Cosplayers gather at Uwajimaya to mix, mingle and admire

by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Ruth Gustafson attends about six cosplay events and conventions a year. At last Saturday's Beaverton meet-up, she wore a Totoro costume that she spent a year making. Some of the most exciting aspects of cosplaying are posing, taking pictures and staying in character regardless of the setting. For a year, Ruth Gustafson worked on her Totoro costume — the back panel alone took nine months. No tutorials or instructions existed for how to turn the fluffy, woodland, animated creature into a dress complete with bodice and full skirt (and of course a giant leaf umbrella), so Gustafson had to do what she could to creatively match her favorite childhood character.

At Saturday’s cosplay meet-up at Uwajimaya in Beaverton, Gustafson wasn’t alone in her costume dedication and intricacy. However, the muted grey tones of her outfit stood out against the varied bright colors of her fellow cosplayers’ outfits. Cosplay, a Japanese creation that combines the English words “costume” and “play,” allows participants to dress and act like characters from television shows, movies, video games or comic TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - No one can accessorize better than an 'Attack on Titan' cosplayer.  

This particular event was only in the works for about a month, after the store’s assistant director Warren Huch saw a Facebook event for a cosplay meet-up at a park. He didn’t like the idea of cosplayers meeting at random locations simply because they didn’t have a space, so he along with assistant manager Brandon Silvestre and gift department manager Stacey Rice organized the Asian grocery store’s first cosplay event. Even with limited time to prepare, the event managed to attract more than 100 people.

“Seeing everyone really hyped up and really excited that we’re doing this event, for me that’s the highlight,” Silvestre said.

While both Silvestre and Rice dressed up for the event in costumes they’d used before, Huch responded with a laugh and firm “No,” when asked if he’d be participating. It takes some abandonment and departure to be able to own a character and feel confident in a costume, and it’s not for everyone. But for the community that drives it, there is no judgement or questioning — they’re all here for the same reason and pursuit of a similar passion.

“When someone knows what character you are, you know them a step further,” said Grace Chang, who was dressed up as Ranmaru Mori from the video game Warriors Orochi 3.

“We’re all bonding over something similar. It’s having a community beyond the rest of the world,” added her friend Brittany Young, who was wearing a Sasha Braus costume from the show “Attack on Titan.”

At the event, even those not in costume were accepted and interested. When cosplayers went into the store to shop around in their outfits, unsuspecting shoppers hardly seemed surprised. People were observing, taking pictures and asking questions, much to the enjoyment of the participants. When a man asked Chang and her friends if he could take a photo, a serious discussion ensued over what the set-up should be since they weren’t all from the same program. The final decision ruled that Chang would be photographed alone.

At meet-ups and conventions, much of the fun comes from dressing up and attending with friends, but it also comes from meeting new cosplayers and admiring their elaborate costumes, all while doing their best to stay in character.

“I love dressing up in costume and becoming somebody else,” Gustafson said. “It’s the fun of being able to not be you for a little bit.”by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Cosplayers often feel they know each other a step further than the rest of the world, even if all they know about each other are their characters.

For her particular Totoro costume, Gustafson, 32, got the idea from her daughter, Elora, who is now 6 years old. They watch the movie “My Neighbor Totoro” about three times a week, and on one of those occasions, Elora suggested her mother cosplay the main character. So, naturally, she did. While Elora wasn’t accompanying her mom on Saturday, they often make conventions and cosplay events a family affair. Next winter, they will be attending the Wizard World convention as characters from “Brave,” all in costumes that Gustafson is once again making herself.

“I’m all about movie accuracy,” she said. Purchasable costumes simply don’t tend to meet her criteria.

However, not all cosplayers have the skill set to sew their own outfits. Often, they’ll buy them online or pull from various outlets to create the final product. Because of the energy, time and resources creating a costume can involve, many cosplayers reuse outfits for multiple events.

Beyond finding a character to emulate based on personality and attributes, cosplayers also consider what is popular at the time. “Attack on Titan” is currently trending within the anime, manga community, and it was clear from the number of the show’s characters represented at the meet-up. Yet, some classics remain. As they are at most meet-ups and conventions, Sailor Moon was in attendance along with several Star Wars and Pokemon characters.

Elizabeth Noelcke, 25, who was dressed as Lacus Clyne from “Gundam Seed,” shared a sentiment echoed by people throughout the event.

“We always are looking for an excuse to come out and cosplay,” she said. “It’s so much fun to meet people with the same interests as you and work your craft.”by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Cosplayers in their various anime and video game character getups escaped the afternoon heat for the cool confines of Uwajimaya's aisles before the costume contest Saturday. 
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - While costumes sometimes rely on what's popular at the time, classics like Hello Kitty are always in the mix.
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - A little calamity may ensue when Hello Kitty makes an appearance. 
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Heidi Chairet, of Canby, poses as the 'Black Butler' in Uwajimaya's produce section. Her friend Steffany Hansen, of Oregon City, dressed as 'Haruhi.'
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Hardworking Minions, from the popular movie 'Despicable Me,' helped with shopping duties while perusing Uwajimaya's aisles. by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Often, cosplayers will dress up in group costumes with their friends, and together act out several characters from a show or TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Part reptile, part predatory bird, a Skeksis, from the early 1980s fantasy film 'Dark Crystal,'' appeared at Uwajimaya's cosplay meet up.
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Cosplay events and conventions are a way to be with people who share similar interests. It's a very open community with limited judgment, and a time to celebrate this often animated world.
by: TIMES PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Young Ashley Browning awaits her turn to take the cosplay costume contest stage at Uwajimaya Beaverton on Saturday.

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