by Rachel Stewart
For people who aren’t in fandom, cosplay can be a confusing concept. Since becoming immersed and open about cosplaying within the Doctor Who fandom, I’ve had many people ask, “So, what is it exactly you do?” My answer is typically “Stand around with my cosplay friends and talk about expensive pieces of clothing.” With Heroes of Cosplay returning with another series of drama and misconceptions, I figured now is a great time for a cosplay primer.
Cosplay is a hobby. Collecting stamps. Knitting. Scrapbooking. Playing a sport. Cosplay is just like any other hobby. People are passionate and well-versed in techniques they’ve researched or modified themselves. People spend hours searching for ready-made pieces, building armor, embroidering fabric, and so on. Some people have better strengths than others. My talents include finding alternate pieces for screen worn clothing as well as distressing and painting items. I love searching for both vintage clothing and finding knock offs of current street clothing that can be modified for costumes. For cosplayers portraying comic book superheroes, they may even have a training schedule to get in shape for con. Many cosplayers may be on a budget, so financial skills also play a factor. Cosplay is a multi-faceted hobby, which demands a lot of time and effort, which is why I love it! I’m always learning something and improving on what I’ve done in the past. And while there may be some last-minute crunch to complete a costume, I find that element is way overplayed in Heroes of Cosplay. Any cosplayer worth their salt is going to have their latest costume complete before checking into their hotel room.
Cosplay is represeting the character as geninuely as you can. Some people stay in character the whole time they cosplay, while others just wear their costumes. Sometimes people do a mix of both. If I’m presenting a costume on stage, in front of a panel audience, or interacting with children, I typically stay in character, because my personality and posture adapt to who I’m portaying and it adds to the illusion. Do what you want. There is no right or wrong, although, I will say, seeing kids’ faces light up over your cosplay is a joyous feeling.
Cosplay is fun. I think the thing that upsets me the most about Heroes of Cosplay is the heavy competition aspect. In my 3+ years of cosplaying, I’ve entered one contest. While I know many people who compete, I know others who cosplay for the joy of wearing a costume they put time, effort, and money into. I’ve spent many a con taking silly photos with friends or just playing Cards Against Humanity. You can be passionate about costuming without being too serious.
Cosplay is not drama. Sure, there’s drama in cosplay, but that’s true of any hobby. There are always those people. It’s important you don’t turn into one of them. Be polite, compliment people on their hard work. Talk shop. Drink. Enjoy con. I’m lucky that I’m part of a collective of cosplayers who are helpful on many fronts, both cosplay and non-cosplay related. If you’re getting into cosplay, surround yourself with supportive, positive creative people.
Cosplay is not consent. It doesn’t matter what someone’s wearing. Don’t touch. Don’t heckle. Don’t harrass. Be an adult. If you see another cosplayer or congoer being harrassed, step up. Get security or hotel staff involved.
About Rachel Stewart
Rachel Stewart has been obsessed about all things pop culture from an early age, but counts Doctor Who and Jem and the Holograms among her main obsessions. She blogs about her cosplay adventures at conventions, weekly geek-inspired outfits and whatever else takes her fancy at her blog notprolificnotprofound. Like her cosplay profile at AllBackToFront.