Accuracy in Cosplay is Overrated, But it Can Be a Fun Challenge

why cosplay does not have to be accurate

If you’re new to the cosplay community, you may have seen people chatting about costume accuracy. You’ll see people looking for techniques to make parts of the costume accurate to their character, or looking for colored contacts so they can create a more precise representation. It’ll make you wonder how much effort you should be spending on turning yourself into an exact replica of your character.

Cosplay costumes do not have to be 100% accurate to the original character. While accuracy is an element of cosplay that many people value, it is not a prerequisite. Many people will purposefully change a costume to better match their body type, budget, and costume construction skills.

Some characters in anime and comics can’t be accurately depicted in real life. Sometimes the physics of their clothing makes no sense, there are elements of the costume that would prevent you from walking, or the character isn’t even human. In these cases, there is no choice but to adjust the costume to make it work outside of a drawing.

Does a cosplay have to be accurate to the character?

Cosplay never has to be completely accurate. No one is going to come up and tell you the cosplay is all wrong because you used the wrong color fabric and you forgot about the special necklace.

This is a hobby about dressing up and celebrating your favorite characters. There are no rules that say you can only partake if you get all the details correct. Other fans of the character will be able to recognize you even if your cosplay is not perfect, and you’ll be able to have a lot of fun cosplaying at conventions anyway.

This goes for physical appearance as well. It doesn’t matter if you are a different height, weight, gender, have a different hair or eye color. You can still cosplay as that character if you want to. You can even choose to adjust the costume so that it looks better on someone with your body type, such as creating a genderbent costume of your favorite character.

Cosplaying a character from a different race

Generally, it’s accepted for people to cosplay as characters outside of their race. If you love a character, you can cosplay as them even if they don’t look like you. 

However, it is not okay to try to change your appearance to look like another race. What I mean by this is no black face, red face, or trying to slant your eyes to look ‘Asian.’ I feel like this should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway.

Kyoshi Warrior cosplayer
When making your own costume you can add as many intricate and creative details as you want. While this is not a completely accurate Kyoshi warrior costume, it’s obvious it required a lot of skill to create.

Why would you not create an accurate cosplay?

Cosplay is all about trying to look like another character, so it makes sense that you’d try to copy them exactly. That creates a more realistic imitation that other people will readily recognize. It’s an aspect of cosplay that’s usually sought after during costume construction and makeup application.

That being said, it’s actually kind of rare to find someone whose cosplay is 100% accurate to the original character. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Comfort. One of the main reasons people don’t stick to an accurate costume is for comfort. Maybe you choose to avoid high heels, or maybe you just don’t feel comfortable in a revealing cosplay. Whatever the reason, you want to make sure you feel good in your costume, especially if you’ll be wearing it around a convention.
  • Practicality. Sometimes anime physics just doesn’t translate well to real life. Whether it be gravity-defying costumes or clothing that keeps you from sitting down, you’ll need to make some changes to make the cosplay work.
  • Budget constraints. The more detailed the costume, the more it’s going to cost in time and materials. Sometimes you’ll need to cut corners and simplify a costume to make it work for your budget.
  • You have a different body type.  How are you going to carry around Sephiroth’s 6ft sword if you’re only 5ft tall? Sometimes you’ll need to adjust proportions or change the style of clothing to create a more flattering costume.
  • You don’t have the skills to accurately create some pieces. It takes time to develop skills with different materials for costume construction. If this is your first time making a costume or prop, it’s probably not going to be as accurate as someone who has more experience.
  • You want to create a unique costume. Sometimes by not worrying about the accuracy of a costume, you can make it better. You can make a more complex design to make your costume creative and unique.
  • You don’t know what the entire costume looks like. When you research to find photo references of your character, you might not be able to figure out the whole 360º look. If there are limited images available, you’ll have to do some guesswork to fill in the details you can’t see.
  • You’re creating your own design inspired by the character. Whether you are styling clothes for a casual cosplay or creating a gijinka (human version of a non-human character) costume, sometimes you are creating a cosplay inspired by a character, not one that’s meant to be an exact replica.
  • It’s less stressful. Sometimes it’s just more fun when you don’t worry about accuracy. You’ll be less stressed trying to get the details correct.

Read more about the different types of cosplay you can create

Mai Valentine Yu-gi-oh cosplayer
Anime hairstyles are known for being gravity defying and difficult to replicate. Taking the time to make this wig accurate for Mai Valentine shows how skilled the cosplayer is.

Why costume accuracy is sought after?

Even though most people don’t end up wearing a completely accurate costume, it’s still something that is valued among the cosplay community. A lot of people talk about trying to find the perfect fabric or sew meticulous details so that the cosplay will be perfect at the next convention. It’s honestly a lot of work to try to create a perfectly accurate costume.

So why do people go the extra mile to make a perfect cosplay replica of their character?

  • It implies attention to detail. If you’re a detail-oriented person, accuracy is likely something that you’ll value. It can also be a way of showing your dedication to other cosplayers who will notice the effort you put into the elaborate costume.
  • You care about making a high-quality cosplay. For some people, cosplay is a hobby that’s fun to partake in. However, many cosplayers care about improving their costume construction skills and make an effort to create the highest quality costumes they can.
  • You more accurately portray your favorite character. If you really love a character, creating the most accurate portrayal of your character that you can show how much you care and feel more connected to the character.
  • It might be a criterion for judging cosplay competitions. Many conventions have a cosplay competition where costumes are judged based on various criteria. In some of these contests, the accuracy of your costume is one of the things the judges are looking at.
  • It can be a satisfying challenge. If you love challenging yourself by creating more and more complex costumes, aiming for a completely accurate cosplay is an excellent way to test your skills. It’s highly satisfying when the end result is perfect, down to the last detail.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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