Confessions of a Cosplayer: Episode 1 – History & Knowledge

1:29 pm HelenLJohnson 0 Comments

(This blog post was originally published on the Liverpool Girl Geeks Blog in March 2015)
Some people call us strange, some call us childish, others think that cosplay a glorified sex act that loners gravitate to. Is making a costume and pretending to be someone else childish when it is away from the confines of a stage or performance? Perhaps it may seem that way, but what we do as cosplayers is one of the most involved performing arts that exists. We make or buy a costume to bring something that is represented in the pages, coding or film reel of our favourite characters into real life situations. It sounds simple, but to understand how fabric and props work in reality takes a lot of creativity and a knowledge of variety of techniques. Cosplayers are the definition of a ‘jack of all trades’ working to put together a jigsaw puzzle on a human that not only has to move but also sit down, breath and at times appear to defy gravity and physics.

Although Japan is renowned for their high quality creations, and is the place where the World Summit is held, cosplay actually started in America within Sci Fi conventions. One in man in particular, Forrest J. Ackerman, could be considered the father of cosplay when he turned up at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) 1939 in a “futuristicostume”. Fellow attendees thought he was a ‘little odd’, but they enjoyed the enthusiasm he had for his
8875105ce0d3745f6ba965b1f7425da0f583c467creation. In the following years, attendees costumes became part of a masquerade ball with prizes and dancing. Within the 1950s, costuming to conventions became quite a common site with photographers testing out new advances in photographic technology on the huddles of fantastic beasts and otherworldly humans.

Despite this, the first few San Diego Comic Cons attracted very few costumed attendees. It is hard to imagine that the now global event that attracts in excess of 130,000+ people, started as 300 comic aficionados who didn’t care much for costumes. It would be around the 1980s when superheros began to emerge beyond the then more common Sci Fi characters.

In 1984, the word Cosplay was coined by a Japanese publication to describe the costumes seen in America with great emphasis placed into introducing the word into Japanese lexicon. There is no other word that better fits this art form as it is more than simply putting on a costume. It is also not acting in the traditional sense, with the persona of a character in the ‘being’ rather than performance. I once described cosplay as one of the most fluid artforms I could think of. While costumes can be captured on camera to unbelievable results; most of the time it is the experience in person that has the most effect on people; to view the costumes in their truest forms. That is on a living, breathing human being that has brought fiction to life. However this means that one particular costume may only be seen for a few hours a year and then it is gone. Some people may have seen it and remembered it, remembered the person behind the creation, while others missed it completely even though that was what they were looking for.

As mentioned previously, once you start making your own cosplays you fall into a black hole of techniques that cross many disciplines. Most cosplayers are self-taught, with the rise of tutorials on video sharing sites and blogging aiding in learning new skills. I tried to put as much as I could into a mind map to show the variety of techniques that cosplayers can utilise, however I know I have missed some off!

Without a doubt, cosplaying is not cheap but can be done on a budget, the possibilities are only halted by your imagination.

Fantastic resources to find out more about cosplay:

75 Years of Capes & Cosplay
Leaving Mundania: A Cosplay Documentary
Sneaky Zebra – Perhaps the best cosplay music video creators around
Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope – A film about SDCC by Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me)

Or as always if you have any questions tweet me at @Lady_Scion :)