Call Me Harley: What It’s Really Like To Cosplay DC’s Most Famous Villainess

If you’ve followed me on any of my social media accounts over the past five months, you’ve probably seen me complain about latest cosplay endeavor: Harley Quinn. Now, HQ is one of the most popular costumes at comic and pop culture conventions (and this is just as true at the conventions I’ve attended in London as well as the States), and I almost felt that it was a rite of passage as a burgeoning cosplayer to pay homage to one of the most recognizable comic characters.

So after planning, fabricating, cursing, and crying for almost a year, I first wore my HQ outfit to WonderCon 2016, and I learned a few things about cosplaying such a famous character, such as…

Other Harley Quinns Will Call You “Puddin”

Photographed by the Collected Mutineer

There could be two hundred other cosplayers wearing the black and red diamonds, and all that means is that you have two hundred sisters (or brothers, or non-binary Harleys, let’s not forget genderswapped and genderbent costumes). I wore the Harley outfit on Saturday—WonderCon’s busiest day—and late in the afternoon I passed a steampunk Harley in the cafeteria. Her costume was phenomenal and before I could tell her so, she winked at me and purred, “Hi Puddin.” And all I could say was “hello,” because she was obviously a seasoned and meticulously put together Harley Quinn, and here I was, a newbie.

Then Steampunk Harley rolled her eyes when yet another con attendee interrupted her meal to ask for a picture, and I sent her a sympathetic smile, because even after only six hours,  it was a feeling I well understood because…

Everyone Will Want To Take Your Photo

Although there are no shortages of Harley Quinns running around conventions, it seems like everyone gets Harley fever right around 10 am on a Saturday morning. I had barely left the hotel room and made it to Starbucks before a photographer stopped our DC crew (and of course the first photo of the day made it onto Collider). From then on, it was an average of once every ten minutes that someone stopped and asked, “May I take a photo?”

I’m not complaining, however, because other cosplayers will want to take photos with you if you’re a Harley. The image below, for example, is of me with a Joker cosplayer who beckoned me from across the very crowded lobby of the LA Convention Center, to snap this photo.

This photo was my favorite thing to happen the entire weekend. I wanted a pic with the Joker, and mission accomplished!

At times, however, the picture-taking was overwhelming, particularly when my squad and I went away from the crowds to take pictures with each other, with our own cameras. At one point, I was snapping photos of the Mutineer in her Wonder Woman outfit, and someone was taking pics of me, taking pics of her.

via giphy
via giphy

This brings me to my final point of this cosplay soliloquy:

It’s Okay To Say ‘No’ To A Photograph

I’ve heard the cosplayer nightmares: people getting too handsy, people taking photos without permission, or people not understanding the word “no.”

So, a simple primer on photography etiquette at a convention:

  • Cosplayers put hours and hours of work into their outfits, and we would love to take a photo, but please, ask first. We want to look our best, and show the outfit to its full advantage, so please, let us pose for the picture.
  • Do not touch a cosplayer without their permission. As many times as I’ve cosplayed, I’ve never had this problem until I dressed as Harley Quinn. I had strangers wrapping their arms around my shoulders (or waist…or other body parts) without permission, and it made me uncomfortable. Luckily, I had the prop of a nice big candy-cane striped bat that I use to create distance between me and anyone standing next to me. Other cosplayers aren’t so lucky, however. So, again: no touching. 
  • If a photographer is snapping photos of a group of cosplayers, wait until they are finished. Many pro cosplay photographers use these shots in their portfolio, so if a similar photograph is snapped, the shot is no longer usable. Chances are, we’ll still be standing in the spot in five minutes, so come back to us. We’ll wait (unless the TARDIS shows up and the Doctor says, “Run”).
  • And my final point is best stated by Humble Shield, a fantastic Cap cosplayer I met over the weekend:

We love photos, but for the love of Chuck, we don’t want to be photographed with our mouths full of food. Sit, have a chat with us, or come back later.

Harley Quinn Is Fun To Cosplay

HQ is an intelligent, bad ass, sexy, and dynamic character. Her character is easily translated into fusions with other genres and universes (i.e. my post-apocalyptic punk Harley Quinn), and, let’s face it, it’s fun to be a little crazy sometimes. See above film for a demonstration.

See you around, Puddin,

-The Collectress

P.S. To see more cosplays worn and constructed by yours truly, the Collected Mutineer, and some of our nerdy cohorts, please check out The Collected Cosplayers.

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