THE MENAGERIE COSTUMES

Bringing your inner animal out to play!          

Fursuiting Guide

Here at TMC we do a lot of fursuitng at both furry events as well as among the general public at charity events and over the years we have discovered that there is more to fursuiting than just putting on a costume. Interacting with people successfully and truly bringing a character to life requires a few skills. To help you with this we have written this helpful guide.

(We plan to add video tutorials to the guide in the future.)

Before you go fursuiting for the first time

We know that getting your suit and going fursuiting for the first time is very exciting but there are a few things you have to remember.

 

  • You will have a diminished range of vision (virtually no peripheral vision and no vision below your                   nose/muzzle)
  • Your vision may be slightly blurred depending on your eye material (think of looking though fly                       screen doors or windows)
  • Your movement may be restricted depending on your type of suit (e.g. a lot of padding can make it               harder to move)
  • You may have less dexterity in your fingers
  • You will get hot very quickly

 

It's a good idea to put your suit on at home (or in your hotel room if it's delivered to you at a convention) and get used to being in it before venturing out. Learn what you can and can't see, you may feel almost blind when you first put your head on but you do adjust to the diminished vision over time so don't panic you will be out playing catch with the other suiters in no time. Practice picking things up and handling things like water bottles. When you first get in suit you will get hot very quickly, this is also something you will get used to over time as your stamina increases.

 

Your Character

Before jumping into suit you need to decide on the personality of your character. Are they happy, outgoing, shy, grumpy, angry, aggressive, etc.

Once you have decided on your characters personality you will need to practice playing the character. Get your suit on and practice poses, gestures and body language in front of the mirror to get your character looking exactly how you want them. Suits with 3D eyes in particular can have a large range of expressions depending on the angle you hold and view the head so practice in front of the mirror.


Whatever personality you decide on for your character you need to be big and animated with your gestures and poses. Being covered in fur can mute a lot of subtle movements so practice waving bigger and poses you might like to use for photos.


Keep moving when you are in suit, even something subtle like swaying your hips gently to let wag your tail keeps your character alive. If you stand still in suit the character quickly becomes 'dead' and uninteresting.

General fursuiting guidelines

Some helpful hints to successful and safe fursuiting

What to wear under your suit

It may sound like a good idea but never go naked under your fursuit. Instead get yourself a set of lycra sports compression gear or a zenti or morphsuit (you can get the for around $20 on ebay). They go a long way to helping you stay more comfortable and extend the amount of time.

Go to the bathroom

Kind of an obvious one but always go to the bathroom before suiting up. It’s a hassle to have to get out of suit then back in because you need to pee.

Keep hydrated

This is very important! Dehydration and heat stroke are very dangerous conditions.

Start hydrating yourself a day or 2 before a big convention by drinking more water than you normally would to prepare your body for all the sweating you will do over the next few days. Keep this increased consumption of water up for the whole convention as well. Avoid stuff like, coffee, energy drinks and alcohol while suiting as they can all cause further dehydration.


Thirst is not always an accurate sign of dehydration, once you become dehydrated you actually stop feeling thirsty and you will continue to dehydrate without even knowing it.

There is a simple test for dehydration. Hold your out flat with your palm down and pinch the skin on the back of your hand and watch it flatten again, if the skin stays wrinkled or takes longer than usual to go back to flat you are dehydrated and need to drink more.

 
Although it’s tempting avoid guzzling a large a whole bottle of cold water immediately after pulling your head off. Once it hits your stomach it will want to violently eject it again. I personally find starting sipping a glass of room temperature water then moving onto the cold stuff works best for me.

Ruining the magic

‘Ruining the magic’ is a term used when a suiter takes off a piece of their suit in public.

This is frowned upon and most suiters will do whatever they can to avoid doing this outside of their hotel room or the heads off lounge.


However it is not worth risking your health or safety if you need to take your head off then do it.

Ruining the magic can also apply to people talking while in suit because a lot of suiters remain silent while in costume people tend to assume that all suiters are silent, this is obviously not true. If you need to say something important than do it.

Non-suiters don’t give suiters a hard time for ‘ruining the magic’, you don’t know what’s going on for them to need to do so and let’s face it we all know there’s a person in the costume

Know your limits
This is an important one.

You need to know when you have had enough and need to take a break. If you push yourself to keep performing you can run the risk of heat stroke, a very serious condition, and even passing out.
If you begin to feel ill or light headed go directly to the headless lounge, your hotel room or somewhere out of the way, take your head off and unzip your suit and cool down as quick as you can. Placing a cool wet towel or cloth over the back of your neck and slowly sipping water helps a lot.

If you are in immediate need of help do not rely on any kind of hand signal or worry about 'ruining the magic', tell someone you need help and take your head off right there if you need to. Staying in character is never worth risking your health.

Handlers

A handler is a person you charge with looking out for you and helping you out while you are in suit. They look out for obstacles that may be in your way and answer questions from people.


In a convention setting most experienced suiters will go without a handler, this is because people at conventions know about suiters and their limitations and are usually willing to lend a hand when necessary. Never go out in public without a handler (we go into this in more detail in the ‘Fursuiting in public’ section).


Before going out in suit have a talk with your handler. Make sure they:

  • know what you need them to do
  1. know what you can and can’t see when in suit
  2. are ready to step in if anything goes wrong
  3. knows your limits
  4. knows and hand signals you may need to use in suit
  5. have some bottled water with them
  6. are able to answer any questions people may have about your fursuit and what you are doing
  7. know the layout of the area you will be suiting in, know where any obstacles may be and where the              exists are
Scanning
This is a skill you will pick up and develop the more you go fursuitng. Because of your limited vision scan the room when you enter, identify where if there is any furniture, pillars or other obstacles in the room and make a mental map of where they are. This allows you to move around with confidence despite having no peripheral vision and not being able to see below your nose.

Don't worry if you still have to look around a lot, forget where things are or bump into stuff at first, the more you go fursuiting the more natural scanning will become and the more easily you will be able to make a mental map of the room until you don't even realise you are doing it any more. This is why you often see fursuiters moving around with total confidence.

Not everyone likes fursuits

Shocking I know but not everyone likes fursuits. Even at conventions people can find them scary or unnerving.

If people don’t respond to you then leave them alone or better yet wait for other people to approach you.

Know the right time and place

Even though fursuiters are accepted in almost every event at a convention there is a right time and place for fursuit shenanigans. For example don’t go to a panel and start playing around in suit distracting from the people running the talk.

Don’t cause a scene in hotel lobbies either they are shared places and the general public and hotel staff don’t take kindly to a bunch of big furry animals running a muck in places like that.

General public

Even at conventions you may encounter members of the general public (particularly in elevators) that know nothing about furries or what you are doing there.


Be prepared for the inevitable question “What are you doing here?”

Tell them the name of the conventions and the quickest and easiest way to explain a furry convention is ‘It’s like a Star Trek convention but with furry animals’ or 'It's a cartoon fan convention'. Most people are satisfied with this as an answer, they aren't interested in a lecture of all the ins and outs of the furry fandom.


Do NOT approach the general public. You need to make a good impression at conventions and bouncing up to non-furs and harassing them is not a good idea. If they approach you then by all means be cute and pose for photos if you like.

Stay clean

Again fairly self-explanatory, you are going to get hot and sweaty in suit and you will get smelly.


Take a quick shower each time you get out of suit and use deodorant. Rinse your under armour in the sink or shower and hang it up to dry and give your suit a good spray with something like glen20, this will disinfect and deodorise your suit.


When you get home from the convention wash your suit. I can’t stress this enough, there are far too many people too scared to wash their suits but they are like any other clothing and need to be washed.

More info can be found in our Fursuit Care Page

Learn some basic sewing skills
Having a seam pop at a convention can ruin your whole weekend but some basic sewing skills can rescue your con experience.

There are many fantastic tutorials online for basic ladder and blanket stitches. Even though these aren't the best stitches for fursuits they are quick and easy and can be used to patch your suit until you can get it repaired properly.

I recommend keeping a needle, thread and scissors in your fursuit bag/box at all times in case of any little mishaps.

6-2-1 Rule

This is more of a general convention rule but important for suiters as well.

The 6-2-1 rule means:

  • 6 hours of sleep per day
  • 2 meals per day
  • 1 shower per day

These of course are minimums and there is no such thing as too many showers for a fursuiter but it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to look after yourself leaving you vulnerable to the dreaded Con-Crud.


Fursuiting in Public

Fursuiting public can be very daunting but also very rewarding. Because you are dealing with the general public who have no idea who you are or what you are doing there are few rules you should follow to keep yourself safe and have fun and avoid any legal issues.
ALWAYS have a handler

I know I mentioned this in the general fursuiting guide but having at least one handler when suiting in public is an absolute must.

The general public have no idea who you are or what you are doing running around in a giant animal costume.


You handler needs to act as a buffer between you and the public. Most people with either come and look and talk to you or completely ignore you but there is always a chance you may encounter some trouble makers so your handler (and you) need to be ready for that.

 

Before going out in suit have a talk with your handler. Make sure they:

  • know what you need them to do
  1. know what you can and can’t see when in suit
  2. are ready to step in if anything goes wrong
  3. know your limits
  4. know and hand signals you may need to use in suit
  5. have some bottled water with them
  6. are able to answer any questions people may have about your fursuit and what you are doing
  7. know the layout of the area you will be suiting in, know where any obstacles may be and where the             exists are
  8. know that they need to keep a close eye on you and the people around you and not get distracted

Contact beforehand

It is a good idea to contact the owners or council of the area you want to go fursuiting and ask permission. If you are going somewhere like a park or beach this isn’t totally necessary but do not go anywhere near businesses or shopping centres without permission, it’s illegal to go into places like that with your face covered.


If you want to go suiting in a shopping centre or anything like that contact the manager and security first. Go and see them with pictures of your suit and explain what you are doing first. If they say no do not push it.

Have a look around before suiting up

Get their early and have a walk around with your handler before getting into suit. Identify and obstacles or places to avoid and exits. Also find places where you can safely take your head off to take a breather and get some water.

Do NOT approach people

Most people will be interested in you and what you are doing and approach you. Never go bounding up to people you do not know and start harassing them especially if they are working.


You need to gauge how receptive people will be to you, a good way of doing this is a simple wave, people who want to interact with you will usually wave back then approach you, and those who don’t will ignore you or walk away.

Photos

People will often ask for photos of or with you. If you are getting photos taken with people make sure your hands are always visible.


If you are going to put an arm around someone make sure your hands are high up on their shoulders. If you are hugging someone keep your hands high up on their back. If you are in a large group lift your hands up out wide so they are visible above peoples head/shoulders.


Even though there is nothing funny going on people are quick to jump to conclusions so it’s better to be safe than sorry

Behave yourself

Remember you are in public so don’t do anything in suit that you wouldn’t out of suit. Don’t do anything considered rude or offensive that can attract negative attention.

Animals

Now it might seem like a good idea to go and play with a dog walking past, it’s not. 


Some animals have no problem with suiters and will pose for photos with you and play but others can be terrified or even react aggressively. Let the owner bring the animal to you, it is a good idea to crouch down to the animal’s level, this makes you much less intimidating. If you feel uncomfortable with how the animal is reacting back away.

Police and security





This should be common sense but if a police officer or security guard (or any other authority figure including store employees) asks you to leave or take you head off, DO IT! Do not argue or try to play with them or you may just end up getting yourself thrown out, banned or even arrested.

Volunteering

We at TMC do a lot of charity work with organisations such as the RSPCA Million Paws Walk, McDonald's McHappy Day and other local charities and fund raisers. Volunteering with a charity is very rewarding but you need to go about it the right way.


NEVER just show up at a charity even in your fursuit it comes across and very unprofessional and may well ruin any chance of you volunteering with them in the future. And never expect or ask to be paid, you are volunteering for a charity after-all.

Contact the charity well before the event, you need to give them time to make arrangements and sort out any possible paperwork, don’t call the day before and hope to be involved. Explain to them who you and about your costume. Explain that you will need a safe place to change and rest if possible.

Insurance

If you are just an occasional fursuiters then this may not apply to you. However if you go suiting in public a lot or want to do a lot of charity work then public liability insurance is a very good idea. This covers you for any mishaps you may have in suit and accidents do happen.
We recommend ‘Duck For Cover Entertainers Group’, the offer low cost public liability insurance for performers. Twelve months coverage can be as little as $125.

www.duckforcover.com.au/minigen/


Fursuiting Around Children

Fursuiting around children can be very rewarding but there are some things you need to remember

Ruining the magic

Although this was covered in the general fursuiting guide ruining the magic is considered more serious in public, especially if there are children around.


Unlike people at conventions and other adults children don't always realise that you are a person in a costumes so do whatever you can to avoid letting kids see you with parts of your costume off. Find somewhere you can get changed and cool off somewhere where kids can't see you.


Most suiters, even those that usually speak in suit avoid talking around children, this is of course entirely up to you though.

Never pick up a child

Some parents will want you to hold their child for photos, DON'T do it.


Shake your head and step back from them. If they insist put your hands behind your back and shake your head again, if you have to walk away. Children wriggle and squirm and under that layer of fur you can’t feel what is going on, it just isn’t worth accidentally dropping a child.

Get down to their level

Crouching down on one knee gets you down to the child level and makes you seem much less intimidating. It also makes for much better photos for their parents.

Watch your Hands

Always be aware of where your hands are. People are quick to jump to conclusions about inappropriate behaviour.


If you are getting photos taken with kids make sure your hands are always visible. If you are in a large group of kids, or have a child standing in front or beside you lift your hands up out wide so they are visible above their head/shoulders.

If you are hugging a child keep your hands high up on their back.

Hugs

Try to always be kneeling or crouching when a child hugs you, if you are standing children’s heads tend to unfortunately be at around groin level and you don’t want that in photos.


To ask for a hug crouch down and hold your arms out wide and let the child come and hug you. If you want to hug back gently bring your hands up and place them high on the child’s shoulders, do not squeeze them to you and don’t leave your hands there too long.


After they hug you make a big deal of it, bounce and clap your hands, kids love it.

High fives

Kids love high fives, it’s fun for them but not as intimidating as actually hugging you.


Hold your hand out in front of you towards the child, if they don’t understand immediately pat your palm with the other hand to give them the idea.


Always let them come to you and high five you, never push back just hold your hand still. Once they high five, just like hugs, make a big deal of it.

Don’t pat kids on the head

It’s intimidating for kids to have you pat them on the head, instead drop to their level to interact with them.

Look down

As you are walking around make sure you look down often and be aware of what is going on around you to make sure you aren’t going to accidentally run into or kick a child.

Scared kids

It is not unusual for some children to be scared or apprehensive about approaching a fursuiters.


If you encounter a scared child make yourself as small as possible to seem less intimidating. Act as if you are scared of the child as well, cover your eyes and peek out through your fingers at them. This is usually enough to make the child come to you and tell you not to be scared and want to pat of hug you. Once you have won them over try not the jump around and be too crazy until they have relaxed or you may scare them off again.


Some kids however will just be too scared and not want to come near you so you need to know when to walk away and leave them alone.

Misbehaving kids

Ideally if a child is misbehaving by pulling tails or cause some other kind of scene you want your handler to step in and tell them to stop or get the parents attention, however there are ways to deal with it yourself.


If a child pulls your tail once just ignore them, kids will be kids and if they don’t get a reaction the soon lose interest and move on. If your tail is continually being pulled stand up tall and grab your tail under one arm, stand with your hands on your hips, look down at the child doing it and shake your head, this is usually enough to get the point across and get them to stop.


If a child continues to misbehave, walk away or let your handler know so they can intervene.  

Parents

In my experience there are 4 different kinds of parents you are likely to encounter while in suit. No matter what kind of parents you encounter remember to respect their wishes, they are only doing what they think is best for their children.


The protective/suspicious parent

Some parents may whisk their kids away or discourage them from interacting with you.

Do not be offended by this, they are looking out for what’s best for their child and they have no idea who you are or what you are doing. Despite your good intentions if they don’t want their children near you that is their call.


The pushy parent

The exact opposite of the protective/suspicious parent, push parents try to force their sometimes scared, apprehensive or uninterested children to interact with you.

I have had fathers in particular carry a screaming child over to me while in suit and try to force them to interact with me. The best thing to do it walk away, trying to force a terrified child to interact with a suiter will only traumatise them more. Some children just need to observe from a distance before interacting and some are just scared and never will approach you.


‘Free babysitting service’ parents

Some parents will treat fursuiters as a free babysitting service and leave their children with you unattended while they go have a coffee or whatever which is irresponsible and unsafe for many reasons. You handler needs to be on the lookout for this and go and get the parent if this happens and explain that you are not hired entertainment and not a babysitting service.


The easy going parent

These are the most common parents you will encounter and make your life as a fursuiter much easier.

These parents will usually observe you for a little while then bring their kids over, ask a few questions and stay close and watch their kids with you. Make sure you handler is close by to answer their questions and reassure them if needed.


Interacting with Fursuiters

Some important things to remember when you meet a fursuiter.

They have terrible vision

Fursuiters have a narrower range of vision than someone not in suit, they have little to no peripheral vision and usually can't see below their noses. They may also have diminished hearing and sense of touch. When you approach a fursuiter always approach from the front, wave and speak to them to make sure you have their attention. If they do not acknowledge you they are probably not ignoring you they just may not have seen you.

Photos

Most fursuiters don't mind having their picture taken but it is a good idea to ask them first. This gives them the chance to pose for the photo as well as saving any drama of them demanding a photo be taken down later on.

Avoid taking any photos of fursuiters 'ruining the magic', some suiters take their anonymity and keeping in character very seriously so just don't do it.

NEVER glomp a fursuiters

On top of scaring and possibly injuring the person in the suit you may damage the fursuit itself. Fursuits are expensive (ranging into the many thousands of dollars) and are of huge sentimental value to their owners, if you damage their suit they will not be happy.

You may see suiters rough-housing with one another or other people, this is not a queue for you to join in.

If you want a hug stand in front of the suiter with your arms out and ask, most of the time the suiter will oblige and give you a hug, some may not, if they don't don't push it.

Always ask before touching a suiter, don't just walk up to them and start scritching their belly or patting their muzzle or cheeks. Some suiters do not like being touched and some have specific areas for people to pat to avoid damage to delicate areas such as air brushed markings.

Fursuiters in a hurry

If a suiter looks like they are in a rush to get somewhere they may be headed to get some much needed air, a drink or to get out of suit so don't get in their way and delay them with taking photos or wanting hugs as it can be dangerous.

Offer to help

Most suiters are perfectly capable of doing most things in suit themselves, but small objects such as hotel room keys can be hard to handle with big fluffy paws on. If you see a suiter struggling with their key in an elevator or at a door offer to swipe the key for them. Likewise if you see a suiters struggling with opening a water bottle or anything like that offer to help, it only takes seconds and the suiter will be very grateful for the helping hand. 

If you see a suiter in apparent distress go and ask if they are ok, it may be nothing but it is always worth checking.

Elevators

At conventions there is a general rule to let fursuiters skip to the front of the elevator line.

Depending on the convention lines for elevators can be very long and if a suiter already hot from suiting and needs to get up to their room and out of suit it can be unbearable and dangerous for them to have to stand in line for a long period of time. So if you see a suiter in line for an elevator please bump them to the front (or at least offer, some suiters will refuse and happily wait in line)

The Headless Lounge

The headless lounge is for fursuiters and their handlers only. It is there so suiters can get away from the crowds, do quick repairs, cool down and get a much needed drink.

If you see a suiter heading into the headless lounge don't delay them, have a bit of patience and wait for them to come out again.

They are not there to entertain you

This can be a hard one to understand but fursuiters are not there just to entertain you, they are there because they enjoy it and want to have fun. Most suiters are more than happy to interact with people and play around but don't get annoyed if they aren't in the mood.

These apply in suit as well
You should also follow these guidelines if you are in suit and wanting to interact with other suiters .
Remember not everyone has the same fursuiting style. You may be a happy, bouncy bubbly character in suit but others may be more subdued.