Confessions of a Middle-aged Cosplayer

temp dc logo 2014Even though I’ve been a panelist and presenter for years at Dragon Con, I’ve never received the distinction of being an “Attending Professional” until today. I got the official word last night and am truly excited to be included with all the other attendees who have put the years into their craft. I also understand that there may be a ribbon attached to the badge and truth-be-told, I’m really stoked on that front. I never seem to get fluttery ribbons on my badges. This is an important development through my lens.

More importantly, this news arrives just as I approach a personal milestone.

Photography by Argo Road Images

Photography by Argo Road Images

I’ll be turning 50 in mid-August, right before Dragon Con 2014. While I am definitely in the mind-camp of “age is just a number”, my age had MUCH to do with my drive toward mask-making. When I finally decided in my 40s that I would take my costuming public and into the convention world, I fretted about my age. I was so concerned that I might be perceived as ‘too old’ to cosplay some of the edgier looks, that I decided to focus on masked costumes; costumes that would hide my face, my skin, ie. hide my age.

I literally hid my identity at conventions crowd for the first couple of years. And it was grand. Stepping behind a mask allowed the focus to remain on the work, the costume itself. I moved freely among crowds with an unselfconscious anonymity that let me admire others’ costuming and prop work (without obviously creep staring – ha!). I love crafting masks and truly revel in the wearing of them, but the initial impetus toward hiding my aging face was simply a fear of being harshly viewed by the much younger majority of individuals who cosplay.


Photography by Dim Horizon

Photography by Dim Horizon

But over time, as I settled into the costuming and convention world, the mask came off with more frequency. I started making masks that showed my eyes (crow’s feet and all). I began to accept invitations to serve on costuming panels – with my real face – and I eventually become a Guest at select events. My early fears of being marginalized due to my age proved unfounded as I found the warmest welcome, the most rewarding friendships among this tribe of all ages. Despite some of the drama to pops up here and there, the cosplay world is truly an open-minded, supportive and wonderful world of artists.

I decided last year that I would start driving toward my 50th anniversary on this earth with a mission. I resolved to take on big projects that challenge my skill set, to learn new things. I resolved to travel/Guest everywhere I was invited. I resolved to not hide my age, but rather celebrate it. And it’s been a whirlwind of awesome since then. In the past year, I’ve crossed the country from Comic-Con International in San Diego to Contemporal in Raleigh with a host of adventures in between. Middle-age is rocking so far!

Dragon Con was my first convention back in the day. Dragon Con is where most of my volunteerism goes. Dragon Con is the big deal that’s close to home. Dragon Con is the pilgrimage event that my friends and I point our hardest costume work toward. Dragon Con is the event that is so energy building it requires – nay, demands – a daily countdown from its fans. That said, in the larger scheme of things, my new status for Dragon Con 2014 is really just a small ripple in a very big pond of talent. It is, however, important to ME as a very welcome and important milestone in my Year 50 journey.

It feels a bit like I’ve finally arrived.

The truth is, I’m just getting started.

Yours truly,


PGS photo william mcleod







I’m also @CostumeArt on Twitter and Facebook, if you want to see what an old lady does on the weekends! Here are a few m

Dieselpunk inspired version of "Siri" - from repurposed phone parts and salvaged electronics | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Dieselpunk inspired version of “Siri” – from repurposed phone parts and salvaged electronics | image by Dim Horizon Studios

ore examples of an old lady in costume 😀

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass "Abbey'

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass “Abbey’ | image by Lynx Pics

"Trolloc" inspired by Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' book series

“Trolloc” inspired by Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ book series | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Aiel Maiden inspired by Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' book series

Aiel Maiden inspired by Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ book series | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Darth Nihilus | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Darth Nihilus | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Steampunk Bird Hybrid | Costume by Paige Gardner Smith | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

Steampunk Bird Hybrid | Costume by Paige Gardner Smith | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Middle-aged Cosplayer

  1. hi…..I am 52….I did a patriot ironman when I was 50….and people looked at me and did,nt bat an eyelid…they just admired the costume…..I have now done a cylon centurion from battlestar galactica….and the comments I get is unbelievable……my last parent died a week ago and seeing him when he left …something change from now on ..I will not care what anybody thinks does or say…life is for living, you only get one chance …so make the most of it and grab it with both hands …be yourself and to hell with what anyone says… good on you paige… upmost respect….and keep going xx

  2. I have been attending DragonCon for 24 years — This year, I will be 44, and still dressing up, down, and all out like I just don’t care. I hope I get to see you! You are an inspiration!

  3. It was so wonderful to see you at Alabama Phoenix Festival. I loved your panel with budget saving tips for costumers. I look forward to seeing you at DragonCon.

  4. YOU, (well, “Y’all” ’cause Birmingham – ha!) are the folks who ensure this whole adventure has worth. The quick camaraderie, the social support, the positive vibe – especially among those of us decanted from ‘vintage’ stock – these all create an instant tribe among us. These years really ARE Golden!

  5. I am celebrating 45 years in Costuming myself, and I can say that I am having as much Fun now as I did in the 1970’s/80’s/90’s/00’s.
    I have not done a Dragon Con,…… Yet !!
    I look forward to bumping into you out at a Convention someday !!!

  6. I am just turning 27 and starting to feel old among the preteen to 20 crowd most often at conventions (especially smaller local ones). You made me realize that passion, dedication and skill are ageless. You’ve got to do what you love, no matter the crowd. Thanks.

  7. I’m 55 and heavy. Finding appropriate cosplay subjects has been challenging. MST3K’s Pearl Forrester, Clara from The Guild and most recently the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey (which was a blast to make and surprisingly well-received). however, if anyone has any suggestions I’m going to Vancouver Fan Expo in a couple of months and need inspiration please.

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