By Claire Watson
If it exists, it’s been cosplayed. From the most popular characters to the most obscure of props, someone at some point has cosplayed it. It’s officially spooky season! There are three times of year where you are expected to cosplay:
- Our beloved Kaizoku Con
- The classic Comic Con
Though, cosplay doesn’t require a special date, and for many people it serves as a full time hobby and even job! At my first comic con I dressed as Chara from Undertale, posed with Dat Boi, and was hugged by Chewbacca, cosplay can truly be a unique experience.
Genuinely, cosplay fascinates me. The devotion cosplayers have to their art is amazing, which is why I think we can all draw some inspiration from them, even if we’re not cosplaying ourselves. For the past year or so I’ve been on the cosplay side of tiktok. While I don’t post, I have front row seats to the greatest fashion designers of our generation. Constantly, I am enamoured by these artists’ innovations.
What sparked this article has been the recent trend of paper wigs. With most cosplayers working out of their bedrooms, they’re equipped for thinking outside of the box and skirting around paywalls. Paper wigs are an example of such. Wigs can be a crucial part of cosplay, but unfortunately are incredibly expensive. Paper is flexible, comes in a wide variety of colours, and is cheap.
Cosplayers put their all into their costumes. They are artists, fashion designers, costume makers, and innovators. While some can make a career out of their craft, for many it is a vocation. And so, these artists work on a tight budget to make the most gorgeous, and wearable, pieces of art in the modern age. The term cosplay was coined by Nobuyuki Takashi in the 1984 LA World con. He reported it in ‘My Anime’ as Kospure, which translates to, you guessed it, Cosplay. ‘Cos’ meaning costume, and ‘play’ referring to the roleplay element wherein cosplayers will don the persona of their chosen character.
Lately, the more I look at drag artists and cosplayers, the more I realise that half of fashion is performance. Even when we are dressing true to ourselves, I think our clothes help us don a bit of a persona. If I dress a bit more dark academia, I find I unlock this witty side of me I didn’t know I had. As ‘play’ is an important part of cosplay, expression is a major part of fashion. Dressing as characters we relate to, or simply love, can invigorate us. It makes us happy, to look and act like our role models for a brief period of time. Another part of cosplay that we can tie into our daily outfits, is it’s gender fluidity. Cosplayers don’t let the gender of their chosen character limit their options, women are dressed as Joker and men are dressed as Harley. Personally, for those of us who are inbetween, cosplay is like a dream come true, with every character is up for grabs.
Sometimes people may alter the gender of their character, for example, creating a female Luke Skywalker to dress as, sometimes people don’t. Fluidity in gender expression is a beloved aspect of cosplay, and there are countless resources online helping people to do it safely and effectively. Drag artists and trans individuals lend their wisdom to cosplayers, here. Corsets, binding, packing, padding, tucking, taping- you name it.
Perhaps my favourite part of cosplay, (and fan art in general) is when people reimagine characters. I often see this with Disney Princesses, where people redesign their look to make them more historically accurate. Also, there were of course the infamous indie, and punk Disney edits, we all shared in 2012.
This reimagining is very common in fandom spaces, and they’re usually referred to as ‘aus’ or ‘alternative universes’. Another common one is reimagining fantasy or sci-fi characters as everyday people. These reinterpretations allow creators to let their imaginations run wild, designing and crafting new, one-of-a-kind pieces to wear. Artists are then often faced with another challenge, the actualisation of fictional characters. Whether this is deciding on how to represent book or podcast characters that have no visual descriptions, or making something impossible, possible.
I haven’t even begun to talk about make-up! Anime eyes are a constant hurdle. The general technique of doing anime eyes in real life is underlining the eye with white eyeliner, to enlarge the eyeball and create a new, lower waterline using black eyeliner. False lashes combined with winged eyeliner help recreate those anime eyelashes. This technique has inspired my own eyeliner style, and I think it lends itself well to the e-girl look. One technique I’ve seen often, especially with characters that have unnatural eye colours, is applying the character’s eye-colour in eyeshadow to the inner tear duct. It’s not supposed to act as a false iris, rather it simply nods to the character’s original design.
The art truly promotes creativity, and I think we can take a lesson from this community in our everyday dress. Finally, my favourite part of cosplay is how accessible it can be. Artists are skilled at incorporating wheelchairs, canes, and/or crutches into their character’s designs. Whether that’s turning a wheelchair into a tank or mech, or styling it to fit in with the character’s design, cosplayers know no bounds, and are ready to tackle any hurdle they come across.
The community is unbelievably talented, and I believe cosplay can inspire our own outfits. Whether that’s subtly dressing like our favourites, or incorporating cosplayer’s make up techniques, or encouraging us to break boundaries in our expression, we can all appreciate the community and this art form, in our daily lives.