Most people will plan and wear their cosplays based on convention schedules. They will show off their costume for the weekend and then pack it away until the next convention. While conventions are great places to wear your costumes, they are not your only option. As long as you pay attention to the rules of public safety, you can cosplay anywhere.
In general, the most common places to cosplay outside of conventions are parks, beaches, movie screenings, and other events such as renaissance festivals. You can also arrange to meet up with photographers or other groups of cosplayers for small get-togethers and high-quality photo shoots.
Really, as long as you are being considerate about the people around you and choose your costume wisely, you can cosplay anywhere. Even if all you’re doing is a simple casual or closet cosplay, there are many ways to have fun and bring your character to life at any time of year.
1. Cosplaying in public
Cosplaying in public can be a little daunting at first. It can feel embarrassing to step out in costume when you don’t have the rest of the convention-goers surrounding you. But it can actually be a lot of fun to wear a cosplay out to a restaurant or for a walk in the park.
You would be surprised at the number of ‘normal’ people who are excited to see the costume and compliment your craftsmanship. If you’re cosplaying a character that children would recognize, you may even be asked to take pictures with them.
You, of course, want to make sure you are respectful of the other members of the public at all times, even if the character you are portraying is rude or obnoxious.
Public safety and rules
When cosplaying in public, it is essential to consider the rules before choosing a costume. Make sure to adhere to any laws about public decency in your area. There are also often rules about full-face masks. Make sure to look that up before wearing something like a Spiderman suit when you’re out for a stroll. You may want to choose to wear an alternate, more comfortable version of the character to make it more suitable for walking around in public.
You also need to be very careful about which props you choose to take with you. Anything that could be perceived as a weapon should not be brought out in public. Even if it’s only a sword made out of squishy foam, the appearance can be enough to scare people and even call the police. Props such as staffs or wands are generally okay, but it’s always best to think about the public perception before bringing any kind of prop with you.
Finding public areas
You also need to make sure you stick to appropriate public areas. Places such as parks, beaches, hiking trails, or the front of some cool-looking buildings are excellent places to start. Avoid trespassing on private property unless you get the explicit permission of the property owner. As long as you are dressed decently, many restaurants and shopping areas will have no problem with you there.
If you’re taking pictures or hanging out in public, you also need to think about whether or not you’re obstructing traffic. Avoid wearing costumes that are so elaborate that people can’t get past you on the sidewalk. Some cities even have rules about this. In DC, for example, you’re not allowed to set up a camera tripod on the sidewalk because it will prevent the flow of pedestrians.
2. Vacation cosplay
If you’re going for a fun vacation, you may want to bring your costume with you to wear it around for the day. It can be a great way to get on-location photographs for characters. For example, taking pictures of an anime character in Japan can be a lot of fun.
If you’re going on vacation to the beach, you could even design a bathing suit for your character (or use the beach episode for your design). This can be a great way to subtly cosplay while also having a great time on your vacation.
Before you go to another country and cosplay, however, you must learn about the laws in place. The rules for clothing can differ dramatically depending on the area you are visiting. It’s also a good idea to look up the informal social rules and expectations. Even if you are not technically breaking the law, you may be going against an unsaid social code. Do some research on other people’s experiences at your destination to get a better idea of what’s actually allowed.
3. Is it okay to cosplay at school?
Sometimes schools are great places to cosplay to show your interests and stand out in the crowd. However, dress codes are often very strict. Wigs might not be allowed; skirts have to be long, tank tops are often off-limits. Sometimes even makeup is not permitted at school, so cosplay might not be an option depending on where you go.
Colleges tend to have more lax dress codes. When I was in college, I cosplayed in class a couple of times to meet up with people directly afterward. However, this isn’t something I did often. I found it a little uncomfortable to sit in the costume for an extended period, so that is something to consider before you go all out and wear your costume to school.
4. Setting up a photo shoot for your cosplay
In my experience, the most common reason for cosplaying outside of a convention is for a photo shoot. Conventions are often crowded, and the best locations for photoshoots are hard to get. If you want the best photos for your cosplay, you’ll want to arrange some time with a photographer outside of the convention.
This means that you can also choose a location that is perfect for your character. Rather than being limited by the architecture around the convention location, you can go anywhere. Do a photoshoot with a fairy in the forest or a mermaid on the beach. You can find hidden gem places all around the world that are absolutely perfect for a cosplay photoshoot.
Just remember that if you are going to any private property, you will have to get permission to take photos, and they may charge a fee. You and your photographer can work out the best location based on what you need for your character.
- Read more: How to plan a successful cosplay photoshoot
5. Cosplay to the movies
I remember going to see the Harry Potter movies as a kid and getting really excited about all the people who showed up dressed as the characters. While it’s not something I ever got the chance to do, it’s not a completely outdated practice. You’ll often see excited fans (both children and adults) dressed as their favorite characters, waiting in line for opening night movies.
Of course, this works especially well for franchises or movies made from popular book series. But, if you’re a fan, there is no reason that you can show up in costume to express your love for the character or series.
6. Cosplaying at home
Public outings aren’t the only way to cosplay when you are not at a convention. You can also cosplay in your own home. This can be great practice for wearing your costume and role-playing as your character. You can figure out which parts of the outfit are more likely to fall apart and reinforce those sections while also practicing poses that would be great for photos.
Other activities that you can do at home include hosting a cosplay party with your friends. You can all arrange to cosplay from the same series or mix it up with random characters from your favorites. You can even turn this kind of event into a pajama party, where everyone dresses as their character in likely pajamas they would wear (or do wear in some cases)
7. Renaissance festivals
Renaissance festivals are common in the US, typically taking place over the summer or in the fall. They are known as places where people will dress up in clothing from medieval periods of history. There are many characters who would fit right into this setting, such as Zelda characters (I’ve seen so many Link cosplayers at Renn Faire) or Game of Thrones characters.
It’s also not too out of the ordinary to see people dressed up as characters that aren’t right for the time. When I lived in Maryland, the Renaissance festival that I went to even reserved the last day of the season as the Day of Wrong. A day where they encourage people to come dressed in inappropriate clothing for the renaissance, which often includes cosplaying as out-of-place characters.
8. Professional cosplayers
If you are trying to get into the world of professional cosplay, you may be able to find jobs where you represent a company in costume. In these types of jobs, you would typically cosplay as a character from the company’s game, TV show, or movie and show up at company events to sell merchandise or hand out flyers. Often this will happen during anime, comic, or gaming conventions, but these businesses will also have outside events where they will hire cosplayers.
9. Join a meetup group
If you want to cosplay outside of conventions, but you are too nervous about going out alone, try finding a group of cosplayers in your area. Events will be held at least a few times a year for you to show up and cosplay with the group. You might also be able to find groups that pair up cosplayers with photographers so that you’ll be able to get some excellent photos of your cosplay even if you don’t know anyone who’s into photography.
The best places to look for these types of cosplay groups are Facebook groups and on a site called MeetUp. There used to be forums for these types of get-togethers, but they have been inactive for a few years, making most of the information about gatherings outdated.
10. Cosplay at Conventions
Even with all these other options, conventions are still a great place to cosplay. There are a lot of advantages to these events. For one, you will be less likely to feel self-conscious and out of place since there are so many people cosplaying around you. The venue also pays for the location, so you don’t have to pay any fees for photography.
Because I’ve lived within commuting distance of some conventions, I’ve also cosplayed on public transportation to get there. That’s always an interesting experience because the closer you get to the convention stop, the more and more cosplayers will join you on the ride. If you are taking public transportation to a convention, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, avoid bulky cosplays that take up a lot of space, and keep any pieces of fabric from trailing on the ground, so it doesn’t get stepped on or stuck in an escalator.
To find an upcoming convention near you, I recommend checking out Comic-cons.xyz. They keep an up-to-date list of conventions in the US, as well as some in Canada and the UK.