Cosplay Culture

Cosplay Etiquette

As I’ve mentioned before, cosplay is a subcategory of nerdiness in which anything goes…almost. As varied and wondrous as coplay is, there are still some guidelines to keep in mind so that you — and your fellow cosplayers — can get the most out of the experience.


Let me start with the disclaimer that by no means do I intend to talk down to anybody via these cosplay do’s and don’ts, nor are they necessarily hard-and-fast rules that will hold true in every case. Just think of this post as a friendly reminder, from one awkward nerd to another, that when we find ourselves in large groups together, especially at something as exciting as a convention we’ve been waiting months to go to, we can sometimes go a little nuts and do things we wouldn’t even think of doing in other, less spandex-laden settings. This is just a way to think about how we can channel all that nerdy energy and excitement in positive and respectful ways, ensuring that a good time is had by all.

*Deep breath*…here we go!

Don’t assume that someone in costume is ready to engage with you

ghiblijayneLet’s face it — one of the things we love most about cons is the people-watching. There are always so many amazing cosplays, and it’s a ton of fun to see all the different characters other con-goers chose to portray. And it’s totally fine (and even encouraged) to talk to other cosplayers and tell them how much you love their costume/character/story their character is from.

However, don’t let your desire to do so overrule your good sense. If the person whose costume you are admiring looks like they’re in the middle of something, or is having a conversation with someone else, wait for the opportune moment to catch their attention. Maybe they’re trying to make plans for meeting up with a friend later, or maybe they’ve just had five different people stop them for a photo when they’re already late for a panel session they really want to go to.

It’s tempting to try to snag someone before the opportunity passes, but remember that, as much as we all feel like elaborate, mobile works of art while we’re cosplaying, we’re all just people — people who might be feeling frazzled from all the chaos, or who might have tired feet from tromping through the convention center all day. Know that you can and should go up to fellow cosplayers to talk to them and compliment their apparel, but use the same politeness you would when addressing anyone else you’ve just met.

And on the other side of the coin…

Remember that cosplay = attention

20150702_203552If you’re an introverted cosplayer, like I am, you’ll know that, while cosplaying is fun, it’s kind of exhausting. When I cosplayed at my first con, I knew on some level that people were going to be paying attention to me because I was in costume, but I don’t think I was really prepared for just what that meant — strangers talking to me like they knew me just because they knew about the character I was cosplaying, the requests for photos, the random (and sometimes personal) questions about my costume, etc. And while it’s fun to get a little extra attention, sometimes the amount you receive as a cosplayer can be overwhelming.

However, on some level, all cosplayers do what they do because they really do want to get noticed. If they didn’t like the attention and admiration at least a little, they wouldn’t go in costume. If you’ll be cosplaying, go into it prepared to get gawked at a little, get some requests for photos, and have people suddenly quiz you on the finer points of the story your character is from. And just remember, the vast majority of people have good intentions, and they’re looking at you and interacting with you because they think you look awesome! Which is pretty great, actually.

Be courteous when asking for a photo


As many of you know, it’s common practice at cons to ask cosplayers if you can take a picture of or with them. This is completely fine, and generally makes the experience more fun and memorable. However, when you see someone you’d like to ask, remember that, while they’re probably expecting to get asked for pictures, your request still has the potential to catch them off guard. Don’t be abrupt when you ask, or try to sneak a pic as someone walks by, and for heaven’s sake, don’t touch someone you don’t know to get their attention (harder to remember than it seems!). Granted, there are some people who’d be fine with any of these things, but since you don’t know the person you’re asking and can’t be sure how they’d feel about it, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Don’t judge

This is an important one, and the one that’s often hardest for me, personally. Unfortunately, along with the admiration of some con-goers’ cosplay sometimes comes disdain for others’ costumes. Whether it’s thinking that someone’s costume is extra-revealing, thinking I’ve done a better job on my costume than someone else has on theirs, deciding someone’s interpretation of a character isn’t in keeping with that character’s persona, or other things of that sort, it can get pretty icky, folks. So join me in trying your best not to judge others based on their costume choices (or, conversely, look down on yourself because you think someone else’s costume is better than yours), and focus on the aspects of someone’s costume that makes it cool and unique, or compliment someone on a costume that they clearly worked hard on. Sincerity, respect, and perspective is where it’s at.

These are a few of the things I try to keep in mind when cosplaying — what have I missed? What do you try to make sure to do (or not do) to make an awesome cosplaying experience even better? Share with us in the comments!


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