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.
Costume play is very powerful tool. Any role play, with or without costume, allows a person to express things with much less risk and responsibility. Through this self exploration proceeds unimpeded, and new behaviors are tested to see if they will be useful.
Constructively used, this allows becoming more oneself and testing of one’s environment and abilities. I allows a person to test revealing things about themselves and see if it meets with rejection, and extend their comfort zones. It allows testing of fears, e.g., permitting a shy person to try being outgoing to see how well it works for them.
On the other hand, a costume, role or disguise also permits a person to enact their worst and most damaging behaviors anonymously. It is far easier to behave badly if one has a costume or role which hides the identity of the person both literally and figuratively.
Honestly it’s all about what you personally find to work best, but for me I put on the costume first, or at least part of it.
For starters, it makes sure that the makeup doesn’t stain the neck hole of your costume, if there is one. This way all you have to worry about is usually powder fallout and that can be cleaned easily. You could also cover part of your chest with a towel like a bib if you’re really worried about stains.
If you’re putting on a wig it also helps to not dirty that or have it in the way of your work.
Also I find that the makeup tends to look better with the pieces around it. Makeup that is over the top or has unnatural aspects will sometimes look really silly with your normal hair and clothes, so to save the worry that you’re not doing it right, it helps to have the rest on. Especially when the wig comes on it all comes into place and you can do needed touch ups.
I often will only put on half the costume though. For example if the costume involves a jacket, belt, jewelry, etc that I can put on without touching the makeup, I’ll wait until the end. This also helps the makeup since costume pieces might not be made with full mobility in mind and can weigh you down or prevent movement.