Cosplayers costume themselves as characters from films, TV series, comics or computer games. Since cosplay arose in Japan in the 1970’s and then made its way to Germany, mainly anime and manga characters still enjoy the most popularity. Cosplayers often make their costumes and accessories themselves in months of delicate work, trading ideas and tips in the Internet. The costumes are worn at official conventions and contests or at privately organised photo shootings. Cosplayers also lend book fairs such as those in Leipzig and Frankfurt the glamour of a masked ball. Yossi, Videros and Britt tell how cosplay enriches their lives, not only as a hobby, but also as a skill.
If I like a character and I’m sure I could portray a good likeness of that character, then I start researching. I collect front, rear and detailed views of the costume and any props. Then I calculate what materials I need and head out armed with my list and reference pictures. Anything I can’t find on the weekly market I buy from specialist shops or online. That’s also where I get shoes, wigs and coloured contact lenses. The costumes are worn to conventions or privately-organised photoshoots. With photoshoots we often have to find a suitable location first to capture the character in an environment that is as appropriate as possible. At conventions you can’t just wear any type of costume either. For instance at the Leipzig Book Fair I am doing myself and those around me a big favour by not wearing crinolines or wings. The central focus of cosplay for me is creativity, but I also enjoy the opportunity to be really vain for once in a while. As a little girl I always wanted to be a pretty princess for carnival – as a student I fulfilled the dream every year myself with flowing ball gowns and showy wigs. Now I can be a prince too if I feel like it! Or a super-hero! Or a secret agent! When would you get a chance to wear an empire dress or a skintight catsuit in your day-to-day life?
I first came across active cosplayers at a meeting of the role-play forum of which I am a member. They convinced me to appear in costume at the next Leipzig Book Fair as well. The whole community was very friendly, making me want to visit more conventions as soon as possible. I’m fascinated by cosplay, because in my view it’s not just a hobby, it’s a craft as well. It unites creative fields such as sewing, modelling and acting, so that you can really get into it. For instance at conventions I try to portray my character in a way that is as true to life as possible using gestures and facial expression. Cosplay and the community also helps introverted people to develop a reasonable level of self-confidence. But everyone else can discover their true self in this hobby too – both the perfectionist who wants to win competitions and fans of manga and animé who cosplay together simply because they find it fun.
Britt T., 23
Britt T. | Photo: privat
For me, cosplay is a hobby that I tend not to do that often, unlike other leisure activities. In winter especially there are not that many meetings. But between these breaks there are always one or two weeks of panicked activity and hectic handicraft in advance of each convention. The thing is, most cosplayers have abysmal time management skills, and exhausting sewing sessions the night before the festival are a kind of running gag in our scene. But planning costumes and group cosplays is fun every time! Group cosplays are get-togethers where several people play different characters from the same series. I find it particularly exciting the way objects and clothing that actually only exist and function on paper are recreated and tailored on a limited budget. You need to be very inventive and willing to experiment to achieve that! I’m also impressed by the amount of effort that goes into the costumes. You can feel enthusiasm and energy at the festivals that I sometimes miss in day-to-day life. It’s not very often that people are fired up with enthusiasm for a project and achieve something as a joint effort for which they are not even paid.