Photo: Nels Photo
Cosplay started gaining traction and popularity in the 90s and became a type of performance art built around bringing beloved manga, comic book, or video game characters to life. It has recently became massive thanks to the waves of social media and the recent boom of geek culture.
I’ve been cosplaying since 2011, and seven years later, I love it more than ever. I’ve had friends and even friends of friends ask me “How?” My first answer is always: “Well, if you want to do it, just do it.”
The term “cosplay” is derived from the Japanese word “cosupure” which is a hybrid of the shortened word “costume” and “pure” (pronounced “pure-ray” ). Japan has always been a huge geek playground, and we can even argue the birth place of many of the ideas. Cosplay now is very common in Japan (and Asia) and is only getting bigger here in the west.
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It’s not such an alien concept. What have you been doing every Halloween since you were a kid? You’ve thought about your favorite characters, figured out how best to replicate their look with whatever resources you had at hand, and you brought it all to life. Sure, stepping onto the stage at a place like San Diego Comic Con may feel like hopping onto a Broadway stage after only having done a kindergarten pageant, but it’s really not that daunting. So long as you are passionate about a character, love dressing up, and don’t mind being stopped for some pictures – not only will you LOVE cosplay, you’ll find you really can do it.
You gotta start somewhere, and that’s first getting out of your head and thinking that you don’t have the means, the look or the appeal to get into costume of a superhero you envy. Then, pick a character you love, you want to embody, you want to represent. Capture a few images of your favorite style and then start materializing it. Whether you can sew or simply need to go around and buy pieces to bring it together (which sites like Amazon and Etsy and shops like Hobby Lobby have made much easier for us).
My suggestion is to start small. Pick a character that doesn’t necessarily have crazy armor or massive props involved (although you can always find an artist who takes commissions). My very first cosplay was Wonder Woman in 2011 at the launch of Stan Lee’s Comikaze (Now L.A. Comic-Con). I was so scared: Who am I, this small, tan, asian chick, to dress up as a towering, iconic Amazon warrior? But I got out of my head and I did it. It wasn’t a perfect outfit but I’ll tell you what–walking on that floor and embodying her strength and confidence, I sure as hell felt perfect. I was stopped a lot more than I expected to take pictures. I was delighted and drinking it all in. Me, being appreciated as the ultimate superheroine! It isn’t about perfecting the outfit, it’s about perfecting how you feel inside of it.
From there, I started to build. My next one was Mario. I love Nintendo and I decided to grab some suspender shorts, red top, white gloves and a red baseball cap. That was another hit. And in all honesty, I don’t think you can ever miss as long as you love who you are portraying.
Cosplaying since then has really began to take off for me. I started to invest in capturing more of my favorite characters: Tifa Lockhart (from the video game Final Fantasy VII), Chun-Li (from the classic Street Fighter series), and Catwoman (from, of course, endless Batman comics, movies, and TV shows) You see more and more cosplayers walking out on the floor at every con. Cons are getting saturated with people, and it’s no longer only because of the offerings of new gadgets, unreleased comic books, or access to artists, it’s because more and more people don’t want to wait until Halloween to find an excuse to play dress up. Do it. Have fun with it.
If you want to start small, there are many ready-made outfits online or in-store waiting for you. They don’t have to be generic because you are NOT generic. You being in that outfit will make it unique. Own it. Think of all the Wonder Women out there wearing the same outfit but everyone looks so unique. Look at all the D.Va cosplays and even though you’ve seen many in the same costume, they all look different. All the Harley Quinns…There’s no one same. Once you want to go further, you can learn to build armor, learn to sew, or find a vendor that takes commissions (though that can get pricey) and create Final Fantasy bosses, Bioshock villains, Skyrim armor and weapons… etc… It’s your cosplay. It’s your choice. It’s your version.
So my advice is this for anyone and everyone who’s wanted to cosplay but may have just been a little shy or nervous to do so. Do it. Find the next con, big or small, that’s around your neck of the woods and start building your outfit. You will rock it. You will love it, and you will get addicted.
Feel free to ask me any questions by heading over to my instagram @Kaorious and sending me a message. Give me a follow for some inspiration! Or comment below with a character you’ve been meaning to bring to life!