People about Cosplay...
Interesting question. If the word “cosplay” is referring to what is usually meant, then no, because the costumes in question are those of fictitious characters. There is no “culture” being appropriated. Not even if you wear a Japanese school uniform – because Ayanami Rei, or whoever, is not a Japanese girl, she’s a fictitious character and you are dressing like her.
There’s some interesting weirdnesses to explore though, even in this space. Some thoughtless racist fans were in the habit of making black cosplayers feel uncomfortable. The absurdity of this is almost galactic in proportion because if a black woman can’t dress like Sailor Moon because she’s not Japanese, then why would a white women be able to? She isn’t Japanese, either. And Sailor Moon is not Japanese, she’s fictitious. Obviously, critical thinking is not high on the list of people who are unpleasant to other people.
But the rising tide right now is that cosplay is for everyone and while I don’t myself cosplay, I support this. Dressing up as your favorite character is not cultural appropriation – it is a culture in and of itself. There are folks who cosplay Jane Austen characters and pirates and princesses. Cosplay has its own subculture aesthetic. Merely dressing up is for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
The world has adopted the word cosplay. It’s Wasei-eigo, which means the word was originally created by the Japanese using English as the roots. “Costume play” becomes “cosplay.” There is a world cosplay summit. So I don’t think you can argue that merely using the word is appropriation. Words for things spread. That’s how language works.
Calling offensive stereotype costumes “cosplay” is stretching the word uncomfortably outside what cosplay means, IMHO. Those costumes are meant to represent offensive stereotypes. It’s outside the culture of cosplay itself and is merely wearing a costume in bad taste.
So, I would say no, cosplay is not cultural appropriation, it is its own culture that is open to anyone, anywhere.
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.
To answer your main questions, No and No. Cosplay is supposed to be about inclusiveness, fun, and showing your love for a character.
That being said, as with any group of people, there will be jerks on both sides. There will be those that make their costumes and look down on those that buy them, and vice versa. Jerks can be found at all levels of cosplay, just like regular society. And just like regular society, you have the choice to ignore the jerks and go your own way.
If you are happy with your cosplay, not competing in a 100% bought cosplay and are having fun, that really is all that matters.
People who make their cosplays receive just as many nasty comments and critiques as those that buy them by the way.