What is cosplay?

What is cosplay?
In recent years, the world scene has witnessed an exponential increase in trade fairs and events whose main theme concerns comics, films and video games. Hand in hand, these events have seen more and more people who, passionate about a given character, came to the point of wanting to wear the clothes, even if only for a few days. This phenomenon is known as cosplay and is a hobby that represents much more than just a person dressing up, like Carnival could be.

Historical background

In itself, the word cosplay it is a contraction of the English words costume and play, but its origins actually go back to Asia. In June 1983, the Akita Shoten publishing house published a magazine called My Anime, which included an article titled Kosupure, which was translated into English as Costume Play. Later, however, not being the best term to express that concept, it was called Operation Cosplay. The author of the piece was Takahashi Nobuyuki, the owner of the Studio Hard production company, who attending the World Science Fiction Convention saw some Star Trek fans in costume.

Nobuyuki was very surprised by the way the Americans had to wear the clothes of their favorite characters: acting was also included in the interpretation of their favorites, in order to resemble them as much as possible. For example, Star Trek fans who chose to play the Klingons not only wore their iconic armor, but went so far as to speak in the language of warlike aliens.

Since this practice was in fact different from the disguise adopted in Asia at similar fairs, the director decided to coin a new term with respect to the one used especially in Japan. In fact, the denomination Masquerade was used more to refer to aristocratic costumes, much closer to those of the Italian Carnival of Venice, than to the costumes of famous fiction present at American conventions.

Cosplay: cos 'it really is

To understand what is really hidden behind the word cosplay, however, we need to look at this hobby in a little more detail. Although it may seem like a simple disguise based on wearing some particular dress, this passion is far more complex than one might think. If the final goal is, as we said before, to resemble your favorite character as much as possible, the path that cosplayers take to get there, changes from person to person based on different elements.

C ' there are those who prefer to commission the tailoring part or the accessories (or both) to someone more experienced, and there are those who choose to rely on Asian stores specialized in cosplay to have a costume already made without having to make changes or spend money exorbitant. Most of the fans, however, decide to try their hand at creating each part that makes up the costume.

The latter in particular, will have to start with a meticulous work to search for images and references, in order to grasp how many as particular as possible, if the cosplay you intend to create comes from a video game or movie, for example. The first impact that is given is certainly the visual one: the more the costume is rich in details, the more you will be associated with the chosen character.

However, to make a cosplay better, it is not enough to have a well-made costume, but other elements are needed that characterize the character interpreted: make-up, wig and various accessories will be indispensable if you intend to give a prominent effect. After this first phase, the cosplayers will have to recover everything they might need in the construction phase, including tools, fabrics and various materials. They will therefore have to get involved using all the artistic skills in their possession, from sewing to painting to manual creation.

Skills, imagination and working possibilities

As you may have noticed, cosplay differs substantially from the simple Carnival disguise, touching different artistic spheres. The amount of elements to be taken into consideration is high and the skills needed to have a good result are innumerable. However, if this necessary skill can be intimidating and hesitant for those who approach this hobby for the first time, it should be noted that cosplay is an art that is learned by practicing it.

In addition, many cosplayers provide tutorials, free or paid, on the process of creating the various parts, in order to help anyone who needs them. Some have even managed to make it a real job, not only by providing their knowledge and the various explanations of the processes to create a cosplay, but also being recognized as artists and performers, so much so that they were invited to fairs all over the world. in which to also hold workshops.

Cosplay could also open the doors to an often underestimated career: the costume designer. In recent years, news of Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton had aroused a lot of interest, attending some American fairs to get inspiration in the creation of costumes, including Jon Snow's famous fur cape. Thanks to the advice and collaboration with some cosplayers, the department was able to create the garment simply starting from… a rug in the IKEA catalog!

As incredible as this solution may seem, it fits perfectly in the needs of cosplayers. A low-priced item can turn into an extremely useful garment in this hobby, reinventing its color, shape and often even use. Ultimately, everything lies in the imagination of the beholder and cosplayers are definitely well supplied with this.

The world scene ...

Around this creative hobby that attracts a large number of curious and passionate people have formed real events dedicated to it. By now, every fair in the sector sets up an exclusive area for cosplayers, involving them in various events including cosplay competitions. During these competitions, the participants compete on a stage, parading in front of a jury that decrees the best in different areas, such as costume, accessories and even interpretation.

The prizes can be various also based on the type of fair organized, but the most coveted by the participants remain those that allow access to other very important international competitions, such as the World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya and the CCXP Cologne. Here the competition becomes tighter and the level of skills of individual cosplayers rises a lot. The artists pay great attention to both their costume and the interpretation with which they present the character, thus making the judges' task even more difficult.

What derives from this for the participants and above all for the winners, does not they are just the prizes they receive immediately. Some of them, taking part in these events and getting involved, managed to attract the eye of some big names within the videogame environment, so much so that they were able to start real collaborations with them, such as Kinpatsu Cosplay, a duo of South African cosplayers.

Riot Games, the American videogame house creator of the videogame League Of Legends, has started a collaboration with Kinpatsu to advertise the new skins of some of its champions. The couple was commissioned to create an accessory for each character presented, making tutorials and patterns available on the official Riot channels to build the objects step by step, thus revealing the process and helping all fans who want to make the cosplay.

… and the Italian one

Also in Italy in recent years we have seen an increase in general interest in this hobby. If before cosplayers were valued mainly in large fairs such as Lucca Comics and Games or Milan Games Week, lately even the smaller ones have developed a certain interest in this regard. Therefore, areas dedicated to cosplay have been created, where you can create photo sets or even where you can repair your costumes in case they have suffered damage.

Not just fashion shows and gatherings more or less therefore, officials of various fandoms, but real services available to fans to make their stay at the fair easier. Cosplay competitions, on the other hand, can boast some of the best known names within the community among the juries. Giorgia Cosplay, for example, is one of the most famous Italian cosplayers also at an international level, having won the World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya in 2005.

Among the male exponents we can find Leon Chiro, a cosplayer and streamer by profession of Rome, whose skills in make-up and in the interpretation of the clothes he chooses to wear have made him stand out throughout the community. These qualities, together with his positivity and his attention to fans, have meant that some of the most important video game companies, such as Ubisoft and Square Enix, have contacted him to collaborate and advertise some titles. His most recognized cosplays are from My Hero Academia and Assassin's Creed, but his closet boasts a considerable number of costumes from different media, such as movies, comics or video games.

Cosplay: a hobby respectable

So cosplay is much more than a simple pastime for those who enjoy dressing up. It is a very original passion that unites countless people from all possible social backgrounds and backgrounds, who find themselves having common interests, whether they derive from comics, TV series, films or video games. It is commitment and sacrifice, inspiration and sharing. A complete hobby in all its parts that can turn into a real job, but that promises to keep the fun side firmly.

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