I’m Eleanor and at weekends I dress up as fictional characters and prance around comic conventions. Well, not exactly, but that’s what most people assume when they hear the word ‘cosplay’. We dress up as our favourite fantasy characters and all get together at big meetups and conventions for costume parades, photoshoots, and competitions.
Cosplay used to be a tiny community, but now it’s far more popular, with growing exposure and acceptance. It’s a community where like-minded geeks can come together and share our passions.
Often people cosplay from comics, film, television, gaming, manga or anime, but there’s so much freedom with it; people even design their own characters to dress as. Although cosplay literally means ‘costume play’, most cosplayers dress and pose for photos or videos in character, but otherwise don’t actively roleplay. When you attend a convention in your cosplay, you’ll meet other dedicated people, take pictures with your friends, meet famous guests and, of course, venture into the dealers hall for some geeky shopping.
A friend and I plucked up the courage to do our first cosplays in 2013. We went as characters from an anime, Black Rock Shooter, and we turned up to the con thinking no one would care about four girls with crappy polystyrene and papier-mâché props. However, we got an amazing reception, constantly being asked for photos, with people enthusiastically approaching us and raving about the anime. From there, we got more and more involved in the community, honing our cosplay skills.
Cosplay can be a bit on the expensive side. However, it is possible to save a lot of money and create something awesome. Many people just want to look and feel like the character they’re cosplaying, or would like to focus on wig work and makeup, so they buy the costume from Ebay or online shops. I personally make most of my cosplays; I’ve learnt many skills and techniques to make the costume, such as using power tools, thermoplastics, sewing, patterning and so much more. Whilst big armour builds can be costly (around £160) and some of my friends have even spent over £1000 on a single cosplay, One example was only about £30 (almost all of that going into a crazy wig). The costume crafting is an art in itself, and I find with each new character I want to create a more impressive, accurate costume with finer detail.
Cosplay is also a international community. The most well-known cosplay conventions are the San Diego ComicCon and New York ComicCon. These are mammoth events for comic and movie fans, with celebrity panels, fan signings and meet-and-greets. This drives the genre of the cosplay; you’ll see plenty of impressive Batman, Spiderman, and Jon Snow costumes! Other conventions focus on cosplays from Japanese anime. For instance, there are amazing conventions in Europe and Asia, such as Japan Expo in France and Comiket in Japan. Costumes will be very niche, detailed, and nuanced character representations.
Cosplay also has a thriving social community. We meet new friends and hang out with old ones at conventions, all coming together for one big gathering of awesome nerdery. Social media plays an equally big part. There are many community groups for con goers, and specific fan groups where you can interact with people who cosplay from a particular show, comic or film. A lot of frequent cosplayers also have their own Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, where they share the costumes they’re making, and pictures from photoshoots. The cosplay community is super friendly and positive, and it’s easy to interact with talented people from around the world and share your cosplays.
All in all, cosplay is a wonderful hobby. You can be as creative as you want with your costumes, and the conventions and meetups are non-stop fun. It’s a chance to escape reality and embody your favourite characters from comics, TV, film, manga and anime. It’s also a great way to make new positive, creative friends.
If you’re curious about cosplay, why not head to the Coscraft Soc? The sessions are usually on Wednesdays and Sundays. Check out the UEA Coscraft Facebook group for details!