BY RACHEL SHARPE
For most teenagers, dressing up in costumes is reserved for one special night of the year: Halloween. However, for a few students at CCHS, dressing up in costumes is for more than just asking neighbors for candy or attending a Halloween costume party. These students are cosplayers, and dressing up as different characters is their hobby.
Cosplay is a performance art which involves dressing up as fictional characters from an anime, book, movie or comic. Cosplay, whose literal meaning comes from a combination of the words “costume” and “play”, gained popularity in the early 90s and though originating in Japan, the unique form of expression has made its way into popular American culture in recent years. Sophomore Haylee Morton and Junior Erin Gulseth are two CCHS students who have invested countless hours and dedication into the creation and display of their unique costumes.
“Halloween and cosplay both involved dressing up in costumes, however cosplay is usually done with a specific character, and often has much more work put into it,” Morton said. “Cosplayers get really invested into what they’re doing, making it an experience so different than simply putting on a Halloween costume.”
Morton was in 5th grade when she first took an interest in cosplay. After hearing about a convention that was located near her house, she asked her parents if she could attend and they agreed to the idea. She created her first costume, a female character named Sakura from the show Nautica, by throwing together material from around the house. After her first convention, she was immediately hooked.
“For me, cosplay started out as just a hobby, but it has turned into a major artistic outlet,” Morton said.
Gulseth got involved in cosplay when she was around the same age.
“When I was in 6th grade, my friend in 8th grade made a costume of a character that she really admired,” Gulseth said. “I thought it was really neat and seemed like something that would be a lot of fun.”
According to both Morton and Gulseth, the most difficult part of cosplay is the costume-making process itself. First, cosplayers must choose which character they are going to dress as, which is often a tough decision. Cosplayers often choose characters that they can relate to or ones that they are inspired by. Once in character, cosplayers tend to adopt certain mannerisms and body language of the character that they are portraying.
“My favorite costume I have made was of a character called Mami Tomoe from Anime,” Gulseth said. “She sacrifices everything for her friends and even dies just to save them. Her character makes me realize the important things in life, such as sticking up for the people you care about.”
In order to make the costumes themselves, cosplayers gather materials and sew the costumes from sewing patterns. Both Morton and Gulseth have created many costumes and have become better at their craft through experience.
“It’s usually just trial and many, many, errors,” Gulseth said.
For Morton, her favorite character has been Nepeta Leijon from Homestuck, who she has played for about a year.
“I love being able to take a character that I love and completely embody them, both physically and in character,” Morton said.
However, the most important part of the cosplay experience is the fan conventions themselves. Cosplay conventions are held across the country, and even across the world. The largest cosplay event in the world, Comiket, is held in Japan semiannually. However, the second largest convention, Comic-Con is held annually in San Diego. A typical day at these events begins with an early morning registration, followed by meeting up with friends from previous conventions. Sometimes, groups from particular shows or comics even get together to do photo shoots. There are also convention panels with writers or actors doing questions and answer sessions.
“It’s impossible to go see everything, so you kind of just plan your day along as you go,” Morton said.
Most of the conventions have costume contests for those who want to show off their unique creations. However, Gulseth and Morton prefer not to enter the contests because of the time they take away from the rest of the convention. Instead, Gulseth and Morton spend their time bonding with other members of the cosplay community.
“The cosplay community is full of so many unique people,” Morton said. “I’ve met so many friendly, amazing people at conventions who I’ve grown close to and stayed friends with for a long time.”
Though neither of these girls sees themselves doing cosplay as a profession, but they both want to continue doing cosplay throughout the rest of high school. They are grateful for everything that the cosplay experience has provided them with.
“Other people sit around and watch television for a long time, and I can’t do that,” Gulseth said. “Cosplay is fun and it gives me something to do.” Gulseth also says she has big plans for SuperCon 2014, which she can’t yet reveal. Ultimately, despite all of the hard work, time and dedication that cosplay can create, it gives people a sense of personal achievement and provides them with an outlet of expression.
“Cosplay has helped me to gain self-confidence and to come out of my shell,” said Morton. “There’s something incredible about becoming an alien, an earthbender, or whatever else I want to for a day.”