We’ve all seen it on TV, in the movies, and sometimes in real life. You’re walking around, minding your business when you see a group of people dressed as characters from Star Trek or Lord of the Rings. If it isn’t Halloween, don’t get too confused; those people are just cosplaying.
Cosplay, short for “costume play,” is the act of dressing like or making oneself look like a fictional character. Cosplays are especially popular at events like conventions or the premiere of an anticipated movie. The kinds of things people will cosplay vary greatly from anime, video games, comics, novels, TV shows and much more. People will even cosplay memes!
The art of cosplay dates all the way back to the 15th century with the rise of costume parties and masquerade balls. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the idea of what we consider “cosplay” was born. Cosplay is commonly associated with Japan, as the word comes from their word コスプレ(kosupure). The country even has special cafés based around cosplay, where a person can be served food by maids or their favorite fictional character.
How people go about cosplay depends on the person. There are some who take the character’s design and create the clothing from scratch themselves, sewing fabric or sculpting props to go with it. Some cosplayers like to do “closet cosplays” where they take clothing and materials they already have and try to put together an outfit that at least somewhat matches. There are even some who just buy a completed cosplay off of a vendor. All different takes on the art, but each of them shares the love for the medium and is equally valid.
People of all ages, all ethnicities, and all walks of life join under the shared interest of dressing up. Even animals join in on the fun sometimes! Today, cosplaying has taken the front stage in modern media with several movies and TV shows making episodes about characters dressing up for conventions and such. The animated show My Dress-up Darling depicts a high-schooler’s story to perfect cosplays of characters she loves.
I got the chance to talk to cosplayer Alissa Gilmer, known by her cosplay alias LadyAshe XII.
Mafela: What does cosplay mean to you?
Ashe: For me, it’s just kind of the perfect creative outlet. I love there’s a community link with it. I’ve always been crafting, you know, like drawing and painting; I started sewing my own Halloween costumes, like, in middle school so I fell into it naturally. I like that you can, you know, bring any kind of skill set to it or just, you know, join it for fun. It’s very welcoming as a hobby and a community, plus it’s a creative outlet and just something to kind of challenge myself to explore new skills.
M: Do you have any specific fandoms or genres you stick to or do you go for whatever catches your eye?
A: Hopefully I’m going after Marvel and Disney. I’m currently working on the Lord of the Rings; that and Star Wars are kind of my childhood. I have Rey from Star Wars in the works.
M: Any favorite cosplay conventions or events you like?
A: DragonCon. I plan my year around it. It’s awesome! it was actually our second one we went to MegaCon and then we were like let’s go do a 75,000 plus convention downtown at spans it started with like five hotels there we went and then it’s expanded of course it’s a lot but it’s it’s very satisfying it’s very sci-fi based. A lot of the local stuff is based around anime, which is great and all, but I more go for Star Trek and you know Deep Space 9 and stuff like that.
M: Any advice to newbie cosplayers or people thinking of trying it out?
A: Try your local conventions. I mean, they’re a lot of fun! If you’re interested in anything pop culture, you like Marvel, Disney movies, anything, there’s always something there for you. Even if it’s marketed, as like an anime convention, there’s gonna be something there that interests you. A lot of them are kind of a mixed bag ’cause you’ll have comic book artists and artists in general who represent a bunch of different genres, so it’s always worth checking out if you’re curious and I can’t imagine not going out dressed up; it’s so much fun for me. If you love Halloween and you love just putting a spin on your day or your trip, then try it out ’cause it just adds a whole other layer of enjoyment to whatever you’re doing.