Cosplay is for All Ages, Young and Old

cosplay is for all ages!

It’s no surprise that most people who cosplay are in their 20’s and 30’s. During this period of life, you tend to have a little expendable income that you can put toward the hobby, and you’re not limited by family obligations that might come up later in life. As cosplay has become more mainstream and accessible, people have been able to enter the world of costume creation at younger ages.

On average, cosplayers wear their first costume to a convention at age 21. However, there is no age limit for cosplay. People of all ages are welcome to dress as their favorite characters. Because of this, many conventions have dress codes in place to protect younger guests and include programming and crafts for child attendees. 

The only things that age people in or out of the cosplaying hobby are the interest and excitement in continuing. No matter how old or young you are, if creating costumes and dressing up as your favorite character continues to spark joy, then you are at the perfect age to cosplay.

How young is too young to cosplay?

Any child who has started to enjoy playing dress-up or pretending to be a superhero is old enough to cosplay. At its core, that’s what cosplay is: costumed role-playing. Of course, the characters you want to cosplay as a four-year-old will likely be different than the ones you’d cosplay as a teenager or adult, but it’s still the exact same concept.

While each person’s journey into the cosplay hobby will look different, there are no rules that say you can’t start cosplaying until you’re an adult. So if you’re 12 years old and want to cosplay as Spiderman, then do it! Ask your parents to help you make a costume, or maybe buy one for you for your next birthday.

chibi moon
You’ll see people of all ages dressed up in cosplay at your local convention.

Children and anime/comic conventions

When I was in college, a friend and I would accompany his eight year old brother to anime conventions. He would dress up in his Itachi costume from Naruto and we’d walk with him around the convention going to events and taking pictures. I’ve even seen whole families cosplay together from the same show, or people pushing strollers with infants who are dressed up.

While there are a few anime or comic conventions that are adult-only events, most are designed to be family-friendly. You will run into some costumes that are more revealing than daily streetwear. However, conventions do have dress codes, and you should not see anything more revealing than what you would see at a local pool or the shore. 

If you check the convention schedule, you will also see events for young attendees. This will include activities such as basic crafting projects, anime and cartoons appropriate for a young audience, and fun workshops aimed at children from about 5-10 years old. 

How to start cosplaying as a teenager

Many, many people start cosplaying as a hobby when they are teenagers. It’s a fun way to express your love of anime, comics, or gaming and meet others with similar interests. It’s easiest to start cosplaying at anime or comic conventions since you will be surrounded by other people who are also in costume. 

However, if you have friends who also want to cosplay, there is no reason you have to wait for an event. You can wear costumes at home or plan a cosplay group together.

Tohru from Fruits Basket uniform vs. casual clothes
You may not be able to put together a school uniform or typical outfit of you favorite last minute, but you can find a casual outfit of the character and easily find clothing in your closet or clothing stores.

Consider your budget and skill level

When choosing what kind of cosplay to start with, you’ll have to plan for the cost of the costume or utilize skills that you already have, such as sewing. The easiest way to start cosplaying is by purchasing a costume online. There are many online cosplay shops where you can buy custom-sized costumes for around $100.

If you are on a tight budget, you can put together a closet cosplay of your favorite character. This is when you find pieces of clothing from your closet or a thrift store to create a costume for your character. This is easiest for characters who have a simple design, such as a plain colored dress or jeans and a T-shirt. However, you can also often find a version of your character with casual clothes and make a closet cosplay out of it.

If you know how to sew or have someone who can teach you, creating your own cosplay is a very satisfying experiment. As you get better at the craft, you’ll be able to construct elaborate costumes in the future. Simple props can be made using cardboard and paper clay. As you get more experienced, you can also learn how to use EVA foam and Worbla to construct props and armor for your costumes.

Maka in the sun
I learned that the hard way with one of my first costumes, Maka from Soul Eater, to not wear a coat in the summer.

Take your comfort into account

One aspect that many people don’t take into consideration when they first start cosplaying is the comfort of the costume. No matter how good you are at walking in heels, you are not going to want to wear them for hours at a con. Change the shoes to a more comfortable design or bring flats with you.

You’ll also want to think about the weather. Don’t make the mistake of wearing a long black coat in 90º heat. I know someone who ended up fainting from the heat one time at Otakon. It’s a good idea to plan your costumes accordingly so you can be comfortable all day long.

What precautions should you take as a young cosplayer?

Conventions are actually pretty safe places to cosplay as long as you stay within the premises of the event. However, there are some unfortunate occasions where you might get unwanted attention from other con-goers or members of the public. 

To be clear, I have neither experienced nor witnessed this type of harassment firsthand in all my years of cosplaying, and I’m a pretty tiny person. However, it has been an issue at some conventions where many cosplayers find they are, unfortunately, more likely to experience harassment when wearing revealing or tight-fitting costumes. 

There has been a whole movement starting in the early 2010’s around making conventions a safer place for everybody. The situation seems to have improved quite a bit in response the the ‘Cosplay is Not Consent’ movement, but it’s still not perfect. So to keep yourself safe, you’ll want to take some precautions.

Many conventions now have harassment policies that you can view on their website. Some even have signs throughout the con to remind people to always ask for consent before taking photos of cosplayers.

Set boundaries

Before cosplaying at a convention, you should take the time to consider your boundaries. Will you allow people to hug you? Take photos with you? It’s always okay to say ‘no’ to photos that make you feel uncomfortable, and you don’t have to let anyone touch you or any part of your costume. If anyone says anything to harass you and make you feel uncomfortable in your outfit, you can report them to a nearby staff member.

boku no hero group cosplay
It’s fun to plan a group cosplay with your friends and travel around the convention together.

Always stick with a partner at an anime convention

For your own safety, always make sure you stay with a partner when walking around in cosplay. Using the buddy method, you can explore the con safely, with your partner being able to alert the convention staff if anything were to happen. If you can travel around with three or four people in the group, that’s even better.

At many conventions, it’s actually required that an adult accompany you at all times if you are younger than 18 years old. Others will only require you to be accompanied at 12 years or younger, but you’ll need to get a form signed by your parent or guardian to certify that they agreed to let you go. You can usually find this information under the registration section on the convention’s website.

For the concerned parent of a cosplayer

Dressing up in a sports jersey to show your love of your team is considered pretty normal behavior. Think of cosplay as something similar. You are dressing up as your favorite character to express how much you enjoy them. 

The public perception of cosplay is unnecessarily negative. People seem to think it’s a strange phenomenon where weird people dress up in revealing outfits. But this is not what the hobby is actually about. 

Cosplay gives people a chance to develop craftsmanship skills and be a part of a community showing their love for the movies, comics, and games they love. For someone like me, who was a severely awkward teenager, cosplay even helped to improve my confidence and overall social skills. 

What is cosplay?

Cosplay is a word that is a mashup of ‘costume’ and ‘play.’ It’s basically just a chance to have fun dressing up as your favorite characters. This can be anything from Disney princesses to Marvel superheroes and anything in between. 

While many people purchase their costumes, the cosplay hobby also encourages creative skills for those who want to make their own costumes. Your child can learn sewing and costume construction skills, hair styling for complex wigs, and makeup artistry. These are all useful, hands of skills that can be applied to other areas of life or even used professionally.

As a community, cosplayers are incredibly diverse. As a result, you’ll find many different perspectives represented among people who attend events and participate in online forums. 

Frozen cosplayers
Sometimes adults like to dress up as princesses too!

Cosplaying at conventions

The most common place to wear cosplay is at an anime or comic convention. These are the Comic-Con events that you might hear referenced occasionally in sitcoms. Some of these events are huge, with tens of thousands of attendees, but you may be able to find a smaller local convention that is better for first-time attendees and younger cosplayers.

One of the concerns you might have about costumes and conventions is the attire of the cosplayers present. It is common to see people dressed in revealing outfits at these events. However, there are dress codes that you can check in advance on the event website. In general, you shouldn’t expect to see anything worse than what you would see at the pool or the beach. 

It’s also important to note that many of these events require teenage and younger cosplayers to have a chaperone. So you, or someone you trust, will have to attend alongside your young cosplayer. You can read the rules in the registration section of most conventions.

The advantages of cosplay as a hobby

Cosplay is actually an excellent way for a kid to learn practical, hands-on skills. It teaches resourcefulness and confidence. If you are willing to help understand how to construct costumes with your child, it can even become a way to learn more about their interests.

The advantages of cosplay include:

  • Learning useful skills. Cosplay involves sewing, prop-building, wig styling, and artist makeup applications. You can learn how to use different types of materials to gain skills and eventually create costumes that are works of art.
  • It’s a hobby that teaches discipline and follow-through. When you start making your own costumes, you have to learn how to create a cosplay from start to finish. This requires dedication and the ability to adhere to your own deadlines so the costume will be done in time for the convention.
  • Teaching performance art. Role-playing as your character is one aspect of cosplay. You learn to use acting skills that can help you navigate many real-world situations.
  • It gives you a chance to express yourself. If you absolutely love an anime or comic, cosplay gives you an opportunity to express that aspect of yourself. It’s a form of self-expression.
  • Cosplay is a social activity and can help people make friends with similar interests. If you struggle to make friends because of a lack of shared interest, cosplay can be a way to join a community of like-minded people.
Professor Mcgonagall
There are so many characters who aren’t cosplayed as much because they are older, like Professor Mcgonagall.

Are you ever too old to cosplay?

As you age, you may start to feel like cosplay is a young person’s hobby. Not only does it feel like there are no older characters out there to cosplay, but you might also start to lose energy and passion for the convention scene.

I’m only 30, and I’ve already started going to fewer conventions every year, only planning one or two new costumes to debut. It may come to the point where I’m no longer going to conventions every year. So I’m starting to understand why it’s not all that common to see older cosplayers around.

However, if you want to continue cosplaying until you’re 90 years old, nothing is stopping you! If cosplay makes you happy, then no arbitrary age limit should prevent you from dressing up as whatever character you want. If you’re 40 and want to cosplay one of the kids from Digimon, I think that’s fantastic.

Age also opens up the door for some unique cosplays of elderly characters. For example, I love when I see an old Sophie walking around (from Howl’s Moving Castle) or Uncle Iroh (from Avatar the Last Airbender). There is a whole new level of cosplay that you can’t do justice until you’re closer in age to these characters. 

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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