A Celebration: Cosplay & Star Wars

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The tweet pinned at the top of Sarah Dempster’s feed says, “Instead of a brain I just have a little band that plays the cantina theme from Star Wars.”

It seems a fair bet that the majority the folks going to Star Wars Celebration Orlando (#SWCO) have a similar internal soundtrack. But more than a few of those fans also wear their fandom on their sleeve.

Star Wars cosplayers from around the globe will be in Florida in full force, ready to show the community their showmanship (and sewing skills).

Two Paths to Orlando

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Dempster’s research

Dempster, who also writes for Eleven-Thirty Eight, will make the easy trek from Georgia.

“I have a long history of doing theater, and I’ve always loved embodying different characters,” said Sarah, who will bring a suitcase full of Leia and Padme swag south.

“I’m a creative person, but fiction writing and drawing have never come easily to me. But building a costume is like doing a puzzle for me. I enjoy the problem-solving aspect.

“Plus, there is no feeling more rewarding than the excited reactions of children who see you in costume,” she added. “It makes all the effort worth it.”

Sal Perales, who many of readers will know from the “Now This Is Podcasting” show and The Rogue Rebels, will make the journey from California.

Asked, “Why cosplay?” and Perales didn’t mince words.

“Why not?” he answered. “I try to live most of my life as a Jedi, so it’s fun to dress up as one as well.”

What is Cosplay?

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Cosplay, a contraction of “costume play”, is defined as “the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game.” Star Wars cosplayers take inspiration from every corner of the new Canon and the Expanded Universe.

“Most things I enjoy are through Star Wars,” said Perales. “I read a lot of comics and novels, and a lot of those were Star Wars.

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Ventress & Vos

“[My first cosplay] was turning my Quinlan Vos Halloween costume into a ‘Saber Guild’ approved costume,” he added as an example. “We then made an Aayla Secura for my wife and two Jedi Padawans for the kids.”

Dempster’s first foray might be slightly more recognizable to those who haven’t yet cracked the pages of the novels or comics.

“Luke’s costume from Return of the Jedi was my first sewing project,” she said. “I sewed the vest and waistband and considering that it was my first project ever I think I did pretty well, even if it was super ill-fitting.

“Luke’s my favorite character, so it was a natural choice. I plan to remake it soon, now that I have several years of sewing experience under my belt.”

Star Wars Memories

Dempster said her first memory of Star Wars occurred when she was a tot.

“My earliest memory is being in preschool and watching the VHS of A New Hope with my dad in our living room,” she said. “I was drawn to the movies because of the world building and the characters; they offered so much opportunity for my imagination to run wild.

“I also loved, and still love, everything about the Force and the Jedi; come on, what kid wouldn’t love to have a lightsaber of their own?”

Even as an adult, Perales could answer that one. The header of theroguerebels.com shows him, lightsaber in hand, surrounded by his family.

“I think my earliest memory is walking into a showing of A New Hope in a theater late when they were showing all three [original films],” said Perales, who often cosplays Kanan from Star Wars Rebels, along with his children portraying Sabine and Ezra.

“As a kid, I just really just gravitated [toward…] Luke’s hero’s journey,” he said. “I loved the Jedi mythology and power and the warrior skill involved. I’m sure this was all the inspiration behind my interest in martial arts.”

At the Con

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Celebration Cosplay 2015 (courtesy SWC)

The Star Wars Celebration website says:

Star Wars costumers both veteran and amateur are invited to join in an exciting Cosplay Contest on stage at Star Wars Celebration Orlando! It is more than just a competition – it’s a celebration of all things cosplay with fans who want to share their craft with the world.

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The Rogue Rebels

That final statement jives with both Sarah and Sal’s motivations.

“We just costume for fun,” said Perales, who added, “We are part of the Star Wars fan groups and do a lot of charity and community events in costume.

“Not only is it awesome to walk around being a Jedi but bringing that world to life for kids who probably don’t see things like that every day is awesome.”

Perales also said that Star Wars cosplay has made his family closer.

“Definitely. It allows us to bring smiles together,” he said. “We all get to play a part, and because we all do different characters it’s great when people recognize us!”

Sarah spoke about the cosplay community, and the friends made through cosplay.

“My current group of friends in Atlanta are people I met through Star Wars. Pretty much all of us costume to some degree,” she said. “One of my best friends is similar to me in that we both have a costume list a mile long and are constantly trading tips back and forth, sharing progress pictures, and going on fabric-buying trips.

“Then, of course, hanging out in costume together at events!”

And it’s the costumes, which are the through line for all of it.

Getting into Character

“The costumes are so much fun,” said Dempster. “There’s such a range of clothing styles.from the utilitarian

“From the utilitarian spacer outfits to the ‘fantasy-esque’ Jedi robes, to the vast range of military uniforms, to the incredibly ornate gowns — there’s so many different styles and techniques to play with!”

It’s those positive aspects of cosplay which outweigh the negatives and keep Sarah, Sal, and so many others, coming back.

“Like any group, there’s good and the bad,” explained Parales. “The elitists, the bullies, and just plain people that don’t get along.

“We focus on what we like and steer clear of the rest.”

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Coming soon to Celebration – Orlando.

“As with any creative hobby, there’s always the temptation to compare yourself and your work to other people,” said Dempster. “When you see people who have been doing this for a lot longer…it’s easy to get discouraged and think that your work doesn’t look as good. I’ve even caught myself getting upset that my costume doesn’t look exactly the way it did in the movie!

“But the important thing to remember is that you just have to practice, practice, practice,” she added. “I always try to pick costumes that are slightly outside my comfort level. So, I’m always pushing myself to try new things, because that’s how you learn and develop your skills.”

Impressive, Most Impressive

And Dempster tested those skills for this year’s Celebration.

“Currently I have at least one costume planned for each day; Leia’s throne room gown, Padme’s battle handmaiden outfit, and a 1940s dress and cape that’s inspired by Orson Krennic.

“Then there’s a Padme-inspired girl gang jacket,” she said. “I also made a casual dress inspired by Padme’s yellow picnic gown that I’m going to try and wear at least part of the time.”

As for Parales, well, you’ll just have to look him up in Orlando.

Asked who he’ll be cosplaying, he said, “You’ll all find out soon!”

UPDATE: April 27

The Rogue Rebels and Sarah Dempster shared some photos of their cosplay work from Orlando. Enjoy!

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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.

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