Fursuit

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Autumn Vixen poses in fursuit.

Fursuits are animal costumes associated with the furry fandom. They range from simple tails and ears to full costumes cooled by battery-powered fans. Similar to mascot suits, they allow the wearer to adopt another personality while in costume. Owners (also known as fursuiters) can spend less than one-hundred to many thousands of dollars on one fursuit, depending on the complexity of the design and on the materials used. These items are frequently sold at conventions, or online by either commission or auction. Many furry fans make their own using online tutorials and/or advice from newsgroups.

The term fursuit (coined[1] in 1993 by Robert King) can also refer to animal mascot costumes in general, as opposed to human or inanimate object mascots. The act of wearing a fursuit is usually referred to as fursuiting.

Contents

[edit] History

Fursuiting as a permanent feature and practice within the fandom likely dates to the pre-convention era (1984-1989), when the first furry parties were being organized at both sci-fi conventions and home furmeets. By Confurence 0 in 1989 (the first hotel-based furry convention), a programming track called "Furry Costuming" was held at the hotel at which it took place.'

Many have commented on the sea change which occurred in the growing fandom when graphic artists, many of whom were native to the funny animal fandom era, shared more attention with costumers, resulting in the artists' booths being overshadowed by the presence of costumers at conventions and furry parties[2].

[edit] Types of fursuits

Fursuits are not always furry

The standard fursuit is a full body costume that consists of a head, forepaws (hands), hind paws (feet) and a body with an attached tail; in some cases, the tail is connected via a belt to the wearer and hangs out through a hole in the back of the body. Many suits include special padding or under suits to give the character its desired shape (this is especially present in larger characters or those of a particular gender.)

A partial suit or half-suit contains the above, only without the body. This allows the wearer to don ordinary clothing (or a different costume) overtop of the paws, head and tail. In partial suits, the tail is usually attached to a belt, and the arms and legs have sleeves that can go up as far as the shoulders and pelvis, respectively.

Most recently, a third type known as the three-quarter suit has been developed, which consists of a head, arms and pants made to look like the legs, tail and feet of the animal in question, which works well for characters who only wear shirts.

[edit] Styles

Just like artwork, fursuits can vary in style, from the ultra-cartoony look, to the hyper-realistic. Now that fursuiting is becoming popular in Japan, we are beginning to see some very anime-style fursuits in that country.

[edit] Reasons for fursuiting

Wgg the Gnoll, an example of a suit that uses a mask.

A person who wears a fursuit generally falls into one or more of five categories.

[edit] Job or charity work

Many furry fans wear fursuits as a job or to bring attention to an event or charity. This can include mascots, though not all mascots are fursuits, nor are all mascot performers furries. Many fursuiters are hired through an agency to represent a character, while others bring their own constructions to an event instead. There are also several volunteer fursuiting groups across North America that either ask or are asked to entertain at various social functions. Some groups even set up their own charitable events or perform on the streets to passersby.

[edit] Conventions, parades, exhibitions

Fursuit dancers at Anthrocon 2006 — video by BBF: 1 2 3

Other furries enjoy wearing their suits for parades, exhibitions, or conventions. Oftentimes these are of a personal character who they are expressing as a form of role play. The fursuiter may consider themselves to be expressing who they really are. These fursuiters may also wear their suits to small, informal meetings among furry fans in their area. Some may get permission to perform in or outside of a shop or event, while others may simply wear a suit in a major area, such as a mall. However, some public areas have no-mask laws, so individuals seeking to wear their fursuit in large, public places should check first if it's allowed before performing at that location.

[edit] Role-playing

Some LARPers create highly elaborate costumes (including fursuits) for their characters. Half-suits are usually created for role-playing games, though some LARPers use full-body suits. These suits wear elaborate clothes and costumes of their own, depending on the theme of the game.

[edit] Sexuality

A small portion of the furry fandom considers a fursuit a sexual item. Some suits may contain elaborately designed sexual features, while some wearers simply snip a hole or two out themselves. The music video for "Beautiful" by Moby revolves around a swinger house party where all the participants are dressed up in fursuits, though this is likely to be intended as a metaphor rather than a statement about the furry fandom. It is a common public misconception that all fursuiters use fursuiting for sex.

[edit] Spirituality

Some people (usually otherkin,therianthropes, or furry lifestylers) also fursuit for reasons of expressing what they feel is their inner animal self. Most of them try to make their suits as realistic and lifelike as possible.[citation needed]

[edit] Construction

Main article: Construction of fursuits

[edit] Maintenance

Some fursuiters spray their costumes with Febreeze, Endbac, Lysol, or a generic antibacterial spray after each use. Usually fursuiters select a product that will kill bacteria, rather than just mask odors. During storage, the fursuiter may keep it stored with a fabric softener sheet, or a box of baking soda like the ones used in a fridge or freezer.

The fursuit is regularly brushed. Fursuiters usually try to brush the fur in such a way that it doesn't pull on the fur backing, as not to weaken it.

When it comes time to wash the suit, fursuiters consider each part individually. If foam is soaked in water, it may not dry quickly enough and start to grow bacteria or fungus before it does. Airbrushed patterns may fade if washed. Glue used to hold parts of the suit together may weaken if washed. Leather is usually not advisable to soak in water. If the suit has any electronics, those may be damaged by water. If wire or plastic canvas gives part of the suit its shape, it may not be advisable to soak that part, or at least not to machine-wash it.

The parts that will not be washed can usually be wiped with a damp cloth. Stains may be removable with a product like Bubble Gund.

The parts that will be washed can either be machine washed or hand-washed. Usually the fursuit is turned inside-out and zipped up to avoid extra stress to the fur. No heat is used during the process as this can shrivel the fur. For detergent some will use a regular laundry detergent, while some may use a special detergent like Woolite. Putting undiluted detergent directly onto the fur may cause fading, so fursuiters try to avoid this except for treating stains. For machine-washing, the fursuiter chooses one of the more delicate cycles. For hand-washing, the fursuiter tries not to stretch the backing, and not to squeeze the fur into an alignment other than its natural lying flat state.

After the suit is washed, it is then dried. The fursuiter may fluff it up in the dryer in an air-only cycle. No heat is used in any step. Usually the fursuiter does not dry it completely, but takes it out and brushes it periodically until it is completely dry. Since waterlogged fur is heavy, the fursuiter may go to some lengths to lay it out flat while drying, so it doesn't stretch from the extra weight. Fans may be used to accelerate the drying process.

Fursuiters are divided over whether dry cleaning is advisable for fursuits. Since dry-cleaners can choose from many different methods and settings, and there are many types of fur, it is likely that one answer does not apply to all situations.

[edit] Performance

Markus offering a hug.

A key part of playing a character in suit is an engaging performance. The most expensive fursuit in the world will not help someone who does not know how to use it. Looking good is important, but not as important as acting.

How the performer acts in costume reflects on how others relate to them. If the desired character is bouncy and bubbly, then acting that way is required to communicate it to spectators.

The design of the suit plays a part in some of the moves that can be done. For example, some fursuiters with floppy muzzles nod their heads up and down rapidly to simulate laughter or enjoyment. This cannot be done with suits with a rigid muzzle, or no muzzle at all.

[edit] Body language

Fursuiters typically do not speak in costume. This may be for a variety of reasons:

  • To preserve the anonymity or conceal the gender of the performer
  • The design of most suits muffles the voice of the performer
  • Most animals don't talk

Because of this, acting in suit is mostly about body language.

When a fursuiter does speak in costume, it is often just to their handler and/or close friends. Alternately, fursuiters may only speak in some limited fashion, either with a limited vocabulary, or simply using as few words as necessary.

Increasingly, more elaborate fursuits are being built with some form of "talkjaw". This typically involves the fursuit's lower jaw being attached to the fursuiter's chin (likely with an elastic strap around the fursuiter's head), or pressed against by the fursuiter's lower jaw in some other fashion. This enables the fursuiter to talk, without giving the impression of "thinking out loud" as in Garfield (traditional animation).

[edit] "Furzooter"

The Year of the Flood, a 2009 novel by Margaret Atwood, includes the passage:

   
Fursuit
Toby got a job as a furzooter: cheap day labour, no identity required. The furzooters put on fake-fur animal suits with cartoon heads and hung advertising signs around their necks, and worked the higher-end malls and the boutique retail streets. But it was hot and humid inside the furzoots, and the range of vision was limited. In the first week she suffered three attacks by fetishists who knocked her over, twisted the big head around so she was blinded, and rubbed their pelvises against her fur, making strange noises, of which the meows were the most recognizable. It wasn't rape - no part of her actual body was touched — but it was creepy.[3]
   
Fursuit

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. Critter Costuming, p13 - Robert King mentions inventing the term fursuit back in 1993 for the title of an amateur costumers' mailing list about the then-unnamed hobby while on the way back from a conference[citation needed], in part as a pun on the word pursuit
  2. When did Fursuiters take over furry fandom? thread started by Joe Strike to alt.fan.furry, Nov 30 2008, 12:33 pm
  3. Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2009. p. 31.


[edit] External links

[edit] Tutorials

[edit] Databases

[edit] Other

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