Candy Keane is living the dream of many a fangirl. She’s not only a well-known cosplayer who travels to cons across the country, but also that rare person who turned her love of costuming into a successful career. As a designer and the owner of Three Muses Inspired Clothing in Florida, Candy turns costume dreams into reality for many other people — including me. I was nervous about finding the right person to make my Nubia costume for Dragon Con, especially since cosplay is new territory. However, Candy was completely up for the challenge and put me at ease with the process right away.
Now that I have followed V., aka Black Canary, down the rabbit hole, G3 seized the opportunity to talk to Candy about her approach to wearing and creating costumes, what newbies should consider before suiting up, and making cosplay accessible for all. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person in a few weeks to get my first look at Project Nubia!
G3: How did you get into costume design? Is it something you studied in school or did it start out as a hobby?
CK: Costume design has been a hobby since I was very little. I would have loved to go to art school, but I had to pay for school myself and it was too expensive. There are a lot more grants and scholarships available for state universities. I was also under the impression I needed to get a degree in something practical, so I went with journalism. I have no idea why I thought that was a practical choice! I still took every art class I could on the side. But at least with a major in magazine journalism it gave me a well-rounded education that included photography, graphic design, Photoshop and the other artistic elements involved in creating a magazine.
G3: When and why did you decide to become a cosplayer?
CK: I was a cosplayer before that particular word ever entered our vocabulary. I don’t differentiate between dressing up for Halloween or an event and “cosplaying” at a convention. It’s all essentially costume play.
G3: At what point did you decide to pursue a career in making costumes for others?
CK: Since journalism turned out to be incredibly impractical as far as getting a paying job, I decided I might as well dive wholeheartedly into my first love: Costuming. I tested things out first by selling old costumes of mine on eBay. That went so well that I started making new costumes and eventually it turned into a full-time job.
G3: What is the most common commission request you receive?
CK: All things Wonder Woman.
G3: What is your favorite con to attend and why?
CK: Dragon Con was my first convention and I still love it because it is different than any other con. It has changed incredibly over the years, but it still has a bit of magic to it.
G3: Cosplay is probably somewhat intimidating to people who have never done it before. What is some of your best basic advice for those who want to get over their jitters and give it a try?
CK: First, wear something you are comfortable in. Nothing makes you more jittery than having to fuss with your outfit constantly and worry if it is going to fall apart. Second, practice moving and posing in your costume. Somebody will want to take your pic, so you want to know if a certain pose makes it look weird.
Third, have a drink while getting ready, which only applies of course if you are of age and actually drink. My getting-ready glass of wine always calms my stage fright jitters.
G3: How do you decide what kinds of materials to use? Is comfort the main consideration or do you take into account other things, such as the way a costume will look when it’s photographed?
CK: Appearance and durability are both important. I make costumes that are going to be worn for 10-plus hours with miles of walking up and down convention aisles. It is completely different to design something that will be used only for a photo shoot where things can be delicate, or on stage where things need to be visible from a hundred feet away. Convention costumes have to be wearable, durable and be able to handle up-close scrutiny.
G3: There have been a lot of conversations lately about female cosplayers enduring sexist and aggressive behavior at cons. Have you ever experienced something like that and, if so, how did you deal with it?
CK: That is a very delicate question, but I am probably in the minority with my response and a lot of people may not like it. It seems to me like maybe a lot of people have not experienced that kind of attention, and then they put on a costume and get it for the first time, and now they are shocked. Like, “Oh my God, that guy commented on my boobs and tried to touch me! I’m being harassed!” Well yes, you are, but no more than a girl in a tight little dress at a club. Every woman who has ever dressed up has had to deal with idiots. They are everywhere.
My job before doing costumes full time was doing spokesmodel work. I did everything from auto shows in Vegas to handing out shots of Bacardi in Cancun. I experienced way worse than I ever have at conventions! You never have to put up with that stuff if you just stand up for yourself and tell the people straight out they are being rude and move on. Whining about it gets you nowhere. If you can’t handle the heat, then don’t cosplay in the kitchen.
G3: One thing I appreciate about Three Muses is that you make costumes for women of all sizes, and you have a great photo of a model wearing a plus-sized Wonder Woman costume on your site. What would you say to women who might shy away from cosplay because they don’t think they have the “right” bodies?
CK: We have a firm stance in the shop that women can look great no matter what their size. You just have to wear something that fits right! Too many customers come in who think they can’t be sexy or wear a costume because they aren’t tiny. (The picture above) is of Brema, and I wanted her to model it specifically because too many women were afraid to wear that same outfit because of their size. I knew she’d be able to show them you can look good, even if you aren’t an XS.
G3: Finally, what are some of the things you’ve learned about making cosplay as physically comfortable as possible? For example, do you avoid certain kinds of shoes or use industrial strength makeup that won’t melt under hot conditions?
CK: Insoles are your best friend. We put them in all our shoes and boots. They really make a difference on long con days! My favorite con and photoshoot foundation is Revlon Colorstay. I’ve been using it for years and it stays on all day. It’s very high coverage, but doesn’t look like a mask. Over that is Kryolan anti-shine powder, which has great staying power.
The number-one thing is making sure you are comfortable at the beginning of the day. Never think, “Oh, I can put up with that bugging me,” because if it bugs you in the morning, you are going to want to rip it off and toss it out the window by that afternoon.