If you are in New York City this weekend, you may see Link in line at McDonalds or Sailor Moon on the subway. New York Comic Con kicks off the ninth year of the annual comic book and entertainment convention, and the cosplay is sure to be impressive.
Surely by now you’ve heard the word cosplay tossed around, but do you really know what it is, or how much the hobby costs?
Literally speaking, cosplay is the combination of the words “costume” and “play.” Cosplayers, the people who partake in cosplay, dress as their favourite characters from comics, video games, anime, manga, movies, and television.
The best supported origin story on the Internet says that in 1984, Nov Takahashi, founder and writer for the anime publishing company Studio Hard, was sent to Los Angeles to cover the World-Con science fiction convention. He was impressed by the fans’ costumes and the elaborate displays at the masquerade, and when he returned to Japan, he coined the term to describe what he saw.
Today, cosplay is a favourite ritual of Comic Con attendees. Business Insider attended last year, and we saw dozens of Batmen, Iron Men, and Wonder Women, in addition to niché costumes, like characters of the Japanese manga series “Attack on Titan” and ’90s throwbacks like Freakazoid and Hey Arnold.
The costumes vary greatly in intensity. Some crafty cosplayers get resourceful and repurpose clothing and props they already own. For instance, to cosplay as Katniss Everdeen of the “Hunger Games” franchise, all you need is a black t-shirt, green cargo pants, lace-up boots, and hair tied into a braid. You can buy a Mockingjay pin replica for as little as $US4 and use brown eye shadow for dirt smears.
Other cosplayers may choose to purchase their costumes from an online store, like Milanoo or Cosplay House. On Milanoo, prices range from $US21 for a Dragonball Z jumpsuit on clearance to $US197 for a black latex catsuit.
For those who want to go above and beyond and create something entirely unique, they can commission costumes from specialists, many of whom operate their businesses on Etsy. You send a description of what you want, pictures of the character for clarity, your measurements, and any special customisation requests.
In the world of cosplay, you frequently have to decide between three requirements: “Time, quality, or money. You can only have one,” said Iggy Tissera, a professional cosplayer and panelist at last year’s “I Have No Sewing Machine, But I Must Cosplay!” presentation. “If you want it to be well made, it’s going to take a while and it’s going to cost you.”
Lindsey Celak, who led the panel as Sexy Indiana Jones, described a “sticker shock” experience a few years ago when she wanted to be Giselle, of Disney’s animated movie “Enchanted.” She requested a price quote from a commissioner — asking for specific, high-quality materials and hand-embroidered flowers — and discovered it would cost $US850.
“If you’re going for accuracy [of the character], you’re going to pay for it,” Celak said. “Close enough usually suffices.” She instead purchased a lace costume from “one of those ‘Made in China’ sites” and says it’s held up splendidly since.
For cosplayers, the experience is nearly always worth the stress of choosing a costume and dropping the dough. It’s an opportunity to be a hero, princess, or otherworldly creature.
“It takes courage to put on a costume and go into public,” Tissera said. “But we’re celebrating the characters that we love and embracing our fandom.”
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