Costumes, wigs and make-up kits: University Library explores the world of cosplay

Elaborate costumes, theatrical makeup and appearance changing wigs — these are only a few of the tools cosplayers use to dramatically alter their everyday look, transforming themselves into their favorite fictional characters. To fuel the love of cosplay in the Cal Poly Pomona community, the University Library held a free virtual lecture last Thursday exploring the world of cosplay — influencing attendees to unleash their inner character.

Though organized through the library, many attendees had no affiliation with CPP but are involved in the Southern California cosplay community.

“The idea for this lecture is that whether someone is interested in cosplaying or if someone has cosplayed for ten years or even longer, they’ll leave this lecture knowing more about it and that they have more access to this amazing community of people,” said Kris Zoleta, assistant to the dean of the library and panelist of the lecture.

Local cosplayers transformed themselves to fictional characters for previous conventions. (Courtesy of Kris Zoleta)

The lecture opened with a detailed description of cosplay — a portmanteau of the words costume play — defining the term as the act of dressing up as a fictional character while taking on their specific actions and mannerisms.

“Cosplay is a fascinating fandom,” Zoleta said. “Cosplay culture, from an outsider’s perspective, is just dressing up in an outfit and that’s it. If you want to go deeper, there’s actually many layers and a fascinating history about cosplay and why it started and how it got popular in the United States.”

The lecture described over nine different types of cosplay — including ironic cosplay, crossover cosplay and casual cosplay — touching on how these individual and unique forms of expression can be used while respecting the cosplayers themselves and their ideals.

“I feel it is important to educate others on cosplay so they can understand that it’s a culture just like any other, like being a sports fan or enjoying a band’s music,” said Alexander Choi, attendee of the lecture and member of the cosplay community. “It’s just our way of expressing ourselves.”

Another topic covered was the “Cosplay is Not Consent” movement existing in the cosplay convention scene. The phrase gained popularity following discussions of cosplayers experiencing sexual harassment while in their costumes. It serves as a reminder that cosplayers are humans and should be treated with respect.

The movement, predating the widely known Me Too movement, influenced conventions all over North America to incorporate anti-harassment training and a zero-tolerance harassment policy.

The lecture additionally explored campus resources available for those exploring the world of cosplay. The CPP Maker Studio offers various accessible resources for students interested in creating a costume with workshops on 3D printing, sewing and embroidery. Getting involved in campus clubs like the Fashion Society is another great resource for cosplayers, inspiring them to incorporate fashion into costume design.

Thuy-Trinh Tran, member of the cosplay community and attendee of Thursday’s lecture, touched on the hardships some cosplayers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic as conventions have been canceled or postponed; Tran believes the lecture helped reignite a love for cosplay.

“My passion and drive for cosplay was revitalized as it has been nearly diminished due to COVID-19,” Tran said.

Although in-person gatherings and conventions aren’t possible at this time, the message of the lecture was clear: keep calm and cosplay on.

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