The art of costume play in Greater Vancouver
By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer
Costumes are more than just Halloween attire for Greater Vancouver’s cosplay community, whose members spend days, if not months, creating elaborate, detailed costumes and portraying fan-favourite characters at conventions, cosplay events, and private parties.
“I do it to see the looks on people’s faces,” cosplayer Lachlan Belmont wrote to the Other Press. “I love seeing people enjoy themselves.”
The often elaborate costumes that cosplayers wear can be bought, handmade, or commissioned from others in the cosplay community. Cosplayers often put in lots of time working on their costumes and props in order to yield a satisfying result. Many skills are involved when making a great costume, such as sewing, makeup, wig styling, painting, sculpting, and embroidery. The costumes depict characters from every platform of pop culture imaginable, with some obvious favourites being from comic books, TV shows, anime, video games, and movies.
Cosplayers show off their creations at a variety of pop culture conventions, including Greater Vancouver’s 12 different conventions throughout the year, with big events like Fan Expo and Anime Revolution drawing crowds of up to 25,000 fans. Greater Vancouver cosplayers also travel to other conventions outside of their region, such as Tsukino-Con in Victoria and PAX Prime in Seattle.
“Cosplay means I have to get up three hours before I normally would to put on makeup, a wig, and find my costume, to walk around a convention hall for upwards of eight hours on not very much food,” cosplayer Nicole Matthews wrote. “But it’s all worth it for just one little girl believing I’m really a princess.”
In Greater Vancouver, there are estimated to be thousands of cosplayers, and this costumed community keeps growing. While it is easy to spot this group of costume-clad, pop-culture fans at any convention, they are also noticeable in the community, spending quality friendship time together, costumes and all. Through cosplay, these people can make all kinds of meaningful relationships, such as professional partners, friends, and romantic companions.
“Every close friend I’ve ever had has been made through cosplay,” Belmont wrote. “I met my best friend at a convention. We talked about movies, we called each other back after, and we’ve been best friends ever since.”
While there can be a competitive nature to cosplaying, most cosplayers participate just for the enjoyment. Cosplayer Jesse Knight has portrayed countless characters over many years, to the point that her cosplaying has become more than just a hobby.
“It’s like an escape out of reality. A chance to get out and become someone who’s adored. Getting photos, making friends,” she wrote. “It’s something that I completely treasure.”
Outside of competitions and conventions, some of these cosplayers use their passion to earn some extra money. Some cosplayers impersonate characters at parties; for example, cosplayers who portray Frozen’s Elsa and Anna can make a business for themselves by doing “princess parties.”
Others participate in the community by taking on projects for other cosplayers. Cosplay Exchange Vancouver and Lower Mainland Cosplay Exchange are two online forums where local cosplayers and artists can commission requests. These forums are like a cosplay-specific Craigslist, which can be a cost-effective and green way of recycling and reusing costumes. These forums are run by people who are deeply involved in the cosplay community, making them much more personal than online costume stores.