Cosplaying is ubiquitous at events and conventions, just like at this year’s FanX. But what is cosplaying really like? The cosplay scene is incredibly vast, but it’s also very deep– deeper than most people think. I’m one of these cosplayers, though I can hardly claim to be fully dedicated to the craft like some of the amazing people that attended.
The truth is that serious cosplay requires at least one of two things: a serious amount of handiness and ability to craft, or a lot of money. I fall into the second category; I can barely sew a button back onto a shirt, let alone make a shirt or carve foam. So I paid other, more skilled people to do it for me, which isn’t cheap.
This year, I went in this cosplay:
It’s a uniform from a science fiction series, one of my favorite novel series of all time. However, at the time I bought it, there were no US suppliers, so I had it custom tailored. The total cost of tailoring, props, and accessories?
Well over 400$.
In September I went as Nick Wilde from Zootpia. This one was assembled from various unrelated items, but the total cost still ran over $150.
This would be why people bring the same cosplays year after year– for many, we simply can’t afford a ton of outfits! So why spend so much time and money crafting, assembling, and buying cosplays to wear them for only a few days a year?
Because it’s a ton of fun!
It’s hard to describe the experience other than being “fuller” than just attending. There’s no more satisfying feeling than someone coming up to you and asking for a picture. There’s nothing better than making a small child’s day because you’re dressed up like one of their favorite characters. Running across other cosplayers and exchanging photos and cosplay tips and tricks will make friends you’d never meet otherwise. Going with a theme is an amazing way to forge tighter bonds with your friends as you pose together. Compliments on your costume validate all your hard work and more.
If you’re into the more material benefits, there is no better way to get a celebrity on your good side than to be dressed up as one of their characters or a character they adore. Personally, I’ve had comic book artists compliment my costume and invite me to have a conversation with them. I got to know an awesome celebrity, make their day, and get a friendly source of merchandise while I was at it! Even just wandering randomly about the floor is fun as you go in and out of character on a whim. Sometimes you can even go look at merchandise of yourself for a funny picture opportunity.
As for larger communities, there are entire nationwide groups built on cosplay. The 501st Legion, the biggest Star Wars cosplay group, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity through cosplay. The furry community expresses itself through group meetings in fursuits– some of the most sophisticated cosplay setups you’ll find. In fact, this FanX a group of them gathered for a photo shoot for their own brand-new convention. I caught a few pics:
They were joking, laughing, and teasing each other about their outfits, constantly posing for group photos with fascinated children and confused adults. They even stole a photobomb on the Iron Throne, dabbing jokingly as the Game of Thrones cosplayer stood there bewildered. Even for me, in a completely different costume, the sense of welcome was palpable. They were more than happy to let me tag along for several hours, and I met several people with whom I’m now friends.
Likewise, groups exist for just about every fandom you can imagine, from Final Fantasy to Firefly. If you want to build a cosplay for something, it’s a guarantee that somewhere around the country, others have too, and that means there’s a group for tips and aid.
Full bodysuits like these, or Deadpool’s costume or Master Chief’s armor, a popular convention choice, provide another huge benefit– they hide your face.
A lot of cosplayers are pretty self-conscious about themselves and some struggle with anxiety, depression, and other issues. “Putting on the mask,” as it were, allows them to don the character they’re cosplaying for a while. It’s a huge freeing sensation when you don’t feel nervous about acting goofy or posing for photos. Often, it’s like they’re changing into a completely different person when that mask or headgear goes on, but really, it’s just showing the true person inside– the goofy, fun, amazing person that, for whatever reason, has been hidden or suppressed. Some even prefer to let their costume do all the talking, remaining comfortably silent because they can rest assured people are praising their work rather than casting sideways glances at them.
I can say I’ve felt a huge amount of catharsis from something as simple as putting Nick Wilde’s shades on my face and adopting his trademark snark. I’ve always been nervous about how snappy I can be. Becoming a character who’s all about sarcastic wit allowed me to let loose without worrying about hurting someone.
You’ll also get at least a few picture requests if you’ve chosen a character that isn’t super obscure. If you have, however, that’s just a chance to talk about it with people who ask what your cosplay is, which is a great thing in and of itself! After all, who doesn’t enjoy a free opportunity to talk about that show you love that nobody else has ever heard of? You can even mix and match fandoms if you’d like. Some of the best cosplays are those that use the costume to make a clever joke or reference. Take a good look at the featured image for one of my favorite versions this year.
Looking in from the outside, most of these benefits aren’t really apparent. I just went in costume one convention because my close friend urged me to go in sync with him. I did it begrudgingly, counting every dollar I spent, and then I walked into the convention center. Everything changed in that moment, and I’ve never looked back. The atmosphere, the satisfaction of a job well done, the smiles on the faces of those you come across. I had never experienced that before. I came away from Comic Con not only content and stuffed to the gills with merchandise, but genuinely fulfilled and ecstatic. If a well-run convention is a 10, a well-run convention while you’re in cosplay is an 11.
Does cosplaying require money, time, and talent? It sure does. Is it worth it?
You bet! It’s worth every dollar I’ve put into it, from my very first cosplay to today (that was dying my own hair with 5$ dye and a striped shirt, going as Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes!). Mistakes and all, cosplaying is an experience you simply can’t get any other way. I don’t regret a second of the time I’ve spent doing it and I’d say that it’s essential that everyone try it at least once. It can be as simple as buying the right color shirt and tie, or as complicated as building an entire suit of armor from scratch. It can be from any fandom or property. You can even make up your own original costume! But no matter what you do, you’ll have fun doing it, and that’s what it’s really all about.
Try it! I think you won’t regret making the attempt.