Bookish Cosplay: 3 Costume Ideas for Book Nerds

I’m attending my first comic con, Houston’s own Comicpalooza. In the spirit of the event, I started looking into cosplay that I could put together in a couple of weeks. I didn’t go through with any of my initial ideas. I decided I wanted to go and see what other people were doing up close before I take the plunge.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t do some serious brainstorming.

I started my research online (as one does), and what I found was that most cosplay is inspired by visual media – TV, movies, and comics.  Things with pictures. We emulate what we can see.  Most book characters that feature in cosplay are based on adaptations of those works into a form of visual media. This observation got the wheels turning.  I started plotting book-themed costumes that I might just be able to carry off at my next con (’cause I can already tell this will become a thing).

Costume #1 – Offred, from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 

Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat, because there was a film adaptation once upon a time, but I didn’t know that until I sat down to write this, and I’m guessing that a lot of other people didn’t know about it either.  Here’s the trailer.

The hardest part of this costume will be doing a little sewing.  I’ve not seen a lot of super modest red dresses available in stores lately.  Otherwise, the concept is very simple:  a long-sleeved, floor-length red dress serves as the basis for the costume.  It shouldn’t be too form-fitting, either.  Offred is not meant to be attractive. Her hair is covered with a white habit with “wings” that are meant to keep her from seeing or being seen unnecessarily.  She also wears red gloves and red shoes.  Here are a few bits of inspiration:

Offred Cosplay Inspiration

If you’re a fan of the Maddaddam trilogy, there are a lot of really great ideas for costumes hiding in the pages of those three books.   I recommend checking out The Year of the Flood for a description of God’s Gardeners (dark color, sack-like garments) or, if you’re not afraid to show some skin, try your hand at being a Craker. All that would really require is dark blue genitalia – which I recommend accomplishing with creative use of undergarments. Or you can just wait until HBO’s adaptation hits the airwaves and get your ideas from there.

Costume #2 – Parzival or Art3mis from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you’re going to a con, I actually think this is the perfect book to pull a cosplay from, since it is an homage to pop culture, both past and future. It takes place, largely, in the Oasis, a virtual environment. Parzival is the avatar for the book’s main character, Wade.  He looks like a very average teenage boy, with only minor improvements on the original – smaller nose, thinner, acne-free.  He wears a black t-shirt and jeans.  It’s a pretty easy costume, actually. Taking it to the next level would include carrying around one of more of Parzival’s “meager possessions: a flashlight, an iron shortsword, a small bronze shield, and a suit of banded leather armor.”  If you want to be Parzival just following his discovery of Halliday’s easter egg, pop a big copper key in your back pocket. 

Art3mis is described by Parzival as pretty, but not “unnaturally perfect.”  She stands out because she looks like a real person.  She has “big hazel eyes, rounded cheekbones, a pointy chin, and a perpetual smirk” and her “frame was short and Rubenesque. All curves.” Her avatar’s attire is bit more complex, making it a far more interesting costume.  When she first meets Parzival, she’s wearing a suit of scaled gunmetal-blue armor (“more sci-fi than fantasy”), with a couple of blaster pistols on her hips and a curved elvish sword in a scabbard on her back.  She’s got fingerless racing gloves and a pair of classic Ray-Bans.  She is, as Parzival puts it, “a mid-80’s postapocalyptic cyberpunk girl-next-door,” and it works for her. 

Ready Player One Cosplay Inspiration

Images via: Len Paralta, Robotnicc, and EntrophySylyph

Want to level-up?  Make this the ultimate couple’s costume and dress like the couple when they attend the birthday party of the Oasis’ co-founder, Ogden Morrow.  Parzival makes his entrance dressed like Peter Weller in Buckaroo Banzai, in a light grey suit with a red bow tie and a pair of vintage white Adidas high-tops. Art3mis, as his lovely companion, is wearing a gunmetal blue evening gown that “looked like it was spray painted on” and her hair is cut in a perfect pageboy. They make quite the pair out there on the zero-g dance floor.

P.S. There is a movie based on this book coming out in the not too distant future.  Just so you know.

Costume #3 – Phoenix Okore from The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

I’m a big fan of Nnedi Okorafor and her work. This novel, based on what is my second favorite of her short stories, is particularly breathtaking, as is the character of Phoenix Okore.  She is a speciMen, an accelerated woman created in a lab. She has special abilities, among which is the power to burn and be reborn from the ashes, much like her namesake.  When she is reborn for the second time, she comes back with wings. Phoenix may be young and naive, but she is powerful and possesses a certain wisdom that is far beyond her years.

To cosplay Phoenix, one simply needs a long white dress and a pair of large brown and red wings. The dress should be made from a material that at least looks heat resistant, even if it isn’t. Try to find something with some sheen to it.  The wings should be large and powerful looking.  Phoenix makes several trips over the ocean using nothing more than her own wings and the wind.  She is generally bald, and she does not wear make-up.  When she must hide her wings, she covers up under a black burqa, appearing as a woman with a hump on her back.  Adding that extra touch to a costume will allow for a pretty dramatic entrance to any costume party. And who doesn’t like making an entrance?

Phoenix Okore

Image via

Now, who’s up for some cosplay? Share you ideas or tell us about the costumes you’ve put together or worn in the past. We’re all ears.

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