Introduction to Cosplay


Now, you may be wondering what cosplay is.  Cosplay is a portmanteau of two words, Costume and Play.  While I will be talking a great deal about the costume part in this article that is merely because, arguably, the costume is the hard part.  Playing, is merely acting the part of the character, although a great many people misconstrue it as something sexual–which it can be but it is a minor part of a major movement.

There are many different reasons to cosplay and they tend to vary largely from person to person but a few of the most common ones are:

  • I really like this character and want to be like them
  • I want to show off my skills as a costumer or prop-maker
  • I want to be in a cosplay contest
  • My friends all cosplay and it looks fun
  • I want to dress up while I LARP(live action roleplay)/go to a convention/et cetera

While there are many more reasons, it is a personal decision whereas the methods of costuming is something far more concrete.

For as many reasons as there are to cosplay there are only a few basics ways to do it, and whichever you choose is up to you but there are, of course, pros and cons to every choice.

  • Store bought cosplay.  There are a couple of different ways of doing this, and this way is most often done by beginners.
L – Sitting (anime)


  • One way is to take a character–for example, L, from Death Note–and simply buy clothes that match or closely resemble that of the character.  You cannot always rely on this method, however, especially for anime characters as they tend to have extravagant clothes.
L – Sitting (cosplay)


  • Another way is to look online for mass-produced costumes.  You can typically find the most popular characters from the most popular series for a reasonable price, but if the cosplay that you want to do does not fit that criteria it will be nearly impossible to find.  Also, these mass-produced costumes can sometimes lack the quality and detail of costumes done the hard way.
  • Commissioning a costume from an already established cosplayer or costumer can be a good way to get the quality and detail that mass-produced costumes can lack. However, there are a few difficulties in this as well, number one being the varying levels of skill that people can have.  While you might commision a costume from someone whose portfolio looks good, you might find that they do not necessarily have experience making costumes for others or just lack the time or desire to put their full effort into.  This should not dissuade you from attempting to commission a costume, but merely a warning to look at reviews of their work and have open communication with the costumer.  Also, the prices of commissioned costumes can vary but tend to be more expensive than the mass-produced ones as they reflect not only the price of materials but also the work that goes into them.
  • By far the most popular way to obtain your costume is to make it yourself.  While still tending to be more expensive than mass-produced costumes, it does tend to be more economical than commissioning one.  It also allows you to be a perfectionist about or not as you desire–the quality is entirely up to you and your skills.  And, alas, that is also where the downside is.  If you do not know how to sew, craft, or anything along those lines it will be needlessly difficult for you to make your own costume, but it is a great learning opportunity.  This is the preferred method of obtaining your costume for cosplay contests, although it does not preclude the previous methods as a costume is only one part of cosplay.

Now that you probably have some idea of what cosplay is and how to do it, maybe even why I want to leave you with some idea of what you should think about.  This is by no means an exhaustive list nor should you take as gospel.  These are just a few things that I’ve found help me decide who to cosplay over the years so I wanted to pass it on.

  • Do you like the character?  This is vitally important because if you do not like the character you are playing then why would you go through the effort of cosplaying them?  Furthermore, try and understand the reasons you like the character.  Maybe they have a great personality, or they have really awesome outfits, or maybe you just like the anime and that character is the one that you can really see yourself being comfortable as.
  • In fact, whenever you cosplay you should make sure that it is an outfit or character that you are comfortable wearing or portraying. Do not let yourself be pressured into cosplaying someone or thing that you do not feel comfortable in or as because there is every chance that you will not have fun and that is really what cosplaying is about.  A lot of characters–especially for females but also some male ones–can be very revealing and thus may not only draw inappropriate attention but also be uncomfortable.  Also, take into account the weather in your area–wearing the wrong type of clothes is a quick way to get into health troubles.

    Yaya Han as Enira, the Banshee Queen
  • Along those lines, remember that unless you are choosing a live action show, movie, or person to cosplay there will be some elements of a costume that may just be entirely impossible to pull off while still looking good.  This is not to say that you should not give it your best shot though.  More, this is a reminder that nothing is absolutely perfect and if you get stuck move on to another part or ask for help.  The forums at are filled with people of all levels of experiences who are more than willing to share their experiences and anyone thinking about cosplaying should check out the website if only for some inspiration.
  • Decide how you will obtain your costume.  There are numerous websites out there that will sell you premade costumes or you could choose clothes that look like the character’s costume.  You could also commission a costume from an already established costumer.  But by far the most popular way to cosplay is to make your own.  There are benefits and downsides to each as I stated above, but the choice is really up to you.
  • Decide when you will wear your costume.  This can sometimes follow along with the “why” of cosplaying especially if you start competing in cosplay contests.  Typically people will wear their cosplays to anime, sci-fi, literature, or comic book conventions, but you could also wear it on Halloween, or even–if you do not mind the sometimes confused stares–out in public whenever you feel like wearing it.  Very often cosplayers will also do photoshoots so as to display their work on the internet or even to make a portfolio.
  • Try and see if you would ever wear the same costume again.  This, ideally, should be decided before you even choose your fabric, or costume pieces so that you can choose for durability as well as style.  If you do wear the same costume enough, be prepared to be recognized as that character: like the famous cosplayer, Pikabellechu.

I really hope that this article inspired you to get into or even just to do more with it.  Cosplay is a really great way to connect with your fan community and express yourself and I hope that this helped you see this.  I would also like to thank the cosplayers whose pictures I used and I will link the websites where I found them below.


L – sitting

Enira, the Banshee Queen

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