People about Cosplay...
Cosplay is used to portray a character, in complete characterization, sometimes even down to speech and acting.
Culture appropriation, in my opinion, is always negative, portraying double standards that favor white people. For example, hairstyles used by black people seem trashy and inappropriate, but in white people they are deemed edgy.
Cosplay is a representation of the love for a character, they are acting as the character, their race or cultural background of said character usually has nothing to do with the character, it is a simple fact about them.
When a person does “cosplay”, by making fun of another race, say they dress up as a black character by simply putting on brown makeup, this is racism.
However, correctly portraying the character who happens to be black, is cosplay and is not appropriating the culture of said character, simply using their image to act as them.
At risk of sounding like a Nike ad, just do it! Find a character you want to dress up as and get started. If you need help there’s plenty of tutorials (both blogs and videos), books, and forum you can turn to for advice, especially if you’re doing something popular. Or you can do what I did and just muddle through it yourself. My first costume I bought what items I could, mostly at secondhand stores, dyed and altered a shirt and made some simple arm wraps out of cheap cotton. I had no idea what I was doing (and no sewing machine – do your hands a favor and use one if possible) but it came out pretty well and I’m still happy with it.
These days I usually make mine from scratch, finding a sewing pattern that is somewhat close and adapting it as needed. When I can pick up patterns cheap I look for anything that might be useful and stock up. I’ve gotten unused patterns for as little as a dime before, so even if I never use them I’m not out much. I like to let other people do work for me when possible. Secondhand stores can be good for base items and even for fabric, either by cutting something apart (one of my costumes is 95% bed sheets) or if you’re lucky even plain fabric (I once found a piece juuuust big enough and in the right color for an outfit I wanted to do).
Remember you can decide how true to the source you want to be. If something is outside of your skill level or too expensive to do “properly”, you can find a way to do something. I once stumbled upon a pattern to knit Rinoa’s duster, but painting or sewing the wings on a plain blue one works too. Or you can stylize it to your own tastes. My costumes never look great, my skills aren’t at that level, but I can do “good enough”. And you’ll never be sure what you’re capable of until you try.
Absolutely not! There are exceptions, but even seasoned cosplayers who enjoy the crafting side of things will often buy parts of their costume. There’s an entire segment of the community that does commission work who wouldn’t have any business at all without the parts of the community who find skipping to the dressing up stage to be most fulfilling.
So long as you are having a good time and participating ethically (not taking credit for a costume someone else made, for example), you are doing cosplay exactly right!