A few weekends ago, I went with a bunch of friends to a Renaissance Fair in upstate New York. It was my first time attending such an event and it was exactly how I’d expect it to be––jousts, archery, knights, pages, and lovely maidens dressed in their afternoon best. I was completely transported to another time and another world. While the workers running the fair naturally have to dress and act the part, many attendees are just as welcome to dress up and join in on the fun.
Many of the costumes I saw were impressive, even if most were bought from someplace else. Others just used what they had to create a modern day reinterpretation of what it was to live in that time period. As giddy as it made me feel to feast my eyes on all the amazing costumes I saw both men and women wear, and often finding myself daydreaming about wearing what other women were brave and creative enough to wear, I wouldn’t dare venture into cosplaying myself.
Cosplay, short for costume play, is the type of dress up you often find in places like geek/nerd conventions or a medieval fair. These places are the only time, aside from Halloween, where you can put your best face forward and dress up as whatever character you wish. Going to Comic Con may have you dressing up like Batman or Wonder Woman, or going to a video game convention may have you practicing your best Chun-Li pose or walking around as Solid Snake to do your best hiding in a box impersonation with an actual cardboard box. Sometimes, you may see a blending of comic book and anime characters co-existing together and walking side-by-side on convention floors. Whatever your character of choice may be, the possibilities are endless. After attending conventions like New York Comic and PAX East, I tend to notice common traits about cosplayers: creativity and passion.
Cosplayers, whether they’re the professional kind or not, take great pride in the costumes they make. This requires a wealth of creativity, basic sewing skills, or knowing how to find the right pieces and being able to put them together seamlessly. How much time they spend on their costume depends on their budget and the level of commitment they have to make their look really memorable by the time convention day rolls around. Doing a really good cosplay is an art in and of itself. The right fabric and prop is crucial to make the whole outfit come together as you envisioned it.
Passion is the other key to cosplaying. You have to love doing it and you have to be comfortable enough having all eyes on you for a day or weekend. It’s obvious from the start that the ones who attend any event that allows you to dress up, tend to be really excited to show off their creations and pretend to be their favorite character. Cosplayers get really into it and there’s no doubt in your mind that they’re having fun. Part of dressing up at conventions means you’ll be the center of attention. Swarms of fellow attendees will ogle and admire the cosplays they like the best and even politely ask those cosplayers if they can take a picture of them. Most cosplayers are only too happy to oblige by the request and some will even ham it up for the cameras. You have to enjoy the attention if you decide to cosplay. It’s kind of like being a moving piece of art for the day––you’ll have many eyes on you and many will want your picture. Cosplay isn’t for those who are camera shy or don’t like being approached by random strangers.
I have an immense amount of appreciation and respect for those who cosplay because I personally don’t have the same level of dedication or creativity to pull one off. I can’t sew and running around to find the right hat or shirt to do an easier cosplay is too much work for me. While I did love dressing up for Halloween as a kid, finding the motivation to dress up now is hard. I’m also the type of person who doesn’t like drawing attention to herself. Having so many eyes on me makes me feel shy, uncomfortable, and self-conscious. I think to be able to cosplay requires a ton of confidence and bravery to carry your costume well. If you don’t have that, well, I doubt you’ll feel like you’re having fun at all. And isn’t that the point of cosplaying? To have fun and show off your amazing creation?
Conventions or even a Renaissance Fair are the best places to dress up, pretend to be someone else for a day, and not feel like a complete weirdo while doing it. Cosplayers get to enjoy what they’ve made and have other people appreciate their hard work and effort. They have a lot to be proud of when plenty of people compliment and take photos of their work. It’s the one opportunity to have their moment and shine, and I’ll be one of those attendees who will have nothing but admiration for what they created.