Cosplaying promotes art, creativity


Cosplayers Kacie Nicholson and Courtney Cook at Sacanime take a break at Subway across the street at the convection center. Photo by Caitlyn Cook

You hear about them all the time, walking around in body paint from head to toe, or dressed in intricate costumes from animes, comics, or shows like Dr. Who and Supernatural. They are all over Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. Who are these strangely dressed people? Why do they dress like this? What are they called? These people are called cosplayers and their talents are hidden among people you see every day.

What is cosplay? Cosplay is a combined word for costume play, which gives only a glimpse into what it is. Cosplay costumes are usually made or bought, though made costumes often take a lot of work, time and money.

Madeline Woodward has been cosplaying since she was in 8th grade. She regularly attends conventions and is an avid cosplayer.

“Blood, sweat, tears, your soul, all your money, and a lot of time [goes into cosplay]. Mostly some people buy all of their stuff, some people make all of their stuff. So different amounts of money go into it, different amounts of time go into it, a lot of thinking goes into it because you have to plan out how you’re going to do things. Like certain wig styles for certain characters are very very difficult to achieve,” Woodward said.

When it comes to making cosplay, there are many options. Whether one is sewing a ballgown or hot gluing foam armor, or buying off the internet, every skill level is different.

So why do these people suffer through the money loss, time constraints, body paint, tight clothes and put in all their ‘blood, sweat, and tears’?

A beginner cosplayer, Kailey Johnson, has recently started working on a ballgown for the character ‘Sapphire’ in the cartoon Network show ‘Steven Universe’. Johnson has been cosplaying for almost a year and attends conventions regularly.

“I cosplay because it’s an expression of my creativity, and with every new cosplay I can track how much I’ve grown since the last one.” said Johnson.

Angie Reed, who has been cosplaying since she was 12, is an advanced cosplayer who has been to many conventions over time.

“[Cosplay] gives people a way to escape their realities and give them a sense that they can be this other character in this alternate universe and that they can  really show their passion for this character that they really like in a way that’s fun for them because they get to portray this character and become this character, they get to create awesome costumes and they get to act out all day in this different character. They get to take pictures with people, it’s really a fun experience.” Reed said.

One place to showcase these costumes is conventions. These conventions range anywhere from small in a small town or huge with attendees from all over the world. Some upcoming bigger and more popular conventions are Fanime and Sacanime. Sacanime takes place in downtown sacramento in the convention center and Sheraton Grand hotel. This year, Sacanime took place in the winter time and this summer it will take place again September 4th-6th. Fanime is a much bigger convention than Sacanime, and people from all over come to this convention. Fanime will be taking place this year, May 22nd-25th in San Jose, California at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

During conventions like this, there are cosplay competitions and get togethers where people come together to enjoy each other’s cosplay, take pictures, and if they are in a competition, get the chance to receive prizes and have their cosplays critiqued.

People cosplay many things from many shows and comics and cartoons and animes (Japanese animations). Depending on the show or comic, the costumes may range from realistic and intricate, too cartoony and easy to make or buy.

Johnson said, “I used to cosplay a lot of Homestuck, and that’s a fairly easy fandom to cosplay because most of the characters have fairly simplistic designs. I usually see cosplays from ‘mainstream’ anime like Black Butler or Attack on Titan. I also see cosplays from shows like Supernatural or Doctor Who.”

How does someone even get into this stuff? Who or what one earth made people think ‘Hey, that looks fun!’, and then people continued to pour their heart and soul into these costumes?

“It actually started in the beginning of 8th grade I had gone to one previous convention, which actually happened to be fanime. I had seen a lot of cosplayers there and I was really inspired by all the different costumes and all the effort that went into creating costumes. I decided that I wanted to cosplay my favorite character from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara. I spent a lot of time and effort and blood and sweat and tears pulling that cosplay together. It was really worth it, I really felt like I was living up to the cosplays I had seen at the previous con. I look back on it now and I’m like ‘Oh that was a bathrobe that I cut up and glued some ribbon to.’” said Woodward.

Reed said, “I started to cosplay when I was 12 or 13. I was pretty young. I went to my first convention when I was about ten, it was a star Trek convention. I was super obsessed with some of the people that were there and that were dressed up. I was like ‘Wow, this is a thing that I think is really cool.’ When I was about 13 I decided that I was going to cosplay as Rose Tyler, from Doctor Who. Just walking around a feeling the energy of everybody that was dressed up also as Doctor Who characters was also really cool. From then on I’ve just gotten into bigger and bigger cosplays.”

Whether you paint your body a different color, sew an entire outfit, glue ribbons to a bathrobe, or buy every outfit you need, cosplay is respected and even considered an art among the community where these hidden artistic talents lie. You never know where you might find a cosplayer in your everyday life.