While it’s most common to see people mimicking the exact outfit of the character they are cosplaying, you’ll quickly find that there’s more to cosplay than just that. You’ll see characters wearing the wrong outfits or are a non-canon gender. You’ll see original characters and original designs. Cosplay leaves a lot of room for creativity when you realize how many different types of costumes exist.
1. Standard cosplay
Standard cosplay is what you first think of when you hear the word ‘cosplay.’ This is when you try to dress up as a favorite character as accurately as possible. You might see some minor adjustments to costumes to make them more comfortable and keep costs down, but generally, the cosplayer will be recognizable, wearing the canonical outfit of a character.
Cosplayers will either make their costumes themselves, purchase a costume, or commission a custom outfit for their cosplay. Whatever the method, the point is to wear a costume to closely resemble your character of choice. You can, of course, choose to wear a lesser-known outfit of your character as well. For example, I’ve seen people cosplay with the outfit from an ending song sequence, even though the character never wears the outfit within the timeline of the anime.
- Read more: Do Halloween costumes count as cosplay?
2. Casual cosplay
Casual cosplay is quite different and isn’t always recognizable as cosplay at all. The idea here is to wear an outfit inspired by a favorite character, rather than attempting to exactly copy the character design. The cosplayer puts together an outfit that matches the colors, patterns, or personality of their favorite character. It’s a way to channel the courage, kindness, etc. of a character into your everyday life.
This is a way you can inconspicuously cosplay in public, even to your job or school, without anyone ever knowing. You can express your nerdiness without anyone ever knowing, or you can be as obvious as you want about the inspiration for your outfit.
- Read more: How to get started with casual cosplay
3. Closet cosplay
Closet cosplay is really just a subtype of standard cosplaying. This type of cosplayer will typically try to match the outfit of a favorite character, but they will do so using only clothing they already own or cheap, thrifted clothing. This usually created less accurate costumes than specifically purchasing or making a costume from scratch. However, you can actually create some excellent cosplays using this technique depending on the character you’re going for.
The real benefit of this technique is that it is highly budget-friendly. This is absolutely the cheapest way to put a cosplay together, and many of my first costumes were closet cosplays. You can also combine elements of closet cosplay with some elements of standard cosplay, thrifting the pieces of the costume that are easier to find and making the other elements yourself.
- Read more: How to get started with closet cosplay
A gijinka is when you create a costume based on the design of a non-human character. Most of the time, the cosplayer will create their own original outfit (or use an outfit from fanart) using visual elements from the character so that they will be recognizable at a convention. Personally, I like this type of cosplay because it gives you a chance to be highly creative, but also identifiable to other people with similar interests.
It’s most common to see Pokemon gijinka cosplayers. This can be anything from a simple shirt and shorts with Pikachu ears or an elaborate group of armored eeveelution cosplayers. You will see this in other fandoms as well. For example, I’ve seen an elaborate feathered costume that was a Chocobo from final fantasy, and I’ve created my own lolita-style dress based on Nyanko sensei from Natsume’s Book of Friends.
Crossplay is when the cosplayers dress in a costume that does not match their own gender identity. For example, a male cosplayer dressed as Cinderella in her elaborate ballgown, or a female cosplayer dressed as Levi from Attack on Titan.
The goal here is to transform your own appearance to look like a different gender. This means using makeup to make your face look more masculine or feminine to match the character. It also means adjusting the shape of the rest of your body. If you are a male crossplayer dressing as a female character, you would add curves to the chest and hips. Female crossplayers will often use chest binders to help flatten their curves.
Many crossplayers will also take the time to practice walking and posing as the other gender so that they will create a more realistic illusion in cosplay.
- Read more: Tips for crossplaying as a male character
6. Genderbent cosplay
Genderbent cosplay is often confused with crossplay, but they are not exactly the same. For crossplay, you are changing your own perceived gender identity. However, for genderbending costumes, you are changing the gender identity of the character. You’d be dressing up as a female Tony Stark, or a male Sailor Moon.
If you’re not interested in changing your appearance to crossplay as a character, creating a genderbent version is another option for you. You can wear whatever clothes you’re most comfortable in and still be recognized as your character.
Genderbending a cosplay also gives you a lot of creative freedom in the design. You can stick to the same character design as the original if you want to, but you also have the chance to change it up and express the character in a completely original design.
Read more: what is genderbent cosplay?
7. Fursuit cosplay
Unlike a gijinka (which is a human design based on a non-human character), a fursuit costume is made to look like an animal. These are often custom-made, furry bodysuits with an animal head, made to look like an animal walking on two legs. People will often create a fursuit of their own original characters, but you might also see known characters such as Pokemon or My Little Pony.
8. Original characters
Instead of cosplaying as a character from a show or game, some people like to cosplay as their own original character. Whether it be a D&D character, your own original work, or a character you’ve inserted into a known universe (i.e. an original character in the Star Wars universe), there are so many ways you can get creative when making a character from scratch.
Original characters are a lot easier to make into a comfortable costume since there’s no need to worry about accuracy, or you can make an incredible and elaborate costume to challenge your costume construction skills. They can be a lot of fun to design and create. The only downside is that no one is going to recognize your character so you will probably have to work directly with a photographer to get photos at a convention.
- Read more: What to consider before cosplaying an OC
9. Original designs
Not everyone will want to cosplay as their own original character, but they’ll still want the creativity involved with designing their own costume. In these cases, people will cosplay using their own original design for a known character, rather than trying to dress up in a canon outfit.
Cosplayers might decide to create formal ball gowns for their favorite characters or set characters from one source into a completely different universe. For example, you might see the My Hero Academia students dressed as if they’re going to Hogwarts.
You’ll also see all kinds of holiday-inspired character outfits, with characters dressed up for Christmas or Valentine’s day. You might see superheroes in ballet-inspired outfits or medieval characters dressed for the modern era. For more popular shows and games, you might even see people cosplaying the costumes of famous fan artists in the niche.
A Kigurumi is kind of like onesie pajamas. These are fuzzy and soft one-size-fits-all costumes for cute and popular animal characters, like Winnie the Pooh, Pikachu, or Totoro. They are super comfortable and soft fleece fabric, and a great way to spend a comfortable day at a convention. My friends used to always bring their Kigurumis to wear on Sunday so that they could be extra comfortable after a long weekend at the convention.