Geek Chic: What to Wear and Bring to San Diego Comic-Con

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Comic con

In just a month, I’ll be headed to San Diego Comic Con International (aka SDCC).

With the legions of cosplayers, gamers, and superfans crowding the halls of the San Diego Convention Center from July 18-21, it’s the ultimate celebration of geek chic!

It’s also possibly the only place where you’ll get to see Spiderman, Gandalf, Spock, Lara Croft, Boba Fett, and Ash Ketchum hang out together.

This will be my fourth time attending SDCC; while I’m far from an expert, I thought it would be fun to share my past experience for those of you planning on going this year or in future years.

As I live about an hour north of San Diego and drive down to the convention center each day of the event, I can’t advise on travel or accommodation, but read on for tips on what to wear, bring, and expect at San Diego Comic Con!

Know Your Geek: About SDCC

  • San Diego Comic-Con International started in 1970 as a gathering for comic book fans. In recent years, the “con” (short for “convention”) has gained a massive following and has expanded its focus to everything from movies to video games to TV shows to, of course, comics.
  • The convention lasts four days – Thursday through Sunday – with a special preview night on Wednesday evening.
  • Hundreds of vendors gather on the first floor of the center – aptly referred to as “the floor” – hawking comics, custom art, collectibles, clothing, and more.  Plus, this is where big studios and companies hand out free promotional gifts, aka “swag”.
  • Panels featuring artists, writers, actors, and directors are held in various ballrooms and conference halls. The infamous Hall H has a 6,500 person capacity and sometimes requires attendees to camp out overnight to guarantee a good seat.  Panels are an opportunity to preview the big studio blockbusters, get the inside scoop on your favorite shows and comics, and speak directly to the people who create the magic!
  • While SDCC’s one of the largest and most well known, there are hundreds of conventions all over the country (and world!) of all different sizes and fanbases.

What to Wear

what to wear to comic-con

Product Information: Jacket, Vest, Iron Man Shirt, Doctor Who Shirt,Star Wars Shirt, Shorts, Skirt, Earrings, Ring

Since there’s so much to do and see, keep your outfit easy with a look centered around your favorite graphic tee. While graphic tees aren’t actually mandatory attire, you’d think so from the dizzying array of ’em on display at Comic-Con. They’re a great way to advertise your love for a particular fandom. Plus, shirts can be a great icebreaker while you’re waiting in line.

Pair your tee with a comfortable pair of shorts. Denim cutoffs are a classic! While you’ll want to make sure your hem is long enough for you to keep covered while sitting on the ground (no chairs in line!), a girly skater skirt is also a great foil for a graphic shirt.

It can get chilly in the early morning lines and inside the panels, so layer on a light jacket or sweater. Cap off the look with a few geeky accessories and you’re good to go!

As for me, this year I’m planning on cosplaying as Wonder Woman, Clara Oswald, Lieutenant Marlena Moreau, and Mulan! (Cosplayers: remember to bring a needle, thread, and safety pins just in case of a wardrobe malfunction!)

Of course, you can always try one of the inspired-by looks from one of our Geek Chic articles! Doctor Who-inspired fashion (Parts  2, 3, and 4Star Trek Into Darkness-inspired fashionBuffy-inspired fashion (and Part 2), Castle-inspired fashionFirefly-inspired fashionThe Hobbit-inspired fashionSupernatural-inspired fashionBones-inspired fashionPrincess Bride-inspired fashionThe Dark Knight trilogy-inspired fashionPokemon-inspired fashion Star Wars Prequel-inspired fashionLost-inspired fashionSailor Moon-inspired fashionSherlock-inspired fashionStar Wars Original Trilogy-inspired fashionThe Big Bang Theory fashionthe Lord of the Rings fashion, and Star Trek-inspired fashion.


Shoes for comic-con

Product Information: TOMS, Ballet Flats, Ankle Boots, Sandals, Keds, Converse

Make sure you wear comfortable shoes – the convention center is huge! It takes at least half an hour to get from one side of the center to the other, and that’s not counting the human traffic you’ll undoubtedly encounter. Flat ankle boots, sneakers, or flats and sandals with decent arch support will all help to ensure that your feet don’t feel like they’ve gone through the last part of Rains of Castamere.

What to Bring

Snacks and Water

In my experience, the food offerings at the convention are limited, overpriced, and quite unhealthy (think movie-theater food.)  Stay energized and hydrated without breaking the bank by bringing your own snacks and a bottle of water.

Sunblock + Sunglasses

Yes, all the panels are indoors, but chances are, you’ll be sitting outside for a verrry long time  before you get in: the majority of the lines snake outside of the convention center. Keep your skin protected!

Phone and Charger

Okay, including a cell phone on this list makes me look like Captain Obvious, but seriously, the convention center holds over 100,000 people. Good luck finding your friends when your battery dies! Plus, lots of studios, artists, and celebrities tweet about surprise events or signings and where to find the best giveaways: for instance, Nathan Fillion is on Twitter throughout the whole convention and often mentions where to find him.

Camera and Charger

Trust me, you’re going to see some crazy costumes and possibly some awesome celebrities.  Double – nay, triple check – that you’ve got a fully charged battery and space on your memory card. There are countless photo ops to be had at Comic Con!


Cash is king at conventions. Vendors may not accept credit cards: don’t miss out on one-of-a-kind goodies because you forgot to hit the ATM!

Autograph Pages + Pen

You never know who you might see wandering around the convention center!

Backpack and/or Messenger Bag

Bring a roomy, hands-free bag to hold all of the aforementioned necessities. Trust me–you’ll want both hands available to snatch up all the awesome free giveaways!

What to Expect

Nerdy girl
  • Lines up the wazoo – Comic Con’s popularity is both a blessing and curse.
  • The coolest people you’ll ever meet – Okay, this depends on your definition of “cool”, but seriously, take the opportunity to make some friends. Where else are you gonna find over 100,000 people who are just as crazy about [insert fandom here] as you are?
  • Plan ahead– read the panel schedules ahead of time and form a game plan. It’s almost impossible to hit all the panels you want, due to the lines, but with careful planning, you can prioritize and make the most of the time you have.
  • Swag! Make sure to check the schedules for studio giveaways. If you see people queuing up on the floor, it’s likely that they’re waiting for swag. Don’t be afraid to ask what they’re in line for: last time, I almost missed the Mockingjay pin giveaway but luckily stumbled into the line.
  • Costumes– If you’re cosplaying, people may ask to take pictures of or with you. And if you take photos of cosplayers, make sure to ask first and to be respectful – they might be dressed as aliens or hobbits, but they’re people, too!
  • Deals and Steals-If you’re around on Sunday afternoon, hit the store tables. Since it’s the last day, lots of vendors are willing to unload their goodies for lower prices. I snagged a Spiderman plush backpack for $10 two years ago in a spur-of-the moment auction.
  • Have fun!  After all, being a geek is all about passion, and there’s nowhere better to pursue it than at Comic-Con!

What did you think?

Are you planning to go to SDCC this year or in the future? Have you been to Comic-Con or other conventions? Share your tips to a successful convention experience in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Geek Chic: What to Wear and Bring to San Diego Comic-Con”

  1. Oh man! This is so useful! A friend and I are going to Fan Expo 2013 (held in Toronto) in a few months and this will help us so much on what to bring! Though she and I are dressing up as Idris and 11 from Doctor Who 🙂
    I would love to see a follow-up article on your favourite cosplays, outfits and moments 🙂

    Have fun!

  2. Oh man. I miss comiccon. Growing up in sd it used to be the summer thing everyone did to hang out and buy cool stuff, well before etsy and things of the like. I love the post and it is really thorough. I wouldn’t advise sandals unless you want to be angry, bruised, or not on the floor. You will be trampled on and the happiest people wore thick sneakers or boots. And skirts aren’t the best idea either since they aren’t practical unless you are cosplaying. Otherwise, this post has me inspired to go to the con next year. Gotta see if tix are still available.

  3. Sadly, living in Australia makes going to ComicCon hard. But we now have PAX running at the same time and I fully intend to make use of the suggestions in this article while planning my convention days.

    I will especially remember about snagging a deal on Sunday afternoon. ; )

  4. The one thing I would add here is that you should definitely only wear a graphic T that means something to you. Don’t just pick “nerdy” one to fit in–people will ask about it and you’ll feel silly if you can’t answer. Basically, don’t be a poser. The point of graphic Ts is to show off something that you think is cool.

  5. Great article!!
    The only thing I disagree with is to not wear sandals (or even flats to comic con). I did that a few years back and I ended up getting my toe nail messed up from people stepping on me. There’s so many people on the floor and that crowds are huge so any shoes that can save you from being stepped on would help. Your other suggestions such as sneakers or boots are good choices!!

    Also, something I”m going to try this year is to bring a battery extender for my iphone. I have had a difficult time with my phone and charging in the conventions because everyone hogs the outlets!! So hopefully this battery extender would work!

    Great article! I was SO happy to see this!!

  6. Going to Comic-Con is just one of the many things to do on my bucket-list. This is a super helpful post though for people who can make it this year and I second the request to see pics of your cosplays


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