People about Cosplay...
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.
No, it is perfectly normal to buy a cosplay costume. Even professional cosplayers buy or get the costume made from someone else. However, making your own costume has a different thrill to it.
What is important though, is how you carry the costume and how much fun you’re having while cosplaying.
As for “devaluing someone’s participation” goes, some may feel that your cosplay is superior to them, when they took more efforts. However, it is not supposed to be that way as these things are done for fun.
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!