What is Cosplay and What Does it Mean?

The term ‘Cosplay’ comes from combing the words costume and roleplay. But what does that mean? Is it simply dressing up as a fictional character? No, cosplay is so much more than just putting on a costume. It is more than just dressing up. The dictionary defines it as:

The art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation, and science fiction.


The term, Cosplay, was first coined and used in Japan in 1984. The term is still really new, but has come to represent an entire community. Cosplay costumes vary and can range from simple themed clothing to highly detailed costumes. As mentioned, cosplay is not simply adorning a costume, it also involves role play or rather representing the character in some way. This can be shown in behaviour (like poses) or in dialogue or actual role play with other cosplayers and fans.

A cosplayer picks a character that they want to bring to life. Whether it is because they like the character, like the clothing the character wears or just the pure desire to make something. The characters chosen to be cosplayed may be sourced from any movie, TV series, book, comic book, video game, or music band anime and manga characters.

Once the cosplayer knows which character they are going to cosplay, they then put in time, effort and often money into bringing the character to life. There are various aspects that go into bringing the character to life such as:

  • Creativity: Cosplaying demands a lot of creativity to render a physical costume from concept art, especially when there are no instructions and no other models to replicate.
  • Accuracy: Attention to detail will make cosplayers stand out, everything from the texture of someone’s fabric to the body paint that covers every inch of their skin.
  • Staying in character: Wearing the skin of a fictional character is just half of cosplaying, the other half is about adopting the personality, quirks or sounds that complete the character.

Costume contests, offer cosplayers the opportunity to compete for prizes and bragging rights. It also exposes cosplayers to the community giving them some much-deserved recognition.

Although, saying all of that, the cosplay community is very accepting, warm and welcoming. While roleplay is part of cosplay, it is not explicitly expected. The focus is on your desire to portray a character that you like in a way that you enjoy.

There is even a term to describe dressing as a character from the opposite gender. This is known as Crossplay. The only limit to cosplay is your imagination. Cosplayers identify with the personality and story of their favourite characters – little else matters, and this is the main drive behind cosplay. Plus it is just fun to do.

Anime Dictionary crossplay gender bend cosplay allanimemag


3 thoughts on “What is Cosplay and What Does it Mean?

Add yours

  1. Thank you for the post! I learned a bunch! I had no idea the term Cosplay has been around for so long. I think I first heard the term in the early 2000’s when I first started getting interested in anime.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That deep moment I realise I’m as old as the world “Cosplay” exist. I’m actually cosplaying since I’m 15 so it means I’ve passed more than the half of my life doibg cosplay 😨. I’ve seen it evolve and become so much more realistic. I’m still having a lot of fun doing costumes and props. There’s always new challenges.
    Thanks for this post! Full of informations😀

    Liked by 2 people

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