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.

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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…

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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!💖

~Bunny~

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

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Chronic Illness and Conventions, Part Three: Location, Location, Location

Conventions of all genres (fandom-based or otherwise) are usually held in one of two types of locations: hotels or convention centers. Just like with everything, exceptions exist (I have attended cons on college campuses and heard of others being held on state fairgrounds!), but you will generally encounter them in one of those two locales.

As with the content of Parts 1 (here) and 2 (here), the advice in these posts can be applied to any environment where there will be crowds, or when you are on vacation, or simply away from home for the day.

Let’s start with the more common of the pair: hotels. Most large hotel chains will have convention or conference space with a multitude of purposes, with cons only being one of them. This is a great source of income for hotels, since conferences, weddings, et cetera often come with people who will want the convenience of staying on site. This all accounts to something called attrition that can be a regular thorn in the side of someone renting the space…but that is a whole different topic for a whole different type of blog!

I honestly prefer hotel-based conventions, especially if I am staying in the hosting venue. If I have an attack, I can take a break in my room away from the hustle and bustle of the con (in the case of Omni, where I am usually working, I have a few people who can cover me for a short spell in the event that my attack gets so bad I have to lie down). If I am not staying in the venue, I can usually find a relatively calm corner out of the way to recover.

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The Vendors Room at Omni [Fandom] Expo in 2015, taken early in the day on Saturday. Small cons are great if you prefer to avoid large crowds.

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Chronic Illness and Conventions, Part Two: Have a Plan for the Unexpected

Yay, part two of the Chronic Illness and Conventions series! Remember, this is not only relevant to conventions, and can be applied to any situation when you are not at home and among strangers. Theme parks, concerts, whatever!

Here is the link for part one, in case you missed it.

Part two is all about Planning. Planning for the unexpected, having a plan for anything related to your chronic illness. Here are some examples:

  • A person with diabetes will have insulin/glucose tabs/snacks on hand.
  • Someone with a chronic pain illness (fibromyalgia, lupus…) will have a walker or cane if their pain can reach that point. Maybe they will have pain medications within easy access.
  • Asthmatics keep a rescue inhaler nearby.
  • Someone with extreme allergies will have an epi-pen on them.

Now, I know what you are thinking, Duh, Silly Rabbit! Of course they will have their supplies with them! I know that. The point of this post is not “don’t be irresponsible,” it’s “have a plan.”

The reason that I am having a full post in this series about having a plan and dealing with the unexpected is because it is seriously important. Now, in my experience with working with conventions in both hotels and convention center venues, there will always be resources available. Security teams from the event and the venue, as well as local police, and medical personnel is required by many (not all) venues during large events (like the popular dances at conventions). They are there to help you if you see something (like possible shoplifting or harassment), need something (like you locked your keys in your car or lost something), or in case of an emergency. These resources vary by event and by venue, so if you have any concerns, feel free to email the event staff in advance, and they can tell you which will be at their event.

Now, I cannot stress enough that while they are there to help you and keep everyone at the event safe, they have to keep everyone at the event safe. This could be thousands of people. They are not there to focus on any one individual. That could prove unsafe for the other patrons present. Now, don’t get me wrong, if there is an emergency, that emergent case is paramount and will be the main focus. However, if I have a migraine, I don’t expect them to bend over backwards and allow me to camp out wherever I please until I recover.

That is my responsibility.

This, of course, does not apply to anything that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you have any concerns about service animals, wheelchair accessible areas, etc, feel free to contact the event staff! They will be more than happy to comply! With this in mind, if you have some sort of necessary accommodations that fall under ADA guidelines, contact the event staff and ask about such specific accommodations in detail. The people who run conventions and other such events are not psychic and cannot predict every individual need for every possible disability that may or may not be present at their event. For example, if you suffer from Epilepsy or seizure disorders, you may want to ask about what lighting is used in the dances, and if they have a policy about strobes. As someone with Chronic Migraine, I struggle with strobe lights, but when I am managing the Main Events room at Omni, part of the schedule includes a rave-style dance. Typically, strobes are a staple. Since this is usually the last event of the night, I can get away with slipping away not long after it starts (a perk of having one of the co-owners of Omni be the DJ and Tech Chief!). I don’t expect him to not use strobes in my presence, or to make the music softer while I am there. I make myself scarce and go to bed.

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Friends dance together during a rave at Omni [Fandom] Expo in 2015. I have seen several occurrences over the years of friends looking out for each other over the course of a con weekend.


❄️Note: Omni is a unique event. DJ Shadowfax hosts a signature event called The Blackout Rave where strobes are a common accent. Since he has many friends who have seizure disorders and since I have Chronic Migraine and photophobia, he starts the event with a “strobe-free” period. This is a special case, and should not be expected at every event! This is his choice!

Just remember that it is your responsibility to know what is in store at an event!

Now, back to the planning! You should be prepared in case of practically any circumstance.

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Chronic Illness and Conventions, Part One: Understanding Your Illness

In my “About Me” post, I briefly mention that I am a cosplayer. I also work at one of my local conventions, Omni Fandom Expo, as their Main Events (or Ballroom) Manager. Basically, I have the job of making sure that anything that happens in Main Events happens when it is supposed to happen as smoothly as possible. I have to think on my feet, and make sure that if it looks like something is going to run late, how can I stop it from starting a chain reaction and delaying the rest of the convention.

It’s a ruddy pain in the fluffy bunny tail, but I love it.

One of the associates at Omni told me that I should write a series of posts directed to people who go to conventions, or want to go to conventions, who struggle with a chronic illness. (❄️Side note: If you are not a convention fan, but you frequent places like Theme Parks, you can definitely apply these posts to that!❄️) So, here is part one!

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