Help Me Understand Cosplay

Did You Make That Cosplay

I’m wearing a Hollyburn skirt. My companion is wearing…?

The first time I became aware of Cosplay was in 2014. I attended London Comi Con through my day job and stumbled upon … a whole other world of outfits. Outrageous outfits. Glorious outfits.

But I didn’t have a clue what was happening.

Since then, I’ve become aware that a lot of people sew their Cosplay outfits. Pattern companies have even begun producing Cosplay-specific patterns. Today, someone told me about her daughter:

She sews. Because, you know, she’s into Cosplay.

I nodded knowledgeably. But honestly, I’m still a bit in the dark. I’m fascinated, impressed and in awe. I’m also ignorant.

Can you help me understand Cosplay?

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36 Responses to Help Me Understand Cosplay

  1. norma says:

    It looks wonderful! I’ve been following your links to find out about it so thanks for putting it up on your blog.

  2. Cosplay is different for everyone that participates. For some, it was a way to show love of a character when they go to conventions. For others, who are aspiring to make costume design or prop manufacture a profession, cosplay and conventions can be a great way to demonstrate your skills and build your brand. For most of us, cosplay is a way to find and build a community of people who share your interests. We actually wear our love for a franchise or character on our sleeves. I started sewing because I wanted to make costumes for myself. Then I also discovered that I liked sewing everyday wardrobe items. So I do both. I choose characters to cosplay based on a couple different things like nostalgia, inspiration, and emotional connection to their story arc. I’ve talked a little bit about why I choose to cosplay certain characters over on my blog, if you are interested.

  3. Ann Warner says:

    My son goes to various comic con days throughout the year, and I’m often asked to sew parts of an outfit for him, a Dr Who coat lined in red satin or a Peter Davison frock coat with red piping, or an Obi won kanobi cloak, usually at the last minute as well. We visited a comic com once and were amazed at some of the outfits the teenage girls had made, some of them were ‘ works of art’, its well worth a vist just to see some of the fantastic outfits.

  4. Sue says:

    Like Meris so eloquently said above, it’s both a creative outlet and community building. Cosplay was my gateway into fashion sewing. I love trying to replicate or put my own interpretation on a character’s costume. It’s also the only time I wear “fancy” clothes.

    The community aspect is very strong. Cosplaying at cons is a way to both stand out (with your choice of character) and way to fit in (because tons of people do it). It pays homage to beloved characters and gives people an excellent opportunity to talk to me.

    Also, it’s just a lot of fun.

    • I love the idea of both standing out and fitting in. When I was at London Comi Con I definitely saw lots of very happy people who felt totally comfortable and included. It was pretty joyous.

  5. Caitlyn says:

    Cosplay is a conversation. The art of video games, movies, TV, comics, and graphic novels speaks to us. We engage with it, respond to it, by making our own art. Those who see our art might engage and respond with their own art, which connects to the original art too. With each new participant there is more understanding and more appreciation, of the original work, of each other, and of ourselves.

  6. craftysurf says:

    There’s a blog I follow called: and she does lots of cosplay. I think it’s a chance to have fun like a kid for a while- I still like to dress up at Halloween parties, and so do the other full grown adults 😳 It’s always a fun surprise to see what everyone chooses to dress up as- it’s kind of an insight into their personality 🤙

  7. Maureen says:

    Cutest picture of you EVER!

  8. Tracy says:

    My friend is a cosplayer: (Happy to put you in touch if you like!)

    I have to admit it’s always intrigued me, but the things I like don’t have much of a following.

  9. Cosplay is short for costume play. There’s an entire history behind it. People basically dress up as their favorite character, fictional or non-fictional. It seems to mostly be Japanese anime and manga. There are even competitions for it with various categories and judging criteria they call masquerades.

  10. shoes15 says:

    I don’t participate in cosplay myself, but I notice that it’s a big draw for young people to get in to sewing. Some of the Big 4 pattern companies are issuing patterns specifically for this (in addition to the Halloween/stage costumes they’ve always offered). Joann seems to have a big selection of suitable fabrics – a lot of cheap shiny poly stuff. This selection seems to be encroaching on the already paltry selection of apparel fabrics at Joann.

  11. The best ever explanation of cosplay ive heard was from Adam Savage from Mythbusters in a TED talk.

    Watch it, it explains that often it is more than just a costume.

    • Ooh, I’ll definitely have to watch that – thank you.

      • sakijane says:

        Similarly, Adam Savage does a bunch of other videos that show his love for cosplay, and I particularly recommend the ones where he actually goes to Comicons incognito. He goes through all the prep work for building a costume, and then shows himself at the convention. Here’s one of him buildings Totoro:

        I personally don’t go to Comicons, but I grew up with Japanese Anime (I’m Japanese), and I usually make a character outfit for Halloween. I love Halloween because it’s not just sewing… it lets me put all of my making skills to the test, from woodworking to hotgluing to painting to working with unconventional materials to paper mache to 3D modeling and printing. It’s pretty amazing putting it all together in one project!

  12. mia says:

    I don’t have much to say that other people haven’t but to me, it’s not only a way of being a fan of something (and meeting other fans) but a great reason/excuse to make things I wouldn’t otherwise. I love the challenge of having a design in mind that may not even really be possible, and trying to sew and craft something that suits that and shows how much I love that design. A lot of the sewing knowledge I use for my everyday clothing came first from trying to figure something out for a costume. And really, I want to make my costumes just as well sewn as my normal clothing, although that’s not everyone’s take.

  13. Katy says:

    Thanks for posing this question because I’ve wondered the same thing!

  14. Melanie@ElevatorGirl says:

    This is my take on the sewing-side of it: I recently taught an ‘intermediate’ sewing class and one of my students was a ‘cosplayer’. Over the 5 weeks we chatted a lot about her cosplaying and Disney fandom, and I later worked with her one-on-one. She was in some ways an accomplished sewist, taking on stuff like corsetry and really advanced things, but yet had never basted anything or done some really simple sewing techniques – so she was a puzzle to teach! But I think a lot of cosplayers dive into sewing to achieve a look, a bit like a musician who can play by ear but was never properly trained. And they can create amazing things that a seamstress wouldnt attempt because we know you need to know more to get to that level…and yet somehow they can often pull it off!

  15. Anna-Jo says:

    I see it as dressing up for grown-ups. Not “adult” dressing up, which has entirely different connotations 😉

    • That’s a whole other blog post – and one I’ll leave someone else to write!

      • LinB says:

        That’s my impression of the whole phenomenon — a lovely excuse for those who adore costumes to wear them, outside of a theatrical production or Halloween. It’s harmless fun. I don’t cosplay myself, but am amused and entertained by the creativity exhibited by participants.

  16. Great explanations from everyone there. I just wanted to add that your companion seems to be dressed as Link from the Legend of Zelda video games.

  17. As the mother of a cosplayer I’d like to add that a lot of these kids are “misfits” (and I mean this in the most positive way) – they don’t fit into the rather strict and narrow moulds society places on them. Doing cosplay is a great way to both explore and feel safe in your individuality, and ut is socially acceptable. It brings out your inner playfulness that is so often squished. Seriously, I wish cosplay was a thing when I grew up, life would’ve been so much easier.

    • You know, it’s easy to moan about the Internet and the social media age, but I think it’s allowed a lot of people to find their ‘tribe’ (be that other people who love sewing or other people who love cosplay) and feel accepted and that is a Very Good Thing.

      • It is! I would not have survived living get where we do without the Internet. With a few exeptions I’ve found my dearest friends there (and I’m 51).

  18. Linda Pierce says:

    Thanks fr posing this question from me too! Off to check off the links! Fascinating.

  19. I’m enjoying learning about this too. I had no idea that the Dr. Beverly Crusher costume I made in the 90’s to attend a Star Trek convention was Cosplay in its infancy. What I do know is that there’s some revenue to be made if you can sew these costumes – and even more if you can draft the patterns and sew them. I know of a blogger that bartered her sewing skills for legal counsel from an attorney that needed an outfit and she needed out of a scrape. The possibilities are endless!

  20. Like (more than) a few people above, I also got into garment sewing through costumes… I started in theater, but once I graduated college and moved away I satisfied that itch with making costumes for myself, aka cosplay! I like it because its not just about getting a garment finished and wearing it, but for me its the hunt for getting things as perfectly accurate as I can within my budget, and the learning of a bunch of other skills as well! Recently I learned 3d printing and laser cutting to make some costume props, which satisfied my creative itch in other ways.

    Plus, when a costume piece is wearable in real life, its a little secret with myself that makes me feel incredibly happy… And the times that people recognize something we can bond over our mutual love!

  21. Ros says:

    I was at the Hobbycraft show at the NEC recently, where Comicon was happening at the same time. It was so much fun! You never knew who – or what – you’d see next. I loved seeing the little kids in their Spiderman and Batman costumes too – they were obviously having the time of their lives.

  22. gilliancrafts says:

    Such an interesting conversation! I’ll add to it my observations from living in Japan: There is more flexibility to change your style there day to day. It’s totally normal to wear a very plain suit for work or a uniform for school day after day, then on your days off, you might dress goth to go to a metal bar, then cute to go shopping, or trendy for karaoke. Teens who like cosplay go meet their friends at the park on Sunday and hang out in costume (usually lolita, but also Pokemon suits or whatever). In the online sewing world, we are all about creating cohesive wardrobes, and people in subcultures take pride in being “authentic” because they always dress one way. By contrast, my impression of Japanese youth fashion was definitely that you can take on or shed a part of your personality with each outfit, and you don’t have to dress as the same part of your identity day to day!

  23. Cosplay is so fun! Noone is too old to dress up! For me, I find it fun to channel a different side of myself or to portray a different character. I guess that’s the magic! It’s so rewarding to create the costume and then wear it out; the most exciting thing is when people recognise your character! I have quite a few friends who cosplay and they love doing group cosplays so they can all dress up together, so it’s also a social thing.
    I’ve made a cosplay on my blog where I dressed up as a girl from a Kpop group! 🙂

  24. I’d say as a cosplayer myself, I’d like to cosplay for fun of it. Some cosplayers costumes maybe inexpensive compared to others. It can be a way to meet fellow people who have common interests and to make new friends along the way.

  25. If you want to learn a bit more about cosplay you can definitely check out my blog! It’s all about cosplay, why people cosplay, and tips and how tos about cosplay! But if you’d like you can message me privately and I can tell you more about cosplay if you’d prefer not to have to look through my blog 🙂

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