Have you ever had a friend slip into a startlingly accurate costume of the “Harry Potter” series’ Lucius Malfoy, straight down to searching for hours for the rings he wore and ensuring their costume materials were made of 100 percent real velvet (as Lucius would not want anything lesser), only to suddenly start praising the Dark Lord and calling you a filthy muggle?
This, my friend, is a good example of the differences between cosplaying and a Halloween costume.
Cosplay is considered a type of performance art where fans dress as a fictional character from an anime, manga, book, movie, video game or comic, and aims to become that character. Cosplayers aim for accuracy and incredible detail in the costumes, trying to make them look as realistic and plausible as possible (no 7-foot Final Fantasy Buster Swords that break at the handle here). They might also adopt the mannerisms, behaviors, body language and speaking style of said character.
It is a hobby for most, but one they care deeply about, and no wonder — the amount of time and resources it takes to make an accurate costume of almost any fictional character is intimidating.
Costumes at their cheapest are $50 to $100, and prices go up from there. Generally speaking, there aren’t many costumes that are simply shirts and skirts, and while you can find cheaper versions of the costumes online, they won’t be anywhere near the level of detail and quality cosplayers typically want.
Most cosplayers make their own costumes. This means buying many different fabrics, ordering specialized jewelry, patches, footwear, hair decorations and importing high-quality wigs made of real hair instead of the horrid cheap ones. Sometimes, even the use of prosthetics, body makeup and different colored eye contacts are employed. When they can’t find the proper color for wigs or fabric, they dye them on their own.
The amount of time its takes to make different costumes can range from hours to months or years. It is a hobby that takes great passion, not only for the series and the characters, but also for fashion and fantasy.
The reasons people cosplay can include but are not limited to feeling connected to the character, liking their style or admiring a quality of the character that the cosplayer themselves doesn’t possess.
Cosplay has its own community filled with people modeling the characters in photoshoots, going to conventions and winning competitions. There are even celebrities among the community who are deeply revered for the level of quality and time that goes into their craft. However, cosplayers are often looked down upon outside of their community, seen as geeks who need to get a life.
Halloween offers them a safe zone where they can parade around in their costumes without anyone thinking worse of them. They can be the stars of the show, showing off their extremely detailed costumes and scaring or impressing the general public with mastery of the character’s ticks. It’s the one time a year they can go into a bar and share their hobby with people who will be open to it, or even appreciate it.
At the same time, it is hard to imagine the disgust serious cosplayers feel when they see a girl with cat ears on her head and whiskers badly drawn onto her face calling herself “Catwoman.” Seeing their favorite characters imitated by others who don’t understand or care about them on a deeper level is hard to deal with. Walking into stores that sell Halloween costumes and seeing the cheap fabrics, inaccuracies and awkward sexualization of characters they respect can be enough to get their blood boiling.
Even more than that, consider what it is like to go to a Halloween party and have people treat your extremely expensive costume carelessly because they do not appreciate it: accidentally spilling things, stepping on capes, playing around with authentic replicas of the Master Sword and tugging on wigs.
If you happen to have the good fortune of seeing someone in a professionally made costume and wig re-enacting a character previously seen only in your fantasies, approach them with the respect that their craft deserves. And maybe, just maybe, consider putting a little bit more effort into those cat ears and whiskers this Halloween. After all, costumes are serious business.
Cara Hillstock is a sophomore in English and theatre. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.