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A Beginner's Guide to Cosplaying

The wide variety of subcultures today may be unfamiliar to many people. One of these subcultures, however, is growing exponentially in popularity.

The wide variety of subcultures today may be unfamiliar to many people. One of these subcultures, however, is growing exponentially in popularity. Cosplay has become one of the most sought-after activities for people of any age, nationality, and gender. The welcoming atmosphere appeals to many people who like to dress as their favorite characters. Still, for those interested in cosplay, it can be daunting. Fortunately, this is a beginner’s guide to cosplaying that anyone can learn from.

Cosplay History

Before you learn any cosplay basics, it’s imperative to know the history of cosplay culture. The word “cosplay” is a portmanteau—or word blend—of the words “costume” and “play” and refers to the practice of dressing as a representation of a character. These characters may originate from movies, television shows, books, comics, anime or manga, or video games. Cosplayers role-play as these characters at conventions, in live-action roleplaying games, or amongst friends or other cosplayers. It is one of the most versatile hobbies for people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds today.

Although the history of costume play dates to 14th-century European masquerade balls, modern cosplay originates from the 20th century. Science fiction conventions in the 1930s and 1940s were some of the first mass-cosplay conventions of the time, albeit by accident, as some attendees arrived dressed in futuristic costumes. Soon after, the Worldcon convention became known for its costumed attendees, and it was through subsequent Worldcons that cosplay became a unified activity. For instance, at the 1952 Worldcon, nude cosplay was accepted and became popular in the 1970s and 1980s. It was around this time that fandoms grew as a trend. Despite the activity’s prosperity, rules were still necessary. In 1962, a cosplayer wore a costume made from live fire, which led to flames and fires banned from the convention. Similarly, in 1972, a cosplayer wore a costume made from peanut butter, which soon became rancid and ruined other costumes and furniture. This further led to the banning of all food, odorous, or unsanitary components as well.

As American conventions grew stricter with costume requirements, the conventions in 1970s Japan were extremely popular and, on occasion, impromptu events. Various fans adorned costumes replicating the looks of Japanese manga and international sci-fi books and movies. Cosplay was still a minor subculture, but the 1990s saw a drastic increase in popularity. Japanese television shows and magazines reported on cosplay conventions, which drew wider interest. Americans soon reimported this phenomenon, and modern cosplay became the culture it is today.

Who Cosplays?

One of the main attractions to cosplay is that anyone can do it. It is one of the most adaptable activities for many hobbyists. Some enjoy the creative freedom of making their costumes, while others enjoy the communal lifestyle of the respective conventions. Some individuals who feel excluded from mainstream society due to their interests or personalities find solace in the outlet cosplay provides them. Still, others may enjoy paying homage to their favorite characters or entertainment channels. Cosplay doesn’t discriminate on age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or background. By virtue, it’s an avenue for people to express themselves in a way they feel most comfortable in.

Why You Should Cosplay

As previously mentioned, cosplay is a way to express yourself. In many ways, cosplay is art. For those who make their own costumes, it’s a craft. For those who are more sociable, it’s entertainment. In that regard, cosplay makes use of the body as the canvas for creativity and expression. In addition, cosplay gives a sociable atmosphere for someone with alien or eccentric interests. Mainstream culture may not shine on these interests, especially with uncommon or international entertainment, such as Japanese manga or anime. Conventions are the perfect place to meet new friends or new partners with like-minded passions.

Cosplay is, by nature, a hobby. However, like any hobby, you can make it a livelihood. It can be costly to construct intricate and detailed costumes, so some people opt to turn their cosplay into an ingenious career. While this is a potentially competitive field, given cosplay’s fringe nature, those who enjoy their craft may find new career paths with their apparel.

What to Cosplay

With all this information, it can be daunting to find a costume that speaks to you. Nonetheless, there are limitless options to choose from. There are two considerations to make when choosing a cosplay. The first is to pick a character you wholeheartedly enjoy. As aforementioned, cosplay ideas come from any entertainment medium, such as books, anime, television shows, movies, comic books, manga, video games, etc. You can use any of your favorite characters from these outlets.

The other possibility is to consider which character would make the best costume. You may not necessarily like the character, but their design and style might interest you. Perhaps you physically resemble an existing character already. Even if you’re unfamiliar with that character, you could cosplay to replicate their design.

Once you’ve chosen a costume, you have the choice to create your own or purchase the pieces individually. Perhaps you do both. Either way, consider the right pieces to create the replication. This includes fabric, footwear, and accessories. Every piece, big or small, is important to creating the perfect image.

Where to Cosplay

Conventions and cosplay events are an essential component of the culture, so you should consider attending one. Not every convention is the same, though. Do your research to find a local one that fits your desires. Most larger cities have sci-fi or cosplay conventions, but the most notable are Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, and New York. Most of these convention centers reach between 30,000 to 40,000 attendees, but don’t feel discouraged. While the high concentration of cosplayers may be daunting, don’t feel intimidated. Some of these folks are just as new as you are. They want to feel welcome in the community, just like anyone else. Remember, these people share your interests. Go out and introduce yourself to some compatible cosplayer. A simple conversation may turn strangers into friends.

Safety Concerns

When learning about cosplay, it’s important to highlight certain controversies that arose within the community. Like any community, cosplay deals with its share of bullies, creeps, and harassers. Keep in mind, these are bad apples and don’t represent every cosplayer. By nature, cosplay is an open and often loving community. While some relish in putting others down for their weight, sex, race, orientation, or looks, these are few and far between compared to the number of normal cosplayers. Additionally, there are many initiatives amongst cosplayers to clean the culture of this ugliness.

Cosplay culture is nothing to shrug off, so if you decide to participate, make sure to have the right fabric for your costume. Here at Fabric Wholesale Direct, we sell a variety of fabrics to create the perfect costume. Check out our selection of spandex, printed fabrics, faux furs, or other apparel fabrics. If you’re dissatisfied, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to help find the best material for you.


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