Cosplay 101: What is Cosplay Anyway?

Leading a double life as a cosplayer and a blogger leads to a lot of confused lifestyle and fashion bloggers turning to me at blog events and saying, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what actually is cosplay?” Fear not, confused people! Here’s my crash course on this weird little hobby of mine.

Cosplay comes from the blending of ‘costume’ and ‘role-play’ and refers to wearing a costume to represent a specific character. It’s often defined as performance art, rather than ‘fancy-dress’, and has become something of a sub-culture. Cosplay began in Japan, around anime and manga, but has grown hugely since 1990, becoming a fixture of conventions around the world.

Rogue and Gambit cosplay

Photographer: Robert John Parker – Photographer

Cosplay costumes vary greatly and can range from just themed clothing to incredibly detailed costumes. Some cosplayers, but not all, treat cosplay as role-play and take on the voice, mannerisms, and body language of the characters they portray.. The characters chosen to be cosplayed can be sourced from just about anything. Most popular are movies, TV series, books, comic books, video games, or anime and manga characters. Some cosplayers even choose to cosplay an original character of their own design or a fusion of different genres (like a gender-swapped or a steam-punk version of a character).

For most, cosplay is a hobby and is done at specific events throughout the year. For others, cosplay can become something more serious. Lots of cosplayers work as models, get hired for event work, or get invited to be official guests at conventions.

People cosplay for lots of reasons. For some, it’s from love of the character, and the joy of dressing up. For others, it’s a creative outlet, and enjoyment is found in the creation of elaborate props and costumes. For most, it’s about the community of like-minded geeks coming together to celebrate a shared love.


Cosplay 101 will be an ongoing series of blog posts and videos. I have a big list of topics to cover, but if there’s anything you’d like to know, just let me know!