A Life of Cosplay – No Regrets

Wednesday, 9 September 2009, 18:00 | Author : Kricket
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I recently was introduced to an online podcast, “A Life Well Wasted” by Robert Ashley.  This growing “internet radio show” focuses on video games; however, they recently touched upon the subject of cosplay.  In “Episode Four: Artists, Fans, and Engineers” Ashley dedicates the first 16 minutes to the subject.  This carefully edited interview with Kelly, a cosplay enthusiast, paints a picture of the average cosplayer’s mentality.  Although I am going to discuss some of the issues raised in this podcast, I encourage you to listen to the podcast in its entirety.

I would like to take this time to reflect on the events that have led Kelly, myself, and you (my reader) to this point of commonality.  We enjoy sewing, designing, and wearing costumes.  For Kelly and myself, however, this isn’t a new trend.  This has been our path since we were children playing “dress-up”.  I’m sure most young girls play dress-up just as much as they all play “house,” but do some children enjoy dressing up significantly more than others?  Can this activity alter their life?

When I was growing up, I knew one friend who could supply me with beautiful dress-up clothing.  As it turns out, this girl was active in theater.  I’ve noticed similarities between cosplay and theater; they both expect performers to embody characters.  Cosplayers are respected for their ability to “bring anime characters to life,” but seldom do we expect them to emulate a character’s social traits.  Kelly explains that while she enjoys posing for pictures, she doesn’t care to reenact her character’s behaviors.  American cosplayers often believe that cosplay should be more physical rather than social.  By avoiding social interactions with cosplay characters, the spectator is able to recall the authentic voice and attitude of the character and transpose that upon the body of the cosplayer.  As long as the costume is accurate, Americans are able to enjoy the cosplayer’s effort and creation to its fullest extent.

The cosplayer, therefore, has an important role to fill: he/she must construct an accurate and awe-inspiring costume for the spectator to admire.  But how do we measure accuracy?  Must we match the body-type of a particular character?  Should we make alterations to the design in an effort to avoid indecent exposure?  When answering these questions, we must be aware that anime characters are not quite proportional to the human anatomy.  I have worn skirts that are too short for my own good and I have even stuffed my shoes with heighteners.  In the end, if you want to look professional, then you need to have an awareness of your body-type.

In many ways, cosplay is a form of art.  It is inevitable that we are going to encounter many different interpretations of the same characters.  However, there is a mathematical component to cosplay (i.e. tailoring measurements) that cannot be ignored.  It has taken me years of dedication and practice to learn how to balance these tensions.  I have put a lot of work into my costumes.  Nevertheless, I have no regrets.

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