The Art of Cosplay

The Art of CosplayWhen people hear me mention “cosplay,” some aren’t exactly sure what that means, so I thought I’d give a little background here on the art of cosplay.

The word “cosplay” is an abridged form of the words “Costume Play.” Initially the term was most often associated with anime and manga characters, but as time progressed the definition was expanded upon to include other costumes as well. These days the word “cosplay” is generally accepted as a term for any type of costume based on a comic, TV, movie, book, video game, anime, or manga character. Some cosplayers even mash up two or more characters to create a new character, or some design their very own original characters in which they create not only the costume, but also the backstory for their characters.

The “play” in the word cosplay is just as important as the costume itself. Many cosplayers practice the speaking accent and bodily mannerisms of the character they’re portraying (after all, what would Jack Sparrow be without some exaggerated motions?) Part of the beauty of the cosplay community is that people can go to a convention and instantly interact with people they never met, simply because they share a love of the same fandom (it’s also great for introverts like my brother and I who sometimes have trouble mingling in large groups of people, but find it very easy to be social when we’re in character). The play is also a large part in many cosplay contests with people creating well-crafted skits to accompany their costumes on stage.

The Art of Cosplay

Dr. Who and Poison Ivy Cosplayers at RocCon

Cosplay is much like a movie in which the entire production sits in one person’s hands. A cosplayer doesn’t just produce a costume, they take on the role of researcher (in comic books especially there are often several costume variations to choose from for a particular character), designer (it’s not always easy to translate a drawn wardrobe into a real life costume), seamstress, crafter, painter, sculptor, woodworker, hair stylist, makeup artist, electrician (for costumes with moving or light-up parts), writer (particularly those doing cosplay skits) and finally actor.

Over the years, cosplay has gone from being a simple hobby to a serious craft with some people even making a career out of creating amazing costumes. Unlike Halloween costumes, which are often cheaply made, as most people only wear them once, cosplay costumes are usually stronger and more elaborate than Halloween costumes with greater emphases on the details. These costumes are meant to be worn multiple times.

As the popularity of cosplay has grown, so has the amount of materials and techniques at the cosplayer’s disposal. These days the cosplayer can find a much more impressive collection of fabrics, wigs, and armor making materials to make their cosplays even more incredible. It’s also easier for newbies to get into cosplay now.

In the beginning, the cosplayer had to make most everything themselves, therefore their costumes were entirely dependent upon their own skill level. Everyone’s skill level is different and someone may want to cosplay a costume outside of their own ability to make. Also most cosplayers don’t make a living off cosplay, therefore work and family responsibilities may not leave them enough time to craft their own costumes. Now a cosplayer who prefers not to make their own costume can find many popular costume pieces readily made. There are also many people who will make a custom costume for a cosplayer.

What’s your favorite costume from your past or present? Or what would be your dream cosplay?

Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

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