What is cosplay?
Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.
Cosplay today is more than just wearing a costume, people don’t consider halloween costumes as part of cosplays culture. Cosplay could be considered as performance art as it involves people doing more than just dressing up, the try take on the physical and often then mental role of the fictional character they are dressed as. The purpose of cosplaying varies from person to person, the main reason being they wish to show their adoration of the character. Other reasons behind cosplaying could be the attention and approval from audiences and peers, another reason could be the experience and the creative process behind constructing their costumes.
Why do people participate in cosplaying?
Cosplaying is more than just the costumes themselves, it can be extended to clothing designing, fabrication and in most cases make up. Prop making can also play a key role in cosplay, people take time and care making sure that their props abide by the cons rules. There are many skills involved when making cosplay.
Example of a large prop made a cosplayer (Steve Pearce) at Birmingham MCM, 2017
Cosplayers often chose the characters they cosplay because they relate to them or the characters possess traits which they wish to have. Cosplay can be seen to help people with their confidence. Some cosplayers will try to recreate the character they are portraying personality and mimic the mannerisms of these characters as accurately as they can, they try become the character. Sometimes people will choose to cosplay a character solely because they like their outfit.
The community surrounding cosplay is a strong one. There are a lot things which drives this community whether it be that that some people enjoy sewing, modeling or photography. There is a strong sense of unity, fans are able to interact with other fans easily and show their appreciation for each others cosplays. Often on online forums and groups fans will advise one another on how to go about a particular thing if they need advice such as styling wigs or making a prop for a character. People who cosplay mostly do so because they enjoy it and find it to be fun despite the time and dedication they had to put in prior to put their costumes together.
(Example of a performance at a Masquerade from last year which I recorded)
Cosplay fans can vary from those who cosplay for fun to those who obsess over a character trying to get every detail right on their outfits. Cosplay isn’t a cheap “hobby” many people will spend a lot of money and time making sure that their outfit is close to that of the original character. Some cosplayers may even practice poses and memorise dialogue. This would be required for those who enter the masquerades at conventions where they are expected to “perform” for an allotted time, dances and prepared routines are typically seen at masquerades.
Cosplay Celebrities/Cosplay Famous
Most cosplayers cosplay for fun but in some cases there are people who are able to cosplay for a living. One example of this is Leon Chiro who has been able to work with video game companies. He started off with small collaborations with companies such as Capcom and 2K and has more recently earned sponsorships from companies as big as Sony and Ubisoft. These collaborations see Chiro occasionally working launch events dressed and acting like video game characters and other times he attends large conventions as a guest and works full day’s. An example of Chiro’s work would be working at Ubisoft’s boost at a convention and take photos with people while dressed in cosplay as one the characters while they are waiting to try out the game available.Chiro’s work to begin with was casual whereas now he signs contracts which guarantee him pay for the work he provides, this is alongside the costs for him to attend the conventions, the flights and his hotels. He still makes all of the costumes himself but bills his sponsors for the costs of the costume.
Jessica Nigiri is another well known cosplayer, she became popular when she posted images of her “Sexy Pikachu” costume online. Nigiri has now since gone on to be paid to attend conventions as the official cosplay model for numerous characters including two characters from Assassin’s Creed, Connor Kenway & Female Captain Edward Kenway. She has gained many fans from her cosplays. She makes money through selling prints of her cosplays and will sometimes get sponsored to make some of her cosplays. Nigiri has also got a patreon which allows her fans to support her and each tier gives different perks to her supporters such as exclusive process pics and behind the scenes videos.
Yaya Han is famous in the cosplay community because of her costumes and her craftsmanship. Han had been of japanimation for many years and through a website found images of people dressed up as anime characters and immediately became attracted to it. She learnt the basics of sewing and made her first costume which she wore to a convention and saw many other cosplayers who informed her that it was called cosplaying, from that point on she continued to make her own costumes and developing her skills to make these costumes.
The way she got commissions was through word of mouth, more people would see all her costumes and ask her if she could make their costumes. Han started to do commissions full time as part of a commission business with 2 other craftsman before realising she prefered making accessories. Accessories allowed her to be more creative and design items which would be affordable to many people rather than just luxury items for those who could afford it. Han designed the products and sculpted them herself and another colleague sanded them and did the molding and casting before she finished them off.
As of 2005 Han has been working as a freelance artist and a crafts person as well as running her store with another craftsman colleague. The store has many different cosplay products as well as her own merchandise such as calendars and posters showcasing her cosplays. Han as had many opportunities made available to her which help her sustain her business such as fashion shows to making large props for businesses. She has also designed and made costumes for indy films and tv pilots. Han has also worked with McCalls which is a pattern company, she has made several patterns for them some including cosplay outfits and other patterns which could be altered to fit cosplays.
Social media plays a large roll for cosplayers who cosplay as part of their job as it about how many fans they can reach and the quality of their posts. Patreon is another way in which cosplayers can earn money, they offer different perks to their fans depending on how much they pledge monthly. Perks range from prints and fan signs to special content such as patterns of behind the scenes footage.