wig Styling Workshop, FX Makeup for Cosplay, Chainmaille 101, and Sewing Hacks).

Experts participating in this track included professional puppeteers and costumers, who took part in several panels and also served as judges during the Masquerade and Costume Contest. The trend of 3D printing was one issue that came up throughout the track and its associated events.

"There's this whole new realm of 3D printing, and at first we had trouble thinking of how to deal with this [for judging]," Freddy Clements, a professor of drama and costume design at Jacksonville State University and a judge for the costuming contest, explained on a panel. "But those of you [who participated in the Costume Contest] designed your own 3D printing… we give accolades to all of you. Stick with it."

Other experts agreed that incorporation of 3D printing is here to stay, and already significantly more sophisticated than it was three to four years ago.

DragonCon cosplay: Ariel

Credit: Vanessa Armstrong

The Party's Over… But It'll Be Back Next Year

Dragon Con is now over, and the 80,000+ attendees have packed their cosplay into bins, bags, and boxes to take home. And while everyone is exhausted, everyone is also talking about next year and wondering about what cosplay they'll wear and what cosplay they'll see less than 365 days from now. I, for one, have already bought my ticket for 2019.

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