Cosplay and Identity

Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy 7.

Cid is one of his childhood favorites. He grew up playing the game and doesn’t see many people doing the version from this game, so when a friend needed a Cid for a group, he figured, why not, since he’d always wanted to cosplay as Cid. 

He makes all of his props and armor. He’s redone this weapon in particular a number of times and was working on a new one since this one has been used so many times. He tries to make the costume himself if he can, but for this one in particular, he commissioned a friend to make it. Between him and all of his cosplayer friends, everyone is good at something so whatever someone isn’t good at, someone else can help them with.

What he likes about Cid is that he’s really amazing and efficient in the game. "I fell in love with him when I first played the game." When cosplaying, he feels great when people are excited and glad to see the characters he does. He’s learned not to feel down on himself when people don’t recognize his character and ask who he is. He realizes that different generations grew up playing different games and might not recognize the characters he cosplays.

When dressing as a character, he finds that he tends to take on their mannerisms, almost subconsciously. He chooses characters that he enjoys and loves for who they are. Since he already loves the characters, he’s familiar with their mannerisms, and so when he dresses as them, that familiarity with the character comes out. 

Cosplay: Not As New as You Might Think


Audrey Sutton
Claude Vignon. Drawing, “Standing Figure in Oriental Dress”, ca. 1650. Graphite and red chalk on off-white laid paper. Gift of Hugh Cassel. 1958-143-6.

With the increase in the visibility and popularity of cosplay (short for costume play), I thought we could look at an example in the collection to show the long tradition of dress-up in western culture. In the past, people from other cultures, and their dress, were extremely interesting to western culture. These cultures were new to the west, so every aspect of them was examined, usually ending in their commodification. Though the word cosplay wasn’t coined until the 1980s, people have been dressing up for hundreds of years. Cosplay, however, has been gaining far more visibility these days due to television shows, such as SyFy’s Heroes of Cosplay, and increased fan-creator interaction, such as how Marvel encourages cosplayers to send in photos. Conventions have always been around, but they have been gaining more media attention, such as articles in the New York Times about major conventions and their most recent photography project showing cosplayers in their homes.

Photo by Mike Rollerson, DC Steampunk Cosplay

When looking at current cosplay, one notices that it goes through trends, just like fashion. One of the current trends is idealized historical clothing, as well as more specific niches, such as steampunk, which usually consists of Victorian dress combined with antique-looking technology. People even expand upon the theme to create steampunk cosplays of more generic costumes, such as well-known superheroes.

Clockwork Butterfly, Adventurer Botanist

This drawing, entitled “Standing Figure in Oriental Dress” is an example of how Westerners interpreted, or cosplayed, the foreign dress they were encountering. The dress and customs of the places visited were usually shown through drawings and travel accounts. Those who had traveled to the east often had images made where they were wearing the costume of the country they had traveled to. These images served as both souvenirs and as tools to teach others about the culture that they had visited. These images were not always accurate. Oftentimes the artist or the sitter would create an outfit from various pieces of dress to create an image that they found pleasing. Even an image of someone from that region might be constructed.
Of course, cosplayers put much more work into their outfits than that. Not only is lots of time put into their creations, but unlike westerners playing at dressing like foreigners, cosplayers strive to make their costumes as close to the source material as possible. However, not all cosplay has a source material or is true to the source material. Reinterpretation of characters and costumes, as westerners did with foreign dress, allows for creativity and a personalized element in cosplay. Cosplay isn’t just about accuracy, it is also about creativity and self-expression.

Looking at the items in the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection, what would you most like to cosplay as?

Museum Number: 

from Cooper-Hewitt’s Object of the Day


'conventions are for no-lives and losers'

more in video (x)

via enchavez · originally by zlandael

Utena Tenjou cosplayer from Otakon.

This cosplayer chose Utena Tenjou, from Revolutionary Girl Utena, because she is her favorite feminine character. Utena is her favorite because she’s not stereotypical; she’s an unconventional, strong character that everyone admires.

She is not actually like Utena, but she feels stronger when she’s cosplaying as her. She likes who Utena is and it makes her feel good. When cosplaying as Utena she feels more who who she wants to be and who she thinks she wants to be.

I have all the fabric and materials for my shield maiden (Lagertha, but not because I am not blonde) costume. I’m not sure how historically accurate I want to be with the tunics and whatnot. Should I do the historically accurate t-shape tunic, or make sleeves and armholes and cut my pants on the bias for ease of movement? What do you guys think?

I have all the fabric and materials for my shield maiden (Lagertha, but not because I am not blonde) costume. I’m not sure how historically accurate I want to be with the tunics and whatnot. Should I do the historically accurate t-shape tunic, or make sleeves and armholes and cut my pants on the bias for ease of movement? What do you guys think?

Ariel cosplayer at ComiCONN. 

She mostly cosplays Disney characters. She especially likes to cosplay Ariel because she feels an affinity for the ocean. She loves swimming and studying marine life. She likes being Ariel for many reasons. One of them is the dress. Ever since she was “A Cinderella Story” she wanted to wear a ballgown. She made the Ariel dress as both a cosplay and a prom dress. She also admires Ariel’s personality. She feels that Ariel is a free spirit who isn’t afraid to tell people what’s on her mind and does what she want to do. She feels that this is a good way to live and wants to emulate these characteristics. 

She really enjoys interacting with children when she is dressed in her costumes. She mostly is herself, but tries to be the character as best she can when there are children. People enjoying her costume and recognizing her makes her extremely happy. 

She likes to incorporate character inspired pieces into her everyday outfits. Green shorts, a purple tank top and a starfish hair clip would be Ariel. She used to have blonde hair and would dress in the same colors as Rapunzel. A blue tank top, olive green bottoms and her brown lace up boots would represent Lara Croft. She considers these to be like secret cosplays where only other fans would notice. This makes it more special when people recognize her.

Going through and typing up new survey responses. Thanks to everyone from ComiCONN for replying so quick! And of course thanks to everyone from Otakon for remembering to do so as well. If I taped you it’ll be a little longer for me to post your interview than if I just wrote stuff down. I wish there was some type of software for typing up audio from files.

If you haven’t filled out the surveys yet, please do so! #3 is the most important since it’s all about character choice, though doing all three of them will provide me with the most information.

posted 8 months ago

Black Star from Soul Eater cosplayer at Otakon.

The character is one that he has been doing for years. It was one of the first cosplays that he ever did and he has been refining the costume and making new ones for the character over the years. He currently has multiple Black Star cosplays that he alternates between for when he wears the character at a convention. 

He chose the character because he is loud and rambunctious. Since he is somewhat shy, he chose a character that was outside of his comfort zone. By dressing as this character, it forces him to be loud and outgoing. Since cosplaying this character, he’s become more comfortable and has become less shy.

When he went to his first convention he did not wear a costume and so he felt out of place. He was watching people being interesting characters and decided that he wanted to cosplay. He decided he would cosplay as an icebreaker to be able to socialize with people at conventions, rather than only attending panels. He likes it when people recognize his character and interact with him. If he has the energy he will act as the character. The character has lots of call outs which require him to have a lot of energy. The character is overly arrogant, so when people interact with him he will respond to others in character. 

For his first costume, he originally bought a costume and then altered it to fit him better. Since that first costume, he has been making them himself. He goes to around 11 conventions a year and cosplays around once a month. He creates about three new cosplays each year. He really enjoys creating props. He’s only done one armor so far and is looking forward to creating a new one for a scifi convention that he is going to later this year.

Cosplaying has made him more outgoing and confident. When cosplaying he feels personally unrecognizable and so he feels he can do things he would not otherwise, such as being more open with people and not as serious as he usually is. 

Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion cosplayer from Otakon.

He chose this character because he feels a very strong connection to him. He feels as if he is pretty much the same person as Shinji, so he feels very comfortable being him at a convention. When he watched the series he felt as if he was watching himself in a different world. He has cried through episodes and feels very emotionally close to the character. He’s a crybaby like the character, but like Shinji, he is able to step up when he needs to.

Wearing the outfit feels like wearing his normal clothes, but cooler because he feels like he could pilot a robot as well. He chose to comission the outfit from a friend because he wanted to go as a character they he really identified with. He doesn’t think he would ever dress as a character that he didn’t strongly identify with.

He has been going to conventions for a while, but stopped cosplaying because he did not have the resources to do so. However, now that he has started cosplaying again he doesn’t think that he will ever not do so at a convention whenever possible because he felt very left out the times he didn’t cosplay. For him, cosplaying makes conventions a lot more fun and makes him feel more part of the community.

He likes being the character and tries to act as much like the character as possible, which is why it is so important for him to find a character that he connects with in order to do a cosplay.

Thanks to everyone who I met today! You were all super awesome. I’m still going through stuff from Otakon, but the sooner you fill out the survey, the sooner I’ll try to upload your post! Please remember to write who you were cosplaying as and if you have a blog or website you’d like me to link to in your post, please let me know! I’m going to try to do at least one a day for the next week.

posted 8 months ago with 1 note

Hello my lovely cosplayers. I am going to be at ComiCONN tomorrow taking pictures of cosplayers and trying to interview people. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

posted 8 months ago with 1 note

Kate Bishop cosplayer from Friday of Otakon. She chose Kate Bishop because the character means a lot to her. Kate’s a strong character who’s not out for revenge like other superheroes. Kate just wants to help others, which is an attribute she likes.

She will pick characters that she appreciates; usually ones with similar personalities to her own. When she cosplays she tries to be as true to the character as possible. If she feels connected to a character, the connection is what matters to her. For her, cosplaying a character is meant to be a tribute. Thus, rather than changing the gender of a character, she will crossplay the character. She does not mind presenting as a different gender than the one she considers herself to be since she is comfortable with her body and gender. She is not as comfortable changing the character as she would be crossplaying. If the character is someone she would be friends with or someone she aspires to be like then she is more likely to want to be them. However, she is always willing to play a character to fill in any vacancies in her friends’ cosplay groups because she will find a way to connect the character to her own personality.

She tends to choose characters who are independent and willfull. They are people she can see as being able to take care of themselves, even if they don’t see it themselves. They are also people who are busy taking care of others or mess up horribly and need to learn to do better. When she cosplays as these characters, she feels stronger and more courageous because she has picked characters whom she sees as more emotionally strong. She ends up feeling that she has to have a more proud presence to fit the character, so she tries to embody them better that way. She sees these characters as the people she would want to be, but they are also parts of herself that she feels will lead up to these goals. Being these characters has helped her to overcome an anxiety disorder that makes it hard for her to be around people at conventions. 

She cosplays at both conventions and at the Renaissance Faire when they have themed weekends. She will also use her cosplays for Halloween. Cosplaying helped to ease her worries about being around people, making her more at ease and willing to talk to people she doesn’t know and to connect with people who recognize her and have something in common with her. This helps her to open up about herself in a way that she wouldn’t otherwise.

When others comment on her cosplays it makes her feel proud because she loves the character and wants to do them justice. Occasionally people will ask her about her opinion on the character’s actions, usually when she is dressed as Kate Bishop. She loves that because analyzing characters helps her to bring a new level to her cosplay. However, when they interact with her in a cosplay by quoting her character’s lines, she’s not really sure how to respond.

As she’s made more cosplays, she’s gotten more confident with herself and more creative with what she is willing to attempt to make and to wear. She knows her limits better, but she is also able to withstand more in terms of peronal interaction. Before she started cosplaying, social interaction would exhaust her much more easily.

Coincidentally, once she started cosplaying Hawkeye, everything in her closet turned purple. She’s not quite sure if it happened because she liked Hawkeye or because she liked the color purple and thus chose Hawkeye. There are times when she will look in her closet and notice that her clothing is similar to something a character she likes would wear. However, overall it goes back to her choosing styles that she is comfortable with, whether it be in her every day wardrobe or in her cosplays.

Sandra as Claudette Vance from Queen’s Blade

Sandra really enjoys cosplaying as strong female characters. In general, she likes confident, strong characters, regardless of gender. Cosplaying is a way for her to see the characters come to life. When she is posing for pictures, she feels like she is the character, but otherwise she feels like herself when she is in costume. Wearing skimpy costumes makes her feel confident. When her character is wearing armor or has a weapon, she feels “pretty badass.” She loves cosplaying when she gets positive attention because of it. People liking her cosplays and wanting to take pictures of them make her feel happy and good about herself and her abilities.

Before starting to cosplay, Sandra was very shy and did not have much confidence. When she started cosplaying confident, strong characters, she became more confident. Cosplaying has made Sandra more confident in general, not just when she is cosplaying. Acting confident when she was cosplaying let Sandra become more confident in her life overall.

Cosplaying has affected her personal style. Her clothing is now more similar to clothing you would see in an anime, such as wearing pleated skirts and thigh-high socks. She dyes her hair lots of different colors as well, usually a shade of purple.

Sandra cosplays at least once a month. If she’s not cosplaying at a convention, she is at some sort of a related event. She makes about 4 new cosplays a year. She will alternate between wearing her new cosplays and her older ones. Sometimes she will get tired of an older cosplay and stop wearing it. She usually creates her cosplays from media that she first saw a while ago and has just gotten around to creating the costume for. However, she might see or play something new and say, “I need to make that right now,” and put aside other cosplay projects in order to make that one first. In general she will try to make more unique cosplays.

The bottom picture is of Sandra with two other cosplayers in Queen’s Blade costumes who were also interviewed and will be posted at a later date.

Thanks so much for following!

If you are a cosplayer, I would love it if you could fill out the surveys at the top left of my layout. And please feel free to submit pictures of yourself cosplaying a character you really love.

If I did interview you (and thus have a picture of you), please please please make sure to identify yourself in the survey, otherwise your picture will not be posted with your interview. I’ve been going through the surveys today and quite a few don’t identify themselves.

You are all wonderful and awesome!

posted 8 months ago

Lady Thor cosplayer from Otakon 2013.

She used to do mostly crossplays, but once she started doing more girly “Princess” cosplays, she found that she enjoyed feeling like a princess and started to do fancy cosplays. She likes to feel girly, which isn’t something she could feel when doing crossplays. Since starting to do fancier female cosplays she has also changed her own personal wardrobe. Dressing like this has given her more confidence, which she feels is reflected in her every day life. She has also started dressing somewhat fancier since starting to do cosplays like this.

She found doing crossplays very easy because she did not have to bind and the crossplays usually matched her general style of a t-shirt and jeans. When doing a crossplay she feels more empowered, but less like herself. When she cosplays as a male she does so in order for people to see her as the character, instead of someone cosplaying them. She tries to be more masculine in order to make her male cosplays more believeable. Whether or not she decides to do a crossplay is also influenced by if she wants to stay canon or if she wants to add her own touches to the character. She finds it much easier to do a crossplay than to redesign the character as a different gender.

This character design was inspired by a sketch that she had seen online. She has worn this costume for three conventions so far and has been altering it between conventions for comfort, wear, and overall look. Having people take pictures of her in this cosplay makes her feel very pretty.