Chronic Illness and Conventions Part Four: Coping with Costumes

Click here for the rest of the “Chronic Illness and Conventions” posts.

Hello! Welcome to Part 4 of my Chronic Illness and Conventions series! This is one that I have been looking forward to writing because I wanted to include firsthand experiences from others in the cosplaying community! Unlike the other parts, this one is really specific to conventions and cosplaying, so I am not sure if it can be adapted to other situations. Maybe with a lot of imagination it can be done?

A big part of fandom conventions is cosplay, and it has only gotten bigger as years progress. Hats, wigs, costumes, armor, corsets…the sky is the limit in this nerd subculture. However, most (not all, but most) conventions take place over the summer. I live in Florida, so that can spell Disaster! Yes, that capital ‘D’ is deliberate. Even without accounting for weather, cosplay can be a challenge for someone living with any sort of chronic condition.

In regards to weather, costumes and wigs can get hot and when it’s 105º in the shade when you take the heat index into account (Really, though, I don’t care that the “real temperature” is 92ºF…just tell me what it is going to feel like!), things can go south in a hot second (pun intended).

My experiences are restricted to Chronic Migraine, but I know that anyone with a chronic condition (may it be pain or illness) is going to keep similar things in mind when constructing a costume.

For example, I have been known to forgo the perfect fabric for one that would be cooler for a Florida con in July. In another instance, it took me hours to get the “wings” of my wig for The Fight Card (from Cardcaptor Sakura) just right to prevent triggering my head.


When It came to my “Fight Card” wig (usually dubbed “The Beast” by my friends), I took my time to make sure it was balanced perfectly. Mainly, it was due to wigs frequently triggering my migraines, but I also needed to perform in a fight show in this monster! As a result of my efforts, it is one of my most comfortable wigs! Go figure?

I have some costumes that I won’t wear period if I know it is going to be incredibly hot. Namely, my Elizabeth Swann (Pirates of the Caribbean) costume. It is upholstery fabric and very hot. Between that and the heavy wig (it is so thick!), I often get a heat-triggered migraine when wearing this. It is an incredibly heavy dress with several pieces of boning in the bodice, which aggravate a recurrent muscle spasm in my back. I have a love/hate relationship with this one…


With my Elizabeth Swann costume, to avoid heat-triggered migraines, it is typically reserved for wear during the cooler months. Otherwise, it is only for short-term before I have to change.

I always have a backup costume planned for every event that I plan to cosplay for. I also bring extra clothes in the off chance that I am just not feeling up to cosplaying at all.

Sure, most of my issues concern wigs and headgear, but there are more things I usually consider. If I am in “migraine hangover” mode, and my costume planned is corseted, heavy, or restrictive (like with Elizabeth Swann, pictured above), I will change my plans. If I will need a headband, I plan accordingly (now that I have discovered fully adjustable headbands, that is not as much of an issue). I am also very picky about wig caps, and the only ones that don’t trigger me are the mesh open-ended caps. No nylon for me! Besides, the netting makes pinning the wig on that much easier!

Those are some examples of my experience living with Chronic Migraine. I reached out to cosplayers who are living with chronic conditions to give an example of how they cosplay with their illness or pain. Some just roll with it, others adapt. Please click on Continue Reading to see their accounts. Keep checking back, as I intend to add more anecdotes as I receive them!

Remember, cosplay means “costume play.” It is all about having fun! No one is better than anyone else. We are all adults dressing up on days aside from Halloween. It is really something not to be taken seriously. So, get your nerd on!

💖Hearts and Sparkles!💖


Do you want to share your story? Head over to the Contact Me page and send me a message with the following information:

Cosplay Alias

Website/Cosplay FB Page

Chronic Illness or Condition (and source, if applicable)

A Link to a Photo of Your Costume (please include character and series!)

Your Story

copingwithcostumes_nekokaollaNeko~Kaolla (Facebook Page) Kiyoko Sakura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica She suffers from Chronic Pain in her neck from a work injury.

“As a photographer, I developed some problems in my neck from the neck strap over the years. A chiropractor even wondered aloud how I was still upright after seeing my MRI scans! When I wear Kyoko, the wig can cause some troubles with my neck. The ponytail is past my waist and if it isn’t clipped to just the right place on my head, it will not only pull on the wig, but weigh my head back. If it’s clipped in just the right place, I’ll have no problems at all during the day, even during things like working the convention (I was a judge at Megacon and wore it all day for prejudging, deliberation, and stage presentation/awards). I’ll also avoid a wig cap to remove all chances of tension headache. The spear is another story. It doesn’t weigh much, not more than 10 pounds, but after carrying it all day either constructed or loose, it feels closer to 100lbs. I really feel it in my neck and shoulders. I try to sit and relax as often as I can. I always keep a small pharmacy on hand with some water and snacks, just in case. If I notice the tension is starting to pop up, I take two Tylenol or Advil. I also try to bring a change of clothes, just in case (if it isn’t a hotel con). I’m also not afraid to swallow my pride and not bring a prop or wear a costume when I know it’ll only get uncomfortable for me.”

copingwithcostumes_sionnareiSionna Rei (Facebook Page) Sailor Christmas from an original design based on the mythos of Sailor Moon She suffers from Chronic Back Pain. “Sailor Christmas was uncomfortable in that not only could I not sit, due to the bows, I couldn’t lean against anything. I couldn’t kneel, nothing. And I was wearing heels, so I was not exactly comfortable by the time I took it off at the end of the night. I made no real alterations to the costume, just kinda dealt with it during the con. I did have to take Aleve at least once during the day, if not twice, to mitigate. I don’t always have bad flare ups with my back during cosplay as I choose lower heeled shoes (or flats whenever possible) and/or take the shoes off throughout the day plus sit as much as I can. I try to go for comfy as much as I can get away with. ^^”

copingwithcostumes_maplekittenMapleKitten (Facebook Page) Lady Sylvanas from World of Warcraft They suffer from Lupus, which led to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Migraine.

“I honestly just deal with it and make the cosplay as accurate as I can. I’ve been unable to walk for days, had them cause severe migraines & even had bloody feet from my costume choices. When the costume causes a full flareup I will either stay in my hotel room and rest or stay home. So I do plan my days expecting to only have 1 good one. I need to sit frequently and modify my actual schedule more so than costumes. Since clothing and sometimes even just the air on my skin hurts, I figure it’s going to hurt either way, I’ll make it worth it to me.”

To be continued…


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