Cosplaying – what is it and how does it work?

‘Cosplaying’ is a term which you may or not may not be familiar with. It’s a hybrid word derived from (guess what) ‘costume play’. Dressing up in costumes is something that we do from a very early age, pretty much toddler-hood to be specific, you know the kind of things – princesses, soldiers, Marvel, Batman, etc. Imaginative play is something that costumes are used for and not just when we’re small. It might be dressing up as a bride one day and wearing a ballet outfit for lessons the next, or dressing up as Merlin for a school play. But it doesn’t stop there, adults dress up all the time, just think of the number of stag and hen parties that involve becoming a whole different, naughtily suggestive character. That’s a classic cosplay. Toddlers dress up as Disney characters, but did you know that adults do too? Especially for the bedroom? Thought not.

How does it start?

It starts pretty much where you’d expect it to, by choosing a character. There’s no limit on who you can dress up as, it can be anyone from a film, a book, a video, the TV, the choice is yours! Cosplayers usually take this very seriously and make their own costumes from scratch right down to the minutest detail.

Cosplayers themselves.

People often use it to tap into a whole other identity. It isn’t just about the outfit, they are actually getting totally into the role of Magenta from The Rocky Horror Show, or whatever, there’s an almost endless supply of inspiration out there. They leave their real selves behind and become someone else for the duration.

This kind of dressing up is far outside the bedroom ‘norm’. Characters are diverse, popular choices include: Captain America, Black Widow, Loki, someone from Suicide Squad, Misty, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Slave Leia, Ariel (yes really) and Sonya Blade. That’s just a handful.

Where does sex fit in?

Sexual relationships are often a large part of cosplaying. BUT, that’s not an open invitation to assume anything, or engage in anything, no matter how promiscuous the character is, where consent is involved it’s exactly the same as any other form of sex

How do people usually learn about cosplay?

On a basic level it’s all about dressing up as a child, learning how to transform yourself into another a little ballerina, or princess, or farmer, etc.

Who do you do it with?

There isn’t a simple answer to that one! Sometimes within relationships, but it can be hard to find someone who’s as into it as you are. There are lots of cosplay parties which are specifically set up for this so usually at one of those.

How do you find the parties?

It’s kind of word of mouth, once you’ve been to one then you know where to look for the next. Going to a convention and get chatting with fellow cosplayers is a good place to start.

Making money.

If we just stray slightly away from sex and cosplaying, is it possible to make actual money from doing this? For some it’s purely a hobby or a sexual indulgence, but for others it’s their job. The cosplay scene is expanding so more and more commercial opportunities are popping up so there are lots of ways to get paid in this sphere. If you’re handy with a sewing machine then you can set yourself up as a costume maker and specialise in creating some of the more difficult costumes, or if you have good organisational skills then you could put these to use by organising a cosplay convention.

A new path that has sprung up is sponsored cosplay (i.e. the Holy Grail for dedicated cosplayers). For example, you might find a company who wants to promote a specific entertainment item and they will pay someone to dress up as a character from one of their stories. The cosplayer is then paid to appear live at product launches and conventions which gives them the opportunity to turn their passion into a job.

What type of events do they attend?

There aren’t too many variants of the type of events/parties that go on, the only real difference is whether it’s a large scale event, like a big convention or a smaller scale one like a product launch. With the latter all you’ll probably be required to do is dress up and stay in character, interacting with – well – whoever wants to! In the big conventions however, things get shaken about a little. There will be long, multiple days where the cosplayer will be expected to firmly stay in character, never breaking, and be acting, smiling, posing and having photographs taken with fans.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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