Hey there, Nerds! If you’ve ever wondered about the Wonderful World of Cosplay, but weren’t sure what it is, what qualifies as a cosplay, or how to get involved, then you’re in luck! Today, we’re going to briefly go over the basic aspects of cosplay in this handy-dandy primer.
While I am by no means an expert Cosplayer, I hope that this can provide some insight into the community, and provide some useful information.
But, enough jabbering: let’s dive right in!
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post provided by my friend Mickey from the Nerdily Blog. Knowing very little about the world of Cosplay, I found this article very insightful. Enjoy! -Jason
WHAT IS “COSPLAY”?
Cosplay—or “costume play”—is the art and practice of portraying a fictional character through the use of handmade/modified items, bought costume pieces, or a combination of both. The practice and term first originated in Japan, and the word “cosplay” can refer to the actual costume or the act of dressing up. If you’ve seen convention footage, or seen a picture of someone dressed up as a character, then you’ve probably seen a cosplayer.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COSPLAY AND A COSTUME?
From an outsider’s perspective, there may not seem like there’s much of a difference between cosplay and a costume you can pick up at a store. In reality, there are some differences that separate the two in major ways. These intricacies may seem innocuous, but to a cosplayer, they are what define their craft.
Cosplay, to many, is a lifestyle—or even a profession. Many cosplayers take the art of cosplaying seriously, and dedicate enormous amounts of time and effort to fabricate an ensemble wherein they can portray a character to the fullest extent.
A costume, on the other hand, is generally considered to be more so a one-and-done deal. If you think of it in the Halloween costume sense, most people go to a costume shop, buy a costume and the pieces required for it, wear it once, and they’re done with that. All of the costuming, pieces, accessories, etc., are provided. And yes, you can absolutely make a Halloween or party costume, but afterwards you may hang up that costume and be done with it until next Halloween.
While this is by no means a terrible practice, or one that should be frowned upon, when it comes to cosplay vs. costumes, it’s the attitude that counts. And yes, while many cosplayers can go buy cosplay pieces or even whole ensembles, it’s all in the intent of the cosplay.
But, while there may be nuanced differences between costumes and cosplays, there are a great many people who have found that making their own Halloween costumes are a gateway to cosplay (I am one of those people).
If you begin to plan your costume months in advance, search for the perfect—and accurate—accessories, and labor over the costume right up until the night before Halloween, you may just be beginning your foray into the Wonderful World of Cosplay!
MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT COSPLAY
Because cosplay is such a niche activity, there are many assumptions and misconceptions about the practice. Before you get started, let’s dispel some of those so that we have a clean slate:
Cosplay is only for professionals / professional seamstresses
Absolutely not! My first cosplay was comprised only of items that I had thrifted! And you would not believe the wonders hot glue can do.
Cosplay is expensive
It can be, unless you shop around for the best deals, budget well, and know how to utilize materials. Is it the cheapest hobby? No, not really, but what hobby is super cheap?
I have to have a great body / great physique to cosplay my favorite characters
HELL NO! And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar! I am a 5′ 5″ woman who wears a US size 12-14, but that doesn’t stop me from dressing up at Batgirl. Sure, it can be uncomfortable to cosplay depending on your personal body image, but cosplaying can help you love yourself a little more. If you are trying to achieve a certain body goal, and cosplay happens to be in your future, then good for you! But it is certainly not a requirement.
You HAVE to look exactly like the character you want to cosplay
Not true whatsoever! Many Cosplayers put their own twist on a beloved character design. For example: Bree of Breezeeweezee Cosplay put a Viking spin to her Pocahontas cosplay with fabulous results! Sometimes, you’ve just got to put your own creative spin on it.
Cosplay is only for INSERT A DEMOGRAPHIC HERE
I’m only going to say this once: COSPLAY IS FOR EVERYONE!
HOW CAN I GET STARTED/INVOLVED IN COSPLAY?
If you’re ready to dive right in, there are some steps you can take to become involved in cosplay. Here are my tips to getting started:
- Assess your crafty skills: everyone has a strength in some crafty or artistic skill set, so use that to your advantage. If you love putting things together, you may be one to fabricate cosplay pieces from scratch. If you can sew (on a machine or by hand), then you can create actual costuming components. So, go with your strengths!
- Search the internet for inspiration: Places like Google, Pinterest, and Instagram are great resources for finding inspiration, tips, tricks, and advice on cosplaying. When you have some free time, start browsing for a cosplay or cosplay ideas to help get your creative juices flowing. Also, YouTube has a WEALTH of tutorials to explore and gain new skills from.
- Find cosplay forums and communities: Facebook, Google+, and other social media sites yield excellent forums and communities that are geared towards Cosplayers and the craft of cosplay. The biggest cosplay forum is the famous RPF, which has many posts on how to craft your own cosplay, and a community of other Cosplayers. Finding communities will definitely come in handy when you get started and need some help or support.
- Ask questions: Once you’ve found other Cosplayers, start asking questions! Many Cosplayers love to talk about the craft, give pointers, and guide other Cosplayers on their journeys. And never be afraid to reach out!
- Don’t be afraid to use thrift store/Amazon/store-bought pieces: Sometimes it’s easier to buy a pre-made piece and alter it to your liking. This is not an uncommon practice in the cosplay community, and buying pieces does not mean that you aren’t a Cosplayer! You can’t make everything, and often the option to buy a cosplay piece is your best and only option. Go with your skill-set, and your budget!
- YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SEW TO COSPLAY: This is the one question I get all the time: “How can I cosplay if I don’t know how to sew?” You don’t! While knowing how to sew definitely helps, it is not a requirement. My first 4 cosplays were created through thrifted and modified pieces, so it is possible!
While there are many other smaller factors that can play into these tips, my biggest tip to any new cosplayer is to never get discouraged, and KEEP WORKING ON IT.
If you are interested in learning more about cosplay, and what I do, you can take a look at my lengthy costume guides, cosplay posts, and my social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)! I love talking with new/fellow Cosplayers, and I try to provide support where possible.
Also, huge thanks goes to Jason for letting me ramble about cosplay over on his space! And thank you for reading.