My Cosplay Journey – London Film & Comic Con, 2021

Welcome, everyone! This post has been a very long time coming, but for once, it’s not my usual procrastination that delayed it. Long ago in 2019, before the world went to hell in a handbasket, I finally committed to a dream I’d been harbouring since my college days and decided to attend my first ever Comic Con. Being the massive nerd that I am, I’d always wanted to attend one in cosplay, but I’d never plucked up the courage to actually go until now. As it happened, a friend of mine had been living in London for a few years by that point and also wanted to try cosplaying, so we agreed to go together and booked tickets in January of 2020. The date was set for that July.

… Yeah. That didn’t quite work out the way we’d been hoping. What timing! As we all know, the world was thrown into crisis a few months later, right as I was in the middle of prepping and researching. All large events like ours were off until further notice and the nation went into lockdown – but at least that gave me some extra time to work on my costume. It was helpful during that confusing time to have a project to work on, so despite being a “key worker”, I buckled down and used my time off to put it together.

That said, deciding who to go as was tricky. It had to be a character I connected with, one I felt I had a reasonable chance of pulling off, and one whose costume wouldn’t be too challenging to make for an amateur. Naturally, I ran through the Disney catalogue first, but since their men tend to be on the beefier side, my options would be more or less limited to Milo Thatch and, while I do like Milo a lot, his outfit isn’t particularly interesting. In the end, I turned to DreamWorks and picked Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians (2012) to be my first cosplay; I’d always liked his design, his costume provided a bit of a challenge without being totally out of reach, and I felt like it would be best to start with a youthful character like him before I got too old to play him.

Jack Frost thirst pic #3

Creating my Cosplay

The first step was research – I scoured the web for anyone who had ever cosplayed as Jack before, getting ideas, making lists of materials, and learning about the basics of cosplaying itself (there’s a lot more to it than you might think). Certain YouTubers like Hikari Shio and FrostPlay (now Chromasylum) were invaluable sources of inspiration, with their tutorials forming the basis of my own plan. Then, it was time to hit Hobbycraft to gather some supplies (that was a seriously fun shopping trip), followed by a visit to the local high street to hunt for the core pieces of clothing which I would be turning into Jack’s outfit. As the pandemic restrictions went on and on, the event got pushed back once, then twice, then thrice, finally being shoved all the way back to autumn 2021, but as frustrating as it was to keep getting my hopes raised and dashed, at least it did give my procrastinating ass plenty of extra time to prepare. (I do still wish I’d started attending cons earlier though.)

So, how does one become Jack Frost? It took a lot of work, let me tell ya, but I was determined to make as much of the costume as I could with my limited skills. After doing my homework, I broke the whole thing down into four components – the core costume, the hair, the makeup, and best of all, the prop.

In Jack’s case, the prop would be his iconic staff, a magical gift granted to him by the Man in the Moon after being chosen to become a Guardian. At the heart of mine is a broom handle (I did buy a mop handle initially, but that came with a metal head bolted onto it which couldn’t be removed), with the crook being made out of cardboard tubes. To add texture, I twisted and wrapped the entire thing in tissue paper, then tightly wrapped it again in tinfoil, with some more of the latter stuffed inside the crook to prevent the hollow tubes from buckling. I then used some craft sticks on the joints for further support, before coating the whole staff liberally in both Sellotape and duct tape – but the fun part was still to come.

Jack Frost staff unpainted

Once I had my base, it was time to bust out the papier-mâché. I applied two layers, using a mixture of PVA glue and water with strips of kitchen roll (many recipes also recommend newspaper, which has a smoother texture); a handy tip I learned was to avoid using flour as some sources suggest, because this can lead to rot and is therefore useless for projects intended to last. My staff has been finished for well over a year now, so I’m glad I followed that piece of advice! It’s also important to give each layer plenty of time to dry before adding another, so the whole process took several days of dipping and sticking and pressing.

Jack Frost staff first paint job attempt

After that, all that was left was to paint it, so I started with a few base coats of white emulsion and then experimented with hand-painting acrylics as I saw other cosplayers do in various tutorials. However, my efforts left the staff looking more like a candy cane, so I switched tactics and used acrylic spray paints instead, which provided a more natural-looking finish. One quick coat of project enamel was enough to set it, and it was ready to go!

Dyeing Jack Frost's trousers

The costume itself presented its own challenges, though nothing like the work that it took to build the staff. To start with, I got a nice-fitting pair of trousers and a blue hoodie – I was delighted to find a perfectly coloured one with no logos the moment I walked into one shop – and then bought some supplies to decorate them with. The trousers were the wrong colour, so I dyed them brown before getting to work “aging” them with white fabric paint. Next, I trimmed them a little shorter in Jack’s style (making sure to use some fray check on the ends), carefully wound and pinned some tan-coloured bias tape around them for his leg straps, and used a glue gun to fix them in place because I can’t sew for toffee.

For the hoodie, all that was required was the frost detailing, which I originally planned to do with paint pens before realising that those were better suited for harder surfaces; in the end, a mixture of brushes and sprays did the trick, although I still feel I could have done a better job. The paintwork was the trickiest part of this whole operation, to be honest – I never did have an eye for that sort of thing, but I was determined to handcraft as much of the costume as I could.

Jack Frost costume elements

For some appropriately Jack-flavoured accessories, I found a brown leather backpack which I felt would go well with his costume (I needed a new one anyway, so it will come in handy), along with some blue suede moccasin slippers to get me to the event (they were the closest I could find to the elfin shoes which are offered to him in the film, and now I can wear them around the house like an old man) and some clear plastic flip-flops to wear for a barefoot effect inside the venue (they were a nightmare to track down). Given the current situation, I also found a snowflake-patterned face mask, for theme-appropriate safety.

Transforming into Jack would take more than just clothes and paint, however. From the neck up, I’d be forging into unknown territory – makeup. God, I don’t know how some people can wear it everyday, it’s so complicated! Figuring out what everything is even for is enough to start with, but then you have to work out what order to apply it in, what brushes to use for each product, what will go best with your skin tone… yeesh, it never ends. I did my best to follow YouTube tutorials by users including APHIN, BENI and Rosalium, but I must admit to being totally out of my depth. Luckily, Jack’s makeup wasn’t too taxing – as far as I can tell, cosplaying most male characters just requires a simple base to even out skin tones and make photographs turn out better.

Starting with a good moisturiser, you first apply a layer of either matte primer or BB cream (not both, as I first thought), followed by a pale foundation to give you a smooth base to work on. Next comes concealer for hiding any unfortunate blotches and blemishes, and then the key to achieving Jack’s wintry paleness, some white matte face powder, along with a touch of blusher to keep him from looking dead. Finally, use a brow kit and some brown eyeliner to better define his eyes (he was a brunette originally, after all), and add some lip balm if you suffer from chapped lips like I do. You can also use a setting spray to keep the makeup in place for a long day at the con, and be sure to have some makeup wipes or micellar water on hand for afterwards – don’t sleep in your makeup!

One of the first things I bought, but the last thing I finished working on, was the wig. Deciding how to achieve Jack’s spiky white ‘do was quite a ride; when I first saw the wig I ordered in person, I thought I looked like an ageing Beatle in it and panicked, toying briefly with the idea of bleaching and dyeing my own hair (thank god I came to my senses in time) before turning to white hair wax. That didn’t look much better, and it was a pain in the ass because it meant I’d have to first time my last pre-con haircut to get it to the right length for the event, straighten my curls out and then lather it with the wax before styling it. I just ended up looking like I’d gone prematurely grey! Luckily, the perfect wig tutorial was uploaded last autumn by FrostPlay (one of my favourite sources) using the exact same wig I had – a silver grey Hermes from Epic Cosplay Wigs – so I returned to my original plan with fresh confidence.

First test of my costume in 2020, minus the wig

The actual styling wasn’t as hard as I thought; I just washed, brushed and straightened the whole thing out to make it easier to work with, then trimmed the ends with a razor and simply twizzled the spikes into place with my fingers. I also gave it a quick blast of Schwarzkopf got2b Glued freeze spray to keep it in place for the day. Before donning your ‘do, it’s a good idea to cover your real hair (if you have any) with a wig cap and perhaps secure it with a few hairpins, to ensure it stays in place for the whole day – and if you have a while to wait before the event, keeping it on a wig head will help it retain its shape.

And there you have it – that, in a nutshell, is how you become Jack Frost. Of course, you may well find your own methods that work better for you; I’m far from an expert, and there are things I know I could have done better with the benefit of hindsight. PVC pipe and string will produce a slimmer staff than broom handles and tissue paper, and someone with more patience could undoubtedly do a finer job of the frostwork on the clothes – not to mention my shocking makeup skills. There was also nothing I could do about my eyes since I can’t get away with contacts, coloured or otherwise. Still, I hope this guide gives you some ideas and inspiration, should you want to cosplay your own favourite character someday!

The Big Day

Finally, after all the prep and anticipation, the weekend of the Comic Con actually arrived. My friend would be going with me as Byleth Eisner from the video game Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019), so I travelled down to London to stay with her, loaded down with a suitcase, two backpacks and of course, my staff. Since she has Disney+, I got the chance to see Luca at last and thus catch up on my Pixar, followed by a quick jaunt into the city to see the West End adaptation of The Prince of Egypt, which naturally I couldn’t miss as a huge fan of the film. Then, it was off to bed for whatever sleep we could cram in before our early start.

Jack Frost and Byleth

It took us a good two hours to get ready that morning, although that was part of the fun. The journey into Kensington was honestly one of my favourite parts, too, simply because of all the funny looks we were getting in our costumes. I suppose it isn’t everyday that you see Jack Frost and Byleth on the morning commute! I had my first request for a photo before we even got to the event, from an excited father who told us his kids loved Rise of the Guardians – it had begun. As we got nearer, other cosplayers began to appear among the crowds, all of us casting shy glances and smiles at each other’s costumes.

Jack Frost commuting on the train

Once we made it to the Olympia, I must admit to feeling a bit nervous. Having followed the drama in the unofficial Facebook group over the previous months, I was aware of a lot of tension and bad feeling among the patrons over the shoddy way that Showmasters had treated its customers during the pandemic. Between the thrice-postponed tickets and the COVID Passes, there was also the worry that something would be wrong with our papers, and I fretted over whether my staff would exceed the size guidelines for props on the website. Luckily, our entry couldn’t have gone more smoothly and we were inside before we knew it, surrounded by cosplayers, shoppers, and traders. The wait was over – we were at Comic Con!

London Film & Comic Con 2021 at the Olympia, view #1London Film & Comic Con 2021 at the Olympia, view #2

Throughout the day, I was regularly approached for photos, with everybody very friendly and complimentary about my costume (we were also delighted to find one person who recognised Byleth). My animation-loving side had a blast, as I spotted an Anastasia (just in time for her 24th anniversary), a Katara and Suki from Avatar (glad I’d seen it in time), and even a Spinelli from Recess (couldn’t quite catch her for a photo, but still awesome!). There was also an assortment of Disney princesses such as Anna, Cinderella (and Prince Charming) and a baby Tiana, as well as plenty of Spider-Men and other Marvel characters. Even Mrs Tweedy from Chicken Run was walking about that day according to Facebook, but sadly I didn’t spot her. However, I did stumble across another Jack, which really made my day! To cap it all, I had my photo taken with none other than Ming-Na Wen, the original voice of Mulan herself – and on her birthday, no less. I’ve seen Judy Kuhn onstage and Idina Menzel in a parade, but this was the first time I’ve ever met a Disney princess up close.

Jack Frost meets AnastasiaJack, Katara and SukiTwo Jack Frost cosplayersJack Frost with Ming-Na Wen

The day wasn’t without its mishaps, mind you. One problem I soon discovered – which may be useful to know for any of you planning to cosplay barefoot characters – was that my transparent plastic flip-flops were desperately uncomfortable. I’d heard and ignored the warnings about practical footwear when you’ll be on your feet all day perusing the stalls, so it served me right when my feet suddenly began cramping up just a few hours in. Thank goodness I had my fluffy blue slippers with me from the commute, or I would’ve been stuck on the floor for the afternoon. A few people did compliment my flip-flops before they came off, at least, and I had another short stint in them later in the day. Aside from that, it was also difficult not to touch my face and to eat, thanks to the makeup, and of course the mask and glasses detracted somewhat from the overall effect (not that everybody was wearing their masks, tut tut).

Jack poses at Comic Con

Overall, though, I think it’s safe to say my first Comic Con was a rousing success. My friend and I had a terrific time and are eager to go to another one when we can, perhaps even with other friends in tow. I had my last photo taken as we were heading out the door, and was still getting compliments from train passengers halfway back to my friend’s place! That evening, we watched Rise of the Guardians together to honour the occasion (she also introduced me to Pirates of the Caribbean, which has been on my watchlist for a shocking amount of time), but not before taking a last couple of shots in costume. My god, peeling that wig off was bliss… as you can see, my wig cap may have been just a little snug. Ouch.

My wig cap was too tight!

Now that I’m back home, I’m already daydreaming about what my next cosplay might be, and I know I’ll always look back on this weekend with fond memories as one of the few bright spots in a bleak time. For any of you out there who, like me, have always wanted to cosplay but never dared to, I say simply… go for it! My one regret as another birthday looms is that I didn’t start doing this sooner, although there’s certainly no age limit to cosplaying.

If there’s a character you love who you’ve always wanted to play, then don’t be afraid to give it a try – you can get some impressive results even on a tight budget, and your fellow cosplayers will be very supportive and enthusiastic, if my experience is anything to go by. While it’s always nice to find a friend to go with you, don’t despair if you’re flying solo; after all, a Con full of cosplayers is a perfect place to meet likeminded people, so you certainly won’t be alone at the event. Depending on who you go as, you may well run into other characters from the same stories as you – or perhaps even other takes on your own character! I wish you luck and would love to hear about any of your Con experiences down below, if you’ve already attended any.

Thank you so much for reading guys – this post has been a long time coming and I’ve been really looking forward to it. Having this event to plan for helped bring some structure to my pandemic experience, and I still can’t quite believe it’s finally happened! To close out November, I’m hoping to go and see Encanto so I can write a short piece about it next week, after which I’ll return to the ongoing Incredibles endeavour. Perhaps that will be done in time for Christmas, but we’ll have to see how the month goes. At any rate, I’ll see you again soon, so until next time, take care and staaay animated!

References

Chromasylum (formerly FrostPlay) was one of my main sources of inspiration:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNW_bDBGoTIqYqFJmzJkPnA

Hikari Shio was also an important source, particularly for the making of my staff:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfOPWgXL3tEsVFbkY7Cg9iA

Papier-mâché guide:

https://www.playpennies.com/birthday-party-ideas/papier-mch-9694

Trousers:

https://madeofcloud.tumblr.com/post/109912663997/hey-everyone-so-next-in-my-jack-frost-cosplay-was

Useful thread on makeup for male cosplayers:

https://www.reddit.com/r/cosplayers/comments/2al19g/help_makeup_for_guys/

More general cosplay makeup advice for beginners:

https://www.andsewingishalfthebattle.com/basic-makeup-for-cosplay-faq/

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