Cosplay has become really trendy lately – but what IS it, exactly?
by Rhys McKay
What Is Cosplay?
Cosplay is the act of dressing up as a character or concept. People who do it regularly are called ‘cosplayers’. Cosplayers may also go above and beyond copying their character’s outfits – they might even ‘role-play’ as characters, copying their mannerisms and gestures.
When And Where Did Cosplay Start?
Although the term was coined in the 1980s, the practice of cosplaying has its roots in early 15th century carnivales where people dressed up as objects, concepts, famous historical figures, or popular characters from fiction or stage plays.
This roleplay as we know it today (or fan costuming) started at the 1st World Science Fiction Convention. Contemporary cosplay follows in this tradition and is often done at comic or pop culture conventions, like at San Diego Comic-Con.
How Does it Work?
One of the aims is to portray a character. You can do this ‘accurately’ by copying a character’s exact look, down to the details. You can also put your own creative spin on it! Cosplayers achieve their looks through a mixture of costumes, wigs, accessories, and props.
Is Cosplay Trendy Now?
Even as recent as 15 or 20 years, all things ‘geeky’ like comics and cosplaying were considered a little uncool. But today, the cosplay community is bigger than ever. Not only are more people getting into it, but cosplay itself is becoming more and more lucrative.
A lot of top-tier cosplayers like Enji Night, Hana Bunny, or Jessica Nigri have made cosplaying their career. They get paid to dress up, attend cons, and even promote brands!
How Old Is The Average Cosplayer?
There are cosplayers of all ages! A lot of people start out rolepaying when they’re young, but you’ll also find older people (some with families of their own) attending cosplay events and dressing up.
Can Both Men And Women Play?
Cosplay is open to people of all genders, orientations, and expressions. You’ll even find cosplayers ‘cross-dressing’ or ‘gender-swapping’ where they dress up as a character of the opposite sex.
Is it Misogynistic?
One of the criticisms lodged at cosplay is that some people take it into over-sexualised territory. These cosplayers get accused of ‘objectifying’ themselves or dressing up as the ‘hot’ version of a character just for clicks and likes. It isn’t inherently misogynist, but if you’re uncomfortable with sexy plays, stick to standard versions of non-sexy characters.
Is it Racist?
Another issue within the cosplay community is the debate on cosplaying a character of a different race. People of all backgrounds can play, so it does happen very frequently that their favourite character might not be of the same ethnicity. As long as you play with respect (and avoid black/brownface), it’s okay to cosplay a character of a different skin colour or nationality.
When And Where Can I Find Cosplay Events?
The great news is that there are cosplay events all over the world – even in countries where you least expect it. Most pop culture conventions like comic-con, video game cons, and more are open to cosplayers. In Australia, Oz Comic-Con, Supanova, and PAX Australia are just a handful of events you can check out. Some even have competitions where the best plays get a prize!
Other kinds of cosplay events include live action-role playing events, historical reenactments, Renaissance faires, D&D game sessions, and the like.
How Much Does It Cost To Cosplay?
It is generally an expensive hobby since you need to shell out for costumes, wigs, and more. But if you’re resourceful and a bit handy, you can save a lot of money by making your own outfits and props. You can also do something called ‘closet cosplay’ which is using clothes you already own to recreate a character’s costume or do a ‘casual’ version.
In Which Cultures/Countries Is It More Popular?
Cosplay is popular all over the world, but it’s most popular in the United States, South Korea, and China. However, no one quite does it like the Japanese, where it isn’t just a hobby – it’s part of the culture. This is not surprising, especially since anime is one of the most popular sources of inspiration.
How To Do Cosplay
Pick a character or concept you want to dress up as. Consider your favourite comics, TV shows, and movies. You can even dress up as a meme!
Choose the ‘style’ you want to do your costume in. Are you going to copy the character/concept as accurately as possible? Or do you want to do a special ‘version’ of it, like a steampunk version, sexy version, gender-swapped version, etc.?
Shop for your costume pieces. You can check out sites like Ezcosplay for cosplay-specific items, or you can go to your nearest mall/clothing store to build it from scratch. If you have money to spare, you can pay a costume-maker to make the outfit and props for you.
OPTIONAL: If you want to take your cosplay to the next level, practice ‘acting’ as the character. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but at least try to get their moves or poses down for the photos.
This article is illustrated with some photos posted by very popular Cosplayer. I will reveal links to his works in some of coming articles dedicated to an art of Cosplay and Cosplayers. I must say that I am very impress with his photographic skills. You will certainly nob be disappointed.