People about Cosplay...
To me, it’s equally a tribute to the property that I’m making the cosplay from, and the art form.
One could say the same thing of not getting the appeal of creating any media – learning any instrument, painting a picture, writing a book. It’s creation and display – this may not be the same to everyone, but it’s definitely a big part to me. It’s also a way to meet new friends from all walks of life. I’m certain if you looked closer, a lot don’t meet the stereotypes of an overgrown kid. I cosplay with people in the military, aerospace, tech, and all walks of life. Conversely there’s people that do this for a living, myself included.
As someone that enjoys hobbies and media that was formerly shunned for being “too nerdy”, perhaps immediately throwing anyone that takes part in cosplay into the “you’re a man/woman child” box is a bit reductionist, and a little offensive.
Honestly it’s all about what you personally find to work best, but for me I put on the costume first, or at least part of it.
For starters, it makes sure that the makeup doesn’t stain the neck hole of your costume, if there is one. This way all you have to worry about is usually powder fallout and that can be cleaned easily. You could also cover part of your chest with a towel like a bib if you’re really worried about stains.
If you’re putting on a wig it also helps to not dirty that or have it in the way of your work.
Also I find that the makeup tends to look better with the pieces around it. Makeup that is over the top or has unnatural aspects will sometimes look really silly with your normal hair and clothes, so to save the worry that you’re not doing it right, it helps to have the rest on. Especially when the wig comes on it all comes into place and you can do needed touch ups.
I often will only put on half the costume though. For example if the costume involves a jacket, belt, jewelry, etc that I can put on without touching the makeup, I’ll wait until the end. This also helps the makeup since costume pieces might not be made with full mobility in mind and can weigh you down or prevent movement.
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?