We all have heroes when we start out in costuming. I’m not talking about the latex and tights-clad superpowered characters who people the comics we read and the movies we watch. I’m talking about the people we meet in our first, fumbling attempts at costuming – whether it be for Halloween, some at-home D&D or LARPing, or in the wider world of convention-going. When you start to make and wear costumes for yourself, you inevitably come across people you want to emulate, or just plain pick the brain of. I’m constantly amazed by the wondrous things I see people making and bringing to conventions, and I am genuinely gung-ho about asking them “How did you do that?!” and assuring them that it does, indeed, look awesome.
Among this group of wiser, more experienced and ridiculously talented individuals, there are always some who stand out in your mind. The folks who are not just wonderfully talented, but who take it upon themselves to guide newcomers and old hands alike; who feel it is their duty to record and discuss the history of costuming at conventions (at the original Star Trek conventions, those who dressed in costume were looked down on…can you believe it?), and who take great pride and joy in elevating the art of costuming even higher.
Marty Gear was one such person. In some ways, you could say he was the person. He was instrumental in creating solid, popular, and well-respected masquerades here on the East Coast, and founded the first chapter of the International Costumers Guild. He was a big name at Balticon, Costume Con, and a number of other events, and was a much sought-after MC for various masquerades. He worked at Castle Blood for a number of years, playing vampires for the haunted attraction.
Despite being a pretty big name in the costuming world, Marty was always down-to-earth and very welcoming and supportive of costumers of every level. He wasn’t a push-over (he did judge for costume contests and masquerades, after all, and would let you know what could have been improved), but he was polite and helpful and honestly wanted to help people improve their craft. Perhaps it was because he was a fellow Midwesterner (Ohio!). I think it’s just…that was Marty. He encouraged people to call him “Uncle Marty,” and I know many people looked up to him, using him as a measurement for professionalism and poise in this community.
I remember attending panels where he gave advice on what judges would look at and pay attention to, in terms of masquerade and worksmanship judging. He gave wonderful insight into an area of the con that many of us just don’t know much about, and was not afraid to talk about some of the mistakes he himself had made in his years costuming. Looking at his work, though, it’s hard to think of Marty as making mistakes. The man could talk better with full fangs in his mouth than anyone else I’ve heard. That’s talent.
He was just plain cool. When we saw him wandering around the bottom floor at Dragon*Con one year, Maggie and I were far and away more giddy and excited and, dare I say, starstruck than I think I’ve ever been with any of the actors I’ve met in my years of con-going. We shared whispered confessions that we wanted to be like Marty Gear.
A little while ago, word started to spread via several Dragon*Con-related Facebook pages that Marty Gear passed away today. Those of us who had the genuine pleasure of meeting him will always remember the dapper Dracula-clad gentleman who shared his knowledge with everyone, and who worked to make sure the art of costuming received its due respect and admiration.
Here’s to you, Marty.
(If you’d like to read a little more about Marty, I encourage you to check out this link to a blog post about his embroidery)