Everyone who cosplays will have their own reasons for doing it. And for most people, those reasons will change as they cosplay more and get involved in fan and geek communities. When I first started cosplaying, it was about dressing up as characters I loved. I didn’t care if costumes were store-bought and of questionable quality to start with, but as I got more involved with cosplay, I began to really appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into creating costumes.
Most people start cosplaying because they love a character, series, or game so much that they want to express their joy for it. People continue cosplaying to test their skills, as a form of escapism, and as a way to be a part of a community.
Even though cosplay may seem like a kind of silly dress-up for adults on the outside, it’s a lot deeper and more meaningful for the members of the community. People put a lot of work and love into their costumes. It’s something you can’t know fully until you’ve experienced it. But this is my attempt to explain some of the common reasons that people cosplay.
1. People cosplay to gain sewing and crafting skills
Once you get involved with cosplay, you realize that there are so many different skills you can learn through making your costumes and props. This also includes soft skills such as problem-solving, resourcefulness, and overall communication skills. All the while, you have to make sure all your costumes and props are comfortable and durable enough to walk around for a day through a crowded (and usually hot) convention center.
To make a costume you need to learn how to sew and alter sewing patterns to create the costume pieces you need. There is also hair and wig styling that you’re going to need to recreate the eccentric hairstyles of comic and anime characters. You also need to learn about different types of prop-making materials and learn how to construct armor, magical staffs, swords, hammers, and all manner of jewelry, headdresses, and costume additions that don’t involve fabric and sewing.
When you write it all out, this seems like a lot of work to put into a costume, but if you’re the kind of person who enjoys hands-on work and creative problem-solving, this is the best part about cosplay. Personally, this is why I still like to cosplay. I find it fun and fascinating to figure out how to take a cartoon or anime drawing and figure out how to make physics work and bring the costume to life.
2. People cosplay to express their love of the fandom
Most people, including myself, first begin cosplaying because of their love for a character or the source material they come from (comic, anime, game, sci-fi movie, etc.). Cosplay is a way to participate in the fandom and express yourself and your interests.
In the same way that sports fans will derive joy from wearing the jersey of their favorite team to express their support at a game, cosplayers will have a lot of fun putting on the costume to essentially show their allegiance and root for their favorite game, anime, TV show, etc. It takes a little more effort to get into full costume, but in the end, people start cosplaying because it’s just fun.
3. People cosplay to meet with other members of the community
Most people who cosplay will do so at conventions where thousands of people from are part of the same fandoms gather together. Cosplay is a great way to find people who are into the same things as you. Honestly, it’s a great way to make friends whether you’re still in high school or attending conventions as an adult.
Once you’ve connected with the community, there’s also the chance to do group cosplays. This is when you and your friends plan to cosplay the entire cast of Avatar the Last Airbender, for example. Not only is it a lot of fun to collaborate with people while making your costumes, but you also tend to get a lot more recognition at conventions when you go as a group.
Cosplaying and connecting with other members of the community can also be a big boost in confidence. When you put yourself out there in costume, you’re bound to be recognized and complemented by other people in attendance.
4. People cosplay to participate in competitions
Believe it or not, there are also cosplay competitions that people will participate in. There are generally two different types of contests that cosplayers will participate in. One judges the overall craftsmanship of the costume, including sewing skills, wig styling, character accuracy, and prop construction. The other is where cosplayers act out skits or dances on stage.
The prizes for these types of competitions are typically pretty minimal. However, it’s a great way for those cosplayers who are highly competitive to get out there and have fun with the hobby. For those cosplayers looking to gain a reputation in the community, these contests can also be a way to make a name for themselves, especially at larger conventions.
5. People cosplay to bring imaginary worlds to life
There’s something magical about the way cosplay can bring imaginary characters and worlds to life. Cosplay can give you a day to escape from the boring everyday life that you live and step into a world where anything is possible. It’s a form of escapism.
As silly as it sounds, I can say that I have also experienced this feeling that when I’m cosplaying I’m somehow separate from the rest of my life. On weekends when I go to an anime convention always have a sense of disconnection, similar to the way going on a vacation just doesn’t seem real when you come back home and have to get back to your regular job or schoolwork.
6. People cosplay for fame
For most people, cosplay is just a hobby. However, there are some cosplayers who want to turn their hobby into a job. To do that, they need to gain some level of cosplay fame and become known within the cosplay community or as cosplay influencers using social media like Instagram or TikTok.
Cosplaying is not typically the most lucrative career. However, there have been some people who manage to gain enough fame that they can do this for a living.
7. People cosplay to become a different person
Sometimes dressing as the person you want to be can help you embody the charisma and confidence that the character stands for. It’s a lot easier to embody the grace of a princess when you’re wearing a beautiful gown, the endless optimism of a shonen protagonist when you’re wearing their hero suit, or the nonchalance of a roguish character when you’re dressed the part.
Cosplaying makes it easier to pretend to be someone else. It’s great if you are an aspiring actor. But even if you’re not, it still gives you the practice of trying to find characteristics in fictional characters that help you improve yourself.
There are also so many different characters you can choose from. Even if you’re not looking for self-improvement, putting on a costume and being someone else for a day is a lot of fun. Think about how much pure joy kids have when they dress up for Halloween every year. There is no reason you can’t channel that energy as an adult and simply enjoy the chance to put on a costume and pretend to be a princess for a day.