Cosplaying can be considered a hobby for certain. Cosplaying can be a hobby for some people, but it is also a way of living. No matter if you’ve been involved in cosplay or not, cosplay is a common thing in our society. Costumes require lots of time and effort to make so that people can take part in activities that let them embody their favorite characters. For the uninitiated cosplay may seem the same as dressing as a witch on Halloween. If you’re skilled in the art, cosplay is more than the act of dressing up. It’s about fully immersing yourself as a character and performing before thousands of spectators.
How did this phenomenon begin? How did cosplay evolve from ‘dress up for adults’ into something that is now considered an art form and a representation of one’s fandom?
The History of Cosplay
Cosplay was initially referred to as “costuming”, but it was first introduced in the 1930s in North America. It wasn’t required that people mimic a person’s appearance in the past. They simply had to dress appropriately for the genre. This is the way that Forrest J. Ackerman wore his futuristic attire when he attended an event based on science fiction. He was the very first participant to dress in costume, so in the years following conventions started to appear like masquerade balls and prizes were awarded to the person with the best costume.’
In Japan Manga series, Urusei Yatsura, and the television series, Mobile Suit Gundam, helped launch the trend, as Japanese college students eagerly dressed as their favorite characters at conventions. By stealing the custom of dressing as characters from North America, fans would play their favorite scenes which added to the excitement, since they could show their adoration for the series.
It was not until 1984 that the word ‘cosplay was created, combining the words ‘costume’ with ‘play’. Nobuyuki Takahashi (Japanese reporter) coined the term following his visit to Worldcon Los Angeles. When he translated the term masquerade to the Japanese crowd, he felt that the word sounded ‘too old-fashioned’ and used “cosplay” to define the concept. Fast forward to the present age of cosplay, which has created a subculture of its own. In North America, it is no longer odd to see people dressed in costume at events. Cosplay has been able to expand beyond sci-fi and anime to encompass other genres such as superheroes, cartoon characters, and video game characters. Similarly to this, Japan has embodied cosplay as a part of its pop culture, especially in districts such as Harajuku and Shibuya. Cosplayers dress in costumes all the time, so it’s not uncommon to find one who stands in the crowd.
Maid cafes are also popular. In these establishments, a waitress dress as a maid to assist her client (aka the boss). This type of roleplaying might be considered ‘odd’ to some people, which brings us back to the question of the reason people participate in cosplay in the first place.
The Reasons People Take Part
There are many motives for why people engage in the art of cosplay. Just as how it’s fun to dress as a different person on Halloween, cosplayers enjoy transforming themselves into a character. In the BuzzFeedYellow video, “Why I cosplay” Two cosplayers talk about how acting as someone else helps them gain the strength they need to boost their confidence. One cosplayer says, “Cosplay allows me to be the character I want to be.” I can live in awe of the coolness of these characters.” Because cosplay is focused on the likeness to the character thought is put into top-quality costumes and realistic roleplaying. Cosplay can be described as acting out in a certain way. Participants are required to dress and act as the character they’re portraying when they’ve donned their costumes.
In this subculture, there’s an underlying sense of community. Whether one enjoys sewing models, photography, or sewing Fans can connect with others part of the same fandom. There is a sense of unity and it’s exciting to see another person cosplay in the same role as another character from the same series. To make everyone happy pictures of the group are taken and fan services are provided. Cosplayers can get together on other occasions than conventions. For instance, those who are into costumes will attend sewing sessions to make their costumes with other cosplayers. They also share tips for building their costumes. Cosplay beach parties and club events are hosted by enthusiasts who allow cosplayers the chance to dress in different locations.
All cosplayers share the same thing they are all doing this for enjoyment. Even though it takes patience and effort, the rewards are great. In the end, no one has the time to make a costume to then wear once it’s done. It’s a chance to show off the fandom and is attainable by anyone interested in learning.
While many cosplayers are in it for enjoyment, there are a few who use it to earn money. Jessica Nigri, a cosplayer and well-known celebrity, gained a lot of attention when her ‘Sexy Pikachu‘ costume went online. She has been a model for cosplay since then for a variety of characters such as Connor Kenway in Assassin’s creed III, Vivienne Squall in KILLER IS DEAD, and the female Captain Edward Kenway in Assassin’s creed IV: Black Flag. Her fandom has grown exponentially, as she has Facebook fan pages Tumblrs, Facebook fan pages, and a subreddit dedicated to her. Jessica also sells autographed posters of her on the side and is paid to design costumes for the latest video games.
Jessica Nigri isn’t the only cosplayer to charge for the privilege of having their photo taken. While monetization is a way to help creators, it could also cause problems. Angelia Bermudez from Costa Rica was left in limbo because of fraud. While she was assured that the cost of her hotel and flights would be covered, she realized that she was being cheated when the person in charge of her accommodation was arrested. She was not able to go back home because of the kindness of her kind-hearted supporters.
This is the risk that professional cosplayers have to take. Sadly, people who put so much effort into their craft are not taken seriously. What makes a cosplayer a professional? What is the costume or the way they model them? What is it that makes a costume ‘good’ in the first place?
What is the best way to create great cosplay?
In August of 2015, Buzzfeed’s Try Guys released a four-part series looking at the subject of cosplay. In this series, the Try Guys learned how much effort goes into a costume before attending a convention. It was a mystery to the group how one costume could take 700 hours. This has led to others thinking about all the factors required for a successful cosplay.
1. Pay attention to the details
It is crucial to prepare for cosplay events and be patient when putting on the costume. Although they might not be able to tell the difference between wigs and materials they will be able to tell that the costume is not well-made. The most avid fans will also be aware if details are missing (such as wristbands), hence multiple photos should be analyzed before making the costume. However, what catches the eye more than any else is the fit of the costume to the individual. Therefore, cosplayers should make sure they can fit it into their body proportions, regardless of whether they have a similar body type as the person they portray.
Cosplay is also about the overall appearance. If a character is unique, features such as whiskers or elf ears makeup can add to the look. If a cosplayer decides to portray Naruto as Sage, they must be aware of the red/orange pigmentation surrounding his eyes.
The fans have the full freedom to make their characters look more attractive as long as they are recognizable. Gender swapping is one of the most popular ways to alter the appearance of a character. Gender swaps alter the gender of the character and modify the costume accordingly. For instance, The Try Guys decided to make a gender swap by doing male versions of the Sailor Scouts.
It is also possible to alter your costume to fit an alternative theme, such as steampunk or Victorian. It’s not just a way to show creativity, but it also requires imagination, as there might not be any photos to use as references. But, making too many changes risks onlookers to not recognizing the character. It can be tiring to endlessly answer the question “Who is it that you are supposed to be?”
Confidence helps a person distinguish themselves from others in identical costumes. Although it can feel awkward initially for cosplayers, how they dress and interact with others influences the experience. But confidence can be built, as long as the person is willing to put themselves out in public. Kristen Lanae, a cosplayer, is an example of shy woman who credits cosplay for helping build confidence. She said that she has always been quiet and shy however, when she’s dressed up in costumes it makes her feel alive. I’d say it’s because of all the good reactions that I receive when I am dressed in costume.”
If you are seeking out cosplay, there is lot of assistance available. It is possible to take pictures of their progress or request suggestions on how to build the perfect item of clothing. Some people support cosplayers to play along and post on their social media accounts to admire their work. As with all art forms, there are always dangers. People may not be able to admire your work or might find it confusing. But because cosplay is a form of physical art There are greater risks than onlookers simply not understanding the cosplayer’s costume.
Cosplay: The Risques
1. Sexual Harassment
However, certain characters are created to make a statement, with spandex bodysuits or uniforms for high school with short skirts. Fans can forget there are people inside these costumes and become engulfed in fantasies about their favorite character. This can be a problem since a lot of sexual harassment incidents have been reported by cosplayers who are trying to enjoy the events. Women have been harassed, and even men have been put down for not fitting into a specific costume. That’s why organizers have adopted anti-harassment guidelines to educate people about the issue. At New York Comic Con, you will see a sign which states that “Cosplay is Not Consent’ and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
Be aware that cosplaying as a character is not an invitation to sexual harassment or lewd remarks. It should be practiced freely without being concerned about the potential of harassing others.
As we’ve said before some fans are obsessed with how the character is supposed to appear in real life. Cosplayers who do not look like the character are usually judged. This is not a good way to conduct this art. People come in different shapes and dimensions, and should not be body-shamed if they don’t match the body shape of the character. Yaya Han, who is a renowned cosplayer who is a defender of all cosplaying body types has spoken out on this issue. She says:
Cosplay should be an enjoyable experience for all. There are numerous benefits of cosplay even though there are some negatives. So, it is not a reason to be discouraged to cosplay as their favorite character. Cosplaying is a fantastic way to make friends and play another role. It’s a great way to show your fandom and meet people who have similar interests. For instance, when will you ever get to see Naruto have lunch with Superman?
Cosplay has evolved from masquerading into an art form. Although it can be considered mimicry, some individuals put their creative twist into their costumes and overall appearance. What once was a hobby has allowed participants to make careers out of cosplaying, which demonstrates the prevalence of cosplay in society. It has become part of the subculture, and can no longer be considered ‘dress up for adults’.
Cosplay is regarded as an art form because it’s an artistic expression that allows people to change into various characters. Like all other forms of art, is a product of enthusiasm and then becomes tangible once one decides to make it come to life.
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Morgan, Maybelle. “Shy Cosplay Fanatic reveals how Dressing up as Iconic Action and Fantasy Heroines Helped Her Overcome a Lifetime of Low Self-esteem.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, 27 Jul 2015. Web.
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