Here There Be Cosplays: A Breakdown of my Taako Costume
By Kelemet Telwar
In the summer of 2017, around June, I felt like I was losing myself.
I was a fresh high school graduate, but I wasn’t going to be doing what all my ex-peers would be doing. I was the loner in a group of 70 talented, intelligent people. Everyone else in the graduation pamphlet handed out in May had a proud, bold line declaring their college next to them. NYU, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth, yadda yadda yadda. All these impressive names, beautiful logos and smiling parents. I had never seen the head of my school so proud.
I, on the other hand, had nothing. Not a single name next to mine.
I didn’t want to attend college. I never did. I have a memory of being twelve years old and proudly declaring that “I don’t need school to do art”. This wasn’t a new decision. Going to cosmetology school, though, was. And that would begin the first week of July. It was important to my family that I get some sort of degree or certification because, well, they were my family. The world is harsh. They wanted to make sure the ‘starving’ half of ‘starving artist’ remained a joke. I chose cosmetology school because doing makeup and hair really does make me happy, and at the end of the day there will always be salons hiring no matter what happens to me.
My friends were all enjoying their summer. They were buying things for dorms, getting new college wardrobes and picking class schedules. I was just…working. Working at a little ice cream parlor. And going to school. And working. And school. And more school. Endless school.
I felt like I was losing myself.
Then one day, on a whim during a road trip, I started The Adventure Zone. It had been all over my Tumblr for months, but I got bored and sad and decided to take the plunge and listen to my first podcast since 2014. I had nothing better to do for the nine-hour ride.
As soon as the first episode ended, I was no longer lost.
I didn’t know I could possibly connect to a story like that in my present mental state. I hadn’t fallen this in love with a piece of media in over a year. Especially something as unassuming as a podcast! As soon as I hit the first Lunar Interlude episode, I made a decision. I was going to show my love for this podcast by cosplaying one of the characters.
But…how do you cosplay from a podcast?
The first thing I did was some searching. I had decided on my character – Taako, of course, and we’ll get back to that later – but I didn’t have any design to work off of. Maybe Tumblr had a solution for this? Well, of course it did. As is the norm with Tumblr, amazing artists from across the globe made flawless fanart for The Adventure Zone. I noticed a trend very quickly though: all drawings were different. Besides some key factors (umbrellas, heights, weapons and general concepts), every character looked different in every piece of fan art. That’s when I learned that the creators of the podcast, the McElroy family, had left the descriptions purposefully vague to allow people to see themselves in these characters, whether it be in race or style. That made me fall for the podcast even harder.
That meant, though, that my cosplay would have to be a completely original design. That scared me just a bit, because of course situations like this allow for a lot of outside hate and judgement from people who don’t like your interpretation. I decided to shove away all those fears, though, and focus on one fact: Taako means a lot to me, and I want to do him justice for ME. So, I hunkered down and drew a million and one pages of designs before settling on something over-the-top, garish and flamboyant. I was at my peak.
Now, let’s backtrack just a tad. Why Taako? Out of all the characters in this huge saga, why the idiot wizard boy? Well, I found myself fully falling in love with him. First off, being LGBT+ and seeing a main character being so casually gay and being fully fleshed out and loved was super empowering. Plus, his sense of crazy fashion sense and opulence also related to me. I’m a huge fan of putting glitter on everything, so that was another easy thing to see myself in him with. But above all, as someone who writes fiction with a heavy focus on character, I fell in love with his personality more than anything. He is flippant, funny, and crass, which is all a shield for some very deep and dark childhood trauma. He’s scared of getting hurt, even by the friends that he’s known for over 100 years, and he always has up an emotional shield. The few moments we see those walls fall and we get to see his heart are the moments where I probably cried the most during this series – though to be fair, I cried quite a lot.
To summarize, Taako is me and I am Taako and therefor I must dress like him. The end.
As you can see from my little drawing, I was very ambitious with my Taako design. I made it a goal from day one to have the biggest wizard hat any Taako cosplayer ever had. At three feet wide and two feet tall, I think I achieved that. But the hat was the last thing I worked on, so we can return to that in a bit. Let’s talk appearance first.
When it came to Taako’s physical appearance, long blonde hair seemed obvious to me. A classic callback to classic fantasy elves. Also, freckles seemed like an obvious choice. It was an ethereal way to set myself apart from other casual fantasy OC cosplayers. As soon as I found out that Taako was a twin (oops, spoilers) I wanted him to have two toned eyes. One eye blue, one eye purple, and when I cosplay his twin Lup I switch the sides that they’re one. I think it’s a cute touch. Also, whenever I cosplay Taako, I wear very long glitter acrylic nails, three pairs of lashes and fake facial piercings. It’s all in the details.
When it came to the physical appearance, though, the ears were so important to me. All fanart for Taako shows giant ears, large ears, comedically ginormous ears. I needed that. My go-to, of course, was Aradani ears. I had honestly idolized this brand for years and finally having an excuse to get ears was amazing. I bought them at Dragon*Con 2017, and I got the large anime elf ears. I wanted the Twilight ears, just to be a super extra person, but alas. They were undergoing a remodel. So I got the large anime elf ears, pierced them to hell and back, painted on white freckles and called it a day.
Now that we’ve talked appearance, let’s go to the outfit.
I knew from the beginning that purple was going to be the base color for this look. Purple is my favorite color for fantasy wizards, and especially with someone like Taako who would definitely use magic to brighten up all his clothes to be the most royal purple possible. I decided his cape would be purple velvet and his hat would be purple velvet.
Working from here, I picked out my other colored details. Since my pirate blouse was white, I went for a magenta corset, which would stand out against the purple while also staying coordinated with the cool-toned color palette. I also chose a purple and navy based galaxy fabric for my galaxy booty shorts. All the purple undertones were very important.
And yes, I chose to have galaxy booty shorts. Because Taako’s butt is out of this world.
After reaching the Stolen Century arc, it was now important to me to work more red subtly into my cosplay. I ordered red fishnets instead of black ones to wear, and I made my Umbrastaff red. I had always pictured the Umbrastaff red in my brain, but that arc solidified that concept for me and so I chose a simple, plain, red umbrella. I originally wanted to get some fancy leather pirate boots, but I ran into these black thigh high rip-off red bottoms and just felt it in my soul. Over the top with details? These were Taako’s shoes.
I also threw on a holographic fanny pack and holographic garters. Just for the aesthetic.
A key part of having this Taako design be recognizable was having his bracer with the B.O.B. logo on it. After a lot of googling, I decided to take the plunge and make my first ever piece of armor. I was super nervous, and due to time constraints, I had only one shot to get this right. It took three days to make was made with craft foam that was solidified with Plastidip and connects together using snaps. The logo and the edges of the piece were 3D details, and I weathered the bracer with three different shades of paint to exemplify these details. It is not perfect in any sense but it still something I’m extremely proud of.
A few accessories and details came and went in the process, especially with the hat and cape. I ended up cutting up the bottom of the cape and added bells instead of having bells on the hat (as you can see in the original design). The hat also grew, much larger than I thought possible! I based it with cardboard and foam and duct tape and hot glue. It was my first giant clothing prop and it certainly is NOT perfect but I am so proud of how I Macgyvered this out of nothing. The hat is covered in patches that are from different scrap fabrics from different nerdy things like Pokémon and even Hello Kitty. I thought it would be an interesting way to show that Taako probably has been in universes where this stuff did exist during his time aboard the Starblaster. I used white shear fabric to create two feet of train coming from the hat (along with a giant bow) and then foam and fishing wire to have a gravity-defying star dangle from the tip of the hat.
The hat does sit on my head. Kind of. And it’s wearable. Mostly. But we need to face reality: it’s huge. And it’s going on top of a heavy 40 cm long wig. And I’m in a corset and heels. At the end of the con, this is my most uncomfortable costume ever. I get physically ill from staying in it too long because of how extreme it is. That being said, it is the cosplay that I am most proud of. It is my favorite cosplay I’ve ever made to this day and I consider it my masterpiece as of right now.
From start to finish, this cosplay took seven months to complete. That is a majority of the time that I was in cosmetology school. Getting to focus on this cosplay and this podcast genuinely saved my mental health. It changed my life in so many ways, got me through some extremely tough times and reminded me why I do the things I do. It was the kick in the butt that I needed to get me into 2018 alive and excited and ready to create.
I will forever be grateful for this costume and this podcast. Taako really did save my life. Now I’m good out here.
Photography by Instagram.com/momoclicksphotography
Aradani Products featured in this article: