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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogCosplay: What Is It, Exactly?

Cosplay: What Is It, Exactly?

By Thuy Fang
June 19, 2024
A young woman wearing princess cosplay. It's purple and pink and she's holding a staff.

Cosplay is an exciting and creative hobby that’s been captivating fans for decades. In Japan, places like Akihabara are famous for cosplay shops and themed cafes where staff dress up as popular characters. This shows how integrated cosplay is into everyday life and culture. So, what exactly is this phenomenon? Let’s dive in and explore exciting aspects of this hobby together!

Where does the word “cosplay” come from?

This word is a fun mash-up from Japan, blending the English words “costume” and “play”. After visiting the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, Nobuyuki Takahashi from Studio Hard invented the term. 

Cosplay is all about transforming into characters from movies, video games, anime, and more. It’s an exciting and creative way for fans to bring their favorite characters to life, not just with amazing costumes but by acting like them!

A group of girls wearing Sailor Scout cosplay.
“Cosplay” comes from the words “costume” and “play”. Image via Shutterstock

This passion has grown massively since its beginnings in the 1970s and 1980s. While starting in Japan, it quickly spread to other parts of Asia and the Western world. Today, it’s a big deal in pop culture with numerous special conventions and contests.

Events like the World Cosplay Summit, held annually in Japan, bring together cosplayers (or “cosers”) worldwide to showcase their outfits and performances. These gatherings truly celebrate creativity, craftsmanship, and community.

Is it expensive?

This form of entertainment can be costly for several reasons, primarily due to the costs associated with materials, craftsmanship, and the overall effort needed to create cohesive costumes. Many cosplayers aim for accuracy and detail in their appearance. This often requires using high-quality materials such as specialty fabrics, Worbla (a thermoplastic material for armor), LEDs for lighting effects, and various props and accessories.

A group of people wearing My Hero Academia costumes.
They’re prevalent at anime conventions! Image via Shutterstock

Besides the cost of the clothes and gear, there are additional expenses to think about if you wanna engage in cosplay professionally. Other potential costs include travel, convention entry fees, marketing materials (like flyers or banners), and outfit storage maintenance. Moreover, pro cosplayers may hire makeup artists, photographers, video editors, or assistants to handle costumes and social media content. These costs vary based on how intricate the cosplay is and how professional the cosplayer is!

A woman wearing a costume with an eyepatch.
Some cosplay is simple, but a lot is elaborate! Image via Shutterstock

But here’s the cool part – this outstanding activity doesn’t have to break the bank! You can get creative and DIY costumes from cheap materials or anything you already have at home, like an old shirt and cardboard. Plus, you can even use thrift items and still look fabulous. Also, don’t forget to find craft supplies and costumes on sale, at a discount, or in bulk to save more money. Consider renting or borrowing costumes, wigs, and props for one-time events!

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What’s the difference between cosplay and wearing a costume?

Cosplay and wearing a costume both involve dressing up as characters, but they differ in a few key aspects. Costumes are typically more straightforward at grocery stores like Walmart or specialty shops. They’re great for quick events like Halloween, where you might just wear them once and then put them away until next year. Costumes are usually made of cheaper materials like plastic, which can make them less durable and less realistic.

Two girls in pink and black cosplay respectively making a heart.
They’re very popular at anime conventions! Image via Shutterstock

On the other hand, cosplay is more of a hobby than a one-time event. So, one of the significant differences must be the time and effort involved. People create their outfits with attention to detail, often using high-quality materials. This could make them more suited for conventions and events throughout the year, not just Halloween!

Additionally, people get dressed in cosplay to feel more natural and look more accurate to the characters they’re portraying. It’s also about embodying the character and joining communities of fellow enthusiasts with the same passion. 

Do I have to make my own cosplay?

Nowadays, with the widespread appeal of this cultural trend, you can easily find costumes and accessories of your favorite characters without much hassle or time spent making them yourself!

A woman wearing cat ears and black cat paws.
You can buy your costume at many stores! Image via Shutterstock

First, check out big e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, as they’ve got a treasure trove of goodies. And if you’re hunting for some rare and quirky stuff, give Taobao and Alibaba a shot. They are China’s mega-popular online shopping platforms, with tons of products at wallet-friendly prices.

Furthermore, you can find costumes, wigs, and accessories of your favorite and trending anime or game characters in various online stores. Some popular shops with a wide variety and the latest trends are EZCosplay, MicCostumes, and RoleCosplay.

You’ll have many options, from famous anime like Naruto, One Piece, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Frieren to world-renowned games like League of Legends and Genshin Impact. And if you love transforming into heroes and superheroes from the Marvel or DC universes, don’t miss out on Herotimes or Procosplay!

Three people dressed in blue school uniform cosplay.
Have you ever worn cosplay before? Image via Shutterstock

Another excellent option for getting the perfect outfit for taking amazing photos or impressing at events is finding professional costume makers. These experts can create and customize items just for you. Online platforms like Coscove are perfect for connecting you with the right commissioners. Coscove is a popular marketplace for buying and selling cosplay items many people love.

Why should I try this hobby?

Cosplay is a way for people to express their love for characters and stories. This fun hobby is about creativity, dedication, and community, making it an excellent activity for all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned cosplayer or a curious newbie, there’s always a way to dive into this fun and imaginative world. Have you ever worn anime costumes? Share your experience with us below!

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