People about Cosplay...
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.
It depends on what you mean by popular. It’s more or less exclusive to conventions, which have the benefit of only happening once each year per con. Attendees like myself have time to craft and sew awesome things. I know why I like it-it pushes my creative boundaries and has become my full time hobby and side-job. It’s very fun to be someone else, but it’s also fun to show off your work. I made my husband a great Groot costume for DragonCon last year and it was one of the best weekends ever. We had a blast as ‘Rockette’ and Groot. There’s something about participating in a huge fandom that is just pure fun.
I don’t think it’s really all that popular with the general public, when people don’t know who you are it can be disappointing. They don’t really know what to make of you when you come into a restaurant painted blue with a handful of storm troopers after an event or convention. Kids seem to go nuts over it though, I’m also a member of Rebel Legion and dress as Princess Leia for events. Adults are amused but kids go crazy for Darth Vader. Popularity really only seems to stretch as far as known characters.
I actually role play as well. Role play and cosplay are almost the same thing. The only really different thing is that we not only act like the characters but we dress like them as well. The definition I give people when they ask what cosplay is, is this; cosplay means costume role play. We find a character that like/love and use cosplay as a way to bring them into the real world as best we can.
The appeal of cosplay for me is being able to create these amazing things using my skills that I have cultivated over the years. I guess it’s the same for people that like to cook. Cooking is fun and fine but I don’t think I’d really want to try my hand at making something worthy of a 5 star restaurant. That would just be way out of my skill level and I wouldn’t enjoy myself at all.
So yes, cosplay is kind of almost like that 5 star thing that people put a lot of time and effort into because they are passionate about it. Cosplay has also made it so that I have something to connect to people with. A lot of my family viewed it the same way as you do. Just adults and older teens that are dressing up on days other than Halloween. But after they saw just how much time and effort I put into these cosplays that I make they have gained a bit of a more ‘healthy’ respect for it.
If you get to know a cosplayer you will probably find that they are pretty passionate about their so called ‘hobby’. You could meet a cosplayer that may not have all of the resources that more ‘experienced’ cosplayers have. They may just sew everything by hand because they don’t have a sewing machine and work on cosplays in the corner of their shared bedroom because there’s just not enough space. Or you could meet a cosplayer that has years of experience and has won awards for their cosplays. They know exactly what kind of fabric to use for which kind of cosplay pieces. They have an entire workshop just for cosplay crafting.
But in the end we are all just a bunch of passionate nerds trying to bring our waifus and bishi boys into the real world. You don’t have to get the appeal of cosplay, just maybe respect those that do. I hope that helped you. :)