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.
You absolutely do not have to make your own costume to cosplay! Made or bought, cosplay is cosplay. Cosplay is more than making an outfit. It can include makeup, wig styling, and prop making too, besides sewing the costume. Some people, like me, style their own wigs and do their own makeup, but can’t sew or craft. Some people simply wear the costume and don’t make any of it, and that’s fine too. This cosplay elitism needs to stop, of course it isn’t wrong to buy a costume. As long as you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.
I have a rather complicated attitude towards cosplay and cosplayers.
Part of me think of them as rather silly. I mean, grown adult dress up in game/amine/comic book characters with homemade costume, and act like they’re actually the character? Com’on…
But at the same time, I admire their creativity and bravery. Some of the costumes are really ingenious and of high quality! I mean, let’s face it, game/anime/comic book characters often have the most unrealistic physic defying clothing. It takes some real creativity and talent to create it in 3 dimensional reality and to have the killer body to wear it.
Cosplayers are very passionate about their craft, which is something I can relate to and appreciate. If one of those days I can loose 30 lbs, I’ll go dress up too.