Costume play, more widely known as cosplay, is the hobby of dressing up as characters from various fandoms such as anime, video games, TV, movies or comics. Cosplaying has been gaining popularity since the 90s, but it has been around much longer (Trekkies of the 1960s, anyone?).
Because cosplaying has been gaining pop culture’s attention so rapidly, there are many misconceptions about what the cosplay community is. We’re not all antisocial, Japanese-obsessed, overly sexualized, master seamstresses! The community is made up of all different types of people—people with different body types, different fandoms, and different levels of craftsmanship.
All bodies welcome
Many people in the community (or outside the community) think that, in order to cosplay, the cosplayer must have a body type that exactly matches the character. While I don’t support this idea, I know there are many bigger women out there who work hard to cosplay to fit their body type, simply because they prefer to cosplay that way.
Several of my friends will take an existing character’s costume and make small adjustments in order to make themselves feel more comfortable in the costume. I’ve seen girls take a nearly thong bottom of a character such as Kitana from Mortal Kombat and change it into shorts: this method maintains the idea of the character while allowing the cosplayer to stay in their own personal comfort zone.
Craftsmanship is also a big area of discussion in the cosplay community. Not everyone has the skills or resources to make everything from scratch, but thankfully China exists. There are many websites that sell a variety of premade costumes from popular series for a relatively low cost, such as EZCosplay or Hello Cosplay. But, be aware: it is a cheaper costume, so it isn’t always the best quality—less money spent usually means cheaper fabric and shoddy stitching! If you are willing to spend more than $150, there are many people who do costume commissions. Commissions can be perfect for your body and style, but can easily skyrocket in price because you are paying for a person’s time and energy on top of the materials that go into making the costume. If you’re interested in commissioning a costume, try finding a costume artist on Etsy, Storenvy, or Cosplay.com.
Those who are able to make their own costumes are able to make costumes for a lot less than even pre-bought costumes in most cases. Making your own costume doesn’t necessarily mean buying the fabric and making all the pieces from that. Depending on the costume and the complexity, it is really easy to go to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any other second hand store to find pieces that will work for your specific costume. I know I’ve even pulled some random clothes out of my closet, put on a wig, and called it a Mary Jane Watson cosplay.
There are many things that can be done to make an affordable costume depending on the series. Granted, if you are trying to make full body armor, it probably won’t be inexpensive. Several of my friends make full body armor or chainmail costumes that easily take up to several months to complete. I haven’t had the opportunity to make such a complicated costume yet, but with all the sewing I do for my costumes, I put in twenty to fifty hours of work start-to-finish per costume.
When I look to make a new cosplay, I start by choosing a series I really enjoy and then pick which character I want to make. I tend to pick characters based on my opinion of the character, as well as the character’s design—I don’t want to make anything that isn’t visually appealing! From there, it’s all about gaining as much reference material as possible: the more angles I can get of the character, the better off I am for my fabric decisions and overall construction.
The pros of cons
Cosplaying is an easy way to make friends through various events and conventions. Events and cons can range from several hundred people, such as hyper-con, to tens of thousands of people (such as San Diego Comic-Con or WonderCon). There are many events going on—it’s just a matter of finding them near you!
Events and cons are easy to find via Google or even just by talking to other people in the community. The cosplay community is a very tight-knit and strives to help one another to be successful in the hobby. To start a discussion online, try visiting Cosplay.com for tips on building your cosplay, or share pictures of your art with other cosplayers on DeviantArt.
Photos by Meaghan Morrison