Are you a Girl Gone International who loves Star Wars? If you are, you are not alone. In honour of May the 4th, Dorian shares her love of Star Wars and gives you all the information you need to get involved with Star Wars cosplay — no matter where you are in the world.
What is Cosplay?
When people hear the term “Cosplay” they either have no idea what it is referring to, or they instantly get images of various people portraying their favourite gaming characters or Japanese manga. However, there is another approach to this fun activity that is able to provide fans with an opportunity to portray their favourite characters from the world of Star Wars and give back to their community through charity and community event support at the same time.
Are you a Star Wars Fan?
Entering the world of Star Wars costuming/cosplay can be a daunting task. Where to start? Which club to join? (there are many!) How do I find them and get in touch? What do they do? Will I be accepted?
While there are Star Wars costume clubs available at a local level around the world, there are a number of larger and more established clubs that are leaders in their approach, opportunities and support of communities and charities.
These clubs include the 501st Legion for “dark side characters”, The Rebel Legion for “light side characters”, “Mandalorian Mercs” for “Mandalorian characters”, The Galactic Academy for children as both “dark and light side characters,” The Saber Guild for light saber demonstrations and battle simulations of both “dark and light side characters” as well as The Dark Empire for “dark side characters.” These clubs all have a global presence and active members across the globe.
History of Star Wars Cosplay
To give a short history lesson, the 501st Legion was officially formed in 1997 by Albin Johnson (USA) and Tom Crews (USA) after they had been going to events and posting pictures of themselves in their homemade Stormtrooper armour. Things quickly took off and it wasn’t long until the group that is the 501st Legion you see today was born with over 14,000 members across 60+ countries. It’s also worth noting that the 501st Legion was created before it was mentioned in the Star Wars universe through novels and largely in The Clone Wars TV series as well as Episode III film!
To give balance to the force, a similar group of fans created The Rebel Legion in 2000 following the 501st commitment to remain only a “dark side character” group. This provides fans an opportunity to represent their favourite “light side” characters and be part of the growing membership of around 8,000 members in over 50 different countries.
Star Wars Costume Opportunities
Along with the other key clubs that form the Galactic Senate (501st Legion is not a member), these clubs and their members are recognized by Lucasfilm and Disney. They are provided opportunities to appear at events such as film premieres, launch events, roles as “extras,” parades (see Rose Bowl Parade 2007), as well as charity fundraisers, hospital visits and other community events.
While for some members the ability to contribute to their community and charity fundraising is key to their desire to be part of these clubs, for others it is just the pure joy of being their favourite character and escaping “real life” for a moment and stirring up those memories from childhood of seeing the films for the first time and being drawn in like the Millennium Falcon under the Death Star tractor beam!
Get involved with Star Wars Cosplay
How do you join? Depending on the club there are different requirements related to the level of detail of your costume and which side of the force it can be on.
If you like the “dark side” characters then your first stop is the 501st Legion and The Dark Empire. For the 501st your costume has to be of a recognized “canon” character whereas The Dark Empire allows you to be creative and create your own “dark side” character which is greatly appealing to people who want a little less restriction on their costume development.
If you like the “light side” then your first stop is The Rebel Legion. While there is nothing stopping a female from being a “male” character in any of the clubs, it is in The Rebel Legion that women are able to find a host of strong, female and instantly recognizable characters such as Princess / General Leia, Princess / Senator Amadala, Jyn Erso, Admiral Holdo, and Rey Skywalker.
Find Your Star Wars Community
You finally realise that you are not alone in wanting to cosplay as a Star Wars character and breathe a sigh of relief, so now what? The best way is to reach out to your local group through social media, write a shout out in your local Girl Gone International community or by going to any of the main club websites where you can search for a group covering your local area.
Once you have connected with a local community they will be able to guide you through the process of getting a costume built and approved for your membership. If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and help out at events, this is a great way to be involved with the group as you work on your costume. All of these groups need helpers /wranglers during events to assist throughout events and look after the members who are in costume and struggling to see out of their costume helmet or mask! (how did they manage to act and film anything wearing these costumes?)
Sexism in Star Wars Cosplay
As I am sure you can imagine, costuming in the Star Wars Universe is a predominantly male world. Unfortunately like the real world, sexism can be prevalent. Just look at how the actress, Kelly Marie Tran, was treated by so-called fans (predominately male), which resulted in her coming off social media.
This attitude is changing and is not tolerated by the majority of members and the leaders of the clubs both worldwide and on a local level. Feeling safe and accepted in Star Wars costuming clubs in some instances requires male allies and leaders who do not tolerate sexism. For example, the United Arab Emirates Rebel Legion has a strong male leader who is very adamant that no form of sexism be allowed and wll not tolerate it.
Most importantly, for sexism to stop in Star Wars costuming clubs, we need more strong women to be a part of these groups.
This year the person in charge of the 501st Legion worldwide is a woman, and this is significant in demonstrating the changing attitudes within clubs in general.
If you are interested in costuming, I encourage you to speak to women in the group and find a group where leadership does not allow sexism and where you can contribute to a safe environment for women, yourself and other females who are interested in the Star Wars Universe. Even without a costume, remember that volunteers are always needed to help wrangle those wearing costumes.
Celebrate May 4th with the Force
Maybe costuming is not for you or you do not have the time to support local clubs. Here are some fun ways you can celebrate the holiday, May 4th!
1. Watch Star Wars… obviously!
2. Cook some fun vegan Star Wars treats!
3. Build a Lego Star Wars set… so many to choose from!
4. Browse your local library’s Star Wars Collection. There are lots of comics and books — a personal favourite is the female-driven Doctor Aphra series.
5. Listen to Star Wars music. Grammy award winner, John Williams, composed most of the music heard in Star Wars. Even if you have not watched the films, the music is amazing on its own!
Dorian Lange is an academic and massive Star Wars (and controversially also Star Trek) fan who loves all things space (both outer and personal) and eating vegan ice cream for dinner. She has lived abroad for more than 10 years, in the United Arab Emirates and Korea.