Recently read something that caught my interest. There was an article where a comment was made about how "lazy" a certain cosplayer's gijinka design was. The author's solution? They suggested "just make a catsuit"...
Now I don't think a catsuit would make a "bad" cosplay (I don't think there's such a thing as a "bad" cosplay, in general). A catsuit could be great, amazing and creative! That's not the problem. To compare that idea, in such a negative way, to one who simply looked at it a different way was a little... ignorant. Part of the fun in designing a gijinka cosplay is how creative you can be! There's so many different aspects to take into account that can go a lot farther than just the physical shapes and colors. There's no limit to what one can do because it's your very own design!
If you aren't sure what I'm talking about and looking to add even more into your gijinka design or if there isn't too much there for you to go off of to start with, then this post may be what you need!
What Are You Cosplaying?
So lets start! Since it's probably some of the most common characters that have a gijinka designed for them, we'll be using Pokemon for this example!
Okay, so we've decide what we're going to cosplay and it's a Pokemon! More specifically, let's say it's Vaporeon (at least for these next few examples). I know, this was a very basic step. Not much more to say, just needed this covered to move on.
What Does The Character Look Like?
Let's take a look at Vaporeon. It's yellow, white and two shades of blue in color. There's three "ears" on it's head, a collar around it's neck, it has a mermaid-like tail and scale/fin-like detail that go all the way down the back. It's skin/texture also appears smooth.
So what can we do with this information?
Well, just by looking at it we can already decide on what our color choices should be for the materials (whether it be paint or fabric); blues, yellow and white. We can also decide on the texture (if you're not going for an armored version--that usually changes things up a bit, but we'll touch more on this later); smooth. We also know we should probably include some key details like the ears and collar piece. The webbed shaping of the fins, collar, and ears is pretty significant too. We can make this will be a reoccurring shape throughout the outfit.
Where Do They Live?
This is very important! The area in which they live can definitely help you figure out what kind of design/style to go for. If they live in a hot, sunny dry area, you'd typically want to design something meant for that climate. If they live in a cold, snowy area you'd probably be looking towards designing something warm maybe with a lot of fur or layers. What about a desert? Or specific region of the world? Is there any sort of traditional clothing or style common to that area in real life? What about the time period? What would people where in those days? These are all things to consider!
Vaporeon lives in the water, so going for something with a water vibe--whether it be mermaid themed or pool party themed-- is a pretty fitting idea. The Pokedex entry also mentions it prefers beautiful shores. That can make the idea of designing something with a little bit more elegance and very detailed pop into our head!
What Are Some Key Aspects?
What stands out about the character--more than just appearance? For Pokemon we can instantly jump to their typing, the moves/abilities they have, and other information easily found in the Pokedex in games (or Wikipedia pages).
So for Vaporeon, we know it's a water-type, it learns a majority of water-type moves, and it evolves from Eevee. The Pokedex entry also mentions that it's molecules are similar to water (it can even melt into it) and that it's tail is often mistaken for that of a mermaid's.
So from this we can decide to lean towards a water-fitting design. Maybe something mermaid inspired or maybe some sort of bathing suit--made with water friendly materials. The fact that it's molecules are similar to water can bring about the idea to use fabric that moves and even sort of looks like water. You could also go about this a completely different way. You could decide to play more into the fact there's multiple Eeveelutions and make one uniformed design with slight tweaks for each individual characters. This could completely change your choice of fabric and if they environment/typing is important to consider or not.
What About Personality?
Personality is an important aspect! How does the character behave? Are they a bad-ass and edgy? Shy? Super serious? Young and playful? Seductive? Depressed and sad? Happy and motherly? If a character is childish and playful then it's probably a good idea to go with something youthful and easy to move in. If they're edgy and dark then maybe it's fitting to stay away from too many bright colors, throw in some spikes and a biker jacket? If they're motherly, think about what a mom would wear--maybe a classic 50's portrayal of one?
Now Pokemon may be a little tricky. But if you watch the show or check the Pokedex entry you can sometimes find some information about their personalities. If they don't mention that then go with what you feel. I've personally always felt like I could do something glamorous and elegant mermaid-wise or something fun and playful for Vaporeon.
What Do They Do?
What does your character do? Do they have a job? What about hobbies? If they like to cook, how about adding some sort of apron to the design or chef inspired outfit? Do they play sports? What kind? Maybe you can do some sort of sports attire fitting to them?
I know for Pokemon this can seem a bit irrelevant. For most gijinka designs this can be difficult to think about. After all, gijinka designs aren't inspired by humans... or at the very least, they don't always have human-like traits (such as jobs and hobbies). So instead think about it in a different way. If they were human what would they do? What do you think their job would be? Would they have any hobbies? Do you see them playing any sports? Their owners/trainers, what are they like? What do they do? Does the Pokemon get along with their trainer? Are they similar? If so, you can probably bet they'd be doing the same things as their trainer if they were human. Is their trainer more like a mother to them? Like how Misty is to Togepi! We could easily make a Togepi design inspired by children wear or something youthful. You can get fairly creative here!
For Vaporeon, mostly because of the water aspect, I can see it being a swimmer. Maybe a mermaid--I know not fully human but close. Maybe some sort of royalty?!
For a Pokemon like Chansey we could probably go with something motherly! Chansey is usually in the Pokemon Center in the cartoon, so if Chansey was a person we could only assume it'd be a nurse, doctor or some sort of caretaker. Something that comes off as warm, caring and welcoming, probably modest and mature, seems fitting. Obviously a nurse or doctor inspired outfit would be great!
Putting It All Together
At this point, you collect all the research you've done, taken into consideration many different aspects and now it's time to piece it all together.
So for Vaporeon we know we want something water-friendly or water-themed. We probably want to use smooth or flowy fabric (most likely bathing suit material), maybe a mix of both. We also want to keep significant details, like the ears and collar. At this point we could come up with a few designs. There's the option of doing something mermaid-y. Add many elaborate details, use light-weight fabrics that could be airy and flowy in water, and give it a mermaid gown shape to it (if not a full on tail). Or we could do a bathing suit. Something fun and cutesy with extra shapes added on and hems cut to match the shapes of the fins. Now it's just up to you to decide and give it your own personal touch! I think the design above (by hokoricupcake on DeviantArt) is a great mix of both!
I want to use two examples for this. I've touched on Vaporeon but now I want to do an overall look at another Pokemon. So let's use Litten. Looking at Litten we know it's a cat-inspired Pokemon. It already looks a bit sassy just by design (also cats are typically full of sass, lets be real here). The colors we'll be sticking to are red and black and there's a significant marking on it's forehead. The cheeks/whiskers, tufts of hair on it's head, tail end and stripes on it's legs can also be taken into consideration. From looking at the colors, I instantly go to something edgy, punk-ish and rocker. Red and black are a common combo seen in punk/rock outfits and styles. I feel for a cat this is also fairly fitting. We could also take into consideration other cat-themed characters, such as Catwoman. It's common to see cat-themed characters portrayed as sexy and a villain, so creating this sexy, bad-ass design is another path we can take. It's also a fire type! With fire I usually go with something, well, fire-y (spicy, edgy, sexy, etc--can all be fitting options). I feel Jessica Nigri and Danielle Beaulieu did fairly decent takes on this! But don't worry. If that's not you're style you can definitely go with something else! It is a starter Pokemon, so another option could be something spunky, young and playful. Or even a catsuit can work! Throw in the colors you need, add little touches and bam!
Armor and Other Themed-Designs
Okay so this is where things really change up! If you're doing an armored design, or something glamour inspired (like a red-carpet gown), pool party themed or even PJ themed, it'll be a lot different. You don't have to consider as much. When you have a bigger theme to stick to then all you really have to take into consideration is the colors and signature markings or details.
Take this Venusaur design (by bulletproofturtleman on DeviantArt). You can see the Venusaur in it and at the same time it still may be something different then what you were originally thinking was fitting for Venusaur. It has all of the colors, the designer changed the signature flower on the back to a weapon/shield so it's still included in the design, and they also threw in other flower aspects--keeping true to it's design as well as considering the fact that it's a grass-type. While it may not be a soft or hard of a design as you'd think when thinking of Venusaur, it still represents the Pokemon well.
It's taking classic armor pieces and modding them to fit a Pokemon. There's many people who take inspiration from various World of Warcraft sets, for example. They use those sets as a sort of starting point and then change and recolor pieces as needed--adding on details and removing others, changing shapes of the edges, etc--to make it better represent a different character.
My point is, you don't always have to take into consideration every last details. You can pay more attention to some details than others. It's all about what you feel would fit your design the best. The only thing that may be really important to keep are some signature aspects the character is know for (for animal-like character it's typically the ears, tail and/or the texture of it's fur/skin and maybe the pattern of it). And even then you don't absolutely have to if you don't want to. There's many ways to incorporate these different aspects.
I feel the various things mention will help anyone who's stuck or doesn't know where to begin. If you just can't get a good idea start looking more into the character, research different aspects of their environment or personality or pick an outside theme (like armor or glamour) and design towards that.
Ultimately it's up to the you to decide what you feel is fitting and it shouldn't really matter what anyone else thinks--cosplay is for fun and as long as you're having fun, that's all that matters! So just enjoy yourself, design a billion different designs before picking one, explore your talents and tastes--just have fun and love what you're doing. And to anyone who doesn't like it... well, then you can make it yourself, the way you want it done and just leave the other cosplayer be--because obviously they're happy with their design and there's no reason they shouldn't be.
~Positive Outcomes Only~
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