People about Cosplay...
When judging whether something is cultural appropriation, ask first: is there a cultural double standard that praises the borrower while punishing those whose behaviors/styles are being borrowed from? If not, then the second test is to see if the thing being borrowed has religious/spiritual/historical significance the borrowers are disregarding or disrespecting for the sake of ‘cool’. Finally, does the act of borrowing reinforce stereotypes?
To answer your question, No. Cosplaying in the past hasn’t been used to marginalize, dehumanize, or stereotype the Japanese people. Cosplay has no major religious, political, or spiritual significance, even in Japan it is considered a commercial hobby. Cultural Appropriation is problematic because the hegemonic group (in the US case, white people) get praise for behaviors the group that they borrowed the practice from get penalized for (in this case, Japanese otaku). However, Japanese otaku have the same or superior status as American Cosplayers at US Conventions and English language internet. Japanese Otaku are not facing a double standard when compared to white otaku that favors White otaku.
There are some racists who may say white cosplayers look more like the anime/video game characters then Japanese cosplayer, but those types tend to be seen as racists and pariahs in most well-balanced cosplay communities. Most people tend to think the Japanese have very high quality cosplay.
There are three ways you can go with this:
I recommend starting with the DIY route. There are a plenty of costumes that don’t take much work and can be made by combining everyday items, which are great for beginners. And at the end of the day, it’s your own creation.
- Buy a Halloween costume: This is easy and cheap, but “kit” costumes tend to be poorly made, only available for the most mainstream characters, and pale replicas.
- Buy a cosplay costume: These are usually higher quality and are available for more obscure characters, but tend to be expensive. You’re looking to spend a couple hundred dollars at least.
- Make your own costume: This takes more work, but allows greater creativity. Not only can you make a costume for any character that comes to mind, but you can do fun twists like gender bending (female version of male character, vice versa) or mashups (Darth Batman). The cost can vary depending on how far you go with it.
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.