This is Paid Content: What exactly is this costumed play and when did it start? Costumed role playing, commonly known as cosplay, has been very popular in North America for decades with fans of science fiction, but it didn’t become part of the mainstream until the 1990s in North America.
Cosplay is when a person dresses up as a fictional character. These characters can be from any genre, but the most popular in the mainstream are from science fiction movies, TV shows and books. The characters from Japanese anime shows or manga books are also very popular, with strong fan followings worldwide.
The term cosplay was introduced in 1984 by the founder of Studio Hard during a report in the magazine My Anime following a science fiction convention, but cosplay is much older than the term. Many assume that because the term cosplay is from anime beginnings it is an Asian import. However, since the 15th century Europeans enjoyed dressing up for masquerade balls and other types of celebrations. Most of these events were for the very rich who could afford to have garments made for special occasions, but even commoners took part in special village parties.
During the 1800s European and North American costume parties became a popular past-time. Most of the costumes at these parties were generic with broad themes such as a “Night” or “Springtime”. Although the majority of the costumes were very general, some partakers would dress up as fictional characters as well, with Shakespearean characters being common.
In 1939 at the first World Science Fiction Convention, two fans, Forrest J. Ackerman and Myrtle R. Douglas, wore futuristic costumes based on the pulp fiction art of Frank R. Paul. Ackerman later commented that he thought everyone should be wearing costumes are this type of event. His idea caught on and at the second Worldcon the next year, a masquerade contest was included in the programming. This simple beginning transformed future events of the genre.
One of today’s most popular conventions is the San Diego Comic-Con. The event has held a Masquerade Ball since 1974. Many of those who take part in cosplay (cosplayers) take their play to a higher level with role-playing their characters. Cosplayers tend to be gender fluid with their costumes. These players take on the mannerisms of their characters at events and for special photo sessions.
Many of those that take part in modern cosplay make their own costumes or buy their garments from specialty shops. The most devoted players often spend quite a bit of time and money to get every detail of their character just right with wigs and props. Many of those props are weapon replicas. At conventions there are very strict rules about what is allowed.
Cosplay takes place beyond the world of conventions. The 1975 movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a perfect example of cosplay going mainstream. Audiences show up to cinemas across the globe dressed as their favorite characters in the film. Many of the cinemas have live performances by audiences members taking place at the same time as the screenings.
Dressing up as a favorite character has become a popular activity for many people. Those who enjoy the practice of cosplay get to escape the real world for a time and revel in play with other people. With many more conventions like Comic-Con popping up around the world, there is no doubt that cosplay is here to stay.