International Cosplay Day Is Saturday. But Why Do People Cosplay in the First Place?
Shannon Cottrell Bender spotting at San Diego Comic-Con 2012
Dressing up as famed characters from across the pop culture landscape for events other than Halloween is nothing new. Certainly, people were doing it well before the term cosplay came into being. But, with every passing year, the image of the superfan dressed in detailed, often complicated costumes becomes more prevalent.
Right now, it's safe to say that the cosplayer is the face of the fan convention, even if there are plenty of people at these events who don't dress up at all (myself included). Over the past few years, I've covered a lot of cosplay for L.A. Weekly, from a samurai rendition of Darth Vader to a gender-bent version of the Justice League, from professional cosplayers like Yaya Han to a Firefly fan who chose Jayne's hat as her first costume.
Still some questions remain unanswered. How exactly do people get into cosplay? What do cosplayers see as their biggest successes and failures? More importantly, why cosplay? Since this Saturday is International Cosplay Day, I posed some of these questions on Twitter and Facebook. The responses vary, but the passion for dressing up as someone else is always the same.
Although cosplay typically starts at conventions, that's not always the case. Writer Courtney Kraft got into cosplay through a Star Wars LARP group that she joined. She created her own character, a Sith apprentice, and made a costume. "I recall wearing a lot of black and purple and this hideous gold belt that belonged to my mother." She continues to play the character 15 years later.
Others talk about cosplay as an extension of the costumes they were already making for Halloween and other events. "I've been dressing up at any given opportunity for as long as I can remember," says Houston-based cosplayer Vanessa (no last name given), who also goes by the names DalekEmpress and EmpressV. Halloween, theme dress-up days at school and Renaissance Faires were her thing until she started dressing up for conventions back in 2009. Her first stab at convention cosplay was "Dalek Couture," a dress based on the Doctor's nemeses in Doctor Who. Naturally, she chose a Doctor Who convention to debut the dress and the reaction from fellow fans was great.
Since then, the Dalek Couture dress morphed into her DalekEmpress outfit, an epic ballgown made to resemble the Dalek's shell. She's currently on version 3.3 of the dress ("It gets sub-versions because I have to remake half of it after every convention," says Vanessa), which she'll be wearing at Dragon*Con this year. Recently, at San Diego Comic-Con, Vanessa managed to bump into Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and stars Karen Gillan and Matt Smith while dressed as the DalekEmpress. (You can see photos on her Tumblr.) Later on, she found out that Gillan mentioned her as "the Dalek in the elevator" during the panel.
Up next: the heartache of cosplay