Do You Have to Cosplay at Conventions?

6 rules for cosplaying at conventions

If this is your first time going to an anime or comic convention, I’m sure you are equally excited and nervous. One of the questions that can come up is about cosplay. You see all these photos of cosplayers at conventions, and you’re afraid you’ll feel out-of-place if you don’t dress up too.

Cosplay is not required at any kind of anime, comic, or gaming convention. Attendees will dress in costume to celebrate their favorite characters or express their creativity and mastery of costume construction. However, there are just as many people who choose to attend conventions in casual clothing. 

If you do choose to cosplay, there are some rules you’ll need to keep in mind. Most conventions are meant to be family-friendly events, so you want to make sure you are respectful of the people around you when choosing a costume.

Does everyone cosplay at anime conventions?

You do not have to cosplay at a convention. In fact, more people attend in regular, everyday clothing than there are cosplayers. If you’re feeling a little too shy to cosplay at your first convention, you will not look out of place at all. There’s so much to do at conventions that does not involve cosplaying, so you’ll still be able to have plenty of fun.

It’s also common to see groups of people with some who cosplay and some who don’t. So, don’t be worried if you’re walking around with a cosplayer friend. Just be prepared to hold their bags anytime they’re asked for a photo.

Another option for you is to cosplay for only part of the weekend. Most conventions are held over the course of three to four days. You can go in normal clothes the first day to get a feel for the convention atmosphere, then wear your costume on day two! This is pretty common since many costumes are not as comfortable as normal clothing.

Being respectful toward people who are cosplaying

Whether or not you choose to cosplay at your first convention, you should still be courteous toward people who are in costume. Always ask the cosplayer for permission before taking their photo. You should also avoid touching any props or costume pieces, even if they look so real! 

crowd at Otakon
There are a lot of people who go to conventions and never cosplay.

What rules do you have to follow as a cosplayer at conventions?

Just because you don’t have to cosplay doesn’t mean you can’t. Cosplay is a great way to express yourself, and there’s no better way to do it than at a convention surrounded by other like-minded cosplayers.

Whether you are putting together a last-minute cosplay, or you’ve been working on your costume for months, there are some basic guidelines you need to follow. Every convention will have its own rules for cosplayers, so it’s best to look up the dress code on your convention’s website before attending. However, these are some basics that you’ll want to think about before choosing a costume.

Rules for props 

 Rules for props tend to vary the most across conventions, so definitely be sure to check the rules. Pretty much every convention will ban anything that contains live steel for swords, knives, and so on, so you always want to make your prop out of some kind of fake material. Some conventions will go as far as to ban anything that could possibly be used to hurt others, including any kind of wooden stick like baseball bats and wooden walking staffs.

Most, however, will be somewhere in the middle, where they’ll ban any live steel along with functional trajectory weapons (they may ask you to remove the string from any archery bows that are used), and anything that’s too sharp to be safe. Check out the rules for the convention you’re going to and use your best judgment.

Rules for body coverage 

Since most conventions are meant to be family-friendly events, you should use your best judgment when choosing a costume. Be at least as modest in the way you dress as you would on a public beach. Most conventions will have specific rules in the amount of coverage they expect cosplayers to maintain, so be sure to check your convention guide.

Other aspects of your costume to think about are shoes and face masks. Most conventions will require you to wear shoes at all times. If you are cosplaying a character that goes barefoot, you can choose to take your shoes off only when standing still for photos. Alternatively, you can wear nude-colored shoes or create a pair that is somewhat invisible when you are wearing them.

Rules for makeup 

It’s less common to find rules about the type of makeup allowed at conventions. However, some will include limits on any effects makeup that look like open wounds. This is to make sure people in costume are not confused with anyone who is actually injured.

Charizard cosplayer with wings
If you have a costume that includes a large prop, such as outstretched wings, be careful when you are traveling through crowded areas.

Watch the size of your props

Large props can be a hazard at a crowded convention. Things like large wings, giant hammers, trailing ball gowns, etc. can all pose a problem when you’re trying to walk around a hallway. 

This isn’t to say you cannot bring large props with you (some conventions have rules against large props, some do not), but you need to be very conscious of where your costume is at all times. You want to avoid accidentally hitting someone in the head or breaking your costume.

No trespassing in areas that are not part of the convention

Avoid setting up a photoshoot in an area that is not public property or away from a convention. This includes the staircases of nearby buildings as well as private gardens that are in the area of the convention. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere outside of the convention, of course. It’s common to go get lunch or dinner in cosplay at nearby restaurants or organize photoshoots in nearby parks and public areas. However, be aware of what areas are not open to the public so you can avoid trespassing on private property.

Respect other cosplayers and guest 

While acting in character can be a fun part of cosplaying, you still need to respect other guests who are attending the convention with you. Don’t harass other attendees or act rude and obnoxious to stay in character. This also applies to other people who are cosplaying from the same show/game as you!

You also want to avoid being a menace toward convention staff. Don’t ninja run down the hallways, slide down banisters, or jump into areas that are off-limits. 

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.

Recent Posts