|Cosplay has grown over the years to the point where conventions solely for cosplaying have been established / Photo by: Srini Rajan via Wikimedia Commons|
If you’ve ever attended a comic book or video game convention, then you probably have seen a lot of people walking around dressed up as their favorite characters, walking, talking, and posing for pictures with the other attendees.
What these people are doing is officially known as “cosplaying,” a combination of the words "costume" and "play." Cosplay has grown over the years to the point where conventions solely for cosplaying have been established. But the practice doesn't stop there as it continues to grow beyond conventions and gatherings.
Cosplay and Fandoms
Most cosplayers dress up as characters from video games, anime, or comics where many colorful heroes and heroines thrive. What makes it different from simply wearing a costume like during Halloween is that outfits for cosplaying are made to accurately capture the real thing. They are also rather expensive considering the designs are meticulous and that it fits the size of the cosplayer. This is why most cosplayers make their costumes on their own to ensure the quality of their fit.
Cosplaying is a fun but rigorous hobby as practitioners spend many hours just to perfect every element of their costumes—from the clothes to the shoes to the accessories and even the hair just to look as close as to the original character. And despite this, the cosplay community has continued to grow through the years.
What was once seen as an activity for geeks has blown over to the mainstream. The development is partly due to the monetization of fandoms and the changes in pop culture, according to fandom expert Nicolle Lamerichs of the HU University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
"We love deep stories and world-building these days and it’s not considered something for a niche audience," Lamerichs told Stylist, a UK-based free weekly magazine that provides women with high-end content that includes fashion, travel, beauty, people, and career news.
She added that the success of works like the Harry Potter series, Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Game of Thrones help build the world of fandoms as well as the mindset of a fan. "By now fandom is almost entirely embedded in mainstream culture. It’s become a business model in its own right that companies in the creative industries profit from."
More Than Just Dressing Up
The growth of the cosplaying community has led to conventions dedicated to it. While each convention differs from one another, cosplayers seem to find everything about them rather boring.
"Something started to get to me as we went to convention after convention—they’re all the goddamn same," Sean McCoy, the founder of S-Class Weekend, told video game website Kotaku. He said that the charms of each convention—a cool guest or the focus of the event—aren't enough to make them unique from other similar affairs.
"I’d grown, my needs had changed, but these conventions were mostly carbon-copies of themselves year after year," McCoy said.
|The growth of the cosplaying community has led to conventions dedicated to it. While each convention differs from one another, cosplayers seem to find everything about them rather boring / Photo by: Santamarcanda via Wikimedia Commons|
As they begin to look beyond conventions, cosplayers are becoming more interested in "presenting the scene as one that’s able to do more than just dress up," Kotaku said. Cosplayers and photographers alike are pushing the limits to show how the outfits are made, the themes that inspire them, and the way their cosplayer is captured.
With this, the community began to look for fun in other places such as McCoy's S-Class Weekend photoshoot and parties that are held close to the convention but aren't completely affiliated with it. These events are where cosplayers can unwind after a whole weekend of wearing their costumes and becoming the highlights for them in the last few years, according to Kotaku.
"It’s important to point out that S-Class wasn’t designed to compete with Katsucon or somehow replace it, as nearly everybody involved spent the weekend alternating between both venues," the video game website said. "Instead it was designed to complement it, adding a luxury top tier to the con that the event’s name implies."
An Empowering Act
Cosplaying doesn't only require a lot of money, it also seeks confidence and the cosplayer's willingness to be vulnerable. According to Lammerichs, many cosplay communities have fans that are likely to police and judge one another—and that vulnerability is something that they are aware of.
"A self-made outfit, your body, your performance—you put it all out there and it can be hard when you are critiqued," the fandom expert said. "We should not forget that cosplay is a space and subculture like any other; while the hobby should liberate us, fans are not always tolerant, respectful, and kind to each other."
Cosplaying can be an empowering act, one where people can be someone else or channel their inner hero as they play around with the personalities of a fictional character.
Indeed, cosplaying has grown to more than just a hobby. It has become a form of expression for many, empowering them to find a sense of self in a fictitious character.
|Cosplaying can be an empowering act, one where people can be someone else or channel their inner hero as they play around with the personalities of a fictional character / Photo by: Sergey Galyonkin via 123RF|