An Overview of Cosplay: Exploring the Subculture

To some, cosplaying is a hobby. To others, cosplaying is a lifestyle. Whether you have participated in cosplay or not, cosplay has become prevalent in today’s society. Ample time and labour is spent on creating these costumes, in order for individuals to participate in events that allow them to embody their favourite characters. To the uninformed, cosplay is the same as dressing up as a witch for Halloween. But for those who practice the art, cosplay is more than just dressing up – it is fully immersing oneself as a character and performing in front of hundreds of fans.

How did this phenomenon start? When did cosplay grow from being ‘dress up for adults’ into something which has been accepted as a sub culture and a representation of one’s fandom?

The History of Cosplay

Forrest J. Ackerman in his “futuristicostume” in 1939
Forrest J. Ackerman in his “futuristicostume” in 1939.

Initially dubbed as ‘costuming’, cosplay began in the late 1930s in North America. Back then, cosplay did not require participants to mimic a character’s appearance. Rather, they simply needed to dress appropriately for the genre, which is what Forrest J. Ackerman did in his futuristic costume when he attended a sci-fi convention. He was the first attendee to show up in costume, so in the following years, conventions began to look like masquerade balls, and prizes were given to whoever had the ‘best costume.’

In Japan, the manga series, Urusei Yatsura, and television series, Mobile Suit Gundam, helped launch the movement, as Japanese college students eagerly dressed as their favourite characters for conventions. Borrowing the practice of masquerading from North America, fans would re-enact their favourite scenes, which added to the excitement, as they were able to display their adoration for the series.

It was not until 1984 that the term ‘cosplay’ was invented, combining the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. This was coined by the Japanese reporter, Nobuyuki Takahashi, after he attended Worldcon in Los Angeles. When translating the word ‘masquerade’ to the Japanese audience, he thought that the word sounded ‘too old-fashioned’ and used ‘cosplay’ to describe the concept.

Nobuyaki Takashi's cosplay article, which was released in 1983.
Nobuyuki Takahashi’s cosplay article, which was released in 1983.

Fast forward to today, a time when cosplay has created a subculture of its own. In North America, it is no longer odd to see people donned in costume at conventions. Cosplay is no longer limited to just sci-fi or anime, but has branched into other categories, such as superheroes, cartoon characters, video game characters, and more. Similarly, Japan has embodied cosplay as part of their pop culture, especially in districts such as Harajuku and Shibuya. Cosplayers in these areas dress up on a daily basis, so it is not odd to see someone stand out amongst all the civilians.

A couple of cosplayers walking around Harajuku.
A couple of cosplayers walking around Harajuku.

As well, maid cafes have become extremely popular, in which a waitress is dressed as a maid and serves her ‘master’ (aka the customer). This type of roleplaying might be considered ‘odd’ to others, which draws us to the question of why people choose to participate in cosplay in the first place.

Why People Participate

There are many reasons as to why participants dwell in the art of cosplay. Just as how it’s fun to dress up as a different person on Halloween, cosplayers enjoy transforming themselves into a character. In BuzzFeedYellow’s video, “Why I cosplay”, two cosplayers share that being someone else gives them strength because it helps with their confidence. One explains, “Through cosplay, I can become these characters. I could live vicariously with how cool they are.” Since cosplay focuses on the likeness to the character, thought is put into high quality costumes and realistic roleplaying. In a sense, cosplaying is like acting, for participants must get into character and behave like them once they wear their costume.

Within this subculture, there is also a strong sense of community. Whether one enjoys sewing, modeling, or photography, fans are able to interact with others who are in the same fandom. There is a sense of unity, and it’s thrilling to see another person cosplay as the same character or another character from the same series. Group photos are taken, and ‘fan service’ is performed to get onlookers excited. In some cases, cosplayers will get together for occasions other than conventions. For example, those who enjoy making costumes attend sewing parties to work on their costumes with other cosplayers and share construction tips. There are also cosplay beach parties and club events that are hosted by enthusiasts, which give cosplayers opportunities to wear their costume in different locations.

Ultimately, what all cosplayers have in common is that each person goes into this hobby because it’s fun. It requires time and dedication, but it is also rewarding to see the results. After all, nobody spends hours making their costume just to begrudgingly put it on once it’s done. It’s an opportunity to represent a fandom, and can be practiced by anyone who’s willing to learn.


Jessica Nigri - a cosplay celebrity.
Jessica Nigri – a cosplay celebrity.

Although many cosplayers participate for fun, there are some who do it to earn a living. For example, the cosplay celebrity, Jessica Nigri, became popular when her ‘Sexy Pikachu‘ costume was posted on the Internet. Since then, she has appeared in conventions as the official cosplay model for numerous characters, such as Connor Kenway (Assassin’s Creed III), Vivienne Squall (KILLER IS DEAD), and the female version of Captain Edward Kenway (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag). Her fandom has grown exponentially, as she has Facebook fan pages, Tumblrs, and a subreddit dedicated to her. Jessica also sells autographed posters of herself on the side and gets paid to create costumes for new video games that come out.

Other than Jessica Nigri, there are also cosplayers who charge money for their photos to be taken. Although monetization supports participants in the craft, it also creates complications. Angelia Bermudez, a Costa Rican cosplayer, was stranded in a foreign country as a victim of fraud. She was promised that her hotel and plane ticket would be covered, but realized too late that she was being scammed, as the person who was in charge of her accommodations was arrested. As a result, she was only able to return home because of the donations of her kind-hearted fans.

These are the risks that professional cosplayers face, and it is unfortunate that those who put hard work into their craft are either ridiculed or not taken seriously. But what makes a full-time cosplayer a ‘professional’ in their craft? Is it the costumes, or how someone models it? What makes a cosplay ‘good’ in the first place?

What Makes a Good Cosplay?

The costume that took 700 hours to make. Designed and modelled by Linda Le.
The costume that took 700 hours to make. Designed and modeled by Linda Le.

On August 2015, The Buzzfeed’s Try Guys released a four-part series exploring the world of cosplay. In this series, the Try Guys learned how much effort goes into a costume before a convention. They were baffled at how one costume could take 700 hours to complete, which leads others to think about the factors that go into making a good cosplay.

1. Attention to Detail

When preparing for a cosplay convention, it is important to plan ahead and take one’s time with the costume. Although on-lookers may not be able to tell the difference between two fabrics or wigs, they will notice if a costume does not look good. Avid fans will also notice if details are missing (such as a wristband), hence multiple photos should be analyzed before making the costume. However, what catches the eye more than anything else is how the costume fits on the person. Therefore, cosplayers should tailor the costume so that it fits their body proportions, regardless if they have the same body type as the character.

Cosplay is also about the overall appearance. Makeup can help accentuate the look, especially if a character has special features, such as whiskers, elf ears, etc. For example, Naruto in sage mode has orange/red pigmentation around his eyes, so this is a detail a cosplayer should not miss if they decide to cosplay as Naruto’s Sage mode.

The Try Guys cosplaying as Sailor Moon characters, but putting their own 'galactic rockstar' twist.
The Try Guys cosplaying as Sailor Moon characters, but putting their own ‘galactic rockstar’ twist.

2. Creativity

As long as the character can be recognized, fans have creative freedom with their costumes. One of the most popular ways to change a character’s design is to do a gender swap. A gender swap changes the gender of the character and modifies the costume accordingly. For example, The Try Guys decided to do a gender swap by doing a male version of the Sailor Scouts.

Another popular choice is to modify the costume to fit a different theme, such as steampunk, Victorian, lolita, etc. This not only exudes creativity, but requires imagination, as there might not be a photo to use as reference. However, too many modifications risks onlookers to not recognize the character, and it can be tiring to endlessly answer the question: “Who are you supposed to be?”

3. Confidence

Confidence helps a person stand out amongst those with the same costume. The way a person poses and interacts effects the experience, although it may initially feel awkward for first-time cosplayers. 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 a shy woman who thanks cosplay for helping her with her confidence. In an interview with the Daily Mail, she says, “I have always been very quiet and shy, but when I am in costume I come alive. I would say it’s because of all the positive reactions I get in costume.”

Kristen Lanae cosplaying as Misty from Pokemon
Kristen Lanae cosplaying as Misty from Pokemon.

There is an abundance of support in the community for those who want to get into cosplay. People can take photos of their progress and ask for advice on how to construct a certain item / piece of clothing. There are fans who encourage other cosplayers and comment on their social media to appreciate their work. However, with any art form, there is always a risk, as others may not see the beauty or find it confusing. But because cosplay is a physical art form, there are more risks than onlookers simply not understanding the cosplayer’s costume.

The Risks of Cosplay

1. Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, some characters are designed to be provocative, and have spandex body suits or high school uniforms with short skirts. As a result, fans forget that there are individuals inside those costumes, as they are swept up in the fantasy that their favourite character has come to life. This is a problem, as many sexual harassment cases have been reported by cosplayers who are trying to enjoy the conventions. Women have been groped, and men have been put down for not fitting a certain costume. Thus, organizers are bringing awareness to this issue by implementing anti-harassment policies. In New York’s Comic Con, attendees can see a large sign that says ‘Cosplay is Not Consent’, and that everyone should be treated with respect.

A large sign that says 'Cosplay is not Consent.' This can be seen as you enter the convention.
A large sign that says ‘Cosplay is not Consent.’ This can be seen as you enter the convention.

Remember: cosplaying a character is not an invitation for lewd comments or sexual harassment. It should be practiced freely, without participants worrying about the risk of harassment.

2. Judgement

As previously stated, there are some fans that are caught up on how a character should look like if they appear in real-life. As a result, judgement is passed onto cosplayers who do not look the part, which is incorrect practice of this art form. People come in different shapes and sizes, and should not be body-shamed if they do not match the character’s body structure. Yaya Han, a popular cosplayer and a supporter of all cosplaying body types, has spoken about this issue, as she states:

“There is no rule book, commandments, or memo on HOW you should cosplay. If you want to dress as a character that looks nothing like you, go for it! There is so much judgement on race, gender, weight, size, height and other things that CAN NOT BE CHANGED in cosplay – it has never made sense to me.”

A group of women cosplaying as Wonder Woman - all equally beautiful. (Photo credits: Patrick Sun.)
A group of women cosplaying as Wonder Woman – all equally beautiful. (Photo Credit: Patrick Sun.)

Cosplay should be an enjoyable experience for everyone. Although there are some negative aspects within the community, there are also ample amounts of positivity. Hence, people should not be discouraged to cosplay as their favourite character. Cosplaying is an opportunity to bond with those who have similar interests, and a chance to be someone else for the day. It is an opportunity to represent one’s fandom, and get to know others with the same hobbies. After all, when do you ever get to see Naruto eat lunch with Superman?

Cosplay has evolved from masquerading into an art form. Although it can be considered as mimicry, there are individuals who put their own 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 subculture, and can no longer be considered ‘dress up for adults’.

Cosplay is considered an art form, because it’s an artistic expression that empowers individuals as they transform into different characters. And just like all art forms, cosplay starts with a passion, and turns into something tangible the moment an individual decides to make it come to life.

Works Cited

Ashcraft, Brian, and Luke Plunkett. “Where The Word “Cosplay” Actually Comes From.” Kotaku, 22 Oct. 2014. Web.

BuzzFeedVideo. “The Try Guys Make Sailor Moon Costumes • Cosplay: Episode 2.” Online video clip. Youtube, 2 Aug 2015. Web.

BuzzFeedYellow. “Why I Cosplay.” Online video clip. Youtube, 9 Sept 2014. Web.

Don. “Jessica Nigri.” Know Your Meme News. Cheezburger Inc., n.d. Web.

Gallagher, Luke. “Why Manufactured Drama on Syfy’s ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ Is Ruining Cosplay.”, 21 Aug. 2013. Web.

Kondolojy, Amanda L. “Playing Dress-Up for Adults: The History of Cosplay – Cheat Code Central.” Cheat Code Central, n.d. Web.

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 July 2015. Web.

Mexican, Darth. “Cosplay Crisis: Scammed And Left In Another Country.” The Geek Lyfe., 14 July 2015. Web.

Raymond, Adam K. “75 Years Of Capes and Face Paint: A History of Cosplay.” Yahoo, 24 July 2015. Web.

Romano, Andrea. “Cosplay Is Not Consent: The People Fighting Sexual Harassment at Comic Con.” Mashable. N.p., 15 Oct. 2014. Web.

White, Kaila. “Two Metro Phoenix Women Make Cosplay a Career.” Azcentral. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web.

Featured image by Florea Flavia.

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  1. Refugio

    Good luck to all of them. People who don’t mind being serious about being silly.

  2. Christie

    The world would be a better place if there were more of this kind of stuff.

  3. I totally love pictures of people in the costumes they have created. I think it’s a wonderfully creative fun skill and I appreciate the thought, time and effort they put into doing it.

  4. Some of the outfits are incredible.

    Do a lot of these cosplayers work in the arts or entertainment industry? If not, why not.

  5. CeeKent

    I love the con and cosplay scene – been part of it, to varying degrees, for the last 6 years and last year ventured into making my own outfit pretty much from scratch with no prior sewing experience at all! Was an amazing experience, and got some great comments at the con I wore it at. I’ve met at least half my good friends through fandom which is one of the least judgemental and most accepting scenes I’ve been in.

  6. I started Cosplaying since Freshman year, and I love it! Even if I took a break from it for a while, I got back in it. I hardly go to panels at conventions and usually just walk around with my friends and look at what other people decided to wear and the different characters and such, and hang out in the Dealers room and of course the Artist Alley. My parents never heard of it, then when my dad took me to a convention once, he loved bringing me to them because of the costumes Lol.

  7. Aaron Hatch

    Cosplay is one of the most interesting and popular art form in this day and age. Some cosplays made by professionals are simply astounding; their costumes are sometimes as good or even better that than costumes seen in movies and television. The only cosplay I have ever done is of Deathstroke at Boston Comic Con last year. It was just ok, but it was fun to have people come up to me to take pictures.

  8. DClarke

    Good stuff. I think this is really comprehensive and gives a good primer to those who are unfamiliar with cosplay. It is always a shame to hear of the sexual harassment that comes with it. Such violence really taints the spirit of fun and artistry that cosplayers strive for.

  9. Some cosplayers have to purchase their outfits due to the characters they are playing. The downside is that you then can’t enter the cosplay competitions because those are only open to people who have made their own costumes etc.

  10. Why not? I lose myself in daydreams all the time and it’s no different from Cosplay in yearning sometimes to escape to a world that’s fun and where the thrill of anything dangerous is that you know it’s safe and controllable.

  11. Lara Talbott

    What fun!

  12. The geeks shall inherit the earth.

  13. There was a time when comics and SF fandom was about groups of people getting together, having a laugh, dressing up and generally having fun. Now it’s about the bigger conventions pumping out the latest shite that you’ll forget in a year and fans trying to milk fellow fans of money and the great, empty capitalist/consumerist dream goes on.

  14. Greiner

    The girls in the sexy outfits are the only reason I look at cosplay galleries on the internet.

    Leia, Kitana, that kind of thing.

  15. Big respect to them. The outfits take a lot of work to get right. There aren’t many recent phenomenons I would apply the word ‘craftsmanship’ to. But this is definitely one of them.

  16. So for the most part we have enjoyed most of the cosplayer we have met , but over the last few years I have noticed that more and more cosplayer beleive they own the con floor.

  17. Jacquline

    Just Watching and reading is good enough for me,

  18. I am so happy my dad is in to anime/manga, so he knows what a cosplay is, he lets me and helps me get all the clothing and accessories. I love him a lot, and i love cosplaying.

    • YsabelGo

      That’s great that your father helps you! My father is into anime/manga as well, but we just watch it together.

  19. Cosplayers are really cool… Well, looks like I’m gonna join them.

  20. Thank you so much for posting this. I have just started cosplaying, and I find it hard to explain to my friends that don’t do anime, actually for that matter my family also, why I love it so much. It really is the people. I’m an overly social person, so being in this atmosphere where everyone is so happy to see each other and have a commen interest is great. ^^ I will now have a way to explain why I love cosplay! Thank you so much for making this!

  21. My only gripe with this whole thing is the name. Why does everything have to have a trendy “handle”. This used to be called “dressing up as” x, y, or z. What was the problem with that? Not cool enough? Kids used to “play”, as in “Can Bill come out and play”, now they are “on a playdate”. We used to have fun “dressing up”, now we’re into “Cosplay”. Maybe I’m the only one who finds this linguistic trend pretentious and creepy, but … there it is.

    • Snowden

      Everything become abbreviated over time especially when it come to language. Do you still walk around saying “all confirmed”. It’s not really trends so much as language evolution. Words are shortened or gain double meanings with each new generation and past generations often time get annoyed that they don’t understand instead of trying to keep up in addition to having to choose whether they even need to keep up since age and societal roles forced upon us say we really shouldn’t.

    • Tisdale

      “Cosplay” is a pretty specific thing. It’s not just dressing up; it’s dressing up as characters from a loose but still delimited canon of works and participating in the convention subculture around those works. Dressing up as dracula for halloween isn’t the same thing (though I’m sure some cosplayers do that too.) So…there’s a different name because people want to be able to talk about it, I think.

      As a parent, I have qualms about “playdate” — but the sad fact is it’s a fairly useful word. I presume that’s why it has such staying power.

  22. seems like a waste of time imho

    • Leeanne

      It’s like any other form of art and entertainment. Do you think following sports is a waste of time? Reading? Painting?

  23. Until they create a character that combines the awesome powers of Superman, plus the intellect and strategy of Batman and the engineering abilities of Iron Man, the force control of Yoda and the suave of Han Solo, along with the rugged good looks of Thor, I have no one I can possibly identify with.

  24. Consuelo


  25. Most of these costumes are hand made, not store bought. They aren’t like plastic Storm Trooper costumes that can be bought off the shelf. Hand sewn, hand cast resin, hand painted. The inspiration may be from a canned source, but the skill required can be significant.

    It’s really an art contest of sorts. An ubergeeky one, but an art contest none the less.

  26. I don’t cosplay myself but I think it adds a uniqueness to the comic book/geek community. I appreciate the effort people put into their costumes and the crap they put up with just to express themselves.

  27. Holli Rodrigue

    Being a generally shy person, the costumes are a great ice breaker for conversation. It’s really a great opportunity to express yourself in ways that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and have a blast doing it.

  28. i love anime and i love cosplaying but im scared of people and am afraid to cosplay in public im also afraid of being alone so i dont just want to be a wall flower i want to go to an anime convention but im scared that ill be miserable with all the people and no one to talk to where i live their arnt many people into anime cuz every1 would rather hunt so i cant take people with me what should i do?!?!?!

    • YsabelGo

      Hmm, well when you see a person cosplaying as your favourite character from your favourite series, why don’t you try talking to them? You can compliment them on their cosplay, or start a conversation about the series. I’m sure they will appreciate it, and it might be a good ice breaker!

  29. My girlfriend cosplays I think I might start

  30. I don’t cosplay because I don’t like costumes of any sort. I have a fierce dislike of Halloween.

  31. Marquis Coley

    While I don’t cosplay, I want to chime in here because so much negativity has been laid out on those who do. As someone who attends conventions, I have to say that I admire and enjoy every cosplayer I come in contact with. You provide so much joy, excitement and happiness to the environs. There isn’t enough FUN in the world and you guys and gals provide it in abundance. I also have to add that I bring both my kids along (one boy and one girl) and to see their eyes light up when they see you is something that is priceless. Don’t let anybody knock you off your horse – you rock. And we thank you!

  32. Lexzie

    This article was wonderful. Cosplay is fun and should be looked at as a form of creative expression. Even if some call it mimicry, mimicry is a form of adoration. I think it is a huge compliment to the creators that fans would want to become their character for a day.
    I don’t cosplay, don’t have a real reason too, but I think it is a wonderful way for expression in a fandom.
    Such a shame about the negativity surrounding cosplay still, especially in regards to the sexual harassment and body shaming. Those two negative aspects seem to penetrate every aspect of society still 🙁

    This read was simply excellent and well researched.

  33. Grace Maich

    Great article! I never really got into cosplay (lack of time/money/skill of any sort) but I attended an anime convention with my sister a few years ago (she wasn’t old enough to stay in a hotel room by herself) and I thought it was so cool to see everyone dressed up! It’s a great way to meet people who have similar interests to you, and there’s a lot of fun in seeing someone dressed up as a character from an obscure show/game you don’t have any friends to talk to about.

    I see cosplay in a similar way to fanfiction: a great creative outlet for young people interested in the arts, but for whatever reason completely disrespected by a good majority of the world despite the dedication and creativity it actually requires.

  34. TruthOrDare

    I took my 15 year old ‘geek girl’ to a Comicon in the UK. There were a number of empire stormtroopers milling around until someone appeared in a full Darth Vader outfit, within 20 minutes of his arrival all the stormtroopers were following his every move like they had suddenly been transported into the Star Wars universe!

  35. Let’s be honest, it is little different to the commonly accepted practice of wearing a Chelsea or Man U shirt, just with added obsessive attention to detail. I have seen some impressive costumes in the last few years (my favourite being a whole squad of Tanith soldiers a couple of years back)

    My preferred costume for comic events is “entitled, posh, white nerd”, a role for which I diligently research 12 months a year.

  36. If it keeps people out of trouble, what’s the harm?

  37. I think many people cosplay every day, only we don’t notice. You’ll see men driving silver sports cars, wearing wristwatches that look suspiciously like the Rolex James Bond wears–and they’ll often add in some casual sexism and lasciviousness, for added realism. Of course, their families are probably all forced to live off cat kibble and potted meat, while the family income is wasted on this absurd fantasy; and at least geeks have it compartmentalized.

  38. Jerrie Dye

    I think it’s natural to identify with one’s favourite fictional characters; and comic book figures can be as deep and interesting in their own way, as traditional literary protagonists. I think I’d want to be Valentina Vostok (aka Negative Woman); or Alan Moore’s Promethea.

  39. mattdoylemedia

    A good article. As someone who almost exclusively Crossplays, Judgement is always a concern for me, so I was glad to see it included as a risk.

  40. mekakushimegane

    I’ve NEVER cosplayed in my life before… I want to, but my parents won’t buy me the cosplay costume… :'(

  41. I have always wanted to be a part of cosplay events. It has always excited me and interested me but I can never find the time that’s needed to invest in doing so.

    I have realized that there is a serious problem in the cosplay community as it relates to harrassment, which should really be addressed although persons can only do so much and no more where that is concerned. I do believe it is really terrible when persons just grab another and steal kisses or grope them, thinking that they will be fine with it.

    Also another issue is with race also, where persons are put down for cosplaying a particular character of a particular ethnic group or race. And issues like this shouldn’t be. Everyone wants to enjoy such a thing and shouldn’t be excluded just because they don’t fit the race. The same goes for persons who shame fat persons for cosplaying particularly slim characters.

    There really are a lot of problems in the cosplay community and it shouldn’t be so because the persons who get involved and take the time to do so, should feel good about themselves.

  42. Caliburnus

    I am fascinated by cosplayers and their costumes. There are so many of them with astounding artistic talent. I have always maintained that many of them should be hired as professional prop-makers for films. For instance, their ability to turn everyday items into believable armor is incredible.

  43. Ah, the joys of be(com)ing another person!

  44. Those are definitely the things that make cosplay good. As a cosplayer myself, paying attention to the details of your character/costume, it helps bring it to life the best you can.
    If you cosplay being creative is also important. If you want to swap genders/make your own costume for the character, you need to think carefully about the theme; casual or different genre (steampunk, punk, Alternate Universe, etc). You also need to be creative on how to make certain parts to the cosplay. Some characters have objects that float, some characters have physics defying hair. You need to be able to think outside of the box in order to make these things come to life in our universe.
    And confidence in your character, that you are portraying them correctly and that you did your best to make it as perfect as you could with your skills are important! It helps show your pride in you work as well as the show/character you are representing.

    Those are a very important risks that come with cosplay as well. There are some people who think that just because your acting like a flirty character you can take that as actual flirting and you can go up and touch them as you please.Some characters who are like this are Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High school Host Club, Starfire from the Teen Titans comic series, Meg from the Disney version of Hercules, and even Tony Stark from Iron man.
    Being in character, dress or acting, does not give people the right to touch/take advantage of the person in costume.

    Then there is judgment within the community, which is horrible. Cosplay is meant to be fun for people of all genders, body types, ages and races. People shouldn’t be judged by the fact that want to be in a sailor uniform and are overweight or the “incorrect gender for wearing it”.

    You are right on so many levels and thank you for putting so much detail into your article.

  45. It’s great to see an article on this subject that looks objectively at cosplay as a culture and art form, instead of taking a stance on it. You have gone into much detail and provided lots of information on a subject that people often tend to steer clear of, for no real reason other than lack of knowledge about it.
    This is an important, informative piece of writing, and I enjoyed your non-biased, factual style. A great article.

    • YsabelGo

      Thank you for your compliments! I don’t cosplay, so I’m glad so many enjoy this piece! I put a lot of time and effort into it. 🙂

  46. Some of your facts are a bit off when it comes to Harajuku and Shibuya. I studied abroad in Tokyo a year ago and discussed fashion with the Japanese students I became friends with. People do not just dress up in costume and walk around in Tokyo. There are very unique fashion styles in Japan, but very few people dress in that way. There are no cosplayers in Japan that dress up daily, and there honestly isn’t any cosplaying unless there is a reason such as a convention. In addition, maid cafes aren’t as popular as you say. There may be quite a few in Japan, but that doesn’t mean people actually go to them. Some people go, but most Japanese people feel it is a bit too much so they don’t ever go. They are more of a tourist attraction. However, even though it seems as if maid cafes are a strange cultural difference, the waitresses are taken good care of to keep creepy men out. There are no pictures allowed and if there is any groping the customer is asked to leave.

  47. To me, cosplay is a form of theatre or performance art. As long as people don’t set out to hurt others or themselves in doing it, why not? I first became aware of cosplay through harajuku girls, which were made popular in mainstream America by Gwen Stefani in the 1990s. I just enjoy it from afar, not as an insider, seeing how creative people can be with coming up with costumes that resemble the characters they enjoy reading about and seeing on screen. As a theatre patron, artist, writer, and actor, I appreciate the work that goes into coming up with a cosplay character and doing it well.

  48. Cosplay just doesn’t resonate with me. I can appreciate them in a costume-contest setting and even Halloween or -con setting, but I don’t get the celebrity cosplayer scene, or the professional shoots.

  49. Christina Airola

    I’ve been involved in the cosplay scene for several years now, and like any community, it has its pros and cons. I’ve met many “normal” people at conventions (“normal” meaning ones who aren’t in costume, ones who aren’t professional cosplayers, etc.), I’ve met celebrities, and I’ve met professionals in various industries. It’s a mixed-bag experience every time. I’ve made lasting friendships at some cons, and have had bad experiences with haughty cosplayers at others. In general, however, the cosplay community is a great little community, and there is always fun to be had. I would encourage everyone to check out a convention, whether it’s their “thing” or not. They might be surprised in what they find there!

  50. I liked your article, you did a good job portraying the best aspect of this hobby! I’d like to know more about the cosplay community in the US. I come from Italy and there, unfortunately, the situation is, in my opinion, worse than few years ago. Cosplay nowadays is about getting pictures from this or that photographer.

  51. As an attendee of NYCC for the last two years, one of my favorite things is to see all the cosplayers, especially those you can tell put a lot of time and effort in their costumes and have fun acting their parts (my favorite this year being Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask). I wouldn’t be surprised if they pursued costume design in film, theater, etc. They’d no doubt be the best in the business.

  52. i mean in the culture of arts in the arts world things sometimes have to be pushed to the limitation of visual effect to have a certain cause or demonstration towards art.

  53. Cosplay is definitely an art form, no joke. Even if it was hastily put together, which rarely is the case, people still recognize the characters they’re portraying and it still is fun.

  54. Jen Marler

    Thank you for such a thorough and interesting synthesis! I wanted to add that The Society for Creative Anachronism is a great resource for those interested in exploring Cosplay further – with events occurring regularly in cities nationwide. These tend to be oriented to historical re-creation and re-enactment, but could be a foot in the door for intrepid explorers.

  55. This is incredible! I had no idea about the history of cosplay. I’ve always wanted to take the time to try it but it just seems like I’m too busy with other priorities. Kudos to those who put in the hours!

  56. A nice introduction to cosplay and the community.

  57. I really enjoy cosplaying and that might be part of my acting background, but either way, it’s really just a blast. I had no idea the history of it so I’m really glad you shared that information, as well.

  58. Sean Navat Balanon

    Great intro into the subculture and artform that is cosplay. I wasn’t aware that its origins stem from the 1930s. Wonderful!

  59. Hi, YsabelGo ,

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  60. Danielle Jordan

    My internship teacher and I LOVE this article so much. She’s actually wondering if we could exchange emails about your cosplay articles 🙂

    • YsabelGo

      I’m glad you and your teacher enjoyed it! Unfortunately, this is the only cosplay article I’ve written. Maybe someday I’ll write more!

  61. Munjeera

    I have never done cosplay but inspired by your article I might try it… one day.

  62. Hey, YsabelGo!
    I liked your article is has been very helpful. That being said, I am researching Cosplay for an English class and need to cite you. Could you PM or email me so I can credit you?


  63. Helen McCarthy

    I love your enthusiasm and passion for the topic, but facts matter as much as passion. Since the magazine you show dates from 1983 – as you say in your heading – and clearly uses the word ‘cosplay’ at least twice, you might consider revising your statement that the word was coined in 1984.

    Indeed, since the magazine article by Nov Takashashi predates the 1984 LA Worldcon, he must have coined the word cosplay a full year before that event.

    The photos show a mature and skilled Japanese costuming community, one that has obviously been growing for some time prior to the article.

  64. Shannon

    Hi! I love your article, and I would love to use it in a paper regarding cultural resistance!

  65. LC Morisset

    I got into the cosplaying scene fairly recently and this was such a good read. I’d always been obsessed with Halloween and went a little overboard and ended up a bit disappointed when everyone else at the college party was dressed like a sexy cat or football player (not that there’s anything wrong with that).I went to Comic Con in San Diego last year for the first time and being surrounded by people who had clearly put so much time and effort into their costumes was inspiring. I cosplayed as the Winter Soldier and was fairly nervous for my first time and didn’t think it looked very good but everyone was incredibly nice. People in cosplays I thought were leagues above my own would stop me to tell me how cool I looked. It is a very open and inviting community and I would definitely recommend everyone try it at least once.

  66. Amyus

    A great article, Ysabel. I have to admit that I have no interest in cosplay as such, despite being told by certain friends that I would make a good Mr Arakawa from ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’, but your sheer enthusiasm for the subject won me over and I enjoyed this article. Yes, please do continue writing on the subject.

  67. Yvonne Tapia
    Yvonne T.

    Excellent article! I really enjoyed learning of the beginnings of cosplaying, why/how the term was created, and the pros and cons of doing so.

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