Interesting hobbies: Getting into cosplay

anime convention tips

Drew Parker discovered cosplay by mistake and knew it was the right thing for her, but none of her friends were interested and she didn’t know where to begin. Her cosplay adventures take you through finding cosplay in your area, making costumes, attending your first cosplay event and even setting up your own!

What is cosplay?

Cosplay, short for ‘costume play’, is centered around dressing up as your favourite characters (or creatures, if that’s how you roll). Cosplay costumes and characters mainly derive from anime, manga and/or video games, so really it’s like fancy dress which doesn’t require an invite to a themed party or Halloween to get involved.

Cosplay has been happening in Japan for years now, but cosplay is a bit like a pandemic, taking over the world. It’s been taking root in the hearts and minds of anime enthusiasts across the globe, and characters from any medium can be cosplayed including comics and TV shows.

Cosplay: Freakish and otherly or popular and proud?

When I first stumbled across cosplay it was through an accidental click on youTube – but it was a pleasant and timely accidental click. I already loved dressing up whenever given the opportunity (though that wasn’t nearly as often as I’d have liked) so to find out about something like cosplay was like a godsend.

I did my research and found out just how popular it was, so much so that there are cosplay conventions worldwide. More surprisingly, my research showed that people weren’t even attending these events as an excuse to try cosplay – they were practically doing it out in the streets!

Eventually I decided I wanted to give cosplay a go. But the very thought of walking out of my house dressed up as, hmmm, I don’t know, a galactic warrior princess from the planet xuniko91 (where did that come from?) was VERY intimidating. It’s not your everyday choice of gear after all. I was somewhat afraid of the reactions of the general public…

You can find cosplay action in the most unlikely places…

After foul dread had driven me into cowering submission, I left the idea for a bit, but it came back just as strongly as before a few months later. However, I was battling with cosplay loneliness: I knew no-one who would even consider joining me in dabbling in the fine arts of cosplay, and living in the North East of England wasn’t going to help – all the major UK conventions were unsurprisingly located in the South.

Do check local schools and colleges to see if they have a cosplaying society.

Fear: Will other cosplayers accept me?

I set out to find like-minded individuals in my area via the web and… Hallelujah! to the rescue! By coincidence a small outing had been organized by a few anime/manga fans living quite close to me, and even though I was pretty late in joining in the idea I went ahead and asked if I could be part of the day out. I was accepted! Just like that! These days the once small group of about 10 of us has expanded to around 40 something resulting in the title we now go by, The North East Cosplayers.

As of yet I haven’t been to any large conventions (such as the MCM Expos in London or the Midlands). I personally have my sights set internationally such as cosplay events in the USA. Hopefully, one day soon I’ll be able to make it a reality.

For now, I’m sticking to my roots with the North East cosplayers. We go to Newcastle almost every time, as we like to go into Forbidden planet/Travelling Man and other anime-friendly shops, pillaging and plundering them for all they are worth. I’ve also been to the Metro Centre, the city’s largest shopping mall.

Street cosplay – acceptable?

Street cosplay may get you more stares than cosplaying indoors at cons. People won’t mind though, and there’s safety in numbers – it’s easier and more fun to street cosplay as a group. Occasionally there are some frowny faces made when we come parading through holding wooden swords, wearing long capes and shouting in our own ‘language’. I suggest cosplaying outdoors so as not to disrupt the public more than you can help it!

Creating cosplay costumes

Cosplayers love to create their own costumes from scratch. This is part of the experience!

Some people prepare costumes costumes months in advance of events – that’s how dedicated they are.

Admittedly I haven’t yet attempted to make my own. I’ve cheated, I guess you could say, in buying pre-made costumes from the internet. Which is fine – there’s no harm in it. There are some good deals out there if you’re tight with money. Just look around… There’s always somethingon offer!

As for dyeing your hair to look just like the cosplay character of your choice? Some dye their hair and some prefer to wig it (though wigs have to be taken care of and you can get cheap wash in/wash out dye in a variety of wild colours – just make sure the hair dye used is not the permanent kind).

Who you pay tribute to by dressing up as them is your choice. So far I have two main cosplays. Perhaps you want to go mainstream with recognisable characters from the likes of cult favourites like Naruto and Fruits Basket? Or maybe lesser known animes such as D.N.Angel? Or really get in touch with your creative side and make up your own character?

Creating your own cosplay character could really save you money as you may be able to use what you already have. Or you can get cheap cosplay costumes online and wear them with pride or customise them. It’s all up to you.

Your first steps into the world of cosplay

Once you have your cosplay costume/props you’re ready.

If you’re like I was and have absolutely nowhere to go or people to cosplay with, get yourself on the internet. Look around and I swear you’ll be surprised at the amount of people like yourself.

Here’s another idea. If you have any manga shops near you, make an advertisement for a cosplay outing and ask if you can have it displayed somewhere. Provide contact details for yourself. If anyone’s interested, they’ll get in touch… And who knows what will come of it.

Summer is an ideal time for outings and a great way of spending some time in the sun.

When it comes down to it, you have to get involved and have some initiative. If you’re thinking of taking up cosplay, it’s so much easier than you might think! I really hope I’ve given you some sort of inspiration – and good luck with your own cosplay adventures!

UK cosplay - Misa