Alter Egos is a column that highlights talented geeks in the Chattanooga area, tracing the origins of their favorite pop culture obsessions to their present-day hobbies.
For Abby Hickey, the one–two punch of anime and conventions inspired her to embrace her geekiness at a young age.
“I knew I was a geek when I started watching anime back in 2011,” she said. “That was also the same year I went to my first convention and discovered cosplay … [It] introduced me to a bunch of new fandoms that I wanted to become a part of.”
It was actually seeing a cosplayer dressed as Hatsune Miku, the famous Japanese hologram pop idol, that inspired her to take the plunge.
Hickey’s first cosplay evolved organically from another fandom close to her heart—the “Harry Potter” book series. She dressed up as a Ravenclaw student for the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” film.
She counts Disney’s Snow White as one of her favorite costumes she’s created on her own.
Soon after getting bitten by the cosplay bug, Hickey got involved with local charity cosplay group Chattooine and started attending events like Boo in the Zoo in various cosplays.
I absolutely love … Chattooine—I also call them my Chattooine fam because they are like family to me … and I have so much fun when I’m with them. Boo [in] the Zoo is my favorite Chattooine event. Everyone there is in the Halloween spirit, and I love seeing all the costumes and talking to the kids. It’s really fun getting to talk to kids who are dressed as the same character as you, [and] you can see the excitement in their face and it just makes you feel happy.
Growing a geeky skill set
Since she’s an accomplished seamstress, it’s no surprise Hickey’s day job is working at a local fabric store. There, she’s been able to put her knowledge to work and assist customers with building their own costumes.
“I’ve learned a lot about fabrics, and I’ve been able to help customers with their projects,” she said. “Just recently, I helped a customer pick fabrics for her Princess Kida costume [from the Disney animated film ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire’].”
Hickey’s own process for creating her cosplays comes down to careful planning and attention to detail:
Once I’ve chosen the costume I want to make, I’ll then start the long process of researching. Fabrics, trims, wigs, contacts and sewing techniques are all things that I’ll look at before even starting on the costume. After researching, then the actual costume construction begins. My strongest skill is probably the amount of detail I put in my costumes. I love putting extra details on costumes to make them my own.
Every cosplayer has a list of dream cosplays they want to tackle creating, and Hickey is currently working on bringing one of hers to life: Batgirl of Burnside, a teenaged version of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter from the DC Comics “Batman” line.
“Ever since I saw the design in 2014, I knew I wanted to make it,” she said. “I wanted to wait until my sewing skills were good enough to handle a leather jacket, and I think I’ve reached that point.”
While much of cosplay culture focuses on craftsmanship and camaraderie, Hickey said there are still misconceptions surrounding the hobby, including the sexualization of cosplayers.
“Most of us are just geeks that want to run around in costumes with other geeks,” she said. “I really love the craftsmanship of cosplay and meeting other cosplayers who [value] that as well.”
Regardless of misunderstandings, Hickey does think it’s a great time to be a geek, with so many fandoms finding mainstream success and conventions/cosplay expanding their reach into pop culture stores like Hot Topic, BoxLunch and ThinkGeek, which all feature geek-inspired attire and ready-made cosplay pieces.
“Ready-made pieces are a great, accessible way for people to enjoy cosplay,” she said. “Cosplay is such a big part of fandom because it’s a way to express your love for a character.”
Rachel Stewart grew up in the ’80s on a healthy diet of pop culture. In 2005, she discovered “Doctor Who” and never looked back. Since then, she co-founded the Tennessee Who Authority—a “Doctor Who” fan group—and has served as a panelist at fan conventions across the Southeast, including Con Nooga, Wholanta, Hurricane Who and ConGT. She also reviews “Doctor Who” novels and “Big Finish” audios at “The Oncoming Storm” podcast. Want to show off your alter ego? Email Rachel at [email protected].
Updated @ 12:31 p.m. on 11/16/17 to attribute the photos to the correct photographers.