Batgirl (Stephanie Brown version) was not the first time I ever dressed up for a convention…not by a long chalk. Though 2011 was the first time I ever dressed up for a comic convention, I had been wearing costumes to anime conventions for years before that. I can think of at least six different costumes I’ve worn/characters I’ve been at various conventions over the years. Maybe not a lot compared to many cosplayers, but definitely a good variety.
And yet, I’ve been wearing the same costume, with improvements made over time, to SDCC for the past five years.
Once or twice people have asked me, more or less condescendingly, when I’m going to “branch out”. I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted. Before the movies, I toyed with the idea of dressing as Katniss in her Mockingjay uniform. And I absolutely LOVE Dustin Ngyuen’s new take on Stephanie Brown’s “Spoiler” costume.
And yet, I keep coming back to Batgirl. When I think about who or what I want to dress as each year, it’s always the costume that, in my heart of hearts, I really want to wear.
I was thinking about why this is the case, and I think that it fundamentally comes down to why I, personally, like to cosplay.
There are a lot of cosplayers out there. A LOT. Stand outside San Diego’s convention center one day during SDCC if you don’t believe me. Obviously, people have a lot of reasons for choosing to cosplay. For many it is a chance to be creative, to sew and craft something special. For others it’s a chance to be seen and admired.
For me? It’s a chance to connect.
I love it when people recognize me as Stephanie Brown’s version of Batgirl. It’s one of my favorite things, when someone comes up to me and says, “Great costume! I love Stephanie Brown,” and I can say, “Thanks! Me too!” When I used to dress up as anime characters it was the same way. In fact, I’ve made some really good friends that way. At least two of my extended friend circles exist due to the fact that someone initially approached me because I was wearing a costume – something which they wouldn’t have done had I been dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Wearing a costume allows people to overcome natural barriers that exist between strangers, sometimes even between people who don’t speak the same language.
If you recognize me, we already have something in common.
On top of this, of course, it’s doubly fun to be recognized as “The Batgirl of San Diego”. Oh, I’ve encountered one or two snide comments – never right to my face, but overheard as I’ve passed by – but most of the time when people recognize me their response has been overwhelmingly positive. Not to mention, there are people I’ve now met several times at various conventions that I’m not sure would recognize me if I wasn’t dressed as Batgirl!
Even more than all of these reasons, though, there’s something special about dressing as a character wearing the Bat symbol. There is a level of recognizability among the general public that means that, even if they don’t know who you are, they know what you are.
I cannot tell you the number of times a little kid (of any gender) has pointed to me and said, “Batman!” Lots of grownups, too, will double-take and exclaim, as if they can’t help themselves, “Batman!” and then quickly correct themselves, “Uh, Bat-woman?” Walking down the street in San Diego the morning of the very first Comic-Con I ever attended, people working in the city stopped and smiled and gave me thumbs-up signs. In New York people called to me (in a good way) out of apartment windows and from cars.
I once had a gentleman at SDCC tell me how much he appreciated that I was dressed as the “original” Batgirl. He went on and on about it, and it took me a while to realize that he was talking about the ’60s TV show version. I just smiled at him and said, “Thank you.” I could have corrected him, but why? He would have been embarrassed and disappointed. Instead he was happy.
I’m not a sewer or a crafter of costumes. Frankly, I don’t have the patience. So when I find a costume I like, that suits me, I wear it every chance I get. If I can, I wear it out. After all, how often do you really have a chance to dress up as someone awesome? A few days out of the year?
Ever since I first donned the cape and cowl, being Batgirl made me feel good. When I wear it, I feel powerful, and confident, and awesome. I feel like Batgirl.
If that’s not a good reason to wear it, I don’t know what is.