Episode 5 Living The Dream: Dragon Con

 

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When we decided to go to Dragon Con, it was kind of surprising and spontaneous. Nicki brought up the idea, to which we said sounded cool, and then when tickets went on sale after last year’s con, we had a short window to purchase the tickets for the lower price and we said “let’s do this.” That was it, Nicki bought the tickets and then it hit us that we were going to Dragon Con, one of the biggest cons on the circuit, and we would be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to do so.  This would be the biggest con ever for us. We knew it was going to be amazing, and huge- but nothing could have prepared us for the sheer force of this mega con.

Attending a massive convention like Dragon Con takes some planning.  Flights, hotel accommodations, transportation, and the planning of costumes.  My Ariel Kiss The Girl Dress cost me a whopping $265 alone. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to pay that upfront, instead the designer let me make payments on the costume over the course of several months, until it was paid off and delivered in July. The costume was customized to my measurements, and while there were some issues with it, it was definitely worth the price, considering it was the CHEAPEST costume on Etsy. I considered several designers on Etsy, and most of the costumes ranged over the $270 mark.  Wigs are also pricey when it comes to cosplay, and most styled character wigs on Etsy start at around $100 or more. I was extremely lucky to find my wig, styled for $40. I even got character shoes off Amazon for $25, so that the costume would be authentic.  Add Supernatural, and TrotCon to the mix- 2 more costumes I hadn’t planned on funding, and I was seriously glad most of our money was spent in advance. Upon our arrival to the con, nothing could have prepared us.  Brony Con’s 4,000-10,000 people was nothing compared to the 80,000 people attending Dragon Con. I have never seen so many people crammed in one place. The first day didn’t seem like much on Thursday, as we attempted to get the lay of the land. A super friendly and helpful employee at one of the hotels helped show us around a bit, and told us that the next day we would not be able to see the floor. She was right.

Dragon Con is held not in a convention center, or a hotel, but in multiple hotels AND a convention center. 5 Hotels are host to panels, photos, parties and more; and the convention center is 3 levels of vendors. We lined up for our first panel, at 10 am. The panel didn’t start until 11:30, but we thought we’d line up since we thought it might be a popular panel and the line might be long. That was an understatement. The line for the Firefly panel with Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin wrapped through the hotel, out the door, around the building and around the block. When a staff member came out and stood a few feet from us, he bellowed “The ballroom only holds 2,000 people. This is usually the cut off, and anyone after this point may or may not get in.” We had been in line for a while, and decided we wanted to take the chance; which paid off in our favor as we were able to get in to the panel.  It was however a bit of a shock, and also kind of a wake up.  We were going to have to be in line at least 1-2 hours ahead of time if we wanted to get into a panel we really wanted to see.  Below is a photo of the long line that seemingly goes on forever.

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While panels were a lengthy waiting time, we managed to do a few.  The highlight of the trip for me was the cosplay, the food and experiencing the massive and overwhelming environment of the con itself.  We attended the Dragon Con Night at the Georgia Aquarium on Saturday, which was the day we cosplayed as princesses. I cosplayed as my idol Ariel, Dani cosplayed as Aurora, and Nicki cosplayed as Yvaine from Stardust.

 

The night at the Aquarium was definitely worth leaving the con, and I had a blast indeed but we ended up leaving early because I was pretty exhausted. We all were. The first couple of days at the con we were utterly beat. Cons are not for the faint of heart- I know some people who think it’s nonstop geeky fun; which it is, but it is also really tiring when you consider all that it entails. Waking up very early to get ready and in full cosplay, so you can be out the door to arrive early at your first panel to ensure you get a spot in, rushing from place to place to try to hit everything you want to do (especially in a big city with a big con like Dragon Con), you don’t always have time to eat (best to pack snacks and bottled water) sometimes unless you’re sitting in a panel, which you might have to leave early to make your photo, autograph or next panel, stopping constantly to be photographed, and literally trying to do everything.  Dragon Con has programming that runs 24 hours, including big parties, and by mid-day you seriously feel in need of caffeine. By 9 you might feel ready to enter a comatose slumber.

Saturday was Princess Cosplays, and of course those were some of the more intricate, tricky, lengthy costumes. Dani had some major wardrobe malfunctions. I was the only one who got to do a trial run of my princess costume BEFORE Dragon Con, and Dani had her dress altered before Dragon Con, at the tailor who altered my skirt. She was in a hurry, picked up her dress (without trying it on at the shop) and the tailor had taken it in too much, so she took it back to be fixed. We had some issues with her zipper which totally broke, and we ended up trapping her in with safety pins and Velcro, and bustled part of her dress to cover up the malfunction. For fixing it on the fly, it was amazing that it stayed together ALL DAY.  My wardrobe issues were definitely less devastating, but I had them nonetheless. For one, my wig cap and wig kept riding back (it was bought on Etsy and not Arda) and I was constantly adjusting it. I also happened to get an aptly timed visit from Aunt Flo, so naturally I was anxious that I would stain my expensive costume, and thankfully I didn’t.  Nicki didn’t have any issues with her costume that I remember, but needless to say it was a long morning of fixing wardrobe malfunctions, make up, tightening corsets, and getting everything together. We got lots of pictures with other Princess cosplayers, and I loved being able to walk around freely in the skirt as opposed to shuffling around in my mermaid tail skirt. I went hardcore though and wore HEELS. I wanted my costume to be accurate, so I got character dance shoes that looked almost exact to Ariel’s black heels from her date with Eric. I had inserts, so that helped.

One of the biggest issues was the shuttle that ran from hotel to hotel. There were shuttle stations set up, and different lines (distinguished by color). They were supposed to run every 30 minutes, but sometimes it seemed as if you’d be waiting forever until a shuttle decided to stop.

 

Here’s some awesome pictures of the awesome Disney Princess cosplayers we got to see!

Also, we got our photo with DareDevil himself, Charlie Cox!

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The Aquarium itself was beautiful, and we paid for the VIP treatment which meant we got to go in the VIP line and enter the event first, and we had open bar and appetizers, and we got a nifty pin.  Of course, I wanted to cosplay as Ariel at the aquarium, when was I going to get the chance to cosplay as The Little Mermaid at an actual aquarium again? I almost packed my mermaid tail costume, but I’m glad I didn’t because finding time to change cosplays and be at the aquarium would have been more than difficult. As to be expected, cosplayers kept with the oceanic theme and there were tons of Little Mermaid cosplayers, as well as Milo from Atlantis, quite a few Captain Jack Sparrow’s, and we even saw an older group cosplay as Gilligan’s Island characters.  I’m a natural fan of fish, and marine animals; especially dolphins and whales. While I favor Killer Whales, Belugas are definitely my runner up. I was geeking out kind of fierce, excited to have my picture taken with fishy friends in my costume. I enjoyed all the exhibits, and one that sticks out is the otters. Otters are adorable, and funny, and   very interesting social creatures, and their exhibit was very busy as they were pretty active. I also really enjoyed the jellyfish.

Here’s some awesome shots from the aquarium.

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Sunday, we were tried and true- rocking our My Little Pony cosplays. It’s probably our most popular cosplay, every time we have worn it we get stopped constantly for pictures, and get a lot of attention.  This was truly my last run with my very loved, beat up pink tutu. I retired my Pinkie Pie cosplay after this convention, and will be upgrading to a different Pinkie Pie costume in the future. It was my very first cosplay, and lasted me 2 years of cosplaying multiple cons.  This costume has always been a comfortable one- a tank top, a fluffy skirt over top of a regular tiered skirt, and tennis shoes. The wig is by Epic Cosplay, who are up there with Arda to me. I have worn the wig for 2 years and never had any issues like I did with my Ariel wig.  Surprisingly Dragon Con didn’t give us the reception we anticipated with our most popular cosplays. In contrast, our pony cosplays were the LEAST recognized. We did get a lot of attention for our princesses though.  Oddly enough, con goers mistook us as cats, or “nekos”.  We got our photo with the awesome (and surprisingly hilarious) Brett Dalton, and sat in a few panels, as Sunday was the winding down period since most people left that day. This meant we could actually walk without taking small steps, lines were shorter some places, etc.

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Monday was our last day at the con, and the last day of the con period.  We were finally able to get into the Vendor Halls in the convention center, but surprisingly it was still pretty packed. I almost got taken out by a woman with a small child in a stroller. She was legit gunning for me. We were already packed in the aisles like sardines, there was nowhere for me to go, but that didn’t stop her.  Note to self: any time I want to force my way somewhere, I should have a child in a stroller. Maybe get one of those super realistic baby dolls. Think that would work? Anyway…. I wore my debut Poison Ivy costume Monday, and again I committed hardcore with heels.  Poison Ivy was done on a budget, and was the first costume I had an actual hand in crafting. While I paid a whopping $42 with shipping for the custom-made body suit, and $40 for the wig from Arda Wigs, the shoes were also character shoes, the same brand and model as my shoes for my Ariel cosplay, only instead of black they were nude color- which I spray painted to match my suit using floral spray paint. $25 for the shoes, and $17 for the spray paint. If I had nude shoes in my closet I didn’t wear I could have saved $25, but I couldn’t find anything plain and simple or as comfortable as the theatrical character shoes.  I went to the craft store and bought 2 flexible leather bracelets for $1 each, some floral craft ivy and floral tape. $140. Yeah, that’s budget. My very first cosplay, Pinkie Pie- cost me $150. To date, my most expensive cosplay is my Ariel Kiss The Girl costume, which came in at a whopping $265. It was my first fully commissioned costume. The only thing I had to really add was the wig and shoes, Lindsay Jane Design custom made my whole costume from the hair bow to the corset to the undershirt and skirt

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Poison Ivy is by far the most comfortable costume I’ve been in. It wasn’t tight, it wasn’t uncomfortable, the tights and shoes didn’t bother me, and the wig STAYED.  I was slightly apprehensive about doing this costume, because to be honest it is by far the most revealing costume I’ve done. I like to think I’m confident about my body, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about wardrobe malfunctions or other issues. In my mermaid costume, I bought a flesh panel (a Spanx undergarment) to cover me from the chest down, since I was going to be wearing a bikini top.  I was exposed, but if my top came off I had a panel covering me.  With Poison Ivy, I had the body suit made to extend over my butt, so it was cut like a full coverage bathing suit, and came down longer in the front to avoid any issues. Still though, I was essentially walking around the convention in just a leotard and tights. While my get up is probably tamer than others, it still takes some confidence to strut around in a leotard at a convention of 80,000 people.  If I can’t do it at 31, and be comfortable in my own skin, when can I? At the risk of sounding conceited, I feel like I looked great. It might not be as detailed or done up as other Ivy cosplays I saw, but sometimes a simple approach is best.

Monday night was an easy-going night, of dinner, packing and lounging in hotel beds watching Star Trek.  The whirlwind of Dragon Con was over, and no one wanted to go back to reality.  We have discussed definitely doing Dragon Con again in 2018, and this time we will have a better knowledge of what is in store and how to plan for things.

 

I knew going from small local conventions to the megalith convention was going to be somewhat of a culture shock, but I don’t think we were truly prepared for the magnitude of what Dragon Con was. It was overwhelming. Fun, exhausting, emotional, and overwhelming.

 

I can’t say enough about the people, and the food. Even our hotel staff was enthusiastic about seeing our costumes, and our Lyft drivers were some of the nicest people we’d encountered on the trip.  The food itself was great, but I honestly expected there to be more BBQ restaurants and fare in a city like Atlanta- while the city considers itself a culinary melting pot with lots of cutting edge cuisine, I did expect to see some BBQ ribs with homemade sauces, or pork belly sandwiches. I did have BBQ one night, at Max Lager’s Wood Fired Grille though. I had a bbq pulled pork sandwich with pork belly incorporated in.  It was pretty tasty.  I also tried a bite of Dani’s Bison Burger at Ted’s Montana Grille, a bite of Nicki’s Fried Green Tomatoes at Fandangles, as well as Deep Fried Sushi at Thrive. I also had a nibble of Dani’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Mac and Cheese and Potatoes and Gravy… Food wasn’t always on our radar, so when it was time to eat; finding a place amidst the massive throngs of people was tricky and time consuming. Almost EVERYWHERE there was a wait nonstop, so for the most part finding a place to dine wasn’t just about choosing a place; but also, just finding somewhere where there was a minimal wait time.

 

I should also mention that Dragon Con was Labor Day Weekend, and in the south. In a place that was normally hot, we traveled to Atlanta when there was a nearby hurricane. The heat was 90 degrees and stickier than a Cinnabun.  Our first flight from Pittsburgh was barely a half hour and smooth, but our connecting flight to Atlanta was turbulent af. I very rarely get sick on planes, but I repeatedly grabbed Nicki’s arm to steady my mobile stomach. Our eyes would meet with that shared knowledge that this was one of the roughest flights we’d been on in recent years. Still we landed ok, and our flights back were smooth. I did go to work that evening as well, so as not to use any more days than I needed for my trip. Our last con of the year, Wizard World was just a month away.

 

I’m sorry this review took so long, but I’ve been MIA due to a lot of happenings at home. It’s been seriously one thing after the next, and I just haven’t been in the right headspace to write a fun review. Hopefully I will finish all my reviews and articles I’ve been wanting to do before the new year.  Until next time ya’ll!

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