When you hear the word “cosplay”, what comes to mind? A young woman dressed in a Japanese school-girl’s outfit with a colorful wig? A man wearing painted cardboard boxes to simulate a robotic suit of armor? Or even someone wearing a headband with a pair of cat ears attached?
Cosplay has become a part of our geek culture just as much as making AMVs on YouTube (wait, do people still do that or is it just me?) or commenting on forums about movies, music, and cartoons. Merriam-Webster defines cosplay as:
“the activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, or television show)”
The origin and etymology of the word comes from the Japanese word ko-su-pu-re, which is short for the much longer word kosuchūmupurē, being used from costume + (role) play.
Cosplay, to some people’s way of thinking, is an excellent way to express yourself and to pay tribute to your favorite film, TV show, or video games. Several excellent examples are presented here at the recent El Paso Comic Con:
Of course, there are those who are professional cosplayers, and make this their one way to support themselves while doing what they love. At El Paso Comic Con, the con-goers had the distinct honor and pleasure to have not one, not two, but three talented cosplayers: Christina Dark, YaYa Han, and Ginny Di. All three have made names for themselves in the geek universe, with many of their cosplays having appeared on websites such as The Mary Sue. Christina, YaYa, and Ginny had a panel on the last day and spoke of their experiences in cosplay.
Ginny, YaYa, and Christina. Author photos
At the panel, Christina, Ginny, and YaYa spoke of their years of experience as cosplayers. YaYa started in 1999, Ginny began six years ago in 2012, and Christina got into the game in 2013. All three had great answers to their questions, and even though there weren’t very many people at the panel, they asked a lot.
Many of the people querying were wanting to know how to make their own cosplays and what to start with. Well, for one thing, leather is expensive, so if you can use it, use it; however, pleather and craft foam works just as well depending on the costume. Also, as you make more and more costumes and props, your skill level goes up. And of course, it depends on what character you plan on playing. Using an example, it took Ginny the longest to make an Arya Stark costume. For Christina, it was an Elsa costume, and for YaYa, it was the Banshee Queen. The queries ranged from workspaces (keep them large enough to work in) and where to get your props.
But I wanted to know their thoughts about one big question.
As conventions have become more and more common place, they now have a big rule known far and wide as “cosplay is not consent”. What this means is that just because there is someone dressed as your favorite cartoon/book/anime/video game character/superhero, that does not, I repeat, DOES NOT give you free license to go up and touch them inappropriately or ask for their number or any of their personal information. This has happened, unfortunately, with many cosplayers (mostly female) at many conventions.
There is an actual website called Cosplay Is Not Consent, where several conventions can post their support to make sure that nothing unfortunate happens to cosplayers attending their event. At the end of this article, I’ll post the link to the website.
Several conventions have begun to adopt the policies set by the website. An excellent example is what con goers to New York Comic Con, aka NYCC. Saw as they entered the venue: a list of DO NOTS concerning cosplayers.
Concerning El Paso Comic Con, there was even almost a whole page of the event guide dedicated to making sure everyone behaved themselves and if they didn’t, they would be booted out of the venue.
Now, getting back to the panel, I asked Christina, Ginny, and YaYa what they felt about the cosplay is consent movement, seeing as they have been to conventions all over.
Their response was overwhelmingly positive. All three ladies agreed that at a con, you’re there to enjoy yourself but at the same time, you need to look out for each other. If you see inappropriate behavior towards any cosplayer, you need to act right away. They talked about being a role model to others, and making sure everyone enjoys themselves; “ask first if it’s okay to take a picture” Ginny emphasized, “and if they say no, respect their answer.”
When asked about what it felt like to meet famous celebrities because of their cosplaying ventures, they had some great stories. Ginny talked about meeting Felicia Day, who loved her costume portraying a character the actress played on a web series called The Guild; she even met Nathan Fillion!
Christina got emotional as she spoke about meeting Megan Marie, another great cosplayer who was a source of inspiration to her during a tough time in her life. And YaYa spoke about meeting George R. Martin at San Diego Comic Con; he was so impressed with her costume of Daenerys Targaryen that he asked her to meet the actors backstage after a panel. Emilia Clarke was ecstatic, and rightly so.
After the incredibly successful panel, I decided to speak to each of them at their booth about certain things I had questions about. I asked them what could someone like me, who can’t really sew to save their life: what’s a good way to start?
Ginny informed me about something called a “circle skirt”, which is something a beginning cosplayer can easily learn to do; also, there are plenty of video tutorials to help you learn how to sew as well. But she agreed that going to thrift stores was an excellent way to start making up costumes; just make sure to calculate what you’re going to need to complete your costume, and if you needed to purchase something online, do it. Christina was of the same mind; she told me the costume she had worn the day before—Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit—was sewn by a friend of hers who was a great seamstress; she herself couldn’t sew, but “thrifting” was a good way to begin. However, when I asked YaYa, she told me that there was no greater satisfaction than making something yourself and wearing it. She did add, and I quote, “if you can thrift it up, then thrift it up!”
Hearing these words from these accomplished ladies, and seeing many great cosplays that weekend, at the time of this writing was only a week ago, made me feel confident that my next cosplay, would be something I can enjoy putting together.
The author with Christina Dark as gender-bend Suicide Squad Joker and Ginny Di as an Alphonse Mucha inspired Snow White. Author photo and taken by Andrew McCann.
Now where am I going to find an old, battered leather suitcase? Hmm…I’ll bet one of the thrift stores in town might have one. Allonsy!
Links to Useful Stuff
Cosplay Is Not Consent
Here is the website that lays down the guidelines for what most cons now follow as a rule.
Christina doesn’t have an actual website, but here’s her social media:
You can also contact her at ChristinaDarkCosplay@gmail.com
For inquiries, you can contact Ginny at firstname.lastname@example.org
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——————————————————————————————————————————–Gabriella Brillante is a freelance writer who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To view more of her work, visit www.gabriellabrillante.wordpress.com. For questions, contact her at email@example.com.