Costume Play All About Cosplay
Dressing up as one's favorite character isn't a new activity: One only has to think of Halloween and the many children who don the costumes of their favorite superheroes for confirmation of that. But while Halloween takes place but once a year, one can dress up and take on the persona of their favorite character at any time throughout the year. Costume play, which is more commonly known as "cosplay," is a popular activity in which children, teens, and adults dress up as their favorite fictional character. The number of people who participate in cosplay (known as cosplayers) is steadily growing as the pastime becomes increasingly popular. For people who are not familiar with cosplay, it can seem unusual to see adults walking around in costume; however, it is an activity that people enjoy around the world.
Cosplay is a recreational activity just like any other. People participate because they find enjoyment in everything from interacting with the cosplay community to the creation of their costumes to seeing the costumes of others. For some cosplayers, the activity involves simply dressing as one's favorite character, while for other people, it also means assuming a certain persona and actually playing or acting out one's favorite character. In the U.S., conventions are the most common place to find large numbers of cosplayers; however, meetings, clubs, and other smaller gatherings are also becoming more common for people who enjoy this activity.
The term cosplay is a fairly new one, with origins in the 1980s; however the concept is not new. "Cosplay" is a Japanese term that was coined by Takahashi Nobuyuki, founder of an anime company known as Studio Hard. In 1984, Nobuyuki went to Los Angeles for Worldcon, which is a science fiction convention. During the convention, he took note of sci-fi fans dressed in costume and the masquerades and contests that were held. During this time, he coined the word cosplay. Because there was nothing similar in Japan for video game, manga, and anime fans, the idea and the phrase quickly caught on there. As cosplay involving anime, manga, and video games in Japan grew, its popularity began to spread beyond Japan. This created the wrongful assumption that it was created there. Dressing in character in the U.S. has, in fact, been around since as early as 1939 and that year's World Science Fiction Convention, when a fan dressed up in what he referred to as his "futuristicostume."
Cosplay in the United States and in Japan differ somewhat. In Japan, cosplay is often taken more seriously, is more common and mainstream, and there is an actual industry supporting it. People living in Japan, for example, can find shops or restaurants that cater to cosplay costumes. Although a large segment of cosplayers in Japan may choose to dress as anime characters, the term also refers to dressing up as any number of things, including characters in movies, or even as real-life professionals or people such as school girls, nurses, or maids. In the U.S., the term cosplay has primarily referred to portraying science fiction, comic-book, anime, or video game characters. In addition, in America, cosplay is not as commonplace as in Japan or as mainstream. American cosplayers typically participate for the casual fun of it and for the opportunity to display their costumes.
In the United States, people come by their costumes in a number of ways. Some may go online to order pre-made costumes of the characters that they are interested in portraying, or they may choose to go online to commission a costume made specifically for them. The latter can be relatively expensive, which is one of the reasons many people opt to make their own costumes. In fact, for a vast majority of people who participate in cosplay, part of the fun comes from taking a more DIY approach, and thus they make their costumes from scratch. Cosplayers also take a certain amount of pride in showcasing their homemade costumes as well. Costumes that people make can be as complicated or simple as their abilities allow. Knowing how to sew or knowing someone who can sew is important when it comes to certain characters and complex costumes. Generally, people who sew their own costumes will need to use a bit of creativity, as patterns for most costumes are not available. There are some websites online where people can get and share ideas about costumes, which can be helpful. Another option is to use patterns for clothing that is similar in basic appearance and make alterations as needed to suit the desired outcome. For people who don't know how to use a sewing machine, a little creativity and picking the right character is helpful. Some characters may dress in more "normal" attire versus elaborate costumes. Other character costumes may easily be replicated by pairing the right clothing items together and making small alterations. Although creating a costume that closely mirrors the original is also a source of great pride, less-than-perfect costumes are common, expected, and also a part of the fun of cosplay.
What a person wears is only a part of the overall costume. Depending on the character, there will also be makeup, wigs, and props or accessories. Wigs, particularly for anime characters, can be a wide range of colors, from red to baby blue. Wigs can be purchased already dyed, or they may be dyed the appropriate color after purchase. For full-body makeup, a person would need to invest in makeup that is either theatrical or spray-on. These types of makeup will give full coverage and won't wear off easily.
Learn more about cosplay and what it's about by clicking on any of the following links:
- Research for Costumes (Video)