Cosplay is more than putting on a costume.
It is the act of channelling a particular character, including their traits, movement and voice, along with detailed costuming and makeup.
The term “cosplay” was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi, the founder of anime studio, Studio Hard, in the 1980s. Since then, it has exploded on to the world’s cultural stage.
Cosplay conventions, like Oz Comic-Con, give people the chance to come as their favourite anime, movie or comic book character. But they aren’t just dressed as this character; they become the character. Cosplay conventions also give attendees the chance to indulge their desire for limited edition merchandise and meet their TV or movie idols.
Many conventions also hold cosplay competitions, where cosplayers can win money and prizes and go to other events around the world to show off their cosplay. There are 40 pop culture and cosplay conventions across Australia during 2018.
Anyone can cosplay – gender and age are no limitation.
Previously, only huge fans would go to conventions dressed as their favourite characters. Now, anyone can attend a convention. Cosplay costumes can be bought pre-made or cosplayers can hand-make each item to have a personalised touch, which is what Chelsea Thompson and Gabrielle Graham-Hayes did at the weekend.
Both women have been cosplaying for about four years and find immense joy in being able to bring their favourite fictional characters to life. I spoke with them about why they started cosplaying, how long it takes to make a costume and prepare for a convention, and what the community of cosplayers is actually like.
When and why did you start cosplaying?
“I started cosplaying about four years ago. My friends were watching all of these animes and they asked if I wanted to come to Comic-Con and I was like, ‘Yeah, okay’.”
Who have you cosplayed as?
“I’ve done Cheshire from Young Justice, Ariel, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Kim Possible [today] and a queen version of Ariel.”
What do you enjoy about cosplaying?
“You get to be whoever you want to be and you essentially become that character for the day. You see kids’ faces light up because they like to see you and take photos.”
What do you like about the community?
“We’re really close-knit and we understand each other. When we look at each other we’re like, ‘I know how much time you spent doing [all of those] things’. It’s a niche thing. Not many people get into cosplay but once you do, you can’t stop.”
How do you react when people give you strange looks?
“Well, at first I was like, ‘Okay, so you don’t really like it’, but now I’m like, ‘I don’t really care’.”
How long do you spend preparing a costume?
“Oh god, it depends on the costume. The longest one was Ariel. That took me about a year to actually complete everything. I do everything by hand, if not, it’s store-bought and adapted.”
How long is the process of putting on makeup and the costume?
“Again, it depends who you are going as. Majority of the time, it’s about two hours – to put the wig and makeup on. If it’s a hard costume to put on it’s another 30 minutes or it could be 10 minutes.”
What do you want to cosplay as in the future?
“I’d like to do Shego, from Kim Possible, and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and a couple other Disney princesses.”
Do you want to keep doing this in the future or is it just a fun hobby for now?
“Oh, that’s a hard question. I’ll keep doing it as long as I feel like I can.”
When and why did you start doing cosplay?
“I started at the end of 2015, so I’ve been doing it for three years now. I’ve always had a love for makeup and costuming. I started seeing people doing it on TV and online and I thought, ‘I wanna do that’, so I did it.”
What does cosplay mean to you?
“I feel like I bring the character to life. It’s so cool when a kid shouts your name; they adore you, they think you’re the real character. It’s like being a princess at Disney World.”
What is the cosplay community like?
“It’s kind of mixed. I don’t get too into it because I feel like it should be a judge[ment] free place, but it’s not. There is a lot of drama. A lot of us try to steer clear of that and we just dress up for fun. We do it for the people because they love it. We do it because we love it. That’s the kind of community that I’m a part of and that’s what I like; I’ve got friends like that.”
Why is there so much drama?
“I actually don’t know. A lot of people try to start groups, then they’ll find someone else and kick others out. It’s hectic, it’s like high school. A lot of people don’t know about it, but it’s there. It’s very cut-throat, actually.”
What characters inspire you most?
“I’m a big fan of DC characters. I grew up watching Teen Titans a lot, that’s why I’m Raven today. I used to do a lot of anime, but I stick to DC Comics now.”
What other cosplays have you done and what was your favourite?
“So much! I’ve done Black Canary, different types of Poison Ivy, Black Butler, different anime and a lot of DC characters. I’ve done so much, I’ve actually lost count. Poison Ivy and Black Canary were my favourites.”
How do you deal with people that aren’t used to cosplay?
“I just smile and wave at them. I’ve seen a lot of people dressed up and they do a lot of stupid things; if someone doesn’t know, they just judge the whole community. You smile, wave and chat with them. If they ask questions, just answer them and get them familiar with it.”
What do you want to cosplay as in the future?
“I want to do different types of Harley [Quinn] and [Poison] Ivy. There are so many variations of Raven [from Teen Titans] I want to do and Black Canary. I really want to do Wonder Woman and Bat Girl.”
How long is the process of getting ready for a convention – including making the costume?
“Usually a long time. This time I’m very rushed, but usually I do plan ahead. I’ll get everything ready, practice my makeup and make things if I have time. It depends on what the costume is. It took me two months to make up my Poison Ivy from scratch, so it can take a long time.”
Do you find that it is easier to make everything by hand or buy things?
“It depends what it is. With shoes, you can glue things on and make them. I’m not going to make a cape, but I’m going to make a dress if I need to. But it depends on what you’re good at. If you’re good at designing, then you can design it. I’ve never made armour before but some people specialise in that.”
Do you find that it is an expensive thing to do?
“Yes. Most of my money goes to cosplay. I think they [the costumes] range from $100-$200 each – not including makeup. It’s expensive but it’s a fun hobby.”
Is that the average price for most cosplays?
“It depends on how much people get into it. You can buy a cosplay for $50 or you can spend $300 on it. And I think that’s the same for all hobbies; if you’re an artist you can buy the cheaper paint or the more expensive paint. It depends on what you want to do.
“It’s fun and you should try it sometime.” – @seabornamy