While cosplay may have started out as a phenomenon in the deepest depths of nerd culture, since the 1990ís cosplay has become increasingly popular in the mainstream. While still a popular part of comic and science fiction conventions, it is less and less a niche hobby, with guides on everyday cosplay (bluest-blue dress + converse + star jewelry = a TARDIS you could wear anywhere) even becoming a popular part of womenís fashion guides.
The word cosplay originates from a Japanese idea which combines the words "costume" and "play". Essentially, cosplay is the practice of playing with costuming.
According to Dictionary.com cosplay is "the art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation, and science fiction." While this definition works, itís a little narrow. Despite this definition, cosplayers often choose to portray real people as well as fictional characters. Pushing it a bit further, one of the things which distinguishes cosplay from, say, a regular Halloween costume or Date Party outfit, is that characters are often completely reimagined. You may play Darth Vader but reimagine the character as a woman in the Victorian era, or decide to cosplay Peter Pan but make him a grown-up in modern New York; the characters would still be recognizable in their original form, Darth Vader would still be in solid black with a mask and Peter Pan would be rocking his signiture tattered green, but, the cosplayer will simply have put their own fresh spin on the character.
What else is different? When youíre putting together your Halloween costume in most cases youíll probably buy every element of the costume. Often even in one package. When you cosplay, on the other hand, the challenge is to make as many of the costume elements yourself as possible. Instead of buying a one-size-fits all Iron Man costume a cosplayer would try and make fitted armor themselves, playing with the lighting component, applying the paint, and building the mask as much from scratch as they could. How much is DIYíed on each costume depends largely on the abilities and budgets of the cosplayer, but, a lot of effort is generally put into the makeup, wigs, and outfits which create the specific look of the character. The more you do yourself, the better a cosplayer you are considered. While pre-internet cosplay costumes might have been a herculian feat for most of us, in the age of youtube tutorials, finding DIY instructions makes the task of creating a costume from scratch much less daunting.
The short answer is anything you want. But here are a few categories to get you thinking:
Anime Characters: Anime is probably one of the most obvious choices for cosplay, but, that certainly doesnít diminish the fun. Exploring the Japanese roots of both cosplay and anime at the same time can make for a rich cosplay experience and is definitely something every cosplayer needs to try. Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball are all popular choices for beginners.
Marvel & DC Characters: At the rate the comics and films are created, youíll never run out of material to choose from in this category. These costumes can be particularly tricky, because if youíre cosplaying a character like Batman, youíre going to need armor. Still, donít underestimate the fun you can have playing a superhero. Or even better, a supervillain. A few Marvel options include Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. If you are more of a DC enthusiast, try classics like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Joker, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Green Lantern.
Video Game Characters: In many way the most niche category, there certainly are no limit to your choices. Where should you start? Look at games like Halo, Legend of Zelda, Lara Croft, and Mortal Kombat. When youíre thinking about video games, donít forget to consider secondary characters and early vintage games as rich sources of inspiration. A great reason to choose from this category is because their is such a variety in difficulty-level and aesthetic and it can be fun to play with the body structures popular in the genre.
Movie Characters: Probably the easiest place for a beginner to start, these costumes have the added benefit of working on Halloween as well because of their accessibility in mainstream culture. Because movies come in literally every genre, the possibilities when choosing a film character are limitless. A couple of good options? Try a jedi from Star Wars, a young Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, Minions or Gru from Despicable Me, or any of the adorable characters from Up!
Fairy Tale Characters: This is where you have the most room for creativity, because even though most of these characters have movies or traditional looks, the majority are much older than Disney, giving you a long history to pull from. You could be the sweet Arielle from the Disney film, or you could go with a darker version that fist in better with the Hans Christian Andersonís The Little Mermaid. You can be the traditional sweet Little Red Riding Hood, or, you can make her a werewolf hunter. This category is also an obvious choice for couples, since that is how most fairytales end traditionally but it also works for family or individual play. A few top picks include, a mermaid or siren, Snow White, an Ice Queen, and a Huntsman or Wolf.
You can spend hours looking through our costume photo galleries finding just the right look to spark your imagination.
The important thing to keep in mind when creating your cosplay costume is the origin of the word "cosplay" and not to be afraid to play with your look. Check out other cosplayers to get inspiration, then, dive in! Make the character and the costume your own! If you can imagine it, well, then you should probably