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?
For me, cosplay is the art of bringing a fictional character to life using yourself as a medium. As people have already mentioned, cosplayers put a lot of money, time, and energy into their craft. Some will go to extremes to lose weight or learn a technique outside their skill level just to try and cosplay that character.
I really love cosplay and I find it is a mirror of how you will treat a lot of things in life, whether that is your job, your relationships, etc. The typical time and project management questions always appear (“Can I finish this in time for this convention?”, “Do I have the resources?”, etc.) but also some that you may not expect (“Should I just stitch this poorly to save time?”, “Will cutting a corner here affect the project later on?”, “Should I invest the time in learning this new technique and apply it to the costume?”). The way you answer these questions are exactly the same way you will answer these questions in real life.
That’s why cosplay is such a great way to make friends than other activities. Not only do you have a great excuse to geek out to like-minded people about your passions, you also can see whether or not they do as they say. You really get to know the people and can truly bond with them.
Costuming has been around a long time: we find artifacts from tens of thousands of years ago where they were used to portray a being or spirit. Often those who played the parts in costume were held in high regard.
A little time with kids or a parade group reminds us all how much fun people have – let alone when there is a formal play being staged. Costuming is fun; it’s fun for people to pretend, but it should be understood by all that it’s to be pretend. Problems come when the “role” gets mixed up with one’s being; the role defines the person instead of the person defining the role.
As Jack Nicholson famously said to Michael Keaton as they were suiting up for their roles in Batman (1989): “Time to let the costumes do the acting.”
When the role is more than the person, that causes psych problems.