Taako Taaco from The Adventure Zone
CW: Body image, weight gain. Scroll down to get straight to the cosplay deets!
It’s been a while since I’ve been excited about cosplay.
Part of the reason is general life transitions — going into grad school, then graduating, then settling into work hasn’t left me with much time or bandwidth for cosplay. But part of it is mental, too. My body has changed drastically from before grad school. My skin went through — and is still recovering from — cystic hormonal acne. A lot of my old costumes don’t fit anymore, for better or worse. And because my body’s size is a moving target, it’s been hard to want to work hard on something — only to have it not fit in a few months. I don’t feel very connected to my body right now, and my face being a wreck hasn’t helped.
It’s weird how comparison works. I firmly believe — and preach — that anyone can cosplay any character, regardless of appearance differences. But when it comes to weight gain and bad skin, it suddenly felt like I was no longer worthy of certain favorite characters. Having to re-purchase items for older costumes so I could wear them again was embarrassing and felt like a monetary punishment for my own failure to cope with stress effectively. It seemed like cosplaying would just highlight the shame and guilt I felt for the way my appearance had changed.
It’s been a weird, unexpected journey, and I’ve been somewhat relieved and somewhat sad to step back from a hobby I love so much.
And then came Taako.
For the uninitiated, The Adventure Zone is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast run by three brothers and their dad. Because it’s an audio medium, the characters don’t have any canonical designs. This means that, aside from a few identifying characteristics, any interpretation of The Adventure Zone characters in fanart or cosplay is completely valid.
In addition to connecting with Taako and his story on a personal level, the prospect of designing my own version of him to cosplay was uniquely appealing for me. Here’s a costume where I can be as lazy as I want or as intricate as I want, where there’s no preconceived idea of what this character should look like!
Something about this opportunity to embody a character with no expectations from anyone else made me feel significantly more at ease with the process, and I was downright thrilled to participate in a fandom that has meant so much to me over these past few months.
- Anime Fest 2017
- Wig: Matilda from Arda Wigs in titanium blonde
- Elf ears: Aradani Studios large anime elf ear (unpainted)
- Top: Target
- Skirts, belt, robe: Thrifted
- Bracer: EVA foam and craft foam
- Boots: Amazon
- Umbrella: Amazon
- Nails: Espionage Cosmetics nail wraps
- Misc. accessories: JoAnn’s
My goal with this cosplay was to feel cute and spend as little money as possible while doing it. I also wanted to avoid sewing for this costume.
For the outfit, I was able to use pieces from previous costumes — my Daenerys wig, my Ramona boots — and some pieces from my own closet, supplemented with a trip to the thrift store. I wanted to do something sort of steampunk-y, so I made a bustle-inspired belt skirt by taking a long brown maxi skirt from the thrift store, cutting it down the middle, then hot gluing it to a thrifted belt. I added the potion bottles and pouch with hot glue as well. Then, I layered the belt skirt over a shorter lavender skater skirt.
For the ears, I got a pair of elf ears I’ve had my eye on for years from Aradani Studios (via Amazon). I decided to get the unpainted variety and paint them myself. I used a mix of oil-free foundation, powder blush, bronzer, and acrylic paint — and a lot of highlighter, because I imagine Taako would love the sparkle. I added ear cuffs that I already had (thanks for going through an ear cuff phase, past Mia!).
The Bureau of Balance bracer was the thing that took me the longest to make. I’m not a huge prop maker, but it’s something I’m always looking to learn more about. I loosely followed this tutorial, using EVA foam and craft foam instead of Worbla. I painted it with primer, silver spray paint, then rub n’ buff, which gives a metallic texture, and acrylic paints for shadows. I like the way it turned out!
If you follow me on Twitter, you might remember that I spent some time hot gluing a witch hat together in my room… but it didn’t fit over my wig. #cosplayproblems
Another favorite detail of mine is the fork earring, stolen from my friend MissJamieKaye’s design of Taako. I asked her if it was one of the forks from Angus’s grandfather’s silverware collection, which wasn’t her intent but we both agreed was a fun idea. I bought a set of silverware charms from JoAnn’s, then attached it to a long chain and an earring already had. Bam, instant fork earring.
Finally, my favorite part of this costume was the makeup! Having complete freedom was both thrilling and a little overwhelming. Taako is feminine, but he is a guy, so I wanted to do some more masculine contouring mixed with femme makeup. I thought it’d be fun to play with purple tones in the eyeshadow, highlighter, and lipstick. I wish I’d gotten a little more time with the makeup, but I think the next time I wear him, I’ll experiment further!
I also seized the opportunity to wear my tentacle nail wraps from Espionage Cosmetics since he casts a tentacle spell a few times in the series.
I was able to finish the costume by the time the The Adventure Zone finale aired and for the weekend of Anime Fest, which felt like perfect and serendipitous timing. The TAZ meetup at A-Fest had a unique and special energy, and I feel lucky that I was able to be a part of that.
I’m hoping to wear Taako next at Geek Girl Con in Seattle — hopefully with some upgrades and better photos!