People about Cosplay...
Ancient peoples dressed up as animals and gods. They dressed up as powerful characters of myth and reenacted stories that were important to them.
Modern people do the same. On Halloween, people dress as archetypes of many kinds, At Christmas, you see people dressed as Santa Claus in the US, reminding us to be kind to others, even if we don’t put change in this particular pot.
Once, I was in an Indian restaurant and as I waited to be seated, I looked at pictures of a party at the restaurant. They had two people cosplaying Krishna and Radha.
I attend anime/manga gatherings and I know from talking to many, many people about this, that the drive to dress up as characters you love comes from wanting to participate more deeply in the narrative.
At Renaissance Faires, I was quite often told by people “this is my real self,” as opposed to the normal worker bee they were during the week.
And then there is cosplay as a sales technique. Booth babes are hired at tech and industry shows because getting a dorky guy over to the table takes work. Geeky folks are cynical folks, but a pretty girl will draw many men without working at it. Once they are there, they must of course be engaged and thrilled by the tech, but the hook is the girl. Or in a maid cafe in Tokyo, having someone be kind to you, call you “Master” and do your bidding feels good, even if you’re paying by the hour.
So, why cosplay? To engage with our mythical/narrative roots; to take on skills and powers that we don’t normally have, in the context of ritual – or fun; as a visual hook to drive commerce; to enjoy, for a moment, the thrill of being something else than we are or who we feel that we really are.
We may not all cosplay, but we all play dress up from time to time. Next time you slip into tux or a really nice dress, think about the cosplay you’re engaging in – what are you projecting? What makes this you different than the everyday you? What powers, skills, qualities are you pretending to have?
I would recommend starting out with something simple.
At my very first anime convention, I only had about a month to prepare and didn’t watch a lot of anime. I did Android 18 from Dragon Ball Z as I had most of her outfit already and had the right hairstyle for it. I only had to do a bit of alteration and get some extra items from eBay.
Each time I have cosplayed since then, I have expanded my range. I discovered I have a knack for props and makeup but am not very good at sewing. Therefore most of my best cosplays have involved some sort of prop or latex bloodwork. I am still practicing my sewing so I can incorporate that as well.
Play to your strengths and you’ll soon discover which areas you prefer to work in.
Coming from a movie production background, you put on the parts of your costume that would interfere with makeup – possibly rubbing on your face when donning the apparel – before you put on makeup. None of the rest of your costume should be worn until it is just before “showtime”.
And costumers (both hobbyists and professionals) should be planning for makeup application and making a costume that can be put on without having to go over the head like a T-shirt does. Aside from the fact that this is easy to make, there really isn’t a good excuse for designing a costume that ruins makeup, or alternately, has to be worn while makeup is being applied.