In fashion-speak, market work is the terminology for finding the best selection of clothing or accessories to create a desired look. It’s often done for photo shoots that begin with either a specific visual (“Can you find the waders from that old fly-fishing ad?”) or a more abstract reference (“Imagine the cape the witch would have worn in Snow White.”) Any market expert would then come up with not one but three or four options in short order.
This kind of encyclopedic knowledge of a category’s offerings once required taking appointments and scouring stores (often the most obscure ones) to see what’s out there. Today, the term is kind of tone-deaf — yes the “market” part but moreover the “work” bit. This is not a result of the pandemic; it’s the internet that’s to blame. There’s no need to go to the edges of the world when you’re networked to the globe. Gone is the thrill of unearthing that espadrille in the back of a Catalonia tourist trap when you can now just pull up a few dozen styles online (from said store) and select next-day delivery.
Still, there are ways to play with this accessibility, like browsing cosplay sites. A portmanteau of “costume” and “play,” cosplay by definition is the act of dressing up as a fictional character, with many of the costumes you find inspired by video games, film, or TV. I’ve never received more DMs about something I wore than I did about my Halloween costume last year: a shiny black bodysuit for cosplay that I bought to channel Marianne Faithfull’s character in Jack Cardiff’s 1968 film The Girl on a Motorcycle. The messages were less about the success of my cosplay than the costume itself; everyone, apparently, loves a skintight bodysuit, and — thanks to my market work — those who asked about it found a new place to get their own. While definitely a look, that bodysuit is one of a handful of cosplay costumes or clothes I’ve found that can be worn in everyday life. My favorites are below, along with suggestions for how to wear them with stuff you probably own.
This is the bodysuit that spurred all those DMs. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s very comfortable and warm, making it ideal for the fall. I’ll wear it under wide-wale corduroys so it still functions like a bodysuit, just with extra layers that make it look less like one. It’s also great with a cardigan and jeans, the suit part showing a glimmer of black sheen against the functionality of boring cotton thermals.
I have never seen Penny Dreadful, but this three-piece elastic-leather creation of long-sleeved leotard, skirt, and gloves is up there with my motorcycle suit in terms of cold-weather versatility. The long-sleeved leotard alone looks great with a pair of jeans; it could also be worn with a short plaid kilt or a long wool skirt for daytime. The skirt can be worn with something as simple as a cotton T-shirt (I recommend one of the California-made ones from Pretties) and velvet slippers. There is a definite early–Alexander McQueen vibe to the whole thing, and I guarantee you will be asked about both pieces, with no one suspecting they’re for cosplay.
These shoes are apparently worn by the anime character Natsu Dragneel from the manga series Fairy Tail. When worn without Natsu’s skirt and white harem trousers — and with a white shirt and tan apron or button-up-front skirt — they’re basically old Celine, like a hybrid of some of Phoebe Philo’s best shoes from the 2010s.
I’m into the characters from the Japanese video game Fate/Grand Order, which is where this bathing suit comes from. It’s sick, seriously — I love a white bikini, and this one has bright-blue bow ties at the back and neck, with the top two strands lining the top before veering off to crisscross up and around the neck. The bottom also looks cool with just a plain white bandeau top. (Sure, summer is ending, but bathing suits are the type of thing you can always make more space for knowing you’ll be reaching for one soon enough.) And it’s not the only Fate/Grand Order costume I’ve fallen for — I’m still trying to work out how to wear the one inspired by the game’s version of 18th-century French assassin Charlotte Corday (and can update this piece when I do).