Getting dressed up as a character and pretending to be someone else is more than just a dress-up game. When Halloween is around the corner, everyone has some unique idea in their mind for their costume, but when it’s about cosplay, people usually take up the challenge to dress as their favorite movie, book, game, TV show, or comic character. Think of any character from a fantasy or fiction movie, and it would have been re-created by someone, even if it is only modestly popular.
Cosplay participants invest a significant amount of time, energy, and effort into crafting and putting together a one-of-a-kind costume. Various costumes include giant accessories to match, body or facial prosthetics, tattoos, and even electrical or mechanical parts. For some, it is difficult to even move across from one place to another without assistance.
Here, we are going to unpack the psychology behind cosplays and find out the reasons behind the surge in their popularity. What makes people motivated to invest so much energy into something like this? What are the inspirational factors which motivate cosplayers to represent themselves as a character? Let’s dig deeper and try to understand this act of reinventing one’s self.

Just Because Costumes Are Fun!

The act of donning a cape, a spandex, or any other distinctive costume has many motivators, but the foremost is that costumes are fun. Like any other sport, hobby, or entertainment outlet, the major reason people dress up as their favorite character is that they simply enjoy it. From deciding whom to dress up as to creating the costume, doing make-up, and pairing all the required accessories, cosplaying is fun, creative, and enticing.

Costumes Are Fun!

Cosplay and Mental Health

People suffering from depression and other mental health conditions sometimes use cosplay as a way to deal with their issues. It helps them get out of their homes and showcase their creativity to everyone. It even helps minimize the feeling of hopelessness because one can find people who are like-minded, use the art to relieve stress, and come out of the abyss of depressing thoughts.
Many female cosplayers also find it empowering to act as and embody a male character. This has a term of its own, called “crossplay,” which refers to the act where a person dresses up like a gender different from their own.

Embodiment of the Character

There is always a reason behind every choice of costume. When a person chooses a specific character to portray, there is always a sense of belonging and a personal connection with the role. That connection makes them want to turn themselves into that character and embrace all its qualities. Something about that character speaks to the cosplayer’s inner self.
There is a significant involvement of psychological factors in how people choose, interpret, embrace, and portray a fictional character, specially superheroes.
Some people try to overcome their weaknesses and shortcomings by dressing up as Superman because it gives them a feeling of being strong and courageous. Similarly, a person’s choice of being Wonder Woman shows how they resonate with the empowerment and boldness of the character. Someone with a troubled childhood might dress up as Batman because they can relate to the dark hero’s unsettling history when he was a kid.

Visibility in the Fandom

Cosplay has been used by people as a way to gain attention and popularity. In the modern era, fandom is a significant element of life for many individuals. Many cosplayers communicate their love and faithfulness to their fandom by making certain cosplay choices and trying to get under the spotlight of the fandom event.
It helps them maintain their presence in the fan communities. Through cosplays, fans can indulge in the pleasures driven by exclusive and popular fan cultures.

Fandom
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Cosplay Helps Curb Social Isolation

Cosplay is a great opportunity for introverts. It helps them come out of their bubble. It can reduce social anxiety and isolation because it happens in a social setting. People come together to celebrate their love for their favorite characters and to appreciate each other’s efforts without any judgments. They connect with each other and share their mutual interests and passion.

Curb Social Isolation
Unveiling the Psychology of Cosplays 9

Cosplay not only empowers an individual but also fosters a sense of community and social well-being. Following are some significant ways cosplay can curb social isolation:

•It helps you discover the hidden widespread network of people who share the same interest as you. Take the example of hundreds of people who dress up as characters from ultra-famous Star Trek series.

•It makes people embrace their insecurities and lets them see the future as they want it to be.

•Creating and slaying a costume is one thing, but when you share the confidence and celebration with others like you, it makes you feel like a part of this whole creative and colorful universe.

It Keeps the “Pair” Together, Forever

It is one thing to be a character and enjoy comic cons with friends and community members, but the fun can be taken to a whole another level when you dress up with your significant other as your favorite fictional couple. Many even believe that the couple that dresses up together, stays together.
Cosplays give such people an interesting platform to come as Belle and the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast” or you could have Green Arrow and Harley Quinn getting together for a change.

Keeps the Pair

Some couples also believe that they are never too old to mix some fun and mystery into their relationships. Many elderly couples have been seen donning stunning costumes because they do not believe dressing up has a age limit.

Together Forever

Battle Fears

Cosplay has a psychological effect on one’s fears. People can use a mask to hide their identity, be twelve feet tall, be a dwarf, or just be a cartoon character. Whatever the costume and get-up might be, everyone interacts with them easily. There is no fear of “not being yourself” in that moment. One can act as annoyingly as one of Cinderella’s stepsisters and be equally interesting and fascinating.
Hence, it can be said that cosplay helps people battle their fears. They don’t have to second guess their identities and can be whatever they want to be. Cosplay is even used as a therapeutic tool for individuals who seek assistance in managing their fears, traumas, and identity challenges. Even physically challenged people have been seen transforming their aids into a part of their costumes.

Battle Fears

Enhance Confidence and Develop Competencies

When someone wants to cosplay especially on a budget, they would want to hone their creative abilities to sew up an intricate costume and put together an entire outfit. This increases their confidence in themselves.
A newbie cosplayer can discover they have an amazing knack for fashion and style. A part of gratification from cosplaying comes by acquiring new skills and polishing the ones already present. Cosplayers are able to enhance their confidence by showing their creative skills to hordes of like-minded people.

Express and Explore Oneself

Cosplays are also an extension of many interests and a channel for expressing one’s personality. Many people find it hard to be themselves in daily life. For some, cosplay is an activity of embodying a character, but for others, it is a great way to express their individuality and uniqueness by taking on the character’s persona and looks.
Using this way, they find it less tiresome to connect with and explore parts of their own identities, which they have either ignored or never tried to explore for whatever reasons. By being in the costume of their choice, people talk to each other about who they really are, what they were, and what they aspire to be.
A significant part of the activity gives people the chance to live life on their own terms and let them embrace who they are. It also emboldens and empowers cosplayers when people tell them they can’t do something as cosplayers see it as a challenge.

Make a Living Out of Cosplays

With all the merriment, fun, and excitement, cosplays are also chosen as a medium to make money. Many take it as a technical challenge where they can show their potential of creating costumes and props. Professional and aspiring costume designers take it as a massive opportunity to find potential customers.
Such designers collaborate together and work on a collection of comic characters or a popular sci-fi show and craft costumes for people. People who have a hobby of designing and sewing cosplays find it to be an amazing channel to turn their hobby into a source of income or pursue their career in costume designing.

Make a Living

The Dark Side of Cosplay

Cosplays have numerous psychological motivators, but they also bear some negative connotations and controversies.
For instance, fiction usually portray an unrealistic body image for women. Overtly sexual poses and misleading body proportions are daunting to cosplay for some women who have an interest in cosplaying. As a result, they step back due to the fear of not having the physical appearance as shown in anime and fantasy movies and shows.
Women cosplayers are also bullied a lot, be it due to body weight or skin color. Many have been fat-shamed and cyber-bullied.
The same goes for men. Unrealistic muscles and body shapes of superheroes are as daunting for male participants, and such factors lower their confidence levels.

Harassment

Cosplays are affected by the harsh environment around us, where there is a lot of harassment and negativity. Cosplayers invest a lot of money and put in substantial effort in making a costume and still end up getting negative and condescending feedback. They are made ashamed of themselves if they do not live up to the expectations of the fandom, or they might even be criticized for revealing too much or too less of their bodies. A major reason for this problem is the objectification of women.

Competition

As cosplaying is getting more and more popular, the community is getting its fair share of miscreants. It does not revolve around only comic culture, enjoyment, exploration, and constructive interactions. Unfortunately, many different kinds of people are attracted toward this community. These people only possess a popularity gaining agenda and they are contributing to the loss of value for cosplays.
Conventions have started to become highly competitive. People compete with each other on the basis of how expensive their attire is or to which brand it belongs to. This has to do a lot with what’s shown on our mainstream media, which does not encourage healthy competition.

Performance Pressure

Fulfilling the expectations to portray a character’s essence can be grueling and tiresome. Cosplays put a great deal of psychological and physical stress on the participants. No amount of workouts, skincare products, or makeup can satisfy some people. The sense of having a poor body image pushes some cosplayers into eating disorders that slowly creep up on them until they break down crying.
One’s natural body brings many challenges when it comes to cosplay. On the brighter side, valued and real cosplayers will always have the opinion that it is not about looks or simply copying the character to the T. Rather, it is about feeling happy and being able to enjoy the activity.
Cosplay may have a dark aspect, but most cosplayers enjoy the comic culture. The majority embrace the transformation and withstand the setbacks and negative comments. Some even stand up for other cosplayers when needed. They understand the true meaning and value of the community, and they will keep on enriching the positive motivators to help more people join this culture, where they will find confidence, love, and inclusiveness.