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Height. It’s one of those things you can’t really do much about in cosplay, isn’t it? You can turn into a purple alien, a lizard person, or a cyborg through the use of makeup, you can get your werewolf or elf on with prosthetics, and you can drive people up the wall with your Waluigi vocal imitation, but you can’t get from 5'6 to 5'11 without throwing on a pair of six-inch heels and going as the stripper version of your character.
Well, I suspect you’ve figured out what I’m about to say here, so let me say it: that’s totally false. In fact, there are a few techniques you can use to gain height in your cosplay, and, as somebody who’s had some hands-on education on the topic, I’ll run down the ones I know of right here.
#1: Manual adjustment for pictures.
This one’s where it is in the list because it doesn’t actually do anything for your walking-around height, but, if you just need the change for pictures and you don’t mind having your Gamora and Rocket be roughly the same height when wandering around conventions, it could be a great solution. Have your photographer shoot you more or less above the waist while everyone in the picture adjusts their lower halves to achieve maximum character-height-realism. Stand on your toes, bend your knees, rock a half-split . . . the world is your oyster. Note that, if this is your first time doing this, it’ll almost definitely feel incredibly silly. Don’t pay that feeling much attention. You’ll feel like the pictures will come out looking ridiculous, but they won’t. You’re almost certainly going to look like a badass ---- and, if you don’t, just crop a little more off the bottom.
This also won’t yield you solid inches when walking around, but it does have the power to make you look taller. Posture can make a huge difference in how tall you’re perceived to be, with those possessing confident chins and thrown-back shoulders regularly being thought of as taller than those with slumped shoulders and a wilting aura ---- even if they’re not. If you’re somewhat on the short side and you’re playing, say, Deadpool, a little confidence in your posture will go a long way. There are a number of posture correcting tutorials to be found on the internet, so, if you feel like you might be slumping a bit and you’re interested in ‘gaining’ a couple of inches, definitely check those out and see about putting some work in. You might find yourself surprised by the results.
Yes, heels, the very thing that I talked about as a no-go up in that first paragraph. If you’re wearing a long gown, robe, or anything else that covers your feet, you can covertly wear whatever the heck you want. If you’re concerned that your robe might come up, wear something like wedge-heeled boots that look relatively normal at a glance. If your costume doesn’t have floor-length foot-disguising qualities, you can still wear a certain length of heel. Sure, maybe your Musketeer cosplay calls for flat boots, but you can absolutely get ones with a subtle two-inch heel without raising any eyebrows.
Same with anything ye-olde-related (you can go even higher there, channelling your inner dandy), most superheros, most Anime costumes, most suit-y ensembles ---- heck, almost everything, unless having total flats is what the character is known for. You might feel like everyone’s staring at your heels if you do this, but trust me, they’re not. A leather boot with a shortish heel looks almost exactly the same as a leather boot with a flat heel to observers.
If you don’t feel like going the Actual Heel route, platforms are here for you. You can go pretty tall in platforms before anyone notices that you’re doing anything of the sort, especially in boots or in shoes that have something else going on. This will absolutely look somewhat weird if you’re wearing platform versions of otherwise-flat business shoes, but it’ll be almost totally invisible if you’re wearing (for example) leather boots, especially boots with a short heel going on or anything else that breaks the flat base line of the platform. Many shoes and boots even have platforms already built in, and those that don’t usually have a platformed version that you can buy.
For one of my costumes, the Winter Soldier, I have a pair of military-styled boots with a short heel and significant platform, roughly two and a half inches. They add a great deal of height, but don’t look weird, as the military boot silhouette lends itself very well to platforming and the boot’s chunky grommets, buckles, and other aesthetic effects work very well at drawing the eye of the viewer. Another option can be boots or shoes with built-in covert wedges, which are becoming increasingly popular in women’s footwear. (A good option ---- if your feet are small enough). There are a number of products such as athletic-looking shoes and casual ‘flats’ that have a secret height-adding wedge on the inside and look 100% normal on the outside, though they do require a bit of practice to walk in if you’re not used to the style.
Lastly, we come to lifts . . . often overlooked, but secretly the boss of all height-adding devices. Lifts can add many inches to your height in a totally covert manner and in almost every shoe, though you do have to order a size up if you’re planning on deploying them. These fantastic little things are much like the wedges I talked about above, except that they’re usually squishy and more universally applicable. They come in tons of different heights, from one inch to higher than five, and most are like a very thick insole. The pluses of that? They tend to be fairly comfy, (depending, of course, on which brand you go for), they can help prevent heel blisters, and you can choose just how much height you want to go for.
With lifts, the shoe you’re putting them in does matter quite a bit. As they operate by providing a short platform inside the shoe and by raising the heel, lifts over an inch or so become obviously present in short-sided footwear like runners or businesslike shoes. However, they’re downright invisible in boots, especially tall boots ---- where you can add four or five inches in near-total secrecy. The only downside to extraordinarily tall lifts is that, if you’re not careful, it’s possible to start looking a little odd due to how much longer your legs have suddenly become. (Walking in them can also look a trifle strange at first, so make sure to put in a bit of practice before any events). Just keep an eye on your leg length in relation to the rest of you and you should be fine.
In conclusion . . .
If you’re interested in gaining a lot of inches for your costume, try linking a few of the above ideas together. Adjust your posture, look for boots with both a platform and a heel, and slide in a pair of lifts. For my Winter Soldier cosplay mentioned above, I was able to do just that. It brought me from roughly 5'8 up to about 6'0, a good height to match up with the Captain America of my group . . . and all without any casual viewers being able to detect a thing.
Ready to add some height to your cosplay? Best of luck with the tips above, and get prepared for surprised looks from your friends and the odd stranger asking you to get something off the top shelf. Hey, great height comes with great responsibility.