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This weekend, the ExCel exhibition center in London was filled with superheroes, Disney princesses and anime characters – the London Comic Con festival arrived in the city.

In recent years, the festival has grown in order – in October 2016, a three-day event was attended by 133 thousand people, and six years earlier the event attracted three times fewer visitors. For those who do not know, “cosplay” (the term was formed by adding the words “costume” and “play”  this is the production of costumes and, accordingly, the transformation into characters of films, comics, books or computer games. The difference of cosplay from just going on a holiday in a suit is that it takes weeks to create outfits for professional cosplayers. Having created a costume, they can spend a few more weeks, attending various congresses of lovers of pop culture in a new image.

In addition, it is not enough just to wear a suit, you need to try to transform into the appropriate character. Cosplay has recently become very popular, which means professional cosplayers have more opportunities. We talked with the most famous representatives of cosplay culture to find out how they achieved this status and most importantly, how can you earn a living with cosplay?I have a line of fabrics,” she explains. “They can be bought at the largest textile store chain in the United States. It is very nice to go to the store and see your name on the labels. Understand that I represent our culture,” says Yaya.”I had to explain to representatives of the textile company what fabrics cosplayers need: this is a unique finish, specific patterns, and the fabric itself must be very durable, but at the same time allow the skin to breathe,” she says.


If you doubt the quality of the created Khan fabrics, Regan Sertao and Kelly Callman will be happy to explain everything to you. This married couple, known under the brand Cowbutt Crunchies Cosplay, is crazy about Yai fabrics.“Yaya is very cool,” says Regan. “When it all began, and we had very few resources, many cosplayers wanted to be like her.”I respect her very much as a business lady in our community,” adds Regan.“It’s very nice. We ask donators where they live and choose small charities for animals in the same area,” says Kelly.“Patreon is one of the few social networking platforms where people decide what they want to see, I like it. It’s easier to communicate with the audience,” she says. Regan also praises the social network.”For us, this was not a planned step, we did not try to increase the audience so much. We came to this in a natural way, just by doing what we love,” she says.“People feel it. We were lucky to find an audience that liked what we wanted to do,” Regan comments on his success in social networks.


The term “cosplay” is formed from an abbreviated costume play – “costume play” or “costume play.” It means the implementation of the image of the hero from a fictional work, whether it be a book, comic, film or anime. Cosplayer should look as close as possible to the portrayed hero but is not required to make his costume with his own hand. The loving abbreviations of the Japanese invented the word “cosplay”, but, contrary to delusion, it appeared not at all in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Cosplay in the modern sense of the word originated in 1939. A couple of American fans, Forrest Ackerman and Myrtle Jones, appeared at the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York, dressed like space heroes. Ackermann and Jones made a splash among the visitors. Everyone liked the idea so much that already at the next convention in 1940 a masquerade ball was held, among the participants of which compete for the best costume was held. Masquerade has become a tradition that continues to this day. At first, the costumes were quite simple and were created more from the desire to stand out and fool around than for the prize. For fantastic outfits, a new term appeared – futuristic costume.

By the early sixties, the situation began to change. People began to approach the creation of outfits more seriously, spending more and more time and money on them. And although the composition of the masquerade participants was variegated — fans, artists, and even eminent writers like Fritz Leiber came in costumes at the World Convention on Science Fiction — celebrities and professionals began to appear in this matter. The costumes have ceased to be strictly futuristic. Among spacecraft pilots and evil aliens, superheroes and elves began to appear more and more often.

Not only costumes but also ways of their presentation became more and more creative. It was not enough for the contestants to just walk along the runway – they sang songs, arranged dances and acrobatic performances. It stretched the duration of the event so much that the time for each performance was reduced to a minute. But despite all the tricks, in the mid-seventies, the masquerade turned from a friendly party into a rigorous competition with a crowd of spectators and a picky jury. There are too many people willing to portray their favorite characters, flashing with the talent of an actor and fashion designer.


The return of cosplay to their homeland was pretty curious. He re-entered the West in the early nineties, in the wake of the popularization of modern Japanese culture. Anime was then at the peak of popularity, but the geek subculture was just waiting for its renaissance. The younger generation of American anime artists did not know about the half-century history of fantastic costume parties and considered cosplay a Japanese invention. That did not prevent him from becoming insanely popular. In just a few years the festivals were filled with crowds of people in bright costumes. International contests began to be held, with the proliferation of the Internet, specialized sites appeared where you could boast a new thing, share experiences or ask for advice


The Japanese-modified cosplay still has one distinguishing feature. The pioneers of the movement in the forties did not try to exactly recreate the costumes of the heroes. They often gave vent to fantasy, inventing their dresses for pilots and princesses of star empires, aliens and mutants. About trying to play the role of the chosen character, as in the theater, there was not even any talk. The Japanese called the movement a costumed game for a reason: it is important for them to play the role. And a cosplayer costume should match the costume of an anime character, manga, romance or game in the smallest detail. Even if they are contrary to the laws of gravity, physics and common sense.

A good cosplayer is obliged to learn the hero’s branded gestures, must transfer his posture and mood. It is not fitting for a severe warrior to grimace and giggle like a little girl. But, most likely, these unwritten rules were known to Western cosplayers long before the anime was popularized. After all, Star Wars and Star Trek became popular in the seventies, and their fans competed not only in the skill of tailoring often simple outfits but also in who best depicted the character as a whole.



However, the creativity of Western fans could not be kept within clear limits. Checking their strength in recreating the craziest costumes, from beaded lush crinoline dresses to armor and transforming robots, the cosplayers began to show fantasy again. The network was flooded with photo shoots with Disney princesses fighting zombies, or Sailor Moon and his comrades who suddenly became the leaders of the biker gang. People began to play with the times and styles, show familiar characters in the most unexpected roles. Purists may question whether to call it all cosplay. But why not? Costumes on the spot, the element of the game is also present.

The line between eastern and western understanding of cosplay has become thinner over time. Yes, fandoms at conventions have long been mixed. Anime ceased to be considered entertainment for children, and fiction – a lot of highbrow nerds. And the appearance of the “alien” hero at the festival will surprise no one. Thranduil and Captain America, Sailor Moon and Doctor Who are now on the same stage, because they belong to the same geek subculture.


Surprisingly, among the fantasies, there are opponents of cosplay. So, artist Pat Broderick, who worked on the comic books about Batman and Green Lantern, refuses to speak at conventions if cosplay is announced in the program. According to Broderick, cosplay distracts the participants of the convention from the main program. They say that before people went to the festival to find out about new products in the industry and talk with creators, and now they go to make “selfies” with people in costumes. Other authors are outraged that many cosplayers don’t really know who they are portraying, but simply sew their favorite costume.

And most importantly, unlike collectors, cosplayers do not bring any income to the industry. Although they spend fabulous money to create costumes, publishing houses, artists and other creators of the hero does not fall a cent. One can argue with the latter: good cosplay is a free advertisement of the piece. And the cosplayers themselves are often the same collectors.


Although cosplay is now popular in all parts of the world, it has its own special features in different countries. In Japan, for example, cosplay is created primarily for photography. Even in the framework of large-scale festivals, no sketches are played and a parade is not held. At events, cosplayers often just have a separate room or playground on the street, where they can offer plenty to photographers and just curious visitors.

Japanese cosplay has another, rather grim feature. The appearance of a cosplayer here is no less stringent than the requirements for its costume. There are cases when a person was hounded for having insulted a character with his ugly face or figure. Therefore, a successful team of costumer, make-up artist and photographer is often behind the successful cosplayer in Japan. The models can only follow the appearance and learn a few poses inherent in the hero. If the model and character are popular enough, you can make money on cosplay by selling photos. The competition element is weak here – new fans become the best reward of the cosplayer and his photos in official reports from the convention.


In the US, the situation is the opposite. Criticizing the appearance of the cosplayer itself, its height, weight, skin color or facial features is considered unacceptable, politically incorrect. Estimated first of all is how much effort he invested in the creation of the suit, as he accurately conveyed the details. It is not forbidden to buy a ready-made costume or order from a master, as well as being photographed in it or attending conventions, but you may have to refuse to participate in contests. The competition element is very strong here, although there are not so many prizes, as well as large-scale conventions.

By the choice of characters in the US fit with the soul. If the Japanese follow the fashion and try to portray not so much loved as popular heroes, then the Americans are guided by recognized classics, including anime. On the photo report from any American festival, you can see warriors in sailor suits, heroes of “Blic”, “Naruto” or Hayao Miyazaki cartoons.

The imagination of domestic cosplayers is not constrained by cultural conventions. The teams show not only mastery in tailoring costumes, but also dramatic talents and wits, putting serious or, on the contrary, humorous sketches on the stage. Over the years of the festivals, their scenes saw everything: a compressed retelling of the whole anime, and  and well-set dances, and sword fights.

The fashion for anime and cosplay led to the same problem that the organizers of the American convention had to face in the seventies. There were so many people who wanted to speak, that they no longer had enough time for everyone. The festivals began in the morning and ended very late, turning from a fun event to an exhausting ceremony. But the problem was solved not in the United States. They didn’t reduce the time for the scenes – instead, they toughened the selection of participants.

To get on stage, it became necessary not only to express a desire but also to show the quality of work. The rivalry has become very strong. People had to compete not only for victory but also for the right to just be on the scene. In such conditions, cosplay turned into an arms race and in a short time made a significant qualitative leap. At the beginning of the two thousand strong jackets, wrapped with adhesive plaster in the manner of Yoji’s cloak from Weiss Kreuz, was considered an excellent suit, and people who sewed outfits from scratch could be counted on fingers. Now, in the competition, no one will be surprised by the finest dresses with embroidery or the armor of giant robots.

Russian cosplayers strive for the ideal and often achieve it, which proves the victory of couples from Kaliningrad at the World Cosplay Summit last year. But hasn’t the sense of community that they love to sing in the West like in the pursuit of perfection? Each of the cosplayers has its own answer to this question. One thing is undeniable: in spite of all economic and political difficulties, our fans have achieved great heights in their hobby.

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