by Michæl W. Bard
Text ©2005 Michæl W. Bard; each photograph © 2005 as credited below

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Editor’s note: All photographs in this editorial have been cropped and Photoshopped to emphasize the suit, and appear here in accordance with the Fair Use provision of copyright law. Click on each image to view the original photograph in a new window

   Fursuits and fursuiting: One of the last bastions of pure furrydom… or, not really. Costuming has been around for a long time, and will continue to be. Fursuits are really just a subset of the greater whole—and, sadly, a very limited and repetitious subset in this modern age.
   Some background first, so you can all get the tongues you’re sticking out at me back in your mouths where they belong.
   First, I’ve been interested in transformations for decades, and what is costuming other than another form of transformation? Secondly, after years of playing with ideas, I’ve finally found a way of making a proper digitigrade ungulate stance, a way that has been successfully done by others, and I am working on my own costume. I don’t have any components complete yet, but I have invested cash approaching $300 (Canadian) into material so far.
   In other words, I’m not dissing the whole hobby.
   Oh, and, as usual, the opinions are mine. Currently they’re based on my research into the hobby (whilst planning my own fursuit) which has included viewing thousands of pictures, video, and intense questioning of a small group of fursuiters. Your mileage may vary, et cetera.
   My first, largest, and most horrifying observation is the almost tired look of the endless waves of near-identical fursuits in the parade. One after another you see a fox, a wolf, a raccoon, a fox, a wolf, a tiger—and other than colouration, they’re all the same! A pair of loose pajamas covered with appropriate fur (with white for the chest generally), and a big round head carved out of foam. In all honesty, I find it sad.
   As far as I can tell, there is one master pattern that everybody uses, and the only variation lies in the colour of the fur and how much hair on the ears. I wouldn’t be surprised if the heads were identical except for the colour of fur.
   It’s depressing.
   And then you watch a video of the parade at Anthrocon and you can see them marching, one after the other, like condemned sentients going to their executions!
   Now, I do understand that many people have financial restrictions, or don’t have the manual dexterity to work with their hands, or don’t know how to use a sewing machine. Or they don’t have the time. All fine and good. Most people can only afford the ‘pajama’ look. Still fine and good.
   But if you’re going to put on a fursuit, hide your identity, and get in touch with your ‘inner animal’ or whatever, then why stumble around like you’re in a death march!?
   It’s almost enough to make me want to just not bother, except I’m too much of an individual. And far too stubborn.
   Fortunately, there are a few bright lights in the sea of mediocrity. There are some, like Jugular Jaguar, who have fun in their costume. They glory in it! They’re fun to watch.
   And then there are the odd, the few, the proud. The stand-out fursuits.
   I admit, my opinion of a stand-out fursuit is my opinion. I like hyper-realism. So, as a test, I went to The Fursuit Archive; went through all 1699 fursuit pictures; and flagged the ones that weren’t of pajamas.

Photo ©2005 BungeeSkunk

Photo ©2005 BungeeSkunk

   This rabbit is typical of the ‘fuzzy pajama’ look at first glance, yet it draws me to examine it closer. It stands out. Why? Because of the proportions. The fursuit is almost form-fitting, not baggy. The head is much smaller than most, and looks right in proportion to the whole. For me, this one works.

   Another one that skirts the edge of the ‘fuzzy pajama’ look, but doesn’t enter that territory. It’s because of the head. The proportions are far better, and the colouration is far more realistic. It’s not perfect, it’s half way between the cartoony simplicity of the majority, and the utter realism of the ideal. Also, the fact that there is an attempt at costuming helps also.

Photo ©2005 DarkNatasha

Photo ©2005 FoxTodd

   Here’s a good example of what I consider hyper-realistic—the head in particular. Sadly, there are no good pictures of the whole fursuit, but the head is amazing!

   Sadly, good colouration is not easy. But then, if you want to do it right, it should be worth the extra effort. Here, some nice attempts have been done on the body fur colouration, but I find that the fur is too thick—it destroys the illusion for me. Of course, that could be accurate. I don’t know. All I can offer is my own opinion.

Photo ©2005 Kathris

Photo ©2005 Kathris

   Here is another level up from the typical pajamas. And another answer to the hanging loose sizing problem. The instructions I’ve seen to achieve a look like this is to wear an undersuit with shaped pieces of foam to form the muscles. Make them thick enough, and they can take up the slack and make the form look more realistic. Sadly, the legs turned out a bit too bulky for the rest of it, but it is a nice attempt. To me, it is far better to have tried to create something great and failed, than to just be another pajama wearer.

   This is what I think is one of the best fursuits I saw in the Anthrocon pictures. And, there were a lot of pictures of this one. The bodysuit doesn’t hang loose, the head is not oversized, there is actual clothing as I can’t really see anthropomorphic animals all running around naked in a human world. The colouration is right. It all just works for me.

   Now, my current plan is to use prosthetics to achieve the head, not a big fluffy foam ball. I have this funny belief in requiring good vision, both for safety and so I can enjoy whatever is around me. Because of this, I’ve always paid attention to fursuits that use prosthetics and makeup, rather than just a big round head. Some work, some don’t…

Photo ©2005 BungeeSkunk

Photo ©2005 Firehopper

   The complete picture is of a trio of fursuits. If you look at the middle one (the blurry one, alas), the muzzle and the human face work really well together, and the ears are very nicely done. Sadly, the whole lycra bodysuit, and the hideously obvious rim of the hood around the human face, are both almost nauseating. But, look at the ears and muzzle…

   I believe that fursuits should be as realistically coloured as you can get away with, unless for a very specific reason. This picture shows a prosthetic muzzle, which blends well into the face. The brown is all right, but the white face shouldn’t go down below the mouth (not to mention that the inside of the nostrils shouldn’t be white). And, it needs better shading so that it doesn’t look as flat as it does from the front in this picture. Most horses have what are known as ‘black points’ if they have a dark mane/tail, or a ‘fleshy face’ otherwise. Therefore, colour the front of the muzzle either black or flesh. Research! And, velvet is definitely not the best material for the body.

And now for something completely different!

Photo ©2005 Thalyi

   This is a gorgeous fursuit, distinctive, well crafted, and deliciously weird. It certainly drew my eye, and it is something to aim for. The digitigrade hoof look is attained by wearing hoof boots—kind of a high-heeled boot with the heel cut off. Although they work, I’ve been told that the lack of heel support means they can only be managed for a short time. The fur is thick and rich, and has subtle colour variations throughout that make it look like real animal fur, not a cartoon. And who can argue with the second set of eyes!

   Consider these as things to aim for. Something that stands out above the rest, that draws the eye. Something to be proud of even outside of a furry convention.
   And good luck! I know that I, at least, am going to need it!

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