Cosplay, the act of dressing up as a fictional character from popular culture, is a highly creative hobby and a community that’s growing by the day. Cosplayers often create their own costumes from scratch, or buy certain pieces and create the rest to make the most realistic depictions possible of the character being portrayed. Cosplayers often attend conventions or large gatherings of other cosplayers and enthusiasts. Lamar Tinsley, a Philadelphia-based cosplayer and cosplay photographer, said he sometimes commissions pieces for his cosplays from seasoned cosplay tailors.
“It's okay to get commissions because sometimes you don't have the art skills to make your own costumes,” said Tinsley. “It's good to ask help from other people. I don't know anything about sewing … The thing I do the most is spray paint and use hot glue guns, and I can make some props with my cosplays sometimes.”
Tinsley said the cosplay community is generally supportive of people who want to join, regardless of their skill level when it comes to creating costumes from scratch.
Image courtesy of @sarahchucosplay (cosplay of Starlight from The Boys)
“I think the community made me stronger about my confidence,” Tinsley said. “Some people are not confident about their body shape, their size, and some other issues. So it’s mostly the support from the community that boosts people and boosts people’s confidence up.”
@Sarahchucosplay, a 35-year-old cosplayer from Philadelphia said she went to her first science fiction convention in a costume at about four years old. Sarah, who has amassed a following of nearly 32,000 on Instagram, has been posting her cosplays on her social media for about 5 years.
“Pretty much everything I wear I've touched at some point,” Sarah said of her cosplays. “Some of them, like if the character is not a popular character, you know, the costume doesn't exist, so I will make all of that from scratch. But if there’s a popular character that a good cosplay exists out there, I'll usually buy it and make alterations.”
Sarah said the process of creating a cosplay from start to finish is a pretty involved process.
Image courtesy of @sarahchucosplay (cosplay of Harley Quinn from DC Comics Universe)
“Once I’ve decided on a character, usually I will sketch out the design or look up reference images,” said Sarah. “So, I'll pull a bunch of images and I'll make sure I can see the front, the back, the shoes … Just every angle possible and then I'll sketch it out myself, just so I can get a feel for how much fabric I'll need or where it's gonna go … and then I will trace out a pattern myself on tracing paper ... Then I treat it kind of like a normal sewing pattern: put it on fabric, cut, sew, iron.”
For members of the cosplay community, working hard on a costume and then finally getting to wear it is not only rewarding, but can put them in the headspace of the character they are portraying. Not only is cosplaying a fun way to improve sewing skills, but it can be a way to gain confidence and make friends, according to Tinsley.
“Sometimes [cosplaying] helps you deal with mental health,” said Tinsley. “It’s good because you can meet many people, and you can become friends with these people that have the same hobbies as you do.”