People about Cosplay...
Ancient peoples dressed up as animals and gods. They dressed up as powerful characters of myth and reenacted stories that were important to them.
Modern people do the same. On Halloween, people dress as archetypes of many kinds, At Christmas, you see people dressed as Santa Claus in the US, reminding us to be kind to others, even if we don’t put change in this particular pot.
Once, I was in an Indian restaurant and as I waited to be seated, I looked at pictures of a party at the restaurant. They had two people cosplaying Krishna and Radha.
I attend anime/manga gatherings and I know from talking to many, many people about this, that the drive to dress up as characters you love comes from wanting to participate more deeply in the narrative.
At Renaissance Faires, I was quite often told by people “this is my real self,” as opposed to the normal worker bee they were during the week.
And then there is cosplay as a sales technique. Booth babes are hired at tech and industry shows because getting a dorky guy over to the table takes work. Geeky folks are cynical folks, but a pretty girl will draw many men without working at it. Once they are there, they must of course be engaged and thrilled by the tech, but the hook is the girl. Or in a maid cafe in Tokyo, having someone be kind to you, call you “Master” and do your bidding feels good, even if you’re paying by the hour.
So, why cosplay? To engage with our mythical/narrative roots; to take on skills and powers that we don’t normally have, in the context of ritual – or fun; as a visual hook to drive commerce; to enjoy, for a moment, the thrill of being something else than we are or who we feel that we really are.
We may not all cosplay, but we all play dress up from time to time. Next time you slip into tux or a really nice dress, think about the cosplay you’re engaging in – what are you projecting? What makes this you different than the everyday you? What powers, skills, qualities are you pretending to have?
Putting aside for the moment that the tone of the question doesn’t imply the most open of minds, cosplay is – simply – acting. Do you consider Mel Gibson, Ken Branagh, David Tennant, Cumberbatch, et. al. immature for wanting to dress up and act as Hamlet? Cosplay is a similar – if not identical – mindset: people, inspired by characters, possessing the right combination of talent, bravery and self-awareness, performing as said character for an audience. Whether it’s a convention stage or a Broadway stage makes no difference. The person who portrays Deadpool or Master Chief is very much spiritual kin to the person who plays King Lear or Hamlet. It’s wrong to praise one and denigrate the other based on the source of their inspiration, for to declare which works are “great” and which are not is subjective or worse. Still, even if most consider it blasphemy to compare Marvel to Shakespeare, the motivation to portray characters from either realm is identical and the healthy mindset WON’T criticize this, realizing that whatever it doesn’t “get” is not automatically inferior or invalid.
PS: Ironically you will find, if you but ask, that most cosplayers as children were very successful Trick or Treaters, as Halloween is quite often the “bug” that bites them for their subsequent motivation.
Pick your favorite character, or one you would have the most interest in creating, and start looking for items that can be turned into props. Go to the thrift stores and find clothing that can be altered, or may even work as it. Figure out how to do an ‘adaptation’ of a character – for instance, I have a Rarity (My Little Pony) costume that is a purple skirt, purple and white blouse, large white hat and purple wig. I have either white or purple heels to go with it, but I forget which. Everything except the wig was repurposed out of my own closet.
If you haven’t done any costuming at all before, pick a character that usually wears ‘street clothes’. There are also a ton of eBay sellers out there that offer custom made cosplays, but you have to be careful and read reviews about their sizing – a lot of them tend to run small. I’ve also bought stand alone pieces like corsets, boots, purses, etc., from eBay and Etsy. This one store on eBay sold cheap corsets for ten bucks each – they didn’t stand up to long term use, but they did work for about a year of conventions, each, and held up pretty good for the per-wear price. Anything you buy from a China eBay seller, plan to give it a month lead time. I usually get wigs and whatnot within 2-3 weeks, but the sellers usually say to allow for 30 days. And there are a lot of good inexpensive wigs on eBay too!
If you don’t sew, there are a lot of ways to get started, even if you aren’t crafty at all! those are skills you can pick up later on if you have a desire to.