How Common is Cosplay at Conventions?

How common is cosplay at conventions?

If this is your first time getting ready to go to your local anime convention, you might be a little concerned about standing out in your new cosplay. Or maybe you don’t want to cosplay, but all of your friends have costumes prepared. Will you stand out as the only one not in cosplay?

At most anime or comic conventions, you can expect about one-quarter to half of the attendees to cosplay at least one day during the weekend. This means, cosplay is common to see at these events, but it’s actually more common to see people wearing everyday clothing.

This will, of course, vary depending on the convention you go to. Some events, such as Katsucon, are known for better photo opportunities which attract more cosplayers to the venue. You also might see fewer people cosplaying at smaller events that are focused on a specific niche within the geek community.

What conventions do people cosplay at?

A convention is a catch-all term for a large conference or assembly of people with similar interests or goals. There are all types of conventions, from political to business, and even sports. Most of these are not going to be cosplay-friendly. If you want to cosplay at a convention, you want to look for anything within the geek or nerd sphere of interest. 

The biggest conventions for cosplay will be anime conventions and comic conventions, but you can also look for gaming, sci-fi, or even D&D conventions. Depending on your character or source material, there may be cosplay opportunities as book-based conventions or conventions for historical reenactment. 

Pearl cosplayer
Steven Universe may not be made in Japan, but you’ll see cosplayers from the show at anime conventions across the US.

Can you cosplay from anime at a comic convention?

Generally, there is no problem with cosplaying as a character from a completely different genre at an anime, comic, sci-fi, or gaming convention. You’ll find anime characters at comic-con, star wars at an anime convention, and Disney characters everywhere. The larger the convention, the more likely you’ll find people cosplaying from all different sources.

While you’ll see people cosplaying outside the convention theme at all types of conventions, it’s most common at anime conventions. You’ll see a wide variety of anime characters, for sure, but it’s just as common to see groups of cosplayers from American pop culture. The more niche the theme of the convention is, the less likely you’ll see people cosplaying from other source materials.

Do you have to cosplay when you go to a convention?

No convention that I’m aware of has a rule that you have to attend in a costume. At most anime and comic conventions, you can expect 25-35% of attendees to cosplay at least once throughout the weekend. Many of these cosplayers will bring multiple costumes with them, but others will only plan on cosplaying one day. This means, on any given day less than one-third of people in attendance will be in costume.

There are some conventions that are known for being great events for cosplay (such as Katsucon or AnimeExpo). Here, you’ll find a greater percentage of people wearing a costume. Even at these conventions that are oriented toward cosplay, you’ll find plenty of people walking around in everyday clothing.

Otakuthon prop check
Recently conventions have been including prop checks to be sure no dangerous weapons are being brought to the event.

Are there any rules for cosplaying at conventions?

Official rules for cosplay will vary depending on the event you’re attending. Typically, these will be made to ensure the safety of all attendees. There will also be rules about public decency that can be very strict at some conventions. Always check your event’s website ahead of time so that you bring a costume that’s appropriate for the convention.

If you plan on being part of a contest with your costume, there are also rules for entering that you’ll want to be aware of ahead of time. You will, of course, need to enter a costume that you made yourself, and there are typically rules against entering if you are a professional seamstress, tailor, or costume designer in your everyday life.

1. Make sure your props are safe

There will almost always be rules around the type of props that are allowed at conventions. Some will have very strict rules, not allowing anything that resembles a weapon or can be used as a weapon (including baseball bats and staffs). Others will require all props to go through a prop check to be sure they are safe to carry around. If toy firearms will are allowed, they will usually have to have an orange tip so that everyone knows they are fake.

2. Make sure you have enough body coverage

Unless you’re going to an adults-only event at a private venue, there will be rules about body coverage and public decency. It’s pretty common for anime and cartoon characters to wear clothing that would leave you completely exposed in real life, so be prepared to alter these costumes slightly in order to abide by the convention rules.

3. Some special effects makeup is off-limits

Depending on the convention, you also might have to limit the amount of gore special effect makeup you use. Anything that looks too much like blood and gore could interfere with a professional analysis of injuries in the event of an emergency. For that reason, some event rules limit the use of this kind of special effects makeup for costumes.

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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