Cosplay is a portmanteau
of costume and
play. Unlike Halloween,
participants don’t just dress up — they become
various traits and acting out various scenes in
which their chosen character participates. Even
the most minute details are pivotal.
In a sense, cosplay is much like a Renaissance
Festival in which paid actors and patrons alike
dress up in renaissance costumes and act as if
they are back in the medieval times while entire
story lines are acted out between the various
characters. This total submergence into the
psyche of a character is classified as cosplay.
Costumes can be purchased from various distributors,
or they can be handmade. The complexity
of the costume depends largely on the
character that the costume is based upon, as
well as the amount of detail. Those who are especially
meticulous focus on everything from
the fabric choice right down to the stitching.
Beyond the main costumes, some cosplayers
choose to carry props, oftentimes constructed
from cardboard, molding foam, or other crafting
materials. Props could include but are not
limited to swords, costume detailing, and jewelry.
Due to the often-strange color and style of
the cosplay subjects’ hair, many players even
choose to wear wigs they style themselves.
Choosing a character for cosplay is a very personal
process. Ian Lee, a fourth year Industrial
Design major, said that it is based on “your interests,
who you like.” It also can depend on what is
popular at the time or even just “whoever they
feel is the easiest.”
In the world of roleplaying with costumes, there
are many terms to be understood. The first is
LARPing, which stands for Live Action Role-Playing.
Cosplayers are LARPers who wear costumes.
A furry is someone who wears a full-body fur
costume, often complete with a mascot head.
Gijinka, an anime term, refers to wearing a costume
that represents non-human characters,
yet still isn’t classified as furry. For instance,
if one wanted to resemble a Pokémon creature
but did not want to be a furry, they could create
a stylized and flattering outfit that represented
Some cosplayers entirely immerse themselves
in the character, even going so far as to change
their life habits. For instance, one cosplayer on
a forum talked about losing 40 pounds to more
closely resemble his chosen character. Other
players limit their involvement to the times they
are actually wearing the costumes.
A common misconception about cosplay is that
it is limited to anime. It also includes people
who dress up as characters from Star Wars, Harry
Potter, and other pop culture icons.
If one is interested in cosplay, the first step is to
choose a character and genre of role-playing in
which you would like to be involved. Once this
is decided, various clubs exist on campus that
participate in certain categories of cosplay; this
campus, too, has its own subculture.
People participate in cosplay for a variety of
reasons. Lee describes it as a “chance to show
off skills,” since costume making is a very time-consuming
and sometimes talent-intensive
process. Cosplay is an opportunity to show off
one’s hard work and craftsmanship. It’s also a
chance to “dress up and be someone completely
different,” as Lee describes, a fun escape from
the average day. Lastly, cosplay is a way to show
support for a favorite character; imitation, of
course, is the highest form of flattery.