Jamie Fast
Jamie Fast

Ms. Dressup

Jamie Fast has the secret to re-creating the perfect Spock eyebrows—glue stick.

"Just rub it over your eyebrows and apply face powder on top," she explained. "Then once it's dry just draw them on, Vulcan-style."

A mild-mannered student central officer by day, by night, Fast battles the evil empire as an avid cosplayer, a term that describes fans who dress up as their favourite characters from comic books, video games, movies and television shows, often from the science fiction or fantasy genres. Thanks in part to very dedicated online communities devoted to it and a rise in the number of fan conventions, cosplay—a blend of the words costume and play—has grown exponentially in recent years, not just as a hobby, but as an art form.

Fast got into cosplay after attending her first comic book convention in Calgary in 2012. She had always loved Halloween and making realistic costumes of her favourite comic book and video game characters. She was not aware, however, of those who did it the other 364 days of the year.

"I didn't realize that it was a thing, that there were people who did that or even that there were comic conventions," she said. "I think if I would have known what it was, I would have done it when I was younger."

Impressed by the costumes and the warm, welcoming community, she decided to get more involved. She was nervous at first, thinking she might be too old to participate, but that anxiety faded once she hit the convention room. "I felt less stressed because I felt like I was in character," she said. "You're just expressing the fandom and are surrounded by other people who love it."

Fast has two main cosplays. The first is Princess Leia from the first Star Wars film when she gets rescued from the Death Star—think white hooded dress and the iconic cinnamon bun pigtails. Her other cosplay is Lara Croft, heroine of the Tomb Raider mega-franchise encompassing video games, comic books, movies and amusement park rides. A long-time fan of the series, Fast was inspired to create a cosplay version in 2013 when the character was redesigned. "So many female characters, in the comic world especially, are very overly-sexualized. Her new design was much more realistic. I was like, ‘I need to do this now!'"

A self-described perfectionist, Fast's attention to detail with her costumes is meticulous. She does a lot of costume research online, where kindred cosplayers are happy to help and offer advice. That said, she is well aware of her limits. "I'm a disaster with a sewing machine," she said, opting to outsource the Leia gown to a friend who is a seamstress.

The result was worth it: while attending the Calgary convention last year she was approached by a woman whose daughter wanted a photo with Princess Leia. "It was adorable," she said, "and it was exciting for me to think, ‘oh, I was a part of that, I made her that happy.'"

Though her work keeps her busy (she is also an assistant coach for the Huskies track team), she tries to attend as many comic conventions as possible, and is also involved in the local cosplay community.

"In Saskatoon, it's really growing," she said. "It's that geek community that didn't exist when I was younger."

In past years, she also found time to volunteer for the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo, but this year she is taking off so she can attend with her nephew. She is still debating which costume to wear, but is leaning towards Leia for one very obvious reason.

"William Shatner is going to be there, and he has a play feud with Carrie Fisher [who played Leia] and I think it would be hilarious if I could get a photo with him in my Princess Leia costume."
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