Let me set something straight right at the top of this blog post. If you, like my mom, are of the mindset that cosplay is just, “adults playing dress up”, allow me to learn you a thing or two. First off, cosplayers design and create their costumes from scratch. While this came from the necessity that their favorite niche characters most likely don’t have a costume you can grab off the shelf at Spirit of Halloween. On top of this, if there is a costume available at a store, they are usually of terrible quality. In constructing their cosplay, they hone their craft and the cosplayer can reach whatever level of quality they want.
They need to know how different fabrics lay on the skin, stitch together, how to work plastics and metals for armor or masks, and in a lot of cases, also how correctly apply a full face of movie quality VFX makeup. So no, cosplayers are not just, “adults playing dress up” cosplayers are costume designers, make-up artists, seamstresses, and performers, who also like to play dress up.
With convention season right around the corner, cosplayers from all over the world will travel to show off their creations. What’s interesting is that no matter what convention you go to, through the droves of Marvel superheroes, one will always find an Alice in Wonderland or Looking Glass Wars cosplayer. There will be a new take on the incredible Alice in Wonderland characters wandering the convention center halls, weaving through a sea of Spider-Men, women, and children. If this does not convey the impact and staying power of Alice in Wonderland and The Looking Glass Wars, I don’t know what will.
While Alice is an obvious choice for cosplay, today I’m going to focus on another incredibly popular cosplay character from the Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass Wars universe, the Mad Hatter.
I learned, while listening to the professional cosplayer Chad Evett’s episode of Frank Beddor’s podcast, All Things Alice, that a big portion of why someone decides to cosplay a specific character is that they either see a part of themselves in a character or see a quality of a character they want to embody. This is why the Mad Hatter/Hatter Madigan are such popular choices.
Just on the surface, the Mad Hatter is a fun and energetic character who does what he thinks is right and hides nothing. Whereas Hatter Madigan is a powerful anti-hero bodyguard, with more hidden weapons than a doomsday prepper. Guided by his one duty to find and return Princess Alyss to Wonderland. He is an unstoppable force, trekking the globe in his lonely quest. To be reductive, he’s badass.
To start us off on this cosplay inspiration guide, we have to start at what is arguably the most popular iteration of the Mad Hatter.
Here we see Chad Evett’s cosplay of this version of Hatter—a top tier version of costume, but worry not, you too can look this cool! I think the draw with this specific character is that visually it makes an impact. The multitude of different fabrics, the bright red hair, the pale makeup reminding us that he has mercury poisoning, and of course the top hat. What I love about this cosplay is that while it’s a wonderful collage of different colors and textures, it’s actually much more attainable than one would think.
With a glue gun, a basic understanding of stitching, and an eccentric trip to the thrift store, one can find all the necessary components to make this cosplay as detailed or understated as one wants. The clothing consists of a colorful blazer (Johnny Depp wore a brown one and a blue one, and even a sweet maroon exploring jacket—so choose your favorite!), an equally as colorful patterned shirt, and an ascot or spotted bow tie.
The hat is always the hardest part to source, I found some cheap ones online but they don’t look quite right and to get them as “mad” as they need to be will take a bit of creativity. Chad’s advice is “layer layer layer” to get that really quirky vibe just right.
But, maybe you’re not a Tim Burton fan. Maybe, you want something different. Maybe, you like Hatter but wished he had a little more edgy hero quality about him. Well then, here is a Hatter cosplay that definitely will turn heads and start a conversation. The dark and mysterious Hatter Madigan from the Looking Glass Wars book series/Hatter M graphic novels. Also my personal favorite version of the Hatter.
This Master Milliner wears the classic uniform of his trade as a royal bodyguard to Wonderland’s royalty—a long navy-blue coat, dashing body armor, hidden weaponry, and a hat that Just. Wont. Quit. I mean look at the cover for the second volume of the Hatter M. series and tell me he isn’t cool.
I’m going to break down this cosplay and give some ideas on how you could pull it off yourself. Let’s start from the top and work our way down the outfit.
Okay if you can find the right style hat you’re already there. But, if you want to kick it up to the next level you could add retracting blades in the rim. It’s actually quite simple. Once you source or make your (fake) blades, you make a baseplate out of plastic or foam core poster board, then drill a hole where you want the blades to pivot through the hat, baseplate, and blades. The final step is using a small bolt or pin to hold the blades into place.
Cut a Christmas bobble in half to create the signature “red eye” of Hatter’s sentient headwear. In lieu of caterpillar silk you could even use a touch of shiny fabric or metallic wrapping paper to give the shimmer of imagination to your creation – no matter what do you, just have fun with it!
Step one, find a navy or dark trench coat. Step two, buy/barter/borrow without asking for the aforementioned navy trench coat.
As for the shirt, any dark shirt will work here, if you want to, a double vested vest will add more texture and details. Don’t be afraid to get fancy with it – while Hatter Madigan is a fighting machine, he is also a ROYAL bodyguard. Add some swank to you Hatter look like this guy who dressed to impress in Heart Palace:
And finally, a pair of navy blue trousers, with a belt (or five) will work perfectly here.
There is a simple way around the armor if you’re strapped for time and materials. Button up the coat. But, if you have the skills and mental fortitude, you can make it yourself. I would think going with a foam board would be the easiest way to make the armor. Carve carefully and add a little weathered paint to get that signature battle-tested Madigan style.
Now, again you can make a choice here, you don’t have to have any blades. The costume is basically done here. But a sense of danger will really ramp up this cosplay into high gear. Throw some blades on his belt, in the lining of the coat, have a small dagger on your ankle. If you think of a cool place to hide a blade, do it, it will only make the cosplay cooler.
For his wrist blades, one could use wrist guards or a wrist brace, and attach blades to them. Or you could adapt the hidden blade from an Assassin’s Creed costume into this one.
The sky’s the limit here. It could be simple, a backpack with blades sticking out of it. Or you could go complex and build the metal arms with affixed blades that go over the shoulder and under the arms. In the photo here, the backpack looks to be the size of a camelback. Which would make a great base to build from.
Finally, to tie it all together, a pair of black, square-toed, cowboy boots will bring it home. If you want you can use silver paint on the stitching to make it really pop.
From complex to simple, the cosplay looks awesome no matter what because they are an extension of you. I can’t wait to see all the incredible Alice in Wonderland, Looking Glass Wars, and Hatter M cosplays this convention season. If you have an Alice in Wonderland-related cosplay that you want to show off, please send it over. Who knows, you might end up in one of these blogs!
Jared Hoffman graduated from the American Film Institute with a degree in screenwriting. A Los Angeles native, his brand of comedy is satire stemming from the many different personalities and ego’s he has encountered throughout his life. As a lover of all things comedy, Jared is always working out new material and trying to make those around him laugh. His therapist claims this is a coping mechanism, but what does she know?