Cosplay has become a staple at gaming conventions and esports events. But cosplay is more than recreating popular characters. Cosplay is about creativity and freedom of expression. It's about bringing characters to life in your own way.
This is especially true for book cosplay, a small but rapidly growing sector of the cosplay community that takes characters from written descriptions to epic photography. Lyonesse Burgers, or Lyo Cosplay, is a passionate book cosplayer that loves bringing strong female leads to fruition.
Lyo, who lives in the Netherlands, started cosplaying in 2019 — which is quite recent! Her best friend convinced her to dress up as Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones for the Amsterdam Comic Con. Lyo immediately fell in love with the people she met and the vibe of the convention. They went to Dutch Comic Con next, which was even bigger. Burgers even participated in a cosplay show, walking down a catwalk in front of 2,000 people!
Even though COVID has slowed down her newly discovered passion for conventions and cosplay, Burgers is still creating new looks to show off online while she awaits the return of in-person events.
Chapter 1: Falling in love with cosplay
What made you fall in love with cosplaying?
The people. You go to a convention, even if you’re alone, and you’ll end up with a big group of friends. Everyone is so inclusive and inviting you to hang out with them. You can make so many friends in just a couple of hours.
But I also love getting to be that character for the day. Two weeks ago I put my first cosplay, Sansa Stark, on again for a photoshoot in the snow. I fell in love with it all over again. So I started doing more Stark cosplays.
How do you pick cosplays you’re going to do?
It’s what I’m reading or watching at the moment. I watched Game of Thrones. I played Ashe in League of Legends. I also do a lot of book cosplays — and that’s a whole different area of cosplay. You have a description but no physical person that you can hang on to. You need to use a bit of fantasy. Every time I finish a book I try to cosplay from that book.
What is your favorite book cosplay so far?
I was Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses. I did that this summer. I went to an outdoor Reinassance Fair before the lockdown. I had a lot of compliments about it — even though 80% didn't even know the character. But they thought it was so pretty.
Everyone is always so supportive. The book community will support you. There are not as many book cosplayers out there. So we are always helping each other out.
Chapter 2: Making book characters come to life
Since you didn't have a physical person to go off of, how did you come up with your Feyre cosplay?
I go back to where you can see her physical description. They tell you she has golden-brown hair. Her eyes were revealed as blue-gray. She has a hand tattoo from her fingers to the elbow — both arms by the end of the book. That’s how you can recognize a Feyre.
After I finished the whole book series, I started thinking, "Did I want a battlesuit or a dress?" I chose a dress. In the book, they say the dresses are blue or black. I chose blue. I searched for a dress that screams Feyre and screams the series.
But everyone has their own vision of Feyre. Some people have their cosplays a bit sexier and revealing. I was more in a princess gown. Glitters all over. It’s all about how you envision the character and everyone will accept that vision.
I noticed a lot of your cosplays are dresses. Is this an intentional style choice?
I feel great in dresses or suits… It’s not specific. But the women I want to cosplay always have a dress for some reason. I like characters that have this dramatic look and serious expression. They’re always strong and empowering women. Maybe that’s why they don’t laugh.
Merida, for example, she was a whole different vibe from what I’ve used to. She’s very happy and more of a Disney character vibe. So I made a horror version of her! That way I didn’t have to laugh or anything. In cosplay, I prefer being very strong and stoic, and empowering.
Why do you like to portray powerful, serious people?
I look up to them. I want to be like them. They are so confident and know their way in life. That’s what I want, too. They are like idols to me. That’s why I chose them. I like telling people about these characters and talking about them at cosplays. It’s so much fun.
Do you like to embody and act like the characters when you're at conventions?
It depends. When children come up to me, I am more in character. But if someone asks me who I am, I tell them who I am out of character. I'm also involved with Princess Performing — they are really into you acting like the character. Then I do Merida as you’re supposed to do Merida.
What drew you to Merida, since she's not really like most of your other characters?
She was the Disney princess that I liked — an independent woman and doesn’t want a man. She just wants to live her life. That spoke to me.
I wanted to do a Disney character but I knew Aurora, Snow White... It isn’t me. That’s too sweet and too princess-y. When I said that to my best friend (who took me into cosplay), she said that’s exactly what Merida would say! I was like, "Wow, you're right!"
I don’t especially look like Merida. But I made her more badass than she was by giving her battle scars. The story is quite scary for kids because of the bear and everything.
Chapter 3: Cosplay creation and being one-of-a-kind
What made you choose Ashe?
Ashe from League of Legends is the champion I love playing the most. I look up to the LoL characters because they are so unique and different and outgoing. When you put them on, you embody that.
I was picking between Irelia, Ashe, and Karma. But I debated, which outfit do I like more and which skills did I want to create... I picked Ashe because she was a blend of a dress and armor. It fit more into my sewing skills. It was the first cosplay I made myself!
Wow, how did that go?
It was a bit of a struggle. A friend who can sew better than me helped me so I wouldn’t make really big mistakes. But I learned everything, even making the bow myself with foam. But I’m going to do it over again because I can do it better now. I’ll do that in the summer because then it can dry outside.
What made you decide to make your own cosplay?
I didn’t want to make the cosplay like everyone else. I wanted it to be original. So I changed the design and made it more feminine. I added pleats to the skirt. I also added some gold in the folds of the pleats. I wanted to stand out from other cosplays. They were insanely good so I felt I should make my own version so I could be different.
I now prefer book cosplays because you can fully original. I sketched out the design for Feyre and then asked a shop to make the design. A dress was a whole different thing from making Ashe. It was more of a ball gown.
Do you have any cosplays planned right now?
Lysandra from Throne of Glass and Queen Aelin from Throne of Glass. I don’t want to give spoilers. I’m currently reading Shadow and Bone so I want to be Alina Starkov, the lead character. Netflix is bringing that out now but it’s from a book series I’m reading at the moment.
I just completed Celaena from Throne of Glass in her battlesuit. So that's one without a dress!
Are you going to model your cosplay after what you envisioned from the book or the Netflix version?
How I envisioned her. I have a costume I have in mind and I hope that I can make it as well as it looks in my head! The Netflix version, I may do it one day.
Do you have any advice for people who want to cosplay book characters?
Do your research. If you’re not fully sure about their physical description, definitely look online. But if you have a character in your mind and they looked different than you thought, just do that. You read a character and you envision them in your head and see that through the whole story. If you feel the physical description is not how you imagined them, it’s understandable to change it. But keep the details that keep the character that character. Small details that help people recognize the character you’re cosplaying.
It’s just so much fun to do. The love you get from all the book lovers it’s insane. It’s so sweet to meet a lot of new people. It’s a whole new world of cosplay and you meet people from all over the world. I feel everyone belongs in book cosplay community. Everyone is involved and has an equal chance to cosplay that character.
If you’re scared to go to conventions… Approach cosplayers on social media. DM them. Ask them for help. A lot of cosplayers will help you start. They want the community to grow. Don’t be afraid. You can have so many new friends.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.